Bethany Stec Janicek grew up on a Nebraska pig farm, on a diet of meat and dairy and cheese and butter. Always bigger than her peers, she began dieting in elementary school, and suffered the anguish that came with always failing, always giving up, and always feeling disappointed in herself.
She was deeply disconnected from her true self, and masked her sense of inadequacy with a bubbly exterior and various coping mechanisms: food, cigarettes, alcohol, clothing, and makeup. Everything in her life was literally or figuratively sugar-coated.
Bethany navigated a series of health conditions that she had no idea were related to diet: stabbing stomach pains so severe they led to gall bladder removal (to no effect); asthma; allergies; multiple bouts of bronchitis per year; and a week-long stint in a mental hospital for anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
Then, one day in her 23rd year, Bethany stopped lying to herself. She took responsibility for her choices and actions, and started cleaning up her life. At first she was working with suboptimal tools, like the South Beach Diet, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, etc.
And a video!
Eventually she discovered the missing piece in a PBS show featuring Joel Fuhrman, MD. Amazed and angered that no one had ever shared this information with her, Bethany dove in to the Nutritarian lifestyle and, for the first time, experienced profoundly positive changes in her body and mind.
Bethany is now Mrs. Love Chard: a plant-based health coach and founder of Nutribabe Nation.
I got a double treat: our first interview was destroyed by an electrical outage that caused my computer to not save the audio file. Undaunted, we rescheduled, and held the conversation that you hear today. (I now have an external backup to a recorder with an SD card, as well as a primary and backup recording on my desktop, thanks to that experience.)
In our conversation, we covered:
- “the big murky bowl of before”
- growing up on a Nebraska pig farm
- the tools for hiding emotions from herself and others
- deciding to end her life
- all the fad diets
- committing to “healthy fad diets” (lean meats, sugar-free Chips Ahoy, Greek yogurt)
- May 19, 2013 and the moment that changed everything
- the pain of the unsustainable
- “my pain got bigger than my excuses”
- getting rid of the “obviously bad foods”
- “I can't just wish for it or want it”
- jettisoning the “Saran-wrapped version of myself”
- Dr Fuhrman – “eat real food”
- “Is this a joke?” – how could this lifesaving information be kept from us?
- action steps vs focusing on end goals
- “What do I have to do right now that can move me forward?”
- crush one step, then focus on the next
- how grandma's quilts can help us achieve our big goals
- the biggest shift: am I open or closed to life?
- the four key meals: soup, salad, stir-fry, and smoothie
- overcoming food addictions
- the Domino's pizza incident, and what it taught Bethany
- and much more…
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
Bethany's website: LoveChard.com
Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman, MD
Download the transcript here or read it below:
HOWARD: Bethany Stec Janicek, welcome to the Plant Yourself Podcast!
BETHANY: Thanks for having me, Howard!
HOWARD: It’s so funny because we recorded this whole thing about a month ago…
HOWARD: … and it did not record, so I just want to put that out there. Normally, I don’t share little technological glitches with listeners because it doesn’t matter, but I feel like there’s a way in which we’re going to have to try to be fresh and new even though we’ve kind of already done this, so….
HOWARD: So, let’s start with your story. I’m looking at the notes I took the last time, and the phrase I have here is “a big murky bowl of before.”
BETHANY: Yeah. That’s a really good way to describe it. That’s really what it was. My before… really briefly. I grew up on a farm in Nebraska. I always grew up eating meat, potato, milk, butter, eggs, you know, all the farm, traditional Midwest stuff, and I was always overweight as well from a very young age. I remember being in the kindergarten, the first grade and second grade and really noticing that I was physically very much larger than my friends and classmates. And very quickly the emotional eating and binge eating started at a young age with candies and cookies and stealing desserts and stuff at holiday events, and I just remember never just getting enough of junk food, and refined stuff and all this. This led to bingeing and purging at high school and not eating and a ton of spiral emotional eating everywhere… I mean, any kind of emotional eating, I partaked in some bit of it, and it was just a rollercoaster. It was such a rollercoaster of food, and when I got into college, it was alcohol and cigarettes, all that stuff. It just was a lot of fake stuff. It was a lot of chaos. It was a lot of fake, uh, you know, masked stuff. I was masking emotions for, you know, no confidence. I was making things bigger and brighter because I didn’t feel that way truly deep down, and so yeah, it was a lot of murky, murky glob [laughs]. It’s really a good way to put it.
HOWARD: So, do you think you were successful in masking? Do you think that you were fooling people or fooling people who didn’t know you or family or close friends?
BETHANY: Yeah, I would say, I guess it depends on what you mean by successful at it, but yeah, I was successful in fooling… I was always happy-go-lucky, very social, outgoing, extrovert, and I still am. That wasn’t fake, but it was a sugar-coated version of really me. And even if I didn’t feel my best, I made it so that I was fine. You know, because I didn’t want to draw outside attention to me. I was giving myself enough harshness, and you know, enough hard time and stuff like that I didn’t want other people to do that same thing. So, I think it was a lot of masking and walls up and blocking anyone else from seeing what I was really feeling because it was painful for me that I didn’t want to bring anyone else into it. So, I guess yeah, successful at masking in that way. But it just ended up, you know, at one point too much for me to handle in so many different ways.
HOWARD: When I listen to you now, having had a month to sort of think about it… it kind of reminds me of our culture’s relationship with the people in the media.
BETHANY: Um hmm.
HOWARD: Like you weren’t… it was masked, but it was still you. It wasn’t some foreign creature. It was you but filtered and made up, like so many people who have to maintain… it’s like you were on some sort of reality show 24-7 trying to present the best version of yourself.
BETHANY: Yeah. It really was. You know, I talk about this a lot. I wore a lot of makeup, a ton of jewelry, a ton of my hair done up and a ton of accessories, scarves, big jewelry and stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the reason I was doing it was to draw attention towards those things and away from what was deep down inside. So again, nothing wrong with makeup or scarves or anything like that, but it was why I was doing it and how I was doing it up and what I was covering up. That was, you know, the problem or alarming. Uh, you know, and then from scarves and makeup and all that, it turned to cigarettes and it turned to alcohol, and it turned to a really bad alcohol problem, and it turned to depression and anxiety, so I had all of these different types of masks at different times in my life, in my journey, you know, until I made the decision to make a lifestyle change. The mask came in so many different forms, and I think that’s very important to talk about because not everyone has the same… the mask doesn’t look the same to everybody. That is to say, you just never know what someone else is going through or feeling. What’s on the outside isn’t necessarily what they’re feeling on the inside.
HOWARD: How conscious were you at that point of what your strategy was? Did you know that you were hiding and masking? Did you think that you were masking and hiding your weight or something else?
BETHANY: I don’t know. Looking back at it, I can see all this stuff from a clear-minded, kind of outside-of-the-box way from that time of my life. I see it more clearly than I did when I was in it. How conscious I was during it, you know, from age 16 to 23, which is when I made my lifestyle change, there was a lot of drinking, so I don’t know how much conscious things there really was because there was so much alcohol, but yeah, I don’t know. A lot of that time was just like a survival mode, you know? What would I have to do to not feel this way about myself. What would I have to do to put a wall up. What would I have to do to get away from this feeling and tune out and check out. I did that in the form of food and alcohol and you know, tons of drugs to help with anxiety and depression and stuff. It was always… it was chaos, survival mode, trying to do anything I could think of to get away and feel better and tune it out.
HOWARD: Did anyone notice and talk to you about it and want to help and intervene?
BETHANY: Yeah. Family and friends would say things… but where it really took a turn was after I left my freshman year of college. I didn’t end up completing my freshman year. I took medical leave, and that was when I really sunk into the worst, uh… that was my lowest point. I was severely depressed. I was on anxiety and depression medicine. I was having these horrible stomach pains. I had my gallbladder removed eventually after meds and meds and nothing was working. I was having these shooting stomach pains, totally anxiety up the roof. I was totally depressed. I’d just gotten out of a really bad relationship and I just was at… I was eating my life away, drinking my life away, popping pills every day, and I decided that I was going to take my life. I was just done. I was done with everything. I didn’t want to live like I was any more. It was the same stuff every single day, and I was done. I made a plan to… I was planning, I was thinking, and I was talking, and I was talking to a good friend about where I was at and what I was thinking, and I was making comments like, “I don’t want to be here anymore. This is it.” Those kinds of phrases, and she was like, I’m not going to let her just say these things without doing something, so she called another friend of ours, and they called the cops, and the cops showed up at my house. And I was still technically a minor at that point. I was 18 and medical and in Nebraska it was 19, so they were like, “You’re either going to come willingly with us or we’re going to take you.” So, I was like, okay, so I spent a week in a mental facility after that moment, and so yes, friends did intervene, and I’m so glad that they did. It was a wakeup call for me at that point and also for my family. They were like, ow, there’s more going on than the outside is portraying.
HOWARD: Um hmm.
BETHANY: So that was the low point for the depression and anxiety portion. That did improve after that, but it wasn’t until years later that I kind of got a little bit back into it before I decided to make my lifestyle change when I was 23.
HOWARD: So, what happened when you were 23?
BETHANY: So, I’m 23, so all the hospital stuff and all that, that was around when I was 18 or 19. You know, got better in that way, but I still was eating horrible food, still partying, still doing all that. I just felt a little bit better in those ways. But when I was 23, it kind of all…. the world almost opened up. I started to see opportunity. I started to not think of myself as a victim. I knew that I was in control of my lifestyle, and I decided what I ate, I decided to drink, I decided to go to fast food. I’m in control of my decisions, and that kind of opened up to me, and I almost realized maybe for the first time that I’m in control of stuff and I’m not a victim. I was just so tired of other things at this point in my life. I was tired of not being able to breathe when I was walking up the stairs or tying my shoes. I was tired of eating bags of donuts in the closet by myself and looking in the mirror and not knowing who’s looking back at me.
So, the moment that everything changed was my younger brother asked me when we were back home visiting my family… he asked me how my lifestyle and nutrition was going because he knew I’d always struggled with my weight, working out, and eating healthy and stuff like that, and at that point, it was not going well at all, but I made it sound, just like I had so many times before, made it sound really awesome, like things were going so great. I have a gym membership, which was true, but I never went. I’d kind of been watching what I was eating, which maybe meant that I had a salad maybe three months ago. So, I was saying all these things that I had always done before, you know, the talk and the show and all that, but I was listening to myself say it this time, and I am like, what are you doing? Like you’re making it sound like everything is so great and you’re doing so well and you are not. Like [clap her hands] wake up, and it was kind of that, and I did. I woke up at that moment, and that was THE moment and THE day that I changed my lifestyle. I started moving forward, and I haven’t stopped since. I think it was really important for me to call myself out on my own BS in that moment and make the decision to make the change even though I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how it was going to look. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I decided that I was going to do it, and that decision was so strong, so firm, and I just started and kept moving forward.
HOWARD: Great. Now, you as a Nebraska girl growing up on a pig farm, you probably didn’t jump right into Fuhrman or Esselstyn protocols, right?
HOWARD: What did you do first?
BETHANY: So, I didn’t even know that those doctors existed at this point, that whole food plant-based lifestyle existed, I didn’t know. So, I did what I had always done before in all of these other fat diets. Like I had done all the fad diets, counting calories, watching portions, not eating, the military diet, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, I’d done it all. So, I’m like, what am I going to do this time? Because I wasn’t sure if these prior diets didn’t work because they didn’t work and they were a fad or because I didn’t commit. I really wasn’t sure how that looked and what I was going to do, so I cut out what I thought was the obvious type of things I needed to change. I stopped drinking. I had already stopped smoking at that point. I quit the fast food, you know, donuts and ice cream and that kind of junky type food, and I increased my fruits and vegetables. I did all about the same time – reduce that and increase this. I still was doing like lean meats, fat-free cheeses, sugar-free Chips Ahoy cookies, you know, things like the fad-type stuff, Greek yogurt and turkey, and I was doing all the healthy fad type stuff.
About a couple of months in, so this would have been like two or three months in, that same brother showed me or introduced me to Dr. Fuhrman via a PBS special, one of his specials on PBS: Eat to Live. I’m watching this on PBS, and I had my jaws on the floor, and I just couldn’t believe that he was talking about this lifestyle of abundance and variety and you know, eat to satisfaction and no deprivation, no restriction, and I’m like WHAT is going on? This is the total opposite of anything else that I’d ever heard, been taught, people talk about, right? Because this diet mentality is one of deprivation and restriction, and that is what I was used to, and so to look at food and nutrition and lifestyle change in a different way, I was like I might as well try this, I’ve tried everything else. But it was a little more than that. It wasn’t just I’m going to try it because it’s new and sounds good. It was like I think that I’ve found what I’ve been looking for my ENTIRE life is this lifestyle, and there was such excitement… it wasn’t even nerves or anything. It was excitement of oh my gosh, I can’t wait to start! I bought the book, I bought the cookbook, I overhauled my pantry and stuff and eventually did cut out indefinitely the meat and cheese and eggs and stuff like that, but it was… I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard of this lifestyle before. HOW is this not mainstream, everybody-knows public knowledge? I was excited, but I was also like kind of mad that this information isn’t, you know, on the news right now. This information isn’t being taught to us in school and stuff, and so it’s a little bit why I do what I do now and of course you too in sharing this information, right? But I just remember feeling like this both literal and figurative weight being lifted off like [breathes out] I can breathe now. I can LIVE now. I can THRIVE now. I don’t have to be handcuffed, and I don’t have to hide, and I don’t have to count out my points for the day, like I get to actually LIVE now, like that wasn’t something I hadn’t felt in 15 years since I was little because I started dieting probably in fourth grade, you know, so this was so refreshing to me.
HOWARD: So, I’d like to go back to that moment when you sort of realized that you had control.
BETHANY: Um hmm.
HOWARD: Because you know, it’s one of the things when I’m coaching someone, I know that’s the thing I have to get them to flip the switch on.
HOWARD: I was coaching someone today who kind of feels, she doesn’t have control over her impulse to eat certain foods or her impulse to put other people before herself…
BEAHTNY: Um hmm.
HOWARD: … and I want to highlight what you did not do was figure out the right thing to do and do it, right? That wasn’t the key, but you made an observation and kind of a decision that changed everything.
BETHANY: Yep. Yeah.
HOWARD: Is there a way we can bottle that for people? If you could kind of explain what that was like to go from no agency to 100% agency?
BETHANY: Um hmm. Yeah, it’s so interesting because that’s how… it’s a lot of how I coach now too. It’s like we’ll deal with the how’s, we’ll figure out the how’s, don’t worry about the how, but stripping back to the very beginning in making that decision, and I think too for me, it was the decision, but the two key parts for me in that decision was knowing what I wanted, like what was the outcome and also why I wanted it. Again, I’ll figure out the how to do it later, but what did I want and why did I want it? Because at this point, it wasn’t just like, oh, I want to lose 20 pounds. This is, I want to live, I want to breathe going up the stairs without huffing and puffing, I want to look at myself in the mirror and love who’s looking back at me, that’s never happened before. Like I wanted all of these things, and I had such deep-rooted why’s of why I wanted them, and I allowed myself time to dig those up, right?
Because I think so many people that are making a decision to make a change, they are only seeing that surface-level stuff, I want to lose weight so I can feel better. Okay, yes, but why, though? Why do you want to lose weight and feel better? So, digging deep down into… and you dig up some stuff that probably isn’t very comfortable, but you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable so you can get down to, you know, what you really want, why you want this, and what it is that you really want, so dig past the surface-level stuff and give yourself permission to do that and to be vulnerable with yourself and to call yourself out on your own BS, I said that before too. That was really helpful to me. I had to say, you know what, it’s okay. Your past, whatever you’ve dealt with, it’s okay. Where you’re at right now, we have to address where you’re at and move forward. So, I had to tell myself, look you have an emotional eating problem. You’re addicted to refined sugar. It’s okay. We’ll figure it out, but we have to address where we’re at now. This is all to myself, right? We have to address where we are at so that we can get better and improve, so I think it’s really allowing yourself, giving yourself permission to dig deep and figure out what those are. The how’s will come, but the beginning part is so so key, very very key.
HOWARD: Yeah. I love what you said about sort of the willingness to look at where you are.
BETHANY: Um hmm.
HOWARD: Because not only is it strategically crucial, so you know, if you’re lost on the road somewhere and you are unwilling to look at GPS or look at a map, you’re not going to be able to find your way out, but also I find that looking at something I don’t want to look at is actually like weightlifting practice for the soul.
HOWARD: It’s like I’ve been having some dodgy financials lately so the one thing I don’t want to look at is my bank statement, so one thing I’m finding myself, you know, I have an app where I get a check and I can deposit the check by the app, and I’m trying to push the deposit button before the account information screen comes up. I think that, well, when I have more money in my account, then I’ll look, but I think the truth is much closer to when I have the cojones to look, I will then start building the tools to be responsible with finance.
BETHANY: Absolutely! So much of that is… you can apply that to this lifestyle. Absolutely. I think that there are so many reasons to not do something, right? I can give you every reason why I didn’t make lifestyle change in the past, right? Finances, protein, what are other people going to say, all these things. There’s an excuse for everything. But if you are going to let your excuse rule you, or if you’re going to say, okay, how can I work around this or is it really true? You know, that’s a really big part of it too. So many people see, you know, a lifestyle transformation or someone succeeding, and they think I can’t do that. That mentality of thinking and telling yourself you can’t do that is going to be a reality if you continue to keep thinking that, right? Like what we think and what we focus on grows, and so constantly thinking like oh, I can’t do this, or I’m so far behind, or why am I not like that person. If we surround our thoughts with that, that’s how we end up living every single day, you know. So, a lot of that is the perspective shift of “I can” even though I don’t know what I’m doing right now, and even though I’m overweight and even though I’m addicted to chocolate, donuts, and ice cream, even though all these things, addressing where you are at. Where you are at is perfectly fine. Where do you want to go from there? Like let’s go, you know. So, I think being your own friend in those moments enough to say those things to yourself and have those conversations with yourself. Like you said, have the cojones to actually look realistically at what is happening right now and not to critique it and not to say, look you’re a failure, but just look at it and go, okay this is where I’m at and where do I want to be, what does it look like, and then it’s the how do I get there.
HOWARD: Right. I’m imagining that… I know for myself that there’s a fine line between not cursing myself with predictions like “I can’t do this” and lying to myself like “I totally got this,” right? There’s some part of me when I say that out loud, there’s like a big clacks and horn BS detector that goes off. So that’s why it’s so important to think of some small action to take to begin to prove to myself that I can do something.
BETHANY: Yes. Absolutely. Action steps are key, and I think that people get… me for example, this happened to me so many times. I would get caught up in the end. I’d be like, oh I need to lose 80 pounds and I need to do it in a year. You know, then the pressure is on, right? There’s numbers, there’s dates, and there’s all these things. Then you’re like, what do I do now? Ugh, there you just get lost in this, you know, a fictitious weight by a certain date mentality. And the actions of stripping that back, letting go of the number on the scale, letting go of certain number of pounds by a certain date, letting that just not be a thing and relax and say, what do I have to do right now to… what decisions could I make right now that could make me go forward, you know. Breaking that down into… yes, weight loss may be a goal and an outcome, but what action steps can you do to get there, right? We can have a large salad every day. We can refrain from alcohol or refined sugars and things like that, so having a little action steps like you said too and knowing that you can… to prove to yourself that you CAN do something. So maybe like a three-day something. I’m going to eat a salad for three days for lunch, you know. And once you cross that, what’s next? Maybe a week now. Or maybe you can start to incorporate something else. So, I think those baby steps, not even baby steps, you know, but they are that, and I use this analogy a lot. My grandma makes these big quilts, right? She doesn’t start with one huge piece of fabric. She starts with a little piece, a little patch, and she gets another little patch and she attaches it to that, and there’s another design and another color, right? Eventually, she has this huge large quilt, right? But she had all these little action steps, little patches that together yield a great result. I think looking at it in that way and knowing that you don’t have to do some huge extravagant grand thing, you just have to strip back and do some action steps and just put them together and just keep going.
HOWARD: I think you’ve helped me just now refine a coaching methodology that I use because…
HOWARD: … I’m always really big on okay, what’s the goal, let’s measure it, let’s quantify it, let’s set a time, let’s set a date so that we know we’re moving forward. What I’m suddenly realizing is if somebody doesn’t yet believe they can move in that direction, then that’s premature. We have to start… It’s like you know, your grandmother has probably made enough quilts that now she has a vision, okay, I’m going to do geese in flight or I’m going to do a log cabin, and even though she is taking one step at a time, she has a vision of the end because she’s gotten there. But maybe the first quilt she’d ever made, the thing she needed to do was sew together two pieces of fabric in a straight line.
BETHANY: Um hmm. Yeah, it’s crazy the amount… you know, how the quilt can… using that analogy can someone be like, wait a second, yeah, I can do that. And what I’ve found too in my coaching is that the goal is fine. Have the goal. Have a long list of goals. That’s okay. It’s great to have things to look forward to, but then how do we strip that back and look at it today? How do we look at our end goal and not be there yet and again that’s okay, but what would I do for my next meal that would help me get there? What other patch? What’s my next patch so to speak, right? Maybe I have 15 minutes free. What can I do in this 15 minutes? I’m going to make a hummus quick and I’m going to go for a quick walk. Doing thigs in those kind of little action steps, the bite-size things so that you can have those little wins. It’s not one big win at the end. It’s not… the journey is not the destination. The destination is the journey, so what are those little bite-size wins that you can have so that you can build up that confidence that you might have never felt before, speaking for myself.
HOWARD: Your training montage.
HOWARD: In the movies, it takes three minutes. In life, it’s almost the entirety.
BETHANY: It is, and I think that’s one thing that I stress so much with my clients too. It’s not the destination. You’ll get there, you know. Weight loss will come, but the journey is where the work happens. The journey is where the growth happens. The journey is where…. you know, you look at the journey and you have all these wins and you have all these successes, and they will yield a lot of your end goals. You’ll be checking things off left and right. But if you’re only looking at that end, the light at the end of the tunnel, you’ll miss all of the stuff, you know, and it will be clouded over, and you’ll miss the journey, you will miss the needed patches, you’ll miss the action steps and the bite-size wins that you need to get there.
HOWARD: Yeah, I was interviewing Lesley Paterson yesterday, who is a three-time world champion in off-road triathlon.
HOWARD: And we were talking about for us regular mortals, it’s okay to say, I want to win this race and I want to do really well, but I’m not going to obsess over the outcome. And I was asking Lesley, does that work at a high stakes event when your sponsorship is on the line and when it’s your career, and she said, all I do is focus on the process steps like what’s my cadence, are my shoulders tense…
BETHANY: Um hmm.
HOWARD: You know, even and maybe especially at that level, focusing on process is how the best people in the world achieve the outcomes that we think we want.
BETHANY: Yes. Yeah. For her, her example, if her shoulders were tense the whole time and she didn’t put attention to that small bite-size detail, the process, she would’ve had tense shoulders the whole race and might not have gotten to the end. Yeah, I love that. I think that it’s key. And another thing too is that… speaking of races, it reminds me of another one of my favorite analogies. You’re driving to Target because you have something to get, toilet paper, tooth paste or whatever, and your mom calls and you get distracted, and you make a wrong turn. You’re like, “Oh, dang it. Mom, gotta go, I gotta go to Target,” and you hang up. Do you go back home to start over because you took a wrong turn?
BETHANY: No, you just get back on the track. You get back on the road and you go because you have things to get at Target. So, I think that, you know, another really key thing of change is not throwing the towel in and starting over. You’re here. Day 1 is in the books. Life’s going, like let’s go. Let’s keep going. Similar to a runner, you know. If a runner drops their baton, would they pick it up and go back to the starting line and then start again? No, the race is going, like let’s go. We’re still going, not throwing in that towel, not having that starting-over mentality but knowing that it is a journey and there will be struggles and obstacles and stumbles. We all have them. But I think that it’s important not to have that starting-over mentality because society and pressure makes us feel that we failed. Right? Well, I failed. I gotta start over. I gotta have a clean slate, and the truth is there’s going to be struggles and stuff, so working through them and having that win on the other side of it, you know, small wins, one after the other, is really key. So, I talk about that a lot – no starting over, no throwing in the towel. It’s not Day 1 again. It’s Day 4,800-whatever. Let’s keep going. Next day. New day. Let’s continue.
HOWARD: Yeah, it’s weird. As you said that, I suddenly started thinking about… one of the principles of behavioral science that has been refined over the last 20 – 30 years is the idea of sunk cost fallacy, like you put energy into something and even though it’s not working out for you, you feel like you’re still in. Like let’s say, you bought tickets to a concert and now you don’t really want to go, and maybe it’s snowing out, and you got something better to do, but you feel like you have to go because you sunk cost into it, but yet we don’t do that with all the effort that we have already put into improving ourselves. Why don’t we see that as a sunk cost?
BETHANY: Yeah, I think it’s really hard to look at ourselves for a number of different reasons. It’s really hard to, you know, kind of call yourself out and look at where you’re at and say hey, this didn’t work like I thought it would, right? It’s almost like letting yourself down or feeling let down by yourself. It’s so powerful and so emotional sometimes and a lot of pressure that it’s almost easier for people to cop out – I don’t know if cop out is the right phrase – but to start over and say, you know what, ugh, let’s pretend this didn’t happen and start over fresh, you know. But the growth is when you look at the stumble or the struggle and you go, all right, what did I learn here that I can apply going forward so that this doesn’t happen again or that it’s a different outcome or something, right? Because to me the word ‘failure’ doesn’t exist. I don’t think people do fail because you either win or succeed at whatever you set out to do and it’s a success or you learn and grow from it, which to me is a form of success, so we need to look at a struggle or a failure or an obstacle or a stumble, whatever and look at it and say, what did I learn, how can I grow, and how can I better use this going forward because if you forget about it and pretend it didn’t happen and put the walls up and start over, you miss that lesson, you miss that growth, and so I think it’s really important to just power through it and look at it and go, “All right” and just keep going. Pick up the towel and keep going.
HOWARD: Yeah, I think it’s the key moment because we all have stories of “I’ve tried this.” “I’ve tried this.” We all have the story of “I’m the sort of person who gives up after a while” or “I screw up.” You know, in your story, you listed the number of diets that you had done…
BETHANY: Um hmm.
HOWARD: … and you kept the history. You didn’t ignore the facts, but you separated the facts from sort of the meta-description of those facts, right? I was on Weight Watchers, I was on Jenny Craig, I was on the military diet, and what was so easy for us to do is then say “I’m a screwup. I keep failing on diets” as opposed to “Well, that’s an interpretation. That’s not a fact so it has no place here.”
BETHANY: Yeah, there’s a difference between knowing or having something be true or false and just having a perspective on something, right? So, I use this analogy so many times with food and transitioning into this lifestyle because I hear a lot of pushback about “I don’t like vegetables,” “I don’t like salads.” Well, “I don’t” whatever. That’s okay to not like them right now. But maybe that perception, the thought that you deem as fact was based on one event that happened 20 years ago, right? You had a really bad salad [laughs] or you had poor quality vegetables or your mom used to make them in a way that just didn’t agree with you when you were five, so you’ve taken that and you’re still living that out to be true when it’s just really a perspective from you as a five-year-old. So, allowing and giving yourself permission to let go of what you’ve been carrying that might not be true and shift that perspective and say, okay, I didn’t like tomatoes when I was five how my mom prepared them, for example sake, but maybe I would love raw tomatoes in guacamole or maybe I would love blended tomatoes in a tomato basil soup, right? Shifting that perspective to having them in different ways and opening up to that and not just with food, with anything. You know, you were talking about the diets. It doesn’t mean that just because I’ve tried all these diets and none of them worked doesn’t mean that I’m doomed to be overweight, obese, and depressed for the rest of my life. One does not mean the other. They are not mutually exclusive, so I think it’s important to know the difference between… is what I think and feel for sure a definite fact or is it an older opinion or is it something society told me was true or is it a perspective that I could just shift that would make my lifestyle more easy and more fun.
HOWARD: Um hmm, so what do you think your… if you had an identity shift, because you sort of went from “I am ___ before” and “I am ___ now.” How might you complete those two phrases?
BETHANY: Woo. Um, before… I would say my personality or how I always viewed myself in the past… I always did well in school. I came from a great family, you know, parents and siblings and good friends and stuff like that, but myself, I wasn’t good with myself. I didn’t love myself. I didn’t know who I was. So, if I were to complete the sentence before, I’d say something like I am uh… unsure. I am lost. I am walking around with, you know, plastic wrapped version of what I might be underneath. I didn’t know, like I had no clue. When I started my lifestyle change and I started to put more focus on me so that I could be a better, wise sister, friend, co-worker, all that stuff, and I put that focus on me, I started to discover who I was. I also started to create who I was too. Like I didn’t like vegetables before, but I’m going to make sure that I love vegetables, so what does it look like? What would I have to do? So, I could kind of create my own reality in that way too, which was really exciting for me. I didn’t know that you could do that. I didn’t know you could create your own life and that you were in charge. I didn’t think I had that control. Once I found that and when I was able to create my own reality so to speak, it was really refreshing and it kind of opened up, and now I know better who I am and I can create who I want to be and live that out. Now, I am open. I am real, raw, authentic like call-it-like-it-is. I would say the word that has said to me the most is “open.” Before, I had the walls up. Before, I was closed. Before, I was carrying around all those old thoughts that were maybe my mom’s or society’s or a magazine’s or something, and I was carrying around all those stuff that wasn’t me, and now I’m figuring out what is me and what feels good, and what that looks like.
HOWARD: Um hmm.
BETHANY: So, you have to be open to that and know that it might be a little bit uncomfortable figuring out what you like and what you don’t like and how that looks and how you can learn to love vegetables and stuff like that because when I… my mind was no longer overruled and controlled by unhealthy food and all this stuff and I had control, I had so much more time to think about stuff, and I didn’t know what I liked. I didn’t know what my hobbies were because my hobbies before were partying, happy hour, eating in the closet by myself, and all food related, so once those were gone, I was like, what would I like to do? What are my hobbies? Who am I? So, I had this like open platform, open field to create it, to design it, and to just go and just try some stuff. Being open was something that has helped me so much, being open and allowing yourself and giving yourself permission to create your life.
HOWARD: Was that ever terrifying to realize everything I thought I knew about myself wasn’t real and here I am? I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I like. I could just imagine… I had this experience where I went through a really difficult internal time and I kind of woke up. I was like, I don’t know… Everything I had been doing was more or less to please other people and to get approval and to get by and now I have to take charge. Did you have like moments of existential terror around that or was it just exhilarating?
BETHANY: You know, to tell the truth, it really was just exhilarating. The terrifying part was staying stuck where I was. That was the terrifying part. I think that moment… that was a moment for me too, that moment in my parents’ kitchen when my brother said, “How’s everything going,” and I kind of was like, what am I doing, I need to change, you know. The terrifying part for me was staying stuck where I was. That was terrifying.
BETHANY: I didn’t want any part of that anymore, so anything that felt open and refreshed and possibilities to change perspectives, I was like, yeah, bring it on because that was so not how I lived before. So, to answer your question, no, it wasn’t terrifying to realize that nutrition is not being taught as it should be or that I was going through all these obstacles coming up and change and being uncomfortable, that was not terrifying. It was more terrifying to stay stuck where I was than it was to think about trying tomatoes [laughs], you know, eating more salads and saying no to fast foods and stuff. The terrifying part was staying stuck where I was.
HOWARD: So, we’ve talked about the fact that details are far less important than this deep stuff, but I think details are also important.
HOWARD: You watched Dr. Fuhrman on public television and you had this revelation and you had a house full of food that wasn’t compliant. What did you do, like the movie of the next thing you did around food?
BETHANY: Yeah, the next thing I did after because I had already kind of taken out some of that stuff. Like I said, the lean meats, the fat-free cheeses, the sugar-free stuff, the baked chips, the low-calorie alcohol, like that stuff was still in the house, and it was like the second cleanup of everything. I just got out some trash bags like, I’m done, it’s over, and I’d rather put it in the trash than put it down this trash [laughs], you know, eat it myself. My husband, we were dating at that time, but he was on board supporting me, but he personally wasn’t on board doing any changes, but thankfully, he was so open to having the house be whole food plant-based and clean, and he traveled for work, so he was eating outside of the house most of the time anyway. So, I cleaned out everything, as it was not conducive to my lifestyle, as it was something that was not optimally healthful, and I got rid of it. That was really, what’s the word, exhilarating and refreshing, and relieving to not have this disguised-as-healthy food around me. I could just be fresh. I could be whole. I could control everything that I was making 100% with real fresh ingredients, so I just got the trash bags out and away it went. Get out of the house because if it is not in the house, you can’t eat it. Like if it’s not there, you can’t eat it at home, if it’s not there. So that was really important to me to get the house cleaned.
HOWARD: Right. You were still in Nebraska?
BETHANY: We were actually in Chicago at this time – Chicago suburbs.
HOWARD: Okay. Did you have a community of people that you could make this change with and support?
BETHANY: No. This was… I talk about this a lot. My community was my Eat to Live book and Google because at this point, this was about five years ago. I don’t even know if Facebook Groups were really… I didn’t know if they existed back then. There were pages, and I remember following a bunch of pages on Facebook, but there really wasn’t the big… this community really wasn’t that big, you know, five years ago. I wasn’t able to find what I needed, so… um… I had friends that knew what I was doing, and my trainer was familiar with the lifestyle and stuff, so I did have support from others in that way, but not anyone in real life that was doing the same thing with me, so that was a struggle. But again, it’s even more so… why I do what I do now because you don’t have to do anything on your own. You shouldn’t have to struggle by yourself and have no one to talk. That sucks, so I’m just so glad now that the movement and the support is so much greater now of people like us and different programs and videos and all that. It’s really important to success having that support and guidance and tools, and community is huge.
HOWARD: So, what sort of things did you start eating when you made the change? Did you immediately become like a tofu and quinoa person or were you eating things that looked sort of like what you were familiar with?
BETHANY: I was open for everything. I didn’t really get into the fake meats and fake cheeses or anything like that. I did a lot of whole fresh stuff. I did a lot of veggies, beans, whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds, and I would make a lot of soups, a lot of stir fry, a lot of smoothies, and salads, like my four ‘s’s. Soup, salad, stir fry and smoothies were really key meals for me, and I guess the two that come to mind right away… I remember right after I discovered this whole food plant-based lifestyle through Dr. Fuhrman, I got the Eat to Live book, and I started making goji berry vegetable chili and black bean brownies. I remember like waking up in the morning and realizing that I had made those, and they were in the fridge waiting for me, and I would get so excited that I could fill up and eat these delicious foods, drop weight, and feel better and increase energy and all the other stuff that came with it. So, those two always come to mind, goji berry vegetable chili and black bean brownies were like… I ate so much of that the first few months. Yeah, a lot of soup, salads, smoothie, and stir fry, I guess, were my main things.
HOWARD: Um hmm. What about… so you didn’t have any social support on the pro side, what about the people who had known you and who you hang out with? Your family. Were they on board or were they skeptical?
BETHANY: I think if they were skeptical, it’s because I hadn’t like… oh here’s Bethany again and another diet. Let’s see how this goes, you know, because I had just been on a diet, off a diet up in weight and down in weight my WHOLE life, most of my life for anyone who knew me, it was either always on and off, trying something new, losing weight, gaining it back and stuff, so I think if there was any skepticism in that way, that was based on what I had shown them in the past of fad diets and all kinds of rollercoaster stuff. But you know, when I didn’t stop living this lifestyle and the weight didn’t stop falling off, and when my energy didn’t stop rising, I think people were like, oh my gosh, what is she doing? It’s so cool to see too so many of my close friends and family members are living this lifestyle now just based on me leading by example and having not only the results speak for themselves, but I’m just so passionate about sharing this lifestyle because of what it did for me that I just can’t help sharing the knowledge and experience and journey and how-to’s and stuff. I might have been a little too excited at first and maybe scared some people off, but you know, it just shows how much passion and real lifechanging, lifesaving this lifestyle can be, so I just keep sharing and keep it positive and show people the how-to’s and stuff. It’s been cool to see some friends and family jump on board and have massive successes themselves. That’s really cool.
HOWARD: I don’t want to let you go without telling the Domino’s Pizza story…
BETHANY: Oh yeah!
HOWARD: … because we’re kind of condensing a multi-decade journey in less than an hour, and I don’t want to give the impression that before you didn’t know what you were doing and then you saw the light and everything was perfect.
BETHANY: Right. Yeah, there were struggles for sure. The story Howard is talking about is the… uh, Domino’s Pizza. So, I’m at home, my husband is on a business trip. He’s out of the house for couple of days, and I ordered this Domino’s Pizza, extra cheese, you know, all to myself. I paid for it in cash so that nobody saw my credit card statements and it didn’t exist. This was probably… I don’t know… I want to say a year into me making the decision to make a change, like quite a while after, probably within that first year. Anyway, so I ordered the Domino’s Pizza. I paid for it in cash. I smashed the whole thing, one sitting, and I hide the evidence in the garage. We had these trash bins and I buried it like I made the decision that I was hiding the evidence of these Domino’s Pizza box and all of my greasy napkins and stuff, and I didn’t tell anyone about that for a long time. I hid the evidence, and I pretended like it didn’t exist, which is what I always used to do with fast food.
I would go to fast food. I would get all that stuff and I would stop at a gas station before I got home and throw it away so I didn’t have to see the wrappers in the car or bring it into the house or have anyone else know, so it was alarming to me like oh my gosh, I am doing something alarming, like this is… get a handle on this and address it right now, and I could’ve easily said, oh my gosh, I can’t do this. Clearly, I’m the same person as I was 10 years ago. I’m hiding evidence. I’m ordering, eating a whole pizza by myself. Like what am I doing? I could’ve easily thrown in the towel there and said, “I’m just done,” and I didn’t, you know. I think that there was just something in me that I was giving myself grace and acceptance for what just happened, like it’s okay, you know. We’ll move forward. We’ll continue, and now I tell the story all the time to help clients in these same situations because it is a journey. There are struggles, and there are obstacles, and having that decision that you’re not going to quit no matter what happens, no matter what someone tells you, no matter what a magazine tells you you should look like, no matter your uncle giving you a bad time at Christmas, you’re not going to quit! I just always told myself that that was the decision that was made and there was no changing that decision, but how I moved forward was totally different than how I had ever moved forward before.
HOWARD: So, do you think looking back at the Domino’s incidence, was it negative or positive?
BETHANY: Not positive for sure. Mostly because… I’m now as a coach, I’m able to say, look, a year into my journey, I smashed a whole pizza and hid the box. I’m just like you. I’m human and there were tons of struggles, and I just don’t like looking back at things as having regret or worrying or wafting any negative because there’s always something that I either was successful or I learned and grew from it. So, that story, I’m able to use now. I’m able to… At that time, I was able to look at it, and it doesn’t matter that you smashed the whole pizza. What are you going to do now going forward? Don’t hate yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. But where you are going, just keep going and know that one piece or one whole pizza does not break your journey and doesn’t define who you are, either.
HOWARD: Right. I find that at the moment no matter where I am, what I’ve done, at the moment that I can say, oh that was a mistake. I’m going to stop now. I’m going to turn around and go back in the right direction. Then the whole thing is now a success.
HOWARD: I work with a lot of people in the Big Change program who’ve made these big changes. The program can last up to a year, so people might be eight or nine months in and all of a sudden, they have a relapse of a behavior that they thought they would never see again, and when they work through it, they tell me. They come out on the other side, saying, now I don’t have to be scared of that any more.
BETHANY: Yeah. I think so many people are so fearful of that failure. It is. I mean it sucks to have that feeling of you letting yourself down, like I talked about earlier. But having so many of those moments, it does make you stronger. I know it seems like it would make you weaker, failing and failing and failing and failing again, but it doesn’t as long as you are, like you said, you are addressing it and you’re working through it and you’re calling it like it is and saying what can I learn from this? How am I going to move forward now with this information from this struggle or obstacle? It just really builds you in your mind and your trust with yourself to be so much stronger. I talk about a lot. You have to be your own best friend in life. You’re the person you hang out with the most every day, and so having the word spoken to yourself just like you would talk to your best friend, your mom, your sister and having that kind of change in perspective is key too because I would say horrible things to myself that I would never say to anybody else.
HOWARD: Right. It’s like your best friend is the class bully who’s around you all the time and just putting you down.
BETHANY: Yeah, yeah. How can you really feel good if you keep telling yourself over and over that you’re a failure, that you suck or that can’t do it? You have to build yourself up. I know it is weird and difficult and uncomfortable at first, but heading those obstacles and struggles head-on and working with yourself and holding your own hand and say, how are we going to go through this, like you do have yourself. I know I talk about it a lot like I was alone in my journey, but I had myself, and I used myself to help me move forward. I know it sounds kind of weird, but picturing it in that way and knowing that you’re on this journey with you and you got your own back is kind of comforting and kind of cool and empowering to know that you got this, you know.
HOWARD: I love that. I love that. It reminds me of my partner, Josh LaJaunie talks about, you know, “we,” like he says, I formed a team with myself, and he also tells… people who are beating themselves up, generally it feels like a very responsible thing to do, right? And he’d say, you know, it’s actually a cop-out.
HOWARD: Because it means you don’t have to do the work.
BETHANY: Yep, yep. It’s harder… I should say it’s easier to beat yourself up than it is to – you’re right – to do the work and ask yourself to go through kind of dissecting that struggle a little bit in order to know what you need to do to move forward. Yeah, that’s definitely harder than saying, “Well, told ya you couldn’t do it.” You’re beating yourself up. It is. But the harder journey, the harder choice of taking something head-on and addressing it is where the growth and strength and stuff comes from, and it’s not always hard, sometimes like now I talk to myself and I’m like, really? You’re going to talk yourself into that? Try again. You know, I make a fun with myself too. I call myself out in that way too and get my own self back on track in those ways. You know, it’s not always hard and burdensome and uncomfortable. It does get more comfortable. It’s just different at first. It’s not bad or wrong, it’s just different.
HOWARD: So, I love this conversation and your insights and your hard-won wisdom. For other people who are thinking the exact same thing right now, where can they follow you, find out more about you and maybe work with you?
BETHANY: Absolutely. Everything can be found on my website: lovechard.com [says really fast]
HOWARD: Say it slower.
BETHANY: Yeah. l-o-v-e-c-h-a-r-d, like the swiss chard, leafy green. I have a public Facebook page that I do a weekly live show every Tuesday on. Working with me can happen in one of two ways. I do one-on-one clients as well, and I have a monthly membership site called Nutribabe Nation.
HOWARD: Okay, say that slow again too.
BETHANY: Yeah. Nutribabe Nation.
HOWARD: I feel like I’m your marketing coach. Say it slow…
BETHANY: Slower. [laughs] Nutribabe Nation.
HOWARD: Help them find you… Nutribabe Nation.
BETHANY: Yes. All the information, testimonials from current members, info, all of that can be found at Nutribabenation.com
Nutribabe Nation is an ongoing monthly community membership site platform, so there are courses, tutorials, how-to’s, trainings, videos, Q & A’s, and also members-only support group for the live interaction type stuff. So, I have just over 100 members and monthly members in there and people are really… not only the change that is happening in each individual person but the community and support that is being built in this group-type setting, enclosed, private, non-judgmental place is so cool to see, you know. I think there’s a lot of… social media can have negative kind of feelings sometimes with trolls and judgement and people hiding behind the keyboard and stuff, and it’s great to have the safe place of, asshole-free [laughs] zone with my members, so people are... they are changing their own lives and helping others in their own journey change the lives of their fellow members. It’s so great to see. I just love it.
HOWARD: Fantastic, and we’re over an hour before I had to mark this episode ‘explicit,’ so we did pretty good.
BETHANY: Oh awesome! [laughs]
HOWARD: The one that didn’t record was explicit all the way through. So, we’re obviously maturing. [laughs]
BETHANY: Yes, yes.
HOWARD: All right. So, Stephanie. I’m sorry. Bethany.
BETHANY: That’s all right.
HOWARD: I see… Bethany Stec in my mouth.
BETHANY: Yeah, yeah, I get that all the time.
HOWARD: Bethany Stec Janicek, I’m so happy to talk to you. I’m so happy that we are able to get this to work this time.
HOWARD: I just love, you know, I sort of think like a little bit of, you know, the movie It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stuart where he gets to see, like I can sort of see you made this one decision and you actualized in this world and how many people are being helped, have been helped, or going to be helped and enriched because of that decision compared to if you had continued to sort of be quiet and small, and didn’t.
BETHANY: Um hmm. Yeah, it’s crazy. I didn’t know it at the time, but I think deep down there was something that’s like you’re not just doing this for yourself, like this is going to be not only a life-changing thing for yourself, but now you know, I help so many others too. I know what it’s like to feel like I did before, you know, so many people watching. I know what it feels like to have a lot of those thoughts and feelings and to be obese and an emotional eater, like I’ve been there, and now I know what it’s like to be on the other side of that, and I can’t NOT help people do the same thing, so I think at the beginning deep down there was something like… something bigger than myself pushing me all the time to just keep going, just keep going, you have to do this, you NEED to do this.
HOWARD: Right. The acorn doesn’t really understand the oak, but something inside the acorn does.
BETHANY: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, kind of like that. So cool.
HOWARD: Awesome. Bethany, thank you so much for all you do and taking the time on the podcast today.
BETHANY: Absolutely. Thank you for having me and same to you.
HOWARD: Take care.
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New Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by . Click the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.
The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.
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