Join the New Orleans Sick to Fit Retreat - March 5-8, 2020
The Sick to Fit New Orleans Experience
Next Steps if You're Interested
Is the retreat right for you?
What's it like to hang with Josh in New Orleans?
Listen to Matt Buckner's story of a single run with Josh – and how it changed his life:
Kathy's Retreat Experience
Cheryl's Retreat Experience
Nicole and Matt's Retreat Experience
Barb's Retreat Experience
Participant Story Transcripts
Matt: I guess it was getting tired of it, like everything was a chore too. And so I would allow things to creep in. I would negotiate, it's like, well, I don't have to order all my sushi vegan. I could probably have a little fish. Fish isn't that bad for you.
Howard: Yes. So, like that slippery slope when you've run far away enough from the bad thing and you're catching your breath and you're like, well, we can walk a little bit now.
Matt: That's it. I was coasting. I was feeling pretty satisfied. And that felt dangerous to me. At that point I think I was… I'd lost a total of 65 pounds at that point. And people are high fiving you, they love that because you're average. I was at an… And I also remember people were starting to give me cautionary tales. It's like, “Well, don't take this too far now. You're good. You're good. Right.”
And I'm like, “No, I think there's something else out there.” I'd like to be able to run a little faster. I'd like to lose a little more weight, whatever. I remember mentioning to my father in law that I thought I had 200 pounds in sight. I think I was at 220 at that point, which would have been considered an ideal weight.
Howard: How tall are you?
Matt: 6’ 2”.
Matt: So 220 would have been at the high end of the BMI. But I thought… Really I picked 220 as a goal weight because it was the only number I could remember associating where I was of a healthy shape and size. So I thought, okay, 220 and it seemed realistic. Didn't seem too daunting. When I got to 220 I was still like, well, there's this little flab around my middle here. I've still got a little chin under here. I think there's more to go. And I just posed the number, 200 would be nice. I haven't seen that since high school. That would be great.
Matt: And that's when people were like, “Okay, now you have an eating disorder. Now you've taken this too far. Have a piece of cake for God's sakes. What's wrong with you? Live a little. You did it already, stop.” And I'm like, “No, I don't think I'm done.” And at that moment was when I met Josh, and that was such an inspiring figure at that time, and had just been on the cover of Runner's World.
And I'd been following him extensively, and he's done the Rich Roll show two times at that point I think, or maybe three. And all of these things I was just really connected. With that, I was following on social media, following his trajectories, looking at his stuff.
Howard: So, you were in New Orleans on business?
Matt: Yeah. I was just there for a conference, and really just PM’ed him for… Like, hey, any vegan, any plant-based restaurants you'd recommend? And he literally was like, I'm eating here tonight. Why don't you meet me and join me? And I was like, “Eek!” Total fan boy moment that I…
And I actually had the copy of Runner's World with him on the cover in my briefcase. So I grabbed that, I was going to make him autograph it because I'm about to meet the Josh LaJaunie and… Yeah. I excitedly went to dinner and there he was sitting in the restaurant and we… It was this larger than life moment that quickly became the most comfortable conversation I'd had, like you and I are talking right now. I mean, we just talked for hours about everything and anything and it was fantastic.
But really, at that point too, I really felt like I was calling myself out that I'd gotten a little soft. And especially watching him, the meal we had in the restaurant we were in, and the options he was choosing, and I was like, man, if I was here by myself, I'd be getting the special tonight. With whatever, the cashew cream sauce on it and everything else. And he's modifying every dish and making sure that everything is perfect. And so, I was watching that going, yeah, I can tighten up a little bit. I can do more. And obviously on our run the next day that showed me I can do a whole lot more.
Howard: Yeah. Tell that story, because I've told the story about when I first ran with Josh, when he came up here. It was just like, yep, this is what happened to me too.
Matt: It was a humbling experience for sure. And I was already nervous. I was following his Strava, so I knew the guy was legit fast. I knew that he was an ultra distance runner, and that I was not. But I also knew that he was in the middle of a 20 miler and he was going to pick me up halfway through, so I felt confident that, well at least it'll be 10 miles in before he grabs me.
Howard: And you were going to run 10 with him?
Matt: Well, we were going to run an indeterminate amount, because I told him that… I'm like, I know I'm good for six, I don't know if I've got anything more than that. And so I think in his mind he was thinking we'd see how much past six we could go but he wasn't going to do a six mile out and back or anything with me. And obviously he is the mayor of New Orleans when it comes to being able to give a historic run tour of the city. And so it was really fascinating and we were talking the entire time as well. But he was definitely waiting for me the whole time.
Matt: He'd be running along talking and look back over his shoulder and I'm 10 feet behind him, struggling to catch up. So he'd slow down, jog in place for a little while, pulling me along, pulling me along. Or I'd be catching up to him at intersections, or praying for the light to turn red before we got to the corner. I remember doing that quite a few times. Like, please, please be red, please be red.
Howard: I remember trying to catch up with him, and then he's standing there waiting for me and I'm pissed at him. And I'm like, how come he gets to rest and I don't?
Matt: Right, right. I know. It's not helping when you take off as soon as I catch up to you. Can we stand here and talk for a minute?
Howard: So from that experience, what… I've written in Sick to Fit, and told the story of… Those two runs that he did with me changed everything.
Matt: Absolutely. And that did change everything for me. I saw what the potential was, and I felt like I had a… Now he was a real individual. He was as real as they came before, but he was somebody I followed on social media. So now that he's standing right there in front of me, and that I see how tall he is, and how running right beside him and seeing how effortless it is, and that it validated anything. If there was any doubts that, well, yeah, he posted up that run, but yeah. I don't know. What was that all downhill or something?
And then you realize, okay, all of that is 100% true and I've got a lot of work to do. But it was inspiring. It wasn't defeating. It was really inspiring because I had only lost… I hadn't even lost a hundred pounds at that point. I'd lost 65 pounds. He'd lost all of me at that point. He'd lost more than me in weight.
So, that made me feel like I was really close. That instead of having a long way to go, it felt like I was close, and I was just not… And that's really all I needed too, was that added bit of inspiration.
Click the + signs below to read the participants' retreat stories
Howard: So Kathy, thanks for taking the time. I would love for you to share your experience of the Sick to Fit retreat that we held in North Carolina and maybe start with what your concerns or trepidations or doubts were going in because I know you had some.
Kathy: Oh absolutely. So one of the things that I was wondering, because I was just walking at that time, and you run and Josh is an ultra marathon runner and I was like, “Well I'll try.” And one of the things was I was too scared to ask you even exactly what we were going to do in case I tried to back out. But what was so wonderful and actually kind of is a theme throughout the whole retreat was that I really got to be where I was. So I didn't have to go and pretend that I'm a runner, I got to walk. So the movement was movement, but it was within the parameters that I had, which was really comforting and it was very empowering as the whole weekend went along.
Howard: What are some other examples of the “come as you are feeling” that you had that you were okay to be there?
Kathy: Absolutely. Because the three parts of the program of Sick to Fit, which I am super in awe of, is the whole Menu, Mindset and Movement. So we talked about the movement. I always tell people that my friend Howard used tell me he was just a health coach. And now I know what you really do: you're this mindset guru – and it's amazing.
So I don't feel like I had to be at here (indicating a high level with her hands): “I know exactly what's going on and where I want my mind to be.” So I feel like we got in there and we talked about things and there were thoughtful conversations and everybody got to be where they were and get new ideas.
And another thing that was really powerful about the retreat was the deep sense of community. And I feel like that it happened faster than I expected it to. So I felt like by the end of the first evening, certainly by the first morning, I felt like we were a very supportive group of people that were really trying to get to know each other so we could actually be more supportive. That was really key.
Howard: Right, and largely it felt like mostly a group of introverts, a lot of people came in concerned that they were not going to be part of the group. Now aside from the vetting that we did to make sure that we had good people, what in your experience contributed to the weaving together of such a strong supportive group so quickly?
Kathy: Well Josh is Josh, right? So he is out there for everyone to see and he's super friendly. He's very welcoming and concerned, and I think that helps. I feel like you were really trying to get everything together, set the scene, get the right music, have everybody kind of come together. I was there too both as a participant and to do some teaching of some different cooking things, so that made me want to get to know everybody a little bit to kind of see how I could help them as well.
And as that started, it was what you expect, you go into a place and the presenters are going to be more involved. But as everyone started talking to each other, it just magically kind of came to a point that everyone was really understanding of, “we're trying to make these big life changes, things aren't always as easy as we think they're going to be.” And so I think that it was just the natural feeling and a natural projection of just going to want to help other people do what you're trying to do.
Howard: Yeah, I mean we understand that we're asking people to make changes that can feel scary and risky and can make them feel vulnerable. So one of the things we worked really hard at was making it a space where people could feel safe. Can you talk about that?
Kathy: That's a great way to put it. And in fact, in my business, I always say one of my things is I'm trying to make people feel safe or create that safe space, and I would say that was absolutely created there. And by safe space where you could say something that maybe you wouldn't normally say to everyone else. You could say, “I don't want to do this.” And talk about doing it and then maybe doing it, maybe not doing it.
So there was this freedom of kind of going down your own path and having your own inner dialogue and sometimes have that inner dialogue come out and I think that was really powerful. I think when we were doing some of the mindset stuff, which I'm thinking is us sitting around altogether talking and you had some really great prompts that certainly made me think about things in a different way than I have in the past. It's almost like it was a sacred circle. As soon as we all had kind of shared something, then it really was just, it jelled together. It jelled together much faster than I expected it to.
Howard: So we're asking people to make an investment in this, an investment of time, of travel, of focus, of money… You could have a weekend, it's a great time, it's a few days away but we really try to construct something that has a lasting impact. Can you speak to what's happened since… We're recording this now two months, almost two months after the retreat – does it have any staying power in your life?
Kathy: It absolutely does. One of the things that I appreciate the most about the program, and we also talked about this in the retreat, is that sometimes things aren't going to go the way you expect them to go. And so what I like about Sick to Fit is that you kind of prepare us for having these roadblocks.
So I was sick for three weeks and normally that would be me just throwing away anything that I've done. So it'd be like, “Well, I wasn't able to really walk for three weeks. So I guess I'm done with that part of my life. I'm not a young whippersnapper like I was three weeks ago.” Or whatever crazy inner dialogue you have about that. Because when you're sick, I probably lived on smoothies for two of those three weeks.
But I feel like by being in the program, by having that support, by being there for those days really gave me a strong foundation as well as kind of having this, “Things are not always going to go right and here's some ways you can think about it when they don't go right.”
So it was a lot easier for me to start walking and only walk what I could walk, right? So if I haven't walked in three weeks, I probably can't walk a 5K every day to start off with, though me being me thinks I should. But I let Howard and Josh be in my head and I walked until I was kind of tired and came back. And then the next day I go out and do a little bit more. It's not “never push yourself,” but it's also knowing that sometimes you have limitations that it's not helpful to go past.
So I feel like having that foundation and also just having the community, I mean I really will say leaving Sick to Fit, doing the retreat, I think for as far as money and time and all of that coming out with the community, that includes you and Josh as well. So it wasn't like it was the people who are taking it and you and Josh were these separate things, sometimes you spoke to us.
Some groups are like that; if you go to a retreat you get your stuff and then the retreat people become friends. But this was a very much a supportive community, including you and Josh trying to help us get along on our path and having that to fall back on is really priceless. And it's worth 10 times what the retreat costs.
Howard: So if someone's on the fence and they're not sure and I'm not sure if someone should go or not, what would you tell them to think about or to ask to figure out if this would be useful for them?
Kathy: Okay, well I think it's great that you do the individual consults before that, so I think you will help them a lot. But I think asking themselves the question, are they ready to think about making a change? Are they willing to try something different and to hear things a different way?
I don't think you have to go in there going, “I'm in, I am a Sick to Fit all for the rest of my life now.” I don't think you have to be 130% in when you go. I think if you just kind of go, “I would like to move more. I would like to understand my behavior so that I could not talk myself out of moving because I know I feel better when I do it.” Or, “I know that I feel better when I eat these kinds of foods, but somehow I still keep eating these other kinds of foods.” I mean, I think just having that basic awareness of there is a choice to be made and I would like to make it, and I would like to put in some time and effort on myself so that I can make these changes happen and learn how I can be a part of that.
Howard: Got it. So does it feel like the retreat was a little bit of an inflection point in terms of, you have tools to move in the direction you want to move more than before?
Kathy: Absolutely, absolutely. I would definitely say that. And I think part of getting to the retreat I think is thinking, “Oh, it's going to be hard. It's going to be a big challenge and I'm going to be up for it.” I think that's kind of the barrier in a way. But then once you get there you have to do all this… you get there and it's like, “Oh, now I have all these things to make cooking easier and eating easier and moving easier and now I have these tools to think about this.” So yeah, I think it was a really great thing to do. I do know probably less than 12 hours from walking in and meeting everybody that I felt really comfortable, really supportive, really safe, and that was a great way for me to have the rest of the days to really take in everything that was being put out.
Howard: Great, thanks. Anything do you want to say that I haven't asked you?
Kathy: I would just go back again to say the community is totally worth it and I can't imagine that another group of people that come through and do these same talks and walks and all that won't have the same experience. I think it's going to be… It is kind of a magical coming together of things. And I would also say really give this as a gift to yourself. Probably if you're watching Sick to Fit or following Sick to Fit on Facebook, you know what you want to do. And so why not just go ahead and do it?
I think it's an easy, accelerated, supportive way to make a change in kind of a compressed amount of time.
And I think that's a wonderful thing. It's been great for me and it's been great for my wife Cheryl. She's been doing amazing. She's lost over 40 pounds and she's off of some of her medications.
I don't usually like to talk about weight loss, but I will do it here just now. But I've lost a little over 20 pounds, which is significant for me. And I have been feeling better and it was kind of nice to buy some smaller clothes. The effects keep going on.
And also I feel like you can come back and check in either with someone else who was at the retreat or with one of you guys. And kind of get another little injection of inspiration when the time comes.
Hey, I'm Cheryl, and I wanted to talk to you guys about how I spent years of my life trying to take better care of myself. And I've never been very successful for more than about 90 days at a time. And I've spent the past 10 years just fighting with health issues that were getting worse and worse.
And then about five months ago, I came across this book called Sick to Fit by these two great guys. And I started reading the book and then I joined their Facebook group and I even went as far as WellStart Health, became a member of that so that I could keep going on this great trajectory that I was on.
And I knew I was getting close to that 90-day mark and I knew I was getting close to where I usually fail and I needed something more. But I was afraid to take that next step. I was afraid to just reach out to go to the retreat in North Carolina because I felt like, “Oh, what if everybody there is like ultramarathon runners, and here I am, and I can barely get a mile around the block? And what if everybody there is already like super into this menu plan and super into movement and they all have the right mindset and I'm just this person that sit in the corner like, ‘Yeah, I'm not there yet.’?”
And I worried about it and I worried about it and then I finally just decided I need to make this last more than 90 days. I need to take this step and see if it'll help me.
And it's the best thing that I ever did for myself, and I'm on five months now of sticking to something which is something I have not been able to do in my whole entire life. And going to the retreat just kind of solidified everything for me.
Everything just became simple.
Everything started to make sense.
I found out what was getting in my own way, and I was able to work through that.
And I've really realized that movement is so much more than jogging around a block. There's just so much more that you can do to incorporate that into your everyday life.
And I've been five months now and it's become a regular part of my life. And a lot of that is in part to the time that I spent with Howard and Josh at the retreat in North Carolina. Those were three days that were life-changing for me.
And if you're thinking about doing it, I think you should just go ahead and do it.
Don't think about it anymore. Just do it. It's going to change your life.
And if you're lucky like me, you'll be able to stick to something that you've never been able to do to before.
So get out there, sign up for the next trip and just do it. You will not regret it.
Nicole: Hi Josh and Howard. It's Matt and Nicole checking in our testimonial from our weekend away.
Matt: Out of our retreat in North Carolina in 2019.
Nicole: We just wanted to talk a little bit about what we experienced there. It's kind of funny, just a little background, Matt and I are both nurses and have been following a primarily vegan plant-based lifestyle. Matt definitely will eat primarily everything I cook, so he doesn't really argue about that.
When I heard about the retreat, I said to Matt, “This is something I feel like I need to do. I feel like it's something that I have to experience and I really want to go.” Matt said he was on board.
Matt: I was on board, yes. So I decided to go and I was very pleased with it.
Nicole: Prior to going to this retreat, I have not been part of the Sick to Fit community and was not familiar with much beyond Howard's Plant Yourself podcast and Josh's story.
Matt: Correct, yes. Me neither.
Nicole: While driving there, I expressed to Matt my concerns were what if we got there and every single participant was extremely fit and lean and maybe wanting to just participate for athletic endurance and stuff like that. We probably hit Virginia when I started to have reservations about going.
Matt: Correct. Now my biggest reservation about the actual retreat was the fact that this is my first time diving into plant-base myself. I've been since November, which is incredible. Thank you guys. But the thing that I was skeptical about was hands-on. I wanted to learn how to cook, not just go there and hear sermons and people talking to me about plant-base itself without a hands-on experience and actually cooking, which was incredible for us. Especially for me.
Nicole: Absolutely. When we arrived, and instantly felt welcome, we met two of the other guests that would be staying there, besides meeting Josh and Howard and Howard's wife Mia, but we met two other guests that were staying and immediately you felt embraced in this community that we were going to have for these next three days. The farm that we stayed at, the animals that were around us, the community of friends that we built, the whole environment was just so nurturing.
Matt: It was, yes. I believe that since we've been there it changed our lives for the better and we have a new outlook on our health and what we put in our bodies.
Nicole: The biggest change has been cooking. I'm used to working, coming home, having to be the only one making dinner, or rushing to make dinner that wouldn't be takeout or us just running to go out to eat. I come home now and Matt has cooked a meal and it's tons of vegetables and he's not afraid of the kitchen.
Matt: Although I was before.
Nicole: He has actually become the main cook since the retreat. Immediately upon returning, he went out and bought us a bigger frying pan so that we could cook bigger portions so that I could take them for lunch the next day.
Matt: Yes. Which I was very pleased about and once I knew it was hands-on, we were all hands on deck. So we want to thank you guys. We thought it was incredible for having us.
Nicole: It was incredible. As far as the exercise goes, I don't want anyone to fear, it was definitely geared towards your level. You could go for a run if you wanted to. I'm sure if we asked for a bike, they would've produced one. There was options to get up early and workout or sleep in. You could walk, you could just stroll, or if you wanted to you could go for a run. It was pretty incredible, made some lifelong friends and I wish we could go again.
Matt: Correct, yes. Me too. I think some of the best part of the days was the end of the day when we all recapped for the end of the night and just talked about our day. We heard some great poems from Howard and Josh and Mia. We're very pleased with what transpired and we look forward to meeting everyone again soon. If you're interested in something like this, I think do it.
Nicole: Don't hesitate.
Matt: Don't hesitate – just do it.
Nicole: This really is a catalyst.
Matt: I mean, I was very skeptical.
Nicole: Yes. Yes.
Matt: I was.
Nicole: I was not, but you were.
Matt: I was.
Nicole: It's a catalyst to get you started on this journey. If you're held up mentally, physically, if it's the hands-on part, this is definitely something you want to dive into and it's a submersion you will not forget.
Matt: Correct. Well said.
Nicole: Thank you guys.
Matt: So thanks guys. See you later.
Hi, my name is Barb. I went to the first Sick to Fit retreat in North Carolina with Josh and Howard.
Maybe like you, I had some questions before I signed up:
“Who was going to be there? What was it going to be like? Was I going to fit in? Was I going to be able to do what other people did as far as movement. Were they all going to be runners, and I'm still a walker?”
The other side of that is that, from the moment I heard about the retreat, I was very excited to spend some time with Josh and Howard on a different level, to get some of their insight and maybe the insight of other people, to further my journey; to make my health journey a little bit better.
So, I went – and from the moment I walked in the door that first night, there was a sense of comradery, welcoming. There was no judging.
Nobody looked at me funny as I walked in the door. We sat, we ate dinner, we introduced ourselves, talked about where we came from, what brought us there. It was a really good feeling.
Even along the way during the retreat, there was movement, there was some mindset changes.
We went for a walk one day and some people ran, some people walked, some people jogged, and it was where you were. I had a bench along the way because I wasn't as far along in my movement as other people and I needed a break.
We cooked together. We threw some stuff in a pot and put Josh's magic spice on it.
No, I'm not telling you what the magic spice is, you got to go on retreat to find that out.
But, we threw stuff together and we didn't need big fancy recipes, and there was a lot of learning. There were a lot of things that I learned about myself, and we supported each other.
If somebody was further along than I was, they gave me their pointers; what worked for them, what didn't work. We shared.
It was an experience like no other, and I just got to say, if you're on the fence, get off the fence and sign up and go to the retreat. You won't regret it.
It's life changing. It's amazing. We laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced. Howard's a great dipper, and maybe he'll tell you what that's all about too.
But get off the fence and go on the retreat. Make an investment in yourself and your journey. You definitely won't regret it.
Josh's Media Appearances
The Today Show
Great Day Houston
Good Morning America
Triangle VegFest 2019
Hallmark Family Channel
Why go on a retreat? Why not just do an online program?
This audio goes into the subtle psychological mechanisms of retreats that can turbocharge growth and change.