Dr. Robyn (Odegaard, but goes by “Dr. Robyn) is a former competitive beach volleyball player with a certificate from the Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University. In mid-life, despite working out all the time, she found that she became overweight. Looking to find a way to secure her best health, co-founded the Whole Food Muscle Club (with her husband, Russ) and is now on a mission to help people create and enjoy extraordinary lives by offering a road-map to ideal weight and health goals. She is the co-author of “How to Feed a Human: The Whole Food Muscle Way”
Salonpas sat down with Dr. Robyn to learn more about how she is helping others achieve their most extraordinary life:
How do you think you ever got overweight at 45 years of age even when working out religiously?
The short answer is, you can’t outwork a bad diet. But, I didn’t realize I had a bad diet. I was eating basically the Mediterranean Diet. My sister even called me “granola” (her endearing term for me being a health nut). Calories in/calories out wasn’t working. Sadly, my doctor told me I should just accept being overweight because “everyone gains weight as they age.”
I simply did not believe the human body stops working correctly after a certain point. We are designed to be healthy, and that means being at a healthy weight. Which meant there had to be something wrong somewhere. I knew I was getting plenty of exercise so I assumed it had to be the food I was eating. I went on a mission to learn everything I could about nutrition.
What was your catalyst to co-found The Whole Food Muscle Club?
When I started changing the way I was eating the first thing people noticed was how good my skin looked. I didn’t make the connection until six or eight people had mentioned my skin. Then it suddenly clicked, “Oh, I’m eating differently.” When my weight loss became apparent my clients and people at the gym started asking what I was doing. I quickly realized that not only did they want to know the nutrition knowledge I’d gained, they wanted help with their emotional eating and their Pavlovian eating (eating out of habit). Knowing WHAT to eat is great. But it’s not helpful if WHY you eat keeps you stuck in unhealthy patterns.
At the same time, we (my husband Russ and I) were being asked if we could help with workouts and general fitness plans.
In talking about how we could help the most people bridge the gap between what they wanted their health to be and how to do it, we came up with the idea of putting it all together; nutrition, the psychology of eating and fitness. And the Whole Food Muscle Club was born. The book “How to Feed a Human: The Whole Food Muscle Way” was a natural progression.
How do you describe “fake food” and why is it detrimental to our health?
Fake food is anything that is created, designed and marketed to make a company money. Their goal is to keep their shareholders happy and wealthy. Our health isn’t even a data point for them.
Fake food is detrimental to our health because it is full of chemical flavors that trick our brain while being almost devoid of nutrients. The flavors and packaging are designed for our brains to think, “this is good, nutritious food! I should eat more of it so I can survive the next famine.” There is even a thing called “The Bliss Point.” It is the exact balance of sugar, salt and fat to turn off our ability to say, “I’ve had enough.” Companies spend billions of dollars to test and refine their products to make sure we eat too much and keep coming back for more. Good for their bottom line. Bad for our health.
Another detriment is how easy fake food is to eat. You can eat the entire fast food burger in about five bites with very little chewing required. That certainly isn’t enough time for your brain to realize you’ve taken in food. So you’ll quickly take in a lot of calories that end up on your hips but don’t nourish the billions and billions of chemical reactions going on in your cells every second.
Fake food is so easy to eat because there is little to no fiber in it. Fiber requires chewing, which starts the digestion process. Fiber helps us feel full and grabs on to toxins on the way out of our bodies. Most Americans are hugely deficient in fiber and that is doing horrible things to our health. It’s really too bad fiber isn’t a sexy topic. We’d all be healthier if we realized how important it is and where to get it.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting and what types of IF do you engage in?
Fasting has been part of the human condition since the beginning of time. Humans, like other animals, ate when they could find food and didn’t when they couldn’t. Our bodies are not designed to function in a world where calorie rich food is easily available 24×7 or where we eat every two hours.
Our bodies can either digest and process food or do clean up and rid the body of toxins, including sniffing out and destroying cells that didn’t replicate correctly and might otherwise turn into cancer. Giving our bodies a break from digesting food also allows our insulin levels to drop, increasing insulin sensitivity (that’s a good thing).
Overall, intermittent fasting (IF) is healthy for most people. It can be implemented in a lot of different ways. We outline many of them in our book How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way.
We typically fast about 14 hours overnight, just because that’s how it works out. It’s not something we actively calculate or think about. Additionally, twice a week (usually on Mondays and Thursdays) we water fast for 20-24 hours.
We are commonly asked why we fast when we are at our ideal weight and if we worry about getting too thin. We fast for the health benefits and getting too thin is not even a remote concern. Our weight is completely stable and has been for a long time. The human body is REALLY smart. When you feed it real, healthy, nutritious food and recognize real hunger versus toxic hunger, it takes exactly how much you need. No more. No less.
What is the food and exercise premise of The Whole Food Muscle Club?
The Whole Food Muscle Club isn’t a diet. It is a knowledge informed way of deciding what to eat and when to eat. You don’t have to be 100% to see positive results. Just moving towards eating more real food and not being sedentary will make a difference in your health. Or, if you are an “all-in” kind of person, you can jump right in the deep end and make big changes for big results; including doing workouts designed by Russ, a former Mr. Olympia trainer. But more importantly, we want to help people understand their relationship with food. Willpower, gutting it out, I-can’t-have-that, portion control and deprivation are not ideas that should be associated with food. Eating should be and can be both enjoyable and healthy. When people realize they have been viewing their health and feeding themselves as an inconvenience rather than a joy, a concept fanned by the food industry and our food culture, there is an opportunity to take back their health. That is such an empowering realization.
Our goal is to give people knowledge that allows them to make better health choices – not because they “have to” but because they want to and it makes them happy to do it. There is no “fail.” It’s just a matter of how quickly or slowly someone wants to implement the knowledge they gain.
Can a menopausal woman gain benefit by applying the principles of the Whole Food Muscle Club?
Absolutely! More than 50% of our clients are women over the age of 45 who are experiencing what I did. They are fluffy around the middle, they feel like their GI tract has stopped working and their body is betraying them. They are frustrated because “nothing works” and society and doctors are telling them there is nothing they can do about it.
I am living proof that understanding why we eat, what to eat and when to eat is the HOW of creating ideal health. I had all but given up on ever again being the weight I was when I played competitive volleyball. I even made excuses about it. But after applying what we share in the Whole Food Muscle Club, I am back at my ideal weight and love my body again. I want to share that amazing feeling with anyone who wants it.
Tell me about your book, How to Feed a Human: The Whole Food Muscle Way.” Who was it written for?
The book and the Whole Food Muscle Way are for anyone who is interested in knowing the truth. People who want to succeed and who are willing to take the steps necessary to do so, at whatever pace works for them. Our goal is to provide an effective, proven, step-by-step method in an easy to apply manner. Those who have worked with us say we provide inspiration and motivation in a knowledgeable, non-judgmental and relatable way. Like a sports coach. We love you, believe in you and want to you succeed. And as such, we are going to tell you the hard truths and call you out on your nonsense while celebrating every single one of your accomplishments.It’s not for people looking for a quick fix, easy way out or an excuse to fail. There is plenty of that in the world already.
Tell me about some success stories of clients who are WFMC members?
We have a client who was able to reverse Type 2 diabetes and another who lost 80 pounds. But those are just facts. It’s better to be able to share the actual words from someone who feels like she got her life back.
“You changed my life and my husband’s. His cholesterol has been cut in half. We both have lost about 12 pounds and feel terrific. Thank you so much for all you are doing for the world. We too thought we were eating healthy but couldn’t lose weight even though we exercised a lot. Until we changed what we ate. We are truly grateful. Thank you again.”
That is just one small example. Stories like that are common for Whole Food Muscle Club members because they finally have the missing piece to reaching their health goals – HOW to do it.
Tell me about a typical day for you; from when you arise to when you retire.
How fun that you ask this question! This is a general overview of a week day.
5:00 – Get up to do tai chi, mediation, gratitude journaling and goal setting.
6:00 – Check email and social media. Address overnight client concerns.
7:00 –Leave for the gym
9:00 – Return from the gym
9:15 – Do our daily Facebook Live sharing healthy living tips
9:30 – Breakfast (Always steel cut oats with fruit, seeds and spices)
10:00 – Go for a walk (weather permitting)
10:30 – Shower
11:00 – Work
2:30 – Lunch
3:00 – Walk (weather permitting)
3:30 – Work
6:00 – Wrap up work for the day. Have some fruit or something light (we aren’t usually hungry for a full meal in the evenings because we eat large, richly nutritious meals for breakfast and lunch)
7:00 – Walk (Russ and I use our walk time to brainstorm, discuss clients and generally connect. It is work time more than play time. We just don’t happen to be sedentary while doing it.)
7:30 – Chill (Russ likes to watch sports. I will often read, take an online class or putter with my houseplants.)
8:55 – Alarm reminding us to stop what we are doing and unwind for bed. (This alarm is an important part of our success. Silly as it seems.)
10:00 – lights out