She Geeks Out Podcast

rachele-podcast SGO Have you ever met people that you just instantly click with? Like, at a cellular level? Rachel Murray and Felicia Jadszak from She Geeks Out are two of those people. Hysterical, smart, driven and, best of all, they just overall get it. We had an awesome time recording this podcast in my office at Simmons College. We cover topics from fitness to cells dividing, to vitamin D, to yogurt and we wrap it up with personal motivation. And we laugh...a lot. Check it out.

Also, check out She Geeks Out. They are an incredible organization of empowerment that provides a welcoming network, enables mentorship, supports girls, advances women, and encourages every woman to proudly fly their geek flag. THEY ARE AWESOME.

When East Meets West: Separating Science from Woo

My work toes the line of health related subjects to which many lay claim -- food, exercise, behavior, wellness. Scientists, dietitians, personal trainers, nutritionists, yogis, exercise physiologists, healers, physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, bloggers. Vaccines, juicing, acupuncture, pesticides, massage, supplements, wine, cleansing, intervals, gluten. How do you know who's right? Doctors? Bloggers? Researchers? Healers?

Holistic Healing

I do work and research on lifestyle as medicine. I truly and honestly believe that eating the right food, moving your body, sleeping well, and taking stress out of your life are essential to health. But, I'm also a scientist, and I know that modern medicine -- vaccines, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, blood pressure and cholesterol medication -- keep us healthy and alive. They are necessary in the treatment of illness, not simply the prevention of it.

Is there room for both? Of course. And we should embrace the combination of evidence-based natural health remedies AND modern disease treatments. I believe the best thing we can do is take what we have, what we know works, and blend the East with the West. But this doesn't mean we latch on to every tincture, herbal supplement, and naturopathic therapy (...oil pulling, I'm looking at you...). Nor does it mean we treat every runny nose with amoxicillin.

An example: I have been sick for the past three weeks. I don't mean sniffle, sniffle, sick. I mean, green snot everywhere, coughing all night, raging headache, no voice kind of sick. It's been a b*tch. It's also a virus, which means there's no pharmaceutical that can treat it. BUT, there are some promising natural remedies -- elderberry, garlic, and oregano have all been shown to exhibit anti-viral properties (although the evidence is pretty weak). However in my pathetic  and desperate state, off to Whole Foods I trudged (through 7ft of snow) to drop $65 dollars on extracts and pills. BUT, because I am a person of science with professional responsibilities, I can't rely simply on nasty tasting herbal pills to work their maybe-magic. I also went next door to CVS and bought some Advil with Pseudoephedrine -- because my head was pounding, my sinuses were completely clogged and I needed something to take the edge off. East. Meet. West.

East Meets West

Another (tragic) example: Over the summer, a friend burned herself. Bad. Grabbed a hot cookie sheet from the oven with no mitt on. While running her hand under cold water, it had already started to blister. Using her good hand, she implored the facebook universe for a "natural" remedy to what seemed like a 2nd degree burn. She specifically stated that she did not want any modern medicine. The responses were wide and varied - ice, salves, creams, tinctures, ointments, dietary supplements. As I read the posts, I started to wonder two things: 1) Why didn't my friend want a modern remedy for an injury that could potentially get ugly (especially if she induced an infection from these "natural remedies"), and 2) Where the hell were these people getting their information about all of these potions?

Now I'm all for a good dose of witch hazel on a pimple or some chicken soup for your cold, but this irrational fear of scientific progress and complete regression to witchcraft has got to stop. Using modern medicine -- when you need it -- is why so many of us live long, healthy lives today. It's why we can live with, and through, diseases that would have previously killed us. In an effort to return to our ancient roots, we may be seriously hurting ourselves in the process. Between anti-vaccination campaigns, treating cancer with raw food, or cleansing the liver, this anti-science, anti-medicine campaign has gone off the rails. People, we are smarter than this and we need to stop letting our fears dictate our actions. What's more, we need to stop feeling guilty and ashamed when we turn to modern medicine. Yes, we distrust of the pharmaceutical industry. Do they do sh*tty things? Unfortunately, sometimes they do. But, on the whole, their products keep you alive. ALIVE.

I know that if you get cancer, you should get chemo or radiation. I know that in order to prevent measles, you should get your MMR vaccine. In know that to avoid infection of your burn, you should use an antibiotic cream. Is it a perfect system? Does it work 100% of the time? No. Nothing possibly could. We live in the real world.

But, in a world where we used to die from papercuts and now kill ourselves with fast-food induced heart disease, I would say we need to start looking at how and why we use food, herbs, and drugs. Imagine you ate a perfect diet, exercised every day, slept 8 hours a night, and were never stressed...and STILL got a massive bacterial infection because you stepped on a piece of dirty glass. Would you take an antibiotic? Or would you take your chances on self-healing and oregano oil? If you got cancer, would you go to an oncologist? Or would you roll the dice with raw organic broccoli alone?

I think you should trust the science. Because, the consensus of data will point you in the direction of health -- and that is better than any ancient promise, guilty feelings, or big-pharma distrust. Don't ignore or deny science because someone on google said vitamins can prevent Measles. (They can't, but Vitamin A can enhance the effect of the vaccine).  Take your elderberry extract when you get a cold-virus, but take the Advil and Pseudoephedrine too. Because you have better things to do than wait around for supplement companies to fill the vacuum of pharmaceutical companies.


We found the Silver Bullet...

We know. We know what is killing us. We know how to prevent 80% of all chronic disease. Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity. We know where 84% of all health care dollars are spent. And we know how to stop it. But. We. Don't.

We know the five things that will save people:

  • moving
  • eating well
  • dealing with stress
  • sleeping
  • not smoking

They are the silver bullets. THE SILVER BULLETS. Yet, half of Americans don't exercise, one third of Americans don't eat fruit or vegetables, and 1 out of five Americans smoke. Our doctors aren't educated on exercise or nutrition, the USDA is mocked and ridiculed, the blog-o-sphere is ripe with "experts" and anecdotal recommendations.

Those of us that care, argue the merits of paleo vs vegan vs Mediterranean. We huff and puff over intervals vs long distance vs strength training. We push mindfulness and meditation, on the highways of facebook and twitter and instagram. We post pictures of harder, better, faster, stronger. Meanwhile, cardiovascular disease is costing us $315 billion, cancer $157 billion, diabetes $245 billion, obesity $147 billion and smoking $289 billion. BILLIONS.

We are sick, and getting sicker. Yet, rather than treat the root cause, we spend BILLIONS on treating the symptoms. Metformin, statins, anti-depressants, beta-blockers. Just to fight the inevitable. Bandaids.

Mozaffarian et al, Circulation, 2008

People, there is a better way. And, it's free. And it's going to take some grit and determination. And it is our only hope. But in order to make it happen, we have to stop fighting and come together. Doctors, scientists, personal trainers, nutritionists, health coaches, policy makers. We know how to keep people healthy. And we need to start working together.

In a recent lecture at a class I'm teaching at the Harvard Extension school Dr. David Katz said it best, "We need to stop looking at the differences in all these diets that work, and rather look at what they have in common. Habitual intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains...has the power to decrease 80% of chronic disease. Let us unite and tell the world that WE KNOW ENOUGH to keep people healthy". WE KNOW ENOUGH.

We know that lifestyle changes work BETTER THAN DRUGS for preventing diabetes.


We know that healthy lifestyle behaviors (not smoking, healthy BMI, exercising, and a diet rich in fruits/veggie/whole grains) prevent 80% of chronic disease. EIGHTY PERCENT.

Lifestyle Factors

We know that the key ingredients to a healthful diet include foods that are not processed, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and some high quality meat and fish. Who cares if the cave men ate it or someone in Italy is drowning in olive oil?! If it's not in a package, is mostly plants, and you cooked it at home. EAT IT.


We know that sitting is terrible for you and that we need to move around! Just walk! WALK.


We know everyone's lives are stressful. If we could all give it up, move to a beautiful mountain-side retreat and leave it all behind we would. But we can't. So, we need to learn how to unplug and cope. STRESS RESILIENCE.


Instead, we scare people. We make them think nutrients are killing them and that exercise is too hard or unattainable. We use flashy labels to get people to eat our "healthy take on an organic processed block of crap" or guzzle down our "highly processed all natural life sustaining drinks". We embrace more, more, more, now, now, now. All in a quest to find the silver bullet. Enough already! We already have the silver bullet! And it's not sexy or flashy or in a shiny package.

It is beautifully simple.

We know. We know movement is essential. We know food in its natural form is healthiest. We know sleep and stress management are crucial. We know. So let's do it. Let's unite and spread that simple message.

Because, we know.


It's never too late...

My grandparents are snowbirds...they split their year between sunny Florida and sunny Massachusetts, avoiding the cold and snow at all costs. So, in the summer when they are back North, I try to see them as much as possible. Besides just truly enjoying their company (sprinkled with a liberal dose of my Mem's sweets) I am compelled by a need to absorb all of the wisdom, insight and advice they are so generously full of. While we don't always agree on musical taste, political ideology, or the merits of a mini-van, we often pass many hours simply chatting about thus-and-such, with an abundance of laughter and, sometimes, tears. They are both turning 79 years old this year, and I feel so lucky to have them both in my life. My Mémère and Pépère have been in amazing health throughout their lives. Besides the usual aches and pains of aging, they have stayed very active - walking, golfing, traveling - with very little medication or particular notice to how vivacious they really were. This isn't particularly shocking given that they were both elite water skiers when they were younger!Pep WaterSkiing

So, when we were chatting one afternoon, I was somewhat surprised when my Pep said, "So, this working out stuff. That's not really gonna do anything for me except make me sore at this point, right? I'm too old to make new muscle..."

I was sort of taken aback. Not only do I know that to not be true (because up until that point, demonstrating the benefits of exercising into old age was pretty much my job), but I was really shocked that they didn't know how great exercise was for aging muscles! Why wasn't their doctor telling them that staying as active as possible is truly the serum for healthy aging?!

Growing Old is Not for Sissies

Interestingly, this is exactly the new line of research I am investigating at the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, MA. As it turns out, doctors are pretty crappy at having conversations with their patients (of any age) about exercise. In fact, a recent survey found that only one in three patients receive advice from their physician about staying physically active (although, in MD's defense, that number is 43% higher than it was in a previous survey...eep!).

But given the evidence, it is imperative that physicians talk to their patients about moving their bodies - particularly older adults. In a collaborative study recently released by my previous lab - the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Lab at Tufts University - simply walking could decrease risk of disability by almost 20%!! And these weren't healthy-ish older people...the participants were 70-89 years old and pretty frail to start with.

“These were people who began the study with health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and previous heart attacks and strokes,” said coauthor Roger Fielding, a senior scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, “far from the healthier populations typically enrolled in clinical trials.”

So, there is no reason that any older person shouldn't be encouraged to at least start walking at some point during the day. This is really huge because a recent study by the CDC says that

"...nearly three-quarters of older men and about two-thirds of women over age 64 are overweight or obese, making them more likely to have to deal with diabetes, arthritis and impaired mobility."

And, in sort of an amazing testament to the vitality of the human body, it seems like it's never to late to start. Even people in their mid-life may feel like they're too far down the road to start exercising. But, a recent study found that even small increases in healthy life habits as you age (like exercising) can have a huge impact on chronic disease development (specifically heart disease) later in life. And the great thing is, many Medicare supplement plans will actually pay for older people to join a gym or take exercise classes in the community - which, definitely beats the average $80,000/year a nursing home costs.

Mem and Pep

So, my answer to my Pep's incredulity about exercise was, "...absolutely not! Every step counts! If you do the work, you will get stronger, just like everyone else!"

...hmmmm...sounds like something he may have said to me at some point...


The Day I Became a Doctor.

This is a really quick post, but I just wanted to share some amazing news (and the reason that I haven't posted recently...I swear I haven't been slacking!). This morning, I successfully defended my PhD "The Role of the Vitamin D Receptor in Aging Skeletal Muscle and Inflammatory Response" at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy! I'm officially Dr. Rachele Pojednic. Woot!! (  ....notice the updated bio ------>  )

I will be moving forward to a postdoctoral position at the Joslin Diabetes Center, Institute of Lifestyle Medicine in the Center for Integrative Health and Wellness and I am SO damn psyched! Onward and's all a Strong Process!