Creating & Modeling Healthy Habits & Mindset with guest Dr. Orlena Kerek

About this Episode

Are you running out of ways to get your kids to eat better? Do you struggle with yo-yo dieting or emotional eating? Want some tips for adopting a healthier lifestyle for your whole family? On this episode of Brainy Moms, Dr. Amy and Teri interview Dr. Orlena Kerek – a pediatrician, health coach, and author of the book, Building Simple Habits to a Healthy Me. Dr. Orlena talks about the four pillars of health we’re all familiar with: diet, exercise, sleep, and emotional wellness. But her perspective on these pillars of health is different. Health habits begin with our mindset. We have to adopt not just healthy beliefs but healthy identities if we want to create lasting healthy habits for ourselves and for our children. Join us for this fresh look at becoming a healthy family. 

About Dr. Orlena

Dr. Orlena Kerek is a pediatrician, a mom of four, a health coach, family health advocate, and an author of the book, Building Simple Habits to a Healthy Me. Dr. Orlena teaches women to lead a healthy life so they can increase energy levels, lose weight, and lead a long, healthy, and amazing life all without having to think about it. Dr. Orlena lives in Spain where she is living her best life while coaching other moms, raising her kids, and hosting her podcast Fit and Fabulous after 40.


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Read the transcript for this episode:

Dr. Amy Moore: Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms. I’m Dr. Amy Moore, your host, here with my co-host Teri Miller coming to you today from Colorado Springs, Colorado. We are excited to bring you a conversation with our guest today, Dr. Orlena Kerek. She’s coming all away from Spain as a pediatrician, a mom of four, a health coach, an author of the book, Building Simple Habits to a Healthy Me. Dr. Orlena teaches women to lead a healthy life so they can increase energy levels, lose weight, and lead a long, healthy, and amazing life all without having to think about it.

Teri Miller: I love it. Good information. And I can’t wait to dig in so glad you’re here, Dr. Orlena. Thank you for joining us.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to be chatting to you both.

Teri Miller: Yeah, well, so this is something that so many of us moms struggle with and, uh, can’t wait to hear all the exciting details about how we can really make those changes, not just head knowledge, but life experience changes. But before we get into that, let’s, um, give our listeners a little bit of your background and how you ended up where you are today doing what you do.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: I will give you the short version because it’s quite a little story. So, I’m from the UK, from England and, oh my goodness, 11 or 12 years ago, I moved to Spain. Really, I think for lifestyle reasons, the UK is quite cold and busy, busy, busy, and I just wanted something different to do. I always think it’s slightly ironic part of me went into medicine to travel and I ended up doing the traveling bit, but somehow my clinical career got a little bit lost on the road. Um, so to cut a long story short, I stopped doing clinical medicine and uh, turned to the internet really and started off thinking about picky eating for kids because, hey, guess what? Some of my children are picky. And I was like, oh, they don’t just eat the vegetables that I present them with. They just pick out the bits of pasta, how is this working? Um, and over the years I have pivoted and now I work with moms for lots of reasons, but one of them is that, you know, the best thing that you can do to teach your kids healthy living is to demonstrate healthy living.

And I realized that that wasn’t the case that so many of the mothers that I was chatting to were wanting their kids to eat healthily, but they weren’t eating healthily themselves. And you know, it just doesn’t work when you’re doing that. So now, as you said, in the introduction, I help women basically love healthy living. And really part of that is prioritizing themselves and going, Hey, you know what? I do matter. And I want to do the things that really light me up. You know, I always talk about living a life of luxury by which I mean going swimming and cycle riding or whatever it is that you really, really enjoy, but allowing yourself to do those things so that you can enjoy your life.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, no, I love that transition.

Teri Miller: Yeah. The way you’re, you’re talking about we have to be the example. If we are demonstrating healthy living, then our, our kids will pick that up. Um, but immediately what I think of, uh, is all the reasons why we don’t do that as busy moms. And so you talk about three big excuses that we all have.

So, so the, those three big excuses that, that you talk about are, I don’t have enough time. Yeah, I’ve tried before and it didn’t work, and I can’t afford to invest in healthy living. So talk to us about that.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yeah. All of those, all of those, um, you know, and in my mind as well, I, so many people say to me, you know, I want to be healthy or lose weight to whatever it is, and I want to do it without thinking. And that without thinking thing is all about habits. And I talk about habits and systems and routines. And as we are talking about all these excuses, I don’t have time. I don’t have energy. I, you know, this is, that’s all what it is. It’s, I’m in this habit of doing it this way and I don’t want to change.

And it’s basically, all of those are just that, they’re just excuses. They’re just the way your brain works and says, oh yeah, I can’t do that. Now, I do know that people are busy and I do know that people have to think about how they spend their money and their time and things like that. When we look at the difference between someone who is leading a healthy life and someone who isn’t leading a healthy life, what is the difference?

It’s not that, you know, they have more time in their day or, um, anything else it’s basically that they have systems and habits and routines that are set up to support those, those actions essentially. And some of that can be really just quite boring and mundane to be perfectly honest, like here, you know, I have four children. Wednesday is what I call our squash day. You know, that day when everything is happening, I’ve got client calls and my kids have got all their out after school activities. So what do I do? I use the slow cooker and I make sure that I cook something, do it at seven o’clock in the morning. It doesn’t take very long because I’m in the habit of doing it.

And then dinner is cooked. And I know that I’ve got a nutritious, healthy meal for my kids. But if you haven’t got that system set up, it’s really, really difficult. And that’s when those excuses start coming. And I think fear is another big thing. People are a bit scared of like, oh my goodness, what, what is my life gonna look like if I make changes?

Dr. Amy Moore: Right? Everyone wants just the magic pill or the easy solution um, you know, without having to put habits in place that then will put us on autopilot eventually is what I’m hearing you say.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yes, exactly. And I think, you know, I see so many people standing right there at the beginning going, yeah, I want to do this. I want to, so you know, what I do is stop emotional eating. I want to be more healthy. I want to do exercise, but when they really stand and look at what’s going on inside, they’re saying I’m really scared. I’m scared of that unknown.  Our brains don’t like unknown. And part of our brain is kind of saying, Hey, you know what things are going well, you’re alive. Let’s not change anything. And, you know, we have to overstep that and go, Hey, you know what, actually, it can be really easy. And one of the tools I use is I walk people through a two week reboot. And part of that is showing you. You can do anything for two weeks. You can leave, you can be healthy for two weeks and actually you can really enjoy it.

And you do that process and you think, oh, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it wasn’t. Oh my goodness. My life is, you know, nothing without, you know, all the things that I have got in place now. And as you go through that journey, I think you begin to see things in a different way and you begin to enjoy things in a different way and gradually you sort.

Pick up these habits and the habits become stronger and stronger and stronger until those new habits are the habits that you turn to. And you just do things on autopilot. Yeah. So what is the, what’s the magic about two weeks? Um, yeah, I mean, it’s an interesting question. So if you’re thinking about food, one of the things I do is two weeks of, um, Healthy eating.

So, you know, that looks like cutting out what I call white refined carbohydrate. Basically sugar, flour, you know, it all gets processed in our body very much like, like glucose, like table sugar. Um, so there are several things. Number one is your taste buds, your taste buds actually regenerate every two weeks.

So if you are eating highly processed foods. Yeah, exactly. It’s interesting. Isn’t it? And you are constantly, constantly eating sugar and sugar. Then part of it is your brain going. I want sugar. I want that quick release glucose, but part of it is your taste buds going I like the flavor. If you cut out that quick release glucose and you eat healthy fruits and vegetables, your taste buds change, and you taste the flavor.

I have this really, um, story that I like to tell called the strawberry test. And one Easter Easter here in Spain, um, is strawberry season. I bought some strawberries, delicious, you know, beautiful. We have amazing. We’re so lucky, amazing fruit and vegetables here in, in Spain. And this strawberry is just, you know, bursting with strawberry flavor.

Then I eat some chocolate. My children have got chocolate, so I eat some chocolate, obviously, super sweet, super rich. And then I eat another strawberry, the same strawberry. Not obviously the same one, but from the same batch of strawberries. But now that strawberry tastes sour and horrible, and I’m kind of thinking, why would I eat this strawberry?

It doesn’t taste very nice. And it’s because the sugar has totally masked that flavor of strawberry. And you can’t taste strawberry because all your, all your mouth is looking for is that sugary taste it’s just flooded with sugary taste. But people are doing that every single day to their bodies by eating processed foods the whole time that.

You know, you’re eating that processed food and your, your body can’t recognize the, the lovely tastes that actually food and vegetables have. So that’s one reason, but also, you know, your brain gets used to finding energy from within your body. We have this idea of, oh my goodness. We have, when I’m hungry, I need to get energy from outside, but actually that’s not true. And your body is designed such that if you don’t eat, you’ll go and get some energy from inside. So there’s lots of different reasons that I pick two weeks, but also I think two weeks feels like a doable amount of time. If I say to you, you have to do this for six months. You’d probably run away. Six months is far, far too long whereas two weeks, you kind of think, yeah, I can do something for two weeks. And at the end of two weeks, I can just go back to how I was if that’s what I’m gonna do. So I think it just feels like a doable, a doable exercise.

Dr. Amy Moore: Mm-hmm all right. That’s a great explanation.

Teri Miller: Yeah. Like you can, you can grasp making the change for two weeks, like you said, as opposed to six months, which feels overwhelming and I love just thinking about the, the learning curve, like with any new thing, any new change, there is this overwhelming learning curve. But if we can, if I can think about. I’m just gonna get through two weeks. I’m just gonna put one foot in front of another for two weeks. And I love at the very beginning of your book, you say most people don’t have a knowledge gap when it comes to healthy living. They have a doing it gap. Yes. Oh, that’s so great. And so if we can just bridge that gap just for two weeks. Yeah. That feels like I can, I can put my, my hands around that I can make that happen.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Definitely. And I think the other thing about that as well is that, you know, going back to habits, habits are really, really strong and you know, they’re a double edge sword because they are so strong.

So if you’ve got habits that are healthy for your body, that is fabulous because that is what your body is going to want to do. So for example, I have a very strong habit of eating fruit and vegetables. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last however many years. So when COVID hit, I’m eating fruit and vegetables. Not because I’m, you know, better than other people, but just because that is the habit that is ingrained in me, whereas other people would be baking and all of these other things. So habits are amazingly useful. Your brain doesn’t care whether it’s healthy or not, your body clearly does. But the other thing is they come back and they come back and they come back and you will see that you can really open a habit.

So for example, In COVID time. I haven’t played the piano since I was 18. And then. Not being able to do go out, I dug out this old keyboard and I started playing the piano and I haven’t played for, oh my goodness. I can’t even do the math 20 or 30 years or something. and then I’m eating, oh my goodness. My, my fingers remember how to do this? They obviously, I was a little bit rusty, but I could still play the piano, having not played it for ages, but other habits are like that as well. You can reawaken these habits. So. Not necessarily the good habit. So for example, people who are in my, my group coaching, they’re doing so amazingly well, they’ve nailed emotional eating.

They’ve really got to a good relationship with food. They can walk in, you know, we have this cupcake test. I walked in, someone offered me a cupcake and it was easy for me to say, no, it wasn’t clenching my teeth and going, I don’t wanna cupcake then stress something stressful happens. You know, you’re going on a long journey with young kids for a month.

And. Stress, you know, you can see that you are stressed. And so that habit is gonna come back. Now, luckily you are now aware of it and you take steps to, to stop that. But what happens to so many people is, you know, typically January the first, oh, I’m gonna start a new habit. By the time you get to February the seventh, you’ve forgotten about that habit. And you’ve gone back to your old, stronger habits, and then you start blaming yourself and going. I’m a failure. I can’t do it. And I just said, no, no, you’re a human mind. And you’ve got a human body and it’s just that, that other habit was stronger. And that’s it. It’s just a habit. You just have to change the habit.

You just have to make the healthy one stronger and not get despondent just because, oh yeah. The other habit came back for a little bit. That’s fine. Be aware and just move on.

Teri Miller: Yeah, that’s so good. I like that. And we are, we so do it. I know.

Dr. Amy Moore: Um, so I wanna back. a little bit. And so you identify four pillars of healthy living. So let’s talk briefly about each of those pillar.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Perfect. Yes. And you know, the reason I have chosen my four pillars is because on my own podcast, I have interviewed cardiologists and neurologists and cancer experts and all of these people. And you know what they all say the same thing. And it’s not complicated. It’s about keeping it easy and doable.

So pillar number one is healthy living, sorry, healthy eating. Um, which in a nutshell is fruit and vegetables. I personally advocate the Mediterranean style diet, but it doesn’t have to be Mediterranean, but plant based is, is good. So fruit and vegetables. And as a side note, I have this phrase, which is the best thing you can give your kids is your own happiness.

And the second thing you can give the best thing is vegetables. I love that. It’s so true. When I say happiness, I mean, health and happiness, you work on your health and happiness. Give your kids vegetables and everything will fall into place. um, so that’s pillar number one, and essentially it’s, you know, healthy foods, less processed foods.

Pillar number two is exercise that lights you up. And I really think it needs to be exercise that lights you up. I don’t want people doing exercise because they feel they have to drag themselves to the gym at six in the morning. If you love going to the gym at six in the morning, then that is fabulous. If you don’t give it a little bit of time and try and enjoy it. But if you don’t find something that you really, really do feel lights you up so that you are doing it because you love it. And for me, it’s swimming in the sea. I love swimming in the sea and I’m lucky I live near Mediterranean.

Um, pillar number three is what I call delicious, healthy sleep sleep. So, so important for so many reasons for weight loss, for, um, long term health for productivity and super underrated. I think people just kind of go, yeah, I know I should have more sleep and then they don’t do anything about it.

Um, and then the last pillar is emotional wellness. And this is where, you know, your relationship with food comes in where your relationship with yourself comes in, where mindset comes in, where stress comes in, stress is, you know, a huge factor in modern life now. Um, and we basically live off, you know, too much stress, which is damaging for so many reasons for our health, for weight. You know, if you, if your goal is weight loss, again, it’s gonna be really difficult if you. Or super, super strength stressed. But I also think that that pillar four is really the crux, because if you don’t change your mindset, then you are not just life happens when life starts “life-ing” you go back to those old habits, but if you change your mindset and those habits start to come back in, then you’re like, oh, okay. I’m in a position to be able to change that. And I think it’s about building up, you know, your, your stability in all four of those pillars. So you do a little bit, a little bit, you’ve got this foundation and then you’re building another level and another level and another level until you’re doing it all without thinking.

And normally that journey is, oh my goodness, I’m enjoying it so much. Now I want to try something else. Now I’m gonna think about, I don’t know, Cathy and kombucha and, um, fermenting foods or now I’m gonna try something else. Not because you think, oh goodness, I need to do this. But because you’re genuinely interested in think, oh, I wonder what that would be like.

Dr. Amy Moore: Oh my goodness. So I just had this aha moment. um, as I was reading your book, I was thinking, okay, these, and you said this yourself, the reason you chose these pillars are because over and over and over again from experts, these are the things that we focus on. That’s what’s important. And everybody kind of converges on that agreement, right? Mm-hmm . And so, as I was reading your book, I said the same thing, these pillars are not new. So, what is different about your approach? And so what I’m hearing you say is it’s the mindset that is the focus of the other pillars. Whereas when we look at these pillars, typically we go, okay, diet and exercise are the most important things that we need for health and oh, by the way, remember to sleep and manage stress and be mindful. Right? And what I’m hearing you say is you have to practice mindfulness and a mindset switch in order for those other pillars to fall into place. Is that what you’re saying?

Teri Miller: That’s gotta be first.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yes. Yes, totally. Totally. I always say if people are talking about weight loss, people always say, oh, I need to do more exercise. Well, actually that’s not necessarily true. It’s what I say is 80% nutrition, 20%. Exercise and a hundred percent mind mindset. It’s a hundred percent that I know that adds up to 200%, but you know what yeah, it is the mindset piece. The mindset piece is really, really important. And if we are thinking about, you know, people being overweight, which is in my mind, the problem with that is that it is an indication of unhealthy living.

And if we, if we’re gonna be really sort of hardnosed about it, why are people overeating? The definition of, you know, why do we eat? We eat to nourish our bodies. So. Eat to make sure we’ve got enough fuel, but people who are overweight are eating more than their body needs. Now, why are they doing that? And some of them, you know, some of it’s habits that you’ve grown up with since children, but a lot of it is emotional as well. A lot of it is okay, I’m eating my I’m eating for emotional reasons, whether that’s pleasure or to avoid stress, but it comes down to that emotion. So until you figure out that emotional piece, you’re going to come back. I can tell you to eat vegetables. I can give you recipes. I can even come to your house and cook, but when those emotions come back, you are gonna turn to your emotional eating again, unless you do that emotional foundational work.

Teri Miller: Which is yeah. You mind in the mind, starts in the mind. Yeah, go ahead.

Dr. Amy Moore: No, you give this example, um, of getting curious about why do you wanna eat chocolate at three in the afternoon? Talk a little bit about adopting that curiosity and sense of wonder mindset in solving this.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yeah. I always say, when something goes wrong, so, you know, you’re doing your two week reboot and you say, I’m gonna do it perfectly for two weeks.

Actually. Nobody does it perfectly for two weeks. So that’s perfectly fine. But I always say the, when things go wrong, there are golden learning opportunity because what it is is a repeated behavior that if it was just one off, it wouldn’t matter. You did it once. It doesn’t matter. You know, so you’re going running you trip over.

No worries. It happened once I got up, I picked myself up, but if it’s something that you’re doing repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, then you need to have a look at it and think, okay, so what is going on here? And it’s about being curious and not blaming yourself. So many people say, okay, I’m gonna set my goal to never eat chocolate.

Then at three o’clock they find themselves eating chocolate, and then they start beating themselves up and start thinking things like I’m so weak willed. And I haven’t got any discipline. Actually by the way, habit forming new habits has nothing to do with discipline. It’s all about. Setting yourself up for success and not using that discipline bit because that, that can last for two weeks.

There’s another reason why two weeks is really good because you can use discipline a little bit, but you can’t carry on using it in the long, long term. So yeah, you just get curious and you start thinking, so what’s happening and you know, the answers to this, like, I don’t know the answers, but it could be, I’m feeling tired after work and I’m feeling.

That I don’t have enough time for myself and that nobody’s taking care of me. So, you know, you want to be looking at those negative emotions. I’m feeling stressed, I’m feeling overwhelmed and what I want those positive emotions, I want to feel loved. I want to feel nurtured. I want to feel happy and calm and relaxed, and that, you know, looking at when I’m eating that food, what are the emotions that are coming up for me?

What happens when I eat chocolate? And I walk people through this exercise actually, And it’s really interesting. People will say, yeah. When I think of chocolate, I think of calm and happy or excitement, but people don’t realize that because we are doing things so quickly, they have to take time to slow down and have a look and think about these emotions here, the negative ones and the positive ones.

And then the next step is okay. Well, I’ve got too much stress in my life. How am I gonna reduce the stress in my life? What tools am I gonna use to reduce the stress in my life? And it’s different for everybody. But big hint, all four of those pillars are gonna help. So if you start implementing exercise, exercise is a really good tool to reduce your stress as well.

And if you start going to bed on time and making sure you get eight hours sleep and, you know, relax and get good quality sleep, that’s gonna reduce your stress as well. So they are all connected. And then obviously you want to think about, well, okay, I want these positive emotions. How do I get those positive emotions?

And, you know, in a way that I’m in charge of you don’t want somebody else to be reliant on your emotions, you don’t want to say, okay, I’m gonna feel, I want to feel loved and accepted. Therefore I need somebody else to help me feel loved and accepted. That’s not a long term solution. You need to work out how you can get those emotions yourself and how you can generate those emotions within yourself.

Teri Miller: Yeah. Mm-hmm I, a few minutes ago, I wanna come back to this a few minutes ago. You said, um, you can get by, you know, two weeks you can get by short term with discipline, with like willpower, but you’re talking about something different, setting yourself up to make those changes. Tell us more about that because I’m like, okay.Yeah. Discipline’s not gonna work for me. What is gonna work for me?

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yeah. Well, it. Essentially the way I kind of look at it is we’ve got two parts of our brain. Now I know this is not very scientific and definitely not the the neurophysiology that other doctors would explain, but I call it your habit brain and your thinking brain. Okay. And your habit brain is really, really useful because it does things on automation. So think about, okay, I want, I need to brush my teeth. If you had to wake up every morning and figure out how to brush your teeth, I’m gonna read this book about how to brush my teeth and I’m gonna read the instructions. Oh my goodness. We wouldn’t get anything done all day.

So habits are really good. They’re really efficient. They’re sort of rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. So. What we want to do is use our thinking brain to help us set up those habits. So going back to the chocolate example, we’re using our thinking brain to understand, okay, so, well at three o’clock, this is what’s going on. I’m feeling tired and stressed. I’m driving home. Um, and I’m looking at my habits and part of it is the emotion, but part of it is the physical. Yeah, I’m driving back. I always stop at this particular garage. It, um, habits are very, um, triggered by geography as well, and by certain situations. So, you know, if this is what I’m doing, how can I set it up so that I’m not doing this?

So you might take a new route on your way back so that you’re not stopping at that same garage. You might implement, you know, going for a walk or a cup of tea or something before you start driving home, or, you know, you might start thinking actually, I’m gonna go for a run in the morning because that’s gonna give me some me time that I’m lacking.

So you’re using your thinking brain, but you are setting yourself up for habits. And the way I look at it is, you know, those little train sets that children have and they lay out the track. And then they push the little trainer on. We have loads of them and my house is often cluttered with them. it’s that your thinking brain is laying out the track.

This is where we’re gonna go all day. And then your habit brain is following the track and all your habit brain does is follow the track. And that’s what you do. You just use your thinking brain and it’s not about discipline. If I had, if you had to use discipline all the time, um, you wouldn’t get very far.

They’ve done really interesting studies actually looking at people who, and they gave them, um, little, you know, buzzers to say, okay, Um, I’m gonna set the buzzer off when I’m putting myself in a situation where I’m going to make a decision. And actually it wasn’t that the people who were more disciplined, made more good decisions, they just made less decisions.

They didn’t put themselves, they weren’t faced with those decisions. So if you, if you put yourself in a situation where you are going to make a decision, you’ll say. In the morning, you’ll say, yes, I’m gonna eat healthily. I’m gonna make a good choice. I’m gonna make a good choice. By the time you get to evening, you’re exhausted.

You’ve, you know, done a day’s work. Those decisions are going to be, I don’t care. I’m reaching for frozen pizza. I’m going to take out I’m going for all of these things. Your decisions are going to be. Not supporting your long term health. So it’s about minimizing the amount of decisions that you need to make, which is why systems, habit, systems, and routines are the way forwards because you are allowing your brain just to get on and use its habit brain without putting it in decision making mode.

Dr. Amy Moore: Okay. I love that idea. Yeah. So I have a habit. Of drinking, um, lattes from . Uh, and in fact, my teenager just brought me this, um, because he knows my habit and will stop for me on his way back. And it’s this lovely rush of dopamine, right. to get my, um, latte, um, that probably is 500 calories.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: And so got lots of sugar in it.

Dr. Amy Moore: Um, it’s sugar free actually. It’s a 20 ounce drink with oat milk. And so that’s carbs.So, um, what I do is I leave 10 minutes early when I have to go somewhere so that I have time to take a detour to my favorite coffee shop on the way. And so I need to switch my routine and say, I’m not going to leave 10 minutes early.

Because then I won’t have time to stop. Right, right. Yeah. And I’ll change my route. I will just stay on the highway. Yeah. Right. And so if I, maybe if I do that for two weeks in a row, Okay, then I’ll have a new habit.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yeah, you might do. So I think there’s a few questions that you can ask yourself. Number one is how do you make your good habit easy? So how like you, and you might want to replace that habit. It’s kind of difficult to, to take a habit of not doing something. If that makes sense, often you want to replace it with something else. So if you’re thinking about coffee, well, if you’re used to caffeine for a start, your body’s gonna have some physical dependence on that. So you need to be aware. You can stop it cold Turkey, but you’ll have headaches and you’ll feel horrible.

Dr. Amy Moore: Right. And I’m not gonna give up my morning coffee that I brew myself. Right. This is my bonus coffee.

Teri Miller: Yeah. Like a treat like your chocolate.

Dr. Amy Moore: Right. But yes, there, my body is still used to the bonus caffeine. Right?

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So, but you, if you want to, if you’ve got another coffee, then you can just cut that out if you want to, but you might want to replace it. Something else. So you could replace it with going for a walk or a different drink or doing some physical movement, but you might find that that the problem is, you know, when you do something positive and you say, right, I’m gonna go for a walk.

So you go out and you do the walk and you’ve done the walk and you can kind of put a tick on and to move on with the day. But if you are taking something away, like, oh my goodness. I normally have a coffee at 10 o’clock and now it’s 10 30 and I still haven’t had my coffee and now it’s 11 o’clock and I still haven’t had my coffee and now, and this just goes on and on and on.

So you’ve got a longer period of time as opposed to just, yep. I’ve done that. Do you see the difference? There’s a sort of negative hold that you need to fill. Gotcha. Filling it with something else can be beneficial. Cause your brain is is looking for something to do now. Sometimes what you can do is create something like I’m gonna use my habit tracker, and I’m going to give myself a tick. I’ve reached 10:30 and I haven’t had my coffee. And I, you know, I don’t know about you, but I have a sort of internal limit that after 12 o’clock I don’t have coffee cuz it affects my sleep.

Dr. Amy Moore: Oh yeah. I don’t have that limit, I’ll drink it all day!

Dr. Orlena Kerek: But okay but it might take you longer, but you can give yourself stars. You know, I haven’t had my coffee, I’ve done this and you can give your staff every time you think. Do I want my coffee. I’m not gonna have it. Do I want my coffee? I’m not gonna have it. So you are giving yourself something positive to do so those are different things, but essentially what, you know, the questions you need to ask is how do I make my good habit, the new habit easier?

You know? So if that’s habit tracking, I’ve got my piece of paper. I’ve got my pen here. It’s really easy for me to do that. New habit. How do I make the, the, the not desired habit difficult. So, you know, I’m going to leave late and make sure there isn’t time for me to stop. And then, you know, have a think about, you know, what other things are going on for you.

What other than the coffee, is it just that it’s giving you coffee? Is it giving you a feeling of relaxation a little bit of time to yourself that you think. I want to spend five or 10 minutes perhaps going out in the garden would give you that. But you know, thinking about, okay, it’s not just the caffeine that it’s giving me, it’s giving me other things as well.

And when you recognize that it’s much easier to replace it.

Dr. Amy Moore: I love that. Yes, because to me, it’s almost a form of self care. It’s treating myself where as yes, I could treat myself with sparkling water or green tea to kind of fill that hole in that space.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yeah, totally. And I would also say to you, if weight, isn’t an issue, if your weight is stable and you’re not looking to lose weight, then carry on having your latte.

Teri Miller: Because if you think about the that’s what on the next question? Yeah. Yeah. I’m so, yeah, maybe it’s not such a bad thing, you know? I mean, there are some habits that, like you said, that are self care habits. That if there, if, if the world might, you might think the world would say, oh, that’s not good. But if it’s okay for you and you really can take that moment and think, you know, this really is, this is working what’s coffee.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Coffee’s good for like, coffee’s not bad for you. Yeah. Coffee is if it’s impacting your sleep, which it may or may not do, then yes. You may want to have a looked at it and think, okay, I’m not sleeping well. So perhaps I need to reduce my coffee or, you know, I’m getting headaches. Perhaps I need to reduce my coffee.

Um, but if not, and weight’s not an issue and you’re generally doing other things and you enjoy your coffee, why do you wanna change it?

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. Why do I OK. Let’s not okay.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Um, but I know that that is an issue for some people. But here’s another thing that I say to people is, you know, if you are going to do something that like, you know, that little sort of like guilt of like, oh my goodness, should I be doing this?

I say to someone, people, if you are gonna eat or drink something, enjoy it, really enjoy it. Relish it, make that you are like, this is my really. Like, I’m really enjoying eating this cake or wine or beer or whatever it is, as opposed to, Hey, I’m gonna wolf it down and then feel guilty about it. What’s the point in that? Like, if you are gonna do it really, really enjoy it.

Teri Miller: I like that. That’s beautiful. I love it. So enjoy it, Amy. It’s good.

Dr. Amy Moore: So in your book, you say I’m gonna quote you, um, if you think of yourself as someone who leads a healthy life and looks after yourself, you’ll start to do the things you need to get to the healthiest you, so why does that work?

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Did I say that that was really great. Quote, thank you.

Dr. Amy Moore: Wasn’t it?

Dr. Orlena Kerek: why does it work? Yeah, it’s a really interesting thing. And it’s all about your identity and how you think about yourself and like, what is our identity and what our beliefs. So if we sort of like. Think about thoughts. We have so many thoughts, like they say 60,000 thoughts a day now. Not all of those thoughts are true.

We often think thoughts we have are true, but they aren’t. They’re just thought thoughts that flip through our brain. And what’s a belief. A belief is something that we have thought so often that we hold it true to ourselves. And then identity’s kind of a step above that. It’s how we see ourselves. And it’s how we um, how we make decisions really. So, you know, when we think about that time, when I said, you know, I, um, I ate vegetables during COVID well, I think of myself as somebody who eats vegetables, um, I think of myself as somebody who is he healthy and looks after herself. And if you do that, then it’s much, much easier to make decisions.

Well, here’s another really good example. If I were to say to you, Hey, do you want a cigarette? What would you say to me? I’m presuming you’re a non-smoker

Dr. Amy Moore: I’m a non-smoker. Yes.

Dr. Orlena Kerek:  So if I say to you, do you want a cigarette? What do you say to me?

Dr. Amy Moore: No, of course not. Yeah, no, thanks exactly. I’m not a person who smokes.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Mm-hmm exactly. And that’s your identity. It’s not somebody who smokes now. If your identity was like, oh, well I’m a reformed smoker. I’ve just given up smoking. Well, then that, that question is gonna be more difficult for you. You might be a bit like. Do I, or do I not want a cigarette? I’m not sure. Right. But when’s got clear identity of, you know, this is how I eat. I eat lots of vegetables and I exercise and I make sure I get my exercise and I make sure I look after myself. It becomes a non-negotiable. It’s just what you do in the same way that you don’t say. Yeah, I want a cigarette. Why would you want a cigarette? I’m a not, I’m not a smoker.

Teri Miller: Right. That’s so interesting. Yeah. So that, um, like for healthy eating, I’m thinking, you know, we could begin to sort of label ourselves, like, you know, I just begin to call myself a vegetarian, you know, so, oh, no, thanks. I don’t, I don’t want that pork pulled pork sandwich, I’m vegetarian or I’m gluten free. You know, even you don’t have to be celiac or whatever to make those choices. If you identify as that and, and begin that process, like you said, of mindset change, even if you fudge here and there, if the mindset is I’m gluten free, then it can, it can change your habits. Right?

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yeah, exactly. And essentially what you’ve done is you’ve made a permanent decision. So when we were talking about how our brain doesn’t like making decisions, you’ve just made that decision for, well, however long, the next, however many years, probably life. If you’re thinking about being a non-smoker, you’ve just made what that decision. And it’s such a strong decision that you no longer have to make that decision when somebody asks you you’re so clear on the answer, but you can do the same with all of these other things, being vegetarian, vegan, whatever it is just, and it can, it doesn’t have to have that clear cut line. It can just be, well, I get to decide the rules, but I look after myself and I do exercise and I eat healthily.

Dr. Amy Moore: And is my choice consistent? Mm-hmm with that identity that I’ve chosen.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yes, exactly. And so it makes choosing, so when you are ha you are in that situation, it makes choosing so, so easy because. You have, you have a framework to fall back on, so you don’t need to think about like every time I go out and somebody asks me if I want a cigarette, that thought process doesn’t need to go through your brain because it’s clear to you every time somebody offers you a cigarette, you’ll go, no, I don’t want a cigarette. Why would I want a cigarette? Mm-hmm but it means every time you make that decision, am I going to have this thing or that thing? Your identity will help you go yeah, I’m gonna have the healthy thing or the thing that I know is going to help me promote my health.

Teri Miller: Yeah. Oh, that’s so good. It’s all identity and mindset and yeah. So much more than just discipline or willpower.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Exactly, exactly. And I think people get scared and think, oh my goodness, what would life look like without chocolate? Now what they’re really saying? What would life look like if I didn’t get my emotional wellness fix from chocolates and the answer is well, can you imagine if you got all the emotional wellness that you needed, that you felt happy, that you felt fulfilled, that you were really enjoying your life chocolate then stops being the focus of attention and you go.

Well, I can choose to take or leave chocolate, but it doesn’t really make that much difference. Yeah. It’s okay to eat it, but I’m busy enjoying my life. I’m feeling happy. I’m feeling all of these emotions and sometimes I’m feeling sad, but that doesn’t throw me off kill for so much. I’m just leading an amazing life. Sometimes I chocolate sometimes I don’t, but it doesn’t all depend on the chocolate. Mm-hmm .

Teri Miller: This is, this is relatable to so many other areas. I’m thinking like codependent relationships, addictions. You know, if those are, if those are the things that are the source of our happiness, woo. It’s not gonna go well.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yes, no, totally. And so part of that emotional work is understanding how you can generate your, your own emotions. And, you know, I find emotions. Fascinating. I think because when I went to medical school, they didn’t teach us anything about emotions, which now I look back and think that’s crazy. How like, emotions are such a big and we did psychology and stuff like that but we didn’t really think about emotions. I suspect because there isn’t the sort of body of work that there is now. Cause I’m that old, but emotions are amazing. What are they? They’re kind of our brains, our body’s way of processing, processing the world. And I hadn’t really realized this for a long period of time that we generate our emotions.

And it’s almost like a complex code that says, okay, this is how I interpret the world. So for example, you know, you’re a cave person or, you know, an back in the day hunter gatherer and you see a little flicker of a tail. Well, do you think, okay. That could be a tiger. That flicker of that tail means fear. I’ve gotta run away because the tiger might eat me or is that flicker, you know, a, a kitten’s tail and I’m gonna think, oh, that’s really sweet. So it gives us a lot more depth to interpret the world as opposed to, oh, there’s a tail that is moving. What does that mean? We’ve created these codes of okay.

This is what I feel. And obviously those emotions have huge, powerful, um, messages, quite a lot of the time, not least of, okay, this is something I don’t really like. I don’t want to be in this situation, but sometimes we get sort of stuck in this sort of rut of this emotion. I’m feeling this emotion, I’m feeling this emotion and I feel powerless to get out of it.

because I’ve like, it’s a habit essentially. And I want to get outta this habit of having this emotion and generate and enjoy the good, happy, positive emotions.

Dr. Amy Moore: So I wanna take a minute and apply this to parenting mm-hmm and um, you talk a lot about modeling and demonstrating the healthy lifestyle choices. And of course we know from, you know, social cognitive theory that children are going to learn that. But what are your thoughts on the intentional conversations that parents should be having with their kids about healthy living choices and along those lines, how do you not say things that then create body image issues or eating disordered thinking, especially in young girls.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yeah. Good questions. Yeah. And you know, I think it kind of depends on the age of the children. So I think number one, the thing that you want to be doing is modeling, healthy, living, healthy, eating. And I think that includes presenting your children with healthy choices. And, you know, I think this is, it’s kind of difficult for people to accept, but so many people go, I want my children to eat healthily and then their kids are faced with so much packaged foods throughout the day that it’s really difficult. And then they say to me, My kids don’t ever eat vegetables. And it’s because essentially they’re not presenting enough vegetables to their children. And so you need to look at everything that your kids are eating. Mm-hmm .

And another really big tip, I think is, you know, you don’t want to, well, one demonstrate emotional eating in front of your children. Well, you don’t want to demonstrate it at all because even if you do it in secret, they’re going to know about it. So you want to be healthy, eating. You know, with the, for the hunger, um, in front of your kids.

And the other thing you want to make sure you don’t do is set up that emotional connection with eating and children. And so that looks like not rewarding your kids with food, um, and not punishing them with food. So for example, oh, you’ve been naughty, you can’t have dessert. Now. I say it’s really easy to do. I remember when I had my first son, who’s just about to turn 14 and you know, putting him in the car seat and he hated being put in the car seat. And I quickly learned that if I handed him a biscuit, it was so, so easy to do until this sort of alarm bell went off in my brain. And I was like, oh my goodness, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m saying behave well and you can have a biscuit and that is setting up that emotional link. And so it is amazingly easy to do, but once you are aware of it, obviously you can make sure you don’t do.

So thinking about, yeah. Thinking about health. I think I, it, from, in my family, we’ve always had that conversation about health. It’s always been there when they’re little, they’re not really interested. They’re interested in what’s tasty. Um, but, you know, I have always had it and said, you know, this is healthy for you. Why don’t we eat sweets the whole time? Well, it would be lovely to eat sweets the whole time, but it’s not all candies the whole time. It’s, it’s not good for your body to do that. So thinking about what is good for your body, and then obviously as they get older and older, hopefully they will start to show interest, getting them in the kitchen.

Um, so, for example, my kids, they like to make cakes. Um, and I’m always horrified about how much sugar goes into these cakes, but it’s a good learning process. And it’s good for us to see, oh my goodness even a homemade cake has a lot of sugar and a lot of flour and all of these things in and think about the shop bought ones which have other stuff that you don’t really want to be eating in all those in multipliers and things like that.

Um, but so, you know, you don’t have to exclude sugar entirely for children, obviously. It’s about having that, those limits essentially. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. I had a, a mom talk to me about her. Child’s emotional eating. She was, her child was 12 and would stress eat. She would come home and eat a whole sleeve of Oreos, um, from the pantry. And I said, where is she getting the Oreos?

Teri Miller: That’s what I’m thinking. Get rid of the Oreos.

Dr. Amy Moore: And, and the mom said, well, I buy them. I’m the one that stocked the pantry of course. Well, maybe we don’t stock the pantry with Oreos . And so to me, it seems like our children could make better choices if they had better choices.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Mm-hmm totally, this is where I come back to that. Those were the conversations I used to have, but the issue isn’t with the child, the issue is with the mother and the mother needs to do the work. To get over the emotional eating to fix her relationship with food. So she can then teach her daughter like you can’t yeah.

Teach your children. If you are, if you are emotional eating, it’s very difficult to not teach your, to teach your children, you know, to have a good relationship with food, they copy everything that we do and they copy emotional eating. Um, and you know, you, you ask about body image. Well, again, I think it comes down to demonstrating it and demonstrating.

Loving our bodies, however they are. Um, and having that good relationship with food, you know, I’ve spoken to so many people who say to me, oh, you know, I was taken to Weight Watchers when I was eight years old. And so they’ve lived with this. I know it’s heartbreaking. Isn’t it lived with this image that idea of diet yoyoing, yoyo dieting for years and years and years. And that’s a, that’s a hard habit to break, but you can break it once you’re aware of it. It’s the same. Any habit mm-hmm so good.

Teri Miller: Yeah. They, they learn from what we do. Not from what we say .

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yes, exactly. Exactly. Totally. A hundred percent.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. So we need to take a break and let, um, Terry read a word from our sponsor learning our, and when we come back, we wanna hear, um, about the resources that you have available. Um, I know you have a podcast and how, how listeners can learn more from you when we come back.

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Dr. Amy Moore: We’re back talking to Dr. Orlena about, um, healthy habits. Um, that’s the word healthy, sorry guys. So Dr. Orlena, talk to us about how our listeners can learn more from you. You have tons you’re you’ve got a big presence on the web.

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yes. Well thank you for asking as well. So I have a podcast which comes out on Tuesday, um, called Fit And Fabulous At 40 And Beyond. It’s your kind of weekly inspiration and motivation me just saying, Hey, yes, you can do it. You can do it. You can still do it. Um, I have my book, which you mentioned, which is called, um, Building Simple Habits to a Healthy Me.

And actually I have a really lovely little, um, package at the moment which is called End Emotional Eating. And it’s my book but as a PDF that you print out along with, um, a masterclass, essentially all the tools you need to, to combat emotional eating. And that’s, you know, a small little package, which is super amazing.

I’m super excited. I’ve just only launched it in the last week. So I’m excited about that. And then obviously I do do, um, coaching. I have a group program, which is another amazing resource. I have a lifetime access to that and that’s, you know, by invitation people chat me before they’re interested in that and find out about, about me and my website is

Dr. Amy Moore: Okay. All right. And, um, you also have a Facebook community. Is that what you were talking about?

Dr. Orlena Kerek: Yeah, no, no, I do. I do, but I have so many things. I didn’t want to list everything. I do have a Facebook community as well, and that’s another free resource. Um, and I do lives in there and chat to people. It’s where people can access me and ask questions. Okay.

Teri Miller: Where do we, where can our listeners get a copy of your book? Building Simple Habits to a Healthy Me. What’s the best way to get that?

Dr. Orlena Kerek: They can either get it on Amazon. Okay. To get the paperback, but in the ending, emotional me, sorry, ending, end, emotional eating, um, package, which is $27. It comes with the book, but it’s a PDF version of the book. So you, unfortunately, it’s too, I’d love to be able to send it out, but there isn’t a resource that allows me to do that. Um, and it comes with other resources as well. So it’s a little package which has got essentially all the resource resources that you need.

So if emotional eating is something that you are interested in, I recommend that little package, which is, you know, an affordable package. If you’re just interested in, you know, healthy living, then Amazon is the place to get it.

Dr. Amy Moore: Okay. All right. All right. Is there anything that you would like to tell our listeners that you haven’t gotten a chance to talk about today?

Dr. Orlena Kerek: No only thank you for having me. And, you know, I think it starts with one step, which is, oh, you know what? I am gonna prioritize my health and my wellness. And then the next step is making it fun and working out which bits of it really, you know, how it works to fit, to fit in with your life. Essentially.

Dr. Amy Moore: Great advice. Yeah. All right. This has been such a fantastic conversation. We wanna thank you, Dr. Orlena for sharing your wisdom, um, your encouragement and your insights. Um, so listeners, if you would like more information about Dr. Orlena’s work, her website is That’s D R O R L E N You can find her on Facebook and on Instagram at Dr_Orlena. We’ll put all of her links and handles in the show notes as well as links to access the resources that she talked about.

So thank you so much for listening today. If you loved our show, we would love it. If you would leave us a five-star rating and review on apple podcasts, if you would rather watch us, we are on YouTube and you can find us on every social media channel @TheBrainyMoms.

So look until next time we know that you’re busy moms and we’re busy moms, so we’re out.

Teri Miller: See ya!