Joan macdonald Joan macdonald
Podcast 402

402: Transforming Your Health and Defying Aging Stereotypes with Joan MacDonald

Today, I’m talking to Joan MacDonald–a 77-year-old fitness influencer with 1.8 million Instagram followers. At 70, she was on medication for high blood pressure and acid reflux. She suffered from arthritis, couldn’t walk up and down stairs, and feared she may suffer from additional health issues in the future.

She enlisted her daughter and fitness trainer, Michelle, to help and achieved astounding results. She joined a transformation group called The Wonder Women, lost 60 pounds, and now works with her daughter to inspire, motivate, and train others to improve their wellness at any age on Instagram, YouTube, and her program, Train with Joan.

Together, they co-authored Flex Your Age, Defy Stereotypes and Reclaim Empowerment.

In our conversation, Joan and I talked about what inspired her to finally make a major lifestyle change, how you can change your beliefs about physical health and aging at any age, and how to integrate simple exercises into your daily routine.


Here's all you have to do...

  • Step 1.) Subscribe to the podcast and leave an honest rating & review over on iTunes.
  • Step 2.) Text BOOK, that’s BOOK to 866-482-9559 for a link to our book request page, complete the form and we will ship you the book for free. It’s that simple!

In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
  • What happened in the “game-changing” first six months of Joan’s fitness transformation–and what her daughter Michelle did to make sure that these changes stuck.
  • How to get over your fears and conquer the barriers stopping you from making big changes.
  • Why strength training doesn’t mean you’re going to look “bulky.”
  • How Joan tracks macronutrients to plan her meals to build muscle and lose fat–and why you don’t need to be perfect at this to achieve amazing results.
  • Why there’s never been a better time than now to get started.
Inspiring Quote
  • "It’s about you, not about anyone else. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else because it doesn’t work that way. You have to make the best of you." - Joan MacDonald
  • "If you’ve got something that actually works for you, then repeat it." - Joan MacDonald
Interview Resources
Offer valid in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, to first-time requestors. During the offer period, receive one (1) in-stock book per request. Limit (1) book per week per household. Limit three (3) books total each calendar year, between January 1 and December 31. Offer valid while supplies last. Howard Bailey Financial, Inc. reserves the right to cancel, terminate or modify this offer at any time. Void where restricted or otherwise prohibited.
Read the Transcript

Casey Weade: Welcome to the Retire with Purpose podcast. My name is Casey Weade, and it is my mission to deliver clarity and purpose and elevate meaning in your life through personal and practical financial strategies. But it’s not all about the financial stuff when it comes to life. It’s much deeper and much more meaningful than that. As you make these major life transitions, there’s a lot to think about, not just what’s going on in here and what’s going on in here, but what also what is going on in your body.

And today, we’re going to be focusing on fitness and nutrition with a wonderful expert that we have here with us today. We have Joan MacDonald joining us. She is a 77-year-old fitness influencer with 1.8 million Instagram followers. And over the last five-plus years, she underwent a remarkable health transformation. At 70, she was on medication for high blood pressure, acid reflux. She had arthritis. She had difficulty walking up and down the stairs, and she didn’t know if she was going to end up with more health issues. She was concerned she might actually end up in a nursing home if she didn’t make some major changes when it came to her health.

And with the help of her fitness trainer and daughter, Michelle, Joan joined a transformation group called The Wonder Women led by Michelle and lost 60 pounds. She looks amazing. If you’re not checking us out on YouTube right now, you need to do that just to see how good Joan looks with all the work that she’s put in over the years.

And now, alongside her daughter, Joan, she helps inspire, motivate, and train others to improve their wellness at any age through her Instagram content, YouTube channel, and through her training program, Train with Joan. We’ll put all that in the show notes. So, if you want to train with Joan, it’ll be as easy as clicking right there in the show notes.

She also coauthored a book with her daughter titled Flex Your Age: Defy Stereotypes and Reclaim Empowerment. And we partnered up with Joan to give those books away. So, if this topic is of interest to you, super easy to get a free copy of your own. All you have to do is this, write an honest rating and review of the podcast over on iTunes, then shoot us a text. You can text us the word “Book” to 866-482-9559. We’ll shoot you a link to provide us that iTunes username. We’ll verify your review and send you the book for free. It is that easy.


Casey Weade: With that, I want to welcome Joan to the show.

Joan MacDonald: And I want to thank you for inviting me. That’s some introduction.

Casey Weade: Well, I’m very excited to have you here with us, Joan. Whenever we have a fitness and nutrition conversation, it is just I find it, it really moves people, literally and metaphorically. And I know that’s what we’re going to do today. You’ve been doing this for quite some time.

And I want to kick off today. Prior to these interviews, we reached out to all of our Weekend Reading subscribers about a week prior to the interview. And we say, “Hey, what’s on your mind? What kind of questions would you like to ask?” And then we are able to bring those into the conversation.

I don’t always open with one of our Weekend Reading subscriber’s questions, but I thought Harold had a perfect question for us to kick off the conversation with because I know you’ve had some major changes that you went through over the last decade. And I think this really is a great lead in to telling your story. Harold asked, “At what point did you finally decide it was time to make a lifestyle change?” Feel free to take us back as far as you want to take us back and take us through that process.

Joan MacDonald: My daughter and son-in-law were planning on moving down to Mexico. As a matter of fact, they had already set up to go down there and she was visiting. And I had been to the doctors and my doctor wanted to up my medication for my blood pressure, which I have kidney disease. So, I had kidney failure. And it was just that I was losing too much fluid, was what I had been doing at the time and I wasn’t being able to keep my blood pressure on an even keel. And that affects the kidneys.

And she goes, “Oh,” like she kind of lead in to me in a good way. It was just to bring me around to say, “Look at mom, I can help you if you let me, if you join my transformation group.” And I’m going, “Yeah, but you’re going to be in Mexico. And here I am in Ontario.” And I had no idea how to do anything technical. I was lucky I could turn on a computer and just entertain myself with that, but I didn’t have a lot of experience with technology.

So, her and her husband decided, “Okay, if you come with us for a couple of weeks and we’ll try to feed you all this information that we can, and then all we are is a phone call away.” So, anyway, I did start in January of 2017 and I told her I don’t want to lose weight too fast because I’ll probably gain it back again because I’ve done that, yo-yo dieting type of thing. I said, “I need to have direction and change how I live because I am not happy and I wasn’t happy.” I hadn’t been happy for several years.

So, anyway, the first six months was a game changer for me. It made me want to keep going because I could see the changes in my body in that six months. What’s it going to be like in a year? And that’s what I was thinking to myself and I said, “I got to keep going because I’m curious now of what the outcome is going to be.” Because it’s not a diet, it’s a whole lifestyle change. If you’ve ever seen my beginning photo, it’s terrible. I didn’t realize how big I was until I did comparisons of myself. Because it’s about you, not about anyone else. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else because it doesn’t work that way. You have to make the best of you.

And I just decided because 45 pounds later, after six months, I’m going, “Wow, I had to change my whole wardrobe. I had lost so much weight.” But just fast forwarding it, each year, I may not lose a lot of weight. I think it was the first year, the 45 pounds, and then each year after that, it was about 10 pounds. I lost 70 pounds altogether.

Casey Weade: Wow.

Joan MacDonald: And it wasn’t so much the weight which some people look at the scale all the time and you should take your weight because it sort of helps you to figure out what you should be eating or not eating. But it’s the measurements, the composition of your body that changes. And that is an eye opener because the weight on the scale and the measurements don’t always correlate.

Casey Weade: I want to get into all of the technical aspects of some of the things that you do in your routine, but prior to that, really understanding what it takes to make a change. And it sounds like for you, it was a major physical challenge. You were very unhappy. You had been diagnosed with kidney disease. You’ve got high blood pressure now. And you go, “I don’t know how long I’m going to live if I don’t make some major changes right now.”

And how do you help people get to that point of motivation to actually make the change without doing what most do? I believe that most people wait until where they have a serious issue, where now they’re going to make a change. What could have happened differently for you to help it happen and progress through that prior to actually running into that situation where you were in almost a dire situation?

Joan MacDonald: Well, what I keep telling people is, like I started at 70, I was almost 71, and if you can start earlier and think of yourself as you deserve some time to yourself to look after yourself and do not compare yourself with others. It’s about you as a person. And I have so many people, like I tell them to read my bio with my highlights and the rest. Go to YouTube, go to Google, you’re going to see all kinds of podcasts, all kinds of stories that are on there. And I’m on Instagram and just do something for yourself.

And look at what I did, what I started off as, and how I’ve come. And I’ve done this now close to seven years. I started on January 17. So, in January, it’ll be seven years. So, it’s not a quick fix. It is a lifestyle change. And if you have people saying, “Oh, what are you doing that for?” That’s a negative. You don’t want those kind of people surrounding you. You want someone that is encouraging you.

And if you don’t want to go to the gym, you can do a lot of these exercises at home. It just takes probably a little more time because you don’t have all the equipment. You can start out with a wash cloth to substitute for sliders, a Swiss ball that can give you a lot of exercises, and a variety of weights that you can actually lift.

Casey Weade: What I hear you saying is really, it’s about what you put in. It’s garbage in, garbage out, right? So, expose yourself, consume inspirational content, and you have plenty of that inspirational content that’s out there for people to consume. And then surround yourself with people that are growth oriented, that are going to support you in this journey because you become what the average of your five closest friends or whatever you want to say there, right? It’s all about the people you surround yourself with and the content that you consume.

And it’s also about some of the beliefs and fears that you have around health. And I think that’s kind of where you’re headed with. Well, it doesn’t have to be this big, grandiose, major life change on day one. It’s this small step. Is this what you mean in your book Flex Your Age? Is this what you mean when you talk about your barrier story? Where’s the overlap?

Joan MacDonald: Oh, gosh. My barrier story is probably the fact that I didn’t think I was worthy of anything. I couldn’t understand why people would even really listen to me. Because you’re an older person, who wants to listen to an old person? But apparently, that’s not how people think. They see an older person doing something about it and it gives them hope. If she can do it, maybe I can do it. And that’s what keeps spurring people on.

And this is a comment that I get repeatedly. You have given me hope where I didn’t have it before. Because you got people that are saying, why would you want to do this? Like, just sit back and relax. But you have to be active in order to blossom. You got it?

Casey Weade: And you’re not just referring to your health when you say that.

Joan MacDonald: It’s all about getting your health back. And your health is your wealth. People need to understand that things don’t matter. It is your health that matters if you want to live a really fulfilled life. You’ve got to work at that. And the sooner you work at it, the better you’ll be. And keep at it. Make it a joy to do your exercises, not a punishment. It’s just keep going, and eventually, you will reach where you want to be and then you maintain that. When you think about it, it’s quite simple, but it’s learning how to eat properly, sleep properly, hydrate properly, meditate properly. You do all these things and it becomes a habit. And you want that…

Casey Weade: You said your health is your wealth. And I saw how much that meant to you. I see the emotion that that brings forward for you. What is it about that that is so emotional for you?

Joan MacDonald: It’s just, I think, watching other people give up too soon. And money can’t buy you health. You have to work for it. And there’s people out there that what they’ve got in their life and their health is devastating. It’s horrible to watch that. And I’ve had many people in my life that have let go of that or couldn’t control anything because they have a blood disorder that can’t be fixed. You can get some treatment that’ll help you stay alive a little bit longer, but it’s not really doing the work. You can’t reverse everything. So, when you have the opportunity of making your life healthy, why wouldn’t you take that?

Casey Weade: Such an inspirational story for so many to know. I just need to share my wisdom and look at what can happen when someone with all of the experience and knowledge. And you don’t even have to know everything that you’re doing. You just get out there and you share it.

Joan MacDonald: Yeah. And I think that’s the reason I got the followers, is because I just share what I experience. And it seems to motivate them. Like, people, you’ll get the odd person who said, “What keeps you motivated?” Well, just looking at my before picture and myself now, that’s got to be motivation for you. I’ve been in maintenance now for two years. So, it’s like I’m not intending to get– I don’t want to be thin. I just want to be healthy. And I can control.

The first year I came off all my medication and I had the help of my doctor because I said, “My daughter thinks she can get me healthier if I exercise and eat properly.” The doctors will tell you that, but they don’t really give you the kind of information that Michelle is giving her people. And they leave it entirely up to you. But it’s like, you just do this and you’ll be fine. You want that encouragement constantly because after a while, then you start believing in yourself because you’re doing it. You’re doing the work.

Not me doing it for you, it’s you doing it. You got to realize that. And a lot of people don’t when they begin. They just don’t understand that movement, not just sitting on the couch watching TV constantly, movement is your ticket to health.

Casey Weade: I mean, a lot of what I hear is just getting back to basics, keeping it simple, sure. Weigh yourself on the scale, take three measurements and set some goals, and start to move and just do some stuff. Yeah, but you do talk about strength training quite a bit and its importance. And I think there’s a lot of misconceptions around weight training, especially for older adults. You’re doing weight training. So, what are some of those misconceptions or myths that you can help us bust around strength training for older adults?

Joan MacDonald: Well, I thought I didn’t want to do the straight training because I didn’t want to look like a guy. But now I see how silly that was. The definition in my body of muscle is only when I flex pretty much. It doesn’t stand out all the time.

Casey Weade: You’re working out like Arnold, but you don’t look like him.

Joan MacDonald: No, I’m glad about that. But some people are just so afraid, and they don’t realize as you get older and it’s proven that you need more protein to maintain your muscle and to be able to build it. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a nursing home. They get so little protein and not every meal. They have three meals a day. I eat five. But I eat smaller meals. That just keeps your body working constantly to digest all that. So, I don’t have huge meals. I just eat every three hours. And it works really well.

I’m pretty sure, between JJ and Michelle, they have thousands of success stories. And I know even with how I do these challenges, four challenges a year, and they’re only six weeks long at the most, but it’s sort of a start, a beginner for a lot of people. And some of them are really new at it. Some have had experience in a gym or working out on their own. But it’s a combination of your food, your hydration, your sleep, all paramount, because your sleep, that’s when you’re digesting a lot of stuff, a lot of the food. And making sure that you have X number of protein every meal. And what is good for me is not necessarily good for you, the proportions.

Casey Weade: What is the kind of optimal workout schedule? I know we had a question from Jim, one of our subscribers, asking what the optimal workout schedule looked like for cardio and strength training.

Joan MacDonald: Well, for cardio when I first started it, I think I was doing 10 or 15 minutes when I first started out.

Casey Weade: Is that every day?

Joan MacDonald: Pretty much every day that I was working out and I was doing five days of workout. I didn’t start with the free weights until, I think it was the second month. I was just using the machines, like they have in the gym. And if I could get yoga in, and people, I know there’s guys and women that look at yoga as nothing, but that’s a workout, let me tell you. When you have to try to get your body in a certain shape, like position, it’s a real workout. You can work up a real good sweat that way.

Casey Weade: There’s a certain number of days now that you recommend or that you yourself are doing cardio or strength training, two days of cardio, three days of strength training. Are you combining the two? It sounds like.

Joan MacDonald: I combine the two at some point. I do less cardio when I’m working out, but the days that are my rest days, I work cardio for an hour. And usually, I’m on a bike ride because that’s my only means of transportation is my bicycle. So, even me going down to the beach is going to take me at least a half an hour one way and come back is another half hour.

Casey Weade: Oh, that’s a long workout for sure. It is. When we talk about macros, I don’t know that everyone has the same experience with a macro diet as you do. Could you explain in layman’s terms what is a macro diet? What are macros?

Joan MacDonald: Macros are micronutrients. So, all the food that you eat is made up of protein, carbs, and good fats. That’s what you should be concentrating on. And your carbs are vegetables, fruits. And you might have some carbs in your protein. And you might have protein in your carbs. So, they recommend that you make up your diet like your food for the day by looking at it’s going to be the same amount of protein per meal, the same amount of carbs pretty much for your meal for at least two meals, and then it adjusts for the last three. So, you try to stay away from starches at the end of the day. There’s different ways of laying it out.

You do your carbs for each meal first, because like I said, there are some proteins in carbs. It’s always low, but it still adds up during the day with what you have. And then you do your proteins and then you concentrate on your fats. And you can adjust after it’s done. If it all fits into what you’re supposed to be having for each meal, then that’s great. I’ve never been perfect on it.

Casey Weade: Yeah, well, I think that’s the challenge. To me, looking at it and observing other people that track their macros and follow a macro-based diet, it seems very complicated and it seems like a lot of work, but it sounds like that doesn’t feel that way for you.

Joan MacDonald: Well, if you do your meal for the day, at least a day ahead of time, all you have to do is follow it. And if you have one that really works for you, then you save it and put it in other days. I kept my meal and I still do, keep my meals as simple as I can. My favorites, I’ve got so many favorites and I repeat them. That’s how it becomes simple. If you’ve got something that actually works for you, then repeat it.

Casey Weade: Joan, I’d love to wrap up with a couple general questions. And the first one would be kind of like your routine. What’s a typical day look like in the life of Joan? What is your morning routine, for instance? How do you kick off the day?

Joan MacDonald: Well, I do my metrics first, which is my blood pressure, my hip, waist, and thigh. Then I get on the scale, put that down. Then I’m doing Duolingo for Spanish and Elevate for my brain work. Then I have to look at my Instagram, make sure that in my app answer anything that I can and leave the rest for the rest of the day, and report into Michelle. And then have my meal, my breakfast. So, that’s just from when I get up, which could be 5:00 or 5:30 to 8:00.

Casey Weade: We’re getting up, checking our metrics every morning. So, you check those metrics every morning, you do some brain health work. You do some actual work, where you’re helping other people, and then you touch base with your coach, grab some breakfast.

Joan MacDonald: And then I go off to the gym because I prefer to do it in the morning because I’ve got most of my energy in the morning and I’m not afraid to take a nap in the afternoon.

Casey Weade: I love that.

Joan MacDonald: Yeah. I’ve had a lot of operations. And I think, as you get older, there’s a time in the day and I know Europeans and people in Mexico and hot climates take a siesta every 3 o’clock and that’s a great time to do it.

Casey Weade: We should all be napping. And I know for us at times, that can be a bit of a challenge, but I know it’s something that we should all keep doing. As we bring things to a close, I just want to ask you one philosophical question, specifically about retirement. You’ve been retired for some time now. The podcast is called Retire with Purpose. What does that mean to you? What does the phrase retire with purpose mean to you, Joan?

Joan MacDonald: Well, what I’d like to think is I wanted to do the things I was not able to do when I was raising a family. So, I figured and I had to get healthy to do it. That is pretty much my purpose. Get healthy and try and do the things that you always had on your bucket list.

Casey Weade: Yeah, I love it. Get healthy and live those dreams. If you enjoy the conversation, you want to learn a little bit more about how to up your fitness and nutrition, your overall health at this stage in your life, I would love to give away Joan’s book. That is Flex Your Age: Defy Stereotypes and Reclaim Empowerment. If you’d like to get a free copy of Joan’s book, like I said in the open, just write an honest review over on iTunes and then shoot us a text. Text the keyword “Book” to 866-482-9559. We’ll shoot you a link to verify that iTunes username and get you out your free copy of Flex Your Age. Joan, thank you so much for joining us.