Can burpees actually boost your mood?
Science is now telling us that exercise can be a better healing therapy for depression than prescription medication.
As a dude who has been prescribed anti-depressant medication by my doctor “to help me sleep” in the past, I can tell you that I’m a heck of a lot happier when I’m exercising than when I’m medicating.
The reason that a lot of these natural cures don’t really get out there is because there isn’t a whole lot of money in telling people to go for a walk to help them with their depression.
There is a lot of money in patents, trademarks, branding and getting products out there that people can consume over and over again.
But if you just go for a walk, there isn’t really anyone else who’s benefiting directly from that, certainly not monetarily, except for you.
So lace up those old tennis shoes and get those endorphins flowing because exercise isn’t about how you look, it’s about how you feel. And I can definitely attest to that.
Our guest on this episode is Amy Clover, founder of Strong Inside Out.
We’re going to be talking about a topic that’s a little bit tough for some us: suicide prevention, depression, and anxiety.
These are some really serious issues that, whether they’ve affected you personally or not, there’s a good chance that they’ve probably affected someone around you. I think Amy has a lot of personal experience and insight to share with you guys, and I’m excited to bring her message to you.
On this show, you’ll learn:
- How to reach your turning point
- The link between diet and depression
- Why too low-carb might not be good for some women
- Weight-training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), & ditching the workout dogma
If you know someone who might be struggling with slaying their own demons and you think this information might be able to help them, then please spread the word.
Amy Clover: Strong Inside Out
Abel: Alright, folks we are here with Amy Clover. You might not know this about her, but she just told me that she actually held the high score on the Family Guy website 10 years ago in trivia.
Amy, I’m really glad you’re here.
We’re going to be talking about some pretty deep stuff, but I think we have a hard time letting go and getting out there because these are deep, dark places that we all have that we normally don’t play with.
So let’s do both sides of the equation. Let’s do some fun stuff, let’s do some deep stuff.
But before we do, why don’t you tell folks a little bit about where you came from, what Strong Inside Out is all about, some of the demons that you’ve slayed in the past, and the other ones that you’re fighting now for other people.
Well, I’m Amy Clover from Strong Inside Out, and I have a site that helps empower people out of struggle with the help of fitness and taking positive action.
I actually started it as just a fitness site, but realized that my About page was getting more traffic than any of my blog posts were. Actually, I shared my story not having told maybe more than five people what I had been through.
I was so afraid to actually talk about it, there was so much stigma around it.
What happened was, in high school I was diagnosed with clinical depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and that’s a nasty mix when you’re a teenager and your hormones are raging.
But I refused to talk about it or acknowledge it, and I held it inside. So I would lash out a lot at teachers and stuff.
But they didn’t want to dig deeper, there were a couple of teachers that really did want to ask, and held me after class and said, “What’s going on with you?” But it was very rare.
I held it inside and held it inside, until in my early 20s it just got to be so much. I just didn’t want to handle the pain any more, I didn’t want to deal with it.
Because I was never told that I could fight against it, it was just my life sentence. So I actually tried to end it. And my roommate found me in the kitchen with a knife to my wrist. And she begged me to call for help, and I called a suicide prevention lifeline and that saved my life.
And they said, “Please, if you don’t feel better in the morning, go to the hospital.”
I did, and I didn’t really know what to expect, but they hospitalized me against my will, and that was the most angry I’ve ever been in my entire life.
When I was held in there, I kind of realized, “This is what it feels like to really have no choice. This is what it feels like to have all of your will just stripped from you.”
So, I decided while I was in there that I was at least going to try when I got out of there.
Because it was my life. At least I could dictate if I went down in flames fighting.
I tried and I was rollercoastering up and down. I almost got back down to that point, but I kept fighting, I kept getting back up. And that’s what Strong Inside Out is all about.
When I finally found fitness, it all made sense. It all came into play, and I could hold onto those things that I was working on with my therapist a lot longer, and it was more consistent.
So that’s a lot of what I like to talk about on Strong Inside Out.
How Exercise Heals The Mind
Abel: A lot of information in this space downplays is the mental game, the mental fight that we have every day between doing the right thing for our bodies, for our health, for our minds, for people around us, for everything, and doing the thing that won’t help us reach our goals.
And one of the coolest things, I’ve been deep into the history of dieting, and all the different diets that have been tried over the course of time. And also our understanding of physical education, physical culture, as it was called and is still in some circles.
The basic idea is that through exercise, you can actually prevent almost any disease out there, especially when combined with nutrition.
For you, a lot of people don’t really talk about how much the exercise component isn’t about burning calories, isn’t about having huge guns, or showing off to your friends, it’s about changing your brain in a really cool way that your brain needs. So can you talk about that? What is the mental thing that’s going on, or what happened to you when you took up exercise the way you did?
Well, science-wise, it actually elevates brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Have you read Spark? I love that book. I actually just emailed with John J. Ratey. I was like, “Oh my gosh!” That was like my nerd out. Total nerdgasm.
But that explains a lot of the scientific facts behind what exercise actually does for stress, and anxiety, and depression, and all of it.
But just the more tangible state is when you’re actually pushing that much further in the gym and challenging yourself. When you’re actually pushing yourself in real life to go to your discomfort.
I believe you can train yourself in the gym for real life as well. So the stronger you get in there, the more you push in there, the more comfortable you’re going to get with discomfort… which is really key to achieving those goals outside of the gym as well.
Abel: Yeah, and there’s a cool argument going on… For a while we kind of understood it to be true that if you made something sanitized, or if you made something easy, or if you made it convenient, it’s better. It’s better for you, it’s better for your body, better for your brain, or whatever.
Now we’re starting to see that you really do need to go through hard things in order for your brain to grow, in order for your body to grow, in order for you to exercise the willpower. And there’s something about that moment.
This happens even doing interviews, like if you talk to someone who isn’t used to public speaking, or isn’t used to being under the gun and speaking in front of thousands of people, then there’s that moment between when that person asks the question in the last second, when it’s released from their lips and before you start speaking, that you have to decide, “Do I have this or do I not have this?”
So every single day there’s that moment, “Can I lift this, can I not lift this?” “Am I smart enough to calculate 15% tip on my bill right now in front of my friends, or not?”
One of the coolest things about exercise is that you’re doing it. If you’re exercising every single day, you’re actually exercising your resolve. It’s not your muscles.
What do you think about that?
Completely. I love the way that you just said that and the way that you really honed in on that one second. That’s really huge and it’s just you’re really working that resilience, like how much can you stand?
And that’s something that I talk about a lot. It’s that struggle that we’ve shied away from for so long, like it’s something to be avoided. But I think it’s something that we should really embrace. It’s something that we should use as a tool to get stronger, and we should celebrate that.
Abel: Yeah. There’s a great book, “Antifragile.” Are you familiar with the concept?
No, but I love that name.
Abel: So, it’s basically the idea that in times of uncertainty, or being uncomfortable or struggle, the strongest ones don’t just survive… That’s when they thrive the most.
If you look at economic systems, or if you look at biological systems, if you become the person who can thrive when everyone else is freaking out or not able to do it or are overwhelmed, that’s the penultimate.
If you can handle that, that’s where you should play. And that’s actually the secret.
A lot of people ask me about how I grew so quickly with my own platform and with my own businesses, and that’s really what it is. It’s being able to take those ridiculous but very calculated risks, which is the same thing that you’re doing if you’re doing a deadlift.
Because you’re just like, “Is that seven pounds too much or am I just… ” Because if you never quite get there, obviously you don’t want to get injured. You don’t want to push it too far, but you almost want to push it too far. Can you talk about how you calculate that?
I’m all about risk-taking and I’m all about going to that discomfort, but you have to be smart about it at the same time.
You can’t just go like, “Oh, I’ve never deadlifted before. I think 500 pounds sounds good today.”
You have to go into it and actually test out the waters a little bit and see how it’s going to be.
And just like if you were to say, leave your job, if that’s something you want to to do to get uncomfortable, and it’s something that you really want, or say you really want to lift that 500 pounds, it’s the same kind of thing. You have to be calculated about it.
You have to think of the aftermath, at least a little bit. At least be prepared for it and take actions to create that world that you want to land in after you leap.
So you really do have to say, “Do I really want to explode my sacroiliac, or do I really want to just be cautious and work my way up there? Do I really do push my limits, every single time?”
Abel: When do you know when you get there? This is a trick question, by the way.
I truly believe that you do not ever get there.
You’re always pushing those limits. You’re always growing.
You’re always getting stronger.
Did I pass?
Abel: Absolutely. That’s something that I’ve said many times on this show.
Actually one of the first conversations I had with Mark Sisson was about that very subject. He’s 60 years old, has a ripped six-pack, has a Maserati in the garage. He’s got it figured out.
And it’s just like, “Mark, how did you figure out… What does it feel like to be there?” And you talk to him for half a second and you know that he is not there, and he is just like, “You never get there. That does not happen.”
It’s all about the day to day, those little moments that you have. But you never arrive.
And that’s kind of the cool part, because if you can learn to thrive in those moments and be totally present in them, then you start to see the world change all around you.
Because you go from basically being a victim of circumstance, the things that happen in your life, what family you’re born into, what town you’re born into, which schools you went to, what job you got, all of that stuff. And then you start to celebrate the fact that, “Oh, I’m driving.”
Yeah, totally. And no matter where you are.
Abel: Tell us about that for you. Take us through it.
You were out of control and you literally had no say over what went on in your life, in that moment you told us about before, but then you found physical culture and something changed. Walk us through that.
It was actually by accident. I joined a gym because I thought I needed to lose a few pounds. I was actually in acting at this time, and the whole culture around the acting world, the Hollywood world, is if you’re a size two, you’re big and you need to work on that.
So, I was maybe a size four at the time or something like that, and I was like, “I just need to really lose weight.”
It was funny because… I don’t know how much you’re going to agree with this, but I would hop on the elliptical, and fight through intervals.
That was the way I actually found out that aerobic-caused brain explosion was happening with endorphins, and it was really lasting into my regular life, as well.
The more consistent I got with doing maybe five days a week of just 30 minutes to start was really helping me handle stress, be more at ease throughout daily life and handle things. Feel like I could really handle things.
I stumbled upon it by accident. So, if I stumbled upon that by accident, just think what other people who were in these depths of darkness, can really do if they go into it with intention.
It can really change your life.
Abel: So, if someone’s listening to this show right now and they have someone they can think of who’s in that bad spot, how do you help them connect?
Whether it’s exercise or anything else, but how do you help them out of that?
There is one thing that I just always tell people to do: Just get out.
Just get outside in some way. Just move in some way and just take that one step, because we all know that that first step is the hardest, but if you just take that one step and start feeling the effects of actually going after it, of actually moving, then I bet you’re going to want to do more.
Even if you just commit to, “I’m going to go outside for five minutes. I’m going to walk around the block once.” That can be transformational.
That can really lead into deadlifting 500 pounds, whatever you want to do.
Abel: Yes, it’s so wild, because something as simple as a walk has been shown in many studies to be more effective than prescription medications that companies have spent billions of dollars on and decades of research on. It’s that simple.
Like I was saying before, “We already know enough. It’s just, why don’t we do it? What’s the breakdown there?”
Because everyone knows that exercise makes you feel better. Everyone knows that if you eat well and you don’t eat all of those cookies, you’re going to feel better.
Why don’t we all just make better decisions?
Because it’s not a one stop shop. It’s not immediate and doesn’t last as long as it would if you’re consistent, so the thing about aerobic exercise…
Aerobic exercise has been proven to be more effective than Zoloft for treating depression when used consistently and for longer periods of time.
However, if you just do one workout, it’s not going to be as effective as Zoloft. You do need to stick with it.
A lot of us are just developing ADD as we get more technologically advanced, so I think it’s just the will to stick with it and the knowledge that you’re doing it for a bigger reason, your bigger why, and I’m all about finding your why and really driving intention into your actions.
That’s a huge one. You need to really remember why you’re staying consistent.
Abel: Right, so with the people that you’ve had an effect on in the time that you’ve been doing this, tell us a story.
How has this mindset made a change that someone else can see in the real world?
When I launched the 30×30 project campaign, I was really fortunate to have my good friend Eric Kaufmann do my video for me. I’m not sure if you saw the Nike Spec commercial that I was in. It’s on the front page of my site.
He did my video as well, and it spoke to a lot of people, because it was just my story in three minutes and I got an email from somebody, and it said…
“I’m currently in in-patient right now and I didn’t think there was any hope for me. I didn’t think that there was going to be any way out, and I thought that this was all just something that was forced upon me, but after seeing your story and what you’ve done, I finally have hope again.”
It was pretty amazing to hear that.
The people who were in my group coaching program called the Phoenix Method, seeing them rise above their struggles and really get stronger, and get the physical changes. Well, I’m sure you’ve seen it tons with The Wild Diet, you have actually, your success stories are just everywhere, but really seeing that change from the inside out is just amazing.
It’s happened a lot, not just with one story, but with many.
Abel: Yes, so with that struggle, I want to get even deeper on this thing… What is that switch?
Because it’s like a switch. Everyone has that little thing that puts them over the edge and, “Now, I’m going to be different.” Then they actually do it, though.
Having seen people go through that, are there any strategies, or tips, or is there anything you can give to someone who’s listening to help either get there, or notice that they got there, and make the right call?
It’s something I’ve actually talked about before. I wrote an e-book on this. It’s about how people often have to hit rock bottom before they decide that they need to make a change, but I don’t think that’s necessary.
It’s that commitment in your brain. It’s that step to realizing that the life that you are living is not the one that you want to live, and so almost just forcing yourself to come to that realization.
But not in despair, not letting that overwhelm you, but letting it help you take that informed action to create the life that you want.
That is difficult, and that does take a bit of work, but mindfulness is a huge part of that… mindfulness in every part of your life, not just when you’re working on that specifically.
How Should Women Eat And Exercise?
Abel: Let’s shift gears a little bit. You’re obviously very accomplished in this area, you know a lot about it.
One of the questions I get a lot is from women about how women should exercise. Could you give us a primer on that?
Yes, big weights won’t make you big. Yay! That’s it.
It depends, because I come from a lot of the mindset of, “Do what makes you happy. Do what gets you active.”
If that is going to Curves or yoga, then go. If you love that community, if you love that space, go there, because that’s what gets you active. If you love CrossFit, go there. Get into that community.
Do what makes you happy, and move, and just get out there in some form, but it depends on what goals you’re talking about.
So, if your goals are to feel better, do whatever the heck it is that makes you feel better. But if your goals are to really lean up, or trim up, I definitely suggest eating real food.
I live by mainly The Wild Diet. I eat like that because it helps me feel more levelled out emotionally.
I point to my head in there, and it really does feed into better performance in my workouts, and that’s huge for me.
I like to talk about eating like an athlete, because all of us really are athletes and all of us who are going for those goals physically should eat to fuel that physical component. Nutrition has a lot to do with it.
But as far as training for women, you do have to be a little bit more careful about the high intensity stuff. I live by HIIT workouts, they’re my thing, they’re what I sell, they’re what I do in my tours.
But women do not deal with ongoing HIIT workouts… If you were to do those longer, heavier HIIT workouts multiple times a week, our bodies don’t deal with that quite the same way that men’s bodies do.
And we are more likely to break down almost emotionally—mentally, we don’t handle it as well. So it’s something to be cognizant of. And again, every single person is different.
I know that a lot of CrossFitters out there are like, “I hate that, don’t get on the elliptical.” But actually if it helps you feel better, and it does give you something in between to keep you moving between those HIIT workouts, go for it.
Abel: It gets taken so far by the extremes, like, “Never get on a machine!” But, yeah, if you just want to get your heart going, and the alternative between sitting on the couch and not really doing anything then hopping on an elliptical, bicycle or just doing some jumping jacks for 20 minutes to just to get rolling, that’s great. Do that.
Because almost none of us are getting the amount of movement, exercise, activity, stimulation and information that we used to get even 50 years ago, 100 years ago, certainly thousands of years ago.
That’s why I’m big on exercising outside, and even eating outside. Because your brain is being affected literally, and we can measure this by what the plants outside, what the trees outside are releasing.
You’re informed by all of these different stimuli, and it’s really important to give yourself as much of that as you can.
So I think exercise, unless you’re already running ragged and you’re a weekend warrior or whatever, you guys know who you are. I’ve been guilty of this from time to time. As long as you’re not doing that, then pretty much any activity you can get is good.
Do you have any female-specific advice around the mental game, around nutrition, we just covered exercise, or anything else that you want to offer?
Yes. Nutrition is really important.
I know a lot of us listening to this show here have either gotten ready for competitions, or dieted at some point.
And I know a lot of us do go low carb, and I’m interested to hear your mindset on this. But going after low carb as a woman, you have to be very careful about going uber low carb.
I know The Wild Diet isn’t necessarily low carb because you do get those great vegetables, sometimes you get those fruits, but I even add in gluten-free grains like brown rice or quinoa and those kinds of things. Just to keep me a little bit happier.
They’re my happy foods, and I think they serve that way for a lot of women, especially when we’re around “that time.” We don’t have to go into depth on that, but just knowing that those are around and you can still stick to a whole foods diet and not clog up your brain space by eating a little bit more carbs.
Abel: I think that’s great. And the right answer is always, “It depends.” It’s pretty easy to run away with any little piece of advice, because it’s probably incomplete.
For the whole low carb thing, even that very concept, it’s like what does that mean? Is it low carb compared to 300 grams of simple carbs a day like most of us are getting usually from sodas and other junk like that, or does it mean less than 150, and is it net or total?
And then you can get down to just, “Well, is it ketogenic, and is it long term ketogenic?”
I think from a high level, where I stand, is the biggest things that you should avoid if you want to be healthy, and you want to keep fat off, and you want to keep your brain running on all cylinders, stay away from sugar and stay away from most grains. Not all grains. we definitely go for quinoa, we eat beans, we do a lot of totally non-Paleo things. We’ve never been Paleo, Paleo.
Paleo can be a killer shorthand for saying, “Eat loads of veggies, lots of fruit, nuts, and meats and eggs as you want to until you’re not hungry anymore.”
And that’s an awesome thing that people get, and they can do it.
But it’s all about living in the nether regions between the dogmatism and rubber meets the road, that’s where it gets complicated.
But to answer your question, I think you’re doing it right. That’s what works for you, those are your happy foods.
As long as your happy foods aren’t gallons of honey, or really gross ice cream or fast foods, that’s the whole thing.
I’ll never be able to tell anyone what their diet should be, and no one else can either. They do it all the time. But you have to tell yourself what your ultimate diet is because it’s a moving target.
As you just said, it changes by day, by hour, by second, by time of the month, by season, where you’re living, how bright it is outside. All of these things enter into it.
So it’s all about learning to trust yourself, which is just coming full circle back to what you’re all about.
It’s learning to trust the natural intelligence of your body, the strength of your brain, and really your willpower.
And I think that it’s awesome that you’re doing your work, because a lot of people don’t really talk about that.
It doesn’t matter how you define it. Any sort of success you could ever have in life, whether it’s getting yourself out of a crippling depression or building a billion dollar business, it’s the same thing.
INDULGE YOUR CRAVINGS: THE 90% PRINCIPLE
It’s funny that you bring that up too, because as far as willpower goes with the nutrition aspect of things… I do things a little bit differently on my website, and you may or may not agree with this, but I suggest that people stick to real foods as much as humanly possible, whole foods, but that they live by something called the 90% principle, which is something that I actually promote.
I’m precision nutrition, sports nutrition certified, and live and breathe by John Berardi’s advice. It totally changed the way that I train, totally changed the way that I coach, to do that program.
So I live by is the 90% principle. 10% of the time, which if I’m eating five meals a day or four meals a day, that’s around like three meals per week where I can go off-plan and eat whatever the heck I want, because I love cookies.
I could live and breathe by cookies and ice cream, and there are those times where if I don’t go for a long time… Like a couple of months ago I was getting ready for a photoshoot and I went like three weeks without any opportunities, as I call them, or off-plan meals, and right after my shoot I went crazy. And that’s just not healthy. It’s not healthy to just go crazy like that and I felt horrible afterwards.
I know a lot of us out there do that. I know a lot of people who read Strong Inside Out have dealt with a lot of eating disorders, whether that be any kind of eating disorder, even binge eating disorder.
And it’s something that if you try to restrain yourself for so long and just tell yourself you don’t need it for so long, it’s like just be relaxed about it.
Let yourself have it if you’re really craving it, it just can’t be an all the time thing otherwise it starts to affect your brain.
And the cleaner you get, it will start affecting your brain, even if you have a little bit.
And maybe you’ll choose at one point it’s not even worth it. So be relaxed about your nutrition, it doesn’t have to be this or that, it doesn’t have to be Paleo or Atkins or any kinds of these things.
It’s what makes you feel good. Do that. Really pay attention to your body and your brain.
Abel: Totally. We finished Alyson’s birthday cake last night and it was delicious. And I’m recording eight interviews today. And once you know how your body works and you keep it clean, you can do that and you deserve it. That’s what this is all about.
What’s the point of going through all of this madness and exercising your discipline so hard if you can’t ever celebrate for the rest of your life?
I want to be able to do that, and I will have champagne and chocolate cake and cheesecake and all these other delicious things. Have those when you deserve them, but they’re treats.
And what we’ve gotten away from is just the common sense thing where you can’t have cookies for breakfast… and you can’t.
You just can’t.
And pancakes, doughnuts, sandwiches, all those things, same deal. You can’t have those things very often, they’re treats, they’re pastries.
We used to know this and we’ve forgotten that, and I think food marketing has had a lot to do with that.
Literally when you have marshmallow in your cereal that’s supposed to be healthy for you because it’s full of vitamins and… I mean it’s ridiculous. We all know that it’s ridiculous, we just need to be honest with ourselves.
But we’re just about out of time, Amy. Why don’t you tell folks before we go where they can find you and what you’re looking forward to, what you’re working on now.
Where To Find Amy Clover
You can find Amy Clover on Strong Inside Out, where there’s an awesome blog and links to programs, products and coaching. You can get her Strongie Startup Guide – a collection of Amy’s favorite mindset-reframing worksheets – free when you sign up.
LEARN HOW TO DROP 20 POUNDS IN 40 DAYS WITH REAL FOOD
Before You Go
You have to hear this inspiring story from one of our Fat-Burning Tribe members, Bradley, who in just over a year dropped from a size 46 pants to a 34 and reversed a ton of health problems:
So, it has been sometime since I posted on here. I started my journey with Abel James Bascom and Alyson Rose during “My diet is Better Than Yours” I initially dropped weight and felt better for a few months was great then I plateaued and even gained weight some back.
I continued eating clean and wild as it made me feel much better and reversed a ton of health problems.
I had to take a hard look at my intake. Though I was eating wild the food was so good I think my portions were out of control which was the reason for my several month set back.
I readjusted and started eating portions and tweaking until I figured out what my body needed to continue weight loss.
I’ve read many posts about frustration with the scale. Trust me I was there but I am proud to say this system does work though individual tweaks are necessary as we are all different but I still enjoy a clean lifestyle and even work out pretty regularly doing interval training.
I go to Orange Theory as Abel James got the interval intensity idea in my head and I fell in love with it.
So December 2015 I took a photo that prompted my search for health and led me to Abel James.
I have attached that embarrassing photo of my history that will always motivate me and then my accomplishment today I am actually under 200 pounds and went from a 46 waist to a 34.
I have a whole new life I work out, I enjoy the outdoors, I cook healthy food but still enjoy some old favorites now and then, and I like pictures of me finally. This group though I’ve been distant has inspired me and saved me. I am at the weight I want now just some fine tuning percentages and I’m set.
Bradley, that’s incredible. You look a decade younger, man. I’m so happy for you.
You can get results like this, too, just by eating real food and moving your body. And now is the best time ever to do it, because our online 30-Day Fat-Loss Program has some of the very best meals ever.
In this plan, we share 30 days of mouth-watering meals that are designed to help you drop fat with real food. The meal plans are easy to make, and are literally the meals that my wife Alyson and I eat just about every day to stay lean, fit, and happy. And the same ones you saw on ABC Television when Kurt dropped 50 pounds in 6 weeks with The Wild Diet.
If you’re ready to start shedding stubborn fat while eating delicious food, get our 30-Day Fat-Loss program for a limited-time discount by clicking here.
Did my conversation with Amy Clover resonate with you? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.