First Interview!

I had my first formal interview for my project! So far I’ve been researching and preparing to ask some questions to different experts that all have jobs that are proven to relate to happiness in some way. To kick off my interviews I met with Debby Stern, a physical trainer and nutritionist coach. We talked about how both exercise and nutrition play a role in peoples’ happiness but focused a bit more on nutrition. I’ve noticed from my own experience that when I eat junk food it tastes good in the moment, but doesn’t leave me feeling satisfied, and rather leaves me bloated and uncomfortable. I’ve been a relatively ‘healthy’ eater my whole life, but I wanted to talk to Debby about how to make smart food choices, and also how those choices can promote happiness. Here’s a link to her nutrition business’s Facebook page:

So here are the some of the main questions I asked her!
And you can listen to the full interview here:
Lily Dube: “Why don’t you start by telling me what you do and what your job entails.”
Debby Stern: “Okay so um, I am a certified personal trainer, and then I’m also, I guess I call myself a nutritionist counselor….I have my own nutrition business, but a lot of people assume that’s supplements and things…but it’s Food Print For Life…” 
DS: “I mean my big passion, again is, cause I learn from myself like you know when I was going through all the exercising and eating and all the different diets I thought I knew what I was doing, but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted you know in terms of ascetics. Once I figured that out and started getting results I was like ‘oh my god okay this isn’t rocket science’ it was basically just learning about food is fuel, and if I want to build muscle, if I want to burn body fat, if I want to feel good, have energy, and you know then I have to understand how to fuel the body right. So once I figured that out for myself, well I thought ‘I gotta share this,’ and so putting that into play it just kind of snow balled into my nutrition business. I go to people’s homes, and kind of help, again, and I educate them just on food is fuel, this is not a diet, this is not any kind of counting calories or anything like that, it’s just a very realistic way of eating good healthy food so that your body can thrive.”
LD: “So how did you know you wanted to do what you do?”
DS: “Well it’s kind of ironic, because I worked in the restaurant business for a long time because I didn’t want a 9-5 job because I loved working out, and it was an obsession back then, you know, it was probably more of an addiction, so it definitely was, you know, my main concern and focus so I’m like ‘I gotta have a job where I can work out during the day. I moved to California when I was around 30, I went back to school, studied nutrition a little bit, psychology was my major. And so when I moved to California, I was talking to one of the guys at the gym who worked there and I said “I’ve dabbled in nutrition” and he said “Oh we’re looking for someone here, and I was like “Yeah, I’ll do it.” So I started and thought, why am I not personal training because everyone kept saying “why aren’t you personal training?” My fear was if I make my passion my work, will I lose the passion for it. Now, I’m going to say if you have a passion, make it your career. Because it was the best thing I ever did, because I live this. I mean it’s in me, it’s a part of me, it’s who I am, and I’m able to share that with clients who hate working out, who don’t want to do this, and to be able to kind of just have my passion shine through so that they can at least get some of that, and to feel the rewards in some ways that I do.”
LD: “What is it like when you go to clients’ homes and talk to them about nutrition?”
DS: “The things that I really focus on are the ingredients. Because people are so concerned with calories and numbers, my thing is no no no, we are looking at the ingredients. So what do we want to avoid? Like sugar is in everything and we aren’t aware of it. And we follow the front of the package, but if you don’t know how to read the ingredients…so I really pay attention to that and educate them on that. And then how to eat correctly, meaning making sure you have protein with everything you eat, and what is the good protein, because I think a lot of people either are not fueling the body so when the body doesn’t get the right minerals, nutrients, vitamins, it’s never gonna do what you want, but it’s also gonna continually think that it’s starving because it’s not getting what it wants. This is a way of balancing things out. And it’s amazing because it’s not that hard, but when people do it, the body fat just comes off, their energy levels are just way beyond what they ever had, they’re not starving at night, they’re not craving the sugars and the starches anymore. And in the beginning they fear, they’re like “wait I can’t eat cheese, I can’t have starch at night, nooo” and then two weeks in they’re like “I don’t even miss it” cause they’re getting to eat good, tasty, wonderful food but that’s healthy.”
LD: “So what are the ingredients that you tell people to avoid and also the good ones?”
DS: “To avoid, it’s all the sugars, so it’s sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, honey…”
LD: “That’s surprising.”
DS: “If you have like the real honey like if you squeeze the bee…but by the time it gets into our food…and again if you’re eating a cookie, know that there’s sugar in it, enjoy the cookie, love the sugar, but I’m talking more like salad dressings, tomato sauces, soups, all of this stuff that we would never think there’s sugar in, there’s sugar. And even if someone says ‘oh it’s the last ingredient’ to me, all of those little bits of sugar add up. Physiologically when you put sugar in the body, it just continues to crave it and it needs it and wants it. So if we’re not even aware of putting that sugar in…that’s why.”
LD: “So what about fruit?”
DS: “Fruit still can do that. So when I say eating correctly, I tell people you always wanna make sure that whenever you put something in your mouth, you want to ask yourself ‘where is my protein?’ Let’s say you eat a banana on it’s own, the banana goes in, it gets used really quickly, and then it’s gone. So you’re like ‘weee’ and then you just crash. And you’re starving like 30 minutes later. Protein, it takes a long time to digest, so I kind of look at it like a shelf, so if you have a good healthy peanut butter, with that banana, or almonds with that banana, that protein, keeps it in the body longer, so it’s keeping the energy source in the body for a longer period of time, so it’s sustaining your energy and satiating your hunger. So good proteins: chicken, turkey, any kind of fish, any nuts, any nut butters, non-fat cottage cheese, non-fat plain greek yogurt, beans, hummus, edamame, eggs. So again, if you just combine that with your energy source…There are also more sugars, there are also like maple syrup, molasses, evaporated cane juice, and then there’s brown rice syrup…”
LD: “Do you track how your clients feel? Or do you have them self report how the change has affected them?”

DS: “With my nutrition clients , I have them emailing me at least for the first two weeks everyday, and I ask them ‘please if you feel a certain way let me know’, you know, touch base. With the training clients I’m always asking them after the session ‘do you feel better than when you came in?’ and I’ve never had someone say no. I believe so 100% that you’re always gonna feel so much better after you exercise. I really don’t think there’s anyone that’s gonna say, unless you’re injured, ‘oh yeah I feel worse than when I came in.’ 
LD: “So what would you say is the level of happiness that the people that come to you or that hire you is at? Are they experiencing unhappiness in one area or in general?”
DS: “Most of them are very unhappy with their lifestyle. I’ve had a lot of women come in and they go ‘I put on like 20 pounds ever since I got together with my boyfriend.” A lot of them get very comfortable and complacent, they’re happy in their relationship but they let themselves go and then all of a sudden a year later they’re like ‘oh my god what happened.’  So they don’t feel good about themselves, they don’t feel good about their body size, they don’t feel good that they’re not exercising…so when they’re eating bad too they know they feel like shit. If you’re starving yourself, even if you’re giving yourself 3000 calories, but they’re horrible calories, you’re still starving yourself, and that leads to massive depression. Because your brain has to be fed too, so if your brain isn’t fed, you’re gonna be really angry, and unhappy, and you might not know why, you might think it’s just you, but it could just be the fact that you’re not eating correctly. So it does affect happiness, it really does.”
LD: “How does your work affect your happiness? How does your happiness affect your work?”
DS: “I get such reward from my job. I mean don’t ever feel like I’m working. The only thing that I feel sometimes is kind of an exhaustion from talking all day, but the reward, the joy that I feel from just having my clients happy…and it’s just so much fun. They make me happy, they make me laugh, they make me smile…to me it goes so much deeper. I see these people twice a week and we get into some really deep deep stuff. And to be able to kind of help them bring out the truth of whether it’s about their bodies, or about their eating habits, it’s incredible. And for them to just kind of say to me ‘thank you’ it just makes me feel incredible. It affects my happiness a lot. I’ve learned if you’re in your head too much, that’s where I can get to a really bad place if I’m in my head and I’m thinking too much, go help someone. Go help someone else, to get out of your own head, and so there are times when I’m jouncing to get to work to get out of my head by getting into my client’s head. And giving my time to them, and that helps me really kind of get out of my space, get away from myself.” 
LD: “What’s your definition of happiness?”
DS: “I think I’ve realized that I hate the word happiness. I think because again it’s like when people go ‘happiness is this, you should be happy, or why aren’t you happy?’….maybe I feel like that puts so much pressure on people because the idea if you ask someone ‘well are you happy?’ it’s like well what the hell does happy mean? I know that for me, what I can’t live without is my escape which is my exercise, putting on my headphones, getting into my music, and just working my body and  exercising to the music. That to me is like, I’m done and I’m in a different mood. That to me is my happiness. But I realize that everyone kind of has their own. So I think in some ways happiness is passion. What is your passion? Because I think your passions bring you happiness.”
LD: “How do you see what you do make people happier?”
DS: “Some of the things I’ve noticed: breathing is huge. People don’t breathe.  Even during exercise people hold their breath. But when you’re working everything….it makes you feel better. When you’re working out and you have to breathe heavier, so you’re breathing and moving. So I think all of that together is just one of the ways that brings…because it releases the endorphins, it releases the serotonin, and these are all scientifically proven that these are the drugs in your body that make you happy and feel good.”