Wouldn’t it feel incredible to swap self-criticism for self-compassion? Are you ready to silence your inner critic and live your life authentically?
In this episode, I’m thrilled to welcome Dr. Ellen Albertson, also known as the midlife whisperer. She’s a force to be reckoned with, boasting a plethora of qualifications from journalist to Ph.D. psychologist, and is passionate about helping women navigate midlife with joy, energy, clarity, and confidence.
Our discussion unveils Dr., Ellen’s journey, from a journalist to a self-compassion advocate. She shares her insights into how powerful self-compassion can be, with practices such as meditation leading to significant reductions in body shame and dissatisfaction.
But it’s not just about body image; we discuss the crucial role of self-compassion in managing emotions, dealing with depression, and promoting overall well-being. Dr. Ellen’s approach is a holistic one, incorporating the body, mind, heart, and spirit, inspiring us all to embrace ourselves fully.
In the final segment, we tap into how self-compassion can silence our inner critic and empower us to live authentically. Dr. Ellen introduces her seven-step program, designed to help us reconnect with our true selves and embrace the challenges and joys of midlife.
We also touch on the best diet for women in midlife, the power of self-care, and how to approach intermittent fasting safely. This episode is brimming with wisdom, whether you’re seeking motivation to step out of your comfort zone or simply curious about living a high-vibe midlife.
We promise it’s an enlightening conversation you don’t want to miss.
Dr. Ellen Albertson helps women in midlife live a high vibe midlife with joy, energy, clarity, and confidence.
Dr. Ellen Albertson shares her journey of self-compassion, reducing body shame and body dissatisfaction, and embracing the body through meditations and taking risks.
Dr. Ellen Albertson discusses self-compassion to regulate emotions, manage depression, take risks, and enjoy life.
Dr. Ellen Albertson guides us through seven steps to reconnect with our true selves and embrace midlife, addressing our inner critic, people-pleasing behavior, and developing our intuition.
Dr. Ellen Albertson’s midlife journey, weight focus, fear of success, healthy eating, and emotion regulation are discussed.
Midlife women can benefit from a plant-based diet, intermittent fasting, fermented foods, phytochemicals, strength training, and good sleep.
Dr. Ellen Albertson helps midlife women through diet, coaching, retreats, self-compassion, travel, and self-care.
Dr. Ellen is a psychologist, registered dietitian, board-certified health and wellness coach, podcast host, Reiki master, and self-compassion teacher. Known as The Midlife Whisperer™, she helps women have the energy, confidence, and clarity to make their next chapter their best chapter.
A bestselling, award-winning author, and inspirational speaker, Dr. Ellen is an expert on women’s well-being and sits on the medical board of The National Menopause Foundation. Dr. Ellen has appeared on Extra, the Food Network, and NBC World News and has been quoted in Psychology Today, Forbes, and Eating Well. She has written for SELF, Better Homes & Gardens, and Good Housekeeping. Her latest book is Rock Your Midlife: 7 Steps to Transform Yourself and Make Your Next Chapter Your Best Chapter!
Life is too short to not be in a bathing suit. Whoever you’re worrying about seeing you in a bathing suit just wants to see you having fun, they could care less. Because everyone is so busy looking at themselves, they’re not looking at you. Body image has nothing to do with your body.
Body image is in your head. It’s the way that you perceive your body, the way your body looks, the way your body feels, what you think about your body. So, it’s a construct that can be changed.
Welcome to the Done With Dieting Podcast, where it’s all about designing the life, you want in midlife. I’m your host, Elizabeth Sherman, a master certified life and health coach, personal trainer, nutritionist, feminist coach, and specialist in women’s hormones.
Are you tired of scales, food logs, and strict diets? Struggling with hormonal symptoms and the challenges of aging, changing relationships, and entering the next phase of your life? You have come to the right place.
Here, we talk about food freedom, nurturing a better relationship with your body, and feeling great again. All without the weight of traditional dieting methods.
Through a mix of solo podcasts and conversations with industry experts, I’m here to guide you towards a healthier, happier you.
Join me as we explore ways to look and feel better and strive for optimal health regardless of where you are in your journey. But more importantly, to reclaim control, confidence, and joy in this beautiful stage of life.
This is the Done With Dieting podcast. Let’s dive in.
Hey everyone, welcome to the Done with Dieting podcast episode number 142. I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman. Now, if you have been searching for a boost to step out of your comfort zone or are looking to prioritize self-care and embrace a healthier lifestyle. Then, this episode is a must listen for you today.
I have an extraordinary guest, Dr. Ellen Albertson, a powerhouse in the realm of health and wellness, lovingly known as the ‘Midlife Whisperer.’ With her captivating career evolution, she’s gone from journalist to fitness trainer, dietician, psychologist, and mindful compassion teacher. Bringing it all together in a holistic approach that has empowered and transformed lives of women just everywhere.
On our conversation today, we talk about the healing and transformative power of self-compassion, especially during midlife. We explore how this simple, yet profound concept can change how we view our bodies, how we feel about ourselves, and ultimately how we live our lives.
We also chat about Dr. Ellen’s incredible seven step program, which can help us to reconnect with our true selves and embrace the wonders of midlife. From confronting body image issues, identifying the best diet for women in midlife to discussing the safe approach to intermittent fasting. This episode is overflowing with wisdom and motivation.
Get ready to learn, to be inspired, and most importantly, unleash your own power of self-compassion. Plug in those earphones, settle in, and let’s dive into the empowering health and wellness journey with the incredible, Dr. Ellen Albertson.
Let’s get started.
Elizabeth: All right everyone, welcome Dr. Ellen Albertson to our podcast today. I am so excited to have you here. Thank you for joining us. Let’s start out with who you are, who you help and tell us all the things, especially all about your book.
Ellen: All right. Well, thanks Elizabeth. It’s so fun to be here. So, I’m known as Dr. Ellen, the ‘Midlife Whisperer,’ and I really help women at midlife live a high vibe midlife. And connect with quantum joy alignment, have more joy, more energy, more clarity, more confidence. And I do this in a variety of ways.
My initial training was as a registered dietitian, and then I became a personal fitness trainer, and then I became a coach and that led me to becoming a Ph.D. psychologist and a mindful self-compassion teacher. And then, I’m also reiki master. So, I like to bring in body, mind, heart, spirit, all of the holistic ways to really help women at midlife thrive and just make an incredible next chapter.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Okay. So, let’s walk us through that because you are highly, highly, highly credentialed. And I know that I’m over credentialed too, because I always have this like imposter syndrome going on in the back of my head. Not saying that you are. So, you started out as a registered dietitian and then what made you go after fitness?
Ellen: Well, I went into fitness because I’m a jock. I have just always, always loved to work out. I was a dancer as a kid and then I ran track and field in high school and college. So, what happened to me was I started off as a registered dietitian and all the people coming to me were at midlife because that’s when we start to have health issues.
And I realized as a dietitian, I really didn’t have the tools that I needed to help people make behavioral changes. I could tell them eat this, don’t eat that. What’s the latest science show? Although back then it was kind of wrong. It’s changed a lot since back 30 years ago when I became a dietician.
So, what happened is I spent about a decade with my ex-husband as the cooking couple. I was actually a journalist. I wrote for a lot of women’s magazines like self and good housekeeping. My ex-husband and I wrote a bunch of books, including one called ‘Food is Foreplay,’ which did great. We had a radio show. We did tons of like TV appearances, product endorsements, super fun, got a lot of great media training.
And then, we decided that we didn’t want to do it anymore for a variety of reasons. Actually, it was really hard on our marriage and things were changing with the internet coming in and I didn’t know what to do next.
So, I got a postcard in the mail to become a personal fitness trainer. And I was like, wow, that could be really fun. So, I decided to get certified as a trainer. It started working at local gyms and just absolutely loved it. It was a little dangerous cause it’s like, kind of like being a alcoholic in a liquor store I worked out 46 hours with all my clients at the time.
I had really negative body image, even though I was like, I don’t know, 11%, body fat, but nothing was ever enough. And that was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it, but also not the healthiest thing. I also did a lot of group exercise.
And then, what happened is when I was a fitness trainer, I think it’s similar to your story. I met someone through a group X training who was a coach, and he was like, you should do well coaches. You should become a coach. You’d be great as a coach. And I was like, Oh, that sounds interesting.
And well, coaches happen to be based in Wellesley, Massachusetts, close to where I was living. I was living in Massachusetts. So, I met with Margaret Moore, and I became a wellness coach and then eventually I got certified as a board certified health and wellness coach. And then, it was like, you know, get a doctorate. I actually love to learn. And so, I really wanted a doctorate. It was a good time in my life to go back to school.
So, I decided to go back in psychology because most of the dietitian degrees were the nutrition degrees were in PhDs were more like bench science. I didn’t really want to study, do that kind of research. So, I went back and got a PhD in psychology. And that’s where I discovered self-compassion. It was also with an emphasis on media.
So, really learning how to utilize media to help people make changes as well as learning about me. I love media. I love communications. So, that’s kind of a snapshot of how I got to this place and just one thing led to another, and I feel like I’ve got this huge toolbox to really help people make powerful changes cause I think like you, it’s not about the food, right?
There are often all of these underlying issues that need to be so you need to shine a light on the subconscious beliefs that people have the sense of unworthiness. A lot of my clients I’m showing you as well, they failed so much at trying to get in shape and take better care of themselves. Especially, once they’ve been on this dieting merry go round, they lose weight, they gain back more, they lose weight, they gain back more, and they don’t want to touch it because they’re super successful. They’ve succeeded at so many other aspects of their life.
And then, when they touch this kind of nutrition fitness piece, it’s like, I don’t want to do that because I failed at that. And that is really uncomfortable for me. So, we have to kind of take a look at all of that. Also take a look at a lot of my clients or people pleasers putting everybody else first. And then, they don’t make the time to do the food prep, and make time to exercise, and do the stress reduction, and go to bed on time, all of those things.
And so, we have to really look at everything that’s why I love helping people make quantum leaps, not just like this long drawn out process. But let’s change your mindset, change your emotional barometer. And also, have you have more joy, more happiness, who you have more energy, and find fun ways to move your body. I love to move.
Before this interview, I was actually up on the trampoline. It’s raining here. So, I was like bouncing around, working out with the hula hoop, playing with my dog. You know, it’s exercise, it’s a blast.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Oh gosh, that’s so fun. Okay. So, let’s go back. First of all, I think it’s hilarious. I don’t know, hilarious. Kismet, maybe. That you are a well coaches coach because that was my first coaching program as well. I realized that you are a lifelong learner. And so, you wanted to get into psychology. So, did you practice as a psychologist for a period of time then?
Ellen: I never became a clinical psychologist.
Elizabeth: Okay, got it.
Ellen: I didn’t want to go that route. I went to field and graduate university, which is a very well accredited program. But I didn’t do the clinical route because I was a clinical nutritionist and I honestly, I love coaching. And I’m sure like you, we work with helping people reach their full potential. It’s all about positive psychology. I really didn’t want to work on trauma and depression and PTSD and all of those things.
Now, it’s such important work, but that’s not what I was called to do. I really love, love, love coaching. So, I had no desire to go through everything it takes to become a licensed clinical nutrition psychologist. Although, I am a clinical nutritionist and licensure is easy because I’m a registered dietitian.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Okay. I was just going to ask like, what do you see as the difference between being like a coach and then a psychologist. So, you just use the psychology principles in with your coaching so that you could help your clients more. Right?
Ellen: Right. So, like with coaching, we see people as whole and having the answers, whereas clinical psychologists often dealing with the problems. And so, yeah, I help my clients really to live their fullest lives and have more joy, more energy, more clarity so that they can really make their next chapter, the best chapter. And also, just manifest like crazy, those things that they really want in their lives. Even if they’re not quite sure what those things are yet.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Okay. Let’s talk about self-compassion because you mentioned that. So, how did you get the buzz for self-compassion? Like where did that come from? Where did you see folks lacking with it and saw that it was really a need for you and your practice?
Ellen: Well, what happened with me is I was actually looking for a dissertation topic. And my dissertation chair and I were analyzing women’s magazines. I had done a real 180. Initially, as a dietitian, I thought like everybody can be skinny, we should all like diet down cause that’s kind of what I was taught in dietetics school. That it’s calories in calories out and realizing that really wasn’t working for folks and realizing that the media tells women that they need to be young and thin.
And the most important thing about us is our looks. And they do that so that we buy their products and services. And I started to realize this, and I thought, Oh my God, this is insane that we buy into this. And I thought, I’ve got to find some kind of intervention that will truly help women. And my dissertation chair was like, you should look into meditation. And I was like, meditation? I didn’t go to school to become a meditation teacher.
But I took her up on her challenge and I started kind of Googling, body image and meditation and mindfulness and psychology. And I was fortunate enough to connect with Kristen Knapp, who is the leading pioneer in this area of self-compassion. And she agreed to be on my dissertation committee, if I agreed to do the mindful self-compassion training that she and Chris Grimmer have put together.
So, I did that. Did my research basically recruited 500 women from all over the world and sent them Dr. Neff’s meditations. Three meditations for three weeks and we measured body shame, body dissatisfaction, self-worth based on appearance and body appreciation.
And what my research showed is that compared to the controls who are on a waitlist group that didn’t get the meditations. Body shame went down, body dissatisfaction went down, self-worth based on appearance went down and body appreciation increased. So, just this little intervention of listening to meditations, like three times a week for 20 minutes actually had a significant impact.
And so, that was like, wow. It really was a thing I wanted to help people with body image because when we have negative body image, and I’m here to say negative body image does not go away at midlife. It can get worse as we put weight around the middle, we get wrinkles, we don’t look like that thin ideal.
And I wanted to really help women because when we have negative body image, we don’t like our bodies and we don’t take very good care of them. Whether that’s you eating right, moving, sleeping, going to the doctor, all of those things. So, it was a combination of wow, my research really worked.
And then, in my own life, self-compassion made a humongous difference. I was a perfectionist, I had a fierce self-critic, incredibly hard on myself, and learning self-compassion was a game changer for me. It’s really both a parachute and a life vest.
So, it’s a parachute so that when you want to take a chance. Step outside your comfort zone. You’re like, all right, I can do this scary thing because if I fail, I can have this parachute that will save me.
And on the flip side, when you are having a health crisis, or you’re going through a divorce, or you’re having trouble at work, whatever it is. You’ve got this life vest that you can buckle up. You learn to treat yourself like a good friend and it really supports you through all challenges. Particularly, midlife, there’s a boat load of challenges.
So, it’s been really profound with my clients and particularly women who have been chronic dieters. And they learn self-compassion and they’re like, I can’t do that to myself anymore. I can’t look in the mirror and say, I hate this part of that part or why did I get so, frigging blank, that kind of thing.
We learn to be kind to ourselves and the research really shows that self-compassion improves not just body image and things like intuitive eating is associated with self-compassion as well. But it also decreases depression, stress, and anxiety, and it increases well-being and optimism. So, it’s really working both sides, and it will change your life.
Elizabeth: Okay. So, what would you say to the woman who understands that body neutrality, or self-compassion, better body image is fine and good for other women? But that this body that I live in, like there’s no way, no one should see this in a bathing suit.
Ellen: Yeah. I would say, life is too short to not be in a bathing suit. I would say too that whoever you’re worrying about seeing you in a bathing suit just wants to see you having fun, they could care less. Because everyone is so busy looking at themselves, they’re not looking at you. And I’d also would explain to them what body image is. Body image has nothing to do with your body.
Body image is in your head. It’s the way that you perceive your body, the way your body looks, the way your body feels, what you think about your body. So, it’s a construct that can be changed. And I would also encourage, okay, let’s not change your body, but let’s work on self-compassion. When you have this feeling, let’s shine a light on this feeling of, I don’t feel comfortable in a bathing suit.
Can you give yourself compassion? And can you find an outfit that you feel comfortable going to the beach and so that you can enjoy yourself? You’re taking baby steps of, okay, I’m going to treat myself like a good friend. Or thinking, if I had a good friend and I was going to go to the beach, I invited her. What would I say to her? I would certainly say, honey, let’s go. Summer is short. Life is short.
And as I mentioned off air, I just finished up a 461 today dance with breast cancer. And life is way too short. I’ve got so many scars now, and I don’t care. I’m out every day swimming in Lake Champlain, having a great time. I’m not going to, I don’t have naked body image. But life is really too short not to enjoy yourself. And swimming is such a fantastic form of movement.
So, I would help her to really understand what body image is. Help her to understand the way that the media, he wants us to feel bad about ourselves. So, we’ll buy these products and services that really don’t help us particularly in the long run. And I would challenge her to start practicing self-compassion by treating herself like a good friend. By being kinder rather than critical, by changing that self-talk, by realizing that we all have our imperfect beings. We all have imperfect bodies, especially in midlife.
We have a lot of scars. I’ve got so many friends who’ve had C sections. And of course, if you’ve just had babies and you’ve gone through menopause and you’ve got scars from accidents and operations. And then, to be mindful, to notice when you’re stressed and struggling and notice when I feel the stress around how I feel about my body.
Can I say, what do I need right now to feel better? What could I do? Maybe I can give my body some pleasure. Maybe I could take a hot bath, or go out for a walk, or just take a nap. What would feel good in my body right now?
Elizabeth: Okay. So, something that you said before was that what you noticed within your dissertation was that when we are more compassionate with ourselves, then we actually treat ourselves better through eating, physical activity, sleep, and stress management. Can you connect the dots for us a little bit more on that?
Ellen: Yeah. Well, part of it is that when you treat yourself like a good friend, instead of just going into fix it mode, I think that’s our default mode, right? Something goes wrong. Let’s say, you get an offender bender.
Immediately, you want to go into fix it mode. Conversely, if you have a friend who’s just been in a car accident, you’re going to say to her, are you okay? What do you need? What can I do for you? So, that response immediately is going to help you to eliminate some of the stress, some of the anxiety, to calm down your fight or flight nervous system.
So, that’s really helping that sort of stress response calm down. When you give yourself what you need, whether that’s taking an app, taking a bath, journaling. All of those things are tools that help us to calm down the nervous system, which really is at the root of both stress as well as most of our chronic diseases. So, that’s going to make us healthier in terms of that depression.
Self-compassion is an emotional regulatory technique. We are taught so much to push our emotions down or distract ourselves to push them away. It’s not okay to feel sad. It’s not okay to feel frustrated. It’s not okay to feel angry. When we push those back down, we literally get depressed. And we start to feel nothing.
And at midlife, women have the highest rate of depression for any group for age and gender. Part of that may be due to either hormonal changes or it might be due to some of the side effects of men going through menopause, such as lack of sleep, and a lot of those kinds of changes, mood swings and things like that.
So, when you’re practicing self-compassion, you’re giving yourself what you need. You’re doing those self-care things. You’re going to feel better. And also, taking care of yourself emotionally, instead of ignoring those emotions or having a threesome with Ben and Jerry’s, which I think is often what women and men do. Maybe not Ben and Jerry’s or having a glass of wine and cheese and crackers, all of those things to feel get better temporarily.
We’re like, what do I really need right now? Maybe I need to get therapy, or I need to get coaching, or I need to improve my diet to help my depression, or maybe I need to see someone and going into presence. We do what we need, instead of just pushing the emotions away, instead of just pushing our problems away, we give ourselves what we need.
And in terms of the high things, the wellbeing, and the optimism. Again, we’ve got that parachute. Where we feel like, okay, I can Step outside my comfort zone, do those things that are really going to challenge me and help me grow and make me feel hopeful and good about life because I’ve got this way of caring for myself.
The research really shows that self-compassion people are more likely to go to the doctor. They’re more likely to take better care of themselves because what happens is over time, and I’ve been practicing now for over a decade, I’ve become a mindful self-compassion teacher.
You fall in love with yourself. I think about self-compassion is kind of the how of self-love because people are always like, I don’t know if your practice lives, but my practice people like, how do I do the self-love thing? It seems very kind of amorphous and big. Self-compassion is a muscle. It’s something that we can grow. We don’t start in the deep end. We start small. We start observing our self-talk. Finding small ways to care for ourselves.
But we start to fall in love. Like I love myself so much more than I did 10 years ago. I have sold myself in so much higher regard and I’m literally so much happier in my forties. I was on antidepressants and between self-compassion and also developing a mindfulness and meditation practice.
I’ve really turned that around and I’m happier than I’ve ever been, even with the breast cancer. And breast cancer really was tough, but the self-compassion was so powerful to help me through it. To ask myself, what do I need right now? And sometimes it was doing absolutely nothing. How do I treat myself like a good friend?
And for me, staying in remission is really all about staying in that quantum joy alignment, staying at that high vibe place at midlife. And really working with the difficulties, the negative emotions that come in. It’s not that you practice toxic positivity. We’re like, I’m happy and positive all the time. You’re not! We have aging parents. We’ve got growing kids. We’ve got a lot of stuff going on, but you care for those emotions.
And then, what you find is that as you care for the grief, the sadness, the frustration, the confusion, the joy, the happiness, the optimism also grows because your whole emotional bandwidth is off the charts. Versus, when I had depression, and it was on antidepressants. And I’m not at all knocking them. I think there’s times when we really need them. I had a very small bandwidth. I just didn’t feel a lot of anything. I wasn’t depressed, but I also wasn’t super joyful either. It was just kind of like, yep, life’s okay.
But now, I’ve got this much larger bandwidth of emotions and having a lot more fun and a lot more adventures because I am taking risks. And really pushing myself to achieve the things that are really meaningful for me.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah. Going back to like the self-love concept that your clients come to you and they’re like, how do I do this? I think that for many of us, we are taught that we really shouldn’t be arrogant or conceited. And I think for many women, we see self-love that it would go into conceited that saying, I love myself, or I’m okay with myself, I accept myself is saying, but you’re not. Right? And so, there’s that fear there.
Ellen: Yeah. There’s that fear is a big piece of it. And then, there’s also this idea that we have to put everybody first and that self-care and self-compassion are selfless. And so, it’s interesting to look at what compassion is. Compassion is to suffer with. In the terms of the self-compassion, to be there for yourself when you are struggling, when you are suffering.
And as you like to say, and I love when you were on my podcast, “Rock Your Midlife,” just put your oxygen mask on. Like, don’t do it. Because you’re caring for someone else. So, it’s not about being selfish. It’s not about being conceited. Think about some of the most compassionate people, the Dalai Lama. Right? Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, these incredible people, who had so much compassion for others.
You wouldn’t think of them as conceited. It’s there’s a strength there in terms of compassion. It’s not about being conceited and I don’t know what’s wrong with lauding yourself and feeling good about who you are and what you’re doing in the world.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, I mean, we’re just taught as women that we shouldn’t, right? But yeah. I’ve done a lot of Kristen Neff’s work on myself. And I love that idea of treating yourself like you would your BFF, or your son, or your daughter who you love unconditionally. Like you wouldn’t allow them to have a fifth treat, right? And if they made a commitment to themselves, you would try to get them to do it, right?
Ellen: Yeah. That’s an excellent point. Right. It’s not a compassionate mom. Isn’t going to let, if the kids like, I don’t want to go to school today, they’re not going to say no problem, Johnny, you stay home, eat potato chips and sit in front of the TV all day. They’re not going to do that. We’re going to support what is truly in our best interest.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Okay.
Ellen: Not self-indulgence.
Elizabeth: No, no, no, not at all. Okay. So, tell us about your book. So, there are seven steps to rock your midlife. Yeah?
Ellen: Yes. It came out November of 2021. And I wrote the book for a couple of reasons. I mean, I really want to scream at the mountaintops that midlife is so fun and so awesome. When you Google midlife, it is conjoined with crisis. When you put it in the thesaurus, what comes up is the wrong side of 40.
And I just love that there were so many women like yourself. There are just hundreds of us who are out there showing, we’re surfing, and we’re skydiving, and we’re traveling, and we’re starting businesses, and writing books. I wanted to change the way we perceive midlife. I wanted to share my own story and the stories of my clients.
And I really wanted to create a really excellent self-help book. Because I felt like there’s a lot of memoirs out there, but a book that people could just pick up. Read wherever they want. You can start with any of the seven steps. You can start the first one, which is authenticity.
The second one we talked about, which is that self-love, self-compassion piece. And you go all the way to the seventh, which is enlighten yourself. You can start in anyone that you like. It’s very practical. It’s all based on positive psychology and what I’ve learned through nutrition and as a wellness coach.
And it’s just been so fun and just feels so good to have so many women write to me and say, “wow, your book has really helped me.” With this period of life, which is we’re talking about it being tremendous, but it’s also really challenging because we’ve got so many balls in the air.
We might have aging parents and growing kids and the career that once lit us up maybe isn’t doing it for us anymore. And if we’ve ignored our health, particularly as we go through menopause, our body’s like, wait a minute. I just don’t feel great anymore. Like maybe I’ve always been able to maintain my weight and take pretty good care of myself. And all of a sudden, I’m getting headaches and I’m not sleeping, and I just don’t feel good.
And that marriage that we’ve kind of been ignoring is all of a sudden like, wow, this isn’t feeling great. What do I do here? So, it’s just been really lovely to have literally, thousands of people have read the book and have made some huge changes in their life through following these seven steps.
Elizabeth: Wow. I love that you said authenticity. Because I think for so many women, they don’t really know what that means. Like for myself, I’ve been on a non-people pleasing journey for the past few years. And so, for many of us, we are taught to put others needs first. And so, we’ve forgotten what is it that I want?
And in the process then, we lose a little bit of ourselves, right? Because we’re not in touch with who we are as people. We’re becoming this amorphous thing that is a bending to the needs of what everyone else wants. Right? And so, how do we discover authenticity?
Ellen: Well, we start to really think about what we love to do as kids. I mean, I think the first piece, though too is Elizabeth, addressing that people pleaser and that self-critic. And realizing that our self-critic is trying to keep us safe. We actually develop a self-critic very early on. It’s the internalized voice of early caregivers. Because if we don’t like clean our room, clean her plate, get good grades. Whatever our caregivers tell us to do, we are in danger of not being cared for and not loved.
And then, we get to be adults and we internalize this voice, and we want to please everybody else. And especially, a lot of us also just don’t want to rock the boat. We really are conflict adverse. I know that was me. I stayed in a marriage way longer than I should have just because I was scared and I didn’t want to create tension, rock the boat, anything like that.
So, that’s a piece of it. And so, that self-compassion piece can really help because we start to listen to that voice of self-compassion instead of the self-critic. When the self-critic says, you should do this, and you should do that, and you need to do this, you need to do that to please these people. What does the voice of self-compassion say?
But the authenticity piece, it’s really a combination in the book I give people a lot of journaling prompts. Literally, going back to kindergarten, writing out your strengths. Asking other people, what are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? Taking actual coaching and psychological tools like the V. I. A. character strengths has to learn what your character strengths are.
Taking yourself out on a date. Just going out and doing those things that you have been thinking about doing. Reading, exploring, learning, really becoming the author, the authority of your life. And giving yourself space and time to do that cause I think that if you’re at midlife, what happens is when we’re not authentic, it’s like we’re climbing up this ladder of success, like clawing up this ladder. And then, we get to the top of the building, and we look around. And we’re so bloody unhappy because the ladder’s up against the wrong building.
And so, what we need to do is like, what’s that right building for me? Only I can figure that out. And also, we have to develop our intuition, that inner knowing, that we need to connect with that to determine what’s going to be right for me. And as we start to do that, then life starts to unfold. We’re really on our path, and it can be difficult. Particularly, my sixth step is rehab your relationships.
Because when you start to change, become that butterfly, the people in your life still think you are the caterpillar. And they want to bring you back. They want you to stay the caterpillar. You’re like, no, I’m a butterfly. My life is different. Can’t you see me? Literally, you start to look different. You start to dress different. You start doing different things. Your energy is different.
But we see things as we are not as they truly are. And so, they’re seeing you as your old self when you’ve started to change. So, that’s another reason we keep things in place because if I was to be my authentic self, change jobs, change partners, change where I live. What’s that going to do for my relationships? And that’s very scary. As women, we’ve got this big part of our brain that is really programmed for those relationships that men don’t have it, but women have more of their brain is devoted to relationships.
We have to learn how to say, no. How to create a bill of rights and how to use things like nonviolent communication to get our needs met. But becoming authentic and realizing, Oh my gosh, I’ve got to step outside my comfort zone. I got to leave that cushy job that I hate. That’s got a steady paycheck because I’m running out of time.
And I think that’s a big piece of midlife is you start to realize that there is less time behind you, perhaps that in front of you and you’re running out of time. And those things that you’ve always wanted to do. You start to do like for me; traveling has been so important. I didn’t travel at all.
They’re not very much the last two decades before I got a divorce. And this year, even with all my cancer treatments, let’s say, I went to New York city, Boston, Austin, Quebec city, Costa Rica twice, London, and Amsterdam.
Elizabeth: Wow. Yeah. Okay. So, everyone listening, you need to go back and listen to what she just said. Because I think that there are so many women who are like, I can’t stay on a diet, or I can’t stay attached to an exercise program. And the reason is because I haven’t found the right one yet.
And what you just detailed was that when we are always doing things for others, and we are more invested in what other people are interested in. Then, what’s right for ourselves, there’s no way that we can adhere to what we need as ourselves. We’re always looking for other people’s approval of that.
And so, if you know that you need to eat vegetables for dinner tonight and your family’s like, let’s eat pizza. And their opinion is more important than your own, then of course you’re going to eat pizza and then you’re going to feel like shit because you didn’t follow through on your commitment to yourself.
Ellen: Right. Yeah, that’s a huge point. I also want to say too, that the weight thing too, I don’t know if this, if you found this in your practice, Liz. But I find that so often, women keep the weight on, or they stay on that diet merry ground because it’s like, I know how to do this. This is a big part of my personality that I’m always on diets, off diets. I focus all of this energy on weight. Partially, because again, it is known it’s specific. Like it’s a metric we can measure. I can measure my calories. I can measure my macros. I can measure my weight.
But what if I focus on something else? What if I focus on that thing I want to do with, I’m actually really scared of. And I also find that women, they get to the place, maybe they get to the weight they want to be. And then, they sabotage themselves because they’re actually scared of the things, they’ve been telling themselves they want to do. Once I lose the weight, I’ll find the right guy. I will travel, I will step up to the plate at my workplace. I’ll do all of those things and they’re scared of those things.
And so, they keep sabotaging themselves or they keep focused on the weight cause it’s like, the problem isn’t the weight, the problem is so much bigger, and so much more addressing it and solving it. I don’t even like focusing on the problem, focusing on the solution of creating a life. Once you create a life you love, and then I’m just like eating right because I’ve learned how to do it, I’ve made it a behavior. And now, I want to fuel my life so I can live a long time and have tons of energy and do all the things I want to do.
You know, what I mean? I think eating right is not rocket science. It’s eat more plants. Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t be eating. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. And if you’re doing the emotional eating, learn how to regulate your emotions in a way other than food.
Elizabeth: Yeah. I mean, that right there was beautiful. That’s probably going to make it out into some sort of social media content right there. Beautiful. Awesome. Okay. Ugh, you just rocked my world. I don’t even know what to say, what’s next. Let’s talk about something you wanted to mention was the best diet for women in midlife. So, what is that?
Ellen: Yeah. I mean, it’s that whole food plant based diet. Actually, I just finished an article on the hot flashes. But you know, it seems like mostly plants again. You don’t need to become a vegan, but really, what happens with menopause is that its estrogen levels start to go down. We’re losing bone, we’re losing muscle mass, and inflammation is going up.
So, after 50 women need 50% more proteins, you’ve got to watch your protein. You’ve got to make sure that you’re eating 20, 25 grams of protein at every single meal. Making sure that your snacks are protein rich. So, making sure, you’re having that Greek yogurt, you’re having an apple with a handful of almonds.
So, your nutrition, those calories really, really count. Eating more plant foods. We know that plant foods are filled with phytochemicals plant compounds that help to keep inflammation down. We know that inflammation is again, at the heart of all of major diseases, heart disease, cancers, some of the menopausal conditions.
And then, we also know that those artificial ingredients, those things you can’t pronounce, can cause inflammation because your immune system is recognizing those as invaders. So, what it’s doing is it can create an inflammatory response. So, the best diet is really lots of plants, certain supplements might help as well. Things like fish oils, if you’re not eating fish in your diet. Again, eating a variety.
There’s some literature around intermittent fasting. They’re not a hundred percent convinced, but that also helps with the inflammation and helps people kind of keep their weight under control. So, there is some research around that as well. But I would say again that plant based diet you’re just eating. I mean, I probably eat, oh gosh, at least 10, 15 servings of vegetables a day, fruits, and veggies. My partner is a master gardener.
So, right now, we have cabbage, kale coming at our ears. The tomatoes are starting to pop. We have fennel that is just out of sight. Sweetest, most delicious thing. I didn’t want to ask, there’s nothing when I hear people say, I don’t like vegetables. I’m like, what? How do you not like vegetables? Go to farmer’s market. Go to a garden. Like it’s amazing. You throw these seeds in the ground, you put some water and give them sunlight and then you get food.
Eat more basic stuff. And the other thing about vegetables, if you’re struggling with your weight, which again, we’re not telling you to diet. But if that is something that’s happening to you, as part of that menopausal transition, as part of midlife. Vegetables are really low in calories, the non-starchy ones. They fill you up without filling you out.
If I have a big salad, a big stir fry, a smoothie, I’m really full of my body craves that bulk. What that’s also doing is it’s also creating a healthy, what’s called your microbiome, which is all of the organisms that are living mostly in your gut. And we know that a healthy microbiome is related to maintaining your weight. It’s related to positive mood. It’s related to a healthy immune system.
So, those organisms are feeding off of the prebiotics, all of that fiber that you’re eating. And it’s also nice to add some probiotics. So, you can take a probiotic supplement. We make our own sauerkraut. I make my own kombucha. We make our own kimchi. So, these fermented foods are also really, really good for you. But have fun with it. Again, don’t make this as horrible chore. I think we’re so done with dieting, right? We’re so done with eating according to a piece of paper.
Listen to your body, it can be a little scary. If you’re used to always reading a piece of paper and thinking, okay, I hit my 1200 calories today. If I hit 1200 calories, I would eat my dog personally. But like, Oh, I did that. I was good today. That is such BS. Listen to your body. I know some days I’m really hungry. Some days I don’t want to eat as much.
My weight just stays about the same. I personally didn’t gain any weight during menopause. I don’t think it has to be a fate of company. I think part of the picture too is that we are more sedentary. We are losing on average, I think after 50, we lose like 3% of our muscle mass every year after 50.
So, we need to do that strength training. We need to get standing desks, move around, move your body, get good sleep. Sleep plays a huge role in weight. So, it’s multifactorial, but again, it’s just eat more plants, put some soy into your diet. And then, eat until you’re satisfied rather than stuffed and maybe investigate intermittent fasting.
Elizabeth: Yeah. I love the idea of eating more protein because so many women feel like they shouldn’t. And so, I’m so glad that you said that. Well, tell me about more about intermittent fasting because I feel, I leave it up to my client as to whether she wants to do it or not. I find that some women who have been on diets for years, and years, and years, and have food scarcity do not do well on intermittent fasting, but some do well. What do you think?
Ellen: Yeah. I would tend to agree with you. I mean, I have a history of eating disorders and I’ve had lots of clients who have restricted or had eating disorders. So, I think it’s a real personal choice and I would never push it on anyone. From kind of a traditional Chinese medicine perspective and even a functional medicine perspective.
The organs need rest. That those organs are supposed to have a time to sort of cleanse and rest. You sleep better when you don’t eat late at night. So, I usually tell people, try to stop eating. And it’s something I’m still working on, particularly in the summer because it’s light here to like 9 o’clock and we are swimming to 8 o’clock and we haven’t eaten yet. To try to set a window where you’re not eating as late at night.
So, I think it’s really good for our bodies to give those digestive organs a break. But I think it’s really a personal choice. And I think that we need more research. And in my case, where I had cancer, it also shuts the window in terms of the calories that are available for any potential cancer cells. So, I know that there’s some research around that as well.
So, if you can do it, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t think there’s any downside to it. I mean, some people also may be fast one day, a month as well. I know that now that I’ve kind of gotten out of this mentality of breakfast is the most important meal of the day, which was something that was kind of drilled into me in an early age and through dietetics school.
I’m actually really sharp until like 10:30, 11 o’clock. I can like, just have some green tea and I get my best, like sort of focused writing work done. And then, I usually eat around 10:30 11. And then, try to have my last meal around six, seven o’clock and I feel really good on it. So, experiment and see what works for you. But certainly, if you have a history of eating disorders, disorder eating, restricting, it might not be a good move for you.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And I love that you can totally, half ass it. So, like on the weekends, if you want to go out for brunch with your girlfriends, like you don’t have to do intermittent fasting, like you can eat, it’s okay. Right?
Ellen: Yeah. But you can go to brunch at like 10, 11 o’clock too, so that too is fine.
Ellen: And diet is a personal thing. And I think again if you’re listening, get empowered, find out what works for you. We do know what the science is, particularly around plant foods. I’m also big on try and eat organic when you can. Organic food really is better for you and better for the planet because those organic fruits and veggies have to develop more of those plant chemicals to fight the pests.
So, those plant chemicals are the really the active compounds that are good for you. Those plants are so much healthier. They’re also tastier. Try to eat more organic if you can. And again, it’s gotten cheaper places like Costco and Trader Joe’s have organics where there’s really isn’t that much of a price difference between the conventional and the organic. But do what works for you.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And so, what do you find is the relationship then between eating habits, sleep, stress, and physical activity, and hormonal symptoms?
Ellen: Well, that’s a mouthful.
Elizabeth: Oh, sorry. Did I?
Ellen: That’s okay. That’s okay. Well, I guess I’ll start with sleep. I mean, I think the research that’s coming out of sleep is fascinating. When we sleep, so many of our hormones get reset. Certainly, the appetite hormones get reset. We know things like stress. If we are not getting enough sleep, we are more stressed and we’re generating more cortisol, we’re more tired. So, we’re going to be more apt to like grab that snickers bar and cup of coffee in the afternoon because we’re really tired.
So, I definitely think everything is interrelated. You can’t study one thing or treat one thing without looking at everything altogether. So, I certainly, think like stress hormones are related. Certainly, appetite is related to whether or not you’re sleeping. And certainly, estrogen is also helping with that stress response as well. So, they’re all interrelated.
So, again, I think the bottom line is at midlife, it’s really the time. If you haven’t been taking great care of your body, it’s time. And that’s why we need to sort of change this body image conversation. The most important thing about you isn’t your looks. I’m just amazed when I see women in social media and they’re trying so hard to look like the 26 year old self and getting all of this plastic surgery and spending all of this time, money and energy.
Who would we be if we were just celebrating ourselves? I mean, I’m all about looking great at your age, and I love fashion, and dressing up, and feeling sexy and beautiful. But it’s not the most important thing. What if we focus more on how our body functions and feels and looking at it as this amazing vessel, 32 trillion cells that are all working together to keep you alive. And we appreciate it.
We treated our bodies like a good friend. We’re not having somebody compassion, right? Where we’re treating our bodies with TLC, the way that we would treat our kids or our pets. Right? But knowing that everything is interrelated. I think sleep is such an important thing to address. I really focus on it with all of my clients to make sure that you’re going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time. You’re keeping your room dark, cool, and quiet, turning off screens for about an hour before bedtime, not eating close to bed, really watching alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, sugary foods.
That’s another thing we haven’t talked about too is also insulin can be more of an issue that is also related to things like hot flashes. So, you want to eat again, foods that are going to help you keep a stable blood sugar level. So, just using that example of like an afternoon snack, you can have an apple spread with peanut butter, or you can have again, the Snickers bar and the coffee. Even if they were the same calories, which is going to give you better satiety, better blood sugar level.
Of course, the apple and that the peanut butter, you’ve got some protein, you’ve got some fat, you’ve got fiber. It’s going to keep you nice and even, whereas with the candy bar, you’re sure you’re going to get this initial sugar rush, but then your blood sugar is going to crash. And you’re going to want to eat again. And again, that’s going to play havoc with a lot of your hormonal balance.
There’s an awful lot that we can do by helping to support our body as we transition through menopause. And also helping us to reduce our risk of diseases. Again, estrogen is helping with the brain health. It’s helping with the heart health. It’s not that I don’t know if the change is increasing our risk of heart disease, but if we’re in menopause and we start to notice things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol. It’s clearly a sign that it’s time to address these issues.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah. Great. Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. All right. So, other than getting your book, where can people find you? How they work with you if they want to? Do you work with folks one on one? Do you work with groups? Tell us more.
Ellen: Sure. The easiest way to find me is just go to themidlifewhisperer.com, that’s themidlifewhisperer.com. I’m the only midlife whisperer on the planet. It just means that I do a lot of tough love. But I also really understand, I really got to. I mean, I’ve worked with thousands of midlife women.
So, I do work with people one on one both virtually. I mentioned to you, I just bought a home in Costa Rica. So, I’m going to start to do kind of private retreats with people if they’re feeling in their place where, God, I’d really like to spend a week with Dr. Ellen and really, really just be healthy for a week and get myself started.
So, I’m going to start doing that as well. I also have a “Rock Your Midlife Community.” So, for people who want to be more in a group setting, it’s a community that’s open. You can go to my website and learn more about that. Just click on the ‘rock your midlife community.’ I have a podcast called, ‘rock your midlife,’ the book called, ‘rock your midlife.’
So, just Google rock your midlife or Google the midlife whisperer. And I will certainly, pop up and I’m on Instagram at the midlife whisperer as well. And you can see me dancing and giving advice from everything about from what to eat to how to keep your mind on positive and live a high vibe midlife.
Elizabeth: Awesome. Well, thank you for being here. This has been such a delight.
Ellen: My pleasure.
Elizabeth: All right, that is a wrap for today’s fantastic conversation with Dr. Ellen Albertson, the midlife whisperer. Thank you for tuning in and sharing this space with us. I really hope that you enjoyed our conversation exploring the power of self-compassion and embracing the wonders of midlife.
Just to recap, we explored Dr. Ellen’s remarkable career evolution, the power of self-compassion, and how it can impact body image, emotional regulation, and your overall health. We also discuss the importance of authenticity, silencing our inner critic and the role of a healthy lifestyle in navigating the midlife transition.
Now, I encourage you to connect with Dr. Ellen to dive deeper into her work and to check out her amazing book, “Rock Your Midlife.” You’ll find all of her links in the show notes for this episode. And remember, self-compassion isn’t just a concept. It’s actually a practice, a lifestyle. Start small, be kind to yourself, and then watch the magic unfold.
If you found value in today’s episode, I would be incredibly grateful if you could take a moment and leave a rating and review on your podcast listener of choice. Your feedback not only helps us grow, but it also helps other women like you find this podcast as a valuable resource.
Again, thank you for spending your time with us until next time. Remember to embrace the journey, prioritize self-care, and above all, be kind to yourself. Have a great day, everyone. Talk to you next time. Bye-bye.
Hey there, thank you so much for tuning in to this episode. Isn’t it just amazing how we can take control of our health without all the crazy diets, extreme measures, and strict rules? I think so too.
Now, if today’s content resonated with you, would you do me a favor? Share it with a friend who could benefit from it. Let’s spread the love and create a wave of empowerment for women in midlife.
Oh, and if you’re loving this podcast, please go ahead and leave a rating and review. I read every single one and it truly means the world to me. Plus, your support helps other incredible women just like you find this podcast. And that’s a win-win.
Don’t forget to hit subscribe so that you never miss an episode. I’ve got so many exciting things planned for you and I cannot wait to share them. Thanks again, and I appreciate you more than words can express.
Here’s to living our best lives and embracing this exciting stage together. See you next time!