Hi, love. Thank you for choosing to spend time with me today.
We’re going to be talking about something that I’m passionate about: leveling up your health, so you can live a more vibrant life.
Health is a deeply personal journey to each of us, and with so much conflicting information out in the world, just getting started can be an overwhelming task. If you’re new on your journey, where do you even begin?
A year ago I had the pleasure of being a guest on Shawn’s podcast, The Model Show. I had such a terrific interview with him that I just couldn’t wait to get Shawn on to share his wealth of wisdom on health. You’ll love this episode — especially when you hear about his incredible journey.
In this interview, we talk about his upbringing and the choices he made that changed his life forever. Moving through a traumatic injury, Shawn reveals his health journey, the wisdom he’s gained from the strong women in his life, and the powerful awakenings that can change the way you see yourself, and your potential to level up your own health.
Who is Shawn Stevenson?
Shawn Stevenson is the author of the international best-selling book Sleep Smarter, and the creator of The Model Show, the number one ranked health podcast in the US with millions of listener downloads each year. He also just penned his new book, Eat Smarter.
As a graduate of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, Shawn studied business, biology, and nutritional science, and went on to found the Advanced Integrative Health Alliance: a company providing wellness service for individuals and organizations worldwide. Shawn has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, the New York Times, Muscle and Fitness, ABC News, ESPN, and many other major media outlets.
Despite being a man dedicated to the health and wellbeing of others, this is far from how his journey began.
“When I was 15 years old I was running a time trial doing the 200-meter sprint with my coach. I’m coming off the curve into the straightaway and my hip broke. I broke my hip from running!” – Shawn Stevenson
That was the first of half a dozen more injuries he would endure. Only 20, Shawn felt like his body was falling apart. He was finally diagnosed with a degenerative bone condition and his physician explained he had the spine of an 80-year-old man. Shawn felt inspired to ask the doctor a surprising question:
“I asked him, ‘Does this have anything to do with what I’m eating? Should I change the way I exercise?’ He started shaking his head, ‘This has nothing to do with eating. I’m sorry it happened to you. We’re going to get you some medication to help you manage this pain.’ [I was told to just live with it].” – Shawn Stevenson
For two years Shawn kept asking himself the same question: “Why me?” Our mutual friend Michael Beckwith always says “The questions are the answers.” Finally, Shawn asked a different question that would change his life forever: “How can I get better?”
That simple question shifted his focus. He started learning more about bone density, and spending time with friends who took him to health food stores. Within six weeks of eating differently, the pain he’d experienced every day his whole life was completely gone.
Shawn’s lifestyle change flooded his body and cells with the raw materials that make bones and Shawn looked radically healthier. Walking around the college campus, fellow students and professors took notice. They became his first clients!
This launched Shawn’s career and shifted his coursework over to biology, kinesiology, and nutritional science. He wanted to help other people who had been told that same story about their own chronic or debilitating illnesses: that there was nothing they could do. Best of all? Nine months after changing his lifestyle, a spine scan showed a complete reversal of the degeneration causing all his pain.
When I was on Shawn’s podcast, I felt a tremendous calm, warm vibe from him, and in his voice. I really felt how Shawn cares for people. It comes through everything he is doing to provide quality information about health. Today, this is why I’m so THRILLED to share this interview with you all on the Get Loved Up podcast.
The Story Behind One of Shawn’s Favorite Transformation Examples
Shawn’s transformed so many lives, I wondered if he could share one of the more inspiring stories with us.
Shawn’s analytical desire to unpack research initially showed him the inconsistencies with what he was being taught. That prepared him for a challenging comment from his mother-in-law after seeing Shawn still being plagued with allergies.
“‘You’ve been having allergies and hay fever?’ I [replied], yeah, it’s this time of year, it’s the weather. She said, ‘Oh, so is the problem out there, or is the problem in you?’ Whew, it literally stopped my soul in its place because I’ve been blaming the weather. I shouldn’t be allergic to the world — our bodies are so resilient.” –Shawn Stevenson
That started Shawn on a journey to understand that food can cause disease as well as reverse disease. Her wisdom was reiterated when her daughter was diagnosed with a vast amount of pre-cancerous cells during her routine check-up. Once again, Shawn’s mother-in-law intervened and changed her protocol to treat the cause rather than accept standard treatment. When she went back to get checked out — they couldn’t find any cancer.
At the same time, Shawn was working with a woman called Cathy. At the age of 40, she had previously worked with Shawn both in nutrition and exercise to get into the best shape of her life. I’m sure you can relate to this: Cathy had backslid on her health and needed a refresher by working with him again. In a twist of fate, she explained that in six weeks she’d be going in for an operation to remove a fibroid tumor. Shawn had other ideas though.
“I’m thinking, what’s the point of trying to get in shape right now if you’re going to be out for two weeks. I said, ‘What if we try something to help the issue?’ I told Cathy about [my girlfriend’s cancer journey and how we could replicate that]. [The fibroid tumor] was causing a lot of excessive bleeding and pain. I remember 18 days after starting she was in the gym lying on the floor doing core exercises. I stepped away to go to my desk and I heard her yelling, ‘Oh my God!’ She was feeling her stomach [and couldn’t find the tumor]. The tumor had gone from the size of a large orange to the size of a grape. I’m a very logical analytical person, but to see that happen firsthand changed me at another level because it wasn’t a random thing that happened with me and my allergies and my wife and these cancer cells — now I’m seeing this with Cathy and her fibroids.” – Shawn Stevenson
What a powerful transformational story early on in Shawn’s scientific journey into researching lifestyle changes.. Shawn is going a long way to break that cycle of normalizing disease just “because so many people have them.”
Don’t be afraid to trust your gut and get second opinions about a health issue you might have. Making healthier lifestyle choices with the food you chose to eat can help you in your quest to live a more vibrant life.
Shawn’s Protocol on Diagnosing Patients
It can be scary to start your journey, especially when it comes to weight loss. One of the biggest mindset shifts is switching from seeing weight loss as a goal, to something that happens when you get healthier with a lifestyle change. I was curious to know what Shawn does with a new patient just beginning their journey.
Shawn’s focus is about understanding the causes of high blood pressure, hypertension, abnormal blood sugar, or even fibroid tumors and cancer — as opposed to treating the symptoms.
“I start with the question, ‘How are these things created?’ We have 135 million Americans who are diabetic or pre-diabetic, specifically type two diabetics in over 95% of the cases. [That means] they’re not born with diabetes. Diabetes is just a categorization of symptoms, and then you get this label: you’re diabetic. Now I make sure I have plenty of time, generally up to 60 to 90 minutes, to find out where this issue is coming from.” – Shawn Stevenson
Wow! The standard practice at a doctor’s office is a 15-minute consultation. Not only does Shawn spend more time diagnosing the issue, he’s looking for the root cause too. Shawn’s taking the time to educate patients on what’s happening in their bodies. Using diabetes as an example, Shawn shows a picture of a pancreas and walks them through the process of how insulin operates in the body and how to reverse engineer the disease.
Through educating people, Shawn sees people’s eyes light up as they learn about what’s happening in their bodies, and as they start becoming empowered by what they can do moving forward.
“We had about an 80% success rate with folks being able to normalize their blood sugar without medication. [People say the other 20% are people that] don’t want to change. That’s not the case — we want to change, we just don’t want to change that much. Most times people will tell you the cause and cure of what the issue is, so I started asking people about their lives. It took five years in my clinical practice before I did this.” –Shawn Stevenson
Shawn analyzed the 20% in detail to uncover what was missing. Even with personalized programming with a nutrition plan, ancestry analysis, and exercise — Shawn believed his work weren’t lying about following the protocol. Shawn discovered an important question to unlock answers about why 20% still struggled:
“They wouldn’t get the results because I didn’t ask them about their sleep and stress. Once I started asking people about their sleep, I was shocked that they were even sitting! I found clinically proven strategies people could implement that wouldn’t turn their lives upside down to improve their sleep quality. That’s when we went from 80% to 90%. I had no idea that our sleep matters so much, and that was the first book, Sleep Smarter.” – Shawn Stevenson
It’s incredible to see what the power of drilling down into the unsuccessful 20% revealed. It’s not just about food — sleep is just as important!
Food was Shawn’s bridge to the goal, but understanding our relationships, our stress management, our sleep quality, our movement practices, our connection to something, our purpose, all of these things we cognitively know matter — are now becoming scientifically proven with data to show people who need to see it to believe it.
How to Take Your Health to Next Level
In Shawn’s book, Eat Smarter, he outlines seven clinically proven factors that control what calories do in your body, and he discusses two of them with us.
“Number one, it’s not just the calories — it’s the quality of the calories. This was published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research, and they had test subjects to see what would happen when people eat processed foods versus whole food. Two sandwiches with the exact same amount of calories, same amount of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates were given to two sets of test subjects. After compiling all the data, the people who ate the processed food sandwich had a 50% reduction in calorie burn after eating that meal.”-Shawn Stevenson
The study showed that eating processed food can disrupt and damage our metabolism. This isn’t to say nobody should eat a cookie — just make it an exception.
Shawn shared something I’ve never heard before: Each of our metabolisms is as unique as our fingerprints. This is why we have to understand the tools so we can adapt our nutrition.
Whatever diet framework you’re subscribed to, Shawn explains that our microbiome plays a huge role in our metabolism functions.
“Researchers at the Weizmann Institute show that there is a specific microbiome makeup that’s associated very strongly with obesity. They found subjects with a microbiome profile related to insulin resistance, obesity, and body fat gain. [Researchers] implanted [obese people’s] fecal matter into lean mice and took another group of test subjects with a profile of microbes associated with ‘leanness’ and implanted that into [other] mice. The mice who received a fecal transplant from the people with the microbiome associated with obesity became insulin resistant — the mice gained weight and body fat simply by changing the microbes.” –Shawn Stevenson
One of the big takeaways from today is understanding that we can take all the probiotics we want, but without providing microbes with real food sources — they will go extinct.
“Some of the best prebiotic foods are asparagus, artichoke, onions, garlic, but that’s missing the point — every single real food that humans eat has a prebiotic capacity for certain strains of microbes [in our system]. Start thinking in terms of diversity of foods, we found in the data that the number one way to increase your microbe diversity is to increase the diversity of plants that you eat.” –Shawn Stevenson
I love that! Shawn has given us something new on this show to digest — the microbiome. We have talked extensively about the benefits of rotating your greens and fruits, but never with an understanding of how it positively affects our microbiome.
Shawn has provided us with solid evidence to take our health to the next level. I also love the advice he offers on how to become more mindful of what we’re eating and how we’re sleeping: we have to manage the entire ecosystem of our lives.
Get Loved Up with Shawn Stevenson
This interview with Shawn Stevenson was so powerful, and I was so honored to have him on the show. I wasn’t able to fit everything in this post, so definitely check out the whole interview here to learn more about Shawn’s transformation and how he’s reimagined his connection with food and health.
And if you want to hear more from Shawn, check out The Model Show, where you’ll be able to access more interviews like this one. You can also connect with Shawn on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and purchase his book Eat Smarter for more detailed information on the nuggets he shared with us today.
This interview was such a treat for me. I appreciate everything that Shawn is doing in the lives of so many millions of people. His life is about nurturing yourself, loving the body that you were given, and optimizing your health for a vibrant life, and that’s what Get Loved Up is all about. He’s such a blessing, and I hope you were inspired by this interview. If so, tag Shawn, @shawnmodel, and me, @koyawebb, on Instagram with a screenshot of the episode and your greatest takeaways. We would love to hear what you learned.
Until next time, love — keep yourself open to exploring new foods, take care of yourself, and let yourself be mentally healthy, happy, and healed. I love you.
- Journey to health 2:31
- Injury at track practice 4:00
- The placebo/nocebo effect 8:00
- The worst thing to do is nothing 10:30
- Everyone has a dominant question 11:33
- Grandmother’s lessons 25:59
- No one can replicate you 32:15
- Is the problem out there or is the problem in you? 37:10
- Remove the cause 46:15
- If you label me, you negate me. 47:50
- Epicaloric Control 58:00
Links mentioned in this episode
Order Koya’s book Let Your Fears Make You Fierce