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Turning Forty after Divorcing an Alcoholic, and How Joyful it is on the Other Side
Episode 191st September 2022 • Forty Drinks • Stephanie McLaughlin
00:00:00 00:38:52

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Turning Forty after Divorcing an Alcoholic, and How Joyful it is on the Other Side

After focusing on building her career and getting through grad school, Jenny Quartano realized her marriage had deteriorated to the point of no return. And that her husband was an alcoholic who wasn’t dealing with his stuff and wasn’t getting any better. So she left and struggled through finding her footing again. She started with a familiar coping mechanism, the nightly glass of wine, but found it wasn’t really working. So she started doing things that did make her feel better, working her body to physical exhaustion and getting good sleep. She has since rebuilt her life into something that brings her joy on a daily basis.

Guest Bio

Dr. Quartano spent her 20s and 30s building a strong career and honing her skills as an expert in the field of physical therapy. As she stumbled into her private practice working in client homes, she became acutely aware of just how much the way we live and function each day impacts our lives and health. She dove into learning more about holistic health and the role nutrition, exercise, stress, relationships, and sleep play in our ability to maintain a healthy life. Simultaneously, she found herself going through a terrible divorce and dealing personally with those factors. Each day was a choice--to get up, show up, and continue to control the things she could. Overcoming this stress with success and more clear than ever before in her life mission, she set out to start helping others use the same lifestyle factors and mindset to meet their own goals. She doesn’t subscribe to common symptoms being normal or deteriorating health being a symptom of age and seeks to help other women find their best self to be the best mom, wife, professional or athlete they desire to be. 

When not working with children and families, she can be found focusing on her own health - building healthy habits that empower her own continued development and balance. She enjoys time with her family, laughing with girlfriends, traveling, and soaks up the dream of living at the beach whenever she can. This is 40, and it has brought so much clarity in her own life, her mission, and her passion--and growth in her business! Cheers!

How Did I Get Here? 

Jenny Quartano moved across the country for grad school. Her romantic relationship had turned into something she didn’t recognize. She spent so much energy focusing on her career, she didn’t realize how far the relationship had deteriorated. She found herself in her mid-30s and living with an alcoholic who wasn’t doing his share to keep up things at home. As a strong person, Jenny just kept on pushing until things started to break down. The situation devolved further to abuse, which she knew came from him not being able to control things in his life, but it wasn’t getting any better and he wasn’t putting in the work to fix it, so she left. 

Used to being a person who could ‘do it all,’ Jenny found herself struggling and having to lean on her network, which she found humbling. She learned an important lesson, though: it’s ok to say, ‘I’m not ok.’

She also learned the precarious slope towards alcohol misuse herself. Now on her own, there was no reason to keep alcohol out of the house, and it was almost too easy to grab a glass of wine to unwind. She learned quickly, though, that the glass of wine to unwind ultimately wasn’t helping with sleep or  her mood. What worked better was the gym. 

As a physical therapist, Jenny found that physically exhausting her body was a much better solution. It helped her sleep and got her started putting things back together. Then she started with some goal setting and asking herself what she wanted to do now. She also wondered what she didn’t really care about any longer. 

As she started moving forward she met the man who became her husband. Because she was coming out of such a challenging period, she was pretty bold in saying what she needed and what she wouldn’t tolerate. Her friends thought she would scare him away but she had worked so hard to come back from a bad place that she wanted to be clear about what would and wouldn’t work for her. 

She told him, "I really like you, but I've been down a path of things that didn't work before and so I'm going to be really, really black and white about what I want and if that doesn't fit with what you want, that's okay. We're just not meant to be together." 

Jenny has taken the same attitude into her business as well. He’s unapologetic about what she does and who she serves and is perfectly ok with not being someone’s cup of tea. 

And Then, 40

Jenny felt like she turned 40 with a new script after starting over. She has a great husband. She’s got a toddler who was born at the beginning of the pandemic. That meant she had a lot of time to spend with him in his first couple of years, which she feels grateful for. 

She feels like changing her point of view has improved her life. Instead of feeling bad that she’s not at work, she feels grateful to have time with her son. A big part of her healing has been telling herself that she *gets* do do things, as opposed to *having* to do them. That has led to a major shift. 

After spending so many years with so much out of her control, Jenny is focused on what she can control. There were many nights during her old relationship that she was up in the middle of the night worrying about what he might do or what might happen or what trouble might find her door. And as much as she tried to focus on what she could control during that era, it’s hard when you’re in the middle of it. Fear and worry seep into your skin. But that is a skill she has carried into her new life and her new decade. 

If there’s a situation and she can do something about it, she makes an action plan. If there’s nothing she can do, it goes on the back burner. She acknowledges it and then moves past it. Meditation and prayer are useful tools for helping her say "this isn't part of what I can control right now, so I can't worry about it." She knows it doesn't do any good to be consumed with that worry.

Finding Joy

Jenny says what brings her joy has also evolved in recent years. Smaller things bring her joy than in the past. Where she used to find joy in traveling, now taking a walk through the neighborhood with her son is joyful. She points to it as a sign that things are good. She doesn’t need huge or grand things to find joy any more. She can find joy much more easily than in the past. 

She now also *chooses* to find joy in places that might have come across as mundane before. She’s shifted from looking for joy in certain activities to finding joy in what she does each day - and in new things that challenge her, whether that’s a toddler phase, a new business challenge or a new recipe. 

When she casts her mind back to her 20s and early 30s, Jenny says she was so worried about what other people thought and about being judged by them that she wasn’t finding joy in what she wanted to do. She did things that were recommended because they would look good or she would be good at them. Now, she's unapologetic about doing what she wants to do and finding things she’s passionate about and that excite her. 

Today, Jenny cares a lot less about what people think and a lot more about her own joy and satisfaction. 

A Professional Shift

A physical therapist by training, Jenny often worked in homes and with children and realized that there were many factors beyond physical therapy that factored into success. If the home was in chaos or they weren’t eating well or there was stress between mom and dad, then all the PT in the world wasn’t going to solve the problem. She shifted to incorporate functional health and wellness into her practice. Today, she helps families thrive and manage the lifestyle factors that will help them feel and function their best. 

One major element of helping families thrive is diet. Jenny starts with mom because if mom isn’t bought into the concept, then it’s not likely to change. But if moms are bought in, Jenny says that changes health for generations to come. 

She works with families on ways to build healthier recipes and make more food at home instead of grab-and-go choices. She gets the kids in the kitchen to both help with preparation and expose them to new foods. She said that the average child needs to try something 13 times before they decide if they really like it. So when they push it off their plate for the third or fourth time, keep going. Plus, if they’re seeing their parents eat healthier, they’re more likely to do so as well. 

A great place to start is by reading ingredient labels. Being aware of what we’re eating is huge. Yogurt is something we feed kids because it’s a ‘healthy’ food, but most commercial yogurts are loaded with sugar. In that case, a Greek yogurt with honey and berries is a great way to cut out some of the processed ingredients and extra sugar that sneaks into so much of our food. 

Another easy step is to fill half your plate with vegetables before putting other items on it. That helps to manage hunger by filling us up with good foods while still leaving room for other elements of the meal. 

Another tip is, once you’ve determined eating healthy is a priority, you have to make it simple. Find 10 or 12 recipes and rotate them. Make three or four recipes each week and then rotate. Most people are more than happy to eat the same thing every three to four weeks. 

While all this healthier living stuff requires making an effort, Jenny points out that it’s really more of a shifting of effort. Will you put in the effort now or down the line when you are sick? Jenny says she would much rather put in the effort now. She says she wants to slide into her grave with one foot still running, rather than being sick and frail for the last part of her life. That’s part of why she lives this way. 

It’s important to have a strong ‘why’ behind making changes like this in your life. When things get hard, that ‘why’ will give you the reason to stick with it.

Sponsor

The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications

Find Jenny Online

Website: https://www.alltogetherwellness.net/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alltogetherwellness 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alltogetherwellness/

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Transcripts

Stephanie: Hi, Jenny. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Jenny: My pleasure. Thank you for having me on the show.

Stephanie: I am really looking forward to our conversation today. I think we're gonna touch on a whole bunch of stuff that I am really interested in if I'm jumping all the way to the end and spoiling the end, we'll talk a little bit about functional medicine and the things you can do to make yourself feel better at any age. Before we get there, let's start at the beginning. When you first reached out to me, you said that you found yourself at 35 in a not great relationship and going through a not great divorce. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Jenny: Yeah, sure. So you know, I had moved across the country after grad school, in my mid twenties, and I was in a relationship for a long time. Found myself in a, in a place where I had gotten progressively worse. And I think I had focused so much on my career that I hadn't realized how far things had deteriorated in the process, to the point that in my mid thirties, I was living with somebody who had a severe alcohol addiction, who wasn't doing his share to keep up things at home and because I'm just a strong person, I just kept going until I realized this isn't good anymore. And things started to really break down. So, you know, we ended up down a path of abuse, unfortunately, and it was coming from a place of him not being able to control what was going on in his life, but me realizing this wasn't getting any better and he wasn't wanting to put in any work to fix it. So I needed to get myself out of it.

Stephanie: Jenny. Uh, let's just stop right there. Before we started, I told you that if you were comfortable I would like for us to talk a little bit about your situation because I thought people might be able to relate to it. What I didn't know was that immediately I would be the one to relate to it. In my early thirties, I uh, dated a man for five years who was an alcoholic and it was, a very challenging situation. In my case, he was a great guy, but he had a lot of trauma and some history of family stuff that he just couldn't get out of his own way. He just was medicating with with alcohol and, at the time, I used to call it emotional whackamole, anytime he felt a feeling he'd drown it, and whack it so that he wouldn't have to feel it, and then, you know, it'd pop somewhere else and it led him to be challenging. So, wow.

Jenny: Yeah. Well, Stephanie, I feel like we lived similar lives, right. And I think that's one of the things I've come to learn is just like you, accepted that there were so many underlying things behind that. I knew it wasn't him, but at the same time, I couldn't do anything for him. He had to do it himself.

Stephanie: Right, right. I got to the same place, too. It was all the reasons I've given you to make the choice differently and all the threats that I've made to make the choice differently. None of those have worked. So you do get to a point of just giving up and saying "It, it can't be my problem anymore." In my case, there's actually a very interesting postscript to my story: earlier this year my mom said to me, "Hey, whatever happened to So and So?" And he was a guy who wasn't ever on social media so even those every couple of years, when you feel like stalking someone, you know, I could never find anything.

Stephanie: But I had said, "Oh, I think his mom died a couple of years ago." And so, she was driving so I pulled out my phone and looked up and sure enough, his mom had died a few years ago and he was a junior. So I said, "I wonder if it's dad's still alive or if he followed her."

Stephanie: So as I looked up the obituary, there was the obituary, but when I read it, it was actually his, and he died last fall

Jenny: Wow.

Stephanie: of cirrhosis of the liver.

Jenny: mm.

Stephanie: It just, you know, blew my mind, how young he was and how much would you have to drink to kill yourself by that age? It's it's incomprehensible to me. And that's after dating this guy for five years and living with him for three of them. I mean, you know, it's still incomprehensible. Interesting that I said, let's go down this path cause maybe people will relate to you and it turns out that you smacked me right in the face. It was me that related to you!

Jenny: Oh, Sorry to, to that, to surprise you with that, mean

Stephanie: No, no surprise at all. I was fortunate in my situation in that we never, you know, made any legal commitments. I even bought a condo during that period and I must have known something was going on. I bought it only in my name. So, our breakup was as easy as sending him back to where he came from, which was somewhere in the Midwest. So it was not the same as yours with a difficult divorce. That's much harder to extract from.

Jenny: Sure. Thankfully, we didn't have children, but I've had a, a similar outcome: he didn't pass away, but I've jokingly called him Lazarus because I've gotten the call four or five times that he's in the hospital again with liver cirrhosis. And I'm like, "Okay, maybe it's this time." So, you know, same. Right? You don't make it this far in life having not treated your body a certain way and being in that position without having to have some sort of implication. So it's hard, but people choose for themselves and we have to choose for ourselves and choose better.

Stephanie: I'm glad that you were able to make that choice, as was I to, step out of that situation and get somewhere better. Tell me once you left, you said it was a difficult divorce. Tell me about the aftermath and what your life looked like.

Jenny: You know, I think I had to look for the really positive things. I had been in Florida for about 10 years at that time, and I had an awesome network of people, I had an awesome group of colleagues, I had a lot of people I could lean on, but it was humbling. Cause I was used to being the person that could do it all, that could work through it all, that was always the strong one. And I had to say like, "I'm not that strong right now. I need, I need a break." And so that was super humbling. I think that was one thing I learned was that it's okay to say "I'm not okay."

Jenny: Also I think one of the other big pieces I learned was I could head down that path myself. I could grab a glass of wine after dinner, unwind, now there was no reason to try and keep it out of the house, right? I didn't have an issue with it. And I learned really quickly, this isn't gonna help me sleep, this isn't gonna help me in my mood, it's not gonna help overall. And while it might temporarily make me feel better, it's not a good long term solution, so let me look for something else that I can lean into. For me, that was the gym. I'm a physical therapist by background. So getting in there, working out, physically exhausting my body was a much better solution to help me down that path of sleeping and starting to put things back together. Then I could start to put some goals in front of me, both professionally and personally to say, "Okay, well, I haven't been able to focus on these things because I was so focused over here. What do I wanna do now? What does that look like for me? And, and what do I not give a shit about anymore?" And I'm okay saying that, you know, I think that was really freeing for me as well.

Stephanie: Yeah. So you started going to the gym, you started feeling better, you started putting goals in front of you, then what?

Jenny: It's funny how life turns out, right? So fast forward a few months, I met my now husband and I was, like I said, no, shit's given right. I was like, "Don't do this. I don't do that. If you're not into this, that's fine. You can leave." And my friends were like, "You're gonna scare him away." And you know, here we are five years later.

Jenny: So, I think all things work out the way they're supposed to, but I think I was much more directive in what I wanted. I knew exactly what that was and what I wouldn't tolerate and not emotional about it. You know, "I really like you, this is super important, but I've been down a path of things that didn't work before and so I'm going to be really, really black and white about what I want and if that doesn't fit with what you want, that's okay. We're just not meant to be together." And I've taken that attitude into my business too, you know, it's "Here's what I do. I'm unapologetically this and if you don't like that, that's okay. You know, I'm not for you,"

Stephanie: right. Yeah. I, I, I can relate to that as well because after you've been through that situation, you find yourself so far down the wrong path and in a place that you never meant to be, that once you struggle and drag yourself out of that and rebuild your normal, whatever that is, those triggers are for, for at least a number of years for me, they were, what's the great way to say that.

Stephanie: Uh, I, overreacted I overreacted to them, right. Overcompensating for like you were saying that black and white, "I don't do this, or I won't stand for that."

Jenny: Yeah.

Stephanie: When in fact, there are other people who bring other things to a relationship that may exhibit some little bubble of something that I overreacted to that it's probably fine, but for a period of time, I felt I was overcorrecting.

Jenny: Absolutely. Well and I think that brings such a great point because I'm sure my husband would say the same. He went through a divorce as well and so he came in with some very strict do's and don'ts as well. I think we both respected each other enough to know what those things were and be okay with not being in them. My husband now actually very very seldomly drinks. So, you know, at one point he said, "Are you afraid I'm gonna be like your ex?" And I was like, "No, could we have a glass of wine, please?" You know, but he's so far the other extreme that it didn't trigger for me, but I think it certainly would have, or could have, had things been different, and the same from him. So I think that is super important as well for people to appreciate about themselves and be okay with.

Stephanie: Yeah. That was several years before 40. Tell me about 40 for you.

Jenny: Oh, you know, 40 has been awesome. I feel like I went into a new decade with kind of a new script, starting over. I've got a great husband, I have a little guy who's two. He is so much fun, he was born at the beginning of the pandemic. So I feel like leading up to 42, I was blessed to spend a lot of time with him because life was just different and I got to be home. So I think I've changed my script and that has made my life better. You know, I get to be home with him, I get to spend time with him instead of, "Oh my gosh, I'm not at work." You know? I've changed how I view a lot of things in life and it's just made life better. That's been a big part of the healing for me is I get to do these things as opposed to I have to do them. I get to be part of this instead of I have to be part of this. And I think all of that has just led me to a place where life is great. I love it.

Stephanie: That's great. You told me that you now focus on what you can control. Talk about that a little bit.

Jenny: Yeah. You know, I think so many of us, we worry. And I'm sure coming from the background you came from, I was up at 2:00 AM worrying about what could be tonight, what was gonna happen? You know, when was he gonna come home? Was he gonna hurt somebody in the process? And there was so much that was out of my control and I worked really hard on that in the moment, but it's hard when it's that close to you, but I've carried that skill forward. I've carried that through to just about everything in my life and said, "Okay, I can do something about this," and if I can, I have an action and a plan and I do something with it, and if I can't, it goes on the back burner. It's something that's there. I work really hard to acknowledge it, move on past it, meditation, prayer, all of those things that are really helpful for me in just saying "this isn't part of what I can control right now. So I can't worry about it." It doesn't do me any good to fill my head and my time and my space with that. And that's been huge for me, too.

Stephanie: I took a lesson out of that relationship as well. This person would always come with crazy ideas about they were mostly job related. He worked in an industry where he could travel or be anywhere in the world. So he would come to me and say, "What if I got a job in Florida? What if I got a job in Las Vegas? What if I went on a touring thing?" And I got so used to sort of winding myself up to figure out all the variables of, "Okay, how would that work and what would happen to me and where would I go? Would I leave? Would I stay?" And after doing that in more times than I care to count, I finally started calling them "what if bombs" and saying, "Don't come to me with a What If bomb, come to me the day that you've got an offer on the table, or we've got actually something real to talk about." And that is something that I have carried through as well. It's similar to what you're saying is, "take a lot of the conjecture off the table, 'cause it's not worth stressing about. It's not real."

Jenny: And you can only plan so far, right? There are so many what ifs in life. you could spend your whole day and all night thinking about the, what ifs and the reality is, I can control what I can control, and the rest of it is outta my control. If I've made a plan and I'm prepared for the likely, then you have to just work through the unlikely as it comes, you can't control it all, and that will drive you crazy. Like you said, we had a similar experience and I finally said, "When you get that job and you get through the training and you make it past 90 days, I'll come out there and he was like,

Stephanie: See, so you're

Jenny: never happened. Yeah.

Stephanie: I just said to the job offer, you're talking about like, tell me when it's really real.

Jenny: Yeah. Yep. I was like, "You aren't gonna make it through training, but if you do, then we can talk about me moving out there."

Stephanie: Right Wow. So similar situations, it's it's crazy. Now that you are focusing on what you can control, tell me about where you are finding joy.

Jenny: Yeah. You know, I think I find joy in the smaller things in life now. probably partially this came from the last couple of years anyway. I used to love to travel and that's changed, but I'm okay with that. I think that's probably been the sign for me that things are good. You know, I don't need the things that I used to have to help me find joy, I can find them wherever. Taking a walk through the neighborhood with my son is joyful. I can choose to find joy in that. I can choose to find joy in getting to work through a complex case at work or, or things like that.

Jenny: That's not to dismiss the fun things for me too, which would be things like getting in the gym, getting my workouts in, you know, I love to cook. I enjoy doing that. So trying to make time to get in the kitchen to do that regularly as well. And then planning some trips, not necessarily "What If" trips, but right now they are "One Day" trips, and we're just not there yet, and getting ready, I've got a whole list. My husband's like, "When are we gonna do this all?" I'm like, "I don't know, better start soon." I think I've, I've just found a way to not necessarily look for joy in certain activities, but change my approach to it and find joy what I'm doing each day.

Stephanie: That's wonderful. It makes life so much more buoyant to live because you're finding joy every day and not just in the big mountain peaks and the times you were able to climb to the top, whether that's, an achievement or like you say a trip or something like that. It's every step along the way.

Jenny: Yeah. And I'm a person who always needs a challenge. So whether that's a new trip to plan and a new culture to engage in, or, a new business venture or, something I'm gonna try. I mean, I feel like having a two year old is an adventure every day. We're coming up on that potty training, like that's an adventure in and of itself. But I think it's fun to conquer whatever that step is, too. So whether that's, something like a new recipe or a new trip or a new business adventure, I find that joy in being able to do something new that challenges me, too.

Stephanie: And is that different than when you think back, even prior to this relationship we were talking about, is that different than when you were younger, when you were twenties or early thirties?

Jenny: You know, I think then I was so focused and so worried about what everybody else thought, where everybody, would judge me, that I wasn't truly finding joy in what I wanted to do. I did the things at work that I was recommended to do'cause they were gonna look good or I was gonna be good at it. Whereas now I unapologetically, I'm gonna do what I wanna do, and not that I'm not gonna be a team player, but I really wanna do what's gonna excite me and make me passionate, make me feel successful. That's probably where it's different, I care a lot less about what other people think and a lot more about my own joy and satisfaction.

Stephanie: Couldn't be better said. Truly. And is so consistent with other folks that I have talked to about this magical age, 40 and really caring less about external things and trusting more in internal measures.

Jenny: Right. Yeah, absolutely.

Stephanie: It sounds like there's also been a career shift for you? You said you were trained as a physical therapist, but now you're doing something different. Tell me about that.

Jenny: Yeah. This all kind of ran together, so I am still a physical therapist and I still practice physical therapy, but simultaneously, while I was going through my rough divorce and relationship issues, I was working as a physical therapist in the home with children and what I was seeing was it didn't matter how great our PT interventions were, if the home was chaos, they weren't eating well, there was stress between mom and dad. The divorce rate in children with disabilities is around 80%. So it's incredible, that there's so much chaos and so much stress in those homes that I realized there was so much that mattered more than our physical therapy. So I was bringing in my own learning and learning about functional health and wellness and things that I could control and all the things we just talked about and have now made the transition to incorporate that as part of my practice. I include wellness and functional health aimed at helping families thrive, helping moms feel their best and helping those families, especially in those young years, manage the lifestyle factors that are going to help them feel their best and function their best. And I love that.

Stephanie: I'll bet. So as someone who has made changes to their diet for health reasons, I five years ago, made a dramatic change in my diet, I know that the standard American diet is not particularly nourishing or healthy, but also it's quite addictive. Tell me how you work with families to change eating patterns. I'm really interested in that.

Jenny: It's definitely a challenge, so for me, it starts with Mom because if Mom isn't bought into it, then there isn't going to be that change. But on the other side, when moms are bought in, we can change health for generations to come because they're willing to make those changes and start to build in healthier recipes and make some food at home instead of an on-the-go, standard American diet that many of our kids are accustomed to. We start with even young kids, incorporating them in the kitchen, let's have them be part of food prep, let them try the vegetables instead of assuming they don't like it, and it's a slow process, but I'm a big fan of no family should have to make two meals. So even if they're modified, and maybe child eats something a little bit different than the parents do, there still should be that opportunity for them to try everything, put it on their plate, let them at least put it in their mouth. The average child needs to try something 13 times before they decide if they really like it or not. So when they pushed it off their plate, one, two, and three times, don't give up. You know, so some little simple tips that we can start to use, and oftentimes when they start to see parents eat that way, they're more willing to try it.

Jenny: My son is a great example of that, he will try anything, he doesn't always eat all of it, but he loves trees, you know, broccoli. He loves peppers. He has his own little knife set and he likes to cut veggies with me and he'll usually try and eat 'em, doesn't always like them, but I just continue that exposure. I try and help my families do that too. It doesn't have to be a massive overhaul where you're all eating broccoli for dinner every night, but there can be some small and successful changes to get away from that standard American diet and move us towards eating much healthier.

Stephanie: Talk to me about some of the small changes that we can make to help our diets.

Jenny: I think a big one is reading labels. Just being aware of what we're putting in our mouth is huge. Yogurt is a great example. We feed kids yogurt 'cause it's a healthy choice, but most commercial yogurts are loaded with sugar. So opting for Greek yogurt and adding honey and berries instead is a great way to cut out some of the processed crap and extra sugar that sneaks into so many of our foods. That is one big one.

Jenny: I always try, as a parent, to fill half of my plate with vegetables first. So focusing on what I can have instead of what I can't. So adding more veggies to any meal. That helps me control the hunger, eat that first and then go on to the other things that there's no restriction of calories and certainly not with kids, but I think it's more about what we eat and how we choose healthy options. And then, like I said, same with kids, making sure they get one option, one bite of it and I don't force them to eat it. If they wanna touch it, play with it, push it around their plate, that's a great way, to get them exposed to it. We do cut things in crazy shapes. We have a Mickey Mouse cut-out that we use for different veggies as well. Just things that can make it more fun for kids, more engaging and maybe more willing to even lick it, try it and get more exposure to it..

Stephanie: Yeah. Before I made my drastic change, I went gluten free and dairy free, which to most people is pretty drastic. I did that a couple of years before my, my current diet and what I remember very specifically was, after having done that, the sweets that I would eat, 'cause I have a sweet tooth. I am a dessert girl. Okay. Give me dessert or give me death. The sweets that I would eat were so much more satisfying. I remember I was at my parents' house and my dad used to love the Keebler Fudge Elves, the little elf sandwich cookies. I remember grabbing those and eating them and thinking "I could eat 42 of these and I would not be satisfied." But if I make a gluten free dessert of some sort, let's say I make a cookie, I could have two of them and feel like, "Oh yeah, that was good." It's real chocolate. It's real ingredients. It's not a chemical concoction. That was eye-opening for me. So not only did my taste buds change, but also what I was satisfied with changed dramatically.

Jenny: Yeah, absolutely. Well and I think so many of us are mindless about eating, right? Like you grab a bag of chips and you go sit in front of the TV and all of a sudden the whole bag's gone. And you're like, "Did you really even enjoy that?" Because I'm a big fan, maybe not chips, but if you want something, enjoy it. Like those cookies, have it, enjoy it, but sit and really enjoy it. Don't shove in four as you're walking through the kitchen and not really enjoy, taste it, feel how it feels to be full and enjoy that sweetness. I think that's so important too.

Stephanie: Yeah, and we are big fans also of reading labels, that's something I've trained my husband to do 'cause we go grocery shopping together. 90% of the time he's great, and all of the things that we normally eat are in the cart. But, even this week there was a loaf of bread in the cart, and I said, "What are you doing? That is a big loaf of bread and you are one person. Did you read the label?" When you look at it, a lot of bread also has a ton of sugar in it. And so, "Go get a natural bread something that's made with some more real ingredients." We have those conversations quite often. This time, he just said, "I want my bread and I'm just gonna have my bread. And I'm a grown ass man. And I can make that decision." And I know whenever he throws the grown ass man card, I, I just have go, Okay. You got it, I'll back off. It's like his, referee card, his foul card, his grown ass man card. Yeah.

Jenny: My husband has one of those too. He will sometimes grocery shop by himself and his is usually it depends if he goes with the teenagers or not, but it's usually like frozen pizza. He loves a frozen pizza every once in a while. And I'm like, "Can we not like make pizza? We can go to this place. That makes really good pizza." Same thing. He's like, "I just wanted a frozen pizza." I'm like, "Okay. All right."

Stephanie: Patrick's version of that is Red Baron, these little mini disgusting frozen pizzas. Oh, which even when I ate everything, I thought were disgusting, but, uh, well boys will be boys. So you turned 40 this year and you said you feel better, you feel healthier, more well, rested than you have in years. Tell me about that.

Jenny: Yeah. You know, I think a big part of it has been focusing on my own health. We've talked about that a little bit already- what I eat, how I exercise, making sleep a priority, because unfortunately the reality is, as we age, our chemicals in our bodies change and sleep is harder to come by. Pair that with having a two year old and there was definitely a few years where sleep wasn't as regular for me. So I've been really focused on sleeping for the last six months and making sure I have a good routine: going to bed at the right time, not on the electronics late. And sleep feels great, wake up feeling rested, which is wonderful. And then I make sure I have my routine and I get things in every day. So moving my body, having food prepared. Not being prepared is prepared to fail basically, and that's when we rely on the junk food that we don't wanna go back to most often.

Jenny: So meal prepping on the weekends and does it get routine and boring? Sometimes, but I feel so much better that it's totally worth it. Those have all been huge and just helping me be successful and, and setting me up to feel good for whatever comes. So when those things do come and there's an impromptu weekend away or something fun to go do, I'm ready for it, not just physically, but also from an energy perspective and can bring myself completely ready to engage and be present in the moment of whatever that is.

Stephanie: Yeah. Tell me about meal prep, because that is, when we talk about eating healthier, the shift is between grab and go and cook like your grandparents or great grandparents did. It's a big shift because not everybody's got the time or the ability. I'm not a great cook. I can follow a recipe, but it takes time and it takes effort. And for so many people, I'm lucky Patrick and I are a adult couple with no children, but for folks who are either have multiple children or, single moms or single dads, or kids with, you know, all the activities, I mean, how do you fit in eating healthier?

Jenny: I think that's such an awesome question and such a great point because it can be really hard. So you have to make it a priority, like you said, but you have to make it simple. If you're not a great cook or you don't love to cook find 10 recipes and rotate 'em. You know, make three each week or, four each week or whatever that is until you're out and then start again and that's okay. I usually sit down on Sundays. I chop all my vegetables for whatever I'm cooking for the week. If there's a soup or something like that, I'll prep that in advance, 'cause that can be heated, so that'll cook while I'm doing the other things. I hard boil eggs. So I have quick, healthy on-the-go snacks that have protein in them. I buy the convenience containers of like the Greek yogurt and things like that, so I don't have to portion it out, although you could do that as well. I'm just saving myself a step by having a pre-portioned package so it can all go in my lunchbox and I can move and be on the go. I think that's really the key is keeping it simple.

Jenny: We found, maybe 15 recipes, our family will eat and then I might throw in a new one every once in a while. Sometimes it gets the, "Yeah, we can keep it." Sometimes it gets the "No, throw it out." Just don't make it too confusing. It doesn't have to be complex. Most people are more than happy to eat the same thing every three to four weeks. That can be a nice way to prep in advance. The other thing is there's tons of food services out there now that'll do it for you. So I do that too. I mean, my meals, we do a lot of cooking at home, but I also order lunches for the weeks, sometimes. Like when we're in a busy season right now we'll order them and mine get delivered to the gym, which is a bonus 'cause then I have to go to the gym too, to pick them up. But I get them prepackaged, they have, clean ingredients, I can choose what goes in them and then we have those for lunches throughout the week as well. So that's another option for people saying, "I just don't have time to do this." There's other ways to do it and oftentimes lots of resources in your community, if you just start looking as well.

Stephanie: Wow. Now through your business you are working with other busy moms, mostly.

Jenny: Mostly.

Stephanie: Are they contemporary to you in age? Are you working with other folks in that 35 to 45 range?

Jenny: You know, that's a great question. I would say 30 to 50 is kind of more it's a little bit broader than that. I think I've got some moms who are in it young and they're trying to figure it out, maybe they started young and now they're realizing there are better ways to do it and they wanna make those changes. Then I've got some on the other end who maybe are through that and their kids are older, but they're looking at this thinking, "I now have peri-menopausal symptoms or these other things that have been with me for so long that I'm now not sleeping well, I can't get this weight off. And you know, maybe I should have been paying better attention to what I was eating and I don't even know where to start." So kind of have a gamut right now.

Stephanie: I was curious if you had anyone in in that sphere who was doing that the same sort of 40 transition that we're talking about. If you're, if you're watching any of those from afar.

Jenny: You know, it's funny that you asked that 'cause I think right now, no, but I've had a couple in the past, you know, that were kind of walking that path. I could see where they were trending and I was like, "All right, you're gonna end up here and it's just gonna take you a couple years."

Stephanie: Great. Are you only working with folks in your geographic area or are you an online coach? Tell me a little bit about your business.

Jenny: Yeah. Yeah. So for therapy services, that is all located in Florida, but from a health and wellness perspective and coaching, we do that anywhere. So that can all be done online. We can do our meetings online. One of the things I love about the way we've set our program up is we have a community, so we do weekly calls together. 'Cause you know, this can be very isolating if you're eating so different than the rest of your family and friends are, to have somebody else to learn from, to say "What the heck do you make for dinner that your husband will eat?" and start to get some other recipes and ideas from other folks going through it. I love that piece of it as well, so they can join from anywhere.

Stephanie: That's great. Yeah, the first couple of years I was on this particular program I'm on now, I did spend a lot of time in the Facebook group asking questions and looking to see what other people's recipes were and commiserating on the change. And like you say, that isolation of eating differently than other folks.

Stephanie: And just to be clear when you change how you eat, it is absolutely isolating because most of the ways we socialize are around eating or drinking, so if you are not drinking alcohol or drinking limited alcohol, if there's nothing at the local Mexican joint that will suit you or won't make you feel sick, all of a sudden all those after works and Saturday evenings, all those get togethers with friends and coworkers and colleagues, it's difficult. And, that is also a shift.

Jenny: Yeah, I think, five plus years ago, things were so different too, right? Nowadays there are so many more options, so many more restaurants that cater to a healthier eating option, you can ask for things on or off and, and it's not so foreign, whereas five to 10 years ago that wasn't the case. So now options are getting better, but you're absolutely right, that social piece of it is a big change. And, and how do you fill that instead? How do you suggest a yoga class or a walk or, or something? A cooking class where you can focus on things you can have, which I've done with my girlfriends before as well. Um, so there's lots of good options out there, but you're right. It can make a big difference.

Stephanie: Yeah. And, they require creativity and, effort. It's effortless to roll outta work at whatever time and go over to the Mexican joint and have a margarita and bowl chips and salsa. It's effortless, but if you want that social connection going to look for alternatives requires effort, which, which frankly, a lot of a healthier lifestyle. I mean, that's just the bottom line. I mean, it all requires a little bit more effort, but it's not a bad thing.

Jenny: Yeah. And I think I like to think of it too, as you're putting in effort now versus down the line when you've got chronic disease and you're putting an effort to go to cancer treatment or spend extra time at your cardiologist, right. It all requires effort in your life. It's just where do you wanna put the effort? And I would much rather put it in now and have a healthier life. I fully intend to slide into the grave one foot still running as opposed to being sick and frail for the last 20 years of my life. I don't wanna live like that, and that's part of my why. And I think that's important to remember too, is why are you making those changes?

Stephanie: Oh, dig into that a little bit more, we're coming at that towards the end, but that is incredibly important. Tell me about your why.

Jenny: Yeah. You know, so, I mean, gosh, I have so many whys for so many different things in my life. I think it's super important that whatever you commit to that you have a strong why behind it, when it's hard, you've gotta have a reason to stick with it. So for me, that healthier lifestyle, the why behind it was watching my ex go through this path of breaking down and knowing that if he had healthier coping strategies, if he had come through some of that trauma in his past, he wouldn't be where he was.

Jenny: And my, why was, I don't wanna look like that. Right? This is traumatic for me too. And I could choose to go down that path myself, or I could choose something better. Um, so the why for me was looking not like that. That was 180 degrees from what I wanted to be. That was kind of the why for my choice of a healthier path back then. But my why now is my son. I wanna be there when he gets married and when he has grandkids and I can get on the floor and play with them. That's a whole lot of years off right now because he's two, but I want that energy and that ability to do that. I also wanna continue to help families thrive for years to come. That ability to change generations is so important to me. those are important whys for me to keep myself healthy and optimal, so that I can help my own family and other families.

Stephanie: That's wonderful. And just such a great motivator and a great key for folks who are trying to make changes in their lives because the changes are difficult. If you can pin it to something that's got some weight in your brain then that will help versus pinning it to a balloon of, "Oh, it would be nice." or "I should."

Jenny: Absolutely. Yeah. And when I start with clients, I always make them get back to that because at the end of the day, if they don't have a strong why, I can't coach you through that, it doesn't matter how good I am at coaching, if you don't wanna do it, that's up to you. So finding your why and getting back to that in everything we do. We have to make that hard decision between cake and no cake, or that extra glass of wine or no extra glass of wine, really has to come back to why? Why do you want this and why do you want it right now? I think that's super important.

Stephanie: Yeah, it sure is. Jenny tell me where people can find you.

Jenny: So my business is alltogetherwellness.net, and we also have a Facebook group and an Instagram, @AllTogetherWellness. I'm happy to personally answer any questions if you wanna find me on Facebook and reach out as well. But that's a great place that I will get all the messages. So all of those locations are good to find us.

Stephanie: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining me today and for being so generous with your story and delving into things that are uncomfortable. I just think it's so useful for others who are in the place where you and I used to be that, there's a way out and there's something on the other side that's worth working towards.

Jenny: Absolutely. And if my story changes or gives hope to even one other person, then it's worth it to be uncomfortable and share. So thank you.

Stephanie: All right.

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