How Relationships Transform Your Health And Your Happiness

Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, (aka “The Nutrition Myth Buster”) is a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health. He is a board-certified nutritionist with a master’s degree in psychology and the author of fourteen books on health, healing, food and longevity including three best-sellers, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”, “Living Low Carb” and “The Great cholesterol Myth” (co-authored with Stephen Sinatra, MD).

A frequent guest on television and radio, he has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS as an expert on nutrition, weight loss, and  longevity. He is a past member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Men’s Health magazine, is the Nutrition Editor for Pilates Style, and is a regular contributor to AOL, Vanity Fair Online, Clean Eating Magazine, and Better Nutrition.

Host: Welcome to 10 Minute Wellness Tips. This is Host and today we’re on with Johnny Bowden PhD. He’s also known as the Nutrition Myth Buster, and he’s a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition, and health. He’s a board certified nutritionist with a master’s degree in psychology, and he’s the author of, get this, 14 books on health, healing, food, and longevity, including three bestsellers. He is on the advisory board for Men’s Health Magazine, the nutritional editor for Pilates Style, and he’s a regular contributor to many magazines, online new sources, and nutritional guides. What this all means is that Jonny knows his stuff. That’s why we’ve asked him here today to share his tips with you. Johnny, welcome to the show. 

Jonny Bowden: Thanks for having me. What an honor to be in this series. Thank you. 

Host: As I said to you before, I’ve read your book The Great Cholesterol Myth. It really changed the way I looked at things. I think you’ve got an amazing approach to health and fitness and all things nutrition. That’s why I wanted to ask you today, what is your number one piece of advice, the number one thing that people can do to maximize their health and wellness? 

Jonny Bowden: Wow.

Host: Big question. 

Jonny Bowden: That is A, a very cool question, B, a very difficult question. Let me first say why it’s so difficult, for the people who are listening. There’s so many things that go into a healthy life: our hormones, our neurotransmitters, our muscles, our cardiovascular health. There’s just 50 different variables here. It would be so easy to pick one thing say, “Oh, eat less sugar,” or exercise, which is probably the greatest anti-aging strategy in the world, telling people to take a walk once a day 30 minutes. 

Host: Eat less and move more, the end. 

Jonny Bowden: Move more. I’m going to guess that a lot of the people you are asking in this series are going to cover those things. They’re going to cover sugar, which is probably, as you know from reading my book, the number one dietary demon that is destroying everybody’s health. It was never fat. We were wrong, ladies and gentlemen. We convicted the wrong man. It was not fat; it’s sugar. 

I’m sure other people will be addressing that. Other people will certainly be addressing the exercise component. I’m going to go out on left field here and tell you what I found, when I was writing my book, the most effective ways to live longer. I looked at all the research, and there’s quite a lot of it, on areas around the globe where people live the longest. There’s this book The Blue Zones, where they actually went to the four or five places around the globe where they have the most healthy centenarians. These are people who have reached the age of 100. By the way, they are not living in assisted living homes. They’re not living on oxygen tanks being kept alive in a hospital. These are people who are out gardening at age 94. They’re milking cows. They’re herding sheep up the plains of Sardinia. These are really healthy people.

There’s been research into that to see whether do these folks have in common. Do they all eat the same diet? Do they all exercise the same way? The thing that I think gets lost in a lot of these discussions about what really keeps people healthy and alive the longest is their relationships. 

Host: Really? 

Jonny Bowden: In The Blue Zone.

Host: I thought for sure you were going to say that it’s the same pharmaceutical prescription drug cocktails they all take. 

Jonny Bowden: They’re all taking Lipitor. That’s the secret of a long life. Heart disease is a Lipitor deficiency, ladies and gentlemen. 

Host: You said relationships. 

Jonny Bowden: Let me get into that a little bit more. 

Host: [crosstalk 00:04:00]

Jonny Bowden: In The Blue Zones for example, they didn’t all eat the same diet. They were in four different parts of the world, and since then there’s been a fifth blue zone discovered as well. The people who live near the sea ate a lot of seafood. There was only one of those groups that was vegetarian, and that’s for religious reasons. That’s in Loma Linda, California. The diets were different. The kind of exercise was different. The one thing that was a commonality to everyone one of them was that they had strong social connections. I don’t mean Facebook friends. I’m talking about face to face actual interaction with real live people that they made a difference to and that made a difference to them. 

If I had to pick one thing for health and longevity I would say it’s how you develop and maintain the important relationships in your life. That involves contribution to others, taking care of … I’ll tell you a really interesting study from the world of psychology. It’s a fascinating study. It was done by Ellen Langer at Harvard University. What they did is they went into a nursing home and they gave half the residents a plant to take care. By the way, we’re talking the plants that our parents used to have in the garage, those snake plants. You can’t even kill these guys. You put them in the garage with no light and water for like a year, they’ll still be alive. It didn’t even require a lot of caretaking to take care of this plant. 

The people who took care of the plant had less doctor visits, lower blood pressure, better blood lipids, better medical outcomes. That was just taking care of a God darn plant. When people actually contribution, when they make a difference, when they feel like they make a difference the other people, when they take some of the attention off themselves and they look to community and contribution, that seems to me to be the number one secret to a long and healthy life. 

The people who did The Blue Zone study would have loved to find some Unabomber-type guy up in the hills of Montana who’s living to a hundred and … They don’t exist. They don’t exist in isolation like that. It is our nature human beings. It’s in our DNA to want connection. What’s the worst punishment you can give a criminal? What’s the absolute worst thing that they will do to somebody when they’re a multiple murderer and they can’t be controlled …

Host: Solitary.

Jonny Bowden: Solitary confinement. It drives people nuts. 

Host: That’s really fascinating. I wonder, it makes perfect sense but I’ve never thought about this before. It kind of makes you think that now they say with social media we’re all so connected but so lonely at the same time. We got 5,000 friends but how many of them are real and how many authentic relationships do we actually have. It’s probably less than we’ve ever had before. 

Jonny Bowden: I would have to agree with you on that. That’s why I said not just … Look, there’s no doubt that these things, the social media and the internet, have made it possible to connect with people. A lot of isolated people who would never be able to speak to anyone have found kindred spirits through the internet. I think those are great things, but let’s not forget that there is nothing like touch, nothing like eye to eye contact, and nothing like feeling like you actually made a real difference to another person, a community, a charity. There’s so many ways to do this. You can volunteer at an animal shelter. You can adopt. There’s a million things you can do, but somehow the very act of creating relationships and maintaining them, it changes your neurotransmitters, it changes your hormones. It actually influences your cholesterol if you care about that. These things have profound effects on the physiology of the human body, and certainly on the mental state and well-being of human beings. If you ask me my number one tip, it’s to go out there, make a difference, connect with people, and nurture those relationships. 

Host: I have to imagine that one of the mechanisms is also the fact that if you get so much fulfillment, authentic human fulfillment, from that, you chase less fleeting fulfillment from junk food and other little stimulants to make you feel something because you’re feeling something more authentic and it makes you have more of a purpose in life. When you have a purpose you tend to take of that life. 

It’s so complementary to everything else that we’ve heard so far. Is there anything else you’d like to add in the next minute or so that we’ve got? 

Jonny Bowden: When you really are making a difference and you are really connecting with other people, and you have love in your life, and relationship in your life, and contribution in your life, you can do just about anything. 

Host: That’s really amazing. I think it’s incredibly poignant. The information you’ve shared here today is life-changing. There’s a lot more information where that comes from. As I mentioned, you’ve written 14 books. You’ve got another book coming out. 

Jonny Bowden: Yeah, number 15. 

Host: You got a lot of resources, so if people want to find more about the you, where should they go? 

Jonny Bowden: Please remember, no h in Jonny. It’s, and @Johnny Bowden on Twitter and Dr. Johnny Bowden on Facebook. Host: Perfect. I coming every listener to go check that out right now. Jonny, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight with all of us here.