Amanda: Hey guys. Welcome back to the podcast. I am Amanda.
Laura: I'm Laura.
Kendra: And I'm Kendra.
Amanda: Before we get started, I am going to read one of our latest podcast reviews because it makes us so happy and I just wanted to give a shout out to Dog Lover 76. She says Excellent! Or he says, I don't know, dog lover could be anything. Yeah, some, something awesome wrote it. “Very helpful to my peace of mind as a family practitioner. You bring to life concepts of cognitive-based therapy with warmth and humor, so encouraging and fun to listen to. Thank you, Kendra, Laura, and Amanda”. Thank you dog lover 76. We appreciate that so much. And while we're on it, everyone, while you're at it, scroll down to the ratings at the bottom of this podcast and hit five stars. We really need to get 500 reviews. I think we're at like 17 despite, you know, nearly 9,000 downloads. So if you could please just click the five stars if you wanna write something that just helps other doctors and other people that need this podcast be able to find it. So, moving on today, we are so excited to bring you more of the information that you asked for. We put a poll out to our weekly well check readers what they wanted to know more about. By the way, if you'd like to contribute next time to those polls, just scroll down in the show notes and join our weekly well check. But one of the top issues that you were having trouble with was numbing out, which is also known in the coaching world as buffering. So, some people numb out after shifts. Heck, even before shift. Even on vacation, whatever. Just checking out from life with food, alcohol, shopping, scrolling, social media, Netflix, really anything that you notice that you're using to distract. So let's talk about it. Dr. Heather Awad is joining us today to talk about buffering. She's a family physician in Minnesota, a weight loss coach at Vibrant MD, and has her own podcast called Vibrant MD Podcast. She is an expert at helping her clients stop buffering with overeating and joins us today to give some of her secrets. We're excited to have her on the show today. Welcome, Heather.
Dr Awad: Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm thrilled to be here. I help professional women over 50 achieve permanent weight loss, and we talk a lot about buffering, so I'm really happy to be here today.
Kendra: Awesome. Yeah. We have not had the chance to delve into this subject, and it's very common. It was an overwhelming response in our poll. So, such a timely, timely podcast that we're gonna put out on this subject, but let's hear a little bit about you. Tell us a little bit about your training, your family, kind of the story, how you got into the coaching niche and whatever else helps our viewers know you and understand you better.
Dr Awad: Sure. So I am a family doctor in Minnesota and I have birthed four children. And I'm married to an ophthalmologist and I kind of had trouble losing weight after the babies. So that kind of went up and down. But then I hit my late forties with perimenopause stuff and then, you know, my weight just kept going up and up and up. And you can debate the BMI all you want, but at some point you look and you say, I am not in the healthy range anymore. So, from there, I, you know, tried my usual things and none of them worked anymore at that age, which is really common I think. And then I tried some diets, which just honestly made me angry inside and outside. Sometimes I lost weight and gained it back, sometimes I didn't. I just decided I didn't have any willpower and I was gonna give up, and then covid hit and I was rounding in nursing homes doing wound care then. Honestly, I thought, I am made for this. You know, I, I can do hard things and I was really proud of all the teams at the places where I rounded and we, you know, it was quite an experience. And then once we all got vaccinated, I thought, you know what? I would like to get some life coaching and just look at my life, you know, because a lot of us, you know, at that point in time, were like, wow, things have just changed again a whole lot. So I did that and I learned that I was eating my emotions and doing a lot of buffering with food. Anytime something uncomfortable happened, I would eat. Anytime something happy happened, I would eat. And I also learned to kind of keep commitments to myself and all of a sudden it was really easy to lose weight cuz I didn't have to willpower. And I understood a lot of things about insulin resistance at my age anyway. But then I wanted to help other women kind of free their minds from a lot of things that we just accept in our lives. And so that motivated me to become a life coach as well. And since I could keep commitments to myself, I thought I could have my own business now as well. And you know what, in your early fifties, you start to think, well, this is like another act coming. And so I just decided, let me work for myself now. I've enjoyed working and seeing patients for other people, but I was ready to do that.
Kendra: Wow, that's awesome. What a good testimony of just starting with yourself first, because I know a lot of people put a lot of things out there and they may or may not have been vested in it themselves. So thank you for that testimony and for your journey to get where you are today. Can you explain to listeners who may not be as familiar with kind of that coach speak, like what is buffering?
Dr Awad: Sure, sure. So buffering is when we're trying to do something so that we can avoid an uncomfortable emotion. Now a lot of times we experience it as we are consuming something like you already said, food, alcohol, shopping, social media, those things. We also are thinking that we are doing it because a bad situation happened. But that bad situation has made us think about some things and has given us a really uncomfortable emotion that we wanna avoid. So, I used to think, “well, I had a fight, so I'm going to eat”. Or, “I had a bad day at work, so I'm going to eat”. But really there's a couple steps between the circumstance and what I'm thinking, and then I feel so uncomfortable that I can't sit with that emotion. I think I can't sit with that emotion. And so eating or these other things that you described kind of help just numb it out. Or, it gives you an artificial high from sugar, from alcohol, from looking at social media and seeing things that are funny or seeing the likes that we get. Or, these little dopamine hits that help us kind of just deal with what has happened. One thing I'd like to say too, that buffering is not when we come home exhausted from work, and you sit on the floor with your back to the couch and you watch your kids roll around or your dogs roll around and you refuse to get up, but you're still present. You know, you might feel kind of numb. You might feel like you've had a difficult day, but if you are not doing something or not consuming something to try to make it all go away, that's not buffering. Does that make sense?
Kendra: Yeah, that's a great distinction to make cuz I know some of us just sit down after a shift and we're like, “oh, I am here and I'm away from the chaos”. I just don't wanna get up. I've been up for 12 hours straight on my feet. Okay. So what do you think, or from your experience, whether in your coaching business or just colleagues, why do you think people do buffer?
Dr Awad: I mean, there are a lot of reasons. Some of it is that we are, you know, a generation that has not been taught to feel our feelings and deal with our emotions. Those of us in the medical world, we've really been taught to stuff things down and put them aside. Sometimes that serves us if we're, you know, working and dealing with an emergency or dealing with a difficult patient, we need to, you know, be in our heads and, and do those things. But we are human beings and this idea that we can just be a robot or just be a brain all the time is, you know, doesn't serve us. So I think that's a lot of it. And there's, there's a real normalization of buffering, right? I was listening to the comedian Jim Gaffigan, and over and over he makes this comment that makes me laugh. Like, well, this happened and then I ate pizza till I didn't feel that way anymore. And I thought, this is just, this is part of our culture right now. Right? We're all, that's all good.
Laura: Yeah. So obviously all of us buffer at one time or another. How is it that you know, if you're buffering is a problem?
Dr Awad: I mean some of these things that we talk about buffering with bring consequences, right? We buy too much stuff. And that can financially be a problem. Or you just have, you know, I know people who have boxes and boxes from Amazon that they just don't even open, you know. So they're like, there's something going on here. Or we eat and we don't feel well because we've eaten a bunch of sugar, or we've gained weight and we're at an unhealthy level. Alcohol, obviously people can have hangovers or just not feel well or have problems with their relationships because of alcohol. Those things are all there. And obviously if you're having a negative consequence from what you're doing with your buffering, that's a problem. But even when you think “I am numbing out of my life”, no matter what that is, then you know that that's an issue.
Laura: So as a weight loss coach, you've helped lots of clients stop buffering with food. What are you doing that's different than say, like a regular diet somebody might try?
Dr Awad: Well, in this matter, one of the big things we do is talk about feeling our feelings. You know, when you're feeling something uncomfortable. With food it's sometimes obvious, but these, but with all these other things, people can tell this as well. You're standing in the pantry, I'm standing in the pantry with my hand reaching toward the cereal and I think, “oh, it's not dinnertime and I'm not hungry”. What's going on here? So feeling our feelings is a big part of what we do in my program. And looking at consequences. I have a client who is an HR manager in a social, global social media company and every time she works with this one team, then she does all this eating and her other teams that she works with, she doesn't feel that way. And she said, “well, I'm obviously eating to deal with having to work with them”. And then at some point she said, “I am punishing myself with food because I don't like working with them”. We look at all that kind of stuff, the ways that we use food that doesn't serve us and helps us avoid our feelings. When we use food to avoid our feelings, we're avoiding the full richness of our life, by trying to step out of experiences, by using food to do that.
Amanda: Yeah, you do that because so many people have gone on diets that have been successful, but it never changed what was the initial trigger in the first place. So it sounds like you're getting to the root cause of what's causing the overeating, drinking, shopping, behavior in the first place.
Dr Awad: Yeah. We really look at that. And we do also, you know, on the food side, we look at picture yourself at goal weight and what are you going to eat then? And so then we start there so everyone doesn't eat the same thing in my program. So we, a lot of times we're like, oh, you can lose weight with keto, but then do you, which is great. And some people, they have YouTube channels, My Keto Life, they love eating keto for the rest of their lives. But I also get people in my programs that I ate keto and I hate keto. So we try to, you know, think about how you want to eat when you're done. And so then we start doing that now. So there's not a big change once you get to goal weight, they're, you know, you just kind of keep going and are happy with the lane that you're in, and the eating style that you're in.
Laura: Yeah. That's awesome. It's so interesting when you were talking about learning to feel our feelings instead of avoiding them with food. The reality is that I like the imagery of when we eat to avoid our feelings. We're actually not getting rid of those feelings. We're just storing them on our body and they're gonna come back later on as this problem. We still have to deal with the feelings, right? But we have that additional consequence of, of overeating.
Dr Awad: We don't see what the problems are either. We don't examine what the issues are cuz sometimes when we stop, we say, “oh, I'm always eating because I have a fight with my teenager”. And then you can look at that and say, well maybe there's something going on between me and my teenager. But when I buffered those away, or when people buffer those feelings away, they don't even notice the patterns of where the problems are. Sometimes they just know that they don't, they feel bad and that's all they get.
Kendra: I love when you said that when you start you look at future goal weight and make that a goal, but you start at the beginning like kind of looking at your future self. What would your future self want to continue eating after you reach goal weight? Because it doesn't stop there. You know, just really starting with that self integrity and really starting with goal setting with the future. The future you, like in mind.
Dr Awad: Yes. And people have ideas about, you know, I have professional women who have a parent or a mother-in-law who cooks for them and they're like, well, I can't eat that. And, but you know, we all who work as doctors would really love to have someone who cooks a healthy meal at home after. And so we try to think, well, do you like that food? And they do. Then, well, let's lose weight with that food because, that is a lovely thing that someone cooks you dinner, you know? So you wanna make it work with your life so that it can be, make it easier. How can it be easier?
Laura: That's perfect. So good. So if somebody wants to stop numbing, what are some of the steps to get started? Like, they wanna start today? How would they start?
Dr Awad: When I work with people, I tell them to, when they notice that they're heading towards numbing out, to stop and just name whatever the feeling is. You know, it doesn't have to be complicated. I'm annoyed. I'm mad, I'm sad, I'm glad. And then even though this might seem kind of basic, to say, where am I feeling this? Like, is this constricting my throat? Do I have an angry coal in my chest? Is this, you know, gurgling in my gut? And really feel that, find out where that is so that you notice it, that kind of grounds you into your body, gets you outta your head. And then, you can sit with that feeling. A lot of times feelings will come and go, you may sit with it for a couple minutes and it will go away. If it doesn't, there are other things to do. We all have the things that we like to do. We, we have some good habits as well, that are in maybe hiding in the back of our brains. But there are things we can do. Do you like to write things down? Do you wanna make a list of three things that you're mad about? Do you want to just go outside and stick your hands in the grass? Do you want to do a puzzle? Do you want to dance around? Do you wanna go for a walk? You know, there are things to do if this uncomfortable emotion isn't going away. Also to stop and just notice what it's about at that time. Like I said, you know, I had a fight with my teenager. Or if it's from work, sometimes just noticing what the thing is that is so bothering us will bring up a pattern. Is it really like the team that you have to work with always on Saturdays? Or is it the charting? I mean, there are, you know, you and I can all name probably half a dozen physician coaches who help people chart better. And if you find out that it really is the charting, then that's actually a solvable problem, right? Or sometimes when, you know, with me it was fighting with teenagers cause I've had four. Some days I'd sit there and I'd say, okay, I'm mad cause I just had this fight. And I'd be like, she was really being a jerk. And then I'd think, and I really don't like what I said to her cuz I didn't show up how I wanted to. And that actually, you know, kind of helped me improve things for the next time. Besides not eating Lucky Charms in the moment. I don't know. It just helps you kind of live a little bit more examined life and notice where the problems are. What you can solve, what you cannot solve or change. It's helpful to notice those things.
Amanda: Yeah. I love that. That's such a great answer. We kid a lot about my going through the Taco Bell line after hard shifts a lot and with coaching, it was funny because one time a coach was like, why? I had never considered why I did that. I just thought I saw the Taco Bell sign and then just went through. At that time, I didn't realize that it wasn't theTaco Bell. It was the thoughts I was having and my thought was, I deserve this. And a coach helped me see like, why would you deserve to be uncomfortable in your clothes after you just worked a hard shift? I had associated the relief of leaving work with burritos. In my mind, it made sense until somebody questioned it and I was like, “oh my God, what I really probably need is a hug, not a burrito”, you know? So after that, but it's really hard to do this sometimes on your own. So I love that you're helping people get to the source of what is, what is that thought that is making you reach for whatever it is that you're reaching for. So, one way that people can get a little taste of working with you is you have a VibrantMD weight loss course and a free download to get started with weight loss. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dr Awad: Yes. If you go to my website, www.vibrant-md.com/tips, there's some kind of basic things that can get people started. Some real pillars of weight loss that help, some foods to eat, some things to think about that can get people started and some people will really find themselves far along the way just by looking at that.
Amanda: Very cool. So tell us who you mentioned before that you work with 50 and older women. Are there any other restrictions for working with you? And if so, if there's somebody out there who fits your client profile perfectly, how do they get in touch with you?
Dr Awad: I work with professional women over 50. You can go, if you go to my website, the vibrant-md.com, there is a spot there to book a call with me if you'd like to talk to me. Some people are wondering, you know, I have a certain particular situation, can you work with this? And it's really better if we talk ahead of time. It's enough of an investment that you, you know, I want people to be successful. So we usually have a conversation so that we can see if it'll be a good fit working together.
Amanda: And then the name of your podcast is Vibrant MD podcast?
Dr Awad: Yes.
Amanda: Is it available everywhere? I assume it is.
Dr Awad: It is.
Amanda: Okay. Nice. Well, thank you so much for joining us. Are there any closing thoughts before we head out?
Dr Awad: I am really glad that you guys are talking about this. I'm glad people are asking about it because it means they're noticing it, noticing buffering and numbing out. I think you could hit this from so many different directions, so I'm sure this will not be the last time you talk about it either and so thank you guys. Thank you guys for all the relief you're bringing to people. I think it's really a beautiful podcast and a beautiful mission.
Laura: Thank you so much.
Kendra: Well, thank you very much, Heather, for joining us today. And to our audience, we are so grateful that you found our podcast. We want you to know about our new webinar series with topics that come directly from the poll we sent out to you. Join us on Wednesday, March 29th at 12:00 PM for tips on how you can thrive in the frustrating vocation that we all work and live in. We created, “What's the ICD-10 code for injury sustained in a dumpster fire”? This is where we will dive into how to manage the craziness of daily work in the current environment of healthcare. So click on the link, in the podcast notes, and you can also visit our website at www.thewholephysician.com.
So until next time, you are whole, you are a gift to medicine and the work you do matters.