9 Transcript: How to Get Active and Feel Great (with Jodi Danen)

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JR: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 9.

JD: Just grab a pair of tennis shoes and go for a walk, go a block farther than you did the day before. Small, small challenges is what gets you out the door, it doesn't have to be a marathon; you start with that first 10 minutes.

Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.

JR: Hi, I'm Jen Riday, and this is Vibrant Happy Women. On our last episode, I spoke with Sue Lachman about letting go of the emotions we attach to our thoughts so we can feel greater peace. Today, I'll be chatting with Jodi Danen. Jodi shares her story of choosing to run a 5k even though she had never won one before. Jodi used to be a stay-at-home mom for 2 children and devoted all her time and energy to them, but found herself feeling like she wasn't doing anything for herself. That led to her choice to run the 5k with her sisters. Jodi downloaded the Couch to 5k app and began by just walking about 10 minutes on the first day with a tiny bit of running and progressed all the way to running her first 5k. I found this episode so inspiring that I have chosen to run my own 5k on Labor Day this year. Listen up and get inspired so you too can get more active and feel great.

Jodi Danen is a registered dietitian and author behind the blog, The Average RD. When she's not experimenting with food creating healthy recipes her kids will actually eat, you can find her outside, hitting the pavement running. She's currently developing Food Fight Kids Club, a subscription box service which will solve parent’s battle with their picky eater. Jodi lives in Wisconsin with her husband, 2 kiddos, and 12-year old dog who still acts like a puppy. Welcome, Jodi.

JD: Hi, thanks for having me, Jen.

JR: Yeah, I'm so glad I get to interview a fellow Wisconsinite; this is amazing.


JR: So I've given our listeners a little glimpse into who you are, so take a minute and fill in anything that I left.

JD: Well, I started my career in renal nutrition and then I stayed home with my 2 kids for a little while, and then I jumped back in and was the food service director at their school for a while and that really got my juices flowing on kid nutrition. So I had so much fun interacting with kids ages preschool through 8th grade and, you know, their food quirks and what they liked and didn't like and I got to try so many different things with them that that kind of steered me in the direction that I am now focusing on kids nutrition. Beyond that, yeah, my husband travels a lot so it's me and my kids and we stay busy and… and try to live a healthy life.

JR: Super. And… and I think what you're doing is so needed and wanted. So as you know, I have a Facebook group called Vibrant Happy Women and I'm always impressed that the number one question people ask there is, “Does anyone have healthy snack ideas for kids that they'll actually eat?” so you're… you're totally reaching a need there.

JD: Yeah, it certainly is… it's a hard thing. And there's so many different ideas, you look through Pinterest or any of the multitude of blogs and things out there, and I've tried a lot of things, but to get your child to actually eat it is the goal. If you make something that might be crazy healthy for them, but if they don't eat it, it doesn't do anything. So that is really where my goal lies is trying to come up with things that kids will actually eat where they get the nutrition from it, because it can look pretty and be there, but if they're not eating it or at least trying it, it really doesn't do any good.

JR: Right. We start off every show with our guest’s favorite quote or a life motto and we would love to hear yours.

JD: Well, I'd have to say my favorite quote and motto would be, “Mind over matter,” that you can do anything that you put your mind to; really, that nothing is impossible. I think I wasn't necessarily raised that way and I've learned that over time and it's really been a very powerful thing for me to remember that; that I choose how my mindset is on that.

JR: Hmm, that's really a powerful quote and I can't wait to hear how you've applied that in your life because I have a feeling you're going to inspire us to be healthier.


JR: Let's transition into your low point, a point in your life where you struggled, and after which, you experienced an aha that led you. Lead us into that low point with whatever happened before then.

JD: Well, I mentioned briefly I had a change in career. I stayed home when my daughter was born, so I was a stay-at-home mom, my kids are 2 years apart so I had a baby and a 2 year old. My husband traveled all the time, and when he was home, he was establishing his career; so he was in his office a lot, it was kind of me and my kids. And throughout the years, you know, moms understand how it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of… out from you, and I was just home with the kids. So I guess my low point was I focused all of my time and energy on them. I was, you know, being a dietician, I used that to make their own baby food and feed them as healthy as I could, but I kind of forgot about myself. So I guess my lowest point when I realized, I was probably 15 to 20 pounds overweight, I wasn't applying what I knew to myself, and I didn't feel very good about myself. It was get through the day, go to bed, get back up, and repeat, and I didn't want to live that life, but I wasn't sure how to get out of it.

JR: Hmm. So I'm sure lots of our listeners feel the exact same way. So many of us have the extra 20, 30, or 40 pounds sitting around and… and we're doing the same thing. So tell us, how did you get out of that… that cycle, that low spot.

JD: Well, you know, it wasn't even something that I can say that I did it; well, it came upon as kind of a challenge. My sister had called my siblings (I'm 1 of 4 siblings) they were all going to run a 5k race coming up in a couple months and I just laughed at her, I'm like, “Are you kidding? I can't run down my driveway.” But thinking about it, like I had nothing to lose; I was unhappy with the way I was, I wasn't showing any good examples to my kids because I did zero exercise. So I decided I was going to download a Couch to 5k program, get started on that. The only way I did it was because, on day 1, I think it was about 10 minutes and I had to walk. I stuck with it and, even though it was the hardest thing I've ever done probably, but I learned that that was my boost out of that low spot. I started feeling better about myself, every time I took the time to do the next workout in the course of that app, I found that I wanted to eat better, my attitude improved and I went on to do that race. And it was the best feeling I had had personally accomplished and probably forever because it was something I did for myself. And therefore, after that race, we decided that we wanted to continue on, or I decided, but my sister did it with me, we did the next… a 10k.

JR: Mm.

JD: After that, I had encouraged… my husband watched and thought, “Gosh, I see all the benefits that you're getting from this, you know, it's… your motivating me to do something,” so he joined in. We ran that 5… the 10k and then I decided that wasn't enough, “If I could accomplish that, I could continue on, and let's see what else I could accomplish.” It was a little bit addicting because you feel so great about yourself and I was learning new things as well, because these were not things that I had learned growing up. I was the kid who wanted to stay home for gym class when we had to run the mile because I probably walked it. I just… my mother didn't encourage me that I could do it, she thought that was… was really something hard that to accomplish, but I was learning, you know, if you just take small steps, you can accomplish whatever you want. So we did go on and do the half marathon and decided to go on and do a full marathon. So I ran the same exact race one year later that I accomplished my first 5k, I ran that marathon the next year. So that was… that was pretty exciting and I was pretty darn proud of myself.

JR: You should be, that's fantastic. And it really is inspiring, you make me want to download the Couch to 5k program. (Laughs)

JD: It's doable, that's for sure.

JR: So you got your family involved, do your kids run now.

JD: You know what? Coming up, that same race is coming back, it's in May, they are going to do it with us. So while they're not, “Let's go out and run,” you know, some kids are like that, I think that they're seeing me and my husband being active and that they're just learning as they grow that this is what we do, whether it's running or playing soccer or being outside and going on the swings, we want to live a healthy lifestyle and I hope that they just incorporate that as life goes on. Because, again, as when I was a child, we didn't do any of those things. I mean, I played basketball and that sort of stuff, but we didn't do family activities like that. So that's what I hope that they're picking up on.

JR: That's great. And you mentioned having 15 to 20 extra pounds, did this help you with any of that weight loss?

JD: You know what? It sure did. Again, going back to being a dietician, I know how you can lose weight, but, you know, the exercise component is so big. It's just… I always felt overwhelmed and I would rather eat a salad then go out and try to do something active, but I have changed my thinking so much on that because when I found things I loved doing, it wasn't work, and I did lose the weight; I sure did when you're out there running that much. But it also changed my mindset because I wasn't out there to lose weight, I was out there to accomplish a goal and that goal made me feel good, and the benefit was weight loss. So I think the most important thing is just finding something you love because I did start doing other activities that I never would have felt confident enough to do such as taking tennis lessons and going to the yoga studio, just different things that it would have made me a little more intimidated, but I felt more confident myself that I could go do these things.

JR: So you've done the marathon, is there a kind of a feeling of always wanting to do more and more? Is that why you introduced the tennis and the yoga or do you feel satisfied just to do a marathon per year? How does that work for you?

JD: Well, you know, I kind of incorporated those other things as I was doing the running because, if you look at a training plan, there's usually other things they want you to do instead of just running, trying to incorporate other activities; so I did that along the course. And one marathon a year, no, I probably had my fill. I did run the second one which I can talk about it at a later date on the feeling on that one.

JR: (Laughs)

JD: But, no, I think I have met my goals in that area, I don't need go any further. You know, there are the ultra-marathons and that sort of stuff, but that's not… that's not my cup of tea. I think my body is starting to have its say in some of the things I've done. But…

JR: But you have a new identity as someone who really enjoys fitness and activity.

JD: Absolutely, yes, and I would never have classified myself like that before.

JR: Hmm, okay.

JD: So I think, you know, the average person… that kind of goes back to the blog that I have, The Average RD, that was kind of my point. The average person can do so much more than you think you can do, it's changing your mind on… on how you see yourself and what you can do.

JR: Hmm. It kind of struck me what you said about not knowing that the… the exercise aspect was so important. So I heard it said by a trainer I used to work with that losing weight is 80% what you eat and 20% exercise, but it sounds like you feel differently about that, can you elaborate?

JD: You know, I don't know if there's a right formula in general. I almost feel as though it needs to be more individualized what… you know, sometimes it's easier for me to focus on food and so they exercise. But I find so much more joy and getting out there being active than I do trying to restrict every single thing I eat because one of my favorite foods is wine.


JD: So I think that it's easier for me to get out there and play tennis because it's fun and, you know… and after you are active, it's a lot easier to eat those healthier foods. You know, you don't usually come home from a 3-mile run and grab a candy bar, you know, you might grab a protein shake or a salad.

JR: Mm, okay.

JD: You know, I think they kind of go in hand that way. So…

JR: Okay. It sounds like identity; the identity of a healthy person is a big part of it. And then, really, we only believe that healthy and fit people do long races or even 5 case. So…

JD: Right, you know, and that's so not the case. When I stepped up to the plate for that first 5k and looked around I couldn't believe my eyes; there was every size, shape, age. And then, if you were to look once the race was going on and, you know, people could… you’d look around and judge what time you think my people might finish, well, I was schooled by many women who were much older than me, much heavier than me; that did not play a role at all.

JR: Hmm.

JD: So I hope people can learn that that is not a factor. And if you get involved in the running community, there's so many different great support groups online of people of all sizes, shapes, ages, and they all just encourage each other. It's such a positive attitude or atmosphere.

JR: Tell us more about what living a vibrant happy life looks like you for you today.

JD: Well, I have to say, yeah, that… that really helped give me a good outlook on knowing what shapes my happy vibrant… vibrant life. I know that I need to stay active because, every time I feel anxiety, stress, upset about something, if I go out and go for a walk or a run or anything, I always come home feeling much better. And that is what my family needs is a heavy mom, not a stressed-out mom.

JR: Mm-hmm.

JD: So I know I need to stay active. I know I feel far better about myself when I'm eating better, and also then connecting with family and friends, I love being around them and that is what makes me happy.

JR: We've reached my favorite part of the show where we talk about a few of your favorite things. And so the first question is, share a favorite personal habit or part of your routine that contributes to your success.

JD: Sure. I think one of the biggest things that contributes to my success is not overthinking, just do it. If I were to sit every day and think about, “Ugh, do I want to go out there and do that or do I…? Nope, don't think about it, just do it.”

JR: Hmm.

JD: So that has… I have learned that that really has helped me along the course of things and it's reduced a lot of stress; calendar it, do it, check it off as done. (Laughs)

JR: Mm-hmm, if it's on the calendar, do it; I like that. A favorite easy meal that you guys like to eat regularly.

JD: One of my favorites currently, because I'm all about simple, healthy, and easy, is a Crock-Pot Mexican quinoa chicken dish.

JR: Mm.

JD: So you find it on the blog, it's super easy. My kids, I could never get them to eat quinoa, they don't even know it's in there, and it's spectacular. And it's very versatile because you can put it on a salad, they eat it plain, you can make tacos out of it; it's really good.

JR: And it's in a Crock-Pot.

JD: And it's in a Crock-Pot.

JR: 100% win. (Laughs)

JD: (unclear) [15:42] forget it, so that's my kind of dish.

JR: Oh, that sounds great, I'll definitely check that out. Favorite household possession.

JD: I'd say my Keurig, I'm kind of a coffee addict and that is really quick and that's so handy.

JR: Okay, a favorite book that you'd recommend and why.

JD: I would say ‘The Courage To Start’ by John Bingham. He is an adult runner, he's so… he coined the phrase ‘adult onset athlete’. He started running in his late 40s, I believe, he was really overweight and he was a smoker, and he has formed this huge following, but his followers are called penguins, they’re the back of the packers in these races. So I speak of my love or love/hate for running, but I am not fast. So I am not finishing a marathon in 3 hours, I'm more like 5 and a half hours, so that's kind of what he is. And his book is a… the tagline is ‘A guide to running for your life’, so he kind of just uses… he walks through how to get started running, every single thing you might need to know about running, races, and tying it into life. And, yeah, it's a great book, you can find it used on Amazon for like 4 bucks.

JR: Okay, I'll definitely get that because I'll need it for my Couch to 5k effort.


JR: That's fun. A favorite item on your bucket list.

JD: I have always wanted to go on a wine tour of Italy. And one… I have an acquaintance who went on a biking tour of that, so I would love to go on the bike tour/wine tour through Italy.

JR: Ooh, that sounds great. Italy is also on my bucket list so maybe I'll see you there. What's the best advice you've ever received?

JD: I think it has to be, “Start before you're ready.” That has stuck with me because, if we waited until we're ready, there's so many things I would never have done. And I try to use that as going forward to remember that, “Okay, do it before you're ready because you learned so much.” So don't let things hold you back just because you're not ready.

JR: When you started your 5k training, did you feel ready? Did you have a lot of fear?

JD: Lots of fear, anxiety, but what helped is that it started so slow and I'm like, “I can do 10 minutes,” you know, and I wasn't running 10 minutes it was walking and running just a little. So, yeah, it's starting before you're ready certainly, I would never have done it if it wouldn't have been the challenge from my sister. And I didn't want to be left out and watch them do it, I wanted to be part of it.

JR: Mm-hmm.

JD: So certainly, I started before I was ready and… and I look back at how much that's changed my life now, thank God I did do that.

JR: Mm-hmm. Looking back in your life so far, share with us your happiest moment.

JD: Obviously, there's the things, the birth of my children, my wedding day, those are happy moments, but personally, the things that I accomplish 100% for myself on my own, I did run a second marathon and that was the Chicago Marathon last October.

JR: Mm-hmm.

JD: The first marathon I ran, it was great to finish, but I struggled, I didn't feel the overwhelming joy that I was hoping to crossing that finish line. So I did one more with my brother and I was dreading it. I was so anxious and the… the process and the planning and it… it takes so much time. However, finishing that marathon moment, crossing that line, looking at the… it was a bright sunny day, I have never ever felt the joy and happiness that I have felt at that moment in time, and it made everything that I had gone through so worthwhile and that feeling is something nobody can take away. Other people may not care, but it's something that I did for myself and I think that was pretty cool.

JR: Why do you think you had the joy on the second race and not the first?

JD: You know, that's a good question and I think about that, why… why I didn't feel that way the first time. And maybe I felt more prepared because I had done it before so I knew what to expect, I knew it was going to kick my butt, and it did, but it was actually a mind. I mean, distance runners will probably all tell you, “It's not your body, your body can do it, it's what your mind does and trying to train your mind into dealing with the distress that you're going to feel.” So I feel my mind was better prepared and I knew that I wanted it this badly. And, again, I… I didn't finish in like some super crazy time, I didn't actually even meet my goal, but I was ready and I knew I did the best I could. I prepared the best I could and there was… what did they say, 2 million spectators throughout that course, I mean, all of the… the feeling in the area was… was just spectacular with the crowd and… and everything. And just knowing that I did something that I never in a million years thought I would do…

JR: Mm-hmm, yeah.

JD: … cross the finish line there, so that was pretty cool.

JR: That's great. Our final and most important question, if you had to create a 3 to 5 part formula of actions that make you happiest, what would you include?

JD: I would include what makes me happiest is when I stay active, I eat well, and I connect with my family. Those 3 things in my life go hand in hand, and when I do them, I certainly am living my vibrant happy life.

JR: And I think that we all know that those are the key things, yet some of us have such a hard time doing all of them, so kudos to you.


JD: Well, they are hard, that is for sure; if only that could be easy. I know I say that every day I… the whole running thing, I hate it, I don't love running, I actually dislike it very much. But the feeling when you are done, knowing what you… you're doing something good for yourself, and it's… it's like free therapy or free… you know, and it's the feeling that you get from it is why I keep doing it.

JR: Mm, and that's smart if we could all remember the feeling we're going to have when we start anything, whether it's eating healthier or… or exercise.

JD: Absolutely.

JR: Give our Vibrant Happy Women community a parting challenge that's actionable, something we can work on in the week or month ahead, and then we'll say goodbye.

JD: Well, what I would like to challenge everyone to do with summer coming upon, and every city in America has 5k races, sign up for one. You don't have to run it, you can walk, but look around and see all the people out there who are there for their health and their families because their kids are there; it's the… such a cool community. And if that's not something you're quite ready for, just grab a pair of tennis shoes go for a walk, you know, go a block farther than you did the day before. Small, small challenges is what, you know, gets you out the door; it doesn't have to be a marathon, you start with that first 10 minutes.

JR: Anyone can do 10 minutes, right?

JD: Anyone can do 10 minutes.


JR: That's great and Jodi where can our listeners find you online?

JD: They can find me at theaveragerd.com.

JR: Okay. And then you also have a Facebook group, right?

JD: I do have a Facebook page and started a Facebook group, Raising Healthy Kids. So I'd love for everybody to join me there, sharing ideas on how we can keep our families healthy, active, and involved.

JR: It's a great page and it has already inspired me a lot to be on your Facebook group, so everyone should definitely head over there, and it's called Raising Healthy Kids. And everyone can find links to what we've discussed on today's episode, including links to Jodi's page and her Facebook group and everything else you mentioned by going to jenriday.com/9. So, Jodi, I really want to thank you for being on the show today. We're so inspired and I think a lot of us are going to go run a 5k, so thank you so much for being here.

JD: Absolutely, I loved it and that would be great. And the last quote by John Bingham, for everybody, “The miracle isn't that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start,” so I think that is so powerful.

JR: Well, thank you, we'll leave it right there; the courage to start. Okay, thanks, Jodi.

JD: Thanks, Jen.

JR: Take care.

JD: You too.

JR: I hope you found Jodi as inspiring as I did. I'm so excited to run my 5k on Labor Day and I hope you'll pick out a 5k in your area to run as well. Running a 5k is essentially a baseline of health that we all can work towards, and if you're not going to run it, just walk it. Part of the challenge I found with running for me and for others is overcoming the mindset issues, the negative beliefs we have about ourselves such as, “I'm not a runner. I'm not built like a runner. I hate running.” These negative thoughts actually make it more difficult for us to succeed because our brain kind of shuts us down when we don't believe we can do it. To help us out with this process, I've created a free mini audio training called ‘How to shift your mindset about running’. You can get your copy for free, jenriday.com/run. It's a quick training, you'll need to have a notebook handy and a pen and write down your answers to the questions I'll be asking in the training. You're going to get to delve into your own thought processes and replace those negative thoughts with something more positive and effective so that you really can become a runner. Again, you can get that at jenriday.com/run. On our next episode, I'll be talking with Amanda Teixeira. She shares her story about coping with infertility, adopting a little girl, and making the choice to choose joy every day; you're going to love her. I will talk to you soon and make it a great day. Take care.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com