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“Why You Need To Befriend Your Inner Octogenarian” With Dr. William Seeds & Dr. Heather Denniston

BEFRIEND YOUR INNER OCTOGENARIAN — I often conduct a writing exercise with clients, where I ask them to imagine they are sitting on a park bench with their 80-year old selves. I suggest they start a conversation by asking three key questions: “What matters most to you right now?”, “What are the things you enjoy doing?” […]

BEFRIEND YOUR INNER OCTOGENARIAN — I often conduct a writing exercise with clients, where I ask them to imagine they are sitting on a park bench with their 80-year old selves. I suggest they start a conversation by asking three key questions: “What matters most to you right now?”, “What are the things you enjoy doing?” and “What can I do now to ensure that you are at your best?” When we take a “begin with the end in mind” view of our health and realize that every step, every bite, and every cleansing breath is an investment in our inner-elder’s independence, happiness, and satisfaction, we choose to do healthy things that are sustainable and have a long-term impact. The good news is the choices you make to invest in your elder-self has spill-over benefits to the person you are right now.


As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Heather Denniston. Dr. Denniston is a Wellness Strategist and keynote speaker who has a passion for inspiring women to ignite first steps toward optimized health. She is the author of “The Three Day Reset,” the producer of “The Junk You Should Know Show,” and the creator of “The Change Cave.” Dr. Denniston presents for companies like Microsoft in a format that is practical, energetic, and engaging.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Dr. Denniston! What is your “backstory”?

When I was nine, I grew like a Mastiff puppy — six inches in one year. There was an issue. Mastiff puppies can’t do backhand springs on the beam, and I was a highly competitive gymnast.

I was a chronic binger, and once I quit gymnastics I was no longer burning 3500 calories a day conditioning and competition training. By my second year of college, I had ballooned to 235 pounds. The weight and subsequent health issues represented symptoms of a bigger problem. I did not know how to fuel my body; I had no idea how to be functionally fit and I failed to comprehend the power of true self-love and mental well-being.

I realized I had to take my health into my own hands. I needed to immerse myself in understanding how to define true wellness. I continually dug into what it takes to experience optimized health and I found solutions that aren’t glamorous or quick-fixes but that harness long-understood wellness principles. For the last two decades I have been coaching clients and patients on success strategies for their health.

Three years ago, I transitioned from clinical practice and to presenting, writing and coaching. My company, WELLFITandFED, works to ignite passion and inspire first steps in those ready for a deeper sense of wellbeing. WELLFITandFED started as a blog but has branched into The Change Cave (an online wellness membership for women over forty years old), “The Junk You Should Know Show” (a live production focusing on practical application of healthy habits) and corporate wellness strategist programs with companies like Microsoft and Main Street Property Group.

Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?

BEFRIEND YOUR INNER OCTOGENARIAN — I often conduct a writing exercise with clients, where I ask them to imagine they are sitting on a park bench with their 80-year old selves. I suggest they start a conversation by asking three key questions: “What matters most to you right now?”, “What are the things you enjoy doing?” and “What can I do now to ensure that you are at your best?” When we take a “begin with the end in mind” view of our health and realize that every step, every bite, and every cleansing breath is an investment in our inner-elder’s independence, happiness, and satisfaction, we choose to do healthy things that are sustainable and have a long-term impact. The good news is the choices you make to invest in your elder-self has spill-over benefits to the person you are right now.

FOOD IS FUEL, NOT FRIEND — We live in a culture where we have emotionalized food. Many of us have an illicit love affair with food instead of an appropriate connection and understanding of the value exchange that food represents. Food is an energy source. It is a combination of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. It is gas in the tank. Food is not a solution to loneliness, stress, or boredom. If we can gently disentangle our feelings from what we eat and become impervious to food producers slick and savvy emotional advertising, we can discover what our body is innately asking for: clean fuel.

STOP TRYING TO OUTSMART YOUR BODY’S WISDOM — As we further discover the power of cellular physiology and the brilliance of our inner bio-clock, it is evident that our cells, all forty trillion of them, are small geniuses. They know precisely what they need and, good news, they always have. Cells need purified water, sunshine, a clean source of fuel, play, rest, interaction with nature, and people you love. Any cell-supporting step you can take will ultimately optimize your health.

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

What comes to mind is more of an impactful lesson, less of an interesting story. Dr. Desarbo was one of those mentors who pops into your life for a brief period and then disappears just as quickly. During the short time I knew him, I remember him waggling his sausage-like fingers in my direction to increase the impact of a point. He had a thick Italian accent and never minced a word. “Heather, you need to squat before you leap.” As usual, I had no idea what he was talking about. “When faced with an obstacle, and it seems darkest, remember that you cannot leap without first bending your knees. The moments when you question if you should keep going and you feel like you are losing faith seem like an obvious time to turn back, but often you are just in the squat. Recognize it, persist and prepare to leap.” I have recalled his words during tricky and defeating times. Leveling up often requires getting knees bent and butt down.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started WELLFITandFED, I made lofty assumptions about my chiropractic business acumen carrying over to the online business world. I assumed that brick and mortar business practices would apply to online sales. My naivety and lack of experience in the new market and my failing to surround myself with experts resulted in losing two years of productivity and opportunity. Now, when I conceive a new project and before I even start sketching the idea, I look for inspiration, expertise, and guidance from those who have thrived in the space before me.

When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I had a patient come into my office once and say “Doc? I need you to help me with my LIP” I asked, “What’s wrong with your lip?” “Not lip, my LIP,” she said. “My ‘Linda Improvement Plan’”.

She went on to say that she had spent the last two decades caring for two boys and growing her career. Now, when she looked in the mirror, she did not recognize the reflection. She knew she needed to change and she had recently endeavored to lose weight and get into an exercise routine, but nothing was working.

She asked if I could be part of her team of wellness advocates to help her get back on track. We formed a “pit crew”, which included a physical therapist, a trainer, a naturopath and me. We set course on a whole food nutrition, functional fitness and mental wellbeing program that was sustainable and doable. There was no “30-day” this or “21-day” that, it was just solid foundational principles in wellness one small sustainable shift at a time. Once integrated, this approach catalyzed the change Linda was hoping for. The good news: it was repeatable.

I know there are millions of women out there that are burnt out, frustrated with how they look and feel and tired of not seeing results. I also know that we have information overload and much of that information is misleading or simply wrong.

WELLFITandFED was born of this need. The wellness impact WELLFITandFED provides is bulletproof resources, unwavering accountability and a passionate community of like-minded women with long-term, transformational change in mind.

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?

In chiropractic school, you learn everything you need to know about being a chiropractor and very little about being a business owner. There is a particular person who early in my chiropractic career took me aside and taught me valuable lessons about owning a business and growing a team. He taught me to “inspect what you expect”: the power of employing clear expectations and consistent real-time feedback. He taught me the benefit of monitoring daily work through valuable feedback metrics. He taught me the nuances of hiring the right fit, not the one I liked best. And he taught me how to gracefully help someone move on. He also taught me how to scale a business with financial prudence and how to celebrate the wins along the way without losing sight of the next hurdle. When I left brick and mortar chiropractic work and created WELLFITandFED, these lessons transferred and have been a valuable part of the scale-up of the business. This influential person is Brent Denniston, husband (mine, thankfully), incredible leader and grower of people.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

There is a section of a corporate presentation I do where I show a dramatic black and white photo of some boys playing in a meadow. The image is a little fuzzy and blurry along the edges, but it is lovely. After a minute, I show the next slide, the same picture in full color — the purple of one boy’s shirt, the blue of the sky, the orange of the flowers, the green of the trees. The full-color photo is breathtaking in its textures and color.

I believe many of us are often, unknowingly, living in black and white. The food we eat, the lack of movement and fresh air, and the constant stress slowly dull our life experience to a blurry black and white photo. When our health is insidiously chipped away, one poor choice at a time, we breathe less efficiently, our brain processes abhorrently, we are less resilient. We also likely feel disconnected with loved ones. My goal is to show that true health has less to do with meal plans and reps and more to do with life optimization. How do we answer our body’s needs in such a way that the result is sweeter music, a brighter sunset and greater passion and love to interact with those we hold dearest?

My movement would be to facilitate people’s shift to a full-color life.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

MENTOR UP, MENTOR DOWN Growth does not occur in a vacuum. When we teach, we learn and when we are taught, we grow. I made the mistake of flying solo for many years during my career, thinking I knew best. I lost precious time and missed out on opportunities because I was a stubborn mule with blinders. Now, having had several influential mentors, I see that being mentored and mentoring are two of the most impactful paths to success.

MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT — When I started my business, like many entrepreneurs, I put in 14-hour days. I put relationships on the back burner and categorized most things superfluous to the work I was doing on the business. I eventually realized that the business of building a business takes your precious life energy and must be balanced with things that matter most. We can work hard — really hard — but there is no red finish ribbon within your vision. Businesses often take longer to ramp up than you think and so, you must pace for the long-term win.

THE MORE SURE YOU ARE, THE LESS WHAT OTHERS THINK MATTERS — I have these words on my office wall. I have made career shifts and started projects that no one understood but in which I sincerely believed. I know now that these new ventures, these embryonic ideas, need to be protected until I am so sure it is right that what anyone else thinks about it does not matter.

QUIET DOWN, YOUR INNER VOICE HAS A QUESTION — The world is noisy. “Busy” is noisy. Often, we go weeks or months without stopping to say “Wait a minute. Breathe. Listen.” About twice a year, I go on a self-imposed tech-less, people-less retreat so I can tune in to what my heart is saying. When the noisiness of the world drowns out our inner leading and urgings, we end up in jobs, projects, and relationships wondering how we got there. We need stillness; we need to walk in the trees alone. We need the quiet so we can listen to where we are being called.

STAY CURIOUS — Several years ago, I made a significant shift. When a stressful event arose, I would get curious instead of mad, stressed, or riled up. I would ask questions — “I wonder what this about?”. “Interesting reaction I had in there. Where did that come from?”, “Why do I keep bumping up against this issue?” I would practice a little detachment and dig into the why. I have run into a lot of proverbial walls in my businesses and this approach has been an effective way of getting around.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Mental health, but this requires explanation. There are mental health conditions that are at the end of the spectrum. Manic depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are examples of diagnoses necessarily managed by a qualified physician. But there are milder mental health issues such as adrenal fatigue, stress overload, mild anxiety and addictive behaviors. These are often overlooked when wellness practitioners or corporate wellness entities start to deploy programming.

Having worked in wellness for so many years, it became evident to me that I cannot address wellness issues such as weight or fitness in isolation. As a chronic binger and food addict, I know that ongoing work on the mental components behind the addiction I suffer is imperative for mobilizing my wellness goals.

I am passionate about how mental health affects the success of programming in our corporate wellness curriculums. Typical wellness programming like “Step Challenges” and “Biggest Loser Contests” are less effective in the face of high-stress environments. We need to be asking the right questions and providing appropriate support to those we are leading in conjunction with traditional nutrition and fitness resources.

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

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

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

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/WELLFITANDFED

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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