#63: Cynthia Thurlow – Nurse Practitioner, Author, Podcaster
Cynthia Thurlow Podcast Transcript
Neil Dudley: Everybody, welcome to the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. We’ve got Dr. Cynthia Thurlow here today, and I’ve been wanting to have her on the show for a while. And she’s launched a book. She’s super busy. She’s got plenty of things to take care of. And we’ve managed to work in some time for this conversation. And I don’t want to waste it telling you all of her greatness. I want to ask her to give you a couple of seconds of just who she is, where she comes from, why she is an expert in the field, some of the validation, then let’s talk about I’ve got several questions that I think will just lead us to some fun stuff.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, thank you for the warm welcome. I am a traditional allopathic trained nurse practitioner. And I grew up actually in New Jersey. I was born in South Carolina. And my grandmother used to refer to me affectionately as her Yankee grandchild. So definitely grew up in the south and in the northeast but now reside in the kind of Washington DC, Richmond, Virginia area. And I love everything about being on the East Coast. I’m a diehard East Coaster. But my whole background is I’ve been a bit of an adrenaline junkie in my medical career. I started in the ER in inner city Baltimore. I love everything about the adrenaline fueled environment of the ER where things are woefully unpredictable. And you never know what you’re going to see at work. It’s different every day. And then it was a natural transition into working in cardiology as a nurse practitioner. Everything about the heart is fascinating – the way it works, the way it works when it’s not functioning properly. And I spent 16 years working in clinical cardiology, both ICU, ER, hospital based management, and then also in the outpatient environment. And during the course of that, I got married, I had children, and becoming a parent, as I would imagine it is for most of us, is life changing, life altering. I always say our children are our greatest teachers. And my oldest son, who is now 17 years old, just had a birthday, when he was four months old, he developed terrible debilitating eczema. And in my kind of traditional allopathic brain, I would take him to the pediatrician where he would prescribe steroids. I would keep asking, is it something I’m eating? Because he was breastfeeding. No, no, no, it has nothing to do with food. He’s been my greatest teacher because in finding out what he was allergic to, it forced me to really examine that food is ultimately the greatest form of medicine or not. And I did probably a five to seven year journey of trying to figure out what did I want to do when I grew up, because obviously, being a mom and a wife was what was most important, and I love being a nurse practitioner, but I felt very constrained in the traditional allopathic model where we address symptoms. And yes, I am very good at addressing symptoms and prescribing medications and ordering studies and tests. But there isn’t a lot of time in the traditional nine to five medical model to talk about lifestyle, and certainly not to spend a lot of time talking about nutrition. And I came to find, after starting a PhD program and doing a wellness coaching program and doing some functional training, that what really lit me up was nutrition. And the practice I worked for thought it was cute. They’re like, oh, our nurse practitioner loves to talk about food. I really did because I wanted people to understand that inflammatory seed oils and this carbohydrate focused diet was exacerbating all of the things that were bringing them in to see me – their diabetes, their high blood pressure, their heart disease, their vascular disease, etc. And I got to a point six years ago, where I left clinical medicine and became an entrepreneur, without a business plan, which I don’t recommend anyone do. And that led me into creating programs almost instantaneously for a certain type of patient that was coming to see me, people who felt like they were misaligned, not represented and ignored by the traditional allopathic model. And so, that went on to spill over into doing a lot of public speaking, because as you mentioned, I am an introvert, but I’m very comfortable talking to people in groups, educating them about their bodies, inspiring them to live better lives, hoping that that message can be translatable on a larger scale. And so, two years ago- no, four years ago, now, I decided to do a TED talk because I thought that would be a big scary goal for an introvert. And indeed, it was, and I went on to do two, and the rest is history. But it just goes on to show you that I think one thing that I would impress upon your listeners, I impress upon my children, is the only way we grow is if we challenge ourselves, and so do something every day that pushes you outside your comfort zone because that’s when we really grow. That’s when the magic is there. If we are complacent and comfortable, guess what, we don’t thrive. We are designed just like our children, just like our environment, we have to create a little bit of friction in order to really grow as individuals. And so my growth as a human being has been exponential over the last several years and allows me to now travel to places to meet wonderful people like yourself that are doing great things in this space. But if you were to describe what I do now, I combine the best of my backgrounds, my functional training, my traditional allopathic training, to educate people about metabolic health, intermittent fasting, and nutrition because that’s really where it all stems from. If you are not metabolically flexible, you eat all day long, and you eat a highly inflammatory diet, guess what, you’re going to end up needing medication, surgeries, procedures, just to manage your symptoms. Whereas if you do the lifestyle change piece very diligently, you can forego ever needing to be on chronic medication in a situation where you’re having bypass surgery or angioplasty or having toes amputated because you have really poor circulation in your body because of diabetes, a lot of things that I saw chronically and habitually, ending up on dialysis because your kidneys are failing, which is a lot of what I saw in clinical medicine. And so, from my perspective, I want to start a whole generation of individuals or inspire a whole generation individuals to understand that if you do the hard work up front, the results are exponential, the long term gain is exponential.
Neil Dudley: Yeehaw. Everybody, you have to listen to that, all of that. Every bit of that is so valuable. It’s so true. All I could think the whole time was how do people identify, is it typically going to be you just have this gut feeling that when you’re visiting your doctor, they aren’t spending the time? I kind of want to say, why can’t we just fix that? Like, let’s make it sensible for doctors and people that really I think generally care about people’s health and happiness, have the time so the system’s not requiring this 29 patients today to talk about nutrition and these things, like what’s going on in your life? Are you getting sleep? Have you ever thought about intermittent fasting? Okay cool, maybe we could get off of some of the pills and try these things. What’s your take on that? I mean, do you think that’s possible? Or is the system just too worried about the revenue?
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, I think there’s many things, and I want to speak from a place of reverence and respect, because especially if the last two years have taught us nothing, our healthcare professionals have worked tirelessly to try to help people. I think there is a multifactorial. So, there’s many reasons why our current medical model is broken. Number one, most physicians and practices are not good businesspeople. They weren’t taught in medical school to be businesspeople. I was not taught in my medical training how to be a businessperson. So, we left Big Pharma and the healthcare organizations to drive strategy, to drive protocols, to drive our traditional allopathic model largely into the ground. So let me be clear. If you are emergently or urgently sick, there’s no question, the United States is the place to be. And I speak from personal experience. I spent 13 days in the hospital three years ago, and I would have died if I hadn’t had such excellent superlative care. But we don’t do well is prevention or chronic disease management. We don’t do it well. And that’s because our traditional allopathic model is really focused on symptom management. That is really how we are trained. Here’s the symptom, you present with shortness of breath. Here’s a differential diagnosis, that’s what you work through. And you address symptoms because that’s what the patient’s expectations are. Think about all the commercials you may see if you watch regular TV, Big Pharma has a lot of money invested in making sure that you go to your doctor and you ask for that one new drug that’s going to fix their cough over all these other things that are now generic, and they don’t make as much money off of. So, I think there are many things at play. First with education, doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, PAs, etc., are taught very little about nutrition. What they are taught is largely aligned with My Plate, which is the USDA’s food guide pyramid in its newer form. It’s heavily subsidized foods, so the corn, sugar, beets, etc., which are also some of the products that are proliferative in the processed food industry. So, there’s a lot of conflicts of interest. There’s a lack of education. I think many, many providers, myself included, we went back to school to learn a more functional integrative medicine approach. And that is becoming more the norm. I’m not suggesting that everyone is on board with that. There are many people who are not lifelong learners. Let me just say that again. There are many healthcare professionals that are not willing to, whether it’s due to hubris, they’re too prideful, they’re not willing to accept that what they learned in medical school in 1980 is no longer applicable. It’s those kinds of things that I think contribute to this. We also have a mindset as a community, as a nation, that a pill is going to fix our problems. And this is a huge issue. Even more so than, I think, the pharmaceutical industry, the healthcare organizations, and managed care, physicians and nurses and nurse practitioners not having enough education around lifestyle. I think an even bigger problem is we have patients who don’t want to do the work. And I say this with love and reverence, it is much harder to change your diet, get more sleep, stop smoking, move your ass, it is much harder to do those things than it is to take a pill every morning. And I used to have patients, I would try to find an angle, even my younger patients, even when I was in my 40s talking to people in their 30s, and I’m like, dang, how can I get this person motivated to change their behavior because they already have pre diabetes, they have high blood pressure, they’re going to end up developing cardiovascular disease, it’s not a question of if but when. And I will talk to them about their children or their grandchildren, any angle to get them motivated. And more often than not, they would say, “Cynthia, I really respect you. But I’m not going to change my diet. I’m not going to do more exercise. I’m not going to stop smoking. Just give me the pill.” And that to me was so disheartening. So, I think there are multiple things that contribute to the system that we are in. Obviously, those of us that are in the inside looking out now, we can see those things more clearly. But unfortunately, there would have to be a lot of changes, and all the way down, not just the local government, federal government. And I just think the lobbyists in DC are far too powerful. There are a lot of incentives. People don’t want to make changes. These healthcare organizations, they’ve been making a lot of money. Pharma has been making a lot of money for a long time. They don’t want to see their special interests to be adversely impacted financially. And unfortunately, we’re not thinking as a community. We just worry about ourselves. Like we just worry about me, like me, how am I impacted if I am now forced or incentivized to take better care of myself. We are programming generations of children and young adults that they can just eat whatever they want, whenever they want, with no consequences. And ultimately, like I look at my teenagers, and I always say, what concerns me is, we knew that in 2018, only 18.2% of the population here the United States was metabolically healthy. Now it’s 92 to 93% is metabolically unhealthy. The pandemic has done us no justice. And I think it’s important for people to understand that there’s a lot of things that contribute to the current state of metabolic health here in the United States. And a lot of the way that we can turn the ship, if you will, or rectify what’s happened is we have to take personal accountability for ourselves. Every single one of us. And I don’t hear a lot of people saying that because it’s probably not the politically correct way to say it. But personal accountability is very important. We have to stop blaming everyone else and start looking hard and fast, like what could I be doing differently today that is going to get me closer to being a healthier human being? And that doesn’t mean just physical health – emotional, spiritual, etc., all are very important. And are you being a good example to your family? Are you being good example to your loved ones, to your patients, to your customers, etc.? Like, do you walk the walk? Or behind closed doors, are you eating a bag of Oreos every night because they’re vegan? I think there’s a lot of different things that are contributing. But I would be the first person to say that it’s not going to be an easy fix. I can tell you that when Obamacare was kind of starting to get pushed through, there was a lot of pushback. At that time, I lived in Washington, DC, and there were patients coming to me complaining about their Obamacare. So clearly, there was good intent in trying to make changes, but you’re never going to be able to appease everyone. And I think that’s part of the problem is that it’s probably going to take someone really shaking things up to force people to make some changes.
Neil Dudley: The part that really resonates with me, personally, is that accountability, that requirement of myself that no one else can make happen to move, eat better, think about sleep, fasting, all these things in a way that says, Neil, it is not optional. You’re going to either spend this effort and time and brainpower on getting these things right. Or you’re going to not feel good to play with your grandkids, you’re not going to feel good. I say to people, I want to slide into death with a bowl of smoke behind me, high fiving Jesus, like man what a ride. I’m not going to be able to do that if I’m not nourishing my body well. And people like you – I’m sorry to cut you off – I just want to say thank you. You’re driving that forward. That’s why it’s so important to me to have you be a part of the show. We will not even get close to covering everything somebody could learn from you in this 30 minutes. But they’re now introduced to you. We’re going to put links to your TED talks, links to your book, links to your website. Everybody, you can go get more education, hire her to help you. I mean, those things, if you want it, there are- Oh, by the way, I’m sorry to have called you doctor.
Cynthia Thurlow: That’s why I always say nurse practitioner. But it’s interesting, so when I did my nurse practitioner training, the terminal degree as they call it was a master’s. Now it is a doctorate. So it’s a DNP, Doctor of Nurse Practitioner. And the irony is there are a lot of nurse practitioners who go by doctor now. But I always like to just clarify so people know I’m not a medical doctor. I’m proud of where I trained; I trained at one of the leading medical institutions in the United States. But I have opted not to get my doctorate because at this point in my career, it’s not going to further things for me. Maybe I’ll do that when I’m retired, when I decide that I want to further my intellectual fortitude. But right now, I’m helping too many people, and I’m not sure that would help me in this space. But thank you.
Neil Dudley: Sure, there’s probably some education there that would be valuable, but you got plenty to share, plenty of insight, plenty of valid, real, verified things that everybody could get better with. So now I just kind of want to say, okay cool, yes, we’ve talked about all that. On your homepage of your website, I love this quote, and let’s explore it a little bit. It says, “I do not believe nor do I support the limiting belief that women have to accept weight gain as a normal function of aging.” So, for any ladies listening that are like, well, I’m just getting older and some of this is just my truth, what do you say to that? Let’s help them. What’s the thought process there?
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, I mean, so part of the impetus for having that on the website is that someone told me that when I was in my early 40s. And I’m not a very tall person, I’m only 5’3, and five pounds on a 5’3 person, 10 pounds on a 5’3 person makes a big difference. Maybe at 6’ tall, a woman could camouflage that a little better. And so, I was in the beginning stages of perimenopause, which is the five to ten years preceding menopause. And one of my healthcare providers just said, “Cynthia, maybe this is just the way things are. I mean, you are in your 40s.” It’s like very kind of derogatory. And I came home and said to my husband, “I’m feisty, that just made me angry.” I think if most individuals understood what’s changing physiologically in their bodies as they get older, they could do things to offset what’s happening. Like as one example, so most of us build most of our bone and muscle in our 20s and 30s. And so, by the time we are 40, especially women, we start replacing muscle with fat tissue, unless we are working diligently against this. So, this means maintaining muscle mass with age is very important. It’s not just about aesthetics, it is very important for metabolic health, insulin sensitivity, and etc. So, if you are losing muscle mass into your 40s, so you do nothing else, you change nothing else, that alone will cause you to gain weight, along with some of the hormonal fluctuations that men and women both experience, whether it’s thyroid, whether it’s loss of testosterone, fluctuating amounts of estrogen, etc. just being insulin resistant. I just mentioned that 92 to 93% of adults are metabolically unhealthy. You add in middle age, and you are kind of putting yourself in a position. Plus, most people have become less active, they are eating the wrong types of foods. You and I are both very protein focused, protein centric about our diets. I always say most people eat not enough protein, too many of the wrong types of fats like seed oils, and too many carbohydrates. I’m not anti carb, but I’ll be the first person to say there’s a big difference between a sweet potato and a candy bar or a sweet potato and cakes and cookies. Very big difference between processed carbs. And so, when someone says to me, oh, this is just a normal function of aging, I say BS. It doesn’t have to be that way. But we have to work more diligently north of 40. It is not as easy as it was at 20. I can’t just eat whatever I want. I do actually have to get enough sleep. I do have to manage my stress. I do have to do the right types of exercise. I do have to prioritize protein. And by doing that, I can help for forestall having to deal with weight loss resistance. But I think a lot of people, they’re told by their healthcare team, this is just the way things are. And they believe that. And so those limiting beliefs can be very, very important/toxic for us if we embrace them. And I’m the first person to say, I’m not trying to act or look like I was when I was 20. Heck, I’m so much happier in middle age than I was in my 20s. But I do think your quality of life is critically important. And a lot of the ways to navigate that is not only reframing negative thoughts and limiting beliefs, but also honoring the way that our bodies are designed to thrive. And one of the ways that you can do that is protein centric diets, lifting heavy things, eating less frequently, getting high quality sleep. See, these are super sexy things, right? The processed food industry can’t benefit off of these things. So, you can’t market it and put it in a box, unfortunately. And so, I tell people these are the things that really do help people thrive into whatever stage of life that they’re in. But it’s not often talked about because we can’t, as a capitalist society, we can’t necessarily capitalize on those things. And so, that in and of itself is a curious kind of conundrum that we deal with.
Neil Dudley: Well, see, I would kind of rebuttal that with, we’re absolutely capitalizing on it with healthy, high functioning entrepreneurs and humans in our culture that are generating economic activity. Yeah, maybe certain industries aren’t. But those healthy, happy people are doing great things. So, I think that’s really how I think about it. I don’t necessarily think about- sometimes the money or the activity just moves places. And if I was, let’s say, a pharma group, I would want my money to move. But I also live and work in a business and under an expectation in my life that my cheese will move, that is all going to change. That’s part of the fun thing. That’s part of the journey that’s really enjoyable. But I guess I would probably have to realize I’m one of the few that kind of likes that.
Cynthia Thurlow: But I think you bring up a really good point. I guess I was speaking from the perspective of the processed food industry doesn’t benefit off of that mindset, meaning they can’t put it in a box. I’ll give you an example. I have a podcast, Everyday Wellness, and we have podcast sponsors. And one of the people who approached us about being a podcast sponsor was a company that has made a bar – wait for this – designed to be eaten while you’re fasted. And I just said, well, I don’t understand because eating the bar breaks your fast. So no, I don’t want you to be a podcast sponsor. So, there’s always people trying to find a gimmick or a product that they can market in the processed food industry that somehow is good. It’s like a bright, shiny object. People are like, oh, something I can eat while I’m fasting. No, actually, you’re not fasting. You’re no longer fasting because you’re eating. So the joke’s on you. But the point of why I’m sharing is that there’s always things in that industry that are designed to kind of trick people, like greenwashing, like it says natural or organic, that somehow that automatically makes- it ensures that you are distracted from the junky food that’s in the actual ingredient label. And so, they’re very savvy, they try very hard.
Neil Dudley: I mean, I live in that. Pederson’s is in that industry. And we use words that you just mentioned – natural, organic. So, I am so appreciative of you saying that because I want consumers to be aware, matter of fact, we do a little Q&A, we try to have people that say okay, what are the confusing words on labels out there that brands like Pederson’s can use, we can choose to use them, we have chose to use them. And let’s just try to have the consumers totally aware. And then if we’re doing a thing that consumers don’t want, then we have to change. We have to do something different. That’s kind of the expectation we have in our brand and in our company.
Cynthia Thurlow: I think it’s also helpful just to discern there are companies doing really great things who do use- with integrity are using labels like that. And that’s why we as consumers have to make sure that we’re putting our money in the direction where we continue to support good behavior. If that’s things like your company is a good example, Paleo Valley. I mean, companies I think about, like high integrity, they want to educate consumers, they want to put a good product out there. But yeah, so when you’re in the grocery store and it says, and the term is greenwashing, and it says natural, well, I usually say, I think I am a very positive person, but I automatically get on the defensive, because I’m like what’s in that label they don’t want me to look at?
Neil Dudley: I mean, so logically, it’s kind of easy to catch too if you’re just aware or thinking about it. I mean, organic Captain Crunch, stuff like that you just have to kind of immediately get that little red flag up to say, okay cool, this might be distraction at play.
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes. As I always say, anything that is marketed as a breakfast food is more like dessert. So Captain Crunch is absolutely breakfast food in this country. But it’s also dessert, just like sugar sweetened beverages and all these junky yogurts they market to children. And I could go on and on. It’s very troubling. I think it’s hard for consumers to navigate the grocery store now. It’s a minefield.
Neil Dudley: It’s hard for me, and I’m in the business. I mean, it’s my livelihood, and I don’t know half the answers. I mean, it’s like, wow, that’s confusing. How do you discern between regenerative and grass fed and organic? And what does any of that mean? So it’s a good conversation to have and to keep exploring, and I’ve got to get better. Now, before I let you go, time flies by, this has been so informational. I’ve learned something, not only in this conversation, but in researching you and just knowing that you’re a person I want to talk to you, and I want our audience to have access to. Just real quick touch on the book. What’s the book really all about?
Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, so the book is Intermittent Fasting Transformation. It’s a 45 day plan. And it’s the first book of its existence. It’s a book about women and fasting. And if anyone’s wondering why it is gender slanted, it’s because of a viral talk I did in 2019. So, you can go and look it up on YouTube. But it really gives the science behind fasting and talks about women’s unique needs. It really dives into a 45 day plan. So you can literally buy the book and just follow the plan really closely. And then there are over 50 recipes created by a very talented chef and friend, Beth Lipton, and they’re very carnivore-ish. I always say like, I’m very protein centric. And I think most women under eat protein, they overeat carbs, and eat the wrong types of fats. So, this book really identifies recipes and ways to kind of get yourself back on track. But I’m very proud of the book. It has been supported by some of the biggest names in the metabolic health space – Jason Fong, Rob Wolfe, Dr. Ben Bikman, JJ virgin, Dave Asprey, Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, lots of people that I love and respect, and also Ben Izadi, people that I really love and respect in this space. And it’s really changing lives. I get messages every day on social media and in our inbox, my admin shares them every day. And so, I’m very, very grateful that there’s now a book that people can purchase. You may not be in a position to be able to work with me personally, but you can absolutely listen to the podcast, Everyday Wellness, you can purchase the book. I also cohost another podcast called the Intermittent Fasting Podcast with Melanie Avalon, which is another great resource about fasting, not just specific to women, but all ways that people can learn and be inspired and certainly get very acquainted with what metabolic health is and get their lives back on track.
Neil Dudley: I find it crazy people don’t know about intermittent fasting. I was just talking to a guy I work out with, a cousin of mine, a great friend. We got on the topic, and he’s kind of like, what are you talking about? And now, him and his wife are exploring it and giving it a try, thinking about how it can be an asset to their life. So really, go learn about intermittent fasting. Here I go again about to call you Dr. Cynthia is a great resource for that. All the people, we’re going to link to all the people that support her, I think they’re going to be good resources as well. I like the diversity of education as well, like so be careful just kind of getting drilled into one person, they’re kind of where you stay all the time. Get some diversity in that education or that perspective too.
Cynthia Thurlow: Absolutely. As I always say, you want to be educated and inspired and empowered to be able to make decisions that really benefit you and your lifestyle. And to your point, fasting, despite what the media wants you to think, is not new or novel. It dates back to Biblical times. It’s a part of all the major religions, and I remind people that we fasted on high holy days. I grew up Roman Catholic, and so I remind people that it’s not a new concept. It’s just the contrary to what we have been taught to do in a standard American diet, that we eat snacks and many meals, and we eat all day long to stoke our metabolism. And I’m here to tell you, that’s about the worst advice you could ever take.
Neil Dudley: All right, everybody, go learn more, check out her TED talks, check out her book. Cynthia, thank you so much for your time today, for lending this. I am sitting here just thinking, man, what is a thing I can ask her nobody’s ever asked her? Then I thought, why bother with that? Because all this other stuff is actually so valuable. Like the idea that I could say some crazy question you’ve never had before, and then you’re like- I don’t know that that adds value. So I just am glad we explored your expertise. Everybody listening, thanks for your time. Like their time listening to this is something they won’t get back and I just know it’d be valuable to them.
Cynthia Thurlow: Thank you for having me. It’s been an honor.
Have you ever heard of the term “greenwashing?” Nurse practitioner Cynthia Thurlow joins Neil Dudley on the podcast this week, and they discuss the greenwashing of product labels, as well as metabolic health, intermittent fasting, and nutrition. Cynthia has expertise and explains the science behind intermittent fasting in her book Intermittent Fasting Transformation.
(0:30) – Cynthia’s background and career
(7:23) – Thoughts on Doctor’s spending more time working toward nutrition solutions vs. pharmaceutical solutions for health issues
(17:41) – The limiting belief that women gain weight as a normal function of aging & the Processed Food Industry
(26:56) – Cynthia’s book & Intermittent Fasting
(30:40) – Wrap up