Join me as E.R. doctor and author of Mom Hacks, Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, divulges her tried and true hacks for overwhelmed moms. She wrote this book because she needed these hacks to survive. Learn how to leverage your inherent laziness, carve out time in the morning, outsmart your picky eaters, ditch multi-tasking, and make exercise achievable (anyone remember “8-Minute Buns”?). We discuss why modern motherhood feels like a cage match, and how to change our environment into one our bodies can work with, instead of against. Dr. Darria also gives her insight on postpartum depression vs. adjusting to motherhood, and tells us why our kids need some “time alone with a vegetable.” Hmmmm.
Brandy: Hello and thank you for joining me for this episode where my guest, an E.R. doc who is bro bro’s with Dr. Oz gives us some practical, actionable mom hacks from her new book that’s aptly titled Mom Hacks. So I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, “But Brandy, you hate hacks.” So yes this is mostly true. I am not a fan of hacks, most of the time. But Dr. Darria’s hacks passed my bullshit detector, which is not an easy thing to do. On this episode, she even brings up how I grilled her at first when we were talking – and I thought I had scared her off, but her reason for writing this book hooked me, honestly. So keep listening for some laughs and for some hacks you can start using immediately that will help you leverage your inherent laziness (at last!), carve out time in the morning for yourself, outsmart your picky eaters, and so much more on today’s episode.
Brandy: Today I would like to welcome to the podcast Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, who has recently written a book called Mom Hacks. Welcome, Darria.
Dr. Darria: Brandy, thank you so much. I’m thrilled to be here.
Brandy: I have to be really honest with you, when I first saw the title of your book I did a huge eye roll because I think people know me as somebody who hates hacks, but I really only hate hacks that are like instead of buying the thing, it takes you 17 hours to create something out of trash – and that’s that’s not what your book is. So I just want people out there who are like, “What is Brandy doing talking about hacks? I thought she hated them,” to understand that these hacks are different. In fact, I thought your hacks were brilliant and as we get talking, I want to talk about some of my favorites and some of your favorites. But tell us a little bit about your book and what it is.
Dr. Darria: Absolutely. And yes, Brandy. I know that when we first started messaging you were like, “Hold up, because I don’t trust hacks so you better tell me about it and prove the case for your book,” which I loved, because you are defending your audience to make sure that you’re not giving them anything bad.
Brandy: Thank you. I went back and forth about that a bit but at the end of the day, I really feel like I have to be true to that and have to be a Gestapo about it for my people. I was so happy that your answer when I pressed you on, “Hey if this is about self-care and how like we should be doing all this stuff ourselves, I’m not really into it,” but I was so happy and I loved your response. So yes, keep telling us what it’s about.
Dr. Darria: The “B.S. Gestapo” you should get a badge for that. So really, the bottom line for why I started writing this book is, I’m an emergency room doctor at my core. Underneath the television and everything else that I do, I am E.R. doctor first, and I always had this feeling as an E.R. doctor that whatever comes through those doors in the E.R. – whether it’s a woman in labor or somebody having a heart attack or a car accident – I’ve got this. I can handle it. But then I became a patient myself. I developed a really bad auto-immune arthritis in residency and then later I became a mom, and I felt suddenly like I did not have that feeling of “I’ve got this” in my life and I looked at my other mom friends, and we didn’t. My patients who are moms…
Brandy: We’re like, “NONE OF US HAVE THIS!”
Dr. Darria: We were like, “I don’t got this!” Is that a thing? And so I kind of started to look back and say, “What can I do? What is that mentality, what is that skill set. How do I create a way for moms and women and everybody to in their own daily lives feel like ‘I’ve got this?'”
Brandy: Yeah, we need you. Yes. And one of the things that you said to me when we were talking back and forth that I was just like OK you are my people is you said something about how you were mad that society just seemed to think it was OK that motherhood seemed to cost a woman her health.
Dr. Darria: Ok. Now hold on, let me grab my soapbox for a second so I can get up on top of it. Yes. So where this came from – and just a back up a little bit just to tell the story of how this mentality developed. I was an intern, and suddenly one morning I woke up and my joints were swollen – my feet, my hands – I couldn’t walk, Brandy. I had gone from running three miles a day to I couldn’t physically stand because I was in so much pain so I’d pull up the garbage can with the lid and just sit on that. And so they eventually diagnosed me with psoriatic arthritis and they put me on injection medications. I was giving myself shots twice a week, and I was told that pretty much that was the way it was going to be. So I started to do some research and I started to make some lifestyle changes and I’ll never forget somebody looking at me was the dad of a friend, and he said, “That’ll never work.” And it worked. You know I made a lot of changes and over the course of a couple of years I eventually weaned off my medication and I’ve not been on it in seven-eight years now. Now again, caveat – I’m a Western-trained physician. I am not anti-medication in any way. I prescribe it, I think it’s wonderful. But I think in my case, and in many cases – especially with women and chronic health problems – our lifestyle statistics play 80 percent of the role. So in my case, changing that made a big difference. So I say that because then fast forward four or five years, I’m pregnant and I get that same message of, “This is the way it’s going to be now that you’re a mom.” One friend said, “Oh you’ll never exercise now that you’re a mom.” You hear that you’ll never eat well, you’ll never sleep well – all these different things. And the statistics hold that up, in fact, and I wasn’t sure what was worse: the fact that the statistics were so bad, or the fact that everybody seemed okay with this. “This is the way it is for motherhood, sorry.” You know when I heard that same message I was like, “You know what? I figured this out before. What did I do with my arthritis? How did I solve for that? How can I use my same E.R. doctor problem-solving mentality, and how can I create something for moms?” And that’s where this came from, saying, “No, I’m not going to accept that. We solved how to be able to pee in space. We can figure this out.”
Dr. Darria: This is not a hard thing.
Brandy: So these things that are in your book, these are tried and tested things that you have done to prove that motherhood doesn’t have to be the thing that everybody says?
Dr. Darria: Yes, exactly. And moms, we don’t have time to use the bathroom in private, so I knew that women didn’t want some 300 page tome of here’s the entire life overhaul you need to do to be a healthy mom, or the “Have it all guide” – whatever “have it all” even means nowadays. So I said, “What are the tiniest little golden nuggets I can find looking at research and the best of science, but also psychology and holistic health? What are those tiny little things that have a big impact that I can give to people that doesn’t increase their work, doesn’t increase their decision capacity, that they have to use less willpower, and uses our bodies’ automatic cycles to make it easier to feel good?” And that’s where Hacks came from.
Brandy: Yeah, that’s amazing. And so, just for the listeners, there are four different pillars in it: nutrition, fitness, sleep and resilience. I specifically liked the resilience chapter because I feel like that’s where I have a tough time. Before we get into some of those hacks, what do you think the listeners need to know about you? What makes you, you?
Dr. Darria: I try to be pretty real in the book, so anybody who reads the book you probably saw there’s a little bit of goofy in there. There’s a little bit of sarcasm in there and I’m constantly quoting song lyrics because I think in songs. I start off the introduction with choose a fight song because it makes such a difference to me on my worst days. Like if I’m stressed or tired or whatever, music really motivates me and having that soundtrack to my life – as silly as that sounds. So we actually went in and created five different Mom Hacks playlists, which I’m obsessed with. They’re all on Spotify and there’s everything from like your workout playlist, to your pump up playlist, to a cooking playlist.
Brandy: Can I ask you how much Snoop Dogg is on any of these?
Dr. Darria: There’s actually not, but I’m open to suggestions if you want a little Gin and Juice.
Brandy: It’s not very kid-friendly, yes I know. So I’m curious, what is your song when you’re completely alone?
Dr. Darria: Right now some of my favorite songs – Sia, of course. She has this song called “Never Give Up.” So there’s a group called “Sly and the family Stallone” – not “Sly and The Family Stone,” it’s “Sly and the family STALLONE.” Now of course, Brandy, just go to my playlist and you’ll find all them, but it’s called “Role Model.” Pretty obsessed with that. And then my other one right now is, “Try Everything,” by Shakira, which is on Zootopia, because I am still a mom and most of my movies are Disney.
Brandy: It’s funny when you said “Sia” – I was thinking, “Oh, is it the one from the Pony Movie, at the very end?” I just watched that with my daughter. The second I think of Sia, I’m like, “Oh that’s a great song!” It’s so funny how the soundtrack in our mind and in our lives is so fueled by Disney and our kids. It’s like you can’t get out of it no matter how hard you try – “Baby Shark” is following you!
Dr. Darria: Ugggghhhhh.
Brandy: One of the things when you said that your book has a sense of humor, I loved that part of it, and you have some of the best references ever. You have a Chris Farley/David Spade reference, which is amazing. And then you also reference that frigging Blue Blockers song.
Dr. Darria: And when we did the audiobook they actually reached out to me and they wanted me to record the audiobook, which I was surprised by because I was like, “I don’t sound like Delilah from that…” – what was that radio show? Remember Delilah, she had that beautiful voice? Like, are you all sure you want me here? And they said, “There are so many personal asides here that nobody else can read your book because it’s so clearly you talking.” I was like, “Well, ok then.”
Brandy: I do have to say – and I said this to you when we first started recording – you sound so happy and well-rested that I feel a huge trust. “Dr. Darria knows what she’s talking about because listen to her.” And then I also have a huge distrust, like you can’t be that happy and well-rested. No mom is this happy and well-rested, and an E.R. doc.
Dr. Darria: I did not write this book because I am this perfect mom who just has everything figured out, and that my children fart roses and that it’s all perfect. I wrote this book because I really needed every single hack in this book. I needed it to survive and to be able to take care of my family and to do everything. So I have to make it clear from a trust standpoint, it is because I use the hacks, not because I have everything figured out.
Brandy: Got it. I want to get into these tips that hopefully can help us to be happy and well-rested, and I’m curious: what are your top three favorite hacks?
Dr. Darria: Number one, I think is some things I do in my morning. So I am not a morning person. I would much rather stay up late and watch Hawaii 5.0 and eat Cheeze-Its at 10 or 11 p.m. then go to bed and wake up early. But now that my daughter’s a little bit older, I used to run in the afternoon and now she started to give me this guilt trip of, “Oh you have to go run now, don’t you want to play with us? I thought you loved us and cared about us?”
Brandy: And you’re like, “Refer to hack number forty-five – hack number forty-five says I can run whenever I want to.”
Dr. Darria: No, instead she takes the dagger and she drives it home. So I realized that one of the only ways I was going to get extra time for work and time to go run or do like a little five minute meditation if I wanted to, was to do it in the morning. So how to make yourself a morning person. Number one, I want all of your listeners, if they want to have an easier time to wake up: so like Brandy, do you have trouble waking up in the morning – you feel a little bit like a zombie, you’re tired all day, and then when it’s nighttime and time to go to sleep again, you can’t fall asleep because you’re wired?
Brandy: I know many moms feel this way, but when my head hits the pillow – I love sleep more than anything in my life.
Dr. Darria: Ughhhh, you’re one of those people! I hate you.
Brandy: I’m your husband – in your book when you’re like, “I kind of hate my husband because he just falls asleep,” and I’m like, “Oh, that’s me.” So, yes to the morning zombie-ness – especially when a small human being is screaming my name earlier than I wanted them to.
Dr. Darria: So you can still benefit from this. So the very first thing I want everybody to do the minute they wake up, is I want them to get bright light. We often don’t try to do that because it hurts. If somebody gets a bright light maybe for a moment being like, “I hate you Mom Hacks!” But here’s why: most of our body clocks and our circadian rhythm are off in today’s world because of our erratic sleep schedules and the crazy things to do late at night. Our body clock just doesn’t have any effing idea what time it’s supposed to remember it has to wake up and go to bed. So you really have to reset that. So the way to do it is to sync up your wakeup time with the time light hits your eyes. It’s like pressing both buttons on your iPhone at the same time – it syncs everything together. So one, it shuts down your melatonin production so you suddenly feel more energized and less of that zombie state. Two, since it’s reset your body clock, now your body knows oh so I’m supposed to fall asleep about 16 hours from now – I’m going to plan for that. So your bedtime sleeping is easier and tomorrow morning will be easier because now your body has said, “Okay, melatonin shut down. This must be when we’re supposed to wake up.”
Brandy: Okay, time out for a second. What if your kids get up at 5:00am when it’s still dark out?
Dr. Darria: So that’s when you use either your bright alarm clock or your phone, or bright bathroom light. Same thing. I’m awake before it’s daylight outside. So get that bright light. You will notice it the first day and then you will really notice it starting like day three, four or five when suddenly you’re like, “Oh, I’m feeling more awake.” And it doesn’t mean that you’re like, “Laaaa – the hills are alive and it’s 5:00 a.m. and I’m thrilled.” But it makes it less of a decision and it’s more of just the body’s automatic process, so it’s taking something off your plate.
Brandy: I love that. OK. Got it.
Dr. Darria: Another thing that I think makes a huge difference – and again a lot of people are like, “How do you do the E.R., and write a book, and you run regularly?” and then the response is, “No no no no. I write a book and I work in the E.R. and do those things because I run regularly.” If I do not run, I am not good. I would have these writer’s blocks and I would just have to go for a run every once in a while – sometimes just a short run. I think a lot of moms – a lot of women – think they have to take on this new like 5K running habit. I had one friend who said, “Oh I didn’t get my workout in this morning because I didn’t have a half-hour,” and I was like, “There’s no police that says you have to workout for a half-hour before it counts. That means nothing.” And in fact, studies have shown that if you just aim for a seven-minute workout, or ten-minute workout, women who do that actually get more total time per week of exercise than women who actually aim for 30 minutes at a time, because you can do that.
Brandy: Yeah. That makes total sense.
Dr. Darria: I can handle seven minutes. I can squeeze that in. And so that’s also how I started becoming a morning workout person – to get the bright light and then I would just go workout for seven minutes. It feels like I can do that. I didn’t want to get up and run for miles – even though I like running, I still didn’t want to, but I could get up and run for like seven minutes, or run a mile for 10 minutes and then stop.
Brandy: That reminds me: do you remember “7-Minute Buns and 7-Minute Abs?” You can do anything for seven minutes! Basically, 7-Minute Buns and Abs backs what you’re saying right here.
Dr. Darria: Thank you. Well if 7-Minute Buns backs what I’m saying, you know there we go. Now I’m good. And then over time – slowly, once it wasn’t a big deal – I did slowly increase and now I run three miles in the morning at five or five thirty, and I’m done before the kiddos wake up so I don’t get that guilt trip.
Brandy: How old are your kids again?
Dr. Darria: Two and five.
Dr. Darria: I am so in the thick of it.
Brandy: Oh my god, you have a two and a five-year-old? I’m thinking in my mind as you’re talking, I’m like you’ve got a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old.
Dr. Darria: Oh no no no.
Brandy: What time do your kids wake up?
Dr. Darria: Usually around 6:00. Except on a weekend, then it’s more like 5:00.
Brandy: Exactly. So then what time are you waking up in order to work out before them?
Dr. Darria: I wake up at around five or five thirty. If you’re doing the bright light, and getting up at the same time every day, it hurts only for about – you know I won’t lie, none of this is like miracle fairy tricks. It takes a little bit of time to make a habit. And so it’s hard the first week or definitely the first couple of days, but after a while your body really starts to reset, and then you get to pat yourself on the back all day long because you exercised.
Brandy: Actually, that’s such a good point. The patting the self on the back, and you don’t have to berate yourself.
Dr. Darria: No. Things tend to get bump like exercise, just schedule them in before everybody is awake. That way it just gets done because otherwise as a mom we don’t have time. You don’t have to do that seven days a week. You can do that a couple days a week. I would say even on the days that you don’t exercise in the morning, still try to get up around the same time, but maybe do something else you like, like reading or meditate or something so that you’re not losing that early morning wakeup.
Brandy: Right. Or use the bathroom alone. I mean, it could just be so simple.
Dr. Darria: Oh my god, use the bathroom. How exciting is that?
Brandy: Motherhood, it does this thing where all of a sudden the things that it takes to make you happy are so low, they’re so basic. Like my friend was telling me after she had her first, she was like, “I just went out to the beach today and just stood there, and it was euphoric.” And pre-kids, in order to have fun, it was like, “Well, what fun people are we going to see, and what cool place are we going to go?” And now it’s just going to the bathroom alone.
Dr. Darria: I remember the first time I went to Target after having my daughter. Oh my god. You know there’s high moments in my life like the first time I went to Disney World, Buckingham Palace, Target after having a baby. Things like that. It’s amazing how things change for us.
Brandy: It’s funny too because on one hand, I do joke about it because it feels like a little bit inhumane, but it also really honestly makes happiness so much more in reach because it’s just the littlest things that give that to you. I mean really for me it’s just being alone at all. I’m just like, “Oh my god, this is amazing,” and it’s something that I don’t have to spend two-thousand dollars on a vacation to “Alone.”
Dr. Darria: It’s true. I think it’s interesting that you said you’d like the resilience chapter the best. That one was my hardest to write and I probably hated it the most while I was writing it because you always have when you’re writing – and I know you’re a creative type – you have those low moments where you’re like, “Why am I doing this?”.
Brandy: Yeah. Yes.
Dr. Darria: But in the end, it kind of became one of my most favorite. Maybe because I needed it the most?
Brandy: What else from other chapters are your faves?
Dr. Darria: Let’s talk about nutrition. You know I talk about how I like when the hacks take decisions off of my plate. So if you look at the best research and behavioral research on people who we think of as having really great willpower and people who have lost lots of weight, or made some big change, studies show that they actually don’t have any more willpower than the rest of people, but they have just changed their environment in ways that are challenging their willpower less. So here’s one example: say you have a bowl of M&Ms. If you compare the M&M bowl that’s in reach versus if you take it and you put it so that there’s one obstacle between you and the M&Ms – say you have to get up out of a chair, or say it’s on a high shelf that you have to just pull over the stool – not a hard thing, but just pull over a single step stool to get it – you’ll eat 70 percent less without using any more willpower. You may remember the Google study: Google employees were eating too many M&Ms. They changed and M&Ms, they kept them free, but they took them from a clear container and put them in an opaque one. And then around six weeks, the two thousand employees ate three million fewer calories of M&Ms.
Brandy: How are we the dumbest species ever?
Dr. Darria: Seriously. I was reading these things and I was like I really would like to think that I’m very intentional and deliberate about whatever M&Ms or or Cheeze-Its that I’m eating. We’re not. Monkey see, monkey eat. So the upside for that is then if I just hide those things, or put them up on a shelf, I won’t be tempted. And it’s true! A friend had texted me and she’s like, “Oh my god, my kids went to school and I ate half of their Halloween candy.” And so I was like, “Put it up on a higher shelf so you have to get the stool,” and she’s like, “That’s not going to work. I’ll just pull the stool.” I said, “You may. Just try it. What’s the harm?” She called me like a month later and she’s like, “You wouldn’t believe it. I haven’t had Halloween candy in a month and I wasn’t even trying.”
Brandy: And you’re like, “Yeah, you’re as dumb as the rest of us. You don’t want to pull a stool out.”
Dr. Darria: We’re that lazy. So there’s a lot of hacks on like how can I leverage my inherent laziness? Because I’m not going to try to fight us being less lazy. That’s evolution. Let’s not be absurd. I think most wellness folks are like, “How can you fight laziness and how can you fight yourself?” and I’m like, “Forget that, you have enough on your plate. How can you leverage it?”
Brandy: Yes, I love this idea of taking decisions off of your plate. I remember there was an article I think by Dr. Oz I read a bunch of years ago that said something about how many decisions we make every day, and I think it was just after I read that I planned my outfits for the week so that every morning I didn’t have to figure out what to wear – and I need to go back to that because just that minor thing was like a gift to myself. It’s like every time I went into my closet I was like, “What am I going to wear… oh my god, I did myself a favor!” So things like that. I absolutely love it. And also, aren’t you like bro bros with Dr. Oz? Is this a thing?
Dr. Darria: Bro bros. So, Dr. Oz is wonderful. He has endorsed my book. He’s been super supportive of me so I’ve done his show a bunch of times, and I’m just really grateful.
Brandy: That’s awesome. So bro bros then?
Dr. Darria: Bro bros, yes.
Brandy: Maybe I derailed you on nutrition. You were talking about putting obstacles in between the thing and us.
Dr. Darria: Yes. That’s a really easy way. There’s some hacks that are just very actionable, very tactile – go do this and arrange your pantry and it’ll help. There’s others in the nutrition about how to break the sugar habit. And again, instead of telling people, “Just go head on and refuse that donut,” which just makes you want to cry and melt into a little puddle under your desk, instead it’s like, “Well, you can’t really refuse that donut because of the way your brain is wired if you are eating sugar all the time, so let’s do it in a surreptitious way. Let’s first take out the hidden sugar. Added sugar’s in 74 percent of our food. So if you’re constantly eating a burger with ketchup and it has sugar on it, I can’t tell your brain and tell you to refuse a donut. It’s like you’ll no more refuse that donut than if I said I’ll give you ten million dollars to hold your breath underwater for 10 minutes. You can’t do it. Right? There’s hacks in there about how to break the sugar habit. I’m obsessed with that because I had that problem with sugar as well.
Brandy: Got it. And I love – one of the things that you had in there that just made me laugh out loud – there is an actual app that’s like a financial penalty that you set yourself up for: here’s the goal that I’m going to reach. And then when you don’t – if you don’t – reach it, then it donates money to a cause that you despise. I feel like I would do whatever that thing said because I would be so angry to give money – and I can think of specifically, exactly who that money would go to. So did you use that? That’s genius.
Dr. Darria: I have not used it. I do think it is genius though because a lot of apps are like well you’ll just lose the money. I’m like well it’s gonna go to the Ronald McDonald House. Great. OK. I’m going to go have a donut or I’m going to skip that workout, but if it’s like going to a cause that you really viscerally despise, you’d be like “H no, I am going to go do it.” There is a lot of “let’s make it easier to have you exercise and nutrition, but then let’s also be realists – you’ll fall off the wagon, so if you need a little bit of a whip, here are some ways to do that too. We run the gamut.
Brandy: You said something in your hacks about not making a special meal for a picky eater. Will you tell us more about that?
Dr. Darria: Oh my goodness. So yes there’s a whole section in nutrition about getting your kiddos to eat and getting them to eat well. Kids and meals can be so stressful, right? My 2-year-old will pretty much eat whatever I put in front of him. God bless him. He is not picky. My 5-year-old is definitely a little more independent. And she makes life a little bit harder. So I’ve had to do all of these kind of tricks for picky eaters. Number one is no separate meals. You are not a short-order chef. The meal I make for dinner is the meal that she’s having. That’s what everybody’s having for dinner and she can choose not to eat it. I think that’s something that I’ve learned. She does not have to eat from every food group on there, she does not have to eat a little bit of everything, she may not eat it, but there’s nothing else. And there is no opening the pantry. There is no cooking anything else, there’s no side snacks later when she’s hungry. This is dinner.
Brandy: Ok, but so, yes. I’m on board except for in my head I’m hearing just like incessant crying because we have a similar thing that happens with my daughter on this. And so we’ll tell her, “This is dinner. This is all that you have. When you’re hungry later, there’s going to be nothing. This is the meal that we eat.” And then you cut to a half-hour an hour later and she’s a complete wreck.
Dr. Darria: Really? She’s a complete wreck because she wants to eat?
Brandy: Yeah, because now all of a sudden she’s hungry and then she wants something different. And so then you know I’m always like, “We said!” I’m pretty adamant about it but then she’ll say something like, “Can I just have an apple?” and then I’m like, “Well, an apple is healthy, and then I’m like, “Don’t, don’t do it. Don’t give in. Don’t negotiate with a terrorist!” And then she’ll say, “All I really want is just a delicious apple,” and I’m like, “God Dammit!” You know, it’s just like total mental warfare. So does your daughter – if you make something and she doesn’t want it and she chooses not to have it, is that the end of it and then she’s just hungry but doesn’t complain about it?
Dr. Darria: If she’s hungry later, I’ll be like, “Sure, there’s carrots,” and I’ll say, “There’s food in the refrigerator.” And by food in the refrigerator, I don’t mean, “No Mommy’s not going to go back up dinner. But there are carrots, there’s some green beans, You’re welcome to sugar snap peas.” And that’s what we do for snacks as well. There’s food in the refrigerator, not food in the pantry. And yes it makes dinner difficult sometimes. But sometime I’m like, “Fine, cry. I’m just going to pour myself a glass of wine.” And if they don’t see you budge, they give in. Again, I wouldn’t worry too much about an apple, but it’s like it’s more that she’s just making you crazy after dinner and you don’t want to be made crazy after dinner.
Brandy: No that’s exactly – it feels like this manipulation that happens. I mean sometimes I can tell when it’s legitimately she’s hungry and wants something different, and I always do that, “You can have a fruit or vegetable.” That’s usually where I’ll go, but then there’s a part of me that’s like, “But this whole thing feels like terrorism.”.
Dr. Darria: Yeah, it feels like she’s getting to eat on her schedule.
Brandy: And maybe that should be – I don’t know just because it’s five thirty or six, maybe that doesn’t mean that her belly is hungry then, so?
Dr. Darria: Yeah, but I think it’s really important to kind of stand your ground and studies have shown again – and as you saw in the book – that what you want to be with as a parent around meals is authoritative not authoritarian, and not permissive. So authoritarian would say, “This is the food, you need to eat all of it. You need to have a clean plate club. No dessert until you eat everything. You know these are the rules and I choose what you eat.” Authoritative is much more – I’ll get her input on what we want to eat that night. So I will say, “Do you want green beans or broccoli as a side?” I’m not saying, “Do you want green beans or ice cream?” Their options are similar but she gets a choice, she feels a little bit empowered. So you let them have input but then the buck does stop.
Brandy: What about dessert. What’s your take on dessert.
Dr. Darria: What I tell my children is we eat everything, so everything includes ice cream or everything includes Pirate’s Booty. But it also includes carrots and peppers and beans and salmon, and all of these other things so that no food is off limits – because as soon as it’s off limits, you know, that’s what you want. Then they want it. So it’s not every night. It’s a little treat, but whatever it’s fine. And it’s not a reward for eating the other things because then kids think that eating beans is the work you have to do to get dessert.
Brandy: I mean, are they wrong?
Dr. Darria: Shhhhhhhhh. What I do find, if there is a certain food that they are insisting on having every night, or it becomes kind of out of control, that’s when adulting is fun because you hold the American Express and you just don’t buy it and then it’s not in the house. Done. End of discussion, no argument. “Sorry I don’t have it.” Which of course to a two-year or a three-year-old, they’ll still be like, “Whyyyyyy??” I’m like, “I physically don’t have it. I can’t do anything about it.”
Brandy: Because they think you can just make whatever like from your hand, like a magician, just like, “Oh and I have a whole pack of Oreos right here for you!”
Dr. Darria: Exactly. Viola! A couple things with parents to get your kids to eat more veggies. So one is give them a veggie first, like have your child to be alone with a vegetable before dinner.
Brandy: That sounds hilarious.
Dr. Darria: It’s very like, “All by myself…” (sings) So while I am fixing dinner I will give my children salad first. Then we have it with hummus or a dip or olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You take that moment when they’re hungry and they don’t have anything else to eat, and you’re occupied doing something else so it’s a very low pressure you’re not hovering over them – “Are you going to eat that??” I have gotten my daughter to eat cabbage this way because one time it was the only thing I had. So I played it super cool. “It’s delicious.” She had never had it and I went around the corner. I secretly watched her and for about a minute she kind of pouted and then she kind of shrugged her shoulders because she realized there was nothing else coming. And she started to eat it with hummus and I was like fist-pumping. So it really works. And also just offering variety and not giving up. A lot of times, kids take 10 to 15 times of introducing a vegetable before they will – and try to make it so they like it, so roasting with a little bit of salt on there – just a tiny bit brings out the sweetness. So broccoli, green beans, all of those my kids really love them roasted and it’s super easy. Again like anything, it’s not maybe a miracle change overnight, but you will be surprised by what your kids can do when you just offer that to them and when that’s only option.
Brandy: One of the things that you had in the book was a contingency plan – will you explain what contingency plans are and how they’re helpful?
Dr. Darria: Yes. Somewhere along this time we’ve been talking about how we try to set up our environments to make it easier but then let’s be real, we all fall off the wagon or we’re all faced with temptation. So contingency plans say, “What are your things where you tend to sit down and eat a box of Oreos – what are those? Let’s identify them right now and let’s now find some other alternatives that you can do so that when you’re there in that moment, you don’t have think of what else you can do.” Because you can’t think in that moment when all you’re like, “OREOS NOW!!” but you have the plan in place and maybe part of the contingency plan is not keeping them in the house. When you’re watching TV, we’re not paying attention to how much we’re eating and then it’s like oh entire bag of chips, gone. How did that happen? So instead, ok what’s the contingency plan? Maybe for some people it’s like, “Well, instead of watching TV I’m going to read because that doesn’t trigger me to eat.” Or maybe it’s, “While I’m watching TV I’m going to do my nails because I can’t do nails and eat chips, or I’m going to put the chips in a smaller bowl and pour out just a smaller serving. So the next night when you’re stressed out and you just want to sit down and watch some television, you’re not having to sit there and think of a plan B. Whatever your triggers are, figure out what are some ways around them?
Brandy: I have a friend who knits at night to keep her hands busy, and it’s funny because every day she’ll come to school and be like, “I’ve got a hat for somebody!” We’re all getting hats.
Dr. Darria: Very productive. And you can do it for exercise too, for when you have those days where you don’t feel like exercising, or work took too long, or the kid is sick. A contingency plan is your plan B. It acknowledges that we all have those days happen and so you say, “What are the top 2-3 things that trip me up? How can I problem solve for them right now when I’m not in the middle of it?”
Brandy: Yeah, that’s so smart. I think my favorite hack you had in there is don’t multitask. Thank you for saying that. I hate multitasking and I feel like when I became a mom all of a sudden you’re supposed to be like, “I can iron a shirt, and I can nurse the baby, and I can also stir the pot,” and it’s this visual in my mind of, “A good mom who can do all of these things…”
Dr. Darria: It’s like a badge of honor, like you’re supposed to do all of these things. No. This came from the E.R. because in the E.R. you could be very tempted to multitask and handle five different things at once, but science really shows that we are not good multitaskers. We think we are, but our brains don’t actually hold two things in our active brain at once. We just are really ping-pongy back and forth. When you’re multitasking, it burns more energy and it shoots your cortisol – which is your stress hormone – through the roof. The higher our stress levels are, that itself is a risk factor for packing on more pounds in the abdominal area, so whenever I see a woman and she’s like, “I can’t get rid of my belly fat,” I’m like, “What’s your stress level and how much sugar do you eat?” because those two things together have this super synergistic effect to pack on the pounds.
Dr. Darria: Even when they looked at two groups of women who ate the exact same calories, those with higher stress levels had larger waist circumference, had more belly fat. So that’s why there’s so much in the book about breaking that sugar habit and breaking the stress. You can come at it from either angle, but eventually from both. And also BTW, if that’s not enough bad news about multitasking, when you multitask, it takes fifteen minutes to get back to the same level of focus in the first task when you interrupted. So instead, I want people to start single-tasking. It seems like it’s going to take longer, but it really doesn’t because of all of those things we talked about how multitasking actually takes longer. So, single tasking: that means you literally are doing one thing at a time. It will mean that if you’re trying to do that work email you’re less likely to voice dictate into the work reply-all email, “Jimmy stop licking your sister’s face.” So single task. I had to do this when I was writing the book because I’d be writing the book and then I’d be like, “Ooh, Nordstrom 15% off shoe sale.” And then I’d be over here looking at shoes.
Brandy: It’s almost like we have to rewire ourselves a little bit to do that, to just focus on one thing.
Dr. Darria: We do.
Brandy: All of us, especially in this day and age with smartphones and whatnot – you go into the kitchen, you’re doing something, somebody sends you a text, you read the text, you go do the thing, on your way to respond to the text you see something else – we spend our whole day like this.
Dr. Darria: It’s exhausting.
Brandy: It sounds like it’s about really going, “Okay no. I came here to do one thing and I’m going to finish that, and then when I’m done with that I’m going to reply to this text.” But I know when I try to do that, when I’m like, “No, I’m not gonna let this happen,” it’s so hard to hold onto the reigns on that because I’m so used to being pulled so many directions.
Dr. Darria: Right. Because we’ve trained our brains, so we really have to rewire it. So when you’re writing your blog post or something else, it’s literally saying, “I’m going to turn off and block on my phone except for a call from my husband or my babysitter. Those are the only two that can get through.” That’s number one: turn of your email, turn off your text – turn off everything just for a half-hour even and work on that project. Number two: I think again in today’s 24-7 day and age, it’s easy, like you said, just respond to the text or anything else. I set my phone away at the end of the day when I’m gonna go hang out with my kids. I finish work for the day, I go then I spend the next three hours with them, we play, we have dinner, I put them to bed, and then I’ll pick up my phone again, and I’ll look at it and check my emails, but I’m not doing it during that interim because I know I’ll get pulled into the rabbit hole, or I’ll see the text and I’ll forget to go back and reply to it. The first time you go to the bathroom without taking your phone and reading something and you just go, or you wait in line, and you just kind of are present, it opens up brain space.
Brandy: I read about there’s a place I believe it’s in Korea, where it’s a prison but it’s a quote-unquote “prision.” I forget what it’s called but something like “Prison of the Self,” and people pay to go there and they have a cell and you have to give them your cell phone. The only thing you get is an outfit and you get a teapot and teacups and you have this room that has a window and you put yourself in for however many days that you want to be in there, and you basically disconnect.
Dr. Darria: Okay that sounds like torture.
Brandy: I know. The people looked pretty mellow because I would imagine for the first couple of hours you’re like, “Why did I do this? This is crazy.” But you just check out of that modern life and so it’s just funny that we’re at the place where these things now exist.
Dr. Darria: How funny is it that we’re like, “I need to spend a thousand dollars for an iPhone, now I need to go spend 10,000 dollars to have somebody lock up my iPhone.” It’s like, people!
Brandy: It’s so silly. Oh my gosh, you just had me think of a new business idea: I’ll go to people’s houses and lock up their phones for way less than a thousand dollars. Sort of related to all of this, since you’re an E.R. doc, what is harder: being an E.R. doc or being a mom?
Dr. Darria: Ummm. Different. I think as an E.R. doc, your patients are your family, – your children to a certain extent – so there’s sometimes that you would never yell at your patients, but you totally yell at your children. But then I remember also the flipside being in residency and having to wake up in the middle of the night and being so tired. At least when it’s your children, they’re cute and you can go and you can smooch them – and it’s kinda considered taboo to smooch your patients, so it’s a little bit easier in the middle of the night because it’s your kids. Part of you is like, “Please stay in bed,” but a little part is like, “Aww I get to squeeze you.”
Brandy: But I feel like with an E.R., you have a shift that ends, but with motherhood, you don’t have a shift that ends.
Dr. Darria: Yes. When I was in residency, you could go do a 36-hour shift, but it ended, and then I would go home and I would put in my earplugs, and I would close my light-blocking curtains, and I would sleep for 10 hours or 8 hours, and you don’t get to do that as a mom. One of the big things in the E.R. that you learn is that your patients and your nurses and your staff, everybody kind of looks to you to set the tone. And that’s very similar to being a mom, so if you freak out and panic about something, everybody does. As a mom, of course, we all have moments where we’re crying and our children see us cry and I think that’s fine, but for the most part, you do have to try to set the tone, and so that was really useful for me as an E.R. doctor.
Brandy: Ohmygosh, I can’t imagine all the stuff you have to see. Being somebody who has gone to the E.R. because I have all these weird health things that get me, I’m always like, “What have you people seen in here?” You’ve seen the weirdest shit, I’m sure.”
Dr. Darria: You see a little bit of everything. You see the truth of humanity.
Brandy: I bet. What do you see as the difference between adjusting to motherhood and actual postpartum depression? Because I feel like there’s a really fine line here with how motherhood is today – modern motherhood and all the things it expects of us and how much it’s not valued, what we go through to become mothers and all of these things – so I feel like it’s hard to tell what’s just the, “Oh my god, holy shit, this is motherhood? I’m up all night feeding a baby??” What is an actual response to that and what is something different, which is postpartum depression, in your experience? What are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Darria: I’m really glad you covered this because there’s a stigma around this, and the more we talk about it, the more we share the commonality of it, I think is really important. So, there’s baby blues, which is kind of what you’re talking about, it’s that transition. Other people have called it “matrescence” – they liken it to adolescence. At its most minimal, it can be like adolescence, which is not a comfortable time – the emotions and acne and all that stuff. Every mom goes through that. Now other statistics said that 80% of moms feel baby blues, and I would argue that the other 20% who said no were probably just like too tired to read the question, because most moms that I know have some amount of baby blues, which can be sometimes crying for no apparent reason, or mood swings, just feeling anxious or overwhelmed – that’s typical. And the baby blues are really compounded by sleep deprivation. Quick PSA on that: I remember being in residency and my coffee had spilled, which was really no big deal because it was just a couple of drops, but I started bawling. I was sobbing my eyes out and I remember saying to my professor, “I don’t even know why I’m crying.” And she said, “Of course you do. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. They use it to break people.” And it was a light bulb, so then when I was a new mom and I was feeling that way, I was like, “Oh, it’s not because I’m crazy, it’s not because I’m a bad mom, I’m just so sleep deprived, so I’m allowed to feel this way, but it has nothing to do with my child or husband or my house or anything other than sleep.” But then there’s really postpartum depression. That’s anywhere about 8-15% of women, we don’t really know because a lot of women don’t tell anybody.
Brandy: And sometimes the screening for that is awful. I recently just went to my gynecologist and they have an iPad that was like, “How many times a week do you feel like you can’t live your life, or you can’t do it all,” or whatever. Whatever I answered in that, there were like ten questions, my doctor did not even bring up to me, and so either it’s not being seen, or the way that the questions are phrased are confusing. I don’t know.
Dr. Darria: Yeah, or they seem really extreme so it’s like, “Well, I’m not that bad, so I’m not gonna check yes on this.”
Dr. Darria: Baby blues come up out of the blue and then they kind of go away on their own. Postpartum depression doesn’t, and that tends to happen most days, so a woman if she is kind of feeling depressed or tearful most days and hopeless, or loss of interest in her baby, or she can’t sleep, and then the thought of death or harming herself – all of that are signs of postpartum depression. Notice, they aren’t signs of being a good mom or a bad mom. All of that needs to be removed from any part of the discussion. It has nothing to do with anything.
Brandy: It has nothing to do with how much you love your child, it has nothing to do with what kind of mother you are.
Dr. Darria: Not in the least. And so, everybody can get moments of that. Studies have shown that women typically do not share these feelings unless they are explicitly asked about their feelings, like you mentioned, they didn’t ask the exact question of how I was feeling, so I said no. That’s typical, and so you have a lot of women who are struggling with things, but since they weren’t specifically asked, they didn’t want to share it, maybe they didn’t think they should share it, they thought it was a judgement on them.
Brandy: Another thing I’m curious your professional opinion on: I noticed this thing, and I don’t know if you know this about me, but I was a birth doula for ten years and taught childbirth education.
Dr. Darria: Cool.
Brandy: So I would see people become mothers and would help them through that journey and so I’ve worked with a lot of families over the past ten years, and I hate that I see this, but I feel like after women have a few kids, like when their oldest is five or so, I notice – and this is with a lot of my friends as well – women tend to get these mystery illnesses and these autoimmune things going on. To me, I look at it and I think they are worn out from motherhood, this is part of that – kind of what got you to write your book this is what we’re going to accept, this is how it’s going to be? Do you notice that women on their second kid, kind of five years in, are all of a sudden finding themselves with autoimmune diseases – is that something you’ve seen?
Dr. Darria: I see a lot of women with kids around that age and they just feel awful. I don’t have a title for what it is. I tend to call it the chronic stress disequilibrium because the one thing they all tend to have is a very high level of chronic stress, which is what I had when I developed my autoimmune arthritis. And I kind of joke that that’s going to be my next book is trying to figure out exactly what that is…
Dr. Darria: .And what to do about it. Is it the chronic stress they’re facing? So part of it is learning how to deal with, different tools – we’re really not taught how to do – but then looking at your diet, clearing away the things that really feed into the vicious cycle and reversing that cycle. A lot of the hacks in the book will do that, but it’s not just focused on that because that is something that I’m really curious about. I’ve not seen enough evidence to tell me what it is, and I want to know more and I feel like that’s something important to try to solve.
Brandy: I just keep feeling like the way modern motherhood is, and what’s expected of us, and the framework and the lack of help – I mean this whole self-care thing that just drives me nuts, which is people who refuse to help saying, “You should just do more,” – and then the other broken systems around us. I rage about our public school system that my kids go do. My daughter in kindergarten – it’s at the point where when I signed her up at the beginning of the year, there were 42 volunteer spots for one class of 31 children.
Dr. Darria: Oh my god.
Brandy: And I’m like, isn’t this stuff happening – why do we need parents to do this? At our school, the parents come in and they teach the centers and they do all of these other little things – it’s crazy. So I think to myself, so we have a broken system and instead of fixing that system, we then put it on top of the women who are already tired from a broken system, so we have women who are helping tired women (teachers, mostly), to give their kids a better education, and then we wonder why all these moms have fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s and adrenal things going on. I just think that there are so many pieces of it, and I think that the broken systems that get put on us is part of it too. Like even our food supply. The fact that our food supply is so toxic that when we go to the store, we’re up against all the terrible foods that want to make it into our basket and into our home and our kids’ bodies. I think about my mom and about how she parented in the 70s – they never questioned that – at least my mom never questioned that. “Of course your cortisol were low, Mom, because you were feeding us Squeezits.” But these days we know better. It’s almost like we know too much, but also if we don’t do better, we are facing epidemics across the board.
Dr. Darria: We are and you’re right, on so many levels you have all these higher expectations of all the stuff we’re supposed to do. It’s a losing battle against the Big Food – I said in the book, Big Food companies spend millions of dollars doing brain scans to figure out what’s the perfect recipe that you really can’t eat just one. So, how do we find our ways around it? Again, I talk about in the book, how do we go back a little bit to that caveman/cavewoman environment that our bodies evolved to thrive in? It’s just the last 100 years the environment’s suddenly changed, but our bodies have not evolved – nor our responses to stress, our responses to food, our responses to light and how it changes how we sleep. And all of these things are tied together. There was a study out of Harvard and they took people and all they did was screw with their sleep. They woke them up at 10pm, they woke them up at 2 in the morning, and all these things. After about nine days, a third of them would’ve tested positive for pre-diabetes – NINE DAYS! So it makes me wonder how many of my patients with pre-diabetes, if I just followed them around at their home and made sure they got sleep on a regular basis, would it reverse? Is it really that easy? Everything you’re talking about, and trying to help give moms the tools so that you’re not in this cage match of your willpower vs. what you know you should do vs. your cravings. How can you change it to make them more possible, and give moms the tools? So I wanna dive into it maybe on the next book, but it’s all in there for this one.
Brandy: I so appreciate your take on things, and even your desire to want to make things easier for moms that isn’t telling them that they should do everything themselves. I love the ideas that you have about making it easier but removing certain obstacles and then also working with our own bodies, how they want to be working, instead of fighting against it. I think that that’s brilliant, and I also love how the book is in bite-sized chunks, so somebody gets the book and they can’t read the whole thing that’s fine, they can just delve in and look in a certain section, or read whatever. I love that.
Dr. Darria: There may be some people who read it from start to finish and then they’ll get a lot more of the science and background behind it, but for those that don’t have the time, the table of contents is very clear and very detailed for a reason, so you go to the section you want – “this is where my biggest pain point is today. I’m just going to work on this” – and the whole point is that if all you do is one hack, you will feel better. And this was an awesome interview. It was so much fun to do it with you. We get so much pressure for moms to be perfect and we forget that what we’re doing is really good enough. Our kids don’t need us to be perfect. They just need you to love them and be “Mommy.”
Brandy: That’s right. Give us places that we can find you, and we can find your book.
Dr. Darria: I’d love people to follow and comment and let me know what they want to hear more from because I love that engagement. On social, I’m @drdarria, on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, you’ll find same handle. My website is www.drdarria.com. And of course, Mom Hacks you can find on my website if you got to the homepage, or on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, we are on Audible.
Brandy: Aww awesome. Dr. Darria, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me and to give some insights. I so appreciate you.
Dr. Darria: Thank you, Brandy. This was an absolute pleasure.
Brandy: As always, thank you for listening. Thank you for the outpouring of messages and kind words about the podcast. I’m just thrilled that you guys are enjoying it, so please don’t forget to review or rate it on iTunes, and if you want to support a mom and her side gig you can throw a few bucks my way on Patreon to cover my podcast costs like childcare, equipment, online hosting. So, if you go to Patreon.com, you can join the likes of my very own mother and become a patron of the Adult Conversation Podcast at www.patreon.com/adultconversation. Honestly, anything helps me justify doing this in my “free time.” So thank you guys – until next time!