Kevin Vost, Psy.D., is the author of twenty books including Memorize the Faith! and How to Think Like Aquinas and has taught psychology at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, the University of Illinois at Springfield, Lincoln Land Community College, and MacMurray College. He is a member of the Research Review Committee for American Mensa, which promotes the scientific study of human intelligence.
Catholics rightly put their spiritual lives first. But what obligation do Catholics have to take care of their bodies, and is there a connection between taking care of your body and taking care of your soul? That’s what we’re going to talk about today on Crisis Point. Hello, I’m Eric Sammons your host, interim Chief of Crisis Magazine. Before I get started, I just want to encourage people to like this video, this audio, however you’re watching, you’re listening to it, to subscribe to the channel. Don’t bother hitting that notify bell though because you have a life outside of the internet. Also, I want to encourage people to follow us on social media if you’re on that at Crisis Mag, at all the major places.
Okay, so let’s go ahead and jump right into it. Our guest today is Dr. Kevin Vost. He’s the author of 20 books, including Memorize the Faith and How to Think Like Aquinas. He’s taught psychology at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, the University of Illinois at Springfield, Lincoln Land Community College and McMurray College. He’s a member of the Research Review Committee for American Mensa, which promotes the scientific study of human intelligence. Also and is what we’re going to talk about today is the author of the most recent book, You Are That Temple: A Catholic Guide to Health and Holiness, which I will be the first to say I would’ve read this book even if Kevin was not going to be on the podcast because I was that interested it when I saw it. And it’s for sale, you can buy it now. You can actually buy it at the Crisis website. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes. So welcome to the program, Kevin.
Hey, thanks so much for having me on, Eric.
Yeah, like I said, I was very excited when I saw this. I mean, I think I just got an email from Sophia, their standard email promoting books, and I saw this one. I told my wife, oh, we got to get this one. I got to get this one because I really wanted to read it just myself. I’ve been reading books kind of in this field of taking care of your body, but almost none of them are from a Catholic perspective, and so it’s good to get that Catholic perspective in it. So I appreciate that. But before we really get going here, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background, why it is you’re interested in health, kind of your physical health and your spiritual health backgrounds.
Sure, sure, exactly. Because this is called Catholic Approach to Health and Holiness. So my own background as a Catholic is that I was born and raised Catholic. Went to a great school and high school, went to the mass every Sunday. Though my family, we didn’t really talk about Jesus at home. We weren’t particularly religious at home. I remember we didn’t even own a Bible till I was in high school and had to have one to write a paper for a religion class one day. But anyway, I grew up Catholic. I was interested in philosophy and in my late teens I read some of the wrong philosophers, people like Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Ayn Rand, and others.
And I basically robbed myself, I guess in a sense of my faith. Read these logical arguments against the existence of God or even the rationality of positing the God. So I spent the next 25 years as an atheist, though I was interested in things like a philosophy, and I obtained a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Then through a series of events in my early 40s, I came to read St. Thomas Aquinas for the first time. So through the stirring of the Holy Spirit and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, I had found that all these atheistic arguments that pulled me away were sitting there waiting for me already in the deposit of faith in the writings of St. Thomas who was borrowing from other church fathers and philosophers who lived long before him.
So anyway, I spent about 25 years as an atheist and came back in 2004 at the age of 43, thanks be to God. And then also when I came back to the church not long after I started writing Catholic books, because I realized that in a sense God was prepping me, all of the secular knowledge that I acquired during those years away could in some way be put in service of the faith. So for example, my first book was called Memorize the Faith because my specialty in psychology was in memory. And Thomas Aquinas himself happens to be one of the greatest masters of human memory, explaining how it works and also how to improve it. So that was a segue there. And also I’d had a lifelong interest in strength training in physical fitness. So over the years, I’ve written a few books integrating taking care of our bodies as Catholics, why we should do that. So there, the essence is my background.
Well, I should say too, so my special expertise in writing this particular book, You Are That Temple, well one, my clinical training was as a clinical psychologist, specifically neuropsychology, brain behavior, relationships. So I acquired some knowledge of conducting scientific research and how to evaluate it, which can come into play in evaluating research on nutrition and exercise too. Most of the college teaching I did for a dozen years or so was on human development, the whole lifespan, psychology of adolescents, psychology of aging. And when we go through this book, I try to zoom in on some of the special needs of those groups, I guess, so that hopefully is relevant too.
Also, my own personal history as a weightlifter, competitive bodybuilder, power lifter, Olympic lifter, highland games where you put on the kilt and throw the caber. I did all that stuff over the years and was also a weightlifting instructor so I had background there. And then my full-time career actually from 1984 to 2016 was as a disability evaluator and later supervisor and supervisor of trainers for social security disability. So I did over 500 disability cases a year, people with mental or physical disabilities of all ages. So one of the themes I cover in the book is how we’ve had these pandemics over the last several decades, the rise in things like obesity and diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and so forth. So I realized I was kind of there on the scene as these pandemics developed, seeing precisely how they affect different individuals. So anyway, there’s my background as a Catholic and then some of the relevancies to this book as a trained psychologist, a lifelong weightlifter, and also a person who had a full-time career in disability evaluation.
Okay. So I have to ask you, did you ever meet Arnold Schwarzenegger?
That’s a very good question. Yes and no. Back in 1979, my buddies and I drove out to Columbus, Ohio when Arnold was hosting the Mr. Olympia contest, and he was there. This was past his competitive prime at that time though we did come back a year later come to think of it. But yes, I did once briefly meet Arnold and some of the others in the bodybuilding gang, Mike Mentzer and Frank Zane, Franco Colombu, others I had more experience with them. But yes, one brief meeting with Arnold.
Okay, very good. Okay, so I think one of my first questions I want to ask is why should Catholics care about this? I’ve found in my own experience that most, I shouldn’t say most, a lot of Catholics almost have an implicit dualism in their head of the body and the soul are almost disconnected from each other. They rightly know the spirit matters, that we have to build our prayer lives, we have to go to the sacraments, be charitable, all those things we have to do. But when you start talking about physical fitness or just anything to do with that, I think a lot of Catholics, it’s just they zone out and they don’t really see the importance of it. So why should Catholics care about their physical fitness?
Yeah, I personally think about it and come at it from a few different angles. And one of the first is scriptural, where famously St. Paul tells us in first Corinthians III, and then again in one Corinthians XI, he says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of God?” He says, “Your body is a temple of Holy Spirit.” He says, “That temple you are.” Which is where my title You Are That Temple came from. So Paul says, “So glorify God in your body.” So that means things like don’t denigrate your body by things like sexual sins.
But there’s also an implication that we’re to take care of our body, be good stewards of our body. St. Thomas Aquinas, when he’s explicating the greatest commandment and the second great commandment too, to love God with all that we are and our neighbors as ourselves. He says, “When we’re told to love ourselves being body and soul unities, we’re also actually commanded to love our bodies.” Not to worship them, not to make idols of them, but to take proper care of them. To show God thanks for them. So I like to think of it in that lens too.
Also, of course, the Catholic Church teaches that we are made not as a soul just sitting here inside a body. The two compose our nature, body and soul. And though when we die, our soul is separated from our body, we’re also taught that when Christ comes back at the final judgment, we’re going to be reunited with our bodies. And hopefully those of us who make it into heaven are going to have a glorified body throughout eternity. So part of the implication is that God made bodies as good things, as an integral part of our human natures and we can show God gratitude by taking care of them. And when we do take care of them, if we’re healthier, if we have more energy, then we’re in a much better position to help take care of the needs of our neighbors as well.
Now, I’ve heard complaints sometimes among Catholics about the physical fitness world that it seems to be surrounded by vanity. The idea that you go to the weight room and the most important piece of equipment in the weight room is the mirror. Because look at yourself, look at your big muscles, look at whatever you’re doing. What would you say in response to that, that concern that if you get into physical fitness, really it’s about vanity, you just want to look good and you want other people to know you look good?
Well, that is funny. I mean, that’s a real thing. And in my younger days, in my earlier years of atheism, I was probably very much along those lines. I remember one of my workout buddies, and we pretty much knew which were the best mirrors in the gym, which tended to make you look the biggest. So that can be a real concern. And many people do get carried away that way. Some people they call gym rats or people who just devote incredible amounts of time to the gym to trying to look better, and some of them even damage their own health by taking things like performance enhancing drugs like steroids, growth hormones and so forth. So there is that real danger there that if we treat our body improperly, if we make the body an idle, it’s to our detriment. So we want to take proper care of our body, it’s all about keeping things in proper proportion.
And I do give a beautiful quotation in the book from Pope Pius XII where he used to go address different groups of athletes. And he said in one address, he says, “The Catholic Church approves a physical culture,” an older term for proper care of the body, he says, “Wholeheartedly, as long as it remains in proper proportion.” Then he lays out several things, details what he means by that. And he says, “One, it doesn’t lead to worship of the body.” Kind of where we were going. He said also, “It should energize you instead of drain you.” A person shouldn’t train so much in the gym that they don’t have time to go play with their kids when they get home, things like that. Also, the general idea is that the training should energize you, should give you excitement, should help you grow in gratitude toward God.
So yes, there is a potential and some people do definitely go beyond that meaning and get carried away, but you don’t have to go that way. You certainly can enter training your body with a proper perspective. And another thing I like to focus on there is focus more on health and function rather than form, rather than how you look. So if your goal is to go in there, I’m going to do this to keep myself healthy, to make my blood values better, my blood sugar better, so I’m stronger and fitter and have more energy to do things, that’s the right approach. If you happen to look better, your waistline shrinks, your muscles get a little bigger, well that’s fine, but those are side effects. Those shouldn’t be the main reason that brings us into a gym.
I also think there’s a struggle often for Christians with this topic because physical exercise like we do today that that’s kind of a mass phenomenon is a relatively modern activity. Because it’s not in the Middle Ages, people had to be like, “Oh, let’s go make sure we run five miles to get our five miles in or lift our weight today,” because their very lives were far more physically active than ours, most of us are. I mean, for example, my job puts me in front of a computer most of the day. And the lifestyle of just living in a modern house, you’re not doing as many chores and things. I don’t have a cow to take care of and things like that. So I think that’s part of it as well, is that the sense that physical fitness today exercise is fitting into something that the modern world has made a hole in our lives, so to speak. We don’t have that physical activity we used to. Would that be a fair assessment of the reason for the growth of the physical fitness industry?
Yes, I think so. I think that is a great insight. It’s just a simple fact that daily life used to require a great deal of walking, physical activity of all kinds, tending one’s animals, tending one’s property in ways that they’re not so common today. I mean, I spent most of my work career sitting down in front of a computer with a telephone myself. So exercise can be one thing that meets that need for physical activity that our normal activities don’t tend to provide.
So I will say later in the book, I do talk about there still is ongoing value in physical activity if we look for it. So if we have a yard to maintain or even a pet to take for walks, a house to keep in order, a garden, those things, those things are valuable. But exercise, the right kind of exercise, can also be a very powerful medicine. A little small dose that doesn’t take too much time away from our other responsibilities can go a long way, especially in strength training. It can take as little as 10 or 15 minutes, even once a week if it’s done right. And even though endurance, cardiovascular training doesn’t necessarily have to be done every day. So in general, yes, I think a lot of the modern exercise does make up for the fact that we don’t naturally obtain the kind of activity that we used to. And I think it can be a good thing because we can get proper exercise in more concentrated doses by doing formal exercise.
I think also one of the things I think Catholics need to realize when it comes to exercise and physical fitness and taking care of your body is something I’ve kind of just figured out on my own is that when I am not taking care of my temple, so to speak, I’m not exercising at all, I’m not doing anything like that. I find that my energy level decreases. I get more of a brain fog, and that makes my prayer life more difficult and frankly makes me more likely to skip doing the prayers I need to do each day. I just don’t feel that interjected to fulfill all my tasks as a husband and as a father and all of that. And I found that when I’m more physically active doing things like running or doing the exercise bike or whatever the case may be, all of a sudden now I have that energy and I’m able to do those things, the spiritual things, so to speak. So what is the connection there? Why is it that when I’m more active physically, I tend to desire to be more active spiritually?
And that’s one thing too that we’re in we’re unity of body and soul and me by myself being a Thomist, a big fan and student of St. Thomas Aquinas, I love the way he emphasizes that we’re body and soul unities. And what makes us unique as human beings amongst all the other animals on earth is that we’re made in the image and likeness of God in that we have intellect, intellectual abilities. We can reason and we have a will. We can guide our choices. We can guide our actions based on our choices, not just instinct and so on. Well, the way it works is, and so a lot of recent research is showing us now how this works. When we do strength training or endurance exercise or even fairly demanding physical labor, it just kind of lets loose a cascade of hormones and brain neurotransmitters and different chemicals in the body that enhance the functions of our brain, that enable us to be able to keep a better focus. To have a higher energy level. It’s intertwined.
So if we tend to take care of our bodies, it’s going to actually improve the health of our brains. Also enable us to call forth our powers of intellect and to operate our will at a maximal level as opposed to the case might be if we’re worn out because we’re not getting that kind of stimulation. And along a similar vein, myself, Eric, because I turned 62 years old yesterday. And some of us, as we get older, well we also find not only our energy’s down, but boy, my joints or my back hurts and things like that.
And I have found too that in my own case, occasionally I’ll post a video, I’m doing a deadlift or something and someone my age will say, “Oh, that would break my back.” Or “Oh, that make my back hurt just watching.” And I realize that if I’m doing regular sensible training, my back starts hurting if I’m not training. The joints start acting up if they’re not used in a regular basis. So anyway, yeah, I think that using our body on a regular basis is very powerful benefits to the mind, which then impacts the intellect and the will that can even enhance our ability to focus on God the way we’re supposed to through spiritual exercise.
So you’re 62, and tell us, I think I know generally from the book, but tell us how much do you deadlift when you do a deadlift like five times or something like that? How much is it like 400 pounds or something like that?
Yeah, I know when I turned 60 before I dropped a little bit of weight, what did I do 410 pounds for five repetitions. Now two weeks ago after I’ve lost 25 pounds lighter, I think the most recent I did was 405 pounds, which is like four of those big 45 pound plates on each side for three repetitions. And that’s at a body weight to 195 instead of two 20 that used to be. So a lot of exercises, I still go fairly heavy. That I’m older, there’s certain exercises I know don’t agree with me anymore, so I simply don’t do them. So that’s something else we do. Find out what kind of exercise fits us and then keep with it. So myself, I do train fairly heavy on most of the parts of my body and thanks be to God, most of them still work well.
But again, but the main idea is when I am training though I’m doing exercises fairly intense for me. I usually don’t actually fail a repetition. I kind of know my limits and stop there. But where that is is going to vary greatly for different people, whether you’re just a beginner, whether you’re stronger than I am, whether you’re at my level. But it can be fine-tuned and healthy for all of us if we’re doing the right kind of exercise for our body with our particular structures and doing it in a very gentle, careful way where we progress but we do so very, very gradually.
So we’re talking here about physical fitness when we’re talking about taking care of the body, but of course there’s another major aspect of taking care of the body and that’s nutrition, that’s your diet. And I feel like this is one that I’ve gotten to a point where I kind of feel like it’s a dystopian movie where everybody in society is drugged and so they just kind of go along in this drugged state. They don’t even realize it. And I kind of feel like that drug is sugar and frankly a lot of the foods we eat are filled with that.
And so you talk about in the book about the idea of nutrition. And like I said, my own experience, like I said when I didn’t exercise, I was a lot more lethargic, stuff like that. But it’s definitely true. The same thing is true about my diet that I’ve always been for a very long time kind of pre-diabetic, my dad had adult onset diabetes and so I’ve always kind of been in that bad range. And when I’m eating a lot of carbohydrates, a lot of sugars, I mean I feel like a zombie after a while. And so talk about the importance of nutrition and why that matters for Catholics particularly. Just same thing we were talking about before in their spiritual lives.
Yeah. And nutrition is so important, Eric, because like I mentioned, I’ve been a weightlifter really, I got my first weights in second grade and I’ve been lifting steadily since seventh grade. So it’s going on 50 years now. So through exercise, I’ve always been able to keep strong. And when I was running, I was fairly enduring for a little bit heavier guy. So even up to age 60, when I did that deadlift, 410 pounds for five repetitions, I knew nutrition in terms of I need a lot of protein so I can be strong. But what you just mentioned, the sugar for my younger years, we were really preached to have a very, very high carbohydrate diet. And I did that. Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate.
So I was taking in a great deal of sugar, and when I turned 60 years old, I was still very strong for my age, but my waist was over 40 inches around. I remember my blood pressure the last reading was 159 over 91. At that time, I’d gone deeper and deeper into some more modern books, some new takes on nutrition, and I drastically reduced primarily my sugar and other forms of carbohydrate came way down too. And I think it was 160 days, I lost 30 pounds, six inches off my waist. The blood pressure went from 159 over 91 to 124 over 68. And then I just recently had some new labs, my yearly physical earlier this month. So after an additional year on top of that altered dieting, my blood volumes and everything were even better. Triglycerides I think were 88 and HDL had gone up and things. So I found myself that I could stay strong and I could say physically functional if I was eating a lot of sugar, but I was also unhealthy. The blood sugar and everything was rising, blood pressure was rising.
So one thing I found in recent years is yes, nutrition is of fundamental importance for health. And I don’t just mean the cosmetically, oh, here’s how you get your waist trim. But things like you said, to avoid the onset of diabetes and all other kinds of problems that may go along with that. Even now there are some researchers calling Alzheimer’s disease, which was my area of specialization in psychology, some people are calling it type three diabetes, implying that it may be that high sugar intake throughout the decades could cause this insulin resistance and problems in the brain tissues themselves. So just in general, yes, nutrition is extremely important. It can be very complicated, but in this book, I tried as much as I possibly can to give some fairly simple fundamental principles that may be of help.
Yeah. And basically I know that the number one principle is eat real food. So could you explain that a little bit what you mean by that when you say eat real food?
Sure. Sure. And I do point out one thing, if anyone has ever interested in diets or tried different ones over the years, they’re everything from A to Z, from Atkins to Zone. And in the middle you have the Mediterranean and you have your vegetarians, your vegans, you have your pure carnivores. I mean, they’re all over the place in these different recommendations on how we should eat. But even with these various diets, the one thing they tend to have in common is they recommend that we eat real foods. Just so some people say these should be all plants. Other people say these should be all animal. And most of them are somewhere in a mix there.
But that seems to be the common denominator and that’s contrasted with what we now call the standard American diet. Because real good research has shown that now about 60% to over two-thirds of what we eat is not real food. Meaning things without a label, a fruit, a vegetable, a piece of meat, egg, cheese, butter, milk, things like that. But things that are packaged with this big, big ingredients list. For example, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that in 1999 for kids ages two to 18, I think it said 61% of their daily intake of food was ultra-processed foods as opposed to the basic real foods. And by 2017, I think it was, that had risen all the way to 67%. So more than two-thirds of what our kids in the United States eat a day are these ultra-processed foods. And one way to look at them is these are foods that would not have existed probably in the time of their great-great-great grandparents.
Yeah, I think I saw a stat, I might butcher a little bit, but something like in 1990, I think only one state had a higher than 20% obesity rate. And now literally no state has one under 20%. And when it comes to obesity, especially for conservatives, we might have a knee-jerk tendency to say, well, they’re just lazy, they’re gluttons, or whatever the case may be. And I think though that what we’re finding is the standard American diet, SAD a good acronym for it, is actually causing in a sense this obesity epidemic that we have. Because obesity really does have so many issues surrounding it, like secondary issues that it causes.
And I do think for example, it can affect the spiritual life. I know my wife has thought about this a lot. You find a lot of times priest, they end up becoming very heavy, very overweight, and even obese at times because they typically just eat, they’re not thinking about food. They’re single, maybe they have somebody cook something for them, whatever. But generally they’re eating that standard American diet. And, so can you explain why it is that the standard American diet, maybe a little bit more detail how that’s leading to obesity and the problems that it causes?
Yeah, that’s a very important question. And I do remember early in my disability violation career, having the attitude myself, we had a lot of obese people. There used to be called a medical listing for obesity. If you were beyond a certain weight level and you had a slight heart failure or any arthritis in your weight, joints, things like that, boom, you’re considered disabled. There was backlash in the ’90s and that was taken away. But the percentage of obese people kept growing and growing and growing. And my attitude at the time was, yeah, well they need to eat right, eat less and just get up and exercise, which is the common way we look at it.
But in the recent years, my thinking on that has changed as I’ve done a lot of reading on the impact of our diet. Because if it truly was just gluttony, I mean these people just back away from the table, just use some common sense here. Well, how come we’ve become so much more gluttonous in the last five or six decades? When I was growing up in the early ’60s, I said about one child in 20 was considered obese, now it’s about one child in five. So quadrupled. So What’s going on here. And for adults it’s similar, it’s tripled to quadrupled in obesity.
But we do know there were significant dietary changes in the American diet during that time. And these particularly we’re involved in that, what was called the food pyramid that came out late 1970s, early 1980s. We were encouraged to eat all this carbohydrate food and to decrease our intake of fats and animal foods and proteins. And there’s a lot of reason for that. A lot of earlier research that seemed to implicate fat with heart disease, a lot of it which later came to be unfounded. But anyway, the bottom line of my understanding is, and in my experience is, when we tend to eat the higher carbohydrate foods, the processed foods rather than the natural fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and so on, they’re lower in nutrients and they’re very satisfying because they usually have added sugar and salt. So eating these foods doesn’t satisfy our needs for nutrients. And they’re very palatable so we tend to eat more and more and more without thinking about it because they’re not satisfying our needs.
But people who have now gone more towards eating whole foods, in many cases, eating more natural fats again, the fat that comes from meat and butter and eggs and some plant foods like olives and avocados and coconuts. When people do that, they tend to find that their appetite naturally diminishes. And I remember this in my own case. When I was in my teens I competed in body building and I worked at a Burger King for years and never had one sip of soda, never ate a French fry, never had a burger bun because I had this desire to be this champion body builder. But later as I got older, I realized I wasn’t going to be the world champion body boiler. For decades, I’d think where’d my willpower go? I wish I could be like I was when I was a teenager and that stuff didn’t even tempt me.
Well in the last few years when I’ve made these dietary changes, all of a sudden it’s like the willpower’s back. By eating higher protein and fat content, I find that my body’s satisfied so I simply don’t crave the kind of processed foods that I used to. And I know many other people have reported this too. So I think anyone who may have been battling with their weight or they’re feeling like, oh, I’m just too gluttonous, they might be surprised to find if they can eat more real foods again, they might find that their gluttony is really abated.
This ties into another topic. So we talked about physical exercise, talked about what food you eat, but something that you’ve come around on in recent years and so have I which is fasting. Which of course is very important in the Catholic tradition ever since the time of Jesus, before Jesus in the Jewish times. The idea of fasting it spiritually is very important, but also physically. I know my own experience exactly what you were just saying, that I was eating a lot of high carbohydrate foods, a lot of processed foods for many years and I was getting overweight. But the more important thing was I just couldn’t stop eating during the day. I couldn’t go more than maybe a couple hours because I was always hungry. No matter how much I might eat at lunch, if it’s McDonald’s, doesn’t matter how much you eat, you’re still going to be hungry pretty soon after that.
And I thought I couldn’t even fast. I just was like, “Well, I’m just not able to. My body’s not able to fast.” And then when I switched to a much lower carbohydrate diet and just eating more real foods it’s like, I don’t want to say fasting is easy because it shouldn’t be and it isn’t, but at the same time it’s manageable. You can actually do it without those significant crashes. So tell us a little bit about how you also kind of came to the importance of fasting as part of this taking care of our bodies and our souls.
Yeah. And I had almost exactly the same experience that you have with that Eric, with for many, many years feeling I need to eat every few hours. I remember my wife we went on a vacation, I’m like, “Oh, after dinner I need to make sure I have a big, big bar of chocolate or something. So if I get back in the room and I’m tired, I’d better, I better get some milk to wash that down too.” Or if I would go give a talk, I’m thinking, “Oh, I haven’t eaten in three hours, I’m going to crash. I need something.” And it’s not that way anymore at all now that I’ve started eating lower carbohydrate and more natural protein and fat.
But in a way it was even worse for me too because coming out of my body building and strength background, the standard wisdom for a long time was constantly fuel your body, constantly feed it, so you’re never getting weaker, you’re always getting stronger and stronger. So it wasn’t until recent years that I started learning the real physiological benefits from fasting or sometimes too what they call just time-restricted eating where if you’re eating these real foods, it’s just kind of a natural curb on your hunger. So it makes it very much easier too fast.
Now in my own case, I normally don’t do day long fasts or anything. I just personally just of course follow the minimal fasts of the church before the Eucharist on holy days and things like that. But the one simple change I made was I usually stop eating by about 5:30 PM and I usually go to the gym early in the morning and I don’t eat the next day till maybe 7:30 or so. So there’s about a 14 hour gap. And then I usually eat three meals a day. It seems during the summer months I can reduce that to two. I just don’t even eat lunch and I have no need or desire to nibble on anything in between.
Because it’s kind of like when you’re eating the real kind of foods that God made, they sustain you. Yeah, you’re mentally sharp. And part of the reason for that is physiologically too, that your body, so many of us are adapted to the burning sugar. And sugar’s, kind of like a kerosene, you use it up real fast, so you need to keep squirting more on there. Whereas fat fuel in your body’s kind of more like logs. It’s slow burning. But most of us are carrying, unfortunately, a lot of extra logs on us. So when we eat a diet that is higher in fat for fuel, it’s easier for us to draw on the fat reserves within our own body if we haven’t eaten for a while. So just all kinds of positive benefits. And as a weightlifter, I found that it didn’t decrease my strength one iota.
Yeah, I remember when I was running cross country and track in high school, this is in the late ’80s, we knew about carbo loading. I would have a big spaghetti, usually a big pasta like spaghetti type dinner the night before, or I can’t remember how many hours it was before a meet because I wanted to get that carbo loading and things like that. And I kind of understand on a certain level because your body does burn that, but you have these fat stores it can also burn, which is actually a healthier way to burn anyway.
Okay, so what if there’s somebody out there who’s like, “I am convicted, I do need to take care of my body better because I do think it’s going to help my spirit as well. But I’ve been on the standard American diet for years. I don’t really have knowledge of this. I don’t really exercise very much.” How do they get started? Because I will just say that at times as I’ve looked into this myself, I get intimidated. And I get like everybody’s saying, do this, do that, do this. Now, other than by the way, I will say what they really should do is buy your book You Are That Temple, but really how do they get started on this?
Yeah, to try to make it as simple as possible I think I can say three things, and one is just simply eat more real food. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to eat any processed food at all. Now, that’s too hard to do. It’s not going to last. But be conscious. Try to increase the proportion gradually of how much real food you eat in terms of just grabbing an apple instead of a candy bar or whatever the case may be. So eat more real food and see how you feel.
And then along with that, like when I say real food, I think you need to be aware too of food that’s been altered in terms of being made low fat on purpose. Because low fat items, they don’t satisfy us. You tend to eat more of them, which is part of the reason they’re so popular because they don’t satisfy you so you’re going to buy more. So just try to eat more real foods, more whole foods. Perhaps for most people, don’t be so fearful of fat. A lot of this idea that saturated fat is going to cause heart disease or cancer, much of that has been debunked over recent decades, though it rarely makes it to the mainstream press.
So I guess a simple thing, just try to gradually notice what you’re eating, notice what you’re buying. Try to fill your cart more with what’s on the outside of the grocery store, just gradually increase that. Number two, in terms of using your body and exercising, I think the simplest thing you could do is just normal daily activity. The things people probably heard of, maybe parking a little bit away from the store, or if you’re work in an office building, occasionally take a little walk around the block on your break or maybe use the stairs instead of the elevator. Or walk your dog more or mow your lawn. Those things are important. And it doesn’t have to be anything drastic. You don’t have to do this for an hour at a time. You can do it for five or 10 minutes and maybe more than once a day. So that’s really simple.
If a person is willing to do strength training and it can be barbells and dumbbells or machines, it can be weight exercises, I’ll just say there, as little as one session once a week that might only take 15 or 20 minutes can make a real, real difference. So increasing your strength gradually, it can be a very, very minimal time investment. And there’s even methods developed for older people that involve it’s called super slow, involves slow motion lifting. So it’s very non-traumatic on the joints. It doesn’t require you use a lot of weight. And then I’d say if you still have a little energy left, consider an aerobic type activity that you might enjoy, if it’s running or swimming or biking. But I would say just go at your own pace. And if you’re doing nothing, any of those three, a strength training regimen of some kind, increasing your normal activity or adding formal aerobic, any of those is going to be better than nothing. Then you might gradually work up to all three.
Then I think a last thing I’d say, because it’s, yeah, eat real food and exercise in some manner. The third I’d say, I guess would go along maybe with buying the book, but not just this book, just learn more about your body. We are mind body unity, so it’s worth investing some time in learning a little bit about nutrition and exercise. Because I find too in my own case, if I keep reading, if I try to keep learning new things in the topic I keep interested on and I’m more aware of what I’m eating so I’m not let astray and going back to old habits. So learning more about our bodies might be one way to keep us from backsliding into the things that got us unhealthy in the first place.
Yeah, I think it really is a matter of just getting started and doing something because that is better than nothing. And I think it’s also, I love what Pope Pius XII how he worded it, just this idea of a balanced way of treating it. We don’t want to become people who, like you said are gym rats and they’re exhausted after they get home and they don’t really do anything. The whole purpose is, in my experience at least, if you spend 20 minutes, maybe 30 minutes or so a day in exercise, to me, I get that time back in more efficient work. I get more done the rest of the day. I’ve realized that when I start to creep into saying, “Oh, I don’t have time to do my exercise.” Then I end up, I’m not as able to get as much done in the afternoons because I’m dragging things like that.
And it really is comparable I think, to the spiritual life. If you say you don’t have time to pray in the morning, well then the rest of the day is going to be a disaster. And it’s like the famous Fulton Sheen comment, I think somebody asked him, I don’t have time to pray an hour a day. He said, “Okay, then you need to pray two hours a day.” So the idea being that if you say you don’t have time to pray, if you don’t have time to exercise, you don’t realize that it’s not a linear thing. If you spend that time in prayer during day, you’re going to see the benefits, you have more time in a sense the rest of the day. Same thing with exercise. So I agree that just spending some time as well.
And also I think you already mentioned it, but along with the nutrition and everything, I think everybody can do some type of time-restricted eating. I think your is a perfect example. You go about 14 hours a day every day without eating. And 14 hours, when you think about it sounds like a lot, but your schedule actually isn’t that radical. I mean, you just don’t eat after 5:30 and you start eating next day at 7:30. And I know a lot of people who do this, they do a 16/8 where they may stop at 6:00 and then they don’t eat the next day until I think noon or something like that. And that’s another option and there’s a lot of benefits to that. And I found just skipping, not eating as much, it’s another thing gives you more time in the day and because you’re not fixing the food, you’re not spending time eating it and everything like that, and your body’s getting that rest from digesting it.
So yeah, I just, I’ve come to be a big believer in the need to take care of our bodies in order to take care of our spirits. And that’s why I found when your book came out, I was like, “Oh, this is great because this connects it.” Because the books I had read, they’re good, they give a lot of good information, but they’re strictly about the body and they don’t really talk about the spirit at all. So that’s what I appreciate about that. Okay. Kevin, anything else you want to talk about in that topic or you think we’ve covered all of that?
Yeah. No, I think you’ve done a wonderful job there of bringing the big points out. I’ll point out one thing too for people that because everyone is different this book also features at the very end, 23 personal stories from Catholics that tell their own stories. And one of it happens to be a person who actually won the Mr. Universe, who was totally absorbed in his younger years, kind in the wrong kind of motivations and then turned around and found Christ and now trains for the glory of God. And there’s people just regular every day, people who’ve lost weight, who feel much better now, who have more energy for their family, both men and women. So the thing to me, one of the things I love about this book is that I had these people who are willing to contribute to tell their own stories of how they take care of their own bodily temples and how that benefits them spiritually.
And again, maybe one last thing I’ll note, as far as fitting in time, it can be a great thing for certain types of exercise, especially running, walking, even if you’re mowing the lawn or something, to do some spiritual reading before that and then you’re ruminating on it while you’re doing that activity. And some people also like to formally pray while they run or while they walk. So another way that almost anyone should be able to work some activity into their schedule.
Very good. Very good. Okay. Where can people find out more about all your books and the different things you’re up to these days?
Well, yeah, my own websites, drvoss.com, just D-R-V-O-S-T.com. I don’t keep it really up to date. All my books are not there, but there is a comment box on the bottom if anyone would like to contact me with a question and a comment, I’ll be happy to respond to them. So that’s just D-R-V-O-S-T.com.
Great. So I’ll put a link to that also in show notes. Again, I just want to encourage people to look at You Are That Temple: A Catholic Guide to Health and Holiness. Like I said, you can actually buy it directly from the Crisis Magazine website and I highly recommend it. I think it’s a very practical guide that I think can get people started on their kind of fitness journey that gets them, I think both spiritually and physically more aligned with what God wants us to be. Okay, great. Well I appreciate it again, Kevin. Thank you very much and until next time, everybody else, God love you.