Precision Health Club

Rootine series | Interview – Dr. James Madden from Benedictine College

Brutus: Okay, Chip, can you request it again, I think it didn’t come through. Okay. The likes look this. It says invite sent to Jim. 

Rachel: Hey, Jim, you should see a little bar pop up at the top of your screen. It’ll say confirmed. Yep. There you go. Perfect. 

Brutus: There we go. Jim, what’s up? 

Jim: What’s up, man? How are you Rachel? 

Brutus: I’m doing well, how are you doing? 

Jim: Doing very well. 

Brutus: There are a few people in here. I think there’s some more coming. 

Jim: Excellent. 

Brutus: Yeah. What are you teaching today? 

Jim: I am on fall break. So, lucky guy. Yeah. 

Brutus: Okay. I’m gonna ask you questions that I know the answer to. 

Jim: Sure. That’s alright. 

Brutus: Well, yeah, I mean, I’m glad you could join. 

Jim: I’m honored to do it. 

Brutus: Hopefully, we get some people coming in. This is a new time that we’re trying out. 

Jim: Okay, excellent. 

Brutus: Emily, in here already. 

Jim: And so this is through the company you work for, is that right? 

Brutus: Yeah. So this is our Rootines Experts Series. So every week we have, you know, health experts or people, an expert come in and give us tips, advice… 

Jim: Sure. 

Brutus: tell their story. Michael Ferguson is going to be with us next week. 

Jim: Be prepared to be enlightened when you meet Michael.

Brutus: Yeah. And I told him, you know, because he gave a talk at Harvard last two weeks ago. And he was doing a neuro mapping of people who did psychedelics versus what he can support the study considered fundamentalist and the brain mapping was the inverse. Which, I found fascinating. 

Jim: Yes. I was lucky to give a lecture in his class at Harvard Divinity two weeks ago, and it was a great experience. So Michael and I really kind of bounced off each other in a fun way there. 

Brutus: Yeah, I mean, he’s awesome. I’m super excited. Okay, so Emily, should I start or should I just wait for a few more minutes? 

Emily: Go for it. I think people will come and go, but Brutus get started. 

Brutus: Alright. Sure. Thank you, Emily. So… 

Emily: Thank you. 

Brutus: Brief intro on Jim. Jim is a professor of philosophy at Benedictine College. He’s also a martial artist, and has won the IBJJF blue belt open masters division, which is a very tough division. He’s practiced martial arts for his whole life. He is also an athlete, competed college football. And then I suppose retired after and then went to academia and pursued his studies in philosophy, completed his PhD at Purdue University and then has been teaching at Benedictine since. So Jim, I wanted to start with one of the craziest sides of your story is that you used to weigh over 300 pounds. 

Jim: Yes, I did. 

Brutus: And then you’re now around 180, 195. 

Jim: Yep, 180. But usually where I hang around yeah. 

Brutus: So… 

Jim: I don’t even know how much I weighed at that point. I mean, I didn’t have the guts to get on a scale. When I decided to start the process of losing weight, I sort of thought if I actually saw the number, it would discourage me, so I had lost quite a bit of weight. And then at that point I was at like, 275. So, I was well over 300 to start with, yeah. 

Brutus: And what did you do? What were some of the things that you did to go from 300 pounds to down to 195? Because that’s a huge jump. 

Jim: Yeah. Okay, we could talk about, you know, the specific diets and exercise regimens I did, okay? And that’s an important thing to talk about. But I think even more important though is mentality and sort of broader sense of how you structure all that, right? And also, because I think that fits more into depth, not just how to I mean, like, anyone can lose 120 plus pounds, I mean, just stop eating. Right. Okay. You know, suffered terrible hardship. Okay. But it’s a question of how do you sustain it? Like, how do you keep it? So you know, I’m now. So I began that process, you know, I was 32 years old, I think and now, I’ll be 48 next month. Okay. So it’s been 16 years, you know, since I lost the weight. And I’ve kept it off and only gotten in better and better shape throughout that 16 year span. And so for me, the question is you know, what are the really, really big sort of hacks, right, that make it sustainable? Okay. And, man, I’ve done, you know, I’ve done almost every diet you can think of, right? You know, whether it’s calorie counting, you know, high carb, low carb, you know, keto is what I do now. You know, pretty much everything but vegan, I’ve done, and all of it has worked for me, okay? All of it has to some degree or other worked for me, okay. I’ve done as you know, like, all sorts of exercise regimens. I’m constantly experimenting with that stuff. And I love to buy new programs and try them and stuff. Okay, but I have to say, to some degree or other, they’ve all worked for me. Okay. And so I think what the key is, and this is sort of obvious, right? Is really any consistent, well thought out diet or exercise regimen will work. It’s just a question of whether or not you stick to it. Okay. And the number one thing, and all of that is adherence, right? It comes down to adherence, right. And, of course, you know, part of adherence is really just, you know, the gritty discipline to stick to it just to get up every morning make that decision. Okay. But I think there’s ways to make that easier on yourself too alright. And so I have kind of a couple of principles that are very, very big for me on that. Okay. And so do you mind if I just jump right into this? 

Brutus: Yeah, go for it, please. Yeah. 

Jim: So I think that the number one thing you have to do is, the way a friend of mine puts it, is you have to have the lowest barrier to entry. Okay. And what I mean by that is, if you have to get in your car and drive 20 or 30 minutes to get to a gym, or some situation to work out, and you’re a busy person, you’ve put a very high cost of entry, barrier to entry on your workout, okay. And so you need to find a workout modality in a program that minimizes that kind of like by an expense, right? You know, that minimizes what, you know the travel time to get there, the expense to get there, right, the scheduling and things like that, okay. So using diet as example, if your diet is going to require you to eat a great deal of food that is very hard for you to obtain, right? And you can’t sort of guarantee ready supply of that, you’re really setting yourself up for failure, right? You have too high of a cost of entry to get that off the ground. Okay, so one, I think you have to really, really look for what are the likely excuses for me to come up in this, you know, in this particular regimen I’m going with, right? And if there are a lot of those excuses that are likely to come up, that will be legitimate in the moment, right? Where, hey, it’s a half hour drive for me to get to the treadmill at the gym, and I’ve only got 15 minutes till I pick my kids up and that’s going to be a regular problem. That’s a very bad way for you to work out. Okay, and so like you’ve got a spot that sort of thing up front, and tailor what you’re going to do workout wise, to what are the likely excuses to arise for you, right? If you say hey, I’m going to go you know, vegan from my diet, and I don’t have a lot of access to the kinds of specialty foods that are going to do that for me. You’ve got built in excuses right now that are going to make it very hard for you to adhere to this. Okay. So I think, right like you have to upfront before you decide what you’re going to do look at what those likely excuses are Gonna be, and you’re gonna see a lot of the proposed things for you are just not going to work out well for you. And you have to keep looking to find something that doesn’t sort of exploit the weaknesses in your in your daily life. Does that make sense? Yeah. Okay. Small habits. Yeah, or working? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, small habits. And when you when you go and you pick out an exercise regimen, okay, and let’s say you decide, hey, I’m going to, I want to do CrossFit. But then the nearest CrossFit gym to you, you know, is going to involve, you know, a 30 minute drive after work, right every night, and there’s gonna be traffic and all that stuff? Well, you’re probably not going to stick to that, right? Life gonna get in the way of that. Okay. Just to give another example. And, um, that’s not to say anything about crossing like that. But I think you have to look at what are the logistical things that are to come up that are going to derail this program, okay. And that’s what I like for exercise programs, things that it’s very, very hard for them to be derailed for me, okay. So that’s why I tend to not work out in gyms, I tend to work out at home. And I tend to work out with very simple equipment that I own, right. So I think if you can get into something like kettle bells, where you can, for a fairly low expense, own a complete set of kettle bells, even just one kettle bell could do it, right. And you keep that in your garage, or your living room or your basement, and it’s right there, it’s going to be very rarely that you honestly, are going to be unable to fit your workout in when that implement is in your home. Right? Do you see what I mean? And you got to have a good program that programs around that? Do you see what I mean? 

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: Or let’s say, you know, you’re a very busy parent, and you’re very busy professional, and you have lots and lots of demands on your time, okay? Deciding to train for a marathon as your fitness regimen is probably not a very good idea. Because for a lot of that process, you’re gonna have to be out on the road for an hour and a half, two hours, right?

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: Which is you know, life is going to get in the way of that very quickly, right. So if you’re that really busy person, then you need to look for a workout regimen that doesn’t presuppose hours of commitment on, you know, a multiple times a week basis, do you see that? 

Brutus: Yeah 

Jim: And I think a lot of times we go into a fitness regimen with a very good, like real earnest commitment, I’m gonna do it this time, I’m gonna get this done. And then we pick something kind of based on what we want to be, and not who we really are, right? And I think we have to look at like, what can I actually afford in my life to do here. And in almost any well thought out thing you pick, it’s going to work, if you can stick to it. And whether you stick to it is going to have a lot to do with whether or not it actually fits to your life. 

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: Okay, so I think even beyond like changing, I grew from a small habit thing, I think the point I’m getting at is more we all just because of our professional commitments, our family commitments, you know, our lifestyle commitments, have things that are ready made excuses to knock us off our exercise and diet routines. Okay. And some of these things can’t be gotten rid of, nor should they be gotten rid of. So we have to, like really look at when we pick a regimen, is it going to fit with my other commitments? Right. And that’s why for me, I when I lost, you know, really the bulk of that 100 pounds in the first year, year and a half of my transformation. You know, at the time, I had four children, the oldest of whom was four years old. Okay, so it was a crazy time of life for us. Yeah. And so I lost that weight, you know, by dietary changes, and swinging a kettle bell in my backyard. I mean, that was really it. But I tell you, I could get that workout in and anywhere from you know, 15 to 25 minutes, every time I went out to do it, right? It was very flexible, and it was very easy to work that around my deep family and professional commitments, right. 

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: And I’m not saying like, that might not be the thing for a lot of people, but you got to find your thing, the thing that actually can be adhered to in your lifestyle. 

Brutus: So, just take us back one more time to when you first started, right. 

Jim: Yeah. 

Brutus: So what was the motivating drive for you to actually go from, you know, 300 pounds plus to where you are? 

Jim: Yeah. See for me, you know, I was married, you know, the career was going, you know in the way I had always wanted it to so all that was put together. And you know, I had children. When I started the process, we had three kids. And then eventually the fourth one came during the process. And for me, it really came down to what kind of life I wanted my children to live and the realization that the kind of life I live is going to be the biggest influence on that. Right? And so if I saw my current lifestyle as flawed in ways, right? That would be overtly obvious to my children, right? Even if they don’t see them as flaws, it would just be overly obvious. Very likely they would want, or they would just tend to pick up those habits and live that way. Okay. And for me, it wasn’t you know, I want to lose weight so I can play with my kids, I could still play with my kids, right? It was I wanted to lose weight because I wanted to set an example of the sort of lifestyle I wanted my children to live. And I realized I couldn’t move them in this direction, unless I myself can model it, right. And so I realized I kind of had to become the sort of person I wanted my kids to want to become. Right. And that was the biggest thing for me in deciding I was going to lose this weight, right? Because of the influence I realized I was having on these little people. Yeah. 

Brutus: And since then, you’ve kept your fitness up. You’ve picked up martial, you’ve picked up Jujitsu…

Jim: Yeah. 

Brutus: and other martial arts. What have you found to be the most impactful? Because you’ve done a lot of diets, you’ve done a lot of exercises. 

Jim: Yeah. 

Brutus: What have you found to be two of the most impactful things, both in terms of exercise, and also in terms of like food intake? 

Jim: Sure. I think I mean, and even though jujitsu has come late in the process, you know, I’ve been doing jujitsu specifically for I guess, five years, six years, if you count the kind of judo that I was doing going into it too. But you know, that’s fairly late. I took it up in my early 40s. Right. But I think that’s been the most impactful. And I think it’s really changed the way I think about fitness in a way because once I took up jujitsu, sort of my all of my participation in Physical Culture and all of my fitness work, became ordered to getting good at jujitsu. Right? So now my working out was no longer just about working out, it was no longer just about health, it was no longer just about appearance, or it was about getting good at this art. Okay. And so it gave the working out a kind of direction, okay? And just intrinsic to the practice of jujitsu is to come to it, especially in midlife to have this entirely new skill that has incredible value as a martial art, right, introduce to you and have to relearn that and go through the process of humility, especially as a tenured college professor, right. To have to go to that process of humility, of putting that white belt on and standing at the back of the line, you understand? 

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: And, you know, having to kind of, in a way, start over, right, go back to school, okay. What it’s done for me cognitively is carried over into my professional life. What it’s done for me, you know, emotionally and spiritually is definitely carried over my family life, my relational life. And so, for me, the most transformative thing I’ve done in terms of activities without a doubt, jujitsu. 

Brutus: Okay. 

Jim: In my whole family, you know, got sucked into it. Right? You know, all six of my kids, my wife, right? So my wife and I, when we have our weekly date night, we go train jujitsu. Friday nights, Mom and Dad’s date night, and that’s when we go to the gym alone. Right? Right. And, you know, training we go out to eat, right? And so yeah, and so it’s become this thing I do with my family. And it’s a very interesting thing and that my kids are better than me at jujitsu, right? Like my teenagers can beat me, couple of them, pretty easily. Okay. And… 

Brutus: That’s impressive. 

Jim: Yeah. 

Brutus: Size. 

Jim: My size, yeah. And, you know, I’ve done some jujitsu, right. 

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: Yeah, my teenage boys can definitely beat me. My oldest son who’s you know, out of the house will murder me. Right? But age matters, right? But they’re good, they started young. But the point is, I have to learn from my children in this, right? And once again, that’s an incredible thing for a father, right, to learn from your children. Okay. Okay, that’s jujitsu. I know, you’re a jujitsu guy too. But I guess I would say more generally, is, I think one of the keys to adhering to a fitness program, right, is to not make it a fitness program to make a commitment to something you want to get good at. Right? I think that’s really important in that whether it’s, you want to become a great runner, or you want to become you know, really good at tennis or you want to become really good at boxing or you want to become really good you name it, okay. And even if it’s not a sport, but it’s more of a trade, but it has a physical aspect to it, and it’s going to require you to have stamina and that sort of thing, right? I think in terms of long term adherence, just working out to increase longevity and just working out in order to enhance your appearance or just working out, because you want to be good at working out, you want a daily challenge, that’s a great thing. But I think at a certain point, that buzz is going to run out, and it’s gonna be hard to be committed to that. I think what you need is to be able to commit to something that really involves, you’re wanting, you’re getting good at something that you see as worthwhile is a very important thing. Okay. And I think that’s what’s really made jujitsu so transformative to me and my family. Yeah. 

Brutus: So how do you see fitness health from a philosophical standpoint? How influenced are you by some of the early Greek philosophers in terms of how they, you know, they had Plato as a wrestler.

Jim: Yeah. 

Brutus: You know, Plato being broad shoulder. How influential was other works out of their life to how you live out in relationship to philosophy and fitness? 

Jim: Yeah. These are not separate domains in my life, right? They spill over into each other. Right. And you mentioned Plato. You know, in Plato’s Republic, there’s a really important moment in this, it’s this canonical book, right? In the Western tradition of philosophy. And there’s an important moment there where there’s a debate between Socrates and the people he’s dialoguing with, about whether it is you improve the soul through improving the body or you improve the body through improving the soul. Okay. What I think is really interesting about that is none of the parties in the debate doubt that the health of the soul and the health of the body are intrinsically linked, okay? The question is, like, what has priority, but it’s very clear that they think that these are intrinsically linked, that your body is an expression of the person you are and the person you are will be expressed in your body one way or another. Okay. And so that is very, very much the ancient classical Greek way of looking at this, okay. And that’s a way of looking at it that I have certainly adhered to, you know, for my entire adult life, right. And this goes back to my ultimate motive of why I got in shape and stayed in shape is because, once again, I didn’t see my physical health as an accident to who I am, right. And I don’t see my children’s physical health as an accident to who they are, and I needed to model for them the right arrangement of these things. Okay. And so there’s this idea, you know, that one could, you know, completely disregard their standing, you know, as a capable human body, right? And still live, you know, a completely fulfilled life. To the Greeks, that would be a very foreign idea, right? But now, that’s, you know, that’s kind of our way of looking at it. Okay. But that has deeply influenced me, and I want my body to be a sign of the virtue I’m trying to live. Right. And I think that informs my life across the board. Yeah. 

Brutus: Okay. So I mean, we could go on, because there’s a few things I wanted to ask, but there are some questions that I want to ask you… 

Jim: Right. 

Brutus: from the community. So one is from Lilly, any tips to start meditating? 

Jim: Yeah. I mean, I don’t have like a first order tip as to like what your best procedure for starting meditating, like the actual meditative technique you should use, okay. But I’ll give you my general tip for starting anything that you really, really want to be committed to. Okay. And this is something that I’m doing right now on my own like experimentation on meditation is if you really, really want to take something up, and you want to keep it and you don’t want anything to get in the way of it, you need to do it first thing in the morning, okay? Because I find the longer you wait on something throughout your day, the longer you let your time for it slip into the day, the more likely it is that someone else can take it away from you. Right? Like if your meditation time is at lunchtime, right? Well hey, your boss might drop something on your desk, you know 10 minutes from lunch and say hey, I’m sorry but we got to get this done now. And like what happened? Your meditation time is gone. Right? Whereas if your meditation time is first thing in the morning, you get up 20 minutes earlier than you normally would to do your meditation. Really, very rarely will someone be able to take that away from you. Right. And this is why like I was not dispositionally a morning person. But we have twins, they’re actually seniors in high school now, but when they were babies, I realized if I was going to do anything in terms of my own self-improvement and that sort of thing, while they were babies, I just had to be an early bird. Right. And so I would, you know, I would get up like, literally 3:30, 4 o’clock in the morning, so I could read, so I could meditate, right? 

Brutus: Oh, wow. 

Jim: Yeah. And then, you know, because they would tend to wake up, you know, about like, six. Okay, but I could get two hours of, you know, self-care in right at that time. And no one could take it away from me. Of course, the babies woke up early and stuff. Okay. There’s other priorities, right. 

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: But that really led to like productivity, right? And, that has since been my habit, I don’t get up at 3:30 anymore, right? Because my kids thankfully are grown. Right? But, that’s been one of my really big principles is, if you really want something to happen, you have to schedule a time in a day, when it is very likely that no one else can take it from you. And then if it doesn’t happen, it’s on you. Yeah. 

Brutus: And so Lily asked a follow up question, what about moving meditation? Like, can you walk and do it? 

Jim: Okay. So my wife is much more of a skilled meditator than I am, and she definitely does walking meditation. She loves it. Yeah. For her, it’s important to get out and like touch a tree, literally. 

Brutus: Yeah. And there’s something good about going outside. 

Jim: Yes. And by the way, I try to get as much of my workouts done outside. Right. And, part of my regular routine is I walk outdoors every single morning every single morning, yeah. 

Brutus: Okay. 

Jim: Yeah. 

Brutus: I got to do that because I don’t do that. 

Jim: But man, it’s tough in Ontario sometimes I bet, right? 

Brutus: Yeah. Okay, so we got a few more questions. One is from Emily. Emily wants to know, what’s your favorite book/podcast? 

Jim: My favorite podcast is the Kaiser Graham dialogue. 

Brutus: Nice. 

Jim: Okay. Favorite book? That’s tough. Because, I mean, okay, like, all-time favorite book for me like, absolutely if I only got one book? Yeah. 

Brutus: What would be the one book that you would recommend, your most recommended book? 

Jim: Yeah. Okay. I would say, this is tough, because I just recommended you a bunch of books and they would not be enough to go here. I think okay, this is gonna be kind of silly. Alright, but here are two. These are not what you’re expecting me to say, okay? The two best self-improvement books okay, that I think are out there are, it’s a book by a guy named Dave Ramsey; The Total Money Makeover. Okay. And a fitness book by Pavel Saltzman called Enter the Kettle bell. Okay. And I’ll tell you why these two books are so good. And it has less to do because I know there’s much to disagree with, with both these guys, they’re both very controversial within their fields, okay. And I think what’s great about these guys, is less for the content of the books, but for the method, okay. And what they both do is they take very, very complicated high cost of entry problems for people and they boil them down to very, very simple rules. Right? Very, very easy to follow rules. Okay. And so, for instance, you know, Dave Ramsey’s book is about how to get instead of debt, okay? And he doesn’t go with like, what the best method is in terms of like, you know, playing with the interest rates and stuff like that, okay? He goes with the best method that you’re likely to stick to, because it takes a lot of decision making out of it. Right. 

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: Okay. Same thing with Pavel. Like, he boils down strength and endurance to like the lowest possible common denominators, even though there’s more optimal ways to do it, but they’re gonna be much harder to stick to. Okay. You see what I mean? So if you’re looking for like two ways to sort of just very easily, not easily, but just simplify, like your financial life and your fitness life, these are great examples. Because what they do is they just get it down to like in Paul’s book, you get two exercises, that’s it. You’re going to do those two exercises. And you get a very, very small number of variations within that terms of sets and reps, right. Dave Ramsey takes your financial life and like reduces it to six baby steps he calls them right. And once again, I’m not saying the content is specifically right here. It’s that method of looking for ways to simplify the whole thing. Okay. 

Brutus: It’s essentially helping you create a system for accomplishing. 

Jim: Yes, okay. Yeah. And I like it offloads the cognitive labor…

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: on to something else, right. But this is like one of the reasons why I like to eat a ketogenic diet. And I think it has very little to do with like the biochemistry. It’s just that when I walk into a restaurant tonight, if I’m eating a ketogenic diet, I look at that menu, and I have a very simple rule that eliminates three quarters of the food on that menu, right? And so it’s greatly simplified my decision making procedure for what I’m going to eat at that restaurant, right? Whereas if I was counting calories now, I’m going to have to do all these calculations and bargaining with myself. I could maybe eat, you know, 800 calorie meal now, if tomorrow I have a 400 Calorie breakfast, I’m like, decent. You see what I mean? Whereas if I’m on a keto diet, I just say, “Well, I can’t eat that, that, that that and that, but I can eat this”. Boom, it’s done, have a nice meal, move on. It’s made it where I don’t have to do as much of the thinking. Right. And I think that’s important that to offload the thinking as much as possible, right. 

Brutus: Yeah. One more question. 

Jim: Yeah, but [inaudible 30:55]. But, yeah, give me one more thing to Emily’s good question. Okay. If I were to really seriously recommend just one book to someone, okay, it would probably be Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I gotta give the philosopher’s answer there too, right? 

Brutus: Yeah. I mean, that’s always a good. 

Jim: Always good. 

Brutus: Yeah. I always recommend that to people. And they obviously when you still first start reading, it’s a bit confusing. 

Jim: Yeah. 

Brutus: Once you get into it, it’s good. So we got one more question from Ty. And Ty’s asking, what’s the best product across any industry that you’ve purchased in the past year? 

Jim: Best product? 

Brutus: Shoes, glove? 

Jim: That’s an interesting question. 

Brutus: Ty’s also a big workout. 

Jim: He’s really… 

Brutus: Yeah. 

Jim: The best product of anything that I’ve purchased across any industry in the last year. Let me think. 

Brutus: Hammer? 

Jim: Hammer? No, I haven’t bought a hammer in the last year. Okay, this is ironic, okay? Because I totaled it this morning. Right. But we bought a Volkswagen Jetta earlier this year. And I really, really love that car. I was really happy with how that was going. But then I hit a deer this morning and totaled it so it’s kind of sad. 

Brutus: This morning? 

Jim: I did. Yeah, I hit a deer. Yeah. 

Brutus: Are you okay? 

Jim: I’m fine. Yeah, I’m fine. 

Brutus: Was it a big deer or a small deer? What kind of deer was it?

Jim: It was a good sized deer. Yeah. But I mean, you know, this is what happens when we live in North America. Right. We have to dodge deer, right? So the Jetta was a great product I bought. Yeah, I think I’m gonna go with that. Yeah. 

Brutus: Okay. All right. Well, Jim, thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it. You gave us some great tips and advice, especially in…

Jim: Excellent. 

Brutus: Is there any last? Where can people find you for your social for you, you know, if people want to learn more about you? 

Jim: My website is JDMadden.com. And I’m on Twitter @JDMadden3.

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