Do sugar substitutes mess with your brain and taste buds?
If you’ve ever messed with high-octane sweeteners like stevia or monkfruit, you know the sensation of hyper-intense sweetness on your tongue. Even worse with monstrosities like Sucralose.
Research indicates that overstimulation of your sugar receptors may actually change the foods you crave. What do we do about it?
To help us navigate the thorny world of home cookery and health, we’re here with Anna Vocino, a voice over talent and stand up comic who writes cookbooks and co-hosts the “Fitness Confidential” podcast.
She has voiced hundreds of commercials, cartoons, movies, promos, radio stations, and video games, which is a super cool day job to support her passion of food blogging and cookbook authoring.
And today she’s on the show chatting with me about:
- Why natural and artificial sweeteners are a double-edged sword
- How to ditch Dirty Keto and train your tastebuds
- Why we should try different elimination diets
- Learning how to fast after healing from an eating disorder
- Why comedy is healing
- And tons more…
Let’s go hang out with Anna.
Anna Vocino: Healing Through Home Cooking & Comedy
Abel: Folks, the wonderful Anna Vocino returns to the show today with a brand spanking new book, Eat Happy, Too.
Anna, of course, co-hosts the Fitness Confidential podcast with friend of the show, Vinnie Tortorich.
And she’s also a voice-over talent and stand-up comic.
Anna hails from Los Angeles and cooks for a husband, a teenage daughter and a tiny little dog.
Anna, thank you so much for joining us on the show.
Thank you for having me. It’s been a long time. Nice to see you.
Abel: I know. It’s always a blast to catch up, and a lot has happened.
But firstly, I was reading, and I’d forgotten this, that you’ve been celiac and gluten-free since 2002.
Yeah, back way before it was trendy or cool.
Not that being gluten free has ever been trendy or cool, but it’s certainly been a thing in our cultural zeitgeist.
Abel: It’s been called a lot of different things, though, hasn’t it?
It has been.
Abel: It’s been interesting seeing what’s happened with the Internet, especially as paid advertising has kind of kicked up in the past few years.
You see how some words, just out of nowhere. Keto, carnivore, vegan, too. And just at certain times in certain ways, they’re everywhere.
All the keywords. You see them everywhere. You don’t see Paleo as much anymore, but now you see keto.
And then I’m sure it’ll be something else in about a year from now.
Something else will really kick in because I feel like keto is now coming down. It’s coming down the backlash mountain.
Abel: That’s right.
It’s starting to get slapped around a bit.
Abel: It’s interesting because it has kind of been around for a very long time.
Abel: But seeing it balloon out. And now, you’re right, it is getting that backlash.
It’s getting actual scientists and a lot of faces who seem to have a lot of credibility behind them coming out of it.
But at the same time, it’s just getting torn down. And then you have carnivore trying to gobble up paleo. And then keto at the same time.
But maybe carnivore is the next thing. Yeah, it is interesting to watch.
It’s tough out there for any person who’s trying to gather the data and figure out, “What should I eat?”
So to me, it’s always just made sense to cut out the processed sugars and grains.
So when Vinnie taught me about NSNG—no sugars, no grains—it made sense.
If you have a paint brush of low carb, keto, NSNG, paleo, it’s all very similar.
However, to me, it’s like the baseline of how I handle autoimmune—I deal with that by cutting out the sugars and grains.
I also have to not do dairy. But then everything else is customizable. So I personally don’t do dairy.
You could do dairy maybe, good for you. I have options for that in the cookbooks.
But I think that if you want to be plant-based, you could be plant-based.
But you probably will find out that you eventually have to cut out processed sugars and grains.
If you want to be carnivore, you definitely have to cut out processed sugars and grains.
To me, it just made the most sense as a baseline where it was the least amount of conflicting news stories telling me, “Eat an egg. Don’t eat an egg. Eat it today.”
It makes us all crazy, the latest headline.
Abel: Does it still make you crazy or did you kind of solidify your stance years ago, and now you feel pretty cool about it?
It doesn’t make me crazy anymore because I see those headlines and I’m like, “Ooh, that’s fodder for Vinnie and I to talk about on the podcast.”
So I’m okay with it. And you just have to remember back to when before you started doing any self-help N = 1 nutritional experimentation, that people are coming to this information.
They’re coming in droves. People are sick, people are metabolically damaged, people want help.
And they have a million questions, and you have to go, “Oh, wait. Eight, 10 years ago, I had those same questions. Or I had the same biases.”
“Oh yeah, I tried Atkins in the ’90s, and that was just me sitting in the Publix parking lot, eating sugar-free Jello in the car crying because I was like, ‘Oh, I want carbs.’”
That was my association when I was 23 years old, doing Atkins in the ’90s.
Abel: Right. But now it’s called keto.
But now it’s called keto, and it’s the exact same thing.
“Butt Sugar” and the Case Against Artificial Sweetener
However, that’s another thing that I’ve modified is I personally, I have such a strong distaste for the artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes.
Abel: I was just listening to your new name for monk fruit. What was that again? Butt sugar?
Butt sugar. Thank you. Yes, that’s what it is.
I forget what I say on the podcast most of the time, and a bunch of people tweeted me about butt sugar.
And I was like, “What, did I say that?”
Thank you, oh my gosh.
Abel: You invented that.
You’ve just crystallized a lot of stuff. I’m like, “Oh, it’s too much. I’m too old to remember all these things.”
Abel: You’re welcome. But anyway, the point is, and I share it with you, because we can and sometimes do use monk fruit, stevia, erythritol, xylitol.
Sure. And that’s fine. You can do that.
Abel: We tried pretty much all of them.
Abel: But they’re all a double edged sword.
They are. For a lot of reasons.
Abel: And very easy to abuse. There’s no free lunch either with sweetness.
I know you forgot everything you said on the podcast, but that was what it was.
And I would love for you to just explain your take on, well, natural and artificial sweeteners.
Yeah. I believe it now has a term that I’ve seen thrown around, called dirty keto, which is basically you’re substituting everything you ate in the standard American diet with an acceptable keto substitute that won’t spike your blood sugar.
So that means you make a pizza crust with pork rinds and cheese, or you make a dessert like a cheesecake but it has erythritol or some sort of sugar substitute or artificial sweetener, or Splenda.
And you’re not really training your taste buds to get off of the sugar.
I cannot speak to the science of whether that stuff actually spikes your blood sugar.
I’m not a scientist. I am a taste expert, meaning like literally my palate. I have a good palate, and to me, that stuff tastes crazy.
So I don’t like to eat it.
And also, I’m coming from a background of a former anorexic, from being on a diet for so many years, that I would rather change my body chemistry through eating more fat, eating less processed sugars and grains, change my hormonal balance in my body.
And then when it’s my birthday, or a special occasion, or it’s my husband’s birthday or whatever, I will make something that has the least amount of real sugar possible.
It’s still sugar though. Yes, it’s going to spike my blood sugar. Yes, it will kick me out of ketosis.
I am okay with that, and then I get right back on the train because I feel like to me, it’s a more sensible approach.
Now, that being said, you’re an adult. You can eat whatever the F you want to eat. I don’t care, I don’t judge you.
If you like butt sugar, get after it. I don’t care, I really don’t.
And to me, Stevia tastes like sugar brewed through filthy, dirty gym socks. I’m not into that. And I tried for years.
Abel: For me, it gives me a zing of not sweetness exactly, it’s like it’s so sweet that it makes me numb.
I remember the first time I tried it in coffee years ago, I was just like, “Bah,” and just spit it right out.
Do you remember when Stevia came in a little thing of powder and it had a little cocaine spoon in it, and you felt like a drug dealer.
Abel: Yeah. Right.
And you could put in a like quarter of that, it seems to me like a pinhead amount.
Abel: It’s a chemical process, that’s what it is. If you’re going to be cooking with that stuff or using it at all, you need to know exactly what the right dilution ratio is, and every single thing is different.
I’m sure a lot of people have thrown a lot of things in the trash because they’re like, “Wait a minute, that tastes weird.”
And I get it, I get it.
However, I want to come at it at a more holistic approach, and that’s why there’s no nutritional information in the book, because it’s just food.
Abel: Yeah. That’s how we do it, too.
And as a former dieter and expert at counting fat grams, carb grams, macros, micros, calories, you know in your head, “Oh, I know the Weight Watchers points of all these things.”
You know because it’s so ingrained in us and I want people to be free of that, and feel like, “Oh, I can start to trust my body and I can focus my energy on other things in my life.”
Abel: Right. It’s worth saying though, I’ve realized it’s a skill, right? You built that skill the wrong way by being anorexic, right?
Yeah, it is a skill. Right, exactly.
Abel: But it is a skill where you can’t just all of a sudden go into this and eat intuitively. That’s not exactly how it works.
No. It’s a process.
Abel: So we have to be clear in terms of like you do have to learn how this works, that there are macros, different weights of cooking, different things.
That they exist, yes.
Abel: There are different amounts of water.
And you also need to, I think, if you’re going to have your health for the rest of your life, learn how to freaking cook.
Get in the kitchen, take real food.
I want to get every American into the kitchen. That’s my goal.
Abel: We’re losing them. Kitchens are hemorrhaging right now.
We are losing them.
Well, listen. I did a book signing in San Diego on Saturday, and so many people came up to me and said, “I literally had never set foot in a kitchen. I bought your books and they taught me how to cook.”
Abel: No way.
I know, and that’s when I go, “I’ve done my job.” You know what I mean?
And all you had to do is buy a couple of cookbooks? Great.
That’s a pretty sound financial investment.
And so now people are telling me all the time, they can watch a Food Network show, or they can look at a recipe online, and adapt it to take the junky stuff out.
And I’m like, “Great. I’ve done my work.” That’s all I want.
Because I get it, I’m a home cook, I’m a mom, I have to make stuff quickly. We have to make dinner.
And people remember back in the ’90s when we were like, “I don’t have time to exercise.”
And everyone was like, “You don’t have time to not exercise.”
I feel like preparing home cooked meals is the new, “I don’t have time to do that.”
And then you’re like, “You don’t have time to not do that.”
You have to make it a thing.
And it’s hard because we have busy schedules, everybody has busy lives. Everybody has to get up early in the morning.
And by the way, if you’re parents of small children who are also picky eaters and you’re making five different meals for five different people in your house, you’re going to go crazy.
But you can figure how to streamline it.
Oh, and I wanted to say an asterisk to the counting thing.
A woman just wrote me yesterday on Instagram and she said her four-year-old was just diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and then subsequently celiac disease.
Abel: Oh my gosh.
Which oftentimes they can go hand in hand. And I understand the need to count when it’s medically necessary.
Abel: Absolutely. Sure.
I’m not trying to poo poo the counting for that.
But for most of us who are just getting a hold of it all, once you kind of get the education and you get it locked in, you can do that.
Also, too, people have told me that someone input all of my recipes into MyFitnessPal, so you could literally type in Anna Vocino Asian Beef Tacos, and it’ll come up.
So if you really need to count, it’s there. I’m just not going to do it.
Abel: Yeah, exactly. It’s interesting. I go back and forth.
Same thing with the self-quantification, and looking at my sleep and recovery and all that.
I go years and I’m just like, “I hate this, I don’t want anything to do with measuring, counting, and all of this. I just want to live and do what I want to do.”
And then other times I’m like, “I really want to dial this in and make sure I’m tracking every little thing and what’s messing with my sleep this night and that night.”
And that’s totally fine.
Abel: And I think there’s something to be said to just kind of following your energy and going with what you naturally want to do, and you’re going to be watching that pendulum swing back and forth sometimes.
Abel: And that’s okay, right? I think that’s okay.
If it feels good to do it, then do it. If it feels bad to do it, then don’t do it.
There’s another solution that you will align with. I found that we’re very intuitive, and we don’t even know it.
So if there’s something going on, like you had a major thing going on, so the fact that you needed to dial some stuff in and get really buckled down, that’s benefiting you, and you need to follow that impulse.
If it’s just like you’re using it as an excuse to beat yourself up, or that you’re not good enough, or that you’re not thin enough yet.
Oh my gosh, because right now it’s February that we’re recording this.
I don’t know when it’s going to come out, but right now is about the time when most people did their new year’s resolution, and they have either disappeared completely or they’re really doubling down and they love it. You know what I mean?
So it’s like we’re at the 30-day-ish, 40-day-ish mark and people will do that.
And I’m like, “You have to use it to your benefit. And you’re an adult, you get to make that choice. Nobody tells you what to do. Nobody. Nobody.”
Abel: It’s funny.
They want you to think that they have to tell you what to do so you continue to buy the next product, and the next potion, and the next powder, the next thing.
And I will tell you, too. Of course, I want you to buy my cookbooks. I want you to buy them.
I’ve put out my 10,000 hours of free content. I hope that folks buy the cookbook, but you don’t have to.
You can go to my site and get recipes for free. You can get on Google, there’s some bajillion recipes, but you get to choose.
Why You Need a Tribe
Abel: Yeah. That’s another good point though, too, because we’ve been doing this a while now, kind of all of us in our little community.
Yeah. Right. Exactly.
Abel: I feel like we’re part of the same class in some ways, coming at the same time or whatever with podcasts.
I graduated in 2012, when I started my podcast in the real world. Yeah.
Abel: Well, you have your advanced degree. I’m still an undergrad or something. That’s enough with that metaphor.
Abel: Anyway, for people who are kind of like the listeners and the members of our community who might not be behind the mic, I think it is really important that we all just try to figure out one way that we can keep this going in a way that maybe is free of meeting up in physical space because that’s the ideal, especially for building tribes and all that.
Abel: But mostly, a lot of us have been doing similar things for a long time. But now, it has so many different names and no one’s doing it exactly the same way.
So because of that, many people feel alone or give up because they feel like they don’t have enough momentum and inertia around them kind of all doing the same thing.
Sure. Or they’re surrounded by family members in their physical space who don’t support the changes they’re trying to make, which is always really tricky.
We hear a lot about that. Now, we’ve been doing this so long, we’ve had people get divorced because one person loses the weight.
And they get remarried. You know what I mean? They have a whole new family.
It’s been so long that we’ve seen people get NSNG tattoos and Eat Happy tats, where I’m like, “What are you doing?”
I kid you not. Stuff like that.
Abel: It’s cool.
People have met and gotten married in our Facebook groups and I love watching it, but yeah.
That’s why I will always be on the mic saying, “Don’t go away. Stay here.”
Even if this isn’t the solution for you, don’t lose hope or faith because I have been there.
And I’m talking about diet diets, where you’re depriving yourself of stuff. They don’t work.
And the mental games that you’re going to go through and all the belief systems that you have to peel back, it’s a process.
People feel like, “Oh. Well, I had my Super Bowl meal. And so I guess now it’s going to be another month of eating like dog sh*!.”
I don’t know if I can cuss.
And I say, “No, no, no, no. Just on Monday, just start again.”
“It’s okay. It’s a process. Just start again.”
That’s what everybody else does who’s doing this successfully.
They just pick themselves back up, instead of going, “Well, I guess.”
That self-talk where you’re so hateful to yourself because you let yourself have chips and dip at a Super Bowl party, and it’s like, “No, please. I’m begging you.”
Come out the other side of that.
Abel: It’s so interesting. But whatever you do in February, that’s not going to really matter over the course of your life.
It’s what you do over the course of your life when you’re not really paying attention.
That’s true, that’s true.
How to Engage Haters
Abel: It’s not what you do during one Super Bowl party or not. But I have to say, the Super Bowl did just happen recently, and there have been a lot of people writing in.
So recently, I’ve been engaging haters. Some people say really awful things.
Oh, tell me about that. Yeah, tell me about that.
Abel: And a lot of them were carnivores because I made fun of the carnivore diet a bunch, about it just being a kitty food diet.
Because if you’re doing it right, essentially, you’re eating kitty food. You’re eating organ meats, kidneys, and nose-to-tail, and all of that.
You think kitty like cat food?
Abel: Yeah, like cat food.
Okay, okay, okay. Not like kiddy like children food.
Abel: No, no, no. That’s right.
Kitty cat food. Okay. Got it.
Abel: English once again.
So a bunch of people were just kind of coming after me. The die-hard carnivores are coming after me for calling it cat food and just kind of making fun of it a bit.
And I can’t remember exactly what some people said, but there’s been a lot of hate. So it all kind of blends together.
Abel: But a really fascinating thing happened when I actually replied to what they were saying.
They replied back, and it was cool. I started following them, for the most part. And this has happened multiple times.
And I realized they just want to be listened to. They follow me back. And now, we’re friends.
And they tweet at me, and just email me, and stuff like that.
That’s great. I love it. That’s great.
Abel: But during the Super Bowl, because we follow each other now and I’m just following some of these carnivores, I’m looking at what they’re making for their Super Bowl meals.
What are they making?
Abel: It’s just steaks.
Yeah, steak with a side of sausage.
Abel: With a little bit of cheese on top. And it’s just like, “This is so good. I’m doing it again.”
And then there’s some ribs, and then there’s some hot dogs.
And I’m just like, “Oh, man. I am so glad that I eat plants. That plants are a big part of our life.”
I personally love plants.
I spoke to a lady this weekend at the San Diego book signing. And she said she’s been a carnivore since October, and it’s really helped her.
She cured some periodontal stuff that she had, and it’s cured some other stuff. And I’m like, “That’s awesome.”
The fun thing about when I do book signings is that I try to get people to bring dishes from the book.
And I brought corned beef brisket with cabbage. I know Barnes & Noble will let me set up, and we get to have a potluck, which is really fun.
And I hope nobody’s poisoning their food and bringing it. I hope no haters show up with poisoned food.
Abel: Right. Jeez.
I trust that people are good at heart and want to bring yummy things.
But I brought corned beef brisket in the slow cooker with the cabbage in it.
Abel: Oh, that sounds so good.
Which is on my website, by the way.
I leave that up because I want all the Saint Patrick’s Day people to have a low carb option to go with their green beer.
Abel: Yeah. Hard to beat that.
So I asked her, “You won’t even have the cabbage.”
She goes, “No. I just have the meat.”
And I was like, “Whoa.”
I’m still wrapping my brain around the whole carnivore thing.
Abel: Yeah. Well, okay. So I don’t want to just throw anyone under the bus. I think anything can be good or bad.
And the point is, though, is that especially on the Internet, everything becomes a meme of itself and just turns into a tiny little reductionist cartoon.
Abel: And it doesn’t even make sense anymore.
But from what I understand, if you’re doing it right, kind of where it’s an elimination diet, and elimination diet of plant food.
There are a lot of things in plants that are good for us and a lot of things in plants that are bad for us.
Abel: That goes with meat too, though. So I think if you’re going to go carnivore, then you might as well try other elimination diets and see just where that line is for you.
Because that line will always move if you’re training, if you’re a woman or a man or anything in between, if you’re old or you’re young, or whatever.
Everybody’s an individual.
Abel: It’s always going to be changing. We have to do this differently.
And I think the longer we do that, the more likely we all are to meet more in the middle.
I did a challenge recently. I like doing challenges. That’s how I dial it in.
So I did a 75-day challenge because everybody was doing the 75 hard and so I did my own version of it which was 75 days with not a cheat sip of alcohol, no sip of alcohol, no bite of dairy, not even a cheat because dairy is one where I’m not supposed to have it.
But that’s one where I’ll cheat and then I get really sick.
And then I’m like, “Oh.”
Abel: Yeah, yeah.
And no cheat bites of carbs. So nothing for 75 days.
And I took my blood work at the beginning and my blood work at the end, and my inflammation markers went down so much.
It was like, “Oh, okay. Okay, I get it.”
Abel: You see get to see it. So now you can be more intuitive based upon that dialing it in.
Based upon that knowing that, yeah.
Like, “Okay, if we push this too far, it’s going to be bad.”
So I did one a few years ago where I did a mostly raw, but it was definitely just plant-based, but no grains, no sugars.
So it would be just fruit and vegetables, and a little bit of avocado and olive oil, but barely any.
It was supposed to be a low fat, low protein. For three weeks, I did this.
And the theory was that I was trying to test, again, this is a theory within myself.
This doesn’t apply to anybody else but me. So I’m not making this recommendation at all.
I wanted to see what kind of effect that would have on me.
So I did the blood work at the beginning and what I did was, there’s a certain amount of Epstein-Barr in my system, old antibodies and because there’s a lot of theories that sometimes Epstein-Barr and viruses kick in.
And so, I had Mono when I was 23 and that’s when the celiac symptom started and then I was diagnosed at 28.
So I just wanted to test it out and see what’s going on.
And I tested the Epstein-Barr antibodies in my system and they were just all old antibodies running through the system before I did the thing.
And then about a week into doing this, I was so incredibly sick it felt like the flu.
I’d had influenza B in the past and I thought, “Oh my god.”
And then I was like, “I wonder if there are some times…”
Okay, so I went to get the blood work two weeks into the three-week experiment, and the blood work said it was active Epstein-Barr off the charts.
So for whatever reason, when I took out the protein and the animal products, it made the Epstein-Barr get really active.
And I don’t know. I have no idea why that happened.
And I said, “I never want to do that again. It’s not for me.”
However, I will say that I was like, “What else is going on?”
So I like trying these different experiments and seeing what happens.
But I remember people used to make fun of Epstein-Barr and chronic fatigue syndrome, and I’m like, “It’s real.”
And it also made me wonder, are there times in the past when I’ve had the flu but it’s really been an Epstein-Barr flare up and I didn’t realize that because it felt exactly the same and it was awful.
Abel: Sure. Wow. Or lyme, yeah, where I’m from that’s a big problem.
My brother’s got lyme. My parents got it multiple times. I’ve had lyme.
If you get lyme, does it flare up? Is it basically like a life long thing that you have to just manage?
Is that what lyme is about? I don’t know anything about it.
Abel: From what I understand, and from the people around me who have had it, yes.
Yeah, and it’s one of those things that can flare up whenever. And viral infections can be like that, right?
Abel: It’s just you have this now and you’re going to have to deal with that and hope that you never get low on sleep or too stressed out.
Abel: Or eat the wrong thing or whatever, because then you’re just going to get sick.
How is that ever going to happen? We’re all low on sleep.
Abel: I know.
We’re all stressed out. We’re all like, “Oh, I’m too tired and you eat the wrong thing.”
Abel: Right. So I think we’re all damaged, you have to realize that there is some sort of margin that you can play with, but for the most part with your habits, that’s where you have to be really careful.
You have to set up the right ones.
Abel: You have to get in the kitchen, you have to learn how to shop for clean foods, or get some way of making sure they get close to your physical body.
That can be really difficult sometimes when you’re traveling.
Abel: When you’re on a road.
Or airport food is like.
Abel: It can really be hard to eat clean or cook.
Abel: But you can do it most of the time. You don’t have to do it all the time, but you can do it most of the the time.
Well, you know what?
I’m glad I’ve experimented with fasting over the years because traveling is the time that I’ll choose to fast.
It’s good. I actually was very afraid of fasting at first because of the history with anorexia.
I was like, “Oh, I can stop eating. I have that memory bank from being 16 to 18 and just not eating.”
And so, it was a learning curve for me to figure out how to fast, but we’re not doing it as a way to try to have power or control over our lives.
We’re doing it as a healthy choice. You know what I mean?
Learning How to Fast (After Healing From an Eating Disorder)
Abel: Interesting. Would you mind getting into that?
Abel: How you thought that through? Because I didn’t go through that same experience with fasting.
Yeah. Well, it’s funny because fasting is certainly easier when you’re low carb and you’re in dietary ketosis as opposed to running on glucose, or glycogen, or whatever.
I don’t even know the science terms. So don’t listen to me say science.
Abel: Most of the scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.
I called it autophagy forever and every doctor, he was like, “It’s autophagy.”
Yeah, autophagy. Okay, whatever.
No, wait, what? Are we talking about trying to learn fasting, trying to learn the muscle of fasting?
Abel: Okay, so for you with your history of not eating, that’s a very slippery slope and one that I’m not really able to talk about.
Because I never really had a perfect way of eating, but I don’t think I ever had an eating disorder either. But a lot of people have struggled with fasting.
So I’d just love for you to talk a little bit more about how you thought this through, and maybe what someone who’s listening who might have that history could do to either do it or not do it.
For me it was when I was a teenager, and I was a dancer since I was four years old.
So, the stereotype that dancers sometimes have a problematic relationship with food, I found to be very true.
It was true in my life, it was true in many of my dancer friends lives.
And I also, too, that was in the ’80s and ’90s, where we were all doing low fat and low calorie.
And so it was a combination of having that background, already being thin and wanting to push it even more because you want to look as lithe and beautiful as possible doing your arabesques.
And then hitting teenage-hood and actually growing hips and butts, and boobs, and things that you do as a woman, which basically meant I was not destined to be a dancer because I grew a very curvy body.
At least curvy for a dancer.
And then combine that background that I had with the teenage-hood thing of, “I don’t know who I am, how I fit in, how I’m accepted.”
I was at a place where I didn’t feel like I really belonged even though I liked being there.
And so I found that if I could control what I ate, I felt like I was controlling my emotions, and I could prove to myself that I could do something because everything else in real life felt out of control, which by the way that’s just real life.
Abel: Right. Welcome.
You know what I mean? It’s a false sense of control.
And I know that now, but I didn’t know that as a teenager.
So, anyway, been to therapy, worked through all that stuff, everything’s fine, but when we had Jason Fung on the podcast and I was reading his book and I was like, “This is very interesting, I like the idea of having these windows of when you eat.”
And this is just experimenting with intermittent fasting.
This is long before I ever did like a four-day fast, or many 48-hour fasts. I really like them.
But when I was just experimenting with like, “Hey, don’t eat for 14 hours,” that felt insane to me, that felt crazy.
And so when I was doing it, like if I had a hunger pang, it scared me because I was like, “Oh” the hunger pang reminded me of when I used to starve myself, and so I was afraid of it.
And we actually, I had the luxury of being able to have Jason Fung on my podcast. And talked and because I always make it about me, whenever I have an expert on.
And I was like, “Well what about hunger pangs?”
He goes, “Well, generally, if you take a glass of water they’ll pass.”
And I was like, “Oh! Oh!”
I was turning it into this thing and then I realized, “Oh, it’s still that belief system that I’m peeling back.”
In that you’re always healing your beliefs surrounding food and how much we have tied up in like, “This food means comfort. This food means I’m hiding who I really am. This food means I’m squelching anger. This food means I’m really sad.”
You know what I mean?
And like, “And this food means I’m happy, so why shouldn’t I be able to have it? It’s a happy thing.”
And it’s just a constant getting in touch with what you’re actually doing and realizing, “Oh, you’re eating because of emotions.”
But you’re also not eating because of emotions.
And instead going,”Oh no, we’re just doing this for health reasons.”
And then all of a sudden it cleared up.
And it was like, “Oh you can do this.”
And don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy.
A four-day fast, I will never do a four- day fast again. I don’t care for it.
48 hours, that seems to be a good spot for me, but other people do like 10-day, two-week, 30-day fasts. Okay, get after it then.
Abel: Your body kind of shifts into different gears.
It takes a bit and it’s like, “What are you doing? This is crazy. Stop doing this.”
And kind of fights back and then after a while it’s like, “Okay,” and hard shifts into whatever you’re doing, whether that’s going from running zero to running a marathon a day or whatever, or eating a different diet.
I think a lot of people out there have this and I wonder if it’s a female perimenopausal thing, but every time I do a fast I’m always shocked at how high—and keep in mind, I’ve been in dietary ketosis most of the time for like eight years—I am shocked still at how high my fasting blood sugar is.
And I’m like, “This is crazy.”
And again, it’s not until fasting becomes a big thing in our society that people then speak up, “Hey, why is my fasting blood sugar so high?”
And then other people chime in. You know what I mean?
People don’t take a look at it until we all start to try these things and it comes out and then you do look to people like Jason Fung and Peter Attia like, “What is going on? And are you testing women who are 45 years old because it’s a much different reaction than men who are 28 years old or, yadda yadda yadda. Or men who are 45 years old.”
It’s just different things so it’s always a constant like, “Oh you’re learning something new about yourself.”
Abel: Yeah, you talking about the hunger pangs also made me think that it’s a novel feeling for a lot of people, right?
If you are fasting, and you haven’t done a fast, especially an extended fast, and you haven’t done that since maybe you were a kid or since you had a stomach bug or whatever, you haven’t felt this feeling for a very long time, and it’s going to feel weird.
And it’s going to feel like, “Is this bad? Am I hungry?”
And it’s like you have a little water and you’re like, “Oh, no, I’m cool.”
We have access to so much food, we are so abundant in food, that the moment I feel a pang I run over to the fridge and just, almonds, whatever.
And so it’s such a strange thing to be like, “Oh god, am I going to die?”
And it’s like, “No, you’re not going to die.”
It’s okay, you can just go to bed without dinner that night because you kind of missed the window, it’s not the end of the world.
You’re not going to turn anorexic again, you’re not going to die of malnutrition, you’re going to be just fine.
You’ll survive. So I kind of like the how in a way by doing that intense focused activity of fasting it’s kind of lightened things up.
Abel: Yeah, well, and also you learn that it can be advantageous to hook into that fasting energy sometimes.
We’ve had a rough year, with a lot of stuff that’s happened and a few people who have died.
I was going to say, “Have you done a lot of fasting?” Oh, I’m sorry.
Abel: No, it’s okay.
I was going to say, “For your medical stuff, have you done fasting to help beat it?”
Abel: Yeah. Lots of fasting. So as we were recovering, and just for people who haven’t heard, about six months ago, Alyson, my wife, and I, were at a rental and there was a gas leak, multiple gas leaks actually, and we were poisoned by carbon monoxide and it was really, really rough, but coming back from that.
Abel: Yeah, I fasted, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t eat. I was too sick for many days. So we did a few fasts and that helped.
Sick from nausea, like you couldn’t keep stuff down or something else?
Abel: That was nausea. And still, the nausea just kind of comes and goes still sometimes, honestly.
You should put that in the article that you wrote about it.
It is amazing. About the whole experience. It just blew me away. And here you are.
Abel: That’s something. Yeah. We’re back.
You haven’t thrown up yet, this whole time we’ve been talking. I’m proud of you.
Abel: Thank you, thank you so much. But this is what we want to do, this is why we’re here.
Actually, when I was sick, one of the most frustrating things was not being able to work.
Not being able to be in touch with people I knew in our community and all that.
But anyway, what I was saying was, during times of grief or just rough stuff happening in your own life or really high stress, sometimes you don’t want to eat, or at least I don’t.
Abel: If I’m just clobbered with really bad news late in the day, and normally I eat my meal or meals, later in the day.
If I’m just clobbered with something really rough or I’m really stressed out, I just kinda don’t want to eat.
And going to bed with just a little snack instead of dinner, or sometimes not eating anything, feels really good the next day.
I feel terrible that night, I just feel awful, but I don’t want to eat anyway.
And then by the next day it’s like, “Oh, I feel refreshed.” And my body was able to kind of, I think, rest from food for a while.
And when you’re able to do that and you get out of your body’s own way, it’s amazing what it can do to come back from almost anything. It’s incredible.
I will say my inflammation markers, which by the way is always for me personally, my most red flag markers are for inflammation.
I don’t really have an issue with high A1C or any metabolic panels luckily, but it’s inflammation, it’s the homocysteine, it’s the CRP. C-Reactive Protein.
I have to look at those because dealing with the autoimmune, my immune systems always tamped up, and we’re trying to tamp it down.
And that was another thing, doing the blood work at the end of a four-day fast.
I was like, “Oh wow, you really do give your body a break if you’re not putting anything in, and you can just kind of start to heal.”
And that being said, I never want to do a four-day-fast again.
Abel: Yeah, well, everyone has that different line. I feel okay doing three days, after that, I’m kind of like ready to be done.
Day four was pretty brutal, that’s why I was like, I went up having a cup of chicken broth, four hours before I was supposed to break and I was like, “You know what? We’re done. Let’s take the wheels off.”
Abel: That’s important. That’s really important, though.
Abel: I think for people who are listening, it’s definitely not a “More is better type thing.”
It’s not this all-American, “We’re going to fast more, then we would be better.” No.
So I think that’s where the disorder comes in.
And listen, if I got a really crappy diagnosis or if I had an experience like you did, that would be the first thing I would do is explore fasting.
If it was like a cancer diagnosis and having to do any special medical treatments, I would 100% say, “Okay, let’s steal ourselves away for a bit and we’re going to actually have to do some extended fasting to help heal this.”
And who knows, maybe one day in my future, I might have to deal with that, but knock on wood.
We don’t know, we don’t know what’s down the road for us and what we’re going to experience, but I’m glad that I have had this experience.
To bring it back to traveling, you might find yourself not eating for 10-12 hours because you’re flying somewhere and the food is garbage or it all has gluten.
In my case, I can’t have that, you know what I mean?
And then you’re like, “Okay, I’m glad I had that touch point to be able to do this.”
I’m not like, “Oh my gosh, I’m starving.”
Or I always bring almonds with me on the plane.
And now very often, there’s somebody with a nut allergy on the plane and you can’t open a bag of nuts on the plane, you’ll make them sick.
And so you’re like, “Okay. Well, that takes care of that.”
Not opening the almonds.
Abel: Well, it does and when you think about it, the size of us as humans and how much time is actually passing and the amount of almonds you would have otherwise eaten.
You realize that fasting isn’t that much different than eating a meal. It’s like, in the grand scheme of things, is what I mean.
Abel: Some days you really want to eat more, some days you want to eat less.
Abel: And you adjust your lifestyle around you sometimes.
I would say, what’s interesting is about the cooks and the people who are used to eating and cooking at home, like us, like you, I think we probably have the highest standards in regards to the foods we eat.
When we’re eating out especially and when we’re traveling, and so it makes it easier to fast, because you’ve been burned, haven’t you?
It’s like, “Oh, I’m so hungry, I’m just going to break my fast with this and get something that’s right here.”
And then you get sick and you’re like, “Ah.”
Abel: Not worth it.
Why did I do that? I know, listen, I’ve had a “Why did I do that moment?” It’s like all the time.
And by the way, that’s part of the learning process and figuring out what your boundaries are.
Because most of us have been told by the diet industry what our boundary should be and we try to live up to this ideal and it doesn’t work, but you have to learn what your own boundaries are.
And that’s also part of the process.
Abel: And they move.
They move. They do move.
Sometimes, if I order a burger, no bun, no cheese, add the avocado, add the bacon, add the mushrooms, add the onions, that’s what I’ll order. That’s the go-to if they’ll make it.
Any American restaurant will generally be able to provide that.
And no matter what part of the country you’re in, you can find that particular thing.
So that’s always my go-to.
And my husband’s always like, “You eat so many burgers.”
It’s like, “I know. Good thing I love burgers.”
But, if they happen to leave the french fries on the plate, sometimes I can resist those french fries and it’s not a problem, other times I’m like, “Man, I just want to eat those fries.”
And then you’re like, “Oh god, why did I do that?”
Because of the oil and things.
And also, too, the oil they use at restaurants is garbage and it’s pretty tough, when you have a sensitive stomach, and you know that that oil will set it off.
So sometimes it’s just better to be like, “No.”
Honestly, it’s better if I just have a vodka-soda and don’t eat anything, it’s better if I have alcohol in my stomach than the oil, that’s the scary thing.
Not all the time, obviously I’m exaggerating.
Abel: Good god.
They’re like, “Girl. You need help.”
How to be Funny and Not Hurt People’s Feelings
Abel: Now the comedian is talking I guess, but let’s talk about that.
Abel: Because one thing that’s happened recently is words have become even squishier than usual and comedians have to play with words.
Well, especially the carnivores came after you because you just called it kitty food and they felt mad at you.
Abel: They were mad at me. But now we’re friends, we’re friends.
Abel: I don’t know, maybe I ticked them off again, but I don’t think so.
They seem like solid people who, for the most part, are able to dedicate themselves and really get passionate about something like that are the ones who are doing it right, for the most part.
True, that’s true.
Abel: Yeah. So I think that’s worth saying. But language…
Abel: It’s getting trickier and trickier.
Abel: And so is comedy. It’s harder to say things. We’re not allowed to talk about certain things.
Abel: How do you handle that?
My husband and I, he’s also a comic, and about two years ago, when our daughter went off to college, we had a unique opportunity.
As a female comic, one of my pet peeves is watching dudes go on stage and talk about being married and being a father, and not that they’re not allowed, of course they’re allowed to talk about it, it’s great.
But I always want to know like, “Well, what’s her perspective? I want to hear from her.”
Like what does she have to say about him being that way or her. Is she really crazy or beat?
“Women be shopping.” Like I hate that kind of a joke, you know what I mean?
And comedy is a very male-dominated field still, to this day.
My husband and I kind of thought, “What if we could get up and do a he said, she said sort of thing?”
Because we’ve been married 20 years now and we started writing jokes together.
And we actually, in the process of writing jokes, healed a lot of crap that we had never discussed. We had never discussed.
We don’t talk about our wedding because it was a shotgun wedding.
We don’t have any pictures up of our wedding.
And so then we started writing jokes about our wedding and this is a true story.
We went to the Bahamas to have a shotgun wedding, and by the way, we had like $50,000 of credit card debt.
So what’s the smart thing to do?
Go to the Bahamas, run up your credit cards more and have a destination wedding that everyone will roll their eyes at because we shouldn’t be getting married anyway, because we’re pregnant and we have only been dating six months, okay?
So literally it was like one dumb decision after another.
And so, we are at this beach at the Bahamas for three days, and at the end of the third day it was to culminate in the blessed event.
And Gloria Steinem was laying out next to us on the beach, all three days.
And my husband was like, “Oh, if only there was a sign that we shouldn’t get married.”
It was like, “Hello?”
And for those young ones out there who don’t know who Gloria Steinem is, she’s like the most iconic woman of the feminists of the 20th century moving feminism forward.
And so, I actually went up to talk to Gloria Steinem as a 25-year-old, knocked up, wide-eyed innocent.
And I told her, I was like, “You know what, Gloria, can I bend your ear for a second? I’m here, I’m in the Bahamas, I am pregnant, I’m throwing up every day, I feel… ”
Which is a whole other thing, I didn’t realize. I didn’t realize I had autoimmune and I threw up every day till I was six and a half months pregnant.
That’s another thing.
So I was like, “I’m miserable. We’re getting married because we’re Italian and that’s what you do when you get pregnant.”
And we didn’t have a lot of touch points.
And I go, “What should I do? Is this right?”
And she goes, “Get married.” Gloria Steinem!
She said, “Get married,” and I was like, “Well, okay.”
Abel: That’s a sign.
And so basically, long story short, we started writing jokes about every aspect of it, like what it’s like to raise kids, what it’s like to be with each other, what money is like, what sex is like, what it’s like if you’re going to make a long-term relationship work.
And by the way, it’s not just for people who actually get married. Who cares?
Anybody who’s ever been in a long-term relationship, it’s fun to get up there.
People identify like, “Oh I’m more like her or I’m more like him.”
And we talk about the truth in our relationship and that’s how I believe that we’re able to get away with some of the stuff that we get away with, because to bring it back to the language thing, I’m quite loquacious, in case you haven’t noticed.
To bring it back to the language thing, obviously, nobody wants to say anything to offend people but ours is a much more interior relationship inside the home type of comedy.
We’re not commenting on political stuff.
The most political we get is actually what’s happening at home which is, you know it’s 2000.
We have a joke about how he takes care of the cars for me, like “My man takes care of the car. I don’t know anything about how to take care of cars. It’s so sexy.”
And then he says, “Well, nothing’s sexier than a man paying another man to fix his wife’s car.”
And then I basically say, “And the thing that I do for him in the household is everything else. It’s 2020, I do all the other things.”
The political stuff that we get to is pointing out that there’s still, we’re a very modern couple.
He’s very hands-on as a dad. He actually changed diapers and knew when it was time to give her a bath and stuff like that.
He was a responsible participatory father and I still did everything in the house. Does that make sense?
Abel: Yeah, I think so.
But that’s a very political thing to say like, “Why are we still doing this?”
Why is the distribution of labor still so uneven?
So that’s more where we get to, but we certainly wouldn’t be like “Trump, Elizabeth Warren, caucuses.”
Who cares? I mean for our comedy, who cares?
Abel: I think that’s really important, even for the non-comics out there who are just regular people to open up your relationships to be able to joke back and forth about things that might be off or just look weird because equal is also a squishy word and that’s not always what we’re after either.
We all need to kind of respect each other in our own ways, but that’s tricky, and you need to be able to talk about it.
So maybe the answer is not necessarily that we all get behind the microphone and say whatever we want. But at least with our closest relationships, we can feel like we can examine the things that might be off to us.
Right. And listen, that’s why comedy is so healing is because we’re all going through this pain of whatever your experience is, and then when you see a comic on stage that you resonate with.
It feels so good to be like, “Oh my God, that’s me. I can laugh at these foibles. I can laugh at these negative beliefs I’ve been carrying around, I can release that and lighten up.”
And that’s why I love comedy the most because you’re in a room and it’s literally alchemy when you’re all kind of in it together, and also too we do a lot of crowd work, we do a lot of Q and As with people.
We want to find these newlyweds over here and then these people who’ve been married for 40 years, over there.
I love talking to people and seeing where they are.
Abel: Yeah, that’s so fun. I can’t believe, but we’re almost out of time, but before we go I want to make sure we mention this.
Alyson is the best, she made like eight or nine of your recipes.
She did? That makes me so happy!
Abel: I’m scrolling down because I can’t remember all the titles. We tried so many and they’re awesome.
I love that you wrote it up, you’re like, “What did you make babe? I have to type it up!”
Abel: Jalapeno poppers, the spinach and mushroom tartlets were amazing, I plowed through those.
I love those! They’re labor intensive but they’re really good.
Abel: They’re good cold the next day, too. But really good hot, too.
I like a hot cold hors d’oeuvre.
Abel: Dark chocolate almond butter balls, a little bit of dates in there.
Those are a nice little desert, where you’re not really breaking the bank on that one, you know?
Abel: Yeah totally! Like after dinner you have one or two of those and and you’re like, “Alright cool, that’s it. I don’t feel like I need to have a whole bunch.”
And also, it has the word “balls” in the title.
Abel: That’s right.
Abel: Rosemary pecans, that one snuck up on me I didn’t notice it was Rosemary.
I’m like, “What is this? It tastes so good!”
And then we made a couple of the Instant Pot things as well.
Abel: We’re going be making a few more, too.
Great! I love it! Oh my god, that makes me so happy!
Abel: I want to say though, especially dairy-free is hard to pull off.
You have to really dial in what you’re doing, and know exactly how to make it taste good because cheese is an easy win for almost anything you just put it on top.
Cheese makes everything better and then when you can’t have it, that can be…
I definitely went through a temper tantrum when I was told by several doctors after several blood tests, “You cannot tolerate dairy, it’s inciting the autoimmune response within you.”
So, this second book has much more dairy-free options, because obviously, things are going to reflect where I am in my eating journey.
However, most of my audience eats dairy, so that’s why there’s still dairy.
Abel: You can always throw it over the top, that’s the good part.
You can, if you want to, yes.
Abel: So Alyson goes dairy-free and I just throw the cheese on top.
With the parmesan on it. Yeah.
I have a lot of ideas for dairy substitutes listed in the book, but I also do videos because that’s probably the number one question I’m asked.
Because I think a lot of people are coming to the conclusion that they can’t have dairy, and I’m like, “I get it, here’s what I like.”
Luckily, there’s more products now at Whole Foods, but a lot of them are just over-priced and disgusting and some of them are okay, and some of them I just figure out how to make things that inherently don’t have dairy in them.
Abel: Yeah. Oh, one thing I want to make sure we talk about it is…
Abel: Okay, so I like this cookbook. I don’t like most cookbooks. I really don’t.
Abel: I get hundreds of cookbooks. We’ve changed our address like half a dozen times, we still get so many cookbooks.
They’re all these keto books and they have a photo-brushed perfect insta-face on the front and all the recipes are the same.
All the recipes have the same artificial sweeteners in them, they all have the same ingredients, they all look the same, they’re all pretty and I’m so sick of it.
Your recipes in your books have your personality and cultural heritage in it.
I love how real that is. I wish it weren’t so rare, but you’re the real deal, and I really appreciate that.
Oh my god, I’m going to cry. I’m going to cry. That’s so nice and thank you.
That is the highest compliment because obviously I put my heart and soul into this.
And because I was told before the first book that it would never be successful by many people in publishing.
Somebody said, “You should pair up with a celebrity chef.”
I was like, “Why would a celebrity chef pair up with me? They can just do their own book.”
Anyway, I was told such crazy things, but what it did to me was make sure my quality control was on point.
I test these recipes, I have friends test them, I make sure everything’s great.
I feel like I got much better with my food photography in the second one, and that’s always evolving and very fun to do, and now I’ve like sunk some money into some cool lenses and I’ve had a good time.
But it is all 100% me, this is me, so if there’s anything you don’t like about it, it’s my fault, it’s on me, I take full responsibility and no, I will not put carb grams in the book. Sorry.
Abel: Don’t do it. We’re not doing that.
I’m not doing it.
Where To Find Anna Vocino and Her Cookbooks
Abel: We’re not doing it either. Anyway, Anna please tell folks where they can find your book and you and what you’re working on.
“Eat Happy, Too” is available at all online book sellers, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble or, Indybound.org is a great place to find a local independent bookstore near you and you can order it that way.
I’m at annavocino.com, I have a ton of free recipes there.
You can also sign up and get a free recipe sampler, so in case you want to try some things before you want to sink money into the books.
Instagram is my favorite of the socials. I do have a very active Facebook group, Anna Vocino’s Eat Happy Facebook group, but Instagram is my favorite because then I can just kind of show you guys what I’m doing, what I’m making for dinner, what I’m doing with my life there, I have more fun.
I like the stories, I’m a fan of the stories.
Abel: Yeah, I could see that.
Yeah, stories are fun. I feel like all comics should be on the stories because that’s a great way to just have short little funny bits of your life.
Abel: Nice. I have to get on there,
Get on there! You’re on Instagram.
Abel: Yeah, but not really. Kind of. Not really. We’ll see. I’m going to examine it.
Anyway, all of you listening out there, Eat Happy, Too is the name of this cookbook. I really enjoy it.
We don’t say that about many cookbooks. So, go out there and check out Anna’s work.
That’s really nice Abel. Thank you.
Abel: Anna, you’re the best, thank you so much for coming on.
You’re the best! Thank you for having me.
Before You Go…
Here’s a review that just came in for the podcast on iTunes. This is from Alec. He says:
“Game changer. I have been listening to this podcast for years and it led me to lose 100lbs when I first got into this lifestyle.
I have fluctuated a bit since then, but listening to the awesome guests and Abel’s guidance keeps me focused and helps me get back in the right mindset.
This information also led me to try and do my part to help by starting my own business in edible landscaping, where I help others grow healthy food so they can achieve what I have.
All of this came with the information I learned here on the Fat-Burning Man! Thank you Abel!!” – Alec2386
Wow, Alec, thank you for writing in and sharing your story with us.
That’s incredible you shed 100 pounds from your body.
And Edible Landscaping?! I just want to say thank you so much for digging in and helping others achieve some of the same health benefits of eating real food, by growing nutritious foods right in their own backyards.
Thank you for listening all these year, and for helping create this movement of healthy eating and shift back to fresh, old-fashioned, real food.
If you’d like to try The Wild Diet yourself, check this out. You can download our 30-Day Fat Loss Program on the device you’re listening to right now, and get the best meal plans we’ve ever put together.
In this plan, we share 30 days of foodie-friendly meals that are designed to help you drop fat with real food.
If you’re ready to upgrade your nutrition, get our 30 day program for a limited-time discount at FatBurningman.com/30days.
And if you’d like to grab my new book of silly poetry called Designer Babies Still Get Scabies, head on over to DesignerBabiesBook.com.
Here’s some exciting news: Designer Babies Still Get Scabies just debuted as a #1 International Bestseller in 7 countries around the world, including #1 bestseller in Poetry in the UK, the U.S., Canada and Australia, and #1 bestseller in Humor in France, Germany, and even Japan.
It’s a subversive, hypnotic little book that confronts dark questions, conspiracy theories, magic, and histories mysteries with dazzling flurries of irresistible rhymes and ridiculous rants.
I’ve heard from many people that the poems in Designer Babies Still Get Scabies make them laugh out loud. And here are a couple reviews for the book that came in on Amazon…
Ben says: Witty and thoughtful. Funny while making light of real issues. Humorous and entertaining.
Will says: I love this book of insightful poetry, I am going to get another one as a gift.
Pen says: You owe it to yourself to get this one! Great book. Both poignant and funny. All done in rhymes. Great social commentary.
I hope you enjoy it. And be sure to shoot me a note to let me know which poems are your favorites.
Do you think comedy is healing? What did you think of this conversation with Anna Vocino? Drop a comment below!