Eating, Dieting, and the (Almost) Magic Pill with Juna Gjata and Edward M. Phillips, MD


Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay

Episode Summary

Fitness and nutrition are important aspects of our health, but without fully understanding the science behind these practices, they can quickly devolve into harmful habits like excessive exercise and restrictive dieting. To explore our relationship with food, exercise, and metabolism, I am joined by Dr. Eddie Phillips and Juna Gjata, co-hosts of the health podcast “Food, We Need To Talk.”

Eddie and Juna approach diet and exercise from contrasting perspectives. Juna, a 2017 graduate of Harvard College and accomplished concert pianist, discusses her personal experiences with disordered eating that ultimately led her to the science-based fitness community. Through weightlifting, Juna gained the self-confidence to challenge prevailing beauty standards and better understand food’s impact on physical wellbeing. Juna says, “For the first time I didn’t want to take up less space in the world… That mindset shift also prompted all my shifts around food.”

As Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and Founder and Director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Eddie provides physiological explanations behind proper fitness and nutrition practices based on his extensive medical training and clinical experience. As Eddie describes, “If you are under stress trying to lose weight, there’s this crazy perverse thing that happens. Your cortisol levels go up and that causes you to store more fat… I think it’s more of a perspective that we’re not perfect, and coming to some peace with that actually can make you happier.”

Eddie offers an “exercise prescription” based on frequency, intensity, time, and type to tailor workouts to your personal needs. Additionally, he shares why the whole individual, and each person’s individual goals, need to be taken into account when designing a lifestyle-driven treatment protocol.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about improving your strength, workout efficiency, overall health, and confidence through fitness and diet.

Here are the details of our conversation:

[00:02:22] Juna’s introduction to science-based fitness

[00:05:20] Eddie’s experience in medical school and lifestyle medicine

[00:09:24] How to convey proper health practices

[00:12:05] Juna’s relationship with disordered eating and fitness

[00:17:16] Physiological reactions to stress through weight gain

[00:20:59] Practicing mindfulness to lower stress levels

[00:24:38] Treating the individual, not the patient

[00:27:46] Where to begin at the gym

[00:31:33] The FITT prescription

[00:34:16] Metabolism and exercise

[00:37:23] Sedentary states and hyperpalatable foods

[00:39:26] The evolution of modern fitness

[00:43:13] What to eat and what to ignore

[00:46:30] Practicing dietary mindfulness

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Episode Notes

Edward M. Phillips, MD, is Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and is Founder and Director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine (ILM) at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. In his work at the ILM since 2006 he has directed 26 live CME programs attended by over 25,000 clinicians from 115 countries. 

In 2015 Phillips joined the VA Boston Healthcare System and now serves as Whole Health Medical Director. He is integrating Whole Health-lifestyle medicine training for students and trainees across the VA as National Whole Health Education Champion for Health Professions Trainees.Additionally, Phillips is a Fellow of American College of Sports Medicine (FACSM) and serves on the executive council that developed the Exercise is Medicine global initiative. He has >80 scientific publications. He served on the Advisory Board of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, the Health Sector and Military Settings Sectors of the United States National Physical Activity Plan and is a founding director of the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine.

Phillips is an active clinician, educator and advocate who speaks and consults nationally guiding a broad-based effort to reduce lifestyle-related death, disease, and costs through clinician directed interventions with patients. His medical school, SUNY Buffalo, honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award for his accomplishments in Lifestyle Medicine. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition has recognized Dr. Phillips, the ILM and the Lifestyle Medicine Education Collaborative with its Community Leadership Award. He appears on national media including Good Morning America, ESPN radio, Huffington Post, Slate, and Time Magazine. He co-hosted the NPR Daily Exercise Podcast, WBUR’s Magic Pill which was awarded an Edward R. Murrow award for Excellence in Innovation.

Juna Gjata graduated from Harvard College in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology and a minor in Music. While at Harvard, she was awarded the David M. McCord prize for Excellence in the Arts. She is also an accomplished concert pianist and composer, having performed as a soloist at Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center’s Millennium stage. In 2018, Juna approached WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, with an idea for a podcast to dispel health and fitness misinformation loosely through the lens of her own struggles with body image, weight loss, and eating disorders. Eighteen months later, Food, We Need to Talk was launched. She co-hosts the podcast along with Dr. Eddie Phillips. The podcast has now reached over 2.5 million downloads.

In July 2023, Gjata and Phillips will also be publishing their book, Food, We Need to Talk: The Science-Based, Humor-Laced Last Word on Diet, Eating and Making Peace with Your Body, published by St. Martin’s Press. 


Check out Eddie and Juna’s podcast, Food, We Need to Talk

Follow Juna on Instagram and TikTok

Order Eddie and Juna’s book, Food, We Need to Talk, out July 11, 2023

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