Consistency is a real issue for CEOs and executives who travel often and whose environments change fast and abruptly. The world around them changes more rapidly than what they can deal with.
The bed where they rest changes, their food options, and even the place where they work out are different. These dramatic changes release stress, and as we know: “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion; you sink to the level of your training.”
So, is it possible to stay fit and focused in rapidly changing environments and hit our health and fitness goals?
In this episode, the renowned brain performance and productivity coach Angela Shurina reveals how to hack your brain and be consistent with your training and eating habits, even while traveling. She explains the importance of understanding how the environment influences the brain, how to build simple habits and systems, and why we must celebrate small wins consistently.
Angela shares her thoughts on the all-or-nothing mentality, setting our brains for success, dealing with poor sleeping, and much more.
In addition, Angela talks about her book, “Fit-and-Focused Brain-Body Blueprint for Remote Pros and Digital Nomads,” why she decided to write it, and how it can help us organize and create compelling and simple nutrition and workout habits.
Angela Shurina is a brain productivity, health, and wellness coach for entrepreneurs and teams working remotely. She offers neuroscience-based coaching to improve focus and productivity.
She’s the author of “Fit-and-Focused Brain-Body Blueprint for Remote Pros and Digital Nomads.”
Connect to Angela Shurina
- About Angela’s journey in the health and fitness space
- Why Angela decided to transition from personal training and nutrition to performance coaching
- The importance of creating simple habits and systems that fit into our busy schedules
- Why relying only on motivation is not enough
- How important it is to be constantly building new circuits in our brains
- The importance of celebrating small wins and the 20 seconds’ window rule
- Why we should avoid the all-or-nothing approach to health and fitness
- How to set our brain for success, and why we must be aware of our environment
- And much more…
Do You Need Help Creating A Lean Energetic Body And Still Enjoy Life?
We help successful entrepreneurs, executives, and other high-performers burn fat, transform their bodies, and grow successful businesses while enjoying their social life, vacations, and lifestyle.
If you’re ready to have the body you deserve, look and feel younger, and say goodbye to time-consuming workouts and crazy diets, we can help you.
Go to legendarylifeprogram.com/free to watch my FREE Body Breakthrough Masterclass.
Podcast Transcription: Unstoppable Fit: The Brain-Body Blueprint for Traveling Executives, Entrepreneurs & High Performers with Angela Shurina
Ted Ryce: So, Angela Shurina, thanks so much for being on the show today. And I feel like it's been a long time coming.
Angela Shurina: Yeah. Thank you, Ted. It's been, and thank you for inviting me super excited to be on the show.
Ted Ryce: Me too. And we're both kind of laughing because we had to switch recording software a couple times, so we've said like the same thing three times already. But we keep on rolling. And I think that's a good side lesson that we can return to later, especially when we talk about what you're good at, which is helping digital nomad specifically, like how do you stay in shape while you travel?
That's one of the hardest things you can ever be faced with when it comes to fat loss, I feel. So, without getting too far into that, we'll come back to that later. The thing I'd love to share is first of all, how we met. We met over Instagram, hung out Playa Del Carmen.
Angela Shurina: Yeah. Where I still am.
Ted Ryce: Yeah. And where you still are. You're in that nice apartment right on LaQuinta next to all the restaurants, couple blocks away from the beach, beautiful place.
Angela Shurina: Mm-hmm.
Ted Ryce: And so I know you, and I've seen some of the work that you've done, as far as you just wrote a new book. We'll be talking about. And you've worked with the same. You work with the same type of clients that I do.
Angela Shurina: Mm-hmm.
Ted Ryce: And so can you talk a little bit about your journey because you weren't a health and fitness coach to begin with. Where did you start? And how did you get to where you're coaching people from Mexico on the how to live better?
Angela Shurina: Yeah. You know, I'm coaching people from anywhere, right? It's like the beauty of our online world, but how I started, well, initially it all began like my interest in nutrition and health and using those is tools started when I was a teenager around 13, 14, when I got an autoimmune condition and doctors couldn’t help me and I'm like, I need this to be fixed. I don't care. And so, I started doing my research and I helped myself. And then that kind of faded into background out for a little bit. And I continued my studies and I got my degree in computer science that parents advised me to do, but I realized I didn't want to work in that.
And what I've been passionate about for quite some time is health and also fitness. I've always been into fitness, interactive lifestyle. And so, I decided to get back to my passions and I got certified as a personal trainer. And that's how like fitness part of that started. Then I had a motorbike accident that kind of switched me into nutrition. And
Ted Ryce: Was that while you were traveling?
Angela Shurina: Oh, while I was traveling here, I started my digital nomad journey. I didn't even know the word for that back then. It was more than 11 years ago.
Ted Ryce: Nobody even called it that, right? That's a newer term. You're like one of the originals.
Angela Shurina: Kind of. Which was like, “What do you do?” “I work online,” you know, that's what you would say, that's it. And so I was in Thailand where I spent—well, in Southeast Asia, about three, four years, total. And there, I had my motorbike accident. Well, I basically drove myself into sand and I almost died.
And at that point I realized that fitness is great, but what if that stuff happens again. I cannot rely on that as being my main thing, because again, things can happen, you know, you might consider something more not physical. And so that's how I switched into health, coaching into nutrition, coaching, getting my nutrition, health coaching certifications, and started working with people more on that side.
And then quite recently, you know after a while, like being in that field and working with a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of people who want to perform better, who want to look better, do better. I started to get more and more into performance coaching because I realized that's what you get when you get your fitness on point, when you get your nutrition on point and a lot of other tools.
And I wanted to learn more about it and get specifically into that. And so while here in Mexico, actually I transitioned my business model completely into that area of performance coach and still helping people, of course, with their health and fitness, but then also using a lot of other tools that are more neuroscience based to help people feel the way they want to feel. And that ultimately defines what we think, what decisions we make and how we approach our life. So that's kind of a long story short.
Ted Ryce: Yeah. And I hear you on that, and you know, when you talk about so much to go into there, but…
Angela Shurina: Yeah, I mean, it's been a journey.
Ted Ryce: Well, what comes up for me is two things, right? One is like, you know, you talked about how you… I was a personal trainer for 20 years and I kind of recognize the same thing. Like, oh, this is dependent on me showing up physically, counting reps, loading weight, taking off weight, demonstrating exercises.
But what I really noticed was that I get way better results or more specifically, more importantly, my clients get way better results with online coaching. So, I would ask you, like, what have you noticed from your personal training days versus transitioning to online coaching with the types of results and you know, what do you see as the differences?
Angela Shurina: I personally don't think it's about physical or online coaching. I think I just noticed that nutrition and lifestyle give much better results to people. And I notice in myself too, right. I've always been a person into fitness, but not until I got all the lifestyle nutritious choices on point and got consistent with that, I got consistent results and I'm not struggling with that anymore.
Like for me personally, I can't say I'm working on my fitness and health. It just happens, kind of, because I know how to design my habits and my environment. So, yeah, that's what I noticed, you just get better results from other things. Fitness? Yeah, it's a part of it, but it's not the factor that contributes the most to success. That's what I noticed.
Ted Ryce: Well, talk about that a little bit more because someone might hear that right now and they're like, what do you even… I don't even know what that means exactly. Like, how do you get better results by focusing on other things?
So, what are the other things you started focusing on for your client? Let's talk about your clients. What are the other things you started focusing on for your clients and what are the end results of those things that you end up focusing on?
Angela Shurina: Great question. Systems and habits. So there are all these great workout programs or diets, but if you don't have a system that allows you to easily maintain your habits, that allow you to maintain your results, if you don't have this systems, basically, meaning your environment, how easy it is for you to do fitness or to eat healthy or to make better choices. If you don't set that up, so to speak, your support system, right? It's going to be hard for you to get results and maintain them if every day is like a struggle.
And so whenever I worked with someone, I always investigate, so to speak, the environment, like what triggers you to make worse choices? What triggers you to make better choices, again, in food, in fitness, in sleep? And let's design with intention, your environment, also your social circle, everything. So better choices are easier to do and choices that you don't want to do, they are difficult, extra hard, there is friction.
And sometimes we even design that, right? If, for example, you don't want to be eating unhealthy foods then maybe let's delete all the delivery apps and let's maybe not walk around your favorite. bakeries, things like that. People think that that doesn't matter, but actually, all that matters, like how you design your mindscape, so to speak, to make the right kind of choices. So, for example, I also sometimes want to, I don't know, eat some junk food, but it's so hard for me to do it. I don't even know where to go, so…
Ted Ryce: I could help you next time I'm in Playa Del Carmen, Chez Celine's, they're almond Croissant….
Angela Shurina: Yeah. I don't even know those places. You see, it's going to have to, like jump through so many hoops to even get there. And that's the point, that's where you want to be, where your environment supports your better choices. And also on a question of nutrition, it's so much easier to just make certain nutrition choices, instead of having to run for an hour every day or having to work out extra hard.
I don't actually like to work out super hard. That's what I find, and for most people that's true, to make a little bit better choices when it comes to your food so you don't have to run horse race every single day.
Ted Ryce: 100%. I want to talk a little bit about this because I'm with you. I actually want to ask you about your keto journey as well in a second, so please don't let me forget about that. I want to come back to that because…
Angela Shurina: The what journey?
Ted Ryce: The keto, when you were keto.
Angela Shurina: Hmm. Yes. Okay. Yeah. I was told…
Ted Ryce: Yeah, let's talk about that, but let's talk first about this idea where…So we're both on social media. Like I don't even…I'm not going to say that I don't study nutrition anymore. I do. I pay attention to it, but not really that much. And because I came to the same conclusion that you did, and I think every coach who spends enough time working with people, because you've been coaching people for 10 years, I've been at this for 23, which, it's not necessarily better because we were making just more mistakes back in those days.
But what you eventually learn is that people do great when they show up for their personal training sessions. People do great when they have a high level of motivation, maybe at the beginning of the year. But it's what happens during the times where there's challenge that matters the most.
And what we fall back on is our routines, our habits, the things that are the systems, the things that are easy to do and the trap that most people fall into, even very smart, very financially successful entrepreneurs, is that they have a high level of motivation and they go all in with their fitness and then things get busy or they can't stick to the keto diet.
You know, we can talk about that a little bit and why you switched. And it's like, well, you didn't establish the habits. You went for something too big, which you were only able to do under ideal circumstances. And whenever those ideal circumstances disappear, and they always fucking disappear, they always disappear, then you revert back to your bad habits, gain the weight back, and then end up hiring me next year because #newyearnewyou. Talk a little bit about that and how you see some of the situations. Or maybe even share a story from a client who is struggling.
Angela Shurina: You know, that not ideal circumstances remind me of just digital nomad life in general, because when you are a digital nomad or a person for whom things change rapidly, like your location, your apartment, foods you are used to, your gyms. When all of these are changing all the time, you have to have very simple systems and things that you can do anywhere to maintain a level of fitness and health that you want to have.
And so this lifestyle kind of by default teaches you where you are, where you don't have those systems. And when I work with my clients, who most of whom are digital nomads and location- independent people, or who just move a lot. Whenever we introduce any new habit, any new routine that we decided to do consistently, I always walked them through, I ask them a lot of questions, okay, but what do you do if you travel? Okay, what do you do if you don't have a gym? Okay. What do you do if you only can eat out and you don't have a kitchen? What do you do when you just finished the whole day of work and you gave a talk or whatever, and you have nothing available only like junk, like what do you do then?
How do you prepare yourself in advance to not go for that pizza that doesn't actually work for you and triggers the whole cycle of certain eating and lifestyle behaviors? So that's kind of like, I think, one of the major things that I do that not so many coaches do actually, this pre-game planning and that's having all the options for all the possible circumstances that the person goes through in their life and having a plan in advance for all of these situations.
Because what a lot of people don't realize is when you have a plan or any sort of decision for a specific situation and your brain knows exactly what it has to do, it's going to help you to do exactly that. It's when you don't have a plan and you are stressed and you are tired, that's when you just go for the easiest option, because you'll call, I don't know, I don't have energy to make decisions and I don't know what to do so I'm just going to go for the first choice that is available right now.
And in our environment is not usually the best for the person choice. So, it's like that preplanning every possible situation and figuring out what is the way for you to deal with that situation. It's like, one of my clients, for example, he's a professional wrestler, arm wrestling, like he up in the world or something, he's also in financial advising.
Ted Ryce: Wow.
Angela Shurina: Yeah. And he wants to be the first, right. And a couple of months ago he went for one of the competitions, like some level, I don't even understand all the specifics. And after that, he had pizza, and it's not like he wanted pizza, he just didn't prepare anything to have with him. And he was hungry and there was nothing available, and there was a special facility for the event. And there was nothing else available, like, okay, you did this, let's accept that, nothing wrong with that, you did what was the best option. So, for the next time, let's prepare, how can we deal with this situation better?
And so, we brainstorm a lot of different scenarios. We make sure that we have certain options with us and next time he went for a competition. He did that thing. He did a buy a thing. We prepared some snacks, some foods that he could just eat without any preparation whatsoever. And he ate them because again, we just planned for it. And that was it. No willpower, nothing special.
Ted Ryce: Yeah. That's a great example of how coaching comes in as a very powerful tool, because if you're just trying to implement something you read off of Twitter or heard on a podcast or saw on Instagram, it may work for you, it may not work for you. And if you do enough trial and error, you might come up with some tools that do work for you, but it's very work intensive.
And then it's like, you can also forget it. I think the results of most people speak to that level of investing in solving their challenges around whatever environmental challenge or travel challenge like we're talking about.
Yeah. And what I love about what you're saying too, is it has to do with training. We have to train ourselves—and there's a great quote from Navy Seals…
Angela Shurina: Yeah. I think I know the quote, yeah, that you default at the level. Yeah.
Ted Ryce: Right. You default, you don't rise to the level of your expectations so you default to the level of your training. And that's exactly what most people are doing. And we can talk about the neuroscience of this and the psychology involved, because I love that too. That's all, I really pay attention to, like how to get people to change behavior, how do we get someone to change behavior?
But back to that idea is that as soon as stress comes on, you default back to the level of your training. And if your level of your training is you listen to a podcast like this even—I love my podcast. I love doing these interviews. They're great, but it's not training.
And so if you keep finding yourself falling back into habits that are bringing you away from your goals, your health goals, you need training, just like if you wanted to perform better on the golf field under pressure. What do you do? What's the best thing you can do? You hire the best golf coach around, or with tennis, you hire the best tennis coach around, and what do they do? They train you. They prepare you for these situations. And that's what we do with our clients, and it works, the same way that golf coaching and tennis coaching works.
Angela Shurina: Yeah. And just wanted to get back at this idea of training, what happens in the brain actually, and why I switched to brain coaching in general, to help people understand that with that training, what happens is you build a new circuit in your brain. The brain always likes familiar circuits because they require less energy.
So whenever you're trained for something, you are building the circuit, right? And when the stress comes and your body and your brain default for the least demanding, when it comes to energy and resources option, like if you didn't build that circuit, it's going to be more energy-demanding than the old circuit. And that's why your brain defaults for the easiest option. Not because it's better for you, but because it's the easiest from the energy perspective right at the moment.
Ted Ryce: Yeah. And I think a lot of people don't understand that. What they think they have is a lack of a habit. Say if someone's…like, I can't make it to the gym regularly. It's like, no, you don't have a lack of habit, you have a habit. It's just, the habit is, come home, take off your shoes, sit on the couch, eat and watch Netflix. So that's why it's so hard to break, stop doing something like that is because it's ingrained.
Angela Shurina: Yeah. And it's because, you know, I love this awesome metaphor that when you're building a new road and it's dirty, it's messy, it's very hard to ride along that. When you have a road that is built, and you know, it's strong, it's steady, you can just ride full speed. And the same thing happens in the brain. It's kind of like you digging, digging, digging this road, and until it's done, it's going to be harder than that old pattern to travel along.
Ted Ryce: I love that metaphor. So, if you're listening right now, there's a clear road that you've established somewhere. And that's the road that you take when the conditions get less than ideal. That other road that you're trying to build, it's dusty, it's not quite finished. They're still going over dropping the…Well, I don't know what it's called. It's not asphalt, right? I don't even know what that substance is called, but they're preparing that new road and painting it.
But it's not quite done. And so you have to wait until that road is done. And the way to do that is to—the unfortunate hack or secret is to keep fucking going, even when it's hard. And when you fall off, you keep going. Is that the way you see it or do you feel differently?
Angela Shurina: Yes, I feel exactly the same. You even described it even better. The only thing that I'd like to add is you can actually hack this a little bit for your brain, making it easier, kind of bringing the bulldozer or another team to build that road.
What you do is you celebrate that habit every time you make it happen. Because when you feel good, your brain considers it a reward, something that brings you some benefit, and it releases dopamine and other brain chemicals to make sure to remember that. And it's kind of like burning it, making it a tool. Like when the dopamine is released, whatever behavior is done with that dopamine release, it solidifies in the brain much faster.
And again, the way to do it is to feel good when you accomplish something. And a lot of clients of mine laugh at me when I tell them, let's learn how to celebrate, like what's your power move? Like, “whoo, you know, that is for me,” or something like that, you've got to feel good, and it has to be not fake. And the more you do it, the faster you're going to build a new habit. So this is kind of the hack that is also in the book, Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.
Ted Ryce: Fogg, yeah.
Angela Shurina: He's a PhD of behavior science. So, it is actually a very powerful tool that people think unless they try it, it's kind of like bullshit. But when they try it, they realize it actually does work really well.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, let's talk about that a little bit more. And also, I want to talk about sleep because people are trying to build these new habits in their brain. And if they're not sleeping well, you don't establish memories as concretely when you're struggling with sleep. So that's another thing that came up. But I want to talk about this idea of reward, because it's so important. It's just positive reinforcement. You talked a little bit about the brain chemistry happening, but you've got to celebrate in some way, you've got to do something, because if you don't, it just seems…
And this is true, by the way, if you're listening, this is true, even business stuff. Like, when a new client signs up to my coaching program, I go celebrate it, not because like, you know, I've signed up so many clients, but I still celebrate it and I feel good as a result, because otherwise, it's just like, “Okay, new clients, okay, get back to the grind.”
And if that happens, that can steal the thunder, the feeling of accomplishing something like you were talking about, it must have something to do with the release of dopamine in the brain. I feel much more motivated to grow my business when I'm celebrating my wins. And the same is true, what you're saying is celebrating your wins with health and fitness. Just don't celebrate with food, right? Food and alcohol.
Angela Shurina: Yeah. And to that point also, yeah, I wanted to add that actually to do it in the most effective way, you have to have a 20 second window. You see, the brain doesn't disassociate something that you did today with the reward that you're going to do at the end of the month. No, that's not actually how it works. So, it has to be immediate. That's why I'm talking about power moves. What can you do in any place in any situation, when you achieve something, when you do something that you know is good for you?
What can you do really fast in that 20 second window that's going to make you feel good? And it can just be a smile to yourself, just acknowledging that. That can be small. It doesn't necessarily have to be like the super move. But it has to be something that makes a person feel good.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, interesting. So, I've never tried that. I'm going to experiment with that a little bit, and I'll get back to you. I’ll usually celebrate that day. And I still feel pretty good about it, or maybe 20 minutes or an hour, maybe a few hours later, but I'll give that a try. I want everybody to listen. That may sound stupid, but it's also stupid if you're running a successful company and you're overweight or obese. That's pretty dumb, too.
And not that I want to say you're a dumb, it's just that the point I'm trying to make by saying that, is we're dealing with some primitive programming in our brain that is really quite good at helping us survive an environment that doesn't exist anymore. Without the Uber Eats, and the Amazon one-click one-hour delivery, you don't even have to… you could just sit in your chair and have food delivered to you. You know, it's crazy.
Angela Shurina: And to that point, actually, about Uber Eats, people think that, “Oh, food changes so much. That's why we're getting obese, it’s the society.” It's not the food. It's the environment, the easiness and the access to galleries to not doing much and not having to move physically. It's these things that changed much, not so much the food.
Ted Ryce: Let's talk about this because you and I, I think, can bring some… even though I want to talk about keto and sleep. But something that I think you and I can bring to people right now that might be different than what they're hearing is like… And I'll give a quick example. And I know you can relate, although I'd love to hear how you transitioned out of keto when you were in Thailand.
So, I had a bunch of beliefs about food, I started breaking them eventually, but they were intellectual shifts. Like for example, carbs make you fat. People in the US in particular, believe that. And I believe that. And I made an intellectual shift. And certainly, I had the evidence to back it up. But then I went to Thailand, and these people were eating noodle and rice for every single meal.
And certainly, they do have an obesity crisis, statistically speaking. But if you would compare the level of obesity to Thailand versus the states, it's not even… they all look skinny. So, what are some of the things that you've learned from traveling? When we're talking about this environment issue, what are some of the environmental lessons you've learned from traveling or from working with your clients who also travel?
Angela Shurina: You mean very practical steps that kind of set yourself for success in the environment or more of a cultural thing.
Ted Ryce: More stories. Yeah, more cultural. Because here's the thing: someone in the US can maybe watch a video about what life is like in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Maybe they went on vacation tour resort in Cancun for a week but stayed in the all-inclusive resort—and you're living there. I lived there. I went shopping at the Costco there. And I forget…Soriana, right? And now I'm in Brazil, and I'm going shopping at Big Bucks and other places.
So what are some of the stories you could share that maybe helped you shift your mind or your opinions, your views about the environment and how it's different in the US versus other places? And what people in America are really dealing with?
Angela Shurina: You know, it's actually a big question.
Ted Ryce: Big question.
Angela Shurina: Yeah. I mean, what people in the US, I believe are dealing with is just convenience and financial resources to do that convenience, and a lot of advertising and all this marketing, etc. Whereas places like Mexico or a lot of places in Southeast Asia, they just don't have the resources to get all of that stuff that they want to get that the people in the US get.
Ted Ryce: Don't have the money, right?
Angela Shurina: Yeah, exactly.
Ted Ryce: Although isn't Mexico competing with the US obesity wise? I think it's getting there.
Angela Shurina: Yeah, because also the convenient food gets more convenient and cheaper, and then making healthy meals and cooking gets also not so popular and not so cool. And then it's just easier to get food outside, whatever the quality is. So again, it's all about the environment. I'm coming from that culture, like I'm Russian, and I was born in Russia.
And there, cooking at home is a cool thing. So, if somebody offers you a home-cooked meal, this is a cool thing. We like to go and visit each other. And we don't like to go to a restaurant, it's like the second-best option, right? And that makes a difference. Because when you decide to do something together, like party or a lot of friends, you’re like, “Who are we going to? Who's cooking?” etc.
And of course, what you cook for yourself or for your friends, it's always better than what you get in the restaurants, you try to bring the best ingredients etc. And that quality really does matter. For example, a lot of people eating out, and I understand that it can be a part of their routine, especially if you're busy, etc. But in restaurants, their goal competes with your goals if you're into health and fitness, because they want you to eat more. They want to make the fakest, sweetest thing, whatever that can possibly be.
Ted Ryce: They want you to eat more, and they want you to come back, right?
Angela Shurina: Exactly.
Ted Ryce: So you're only going to do that if it tastes good. Not necessarily if you're like, “This is so healthy.”
Angela Shurina: Exactly.
Ted Ryce: It's not going to get you to come back.
Angela Shurina: Yes. And so your interest can be you want to eat healthy, you want to eat less, the restaurant wants you to eat more, and then wants you to come back. And so they do their best job and they add more fat etc. and you get more calories, even without noticing that because you don't really see them. So those things kind of shape people's behavior around food in different cultures.
Getting back to what I usually work on with clients, we try to simplify things. A lot of times, clients come to me and when we work on their food specifically, I try to help them to simplify things. Okay, so every meal should have protein, carbs, some healthy fats in there somewhere. So how can you make it happen for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What's your favorite foods? What can be done in every culture, and those use usually simple foods, I don't know, eggs, yogurt, chicken, meat, whatever, beans, rice, vegetables, fruits, etc.
So these simple things, the foods that do not require label, and if you go out to eat, try to make the same kind of choice, like what can you put on your plate that is the least modified version of your whole foods? And how can you still stick to the basics like your protein, your carbs, your fats, etc. So those kinds of things, I teach my clients to just simplify things.
And also to realize that a balanced meal is, like, these are the food groups, your old known fats, proteins and carbs, and also making them simpler, making them more whole food based and realizing that most of the calories in your meals, especially when you eat out, come not from those foods, but things like the fat you add or the sugar that you add. And if you are on a weight loss journey, then you are aware of that and you count them in. And if something has more sauce, etc, just be mindful about it.
And another thing, you mentioned all-inclusive resorts or street food that people love to try when they travel. And people like, “Well, what I do? There are all these options, and I want to try them.” And I simply give them another option, like, try them, don't stuff yourself with them. You don't have to go either all out or nothing at all. That's another mindset shift that people need to make. It's not nothing or everything.
No, you can kind of be in the middle, try things and then the majority of your meals and food should be basic. Be those healthy foods, carbs, protein and fats, etc. So, it's that shift that doesn't allow a lot of times people to stay in shape. They're like, well, I either do a very hard workout or nothing. How about like 15 minutes of, you know, at hotel room, bodyweight workout, or whatever works?
How about a walk after dinner? And teaching this like staying in the gray zone so to speak, not black and white, all or nothing, also is huge for many people. And sometimes very often actually, I would ask my clients, “Okay, so we cannot make perfect choice here. What is the next best option? Or what is a little bit better option than the worst?” That is the kind of question I like to ask my clients, and they find a lot of options by themselves once they don't stick to the black and white model.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, that was a game changer when I learned that from…I think everybody learned it from John Berardi in the fitness industry.
Angela Shurina: Yeah.
Ted Ryce: Talking about that all or nothing approach. At first, I thought it was just kind of something cool to repeat when I first learned it however many years ago. But now it's like you start to…When I heard it and then started paying attention to what my clients were doing and what I was doing. It's like, whoa, you really see people give up. They're not flexible.
And what I love about this idea is people think they're doing the hard thing. Like, “No, if I can't do that, go to the gym, do that hard workout, I'm not going to do it at all.” That's actually not the hard thing. That's the easy thing. It's the easy thing, if you're doing that. The really hard thing is to train yourself to be consistent, to put in something to do a 15-minute workout when you feel like, “No, it's not going to work. It's a waste of time.”
It's like, no, it's not a waste of time. That's why you have the belly that you have. It's because you're not doing these things consistently. You're going for the best choice or the worst choice, but you're not doing the better choice or the lesser bad choice. So important. And Angela, let's talk a little bit about your book.
So, you wrote this book. Let me get the full title it Fit-And-Focused Brain-Body Blueprint for Remote Pros and Digital Nomads: Neuroscience-Based Routines, Hacks and Habits to Stay Productive, Healthy and Fit Anywhere. Talk a little bit about why you felt like you had to write a book about this.
Angela Shurina: I think the most important reason is maybe a couple. First of all, I truly believe that it's all in the brain. If you design your environment for the brain that is healthy, that is happy, for which it is easy to make the right choices, then the rest will just follow. You know, the brain is this conductor of everything else. Whatever your brain perceives, whether that's negative or positive, your brain will make you and your body to make the choices either that are beneficial for someone's goal or not beneficial.
And so you always want to make sure that you set your brain for success. And that means not poisoning the brain with some substances that the brain doesn't know how to deal with. That means maintaining lower stress levels, meaning managing your stress, because stressed brain doesn't make good choices. So maximizing or making it easy, again, for the brain to make the right choices. And that requires certain routines like viewing lights first thing in the morning, getting outside, that produces certain brain chemistry that down the road makes you to make better choices.
So that was like number one reason why I wanted to write it because it's been long coming. And that's what I understood and learned over the 20 years of coaching in my personal journey. It's all in the brain. When your brain is healthy, it's going to help you to deliver your goals to get your goals, your brain is on your side, but you've got to make sure that it works right. And the second thing, by now, we have all these tools about the environment, about lifestyle, kind of like the foundation of a functional human machine.
And I wanted to give this foundation that are super flexible, it can be done anywhere in many environments, with or without any equipment. So, I wanted to give people this framework, a foundation for a well-functioning brain/body machine. Once you have that, that is, again, very flexible, you don't care about diets or specific workouts, you just maintain great levels of fitness and health.
And after that, you're going to be great in other areas, maintaining high energy levels, high motivational levels. So those stories, and just, it's all in the brain. And the second thing is we have enough signs to say this is the kind of blueprint that we need to follow in order to maintain well-functioning brain/body machine.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, and I want to follow up on that point, it's all about the brain. Because someone could hear that and maybe disagree with it or say something like, “Well, no, I think it's more metabolism.” Even though they probably don't know what that mean or what the factors of metabolism is.
But I want to also bring up like, if you look at what the medical definition of obesity is, it's a chronic brain disease. It's not your metabolism, it's not your genes, it's not your age, it's not whether you're a woman or man, or you think you have stubborn fat, it's a chronic brain disease. I don't agree 100% with the medical definition in the…well, I don't want to get too into this because this is a bit of a tangent.
But the point is, even the medical establishment, that's how they're looking at it, that's how they treat it. And the most effective fat loss approach for obesity is surgery, bariatric surgery, lap band surgery, stomach reduction, whatever method of surgery. But the reality of how it works is it changes your behavior; you get full quicker because your stomach is smaller, so it changes your behavior.
Another thing that's coming out is taking a drug like semaglutide, what does it do? You're less hungry so you eat less. What does it affect? Well, it affects your brain. Even the genes… You know, I had an interview with Stephen Guyenet, we were talking about genetic basis of obesity and the genes that we’re learning. They're not with your metabolism. They're in your brain, obese people.
So, I'm kind of getting up on a soapbox here. But just to drive home, the point that you're making, this isn't really about understanding our brains better and getting our brains to work better, instead of will powering through things, and then given up because it's too hard.
Angela Shurina: I just wanted to mention, again, brain is an operating system, right? So, it's kind of like a conductor of everything. If you have a faulty operating system on your computer, it doesn't matter what hardware you have, it's not going to work all that well, right? So you've got to correct that.
But with the brain, what's tricky, I think, is that the brain is influenced by the environment that it's in, by the, I don't know, light exposure, by your movement patterns, by your sleep, by your nutrition choices. So, it kind of make the decisions, but it also is very much affected by what you do. And that's what I think makes it difficult.
Metabolism, yes, for obesity, but I believe it's more of a downstream effect, like when your brain is inflamed, and it thinks for example, that you need to be preserving energy, it's going to adjust your metabolism to do just that, to preserve that energy, to make you eat more to transfer more of that fuel into fat because your brain think you are stressed, you are in danger, soon you might be spending more energy.
So let's adjust everything to make that energy preservation happen. But that's again, down a two-way street. You affect your brain with what you do, and then the brain affects you back and kind of breaking the cycle, I think it's the hardest part that tricks people into just staying in the same space.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, and I think the easiest way to do that is…Well, I think anybody can relate to…Well, I was going to say changing your environment is really the easy way to notice these things. For example, if you go on vacation, let's say you're stressed, you have a low sex drive, you're hungry all the time and you just want to eat and drink alcohol and you had trouble sleeping at night, and then you wake up tired and drink a lot of coffee.
And then you go on vacation. And let's say you're in Cancun, right? All of a sudden, you're getting up in the morning, and you're going outside, you’re around nature on the beach, a blue zone. And you're getting that sunlight first thing in the morning, you have the work stresses that are set aside. And so it's easier to relax. You may find yourself taking a nap during the day. And you usually can't even take naps, and you just make better choices.
And so if you pay attention to that, and then you go back to your old environment, and then the craziness starts again. I think that's a good lesson. Like, what can you bring from vacation? You can't stay on permanent vacation. Even Angela and I, that's what we're trying to do, right, in a way, sunny Brazil. But that's what's coming away.
Certainly, the environment matters a lot. You can bring things back from those experiences. One thing I would ask you, or one thing I would say and then I would ask you. Obviously, this doesn't apply for digital nomads, but one thing that I've noticed is that people who are in environments where like, “Oh, get sunlight first thing in the morning.” Well, guess what? It's cloudy all the time. It's London, for example.
Angela Shurina: I lived there.
Ted Ryce: You lived there, right?
Angela Shurina: Yes.
Ted Ryce: Like, what are those people supposed to do? Or in Michigan where you can't even, “Oh, get your 10,000 steps pretty well. It's freezing outside and it's dark.”
Angela Shurina: I'm from Siberia. I know that.
Ted Ryce: Okay, so awesome, then you can speak from experience because I'm from Miami, and I've only traveled to places that have a lot of sunshine. I just can't bring myself to go to Siberia or Michigan.
Angela Shurina: Yeah. You see, because of my diversity of environments I have been through, I lived in London for a year, I'm from Siberia, I usually know what people are experiencing in all of these areas. So all the negative side effects, you know, in Siberia, four hours of sunlight in the winter. And you usually go to work, it's still dark. You come back from work, it's already dark.
Ted Ryce: Wow.
Angela Shurina: So the question was, what do you do in those environments?
Ted Ryce: What do people do who are in those environments that are…Like, they can't just become digital nomads, or they can't just move right away.
Angela Shurina: But the beauty of our world today is that we have technology to solve almost anything. And the technology is pretty simple, very often and not expensive at all. If I were to go back to Siberia right now, I would purchase one of those circadian lamps that have 10,000 LUX intensity. And they're pretty good at helping your body to start to your circadian rhythm to maintain higher level of mood and lower level of stress, etc.
So it kind of imitates what's outside. So you can mitigate that. Of course, it's not like natural light, but it's better than nothing, much, much better, right? For example, if you can't make a lot of steps because it's freezing. I lived in a place in Siberia with minus 30, on average, in winter, right? You don't want to be walking a lot.
Again, there are standing desk, you can purchase treadmill. We used to have the treadmill in my family for, I don't know, for decades, and also the bicycle. How do you call it, the stationary one? Because of that, because you sit inside for longer periods of time, and you don't really have an option to get outside and start moving a lot.
For sleep, you know, some people, for example, cannot change…Just another frequent one that I get from people, especially live in couples, “Well, we don't like, as a couple, air conditioning so what do we do? I'm kind of hot,” and that decreases the quality of your sleep. And I'm like…
Ted Ryce: Get a thicker blanket, baby, because that AC is going down, I’m turning that AC down.
Angela Shurina: But the thing is, now we have these covers that change temperature on one side of the bed and on the other. So you can have your own temperature on both sides.
Ted Ryce: I didn't know that one, what's the name of that?
Angela Shurina: Well, we have Ooler, O-O-L-E-R. And then we have Aid Sleep. And that is also like…we have a lot of those actually. So, if you Google like smart mattress, or smart cover, sleep cover, you'll probably get all of those, they're getting quite popular. And a lot of companies also do knock offs. They're pretty good., but just not the most expensive models, because those are on again, a little bit more expensive side.
Or, for example, when you travel, you can use earplugs, you can use mask if you don't have blackout curtains that are important to sleep in the dark. There are so many tools that you can use these days to make your habit easy anywhere in the world. It doesn't matter what the environment is really.
So yeah, a person has no excuse. But to your point, not a lot of people are aware of those things, and that's why I wrote the book also. Understand that this is why on vacation, you feel so damn good and you have high libido and sex drive because sun actually stimulates your sex drive.
And that's why as a couple if you go away, you probably do have more intimate time. There is no magic in it. It's just how human body works, right? Or if you go out in the sun in the later afternoon, you'd actually boost your testosterone and your estrogen, right?
Not a lot of people are aware of that. But once you're aware, and you know how it works, you can design for it. You can optimize for that and you can get the results consistently and then you don't have to go on vacation. You can kind of make it happen anywhere.
Ted Ryce: You can have all that sex right at home.
Angela Shurina: Yes, exactly.
Ted Ryce: You don't have to go to Cancun in that all-inclusive resort. By the way, the food's better outside than the all-inclusive resorts, is what I found. Well, Angela, thank you so much. I feel like we could talk for another hour at least and just only scratched the surface of this. If you're enjoying this conversation and you want to learn more and perhaps you're a person who is challenged by either traveling frequently, like me or Angela, or if you're in a situation like Angela lived in Siberia.
I don't know how to tell you, like, go get a sad lamp. I don't know what to tell you. I lived in Miami my whole life. So make sure you check out her book if this is resonating with you. It's called Fit and Focus, Brain Body Blueprint. If you just put that in, I think it'll come up, or you can look for her name, Angela Shurina.
Angela Shurina: And it's also going to come up, it's going to be available in an audiobook in a week or so.
Ted Ryce: Amazing. Yeah. So cool. And that's super important. I mean, I don't read books these days. Some people hate on that, but I'm an audiobook…. I'm all about the audiobook these days. So anyway, if you want to go and get her book, either Kindle, hardcover, paperback or even audio book, go to Amazon and look up Angela Shurina or Fit and Focus Brain Body Blueprint.
Angela Shurina: Body Blueprint. Yeah, it's so in the brain starts there.
Ted Ryce: Exactly. And I need to go work on my brain. I had too many of those almond croissants from Chez Celine down in Playa Del Carmen, detoxified my memory. But it was such a pleasure to have you on. I would love to have you. I really want to do this again, because I feel like this is the conversation that isn't being had enough.
And I'm sure people are tired of hearing it from me on this podcast. So it's nice to have someone come on and kind of beat the drum from a different perspective. So thanks so much for coming on the show, Angela. Really appreciate it.
Angela Shurina: Yeah, thank you, Ted. Thank you so much for inviting me and letting me share this message. It all starts in the brain. And that's why I'm so passionate about helping people to use that thing.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, use your brain better.
Angela Shurina: Yeah, exactly.
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