A Sit Down with Dr. Will Cole, Functional Medicine Practitioner
His new book “Ketotarian” & the Wellness Routines that have Led to his Vibrant & Successful Life
When I got wind that Dr. Will Cole was writing a book, I knew I had to sit down with him for an interview. His work has gained such a following because it is informative, practical, and addresses many ‘hot topic’ health issues facing people today such as thyroid issues, autoimmunity, and hormonal dysfunctions. He is a trained functional medicine practitioner and works with patients around the world. He has written for publications such as mindbodygreen, Reader’s Digest, and goop, and lectures nationally. His new book “Ketotarian” came out on August 28th, in which he combines the powerful benefits of a ketogenic diet with a plant-based one.
Without further ado, I will dive right into our interview…
Q. What is the foundation for the ‘blueprint’ that make up your wellness habits?
A. Wellness originates from being in the present moment and making healthy choices in each and every action. Practically speaking that means realizing what your body is and needs i.e. a more or less intense workout for the day, choosing one food over another for a meal.
‘Unhealthy’ wellness is the compound effect of the unconscious behaviours that seep into your day to day i.e. numbing your mind on tv or social media.
Q. What is your daily nutrition routine?
A. I wake up each morning, and pack my lunch for the day. I intermittent fast every am during the work week, which means I’ve stopped eating at 7pm the prior evening, and then break my fast at 12/1 the next day. This allows for autophagy to take place (the body’s system of cleaning house), improves gut health, and reduces inflammation. I break my fast with grey tea, which is packed with polyphenols and enhances lipolysis (the fat burning mechanisms in the body). Make sure your tea is USDA organic pure grey tea with bergamot in the ingredients, and avoid ‘natural flavors’. Alternatively, you can have green tea/white tea and add a few drops of bergamot essential oils for a similar effect. Lunch and dinner consist of a plant based ketogenic meal with leafy veg, healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts/seeds), and protein — depending on if you’re vegan/veg/pescatarian/not — I normally opt for wild-caught fish. Snacks will include things like almond butter. I am a tea aficionado, so in addition to the grey tea in the morning, I will have a variety of teas throughout the day. Overall, I eat to satiety, and eat when I’m hungry. With the above diet I don’t get ‘cravings’ in the traditional sense, so the above sample of meals hit the spot for me.
Q. What is your daily movement routine?
A. I have a fairly sedentary job, meeting patients, reviewing research studies, writing articles and so forth, so I create movement throughout the day by having a standing desk, going for a walk during my lunch break, and taking breaks from my ‘desk’ throughout the day. I do TMAC Fitness 3–4 days a week, an online training program, that includes 20 min of HIIT exercises paired with yoga and ending with mindfulness and meditation. It is the perfect blend/combination for me. In addition, I like the convenience of doing the videos at home, and the flexibility it provides with my schedule. I will also occasionally go on a hike or run with my family where I live in Pittsburgh, PA.
Q. What is your daily sleep routine?
A. Sleep is not a luxury, but a mandate for one’s health. Just one poor night of sleep increases inflammation markers in your body. Good sleep habits are key. I aim to go to bed at 10/11pm nightly, although sometimes it doesn’t always play out as I’d like and I may end up making it to bed closer to 11…we’re all a work in progress! I keep my bedroom clean without any clutter to reduce stress, and keep a pen & pad by my bed to write down any ‘to dos’ that come to mind so as to reduce the ‘pinging in my head’ that might keep me up. I also use a blend of essential oils called ‘serenity’ by Doterra in a diffuser. This helps regulate my breathing and provides a great calming effect.
“Sleep is not a luxury, but a mandate for one’s health.”
Q. What is your daily stress reduction routine?
A. I try to stay in the present moment throughout my day. I use my breath as a way to anchor back to the present moment. I also keep in mind Eckhart Tolle’s advice about stress 1) acceptance 2) enjoyment 3) enthusiasm. If you can’t change something, be in acceptance, because the latter causes anxiety and stress, which hinders your overall health.
Q. What is your advice for folks trying to create a daily routine?
A. Find a routine that works for you. Even when I’m traveling I take my routine with me i.e. I still eat the same, do the HIIT videos in my hotel room etc.
Q. What is your advice for others seeking a fulfilling career?
A. Stay in your lane and be consistent. In regards to staying in your lane, it is great to have role models to aspire to, but know that you are on your own unique life journey. Be inspired by others but don’t compare yourself to the point of inadequacy. In terms of being consistent, build a work ethic that provides a fulfilling, vibrant, and peaceful life. That means getting up when you don’t feel like it, writing when I don’t feel like it…hold yourself accountable.
Q. How did you find your purpose & build your successful business?
A. I grew up with a family that was very supportive of wellness. My mum was making weird elixirs in the middle of Pennsylvania where I grew up well before it was trendy and cool, so I was lucky to have that support system. I loved health, writing, and speaking…I just didn’t know what it would look like. I attended an integrative medicine school in South California and was inspired by the work of Datis Kharrazian. After graduating I moved back to Pittsburgh to start my own practice seeing patients. It was my writing that started to reach beyond my local community. This is a reminder to stay in your lane and be consistent. I stayed true to what I was good at — writing and helping patients locally, and patients outside of Pittsburgh started to seek me out. Today 90% of my patients are outside of Pittsburgh and I meet with them virtually.
Q. What is your new book about?
A. My book came out August 28th and details a plan based on a Ketotarianapproach to healthy eating, keto meets plant-based eating. The first half of the book is about the ethos of why we’re doing what we’re doing, the pros and cons of a conventional plant-based diet and keto diet, and how I combine the best of both worlds. The second half provides a clear road map with meal plans and recipes for you to follow to integrate this way of eating into your lifestyle. Additional topics include reducing chronic inflammation, increasing energy, reducing cravings and so on.
Q. What is your view on Veganism?
A. I was vegan for 10 years but I started to have symptoms of fatigue, digestive issues, a weak immune system, and break outs etc. I also knew that I had a family history of autoimmune disease. Food is medicine, and I realized I shouldn’t be sick or have to supplement my way out of the problem. So, I made some changes to my diet. I still remained plant centric but added grass fed beef and wild-caught fish to my diet. My labs improved and I felt better, so I have adopted this diet long term with myself, my patients, and now share this approach in my book.
Q. What is your view on meal timing?
A. Natural fasting throughout the night allows your body to clean house and rest. It is important to not eat right before bed or right after you wake up, this allows your body to acclimate to the day/night of sleep ahead. It is also important not to always be snacking so that your insulin levels have time to lower. Do not feel obligated to eat every 2–3 hour. Take inventory of what your individual body needs and see what works best for you.
Q. What about soy?
A. For vegans, fermented organic non-GMO soy like nato and tempeh are a great source of protein. They are also beneficial because of the fermentation process and the probiotics which add healthy bacteria to your gut.
Q. Do you worry about mercury levels if you eat a lot of fish?
A. I stick to eating wild fish and smaller non-predatory fish. I also use EWG.org as a resource to make sure I’m buying the best sources of fish.
Q. What are your tips for folks who struggle with stress/hormone imbalances?
I write about these topics a lot in my newsletter. It is important to employ a daily routine of mindfulness, calm, and stillness. I also recommend adaptogens as a great way of balancing hormones. * Dr. Cole’s advice on adaptogens and his newsletter are found on his website.
Q. What is your recommendation on protein intake?
A. I generally recommend 0.5–1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass (there are free calculators online that you can use to calculate this) i.e. if your lean body mass is 100bs, your protein intake should be around 50–100g/day. Overall, your protein intake should be between 15 to 30 percent of your total caloric intake for the day.
Q. How can people find out more about you, your book, and follow your work?
Interviewing Dr. Cole only confirmed my impressions of what have led him to be so successful personally and professionally, and why I am such a fan of his work.
1) He has the ability to take complicated health topics and provide clear, straight-forward advice for people to live healthier, happier lives
2) He lives what he preaches
3) He has a calm and peaceful persona that is contagious
4) He focuses on his strengths — helping patients, writing, and speaking ‘stay in your lane’
5) He has a solid work ethic and routine of producing top-notch work ‘be consistent’
6) Lastly, he has created a love-filled life with his family in Pittsburgh, PA
His book is an extension of this, and provides a clear road map of how we can tackle our health in a practical manner. He lays out the science of why we should adopt a ‘Ketotarian diet’ as well as the how-to. The book is easy to dip into at different stages, and serves as a marvelous reference on important health topics. Not to mention, the recipes are moreish!
I am excited for you to have an opportunity to dip into more of his work, and I look forward to incorporating some of his wisdom into my daily wellness routines :)