Practice saying no. Have you ever gotten to that place where you say no to so many things that somehow all of them get done halfway? Yep me too. It doesn’t feel good. Last year, a woman that I admire deeply invited me to join a manifesting challenge with her. I wanted so badly to say yes, and I knew that it would be good for me. But the idea of joining the challenge felt like taking on another task to my list. I decided I couldn’t do it, and I said “thank you so much for thinking of me, but I just don’t think I can take on another thing right now.” Her response was so full of love and compassion. It was in that moment that I realized she truly wanted what was best for me, and I could allow myself to want that also.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Glennon from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Anna Glennon has a master of arts in teaching and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Training Program, Gut Health Course, and Hormone Health Course. In 2018, she joined the Education Department at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and writes health- and wellness-related content. She is a freelance writer for Insider.com and she runs a business and blog called TeachEatRepeat where she writes about her life, health journey, and transition to motherhood. In her business, she helps women overcome symptoms of inflammation, such as weight gain, bloating, and digestive distress, through food and mindset coaching. She is a mom of one girl, Helen, and one fur-baby named Scout.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up mostly on the West Coast of the US (LA and Seattle) and spent summers at my grandmother’s house on Long Island. Both of my parents are drawn to nature in their own ways, and my childhood was incredibly reflective of that. I felt like we were outside all day every day. Many of my childhood memories are of family hikes or fishing trips, days spent at the beach, and roaming through our different backyards.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
When I was about 23, I moved to New York. I had my dream job (teaching 1st grade at a charter school in Brooklyn), was dating the man I knew would be my husband, and was living in the greatest city in the world. All good things, but all things that put stress on your body and mind and I became sick. My stomach hurt ALL the time — I was afraid to eat anything because the pain was debilitating. It interfered with my job, with my social life and with my relationship. I was afraid of food. Many months, tests, and doctors later, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Now I had a physical ailment, and a mental one — I had developed an eating disorder as a result of not being able to get a diagnosis for my autoimmune disease. The process of overcoming both of these challenges inspired me to pursue Health Coaching.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
When I think about the person who has probably been my biggest cheerleader in my entire life, I think about my younger sister. She watched me dive into this interest in health, and she was the voice in my ear saying “this is what you should be doing,” and “you can help this woman.” Without her confidence in me, I never would have become a Health Coach or started a business.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
When I first began Health Coaching, I also ran a meal prep business in New York City, and someone would recommend a new client to me, and I’d say yes. Paleo? No problem. Plant-based? I can do it! Lacto-ovo vegetarian? Totally in my wheelhouse. I got burned out, and began to hate cooking for a while, which I knew wasn’t actually true. I love cooking — it’s my creative outlet, and the way I show love. When I reigned myself in and really focused on the type of cooking I enjoyed doing, my business took off. It’s scary to say no to people when you’re just starting out, but figuring out where those boundaries are for you, and living in alignment with them will keep the fire of your passion burning longer.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Keep moving forward and don’t let little things set you back, focus on the big picture.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Theodore Roosevelt’s arena quote is the one I think about most often, and try to use to guide my life.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I try to take chances, and put myself out in to the world, without the fear of failure. The fear of embarrassment or public shame is real for me but if “my dignity” is the only answer I can come up with to the question “What do I have to lose?” then to me, it’s worth trying. Courage, and finding your purpose in life requires trying, and part of trying something new is failing at it. We seem to lose that knowledge on the road to adulthood — kids fail all the time and “try, try again” — but somewhere in our teenage years not being automatically good at something becomes embarrassing, and that embarrassment becomes too much to stand. I’d rather try, and fall flat on my face then live with the resonating “what ifs” in my mind.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I work for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition now full-time. I work on the curriculum team and are conducting extensive research on how to improve our offerings and create a world where everyone has access to information that leads to health and happiness. We just published a new course called “Whole Person Health,” which is a short 6-module course about physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. What we’re hoping to teach people is that there is no one right way to do healthy — we’re all individuals with different wants, needs, and passions that define our visions for our healthiest selves.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Your brain is designed to create habits — they are always looking for ways to make our bodies more efficient, so by habitualizing something it takes less energy. But your brain can’t tell the difference between good and bad habits. You have to decide what actions you would like to have be habits. The good news is that habits aren’t permanent. They can all be changed or ignored or replaced. When I first had my daughter, I wanted to take her on a walk each day. We would wake up, go through our day, and inevitably 5pm would roll around and I would create a million reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t take her on a walk. When I put my coaching hat on, and realized that this cycle wasn’t working for me, I decided to start walking first thing in the morning. To make a long story short, she’s almost two now, and after she’s finished her breakfast every morning she looks up at me and says, “walk?”
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Habits create routines and structures in our day that allow us to feel successful. A lot of wellness experts will tell you to create a morning routine or a bedtime routine. Why is that? It’s because these things set us up for success, and get our minds and bodies ready for what is coming next.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
Instead of thinking about stopping bad habits, think about adding in good ones. A lot of “bad” habits are caused by boredom, or anxiety. So instead of stopping the undesirable behavior all together, why not try to replace it with one that truly serves you — a replacement behavior. Think about what you’re truly seeking in those moments when you use this “bad habit.” What are you really craving? Then, try something that feels truly good to get at that craving.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
- Detox your technology. I use my phone as an alarm, as a baby monitor and to control the temperature in our house, so honestly, keeping the phone out of the bedroom is an unrealistic goal for me; however, I do think it’s important to make progress towards this. Instead of striving for that perfect “no technology after a certain hour,” why not add something joyful to your life to replace that technology. For example, this year I began needlepointing before bed, instead of scrolling through my phone. Sure, I’ve posted on Instagram less, but I’ve also reduced the number of hours that I spend mindlessly scrolling. We’ve got some adorably cheeky pillows in our house now too.
- Do a sudoku, crossword puzzle, or jigsaw puzzle. Mental wellbeing is also about strengthening your mind, and your brain. My husband and I love to do crossword puzzles while we’re on vacation, but we never do them at home. Since we’ve been home all year due to coronavirus, we have been seeking ways to bring the vacation mindset to our home. One of the ways we do that is by trying to do a crossword or jigsaw puzzle together on a regular basis. It helps us build connection — we’re working together to solve a problem — and allows us a lot of opportunities to praise each other. It’s good for our brains, and good for our relationship.
- Practice saying no. Have you ever gotten to that place where you say no to so many things that somehow all of them get done halfway? Yep me too. It doesn’t feel good. Last year, a woman that I admire deeply invited me to join a manifesting challenge with her. I wanted so badly to say yes, and I knew that it would be good for me. But the idea of joining the challenge felt like taking on another task to my list. I decided I couldn’t do it, and I said “thank you so much for thinking of me, but I just don’t think I can take on another thing right now.” Her response was so full of love and compassion. It was in that moment that I realized she truly wanted what was best for me, and I could allow myself to want that also.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Staying focused is key.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Create a sleep routine. I’m a huge advocate of going to bed and rising at the same time each day (yes, even on the weekends!). We all know how fundamental sleep is to our health — mental, physical, emotional and spiritual — at this point. It’s crucial for optimal access in all areas. But going to bed and waking at the same time each day helps your body find it’s natural rhythm for sleep. Instead of bouncing around and getting 4 hours some nights and 10 on other nights, you may find yourself eventually waking before your alarm once your body is in its ideal cycle.
2. Think positively. We all make mistakes, and difficult things happen to us. Can you practice narrating the opportunities within those things? What is the upside, the silver lining? Making it a habit to see the glass as half-full can translate to all areas of your life. For some of us, this comes naturally, and others of us have to work on it. If you hear yourself thinking or saying something negative, don’t apologize, just say something positive to compensate.
3. Create a mindfulness practice. I’m a huge proponent of meditation, but that can be an overwhelming place to start for some people. If that’s you, my two ideas would be to try breath work, or taking a tech-free walk. Whether it’s taking 10 deep breaths a few times throughout the day, or doing some cycles of 4–7–8 breathing like Dr. Andrew Weil suggests, find a style that you can commit to doing at least once a day. Notice how you feel after doing that. If focusing on your breathing isn’t for you, take a short walk each day, with no pets or kids or technology, and spend time noticing the details you see, feel, and hear. How many shades of green are in the trees? Is there any humidity in the air when it hits your skin? Paying attention to these things is a great way to be mindful about your presence.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
I think the most important thing to spend time thinking about and discovering is what do you actually love to do? What were your childhood passions and how can you incorporate those in to your life as an adult? Once we figure out the ways that we actually enjoy spending our time, getting to a state of Flow can be easier. I love to write and tell stories. I loved to read as a child and I really felt at times that I was part of the stories I was reading. As an adult, finding a job that allows me a lot of time to write has been instrumental in getting to this state. That said, not all of us can have jobs that combine one of these passions, but is there a way you can incorporate it in to your life?
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to inspire a movement for people to cultivate genuine empathy in all of their interactions. Human beings are wired for social cooperation and mutual aid, yet that’s somehow gotten lost in our self-focused culture. If we all had the desire to get truly curious about someone else’ perspective and feelings, and then use that information to guide our actions, we could use that to challenge prejudices and discover the commonalities that make us human.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Honestly, I think I’d pick Mr. Rogers. As a former teacher, as a mom, as a former PBS viewer, he really did inspire a movement to cultivate compassion for self and compassion for others. I’d love to hear about his thoughts on mental and emotional health in this rapidly digitalizing era, and how we can preserve human connection through it all. I would love to be able to ask him so many questions about how he developed his sense of self, and found his purpose, and how we can all do that.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find me at teacheatrepeat.com or on Instagram @TeachEatRepeat
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.