Gary Greenberg: “Stress will age you and kill you before your time”

Bust stress. Stress will age you and kill you before your time. And life is very stressful in the 24/7 21st Century. Find some ways to take a break from it. Exercise is good, or meditation, or yoga, dancing, listening to music, and more. I take at least 30 to 60 minutes a day to […]

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Bust stress. Stress will age you and kill you before your time. And life is very stressful in the 24/7 21st Century. Find some ways to take a break from it. Exercise is good, or meditation, or yoga, dancing, listening to music, and more. I take at least 30 to 60 minutes a day to sit outside in nature, usually sipping a beer after work by my turtle pen. I get very relaxed, and the world no longer seems so unmanageable or scary.

As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Greenberg.

Gary Greenberg was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. He attended Penn State University where he majored in rugby, beer and coeds, and miraculously graduated with a B.A. degree in journalism in 1976. He has now been writing professionally for more than 40 years, primarily as an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Since 1999, he has owned and operated the freelance writing service SuperWriter, Inc.

It wasn’t quite “love at first sip” when Gary was given a warm Miller High Life at age fourteen, but as an adult he quickly learned to appreciate the complex flavors of fine ales, and the warm and fuzzy feelings they impart. Upon hitting middle age, his beer consumption contributed to a slow but steady weight gain. Tapping into his knowledge of natural health, he adjusted his diet and lifestyle in ways that allow him to drink plenty of beer without gaining weight. In The Beer Diet, he reveals how he did it, and how others can have their beer and waistlines, too.

When Gary isn’t writing, he enjoys brewing his own beer, traveling off the beaten path, and hanging out at his Boca Raton, Florida, home with his eternally beautiful wife Nora. They have a grown son Glen as well as an assortment of pets, currently a rescue dog named Roxanne, birds Baba and Olaf, turtles Stella and Dottie, and bearded dragon lizard Klaus.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

I’ve always been athletic and played rugby for more than 40 years. As a rugby player, I also like beer a lot. In my mid-40s I started gaining a couple of pounds a year, and a decade later could no longer fit into my size 32 rugby shorts. So I took measures to reverse that. Meanwhile, I was laid off from my job as a writer/editor for the supermarket tabloids in 2015 and started freelancing. I found work doing natural health stories and never looked back. Combining all of these elements led to me writing The Beer Diet: How to Drink Beer and NOT Gain Weight, which was published in July 2020.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

That’s tough as I’ve interviewed so many fascinating people through the years…One of the more interesting stories came along when I served as jury foreman in a murder case. An inmate who now goes by the pseudonym William Steel, was a confidential informant who testified for the defense. The judge used to joke about me working as a writer for the tabloids, and Steel eventually contacted me through the defense attorney because he said he had some tabloid-worthy stories about his life. My editors weren’t interested, but he continued to write to me about his exploits. Turns out he was a rather colorful jewel thief who rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, and also stole art and jewelry from them. In the 1980s, he’d struck up a “relationship of mutual usury” with Robert Durst, the black sheep of a family that controls billions of dollars in New York real estate — and is likely the wealthiest serial killer in American history. From behind bars, Steel wrote a 40,000-word stream-of-consciousness memoir about how Durst used Steel’s Brooklyn home for drug- and fetish-fueled inter course with prostitutes. Durst tried to pull Steel into his demented world, eventually confessing to killing his first wife Kathy and others. I helped turn Steel’s writings into a book called inter course and the Serial Killer: My Bizarre Times with Robert Durst. Now a reformed criminal and Christian, Steel wants to make sure Durst — currently on a COVID-19 break from his murder trial in L.A. — pays for his crimes and that the victims’ families can find closure for their still-missing loved ones. Steel is still in prison but due to be released in 2021.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

As a sports reporter for a local newspaper in California, I profiled a star high school volleyball player, mostly because the publisher’s wife was the girl’s coach. I got the spelling of the player’s name from my editor and never double-checked it. And, of course, it was wrong. The player thought it was kind of funny but the publisher’s wife was incensed. I didn’t really learn my lesson too well as I made a few other monumental name misspellings through the years. But I now triple-check every name!

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

To say I’m an authority may be overstating my expertise. But I have learned a lot by interviewing some of the top authorities in the country, if not the world, on a variety of mostly natural health topics. And as far as my own health goes, I’ve always striven to find the underlying cause of whatever has ailed me. For example, as an athlete who eats pretty healthily, there was no reason why I should have high blood pressure. Reluctantly, I even began taking a blood pressure medication. Then, while working on a book about chelation (a heavy metal detox), I discovered that my body had really high levels of lead and cadmium, which can contribute to atherosclerosis, which caused hypertension. I’m currently undergoing chelation therapy, and my blood pressure is coming down. As far as my unique contributions — I’m very versatile and am confident I can write about anything. I also have an easy-reading writing style, and I can explain complex thing in terms anyone can understand.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Growing up, I was much more interested in sports than academics, and I never had that inspiring teacher so many others talk about. But did have my dad, Buddy, who was loving and wise. When I was 19, I dropped out of college to basically be a ski bum in Colorado, and wound up traveling all around the country in my 1967 VW bug. Eventually, I came home and got a job as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. I wasn’t very good at it and told my dad I wanted to go back to college. He said he’d only pay for it if I declared a major. I balked because I was a free spirit and very adverse to any kind of commitment. “How’s a 19-year-old kid supposed to know what a 40-year-old man would want to be doing?” I asked. He gave an exasperated sigh and once again complained about my “lack of urgency.” But he didn’t let his frustration with me get in the way of trying to put me on track to doing something constructive. He asked what I was best at in school, and I said, “writing.” Then he asked what I liked doing the most, and I said, “travel.” He thought for a second and told me, “Why not major in journalism? Reporters write and travel around a lot.” It made sense, so I went to Penn State as a journalism major. Now, I’ve been writing professionally for more than 40 years. My dad’s unconditional love, patience and problem-solving skills not only set me on a purposeful path but also served as an example of how to approach life.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

First of all, we need the knowledge to change. If you don’t want to know why you have high blood pressure, or frequent headaches, or gastric reflux, or whatever, you can’t fix the problem but only try to relieve the symptoms. If you find out that your stomach ache stems from a gluten sensitivity, that makes it easier for you to adjust your diet because it makes eating fun again.

Second, we tend to look for easy answers, and nothing is easier than taking a pill to fix whatever ails you. But remedy mostly just cover up the problem, which is likely to get worse as you age. You have understand that eating nutritious food and getting regular exercise and sleep are worth the effort so you can age healthily.

Third, we’re all creatures of habit, and we feel comfortable doing the same things over and over, even if you know they are not good for you. Change is not easy, but it broadens your horizons and you grow intellectually and spiritually. And if you can change from refined grains to whole, from soda to water, and from potatoes to yams, your health will improve, too.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

  1. Try intermittent fasting. It was key for me getting back into my size 32 rugby shorts. For the past decade, I don’t eat anything from Sunday evening until Tuesday morning. There are other varieties of intermittent fasting but they all trigger a cascade of beneficial physiological reactions.
  2. Bust stress. Stress will age you and kill you before your time. And life is very stressful in the 24/7 21st Century. Find some ways to take a break from it. Exercise is good, or meditation, or yoga, dancing, listening to music, and more. I take at least 30 to 60 minutes a day to sit outside in nature, usually sipping a beer after work by my turtle pen. I get very relaxed, and the world no longer seems so unmanageable or scary.
  3. Mind your houseguests. We play host to a few hundred billion bacteria and other organisms, collectively called the microbiome, that mostly reside in the gut, particularly the large intestine. Their effect on health is a relatively recent field of study, and the more we learn the more impact they seem to have. We want to feed the good ones and starve the bad ones. The good ones like prebiotics, fiber-rich foods that we don’t fully digest, such as broccoli, asparagus, leafy greens and many other veggies. The bad ones love sugar and processed foods, so go easy on them. I’d suggest also eating some fermented foods rather than relying on probiotic supplements.
  4. Take responsibility. It’s an easy out to blame your problems on something, or someone, else. Sure, outside forces are constantly challenging us, but find the strength within to overcome them. It’s not what happens to us that’s important; it’s how we handle it. I could paper my walls with rejection letters for story, book and article proposals (and those are only from editors who bothered to reply). It’s always like a punch in the gut, but I just take a deep breath or two, and try again. Keep plugging away, and eventually you’ll find success, or maybe some other path.
  5. Break plans. John Lennon was fond of saying, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” Don’t be too anal about shaping your destiny. When I was in my late 20s, I spent about two years backpacking around Europe and the Middle East. I found that the things I was pre-determined to do tended to be disappointing. Almost all of the good stuff I found I had stumbled upon. And to this day, one of my favorite things is to just climb into the car with my wife and get lost. Life has taught me that you have to get a little lost to find anything of value.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

Exercise is a pain, but very rewarding in many ways. I ride my bike first thing in the morning, then spend about 45 minutes stretching out and doing calisthenics. It’s really hard on many, if not most, days to drag myself out of bed at 6:30 am, but I do it anyway. And I feel so good when I finish, a glow that boosts my mood all day. Part of it is the feel-good endorphins that exercise releases into your bloodstream. And speaking of bloodstreams, exercise improves circulation. Good circulation is vital to health because that’s the way your cells get nourished with oxygen and nutrients, and also how they dump their garbage. Cell health is the key to good overall health and warding off chronic disease. A third thing is the satisfaction you get from doing it. By 8 am or so, I know I’ve already accomplished possibly the most important thing I’ll do all day.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

Really anything you will do every day. You should include something aerobic, such as jogging, swimming or biking, as well as resistance exercises, such push-ups or pumping iron. Walking is also great, especially if you can stroll through a park or woods or some other natural setting.

In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?

Know your limitations. You don’t have anything to prove by overdoing it, whether running too far or hoisting too much weight. That will hurt you and make exercise no fun. If you do overdo it, a nice warm bath or shower may help soothe sore muscles. Injuries may be best treated with ice. As a rugby player, I favor some beer to kill the pain and improve mood, but that can be counterproductive if you drink too much. I also am a big fan of essential oils, which can reduce inflammation and the pain associated from it. Lavender is a good all-purpose oil. The best for my aches and pains is called copaiba, which comes from a tree native to Ecuador.

There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?

I don’t really recommend diets so much as mindful eating. By now, I think we all know that whole foods such as fruits and vegetables are healthy, and processed foods aren’t. So just think about what you’re putting in your mouth. One trick is to stop buying junk food, and you’ll soon find that apples and nuts are every bit as satisfying as cake and chips. A Mediterranean-style diet is probably the most balanced and easiest to follow, but whenever you start denying yourself of too many foods, you’re asking for disaster as far as sticking to any particular diet. That’s one reason I like intermittent fasting. You deny yourself everything, but just for a limited period of time.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

As far as health goes, The Kaufmann Protocol: Why We Age and How to Stop It, by Dr. Sandra Kaufmann. A rugby buddy of mine is also a mountain climber, and he introduced me to Sandy Kaufmann, who is chief of anesthesiology at Joe DiMaggio’s Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., and has advanced degrees in evolutionary biology and other things. She’s also a climber, and when they trained or went on expeditions, he says she was always talking to him about mitochondria and telomeres and other such things. “I told her you’ve got to meet my friend Gary, because he’s into all of that stuff,” he said. So, we met. And she was just finishing up the book. I read the manuscript was enlightened on the importance of cell health. Cells all need the same basic things, and if you can keep them happy, you don’t need to worry about problems with your heart, liver, kidneys, brain or any other organ, because they’re all made up of cells.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The Present Movement. I like to think that I am one of the happier people I know on a moment-to-moment basis. One reason for that is I’m a terrible planner, so I long ago got accustomed to living in the moment. I try not to dwell on the past and don’t worry too much about where I’m heading. That allows me to live life where I am, in place and time. It may be less secure to blind yourself to the road ahead, but it enriches your life in so many ways. And, as I’ve said before, things tend to work out well for me when I let Providence be my guide. Lacking the planning gene, I may never achieve riches and fame. But I do achieve a high degree of happiness, and that is even more valuable to me. I’d also like to start an Anti-Overreaction Movement because I believe that about 90 percent of the world’s problems stem from overreactions. Overreactions fuel hate, fear, bigotry and war.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Well, I already mentioned Lennon’s favorite about plans. I also like Oscar Wilde’s, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” It’s the quote that begins my Beer Diet book. Every once in a while, you just have to say “screw it!” and do what feels good. It’s good for the soul.

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 if we tag them 🙂

Actually, I’d love to tip a beer or two with Barack Obama. He’s brilliant, funny, loving, and incredibly inspirational, all while also being just a regular guy in so many ways. I once read that he didn’t mind doing the dishes, even when in the White House. He reportedly said it was Zen-like. My wife Nora cleans the hell out of the house but hates doing dishes, so I do them. It is kind of relaxing in a way, just enough of activity to keep your hands busy but free your mind. I also love Michelle. I wish she’d run for president. She’d win, and I think she’d be a great president.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I’m not too big on social media, though I started getting more into it to promote The Beer Diet. I’ve adopted an alter-ego called The Beer Diet Guy and have Twitter and Instagram accounts under that handle as well as a Facebook page. But I must admit my efforts are less than consistent. I’m much more dedicated to The Beer Diet Guy YouTube channel, where I post quirky videos about beer, health and life in general. My vivacious wife Nora, beer can-chomping puppy Roxanne and box turtle Stella are regular guests. I film and edit the clips, which is fun and creative, a lot like writing.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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