In This Episode
As humans, health is one of the most important things we will ever have, but it’s also often the first thing that we compromise. When we’re stressed or overworked, we stop going to the gym, we overeat, or we don’t sleep as much as we should; we stop taking care of ourselves.
This week on the Veterinary Innovation Podcast, Shawn and Ivan speak with Dr. Tara McCarthy, a veterinarian and crossfit trainer who has been instrumental in helping them get healthier, to talk about the importance of establishing a work-life balance and how paying things forward can have huge consequences.
Dr. McCarthy recommends The Carpenter: A Story About the Greatest Success Principles of All by Jon Gordon.
- Establishing Work-Life Balance
- The Importance of Reciprocity
- The Link Between Health and Finance
Ivan: Hi, I’m Ivan Zak, and I’m happy to introduce a friend of mine, and a colleague, and a classmate, Dr. Tara McCarthy. We’re gonna talk today about the wellness and health of professionals. And Tara is a graduate of Atlantic vet college from the same class of 2006, and she works as a veterinarian self-port animal hospital on Island, and she won an award for large animal medicine and theriogenology when she was in school. And she is also a wellness and health coach, which is sort of the center of our discussion today. On a personal side of things, she is certified in veterinary acupuncture, which is interesting, she works with horses as well, which is I didn’t know before vet school, that I can do acupuncture for horses. She owns a crossfit gym, which is really cool, with her husband, and she is a level-one trainer in crossfit. She’s happily married with two beautiful kids. Tara, welcome, thank you for joining us, I’m really excited to have you here.
Tara: Thanks so much for having me here.
Shawn: Mee too.
Ivan: So, there are quite a few things I wanted to talk about, and I think that you are sort of the example of the veterinary industry of balance between profession and health, and for the most part people like me try to run away from veterinary medicine and hide behind the technology. So you’ve been successfully balancing the two, and finding happiness. Or, at least, it looks on Facebook, as with everybody, that people happy. Sometimes it’s not the truth. And you help
Shawn: Are you saying it’s all a fraud, Ivan?
Shawn: Are you alluding that Tara’s life is all a fraud? That’s all just fake Facebook
Ivan: No, and Tara personally helped me to get in shape and lose weight through dietary suggestions and exercise. And she helped Shawn to lose 60 pounds. So
Shawn: Yes (indistinct speech) it’s crazy.
Establishing Work-Life Balance
Ivan: So, we’re both the result of your inspiration. And so tell us about how you actually switched focus, and how did you get sort of into wellness and balance between professional life and your personal life?
Tara: Yes, that’s a great question. And I think it happened to me the same as it happens to most people where you almost hit bottom and totally burned out, or whatever it is, have a health scare, whatever it might be. And you have to make a shift in your life, and so as we know, burnout is such a huge issue in veterinary medicine, and you know, you take me back to six years ago. I just had my second child. And one that was a huge loop in July, you know. After you’ve gone to school for so many years to be a vet, and then you become a mother and it completely shifts. Your goals in life, and what you really want to do and what’s important to you. But I had been a large animal vet, I practiced in New Zealand, in Alberta. I moved quite a bit, I did a lot of different things, worked with a lot of different animals, but mostly large. I worked a little bit of a small animal emergency. But I was strictly a large animal vet, lots of after-hours and late-night havings, you know, C-sections, all those nasty things. And I was missing out on my kids. I wasn’t seeing my kids some days because I was gone. And I was at the point where I was wondering why I was doing this. You know, I had kids for a reason. And so after my second kid, we as a family transitioned, and that’s when we opened our cross-fit gym. It was an opportunity for my husband. And we were in a new area, and I shifted. There wasn’t a lot of vet jobs, cause where I lived, it’s saturated with vets because of the college that’s local.
And so, when I moved here, and when I came out of mat leave, I was only working one day a week. And I had to be home, to be honest, cause my husband was working all the time, I’m sure your wife can relate to that too, right? So I had to be home to take care of the kids. And I was very resentful of where I was in my life. I worked so hard to become a vet, and I thought I’m gonna achieve all these great things, and then everything just kind of got upside down. I was exhausted. And I just thought that’s how you’re supposed to feel. You’re a mom. Like this is normal, I guess, just like for the rest of my life, I’m just gonna be tired. I was angry, I was tired. We ate well, we eat well as a family, so I just kind of fell into this. When you’re that tired and stressed, it puts strains on your relationships, on your marriage, and so everything just seems to be crumbling. And I think a lot of people can relate to that. They, you know, especially other vet moms out there, when that shift kind of happens, I was like grasping at straws. And so I found something that worked for me, nutrition-based. And the reason that I was attracted to it was, as you mentioned, I do acupuncture, I am certified in acupuncture, I love herbs, Chinese herbs. And it was herbal formulations that I really started to investigate, and adaptogens, which is a pretty hot word now if you look in the health and wellness world. But it’s to reduce stress. And as we all know, the veterinary profession is littered with lots of stress, and you’re adrenals and that sort of stuff. And so my adrenal health, and really just my overall body health, I got on board, I put it in my body, it was convenient, it was easy, and it gave me results very quickly, and I had mental clarity, I felt happier, I had more energy, I became a better mom, a better wife. And that’s all leads to positive, more positive changes, right. I wasn’t even working out guys. We owned across the gym, and I didn’t go to the gym because I was so tired. So once I had that energy back, I started going to the gym, and then I started making friends, Because I wasn’t just mom at home by herself who was very isolated.
I can’t imagine you have friends.
Tara: It’s just crazy what, where the journey will take you
Ivan: Wow, that’s quite a story. I mean, the burnout is. We keep talking about it. It’s kind of a fancy topic, but aside from a fancy topic, very real. I mean, I burned out that I couldn’t diagnose. Well, once it was diagnosed by a shrink. The second time I realized because once I worked through it, exactly the same feeling except I didn’t have two kids. Well, I hadn’t delivered kids, I have a child. But it was, I burned out way before my son was born. I just emergency medicine just you down, and when you come out of school energetic and feel like you can do it all, and then you continue with that phase, and then it’s like a ten-year wall or something like that that you hit, or somewhere between 7 and 10 years, I think profession just burns you. And I think if you don’t find the right way. So many of our classmates reached out and said “Hey Ivan, how are you doing, the thing, how did you get out of the vicious cycle, and then on top of it, your student loans are still there, you can’t do anything else because you have to pay those offs. So it’s a pretty miserable way of existing, so, you know, it’s just incredible how you sort of got out of that cycle without external help. I needed help, and then transform yourself. And it’s really great, and you know, with your help, I hit more regular sort of diet and gym, and it really changed. Now it’s really hard cause I travel so much, I’m trying to pull your instructions and help. And, by the way, I was just in Texas with Dan Espinal, CEO of Rarebreed. He loves it. He’s a machine in general. He’s so athletic but he also calls your recommendations.
Shawn: Tara, thanks for being on the show, and thanks for all the suggestions that you’ve given to me. I think we spent maybe a total of an hour on the phone, and that’s all it took for me to get enough motivation between you and Ivan dragging me to cross-fit, to be able to lose weight and get in a healthier place. I still remember the first night I went to crossfit with Ivan, you’ll appreciate this story, it was pretty good.
So we needed to buy desks for the new company. And Ivan was helping me with the company and helping me move off being a giant overweight fatass. And so he’s like “Come to crossfit” I think he did it for good reasons, I think he was a kind-hearted soul. I don’t think he just was trying to make me an agonizing pain?00:44 and not make me able to move the next day. But we went to Ikea, and we bought the desks, and then I was going down the stairs after an hour crossfit workout, no introduction to crossfit, basically zero, maybe level ten fitness of one hundred in my life. And I was going down on the stairs, and I went to go down to the first step, and I almost fell completely down the stairs, head over heels, like rolled down the stairs, cause my legs literally gave up from underneath me. It was so…
Ivan: Yeah, beautiful thing
Tara: Oh god.
Shawn: That was the start. (Tara laughs). And it’s so funny because you know, over 70% of our office from our Texas startup, we all go to crossfit together, and it’s just been such a great team-building thing. And Ivan, when he was in town, he would come to crossfit with us.
Tara: Yes, I know Iron Stone
Shawn: It’s so nice, it’s like a health spot in the bathrooms, and the gym is just fantastic. People are so great. I remember, a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from a number that I didn’t know. And I always pick up the phone when people call me. I’m not like Ivan, he doesn’t recognize the number. And even if he does recognize the number, he might not pick up. I always pick up. And this person said to me “Hey, we haven’t seen you in a while”. And I was like, “I think you got the wrong number”. And it was the cross-fit gym calling to say “Hey, you haven’t been in a while. Why don’t you come back?” And it was so nice, You know, a person that called, that I have gone to the first-class introduction with, so I knew her really well. And so after I told her that she had a wrong number, and figured out who it was, and we had a nice little chat, and it motivated me to go back to the gym, which was super cool. And so I really loved the crossfit journey, I love you know, the diet, the suggestions. And yeah, you know, it really pains me to say this. But Ivan, thank you, for introducing me…
Ivan: Woo, are we recording this, you know?
Shawn: Yeah, thanks for introducing me to Tara, and thanks for, yeah, thanks for providing a bunch of motivation to kind of get my health check. A really nice gift that you gave me. And sometime I may return the favor. We’ll see how it goes.
Ivan: That’s awesome, Shawn. So, Tara, with what you do right now, I know it’s not only about you, and that’s what inspired me to invite you here because couple things that you probably would not give yourself credit for. First of all, you know, we interview innovators. You’ve been a veterinarian, and then crossfit, and wellness. You have probably the strongest social media campaigns that I’ve seen in marketing. And marketing is my passion and what I do. And then you market yourself and your lifestyle, and everything that you do, exceptionally well on social media. So, kudos to you. On top of that, you also work with other parents, you know, new mothers, that are in the same position. And just fat folks just like Shawn and I. So can you tell us more about how you transitioned from this being just for you to given it to someone else, and how did you actually come out, Okay, this is how I should maintain myself on social media, this is how I engage. Your posts are probably the most that I see every day, and they’re always interesting. So tell us how did you get into this business aspect of it.
Shawn: And one more thing. I have to stick to another question on top of it. Like, Tara, today was the first time that we’ve connected in six months. How does it feel to know that you’ve inspired somebody to lose 65 pounds in a pretty short amount of time? And that somebody is
Ivan: It was 60, you just added five. You just add five pounds to your success.
Shawn: No, it’s down. So my peak, like a year and a half ago, which is before a started with Tara was 265, and I’m down to 201 now, so
Tara: Wow, that is so cool. Wow, yeah, okay. I hope I remember these. The social media thing I think I’m still learning, and getting better. But a lot of this is just kind of stepping outside your comfort zone and speaking your truth to inspire other people. Sometimes, you know, Facebook is known as a Fakebook. You know, just like you say, everyone’s life is amazing. But sometimes you need to get a little bit raw and uncomfortable and just sharing your own story so people can connect with you. And just be genuine, and it’s about the relationships really. So for me, how this all started was after I started getting my grew back and feeling like the old Tara, except, you know, that I had kids, and new life, and a job, and it honestly really just happened very organically and naturally where. So my best friends actually, some of our classmates that are still my best friends in life, they wanted what I had, cause they could see a change. Maybe it wasn’t as cranky and sarcastic, but they would see me in person, but they could just tell talking to me over the phone, I was different, and they wanted to try it. So I just helped them, and then seeing them and their journey, and how it changed their life, and how they’re feeling better. It just started to snow wall, and it was really accidental. But, on the other side of that, we had just opened a gym, we were broke, I was working one day a week. You know, I now work 3 days a week, which is a great balance for me, but I was working one day a week. I just came out of mat leave. We were completely broke. And on top of that, you have all your loans, your mortgage, like everything is just coming down on top of you, and you just like how the hell did I get here, this was not in the plan when I graduated vet school. So there was an income opportunity there, not only for me but for other people that I can help. And I’ll tell you, like it lights me up inside when I get to see the part like, Shawn, just like you mentioned, when I get to be a part of somebody else’s journey, to see their life change or their energy gets back, you know, they lose the weight or whatever it is. Just get their health on track, and it also lights me up. When I can help mom to put her daughter in the dance class. Or whatever it is, right. Health and wealth go hand and hand with each other, and I think that’s part of the problem in veterinary medicine. To be honest, because of the financial stress that we’re under. But that’s really how I got going. And it was slow. Like it was very uncomfortable for me, completely out of my comfort zone, you know. I was a little bit embarrassed because I went to school for so long to be a vet, and now all of the sudden I’m doing like whatever it was that I was doing, like you kind of get a little bit of judgment, and I don’t like to make people, not like me. So I.. it took me a while to step into it. And really be proud of what I was doing, because I love what I was doing. We have a lot of negative stuff in our job, although we have a lot of great stuff, that is something completely positive to focus on. And it just you know, it just lit me up every day.
The Importance of Reciprocity
Ivan: Well, you know, going through the journey of building a social media platform, and that’s what you built for yourself, not knowing probably. Cause, you know, when we built Smartflow, I had to learn all of this stuff, and how to have a social media presence, how to be consistent, how to be engaging. Most of what you post engages me to say something: it’s funny, it’s interesting, then you post ?16:08 activity challenges. I will never do a hundred burpees, I’m sorry. I thought of it and it was like “I’m just gonna embarrass myself of the ten” So this is the most hateful exercise. But you built a very robust social media presence. You have followers, people are talking to you on social media. It’s one thing to post kittens and puppies, another one is to get people talking back to you or with you. It’s really, really important in marketing. So that’s, that is actually a very significant achievement that, I don’t know if you noticed that or not. But what resonated with me what you said is this act of passing on something that you’ve received. And I think that basically reciprocity is one of the strongest things that move things between people, and I had this experience when I just came to Canada when I just went to school to Atlantic vet college. I was helping, if you knew this, I was helping immigrants from Russia or Ukraine help families to get a job, celebrate the local holiday, you know. Just to get through the cultural fit. And the best thing that I have ever felt in my life, I think, aside, from probably my child being born, was that I met people that I helped in PI in Toronto seven year later, and they told me the story of how they helped dozens of families the same way I helped them, and those families helped them. And that’s something you can’t buy. So I think that is really, really cool what you’re doing. And I’m in multiple business schools, and courses after that reciprocate this. One of the ways actually to use in your business where you get something, you give it to someone else, and you train them to give it to someone else as well. So this is a really cool thing, and I think that what we lack in veterinary medicine, is with all the kindness in our heart that we’re doing, and I think that part of burning out as a veterinarian is that we provide with the kindness in our heart all this help to animals, and it’s to people as well. And then especially as an emergency veterinarian, I felt this, you never see this passed on or given back to you. You provide the service, people hate you cause you charge money, and then you’re there late at night, they had a beer while their dog started puking, and then once you fix their dog, they don’t see the miracle of medicine, they just think that you’re an asshole cause you charge them money for it. And that’s the problem, I think, as veterinarians. So I think when we shift in our years to do something that you’re doing, and I feel like, you know, I helped those immigrants out, I’m doing something else right now. I think that’s the biggest reward you can get aside from money. So it’s a really really cool story. Shawn, go ahead.
Shawn: Yeah, so, to what I was gonna say, and I want to pick up on it, cause I think it was really, really important. Is this connection between health and wealth. And I’d like to even expend a little bit more on how that journey went for you particularly where you felt burned out by all this student debt, and all of these life circumstances. You didn’t have health. You didn’t have wealth. And how did you come out of that, and how did you feel?
The Link Between Health and Finance
Tara: It’s a great question. And I think it’s a very valid question for veterinarians. For veterinary medicine. And obviously, the general population as well, but I think veterinarians have their own specific challenges, where this plays a role even more so, and when you kind of step back and look at the general health issues facing the western world, the way that we live, our space in life, the underlying factor for so much of it is chronic stress. And specifically with veterinarians, you know, we have our own specific setup issues with stress, and we’ve talked about it all the time, passion fatigue, burnout, you know, high, high expectations, and then also there are limited financial resources. It is no surprise, everybody realizes it’s now that veterinarians, we have huge student debt when we graduate vet school. And also, you know, like other professionals, we are graduating when we’re older, we are entering the workforce when we are older. So that we start into life quickly once we start making money, having families, and having mortgages and all that stuff. The financial burden on top of veterinarians is even more so than you know some others. And we know, I mean, all veterinarians know. Chronic stress eventually catches up to you. Chronic stressing, high cortisol. High cortisol levels in your body are gonna start to cause changes. You know, it lowers your immune system, you start losing muscle, you’re losing, especially for women. You start to gain that generous abdominal and visceral fat, you start having insomnia, it affects your hormones, it really just has this cascade of issues that it causes, and it may manifest stronger in some individuals than others, the way it shows up. But it is going to show up at some point. So if you’re spending all day in the stressful clinic situation, or, you know, whatever it is, you get exhausted from different things. But where you’re high stress, making hard life decisions, having difficult conversations, or just practice your medicine, and then you come home at night, and you know, all you can think about is how many bills you have to pay, and the debt that you have sitting on your shoulders. You know, how you’re gonna get out of this hole. Then, it just compounds it all, you never have a chance where you feel like. Ahh, relax, and you can laugh and let stress go. So I think, and I see this. Veterinarians that I helped, they have a lot of common factors when I start talking to them about health, and the first thing is low energy. They are all exhausted. They are high stress, obviously, they’re always talking about stress, and have stressed there. Whether, it’s not just career, but you know, family life, financially, just life in general. They fell stress. It’s a fast-paced life, they don’t have time to eat good nutritious food, so they’re grabbing quick fixes that they can it just between appointments, and then you know, it raises their sugar for a little bit, and then they crash, and then they grab caffeine to keep going. That’s the other thing I see. A large percentage of us are addicted to caffeine. And that’s because our energy is not good, our cortisol is high, and we have issues that way. So they have guilt with food, and they have a caffeine addiction, and many fo the veterinarians that I’ve helped have twenty to forty pounds to lose on average. Some of them not so much, some of them more. And a lot of the times, it’s visceral fat. And it’s just you know, it’s all these classic signs of chronic stress. It just can’t be accumulated in their life, and so what I di is I help them find a way to have convenient nutrition that they can have in this fast-paced life, as well as make their body more resilient to stress. It’s a huge part fo it. And so many of them I have talked to and helped will say later on “The chaos is still here”. They still have the chaos in their lives, but they feel like they can slack their back a little bit more, you know? They just feel like it’s a little easier to handle. So I think it’s really important. For our health, for our mental health, I think alcoholics, over usage, addiction, is also a very common issue just because of the stress they’re trying get away from it a little bit. All of it is related, and it’s kind of like the snowball rolling down the hill, and so I’m just trying to slow that down and find a way, a solution that you can easily implement into your lifestyle. And then other things, like finances, you know, when you’re strapped from money, you don’t do all the other things. You don’t buy organic food. You don’t go to yoga or buy a gym membership. All of these things kind of get cud, when you gotta make these sacrifices. So I think it all adds up, and, you know, it’s very visible with the veterinarians…..