How we talk about health matters.
Conversations about health are pervasive–when we get to know each other, when we play catch up, at kid pick-ups, and in between calls or meetings.
Many of us see these conversations as benign since they are so commonplace and seem universal in their relatability.
Yet, these conversations matter because so many of our beliefs around health are connected to a more complicated web of power and profit that burdens our culture and our own well-being.
Those beliefs can often be traced back to diet culture which fat-shames, fuels disordered eating practices and more serious clinical eating disorders, and spikes feelings of depression and anxiety.
Diet culture is not just a trendy hashtag or something to police our words. It impacts all of us - whether we feel like we are sucked into it or not.
Diet culture fuels orthorexia which places moral meaning on the food we eat, what our bodies look like, and the kind of fitness we engage in.
Diet culture demonizes ways of eating and elevates others- not based on sound science but trends often promoted by influencers and celebrities.
Today’s guests are doing incredible work countering dangerous and inaccurate views of fitness and health. They offer accessible training that honors the positives of movement for ALL in ways that do not fuel a toxic obsession with fitness and health. And they share their windy journey in the fitness space that led to their philosophy and approach today.
Lauren and Jason Pak are a personal training duo on a mission to bring a more grounded and reasonable approach to health and fitness. They have been personal trainers for 16 years and owned a gym for nearly a decade, and throughout that time they've come to realize that the extremes that exist in the fitness industry lead to intimidation and a lack of confidence, so they are out to combat that messaging in order to help people feel more empowered to take on their own health and fitness endeavors.
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Scroll Down for The Full Episode Transcript:
Lauren Pak: The more we keep putting the messaging out, the more we’re also receiving it, and being reminded every single day that your worth is not tied into your body, that there is so much more value in who you are as a human being and that being strong is empowering and all these things that we’re saying to everybody partially because we want everybody to believe it and to feel more self-confident and partially because we still need to hear it ourselves. And so, it’s just the messaging consistency that really does keep me in a good place.
Rebecca Ching: How we talk about health matters. Conversations about health purveyed everyday conversations. When we get to know each other, when we play catch-up, at pick-up at schools, in between calls or meetings, it’s not just in People magazine or Cosmo, but these conversations around health are in the things we say every single day.
Now, two decades ago, I began my therapy practice focusing on helping people understand their relationship with their bodies. Specifically, I developed a specialty in helping clients deal with orthorexia as it became the most prevalent issue I dealt with in my clinical work. Now, in case that’s a -rexia you're unfamiliar with, here’s what the term describes: it’s a fixation on eating morally right or pure, and this deep moral meaning attached to eating impacts day-to-day functioning and how you eat, often with dangerous physical and emotional implications.
Now, orthorexia was first described in 1996 by Steven Bratman, well over 100 years after anorexia nervosa was first described in the literature, and it’s no wonder that orthorexia was a product of the late 20th century. I mean, look at the media, diet culture, weight stigma, and a conflation with our worthiness and how we eat, all experiencing this from doctor’s offices to schools to faith communities to workplace wellness programs. So, for many, the focus on health fuels and obsession that becomes dangerously unhealthy.
I'm Rebecca Ching, and you're listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with humans who navigate life’s challenges and lead in their own ways. Our goal is to learn how they address the burdens they carry, how they learn from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others.
When I walk into any room, within minutes I usually hear comments about weight, looks, diets, and healing journeys people are on. Now, sure, talking about health via the food we eat, our struggles with our bodies, and working out are common ways we connect, and I suspect many of you see these conversations as benign since they're so commonplace and seem universal in their relatability. I mean, I get it. Yet these conversations matter because so many of our beliefs around health are connected to a more complicated web of power and profit that burden our culture and our own wellbeing. Conversations about health activate an interesting contagion of comparison and competition within ourselves and others. So, a brief reference on weight loss or a passing statement about eliminating a food group or praise on how someone looks draws us in quickly and can so lightning-speed tap into our fears, doubts, and shame struggles.
Now, I’ve learned after two decades of helping people heal their relationship with food, their body, and their story, these seemingly innocent conversations have an incredible impact on what we believe about ourselves and how people feel in the spaces we live and work, and underneath the changes we all desire lie burdened beliefs about what it means to be healthy.
These burdened beliefs are fueled by an intersection of personal experiences and culture’s obsessive pursuit of a way of being healthy that often hurts and oppresses most of us who do not meet these toxic standards, both physically and financially. Yet we get sucked into these beliefs because wellbeing and worthiness have become conflated, and this plays out in schools, doctor’s offices, places of work, in our families, and, shoot, definitely online, and it is reflected in our spending as the diet and fitness industries are booming, raking in billions of dollars, people continually pursuing the next quick-fix thing.
These comments and beliefs can often be traced back to diet culture, which fat shames, fuels disordered eating practices and more serious clinical eating disorders, and spikes feelings of depression and anxiety. Now, I want to be clear, diet culture is not just a trendy hashtag or something to police in our words. It impacts all of us, whether we feel like we’re sucked into it or not. Diet culture fuels orthorexia which places moral meaning on the food we eat, what our bodies look like, and the kind of fitness we engage in. Diet culture demonizes ways of eating and elevates others, not based on sound science, but trends often promoted by influencers and celebrities, which is why when you make a seemingly innocuous comment about health and anything that supports health (fitness, food, body image), this adds fuel to the fire of diet culture. [Sighs] And this time of year the frenzy is always at a peak but, to be honest, I’m not sure this is a seasonal thing anymore. It just has different flavors and focuses on different things depending on the time of year or the latest pop culture focus.
Now, for me, I love moving my body. I always have. Swimming in the lake during the summer or in my friends’ pool was the norm. I played on sports teams since elementary school, and I had my first gym membership while I was still in high school. Now, some of those I looked to about fitness were not the best models. I mean, I grew up in the ‘80s and watched my share of Jane Fonda videos, and, yes, I even owned my own VH copy of Buns of Steel. If you know, you know. All of my friends were on sports teams, and many were lifting weights much too early for their growing bodies, and there was this pursuit of strength and peak performance that took things I loved to dark places at times, and even today, I still feel the echoes of memories of members of my fellow varsity cheerleading squad talking about various diets because they were struggling with their maturing bodies. And a member of our squad moved from dieting and disordered eating to a full-blown eating disorder, leading our whole squad to some really hard conversations about what it meant to be healthy and how our focus on moving our bodies can get high-jacked by the warped view of what was tied to us, from pop culture to our parents to our coaches and doctors, on what it meant to be healthy and fit.
Shoot, in many ways we were set up to have messed up relationships with food, our bodies, and working out. When I moved to Washington DC right out of college, I had two aspects of my wardrobe: suits and workout clothes. If I wasn't working crazy hours on The Hill, I would often be at the gym. It was fun, and it was a great way to destress, but the work/workout grind was real, and I didn't know any different. [Laughs] Fast forward and I’m now decades into helping those who struggled with disordered eating and eating disorders and the deep intersection of health, access to food, healthcare, and stable support at home. My clinical specialty helped me unpack so much of what I was taught about fitness, work, and health and how work and health was making all of us sicker.
Now, my guests today are doing incredible work countering dangerous and inaccurate views of fitness and health. They are truly a breath of fresh air, and I am so grateful for their consistent presence in this space that offers accessible training that honors the positives of movement for all in ways that do not fuel toxic obsession with fitness and health. They share their windy journey in the fitness space that led to their philosophy and approach today of reasonable fitness.
Lauren and Jason Pak are a personal training duo on a mission to bring a more grounded and reasonable approach to health and fitness. They have been personal trainers for 16 years, have owned a gym for nearly a decade, and throughout that time, they’ve come to realize that the extremes that exist in the fitness industry lead to intimidation and a lack of confidence, so they're out to combat that messaging in order to help people feel more empowered to take on their own health and fitness endeavors.
Now, listen for Lauren’s take on the golden rule and how it helped her flip the script in her own head and impact how she approached others who were struggling with their own self-talk. Pay attention to how Lauren and Jason shifted how they coach people to develop a plan for each person that is reasonable and helps them feel good about what they did accomplish versus feeling bad for not doing something. And notice how they came to the conclusion in both of their own lives and their personal training that extreme anything sets everyone up for failure.
Now, in this conversation, I want to give you a little content warning. There’s some conversation of disordered eating, eating disorder, and some obsessive behaviors.
If you're at a place here this just would not be helpful for you to listen to, tap out on this one, and if you're okay with it, listen at your own discretion, but don't push through if it’s not helpful. All right, everyone, now, please welcome Lauren and Jason Pak to The Unburdened Leader podcast.
Welcome, the two of you!
Jason Pak: Thanks for having us!
Lauren Pak: Thank you so much! We’re very excited.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, I was just talking with you all before we started recording that it just must be weird a little bit because you have such a strong presence online, and I follow you, and I’ve followed you for a few years now, and I feel like, “Oh, hey,” like you’re long-lost friends, and you're like, “Who is this redhead getting all stoked about --.” [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: We love that! We love that. If anyone ever comes up to us when we’re out and about, we love that. I think people always feel uncomfortable or nervous, but it’s just really fun to meet people. It’s like we kind of know, too, that if you follow us, then you also kind of have some similarities in terms of your views on fitness and things like that.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah.
Lauren Pak: So, we do feel a connection even if we don't personally know you.
Rebecca Ching: I appreciate that. I’m really grateful. I also was saying I really am grateful for your presence on the interwebs out there. As someone who’s in the clinical space, worked with the disordered eating spectrum, worked with a lot of elite athletes and even folks who don't come see me regarding their relationship to their body and food, everyone, it seems -- I’m hard-pressed to find folks that have a relationship with their body and how they feed and move that isn't distorted. So, I’m really looking forward to folks hearing from you today, and I feel like there’s such a strong connection even in how we care for ourselves and how we lead ourselves, too. So, we’ll be touching on some of that today. But I’d love to start by taking you back to your early times as personal trainers.
Tell me how you both became aware of the fitness trends and ways of eating that moved you away from health instead of towards health, and looking back on that time, I’m curious, when did you notice these trends start to impact your own relationship with food and movement?
Lauren Pak: That’s such a good question because, typically, it’s not presented that way. The question is usually, “As a young personal trainer, what got you into health and fitness,” right? You sort of know [Laughs] -- clearly you know sort of a lot of personal trainers don't have a healthy relationship with health and fitness, and that they actually, oftentimes -- and this is the case for me -- get into it from a very unhealthy place.
And so, for myself, I have a background in gymnastics, and I loved strength and conditioning as a gymnast. As a young girl, I was obsessed with -- my favorite part of practice was conditioning, and we would rep out pull-ups and push-ups, and feeling strong was my absolute favorite thing in the world. And so, I had a very healthy, great relationship with fitness growing up, and it really wasn't until after I had quit gymnastics. I was a teenager. I was into Women’s Health magazine and learning about how my body might not be the ideal body type that everybody was talking about and I needed to lose weight and I needed to be thin, that I started to drop a lot of those healthy habits that I had for myself where I felt empowered. I always was challenging the boys in my class to push-up contests and just doing things that made me feel strong and like a powerful woman even as a young girl, and it led me to a place of replacing all of those things with endless hours of cardio and restricting calories and everything in the pursuit of being thin as opposed to what used to bring me joy when it came to fitness which was being strong and capable and confident.
So, my early personal training years, that’s where I was. That was a space I was in was just the pursuit of thinness over health and fitness.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and how easily it gets conflated. That thin and health are supposed to be the same. Yeah.
Lauren Pak: Right.
Rebecca Ching: How about you, Jason?
Jason Pak: Yeah, for me, I got into fitness largely because I wanted to get better at sports, and also, I was a teenager at the time, and I wanted to present my best self for the opposite sex. [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: And so, I would work out pretty obsessively. I was mentored by my uncle who was also into lifting weights, and he got me my first weight set over at Modell’s Sports Goods which I think is no longer a company. But, basically, I initially got into it like, “Oh, this is great! I’m really enjoying it,” and then I started reading the magazines. I started reading Muscle & Fitness and all these other very extreme body-building magazines. And just being a young kid, I would read these articles and these advertisements talking about all these different supplements that would say, “Hey, you can gain 20 pounds of muscle over the course of 8 weeks if you take this supplement,” and I quickly had this supplement stack of preworkout and postworkout and fat burners and this whole stack of supplements that I was taking when I was 15 years old. And it got to the point where I was trying to do my best to build muscle and lose fat which was one of the big markers at the time in terms of muscle and fitness and all that.
I had taken a bunch of supplements, and I had taken a fat burner, and I was walking over to my Bally Total Fitness, which was a couple miles away, and on my walk there, I wasn't feeling good. I was like I have all these chemicals in my body, but I finished my workout, and after my workout was done, I stumbled out of there, and I just threw up all in the parking lot. It was literally at that moment I was like, “I don't think this is healthy.”
I thought what I was doing was healthy, but it was like a huge lightbulb moment. I was like, “I shouldn't be feeling dizzy and really just not in a good place after my workout, and that was kind of a big red flag for me moving forward, needing to reevaluate what I was putting in my body and what I was doing, what extreme measures I was taking to look a certain way.
Rebecca Ching: Mm, at 15. At 15.
Jason Pak: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: And you’re still growing and changing. It never ceases to amaze me -- kind of like ‘70s on (maybe a little bit in the ‘60s) -- but the pursuit of healthy really moves us away from health, and I see that. And you've talked about this on your own show and in some of your own writings about this subclinical term called orthorexia, the obsession with being healthy. And it’s amazing these days, even I see this at schools, but I see it in businesses and particularly in the entrepreneur spaces because everyone’s wanting to hack success, and they try to hack success by doing that with their bodies, and it’s incredible with folks who are overachievers. And I know you’ve seen this because if you've been doing what you've been doing, I know these folks have shown up and said all right.
You all talk about reasonably fit, which is kind of what you call the work you do, but reasonable? I don't do reasonable. I’m extreme. I’m maximum. How do you respond to that, and how do you even respond to that in yourself when you like to push yourself? Let me dial back to just how do you now kind of just say, “Whoa, what’s enough,” right? Because you love to move, right? I can see the joy in what you do, whether you're in the gym or you're out and about and you're playing and moving, when do you know the difference between moving from joy to tipping into that dark spot that you both kind of had touched on earlier in your lives.
Lauren Pak: I think we’ve had a lot of different approaches to this in the past, and the pendulum has swung in many different directions. We’ve kind of landed in the middle as of right now, but I will say that early on, we were more extreme. We were young personal trainers. We started when we were in college, so we were still teenagers when we started training people, and I remember the workouts I knew were workouts from gymnastics. So, I’m putting moms and CEOs and all these people through these ab workouts that were completely not right for them. And so, that was more of the extreme side of things.
And then when we started working with so many people and starting to realize that there was so much extreme in this industry that we wanted to tailor it back, we kind of started to approach it in a way of holding people back a little bit and saying, “You're doing too much! You don't need to be doing all of this,” and kind of making them almost feel bad for the amount of things that they were doing. And we started to realize that that wasn't a great approach either because there are some people who like to move every day. There are some people who, for their mental health, need to move every day, and for us to hold them back from that was not fair. So, I think that now where we’ve landed is making sure that people don't feel like they should do something, that they should feel like they want to do that thing, that they feel good after doing that thing.
So, let’s say, for instance, it’s the number of days that they're working out, and if somebody says, “How many days a week should I work out?” That’s not really a great question because there is no right answer except for, “How many days a week do you feel like you have time to work out? How many days a week does it feel good in your body to work out? Do you feel rested, or do you feel overly stressed?” There are a lot of follow-up questions that, now, we need to ask people before giving an answer to, “What should I do,” and I think that’s sort of where we’ve landed is just a lot more back-and-forth conversation before giving any sort of answer to a question like that.
Jason Pak: Yeah, a lot less agenda overall, I guess. When we first got into the industry, the agenda was to kind of serve whatever the industry was telling us to have our clients look like.
Lauren Pak: Right.
Jason Pak: And then we went to the opposite extreme of where we’re like, you know, anything above moderately difficult is completely unsustainable and you shouldn't do that. [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: And so, now, it’s more like, “Well, actually, what’s reasonable for you?” For someone who is maybe on the younger side of things with a little bit less responsibility, reasonable for them might be five or six days a week of working out, but if you're a little bit older, maybe you're a caretaker or you own a business, maybe one to two days a week of working out is reasonable for you. So, it’s all about, for us, trying to figure out what is reasonable for that person in that season of life as well and not putting any agenda on them and telling them they should do X, Y, or Z because we want them to look X, Y, or Z.
Rebecca Ching: So, I’m curious, then, because I’m sure you say this, right, like, “Okay, well what does that mean for you,” and I know that I have a similar response when folks are like, “How do I get rid of this anxiety,” or, “How do I have just incredible confidence all the time?” I’m like who has that, you know? I’m like, “Well, let’s talk about what that is for you,” and they're like, “Listen,” you know, “Steve Jobs, he cleaned out his closet, and now he just wore the same shirt,” so they want to apply that to their physical and mental wellbeing, and I’m like the math does not add up here and the physics of your body and your wellbeing, and so, it takes a while though because there are still so many messages that say maybe you're the exception, and it’s also a ton more work to figure out what’s good for you versus, “Come on, Jason and Lauren. Just tell me what to do. I don't want to decide. Will you just tell me what to do?”
So, how do you respond when people want to kind of push that back on you and have you tell them what’s best for them?
Lauren Pak: I would say there is something to be said for going through things on your own versus somebody telling you what to do, and so, there are times where we will just let that person do the thing that they want to do.
If we’re saying, “Based on what you're telling us, we would recommend -- you're saying that you're busy, that you're tired, that you're stressed. Why don't you start with three days a week full-body workouts?” They're like, “No, I’ve heard that I’m supposed to work out seven days a week and I’m supposed to eat this way and do this,” and we’ll say, “You can absolutely try that. I’m never gonna say no because sometimes you have to have the experience of that being too much to, then, come back to maybe I need to reevaluate this.
So, you don't want somebody to be stressed, you don't want somebody to overtrain, you don't want all those things for that person, but sometimes you do have to let them experience it in order to, then, have the conversation again. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: I couldn't agree more. Early in my clinical work, I’d give these talks on, “Diets don't work,” and I’d be like, “The research says that 98.5% of diets don't work, and so, therefore, don't diet,” and that would be it. Then I’d have people come back going, “Well, maybe I’m the 1.5%.”
Jason Pak: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: Mm.
Rebecca Ching: And then I did some research on who was the group of people, and it was kind of middle-aged, white engineer-type folks is where diets work.
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: So, let’s look at the population of what -- you know, that worked. And so, I started changing my talks saying, “Listen, here’s what the research says. Here’s what my experience has said. You may need to go collect some data but be careful because if you go do some research, you might not be able to turn away from it ‘til it gets dark. You don't want to lose your choices.” What are some of the choices that you see people lose when they don't figure out their own meaning of what it means to be Reasonably Fit? What happens to their bodies? What happens to their wellbeing when they're following the trends? What are the things that you see when people are following what other people say is good for them versus discovering what’s really best for them with your guidance?
Jason Pak: What a lot of times happens is they overlook what is actually going on in that moment in time, in that season of life, and they force themselves to do behaviors that are completely unsustainable for them during that period of time to accommodate for whatever is sort of trending in the moment. And so, there are all sorts of things trending right now whether it’s eating raw meat or if it’s extreme workout styles and all that sort of stuff, and if you are in a season of life where you are being a caretaker or you’re a parent or you own a business or you are getting your master’s degree, whatever it is, and you're forcing yourself to do these very unsustainable diets and workout plans and all that, you're just setting yourself up for failure, but they feel like they have to because that’s the quote-unquote “only way to get fit,” and that couldn't be further from the truth. It’s more just about what can you do sustainably and consistently over the long haul that’s going to make a much bigger impact on your overall health and wellbeing than it is to do these short-term tactics and measures that are ultimately gonna burn you out and leave you with this sort of almost resentful relationship with health and fitness.
Rebecca Ching: Mm, yeah, I so agree. And there’s such an interesting parallel on just doing the day in, day out, putting in your reps, building in those practices just like whether it’s parenting, whether it’s running our businesses, whatever that may be, it’s not very sexy. [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: It’s really long-game work, and you both touched on a little bit about when you started as personal trainers, and I’d love to go back to some of the early times, and you mentioned that there was a point where you noticed that you were kind of colluding with some of the trends. What tipped you off in your environment that there was a lot of unhealthy stuff in the health world? What were you seeing, and what were you doing?
Lauren Pak: So, we started out as personal trainers in a corporate gym setting, and then after about six years of that, we opened our own gym.
So, we had a gym called Achieve Fitness, and we had that for eight years. We closed it during the pandemic. But during that time, we’ve had 15 years of in-person experience working with people on a daily basis and hearing what they are saying about themselves, about their bodies, and for me, like I was saying, I sort of was in that dark place for a long time and feeling like I was beating up my body, that I was ashamed of how I looked, all these things that were -- that was what was driving me to workout. And I would have clients who would come in, and they would accomplish something really amazing (like they would get their first pull-up), and the joy would be incredible, like so excited -- I’m so excited. They're so excited. We’re high fiving. Everybody in the gym's cheering. An amazing moment, and then minutes later I would see them walk over to the scale, weigh themselves, and suck all the joy out of that moment.
And I get emotional thinking about that because I used to do the same thing to myself, and so, for me, it really was like a mirror being reflected on me because I would see that, and I would feel so sad for that person, like have conversions with them about how their value is not wrapped up in their body size or their weight and how people in their life love them for a million reasons, none of which are how much they weigh or what their body looks like, but it was easy to say those things to someone else. It was not easy to receive them, and I knew that.
And so, I started to have to evaluate what does that mean because it is hard to receive that information or to believe that information when it’s coming from someone else. And so, for me, it was a lot of realizing that there’s the golden rule of -- what is it -- treat others the way you want to be treated. And I had to kind of flip that rule around and treat myself the way I’m treating other people and give myself the same sort of respect that I give other people. How would I approach somebody who was speaking to themselves the way that I’ve been speaking to myself, and now try to speak to myself in that way, if that makes sense. So, flipping the script a little bit and trying to almost step out of myself to give myself the type of feedback that I would give someone else.
Then that sort of snowballed into feeling a little bit more self-confident, feeling a little bit more like -- having those conversations and over and over and over again realizing that you do have to hit people over and over and over again with the same messaging and the same information because one day the response is gonna change from an eyeroll to, “Okay, maybe you're right.” And so, it’s a long journey and a long-term sort of, like, well, journey, I guess, of making sure that you’re just hearing that repeated messaging over and over again.
Jason Pak: You talking about the scale brought back so many memories for me because we went through this whole evolution with the scale in general, and evolution number one was, “Okay, we do their health history. We have to take in their weight and their body fat.” It was a non-negotiable. It’s like we have to do it. It’s just a standard thing we do.
Lauren Pak: Part of the assessment, yeah.
Jason Pak: Then, you know, as we got more into this, we were like, “Well, why do we have to do that? Let’s at least ask the person if they want to be weighed and body-fat-measured and what not,” and then that turned into Lauren having more of these moments with these people. You actually wrote a little sign on the scale -- what’d it say?
Lauren Pak: It said -- I forget what it said, but, basically, “Your worth and value --,” ah, I don't remember.
Jason Pak: Has nothing to do with, like, the number.
Lauren Pak: Has nothing to do with your gravitational pull. [Laughs] It was way too annoying of a [Laughs] sentence for people.
Jason Pak: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: But basically, your value is not determined by the weight on the scale.
Jason Pak: By a single number, yeah.
Lauren Pak: Yeah.
Jason Pak: And then, finally, we just got rid of the scale. This happened over the course of, I don't know, three, four, five years or something like that. So it’s just like a crash of memories just came back to me about our sort of evolution with it all.
We say these things very quickly now, but it happened over a long period of time to try to unlearn all of the toxic diet culture and fitness things that are out there because we grew up with it reading the magazines and reading the articles, and we grew up with it, and that’s how we thought we were supposed to be good trainers by kind of feeding into that. And it wasn't until actually having full-on conversations, deep conversations with people where we’re like, “Actually, this isn’t really as important in this person’s life. There’s so much more going on in this person’s life than this number on the scale. Why are we putting so much effort and worth into this rather than the other things that that person actually places importance on?
Rebecca Ching: Ugh, I’m so glad you're touching on this. I used to have a sign in my group practice that said, “Your worth will not be dictated by a number,” so a version of what you had on the scale.
Lauren Pak: Oh, perfect.
Rebecca Ching: And it’s like whether it’s the number on the scale, whether it’s the inches, or whether it’s what’s in your retirement account or your GPA or all those numbers, which we kind of need to check. I’m recognizing, too, even with aging, you know, you want to watch trends, but how to keep those numbers separated from our worth.
I’m curious, though, Jason, what was that like for you seeing Lauren go through her own inner rumble while she was pouring out love and compassion and cheering everyone else on, but you saw how she was turning on herself. What was that like for you to witness, especially while you both were leading in this space, too, together?
Jason Pak: Oh, man. [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: It was, I mean, probably like a whole decade-long journey and process. It was definitely not like a -- it was a whole evolution of thoughts because when we first entered that sort of journey together, Lauren was obviously very resistant on kind of opening up about that stuff.
But like she was talking about before, as she started to open up more to our members and our clients, the more she was able to open up to me, and the more I was able to realize, “Oh, there’s so much more to fitness than sets and reps and diets.” I viewed fitness as a very kind of black and white -- I’m more of like a X’s-and-O’s-logic type of person, and she really opened up my eyes to there’s just so much more to fitness than the black and white and that there’s a lot of gray area in fitness and a lot of just stuff going on because of the environment of toxic diet culture and things like that, that really kind of opened my eyes to a lot of this stuff and really shaped the way we really approached our brand (our brand Achieve Fitness, our social media brand). Everything about what we did was really cognizant of how people were feeling around fitness and not just, “Do this,” or, “Do that,” or, “Do this diet.” It was much more all-encompassing than that.
Rebecca Ching: And that’s evident. Definitely I see that. So, if I’m hearing you correctly, some of what was going on in between your years, Lauren, Jason didn't know about. Is that true?
Lauren Pak: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: You really kept that. And then so when did you start to share with Jason what was really going on between the ears with you and your relationship with your body?
Lauren Pak: For a little background, we were friends before we ever dated, and now we’re married. So, it’s been a long journey. We met each other when we were 18 in college, so freshman year of college, and we were really good friends. And so, I actually am pretty sure I confided in you earlier than we ever started dating that I was having insecurities and things like that, so Jason knew all of that was going on, but I don't think that I was ever clear about how much I was doing in secret because I think that was the biggest thing for me was I think he probably just thought that I was insecure, which was true, that I had a lot of insecurities that I shouldn't have had.
Like, he was always saying things like, “You're beautiful,” or the things that I think somebody, a partner or a friend, would think that the other person wanted to hear, but the reality was I was doing so much in secret that I never felt like I was being honest with him because I was restricting my calories and then I was binge eating and I was going on secret runs and just doing all this stuff without being honest about how much I was just beating down my body. And then the only thing I would really say was, “I don't like how these clothes look on me.”
So, it wasn't really that honest to the point where I couldn't expect him to really be able to support me in the way I needed because he didn't actually really know what was going on if that makes sense.
Rebecca Ching: Mm, yeah. So, when did things click for you, Jason, on what was going on with Lauren?
Jason Pak: Well, I mean, like I was saying before, when Lauren would have these intense conversations with our members and our clients, and we would always have debriefing moments talking about what happened, how we can talk to this person moving forward in future training sessions because Lauren and I and our team were always all on the same page about basically each and every single member, what’s been going on, what are triggers for them, and how we can best serve them as a member and as a client.
And so, we would have these debriefs, and it was almost like each and every debrief would lead to a slightly deeper conversation of Lauren ending the conversation being like, “Well, actually, I also have similar sentiments,” or, “I also have similar feelings.” Then I would say, “Oh, really? Well, what do you mean?” Then we’d have a whole nother hour-long conversation where Lauren would kind of deep dive into some of the things that she’s been experiencing, that she’s been feeling.
I don't think it’s anything that I said or did. It was more just Lauren being more open to talking about it and me asking her some thought-provoking questions where she would almost talk herself into a better place.
Lauren Pak: Yeah, it was the biggest way that you ended up supporting me. Jason wouldn't let me walk away from a conversation which is something I -- that’s probably my toxic trait is that if I’m uncomfortable in a situation or a conversation, I just try to wrap it up and leave, and he would see me getting to that point, yeah, and be like, “Mm, no, let’s keep talking about this. We need to talk this out,” and not in a forceful way, but just in a, “I want to be here for you. I want to support you,” and not letting me run away from these conversations, and that was the first time that I was like, “Oh, okay, I guess I have to open up. I guess I have to talk to you about this.”
I remember one of the biggest things was I admitted to Jason that I binge ate, and that was something I thought I would literally never do. It’s shocking to me now that I even say that out loud because in that time when I was so deep in so much shame around all of that, I was like this will never get out. This is 100% a secret. And so, however he ended up pulling that out of me, I remember that being a massive moment for me, and it shifted everything. I think it was the last time I did eat in secret because now it was out there. So it was like, “Well, what’s the point? Now he knows. So, why would I? Why don't I just eat in front of him?” And then it changed everything.
So it was like a small moment that probably you don't even remember that made the world of difference to me.
Jason Pak: Yeah, it was probably my non-reaction to it, being like, “Oh, okay,” --
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: [Laughs] -- that probably made it be like, “Oh, actually, maybe it’s a little bit more overblown in my head and not everyone is thinking about what I’m eating and things like that. It’s actually just my own thing that I’ve got going on, and I could work through that.
Lauren Pak: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: There’s so much right here. Jason, your just continued curiosity and presence, right -- that presence and that patience and that persistence that’s underlined by the trusting connection, just you as a couple but also it sounds like with you as a team -- like, what was aligned for you as a team to be on the same page with those that you were serving and leading, and so, then, that started to trickle and it was out of alignment for you, Lauren, in those conversions as you were receiving what you gave to people. And then, Lauren, it’s such a great example of when you speak the thing we’re most ashamed of, and shame hates the light go into those things, and then when the light’s shed on it, all of a sudden, that dissipates, and sometimes it's quick, sometimes it needs a little bit more. But particularly, and I’ve noticed just from my own work in the clinical space, there’s something about whatever that means to someone -- binging and that binge could be eating a whole sandwich to something more exorbitant -- but whatever that is for someone, that is probably the most shameful eating behavior for folks. People are proud to restrict.
Lauren Pak: Oh, yeah.
Rebecca Ching: They're proud to purge through movement and other things, you know? But there’s something about that particular thing in our culture that judges that, and, really, it elevates discipline and self-control. And so, it feeds on it. It’s an insidious thing. So, just speaking that and even hearing that. So, I just appreciate you both sharing that, too, and just what you both lived in the work environment that you cultivated actually brought you both closer and also brought you both closer to health and alignment, too, so that’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.
Lauren Pak: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Rebecca Ching: How does it feel to even name that and talk about that right now?
Jason Pak: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: Yeah, it went so much deeper than we expected. [Laughs] But it’s really nice.
Jason Pak: It was actually good because, you know, we get asked that question here and there, and we don't really have a good answer for it, and I think just kind of talking through the timeline made it -- we didn't have an answer for it because there wasn't a one answer. It was just a slow, drawn-out evolution of us talking it out, I guess.
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I’d love to talk a little bit more about what you’ve learned from folks who are very, very, very focused on results and optimizing their work and their lives, especially around fitness. And I know that that’s not the culture that you cultivate. I mean, maybe early on, but that’s not where you’re at today. No doubt, though, you're still attracting folks that have that persona and that personality. So, how do you specifically -- I know we talked about working on what’s good for them, but particularly when they push back and say, “No, come on. Come on. Push me harder,” and when they push back on your reasonable approach to fitness, what are some things that you continually say on repeat? What are some of those things?
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: You know, when we owned our gym, I would say probably five percent of the population there were very type-A, were executives, were very data-oriented, and they were very much pushback against our ethos of just kind of being more sustainable and focusing on consistency. At the time, CrossFit was blooming, it was spiking, and they wanted to do CrossFit-style workouts. They wanted to do HIIT-style workouts, and we had to explain to them, “Well, you know, it’s more about progressive overload and consistency over time and sustainability. Those workouts can work for some people, but, ultimately, they become very unsustainable,” and really, what we’d have to do is just stick to our guns and consistently talk about these things and not be reactive but more proactive, being like, “I know this stretch doesn’t feel like it does anything but trust me. It’s gonna prove your thoracic mobility which is gonna help your overhead strength which is gonna help your push press.”
I would find myself having constant conversations preemptively being like, “I know what you're thinking right now.”
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: “This is why this drill that isn't very intense is going to help you later on when you do something very intense,” and I would just have these preemptive conversations. And even with all that, a lot of times we would have members pause their memberships, go take some CrossFit classes to sort of scratch that itch, and then they would come back and be like -- eh, I don't want to bash CrossFit. Any sort of class where it’s very high intensity, they would come back and be like, “Yeah, I don't feel quite as good. I did get a good sweat, and I felt like I really worked out hard, but, ultimately, I understand why it’s not sustainable.”
But then even after that, you know, a few months go by, they're like, “Ah, well, what about this new XYZ trend?” So, we just had consistent conversations with folks and, again, honored their whole process. If they wanted to go take a CrossFit class, most trainers might get defensive about it. We’d say, “Hey, go take it. Go scratch that itch and feel what you feel. We don't care if you do Zumba or CrossFit for spinning or strength training. We like to recommend whatever helps you to be the most consistent worker-outer version of yourself,” is what we come in and recommend for everyone.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, people have to go collect data on their own. If they're not trusting us, and it’s that continual -- but yeah, and because the noise is so out there, and it isn't just one modality. I know CrossFit sometimes gets a lot of pushback. I think, for me, the challenge was sometimes it’s just anything that you do without rest or extreme, because I had so many people that would get injured, and then that would send them on a mental health crisis because that was the way they were managing their mental wellbeing, and then when that was just suddenly taken and that was part of their identity, then they would spin. So, it was a catalyst for some deep healing but a really painful and sharp turn for that.
Lauren Pak: Absolutely.
Rebecca Ching: Again, even there are parts of me that are like, “Ugh, isn’t there a quicker way to do this?” But the most boring things are often the most important things to do for our overall wellbeing, mental and physical wellbeing.
Jason Pak: [Laughs] Right.
Lauren Pak: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: It’s like, you know, going to bed at the same time. Getting enough sleep and not staying up late.
Jason Pak: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: There isn't a hack, and it is amazing, though, because I don't know anyone, for me, I see trying to optimize. That word, for me, I unpack that with my clients a lot like, “Tell me more what this means,” because optimized feels like just like energy charging through all the time and there’s no coming down, but there’s such a sense of belonging, too, with some of these communities, too. Yeah, and again, sometimes people are working through their own personal pain through their bodies, too, and that sometimes -- it can coexist, like you touched on. It can coexist, and I believe the research on physical movement and mood is growing and significant, but if that’s the only thing we’re doing, then that can lead to the overuse injuries and all the things I’m sure you’ve seen and maybe even experienced, too.
I’m curious how do you, today, protect your relationship with food and movement from being rigidly connected to your worthiness, your safety, and your belonging at this season of life? You’ve got two young kids. You have a new evolution of your business. You're very public. You're very present. What are some of your kind of checks and balances that you do individually and maybe even collectively as a couple to support each other to protect you from that?
Lauren Pak: Jason, I will say, asks me all the time, “How are you feeling about --,” it’s almost unspoken to the point where he doesn't have to be so direct, but just like, “How are you feeling?” and, “Are you doing anything differently with eating?”
Just kind of checking in on me and making sure that my answers aren't going backwards in any sort of direction, and, for the most part -- actually, really, for the last many years, it’s just always been like, “I’m good,” and I really am good, and I don't think about it too much. I don't really worry about it, and I do think it’s just the fact that we are so open with each other and so communicative about making sure that we’re not going in a direction that one of us isn't comfortable in or going down a workout path or a nutrition path that makes one of us -- and by one of us I mean me because Jason’s never really had any issues with food which is great -- that is making me feel any sort of way. So it really is just a matter of checking in with each other when it comes to us, personally.
Then I think that, honestly, what I was saying before, just being hit over the head all the time with the messaging, even if it’s coming from yourself. So, for us, the more we keep putting the messaging out, the more we’re also receiving it and being reminded every single day that your worth is not tied into your body, that there is so much more value in who you are as a human being and that being strong is empowering and all these things that we’re saying to everybody partially because we want everybody to believe it and to feel more self-confident, and partially because we still need to hear it ourselves. And so, it’s just the messaging consistently that really does keep me in a good place.
Jason Pak: Yeah, definitely the messaging. I mean, we’re talking about it on podcasts all the time, on social media, stories, reels. We’re constantly talking about it, and so, it is always in our minds just top of mind. And so, it’s kind of tough to, I guess, even break out of it. So, I think that’s why it’s so important for people to belong to communities or have a therapist or just have a significant other where you can talk about these things out in the open, where it doesn't get built up in your mind to be this whole overblown thing, but just the more you kind of are able to confide in others and trust in others, the more you’re better off for it.
Rebecca Ching: No question. Healing without community can happen to an extent, but that’s really where the magic -- and that constant steadfast and whatever that looks like. So, I really do appreciate that community that you're creating online. It stands out with a lot of the noise out there, and it’s fun to be able to send people to you all as a resource. But I am curious if you could walk me through your thought process creating social media and fitness content so you're not colluding with the toxic and privileged diet and wellness culture out there. I’d love if you could just walk us through how you think that through and check that so that you really continue to stand out and differentiate from a lot of the other messages out there that do harm.
Lauren Pak: Yeah, I mean, one of the biggest things is that we are never going to use ourselves or our bodies as a method to convince somebody else that they should do this work out or to tell somebody else that they should buy our program or anything like that because we don't believe that our bodies are a representation of what being fit is, and we believe that it is absolutely diverse, and there are so many different body types that are fit. And so, one of the biggest things for us is making sure that no one ever feels like we’re saying (because we’re not), “You should look like us. You should do this work out to look like us.” That’s absolutely not what we’d ever want to be coming across from our social media, and so, we just always make sure that that’s clear and that we’re saying, if we’re showing an upper-body workout, we’re not saying, “Get ripped biceps,” and Jason’s flexing, you know? We’re just saying, “Hey, if you have a strong upper body, you're gonna be more capable. You’ll be able to lift up your kids.” Trying to always spin it in a way of being physically fit and being strong, these are all things that are gonna help you live a more fulfilling life. Like, you're going to be able to do more things and be happier, not you're gonna be able to look a certain way.
Rebecca Ching: Mm, but, I mean, you all are really good marketers, and we know that marketing goes, “What are people’s pain points,” and, “What’s your hero's journey story.” How do you still communicate the message of reasonably fit but do it differently? Tell me a little bit more because, again, there are so many people following that formula of saying, “This is how I achieve this. This is how I healed, so here’s my package to you.” You kind of just mentioned -- one of the things I think I take away from you all is form. That’s something that if I watch any of your videos, it’s form, form, form. When you do those videos where how not to do it, I’m wincing. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh! Are you okay?” When I see you do some of that stuff, it hurts to watch.
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: So, I appreciate some of that stuff. People want to know what not to do and what to do, and kind of that’s one way you do it. Are there any other approaches you have that still kind of honor just the sound principles of marketing but, again, still don't collude with those toxic messages? Anything else?
Jason Pak: I guess if we were to label a hero in our marketing, it’s always going back to what the audience wants, basically. We rarely talk about ourselves. We rarely fall prey to the, “Let’s do a body check to show off this pose,” it’s more of like the actual information and the content, that’s the hero. The audience is the hero, and we take less of the pressure or spotlight on us, I guess.
Lauren Pak: Yeah, the content is created for the consumer, not for us. I think that’s a big -- in fitness, a lot of times it is -- a fitness influencer might take the approach of showing off what they can do or showing off their body. Those are sort of the two directions that you can go, and that might get likes, and that might get comments, but, ultimately, they’re not giving anything to the other person on the receiving end except for maybe more insecurity. [Laughs]
Jason Pak: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: But what we’re trying to do is give information and make the person on the other side of our content feel empowered to go do something a little bit better or to be able to do something a little bit safer, and those are ways that they can take something away from our content feeling empowered as opposed to feeling maybe less good about themselves.
Jason Pak: I think from a marketing standpoint, you want to figure out pain points and all that, and everything that we’ve been trying to do has just been solving different problems that present within the context of workouts and nothing beyond that, not trying to make it anything more than it is. And so, it’s like if you have an issue with your lower back hurting during deadlifts, here’s a quick fix for that. It doesn't have to be so extreme as me taking my shit off and then being like, “You can deadlift just like me if you do these three moves.”
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: It just goes against so much of our principles, not even just from a toxic, diet culture, fitness culture standpoint, but also just as strength coaches having done this for a long time, just know that an N equals 1 study of these exercises happening to work for you will not work for everyone else. We’ve just been in this field for too long to say something as extreme as that which is unfortunately the current prevalent theme. But I almost think by not going into these marketing trends, that’s what’s making us stand out more.
Rebecca Ching: You got it. You got it, and I love what you just said, too, Jason, about the information and the people you're serving are the heroes combined, you know? And really leaning into your body of work as experts. Like, you’ve been around the block with this and really leaning into that, and I think sometimes, especially in the online space, it’s like anyone can be an expert, and this is not to push back on any really good people, but you’ve literally and figuratively done your reps in this space, and so, that shows. I really appreciate that.
Lauren Pak: One other thing that we try to do is sort of just subtle choices that I think sometimes people can be surprised by. If we’re doing an advanced and a modified post, for example, and we’re showing an advanced movement and a modified movement or an alternative, we typically have me do the advanced movement. And it’s a subtle choice, but so many people will pick up on that and say, “It’s so nice to see that you're not just using the default (the guy does the advanced movement, and the girl does the modification).” And so, I think little choices like that end up being big decisions in the grand scheme of things when you're trying to build a brand, and for us it is about just like how can we empower the people who have typically felt disempowered? And so, in that way, when women feel sometimes like they might be told that they're supposed to do push-ups on their knees or that they're not as strong and that they need these modifications -- especially even when I was pregnant, we would always make sure I was still doing the advanced movement like, “Pregnant women can do these! Pregnant people can do these things!” Just trying to make these statements that help people to see things in a different way.
Jason Pak: Yeah, and also, providing modifications as well, like, on Instagram. People try to stand out, and so, they come up with flashier and flashier exercises that are extremely extreme, and they're doing pistol squats on top of kettlebells or they're laying on their back and they're doing sit-ups while medicine balls are being slammed on their stomachs, and they're doing all these sorts of ridiculous stuff, and we’re like this could not make fitness less approachable.
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: And so, by telling people, “Oh, if you can't do this exercise, here’s a simple modification that you can make that’ll work for you and also targets the same muscle groups, works the same patterns, might not be as flashy as some of the other exercises you see on Instagram, but at least it gives you an entry point where you feel good, where it feels like, “Oh, I can do this,” and then you can build on top of that.
Rebecca Ching: I love that. No, and it’s true, Lauren. Now that you bring that up, that has been something I’ve noticed in your online content is seeing you do the more advanced pose, and I’m like, “And there it is! And there it is.”
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: “I like these two even more!” And you do it in just a -- it’s matter of fact. It’s almost like, “Duh, yeah.” So, I really appreciate that. Thank you both.
I’m curious, for you, how do you view success and taking care of your health and wellbeing as you lead and grow a business and a growing family? What does that look like to you today?
Lauren Pak: It’s definitely ever-evolving especially because our business and our family has been changing so much in the past few years. I mean, we closed our physical location which it’s interesting because, for us, that felt -- when we were first kind of faced with that decision, it did sting, and it felt a little bit like a potential failure as business owners, and that was our brick and mortar. That was the business, and so, we had to reevaluate what success looked like for us because, at that time, success was having a big staff and supporting a large community of people in person and those daily interactions with people, and we had to turn everything to the online space which is just completely different. We no longer have a staff. It’s just the two of us. We’re never face to face with someone unless it’s over a screen, and so, it just really changed the way that we view what we do.
I even remember when we first closed the gym I was like, “What do we say when someone says, ‘What do you do for work?’” I’m like I don't know! [Laughs] Like, what am I now that I’m not a gym owner? And so, that transitional period was very challenging for us, but now we actually are in love with what we’re doing because we’re reaching so many more people than we could in a 6,000-square-foot space in a small town.
We have people around the world who are doing our programs, and we’re talking to them online, and so, we now feel very connected to just creating a bigger message within the fitness industry. So, I think success for us now is changing the messaging in the fitness industry and helping people to be more empowered and feel like they can take a more reasonable approach.
Jason Pak: Yeah, going back to numbers defining you, I mean, we were very proud about how long we were in the industry, how many members we had, how big our staff was, how many certifications we had, how many speaking engagements we had, and just how much we were working. It was all tied around that. Especially once we had our second child, when our time just became completely dried up, we had to really figure out what was actually important for us as professionals, as a family, trying to peel back those layers and figure out what was actually important to us, and we realized that, you know, we didn't have the same amount of emphasis on speaking engagements like we did before or being in publications or even being in interviews and stuff. We value our time so much more now because we have two little ones running around and we want to make sure that we have as much just wherewithal for them and just be present for them.
And so, we started to really identify things of, like, do we actually want to do this or is this because we used to think that we should do this for status purposes and whatnot, and so, we did a lot of that, especially during the pandemic when we were locked down. Like, actually figuring out what was truly important to us, and I think we’re really just cultivating a business that supports what we actually want to do, not what we think we should be doing.
Rebecca Ching: Ugh, beautiful. I’m so happy that you're at this place, too, because sometimes it takes folks a long time to get there, but for those who have kids in whatever capacity, there’s nothing like caring for those little people that all of a sudden reprioritizes everything. I really relate to so much of what you both said around that because it’s realigned my life since I had kids, and as they grow and I get to know their needs, I also want to be with them. I don't want my business to be in competition with them, I want it to support me being with them. So, really, really I value that.
As we wrap up, are you okay if I ask you all some quickfire questions that I ask guests when they come on?
Jason Pak: Let’s do it!
Lauren Pak: Sure! Let’s have ‘em!
Rebecca Ching: Okay, what are you both reading right now?
Lauren Pak: A lot of Pokémon books and Pout Pout Fish and Brown Bear. [Laughs]
Jason Pak: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: It’s all kids’ books right now. I don't have a single adult book open at the moment. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Fair enough. Fair enough.
Jason Pak: From a professional standpoint, I’ve been reading a couple of different marketing books. One most recently was $100M Offers by Alex Hormozi, but business books lately.
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: Beyond the children’s books.
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] What song are you playing on repeat? I have a feeling I know where this is gonna go based on your first answer, Lauren.
Jason Pak: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs] That’s true. I was gonna give myself the music. If we looked at my Spotify top play it actually was Norah Jones because that’s what would put our one-year-old to sleep when she was an infant, when she was a newborn. So, Jason would call her Snorah Jones because she would -- [Laughs] dad jokes. Dad jokes.
Jason Pak: We just had the Spotify wrapped playlist all pop up. Yeah, Norah Jones. I was in the 0.01 top listeners for Norah Jones this year. [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs] He did all the rocking her to sleep to Norah Jones.
Jason Pak: Yeah. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Okay, those are some bragging rights! [Laughs]
Jason Pak: Yeah.
Lauren Pak: Yeah. My song that I’ve been playing a lot, I just got out of a football season, and I was listening to “Unstoppable” by Sia.
It was in a Rehab Remix. I was obsessed with that one right before a game, so that was on my playlist a lot.
Jason Pak: I’ve been definitely enjoying the entire new Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. It’s been so good. We’re big Marvel people, so I’ve been enjoying that a lot.
Rebecca Ching: So are we. If you haven't checked out the new Marvel Christmas Special of Guardians of the Galaxy, please do!
Jason Pak: Oh, I haven't!
Lauren Pak: No, I didn't even know about it but I’m so excited! [Laughs]
Jason Pak: It’s on Disney+?
Rebecca Ching: Disney+, yes, and Kevin Bacon’s in it.
Jason Pak: Oh, wow!
Rebecca Ching: And it’s glorious and campy and worth every of the 45 minutes.
Jason Pak: Tonight. Tonight.
Rebecca Ching: Tonight. So, prior to tonight, what is the best TV show or movie that you've seen recently?
Lauren Pak: We just saw Black Panther, like, two days ago, so that would have to be it.
Jason Pak: Amazing, and secret guilty pleasure is The Challenge on MTV.
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: They used to have Real World vs. Road Rules reality TV show stars.
Rebecca Ching: Yep.
Lauren Pak: We still watch it. [Laughs]
Jason Pak: [Laughs] It’s very nostalgic for us.
Rebecca Ching: I’ll check it out. Now, some people get stumped by this question depending on their age and their interests, but do you have a favorite ‘80s movie or piece of ‘80s pop culture that you love?
Lauren Pak: So, I don't know if this is the ‘80s, but my favorite movie growing up was The Sandlot. I feel like it could be late ‘80s but maybe early ‘90s, but I’ll go with that.
Jason Pak: My favorite ‘80s movie is Dead Poet Society which I thought was in the ‘90s, but it’s actually in the ‘80s.
Rebecca Ching: Ah, that’s one of my -- Gus Van Sant directed that. Legend.
Jason Pak: It’s so good.
Rebecca Ching: “O, Captain, my captain!” Ah, yes!
Jason Pak: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: What is your mantra right now?
Lauren Pak: This is something that we say all the time to each other and to ourselves which is, “It’s all adding to the story.” So, anything that happens to us, around us, whatever, it’s all adding to our story.
Jason Pak: And on a more daily level, it’s, “Just get through this next 30 minutes. Just get through this next 30 minutes.”
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: Let’s just get to bedtime. Let’s get the kids to bed. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh. Spoken like the parents of young kids, yes.
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: I get it. What is an unpopular opinion that you hold?
Lauren Pak: I would say mine is -- just coming out of sports season, and it started in the summer and went into toward the winter -- you're in San Diego, so you're like, “I live in perfect weather all the time,” but I would rather play a sport or exercise outside in 90 degrees plus than anything under 50 degrees. So, I would rather it be super, super hot than anything where my fingers could be even a little bit cold. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Wow, okay! That is unpopular.
Lauren Pak: Unpopular, but I hate being cold, and I live in New Hampshire, so I don't know what that says about me. [Laughs]
Jason Pak: Do I have an unpopular opinion? I don't…
Lauren Pak: That you like the Yankees. Unpopular.
Jason Pak: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs]
Jason Pak: That’s a very popular opinion, unfortunately. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: [Laughs] Unpopular in my brain.
Jason Pak: I don't know if I --
Lauren Pak: I don't know.
Jason Pak: Yeah.
Lauren Pak: Oh, you like a lot of the -- this is so random, but when we’re eating meat, I always cut out anything that’s chewy or kind of cartilagy, and you love it.
Jason Pak: Mm, yeah, love cartilage, love random cuts of meat. Lobster, when there's the weird green stuff in the middle, people skip that part. I eat that. Anything interesting like that, I’m all about it. I’m all about it.
Rebecca Ching: Okay! [Laughs]
Jason Pak: Highly unpopular. [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: Very unpopular. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Nailed it! Nailed it, Jason! [Laughs] Who or what inspires you to be a better leader and human?
Lauren Pak: This one was easy for me, but it’s definitely our kids and Jason, for me.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, I hear ya.
Jason Pak: Who inspires me to become a better leader? Probably equal elements of my parents, yeah, and then our family. [Laughs] Kind of a classic answer, but it is the truth. [Laughs]
Lauren Pak: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, I hear ya, for sure. Where can people find you and connect with your work and your resources?
Lauren Pak: We’re mainly on Instagram @jasonandlaurenpak. So, that’s where you can find us for the most part. We have a TikTok that’s also @jasonandlaurenpak, a YouTube that’s Jason and Lauren, and our Rise program is the best -- oh, and our podcast! So, I guess we have social media. We have our podcast called Reasonably Fit, and we release episodes weekly. We do sort of a combination of solo episodes and interviews, and then we have a program called Rise which is a workout program that we try to make as free of diet culture and all the things that we’ve talked about here. It’s focused on becoming a stronger, healthier, fitter version of you without having to worry about any nutrition, diet, anything like that. It’s just a straight up workout program, and people love it. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Wonderful. Well, this was a real treat for me because I’ve been following you for a while, and I really appreciate you both, and it’s been great to get to know you better, and I know that those listening are gonna really get so much out of listening to the two of you and what you shared today. So, thank you so much for your time.
Lauren Pak: Thank you so much for having us!
Jason Pak: Thank you! This was great!
Lauren Pak: It was fun!
Rebecca Ching: Conversations about aspects of our wellbeing permeate just about space we’re in these days. These conversations pull us in. We want to know what others are doing in their pursuit of health and assess if a new way of eating or moving will help us achieve the changes we desire. Thanks to all forms of media, it is hard to escape messages that fuel an unhealthy obsession with pursuing health. The quote “health and wellness business” continues to boom, selling supplements, ways of working out, and all while using the outdated and dangerous BMI as a measure of health.
Now, Lauren and Jason are powerful leaders countering the toxic messages of diet culture that often lead to orthorexia and other more serious eating disorders.
They reminded us today there is power in finding the reasonable in how we care for our bodies and our part of the needed voices that call BS to the messages out there that encourage us to be at war with our bodies and how we care for them. Jason and Lauren are also incredible examples of the impact we can have in what we say and how we talk about health. It’s important we take their example and be thoughtful about how we talk about wellbeing and what we encourage and discourage around these conversations in the spaces we work and live, and this is the work of an Unburdened Leader.
Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. If this episode impacted you, I’d be honored if you left a review, a ranking, and shared it with somebody that you knew would benefit from it. You can find this episode, show notes, free Unburdened Leader resources, along with ways to sign up for the Unburdened Leader weekly email all at www.rebeccaching.com.