Breaking the Stigma: Zack – The Depression Relief Playbook

Is it possible to have a playbook for how to tackle depression?

 After reading Zack’s book, we were convinced! We knew it was a perfect fit for further conversation.

In this episode, we chat about some key strategies from his book, his experience of depression, and his journey to seeking support.

You can download his book here.



Nicki Kirlin, Jenna Fortinski, Zack


Jenna Fortinski  00:02

Welcome to the simply Jenna podcast. This is breaking the stigma, a special miniseries. Join us as we interview different people and talk about their journey to wellness. If you’ve thought about getting support, but we’re afraid or afraid of what others may think this series is for you. Stay tuned for some really good stories.



Welcome to another episode,


Jenna Fortinski  00:32

simply Jenna podcast. How are you doing Nikki? Pretty good.





Nicki Kirlin  00:37

my God has been busy. Oh, and our podcast world has been busy. It’s very busy. Yeah. Yeah. For all the good reasons, all the best reasons. Yes. Having some fantastic conversations with all different kinds of folks. So it’s been a really interesting journey.


Jenna Fortinski  00:52

Yeah. And this episode, interestingly enough, is from somebody that is far away.


Nicki Kirlin  01:00

Yeah, exactly. in another country, actually. Yeah, that’s


Jenna Fortinski  01:04

true. So we were fortunate enough to connect with Zach over a system that they have set up where you can meet with fellow podcasters or podcast guests. And, and so I had read Zach’s book, and I loved it. So I thought that it would be good for us to have a conversation with him. Yes.


Nicki Kirlin  01:29

So Zach is an AC e certified personal trainer, as well as fitness nutrition specialist. And he’s also a certified brain health trainer through the functional aging Institute. And he holds an MA from American University in Washington, DC and has recently been accepted to a second grad school to become a licensed therapist.


Jenna Fortinski  01:53

Yeah. So he’s got his book is called the depression relief playbook. It is phenomenal. You can pick up it on Amazon. You can do a digital copy or a physical copy. And if you are somebody that is struggling with depression, it is the read to have it’s quick. It’s a short book. I think it’s only just over 50 pages long. But it’s packed full of great information.


Nicki Kirlin  02:20

Very practical.


Jenna Fortinski  02:21

Yes, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. It’s short and sweet, which is nice. Yeah. So yeah. So here’s our conversation with Zach. Enjoy.


Nicki Kirlin  02:29

So thank you, Zach, so much for joining us. We’re so excited to have conversation with you in this episode. So we’ll kick off by getting you to tell us a little bit about yourself. So tell us your age, your hometown, your occupation? It may be a fun fact if you have one.


Zack  02:45

Yeah, sure. My I’m 40 years old. Although some therapists I know. Say I barely look 39 I’m from Trenton, New Jersey, which is like basically right in the center. And fun factors. That was the last one.



Yep. Yeah,


Zack  03:04

I can do this. So check this out. Hold on. See this? No, no, it doesn’t look like much. Now you guys do it. No way.


Jenna Fortinski  03:14

Not on camera. We trust quite a skill that you have


Zack  03:18

there. So I hope I hope that this is like a video recording. Otherwise, just sounds like heavy breathing. podcast. Exactly.


Jenna Fortinski  03:28

Do you have a fun fact that you want to say yes to audio recording?


Zack  03:33

Um, I have a fun one. Okay, this is for the punk rockers out there. But I played cbgbs before they shut down. Okay, which means something to like punk rockers. That’s like the that’s like punk rock Mecca. That’s like where the Ramones television, talking heads Blondie. That’s where they all like came up. It’s called cbgbs. If you Google it’s like, it’s like, the place. Right?





Zack  03:58

So you played there? At one point. And it’s about I. It’s a very, it was a big deal for a lot of people to play there. And it’s about the size of your kitchen. It’s so small. No way. Really? Very tiny.


Jenna Fortinski  04:12

That’s crazy. Yeah. What instrument Do you play them?


Zack  04:16

I mostly play bass. And then I play guitar, too.



Good for you. For you. That’s fantastic. That’s a fun fact. Yes. Along with the hand gestures. Yes. Yeah. People are just listening. Yeah. Very impressive. Listening.


Zack  04:31

The therapists weren’t brave enough to try it.


Jenna Fortinski  04:34

Exactly. Yeah, that’s right. Exactly. to work on. Yeah, we’ll practice later.


Nicki Kirlin  04:40

No knockdown we skip one one part which is your occupation. Yeah.


Zack  04:46

Um it’s all over the place right now. So let’s right now let’s just say personal trainer.


Nicki Kirlin  04:53

Okay. You’re also doing some schooling right?


Zack  04:57

Right. Yeah. In in general. Be wary. Okay. Yeah, that doesn’t start till January. However, I’ll give you another fun fact. I was, man, we’re just gonna delete this podcast. Yeah. I was I was doing video production like I worked in TV for a long time and COVID basically ended that. But now I’m I’m shooting my first movie in August. What that’s Yeah, that was my that was when I went to grad school. The first time I went for film, I wrote a I wrote a movie, so I’m shooting it in August. Oh, my God.


Jenna Fortinski  05:37

You wrote a movie? Yeah. Yeah. You want to read it? Yes, we do. Would love to





Jenna Fortinski  05:44

Yeah, that’s awesome. Good for you. Fantastic. Um, can you tell us a little bit about your history of like, personal training and nutrition work what you’ve done in that field?


Zack  05:57

Yeah. So this actually ties in Well, with the the whole depression thing. So what was happening was, I was on this whole, like, when I was starting my upward spiral, I call it right. I was, I was the arrow was pointed outwards, let’s say so I was concentrating on like, so I failed out of college when I first started, because maybe we may get into the backstory, I don’t know, but because of some issues. So I went back to school, and I was like, you know, maybe once I graduate college, I’ll feel like, uh, you know, Whole Again, right? Yeah. Okay, well, I’m doing pretty well, I wasn’t expecting this. Maybe if I graduate with honors, I’ll feel great. I didn’t feel great. I was okay, well, maybe if I become a personal trainer, because nobody else has that. And I like working out. And I didn’t feel great. And it wasn’t till I was actually working with clients and developing those relationships. And that’s what things kind of one of the points where things started to really shift. Because it was like something that mattered. And it was it was forcing me in a way to turn the arrow inward. Okay, wow. Because it’s not just this external thing that like, a lot of times people assume personal training is like just telling people to lift weights, but it’s not really that way. It’s more of a relationship. Hmm. So that’s how I got into that. Yeah. To be honest, it was like, it was like a, like an ego thing. You know?


Jenna Fortinski  07:20

Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And I could see the relationship of helping other people and how that fills your own bucket as well. Right. And I think, you know, especially as a mental health professional, like, that’s part of what we do is, you know, helping others helps us to Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  07:39

Okay, so you’ve published a book, and it’s called the depression relief playbook. And we wanted to know, what sparked you to go down that path of pulling those pieces together and and publishing that book? What what sparked that journey for you?


Zack  07:54

So it’s funny because I didn’t plan on it. So when I went to grad school, the first time, people were having a tough time, getting through some of the things or doing as a high pressure situation. And people were reaching out to me just for advice, because they knew my backstory. And they’re like, hey, so how do I, you know, make myself feel better? And what I would do is I would tell them, and then they would immediately forget, so I have to compile things in a document and send it to them. There were about three people who did this. Wow. Yeah. So years later, COVID hits. And it was almost the same situation. People were asking me for just kind of some advice. And I started writing these emails, I start going back to these old emails and documents. I said, This is crazy. And I was joking around, I should just write a book. One thing led to another. And I was like, Well, what would I want to read? Yeah, no, if I were in that situation again, what would I want to read? So that’s what I did. Yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  08:54

Yeah. That’s amazing. And so so then maybe do you want to share with us a little bit about your backstory? Yeah, that was part of what sparked people coming to you and seeking your advice. So tell us a little bit about your story then.


Zack  09:06

Sure. So I had a quote unquote, normal childhood. Okay. So by that, I mean, it was relatively stable. We didn’t have around a lot. There was, you know, nothing. Really of note, it was fine. I did. I did a karate from the ages of 10 to 18. I got a black belt doing that. And I had fun doing all kinds of stuff and, you know, normal stuff, right? Yeah. Now that I have the insight, there were some chemical things going on. But at the time, I just thought I was a moody punk rocker when people would say like, what’s wrong with you? I just thought I was being you know, a teenager. Yeah. The big turning point was when I was 18. My best friend was killed in a car accident. And so that was the summer after high school. I kind of call it the perfect storm because not always as you guys know, but it tends to To be in the late teens, early 20s. All those mental quirks, let’s say, can manifest. Yeah. So it was that combined with his death. And then all my friends moved away. And this is pre social media. Yeah. So they were all gone. And then my karate school closed the same month. So everything kind of dropped out from underneath me. And I tried going to college for a few months, I ended up just failing out, really had problems even just getting out of bed for a good while. And so the journey back was really like a brick by brick thing, because there was no guidance. There was no anything. It was like, kind of like, I figured it out for myself, in a way. I’m, I’m happy it worked out that way. Because it was very slow. But it was very thorough. And it made you know, for this book that I can say, Hey, you know, this took me 10 years to get here, but I can if I can give you all this stuff I learned now. Yeah, you know, so you can read this immediately, you know, we can make some real changes. So that so, you know, so that’s like my very brief backstory. Right. Yeah. So so. And that’s, you know, I guess where the story begins? Yeah, absolutely.


Jenna Fortinski  11:22

Can you tell us a little bit about what your experience of depression was, and like, what your symptoms were, what you what it was like for you going through your depression.


Zack  11:34

So there was a lot of, like I said, not being able to get out of bed not being able to focus, the black cloud. See, the thing is, it changed at that time. And it’s very odd, right. And unless you’ve been depressed, this isn’t something that you can fully grasp, I don’t think, but it almost like had colors. So when it first started, it was black. And then I remember the spring after it was like this white. And I remember years later, it was like this orange, which is very odd, right? Yeah. One time I took and I talked about this in the book, I took this salt momento, in one of my, you know, attempts to see what works, right. Yeah, my experiments, I guess. And it felt like burning plastic. It felt like the smell of burning plastic. I remember being at a light and just like traffic light and just being like, okay, I’ve never taken that again. And since then I’ve read more about it. And it wasn’t the best idea for somebody with deep depression. And again, I bring that up in the book. But so it, I talked about it in the book is like flavors. You know, I just called it, I just called it colors, but like it goes through different flavors. So it wasn’t one thing. And it’s not like there was one thing I was trying to tackle throughout the years and years. Yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  12:53

So from your experience, being depressed is not just like you said, One big black cloud that follows you around is that you can have different experiences of depressions are


Zack  13:04

correct. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there were bouts of insomnia, and there were bouts of sleeping really well. Yeah, never, you know, not wanting to talk to people and then having codependency issues. And it was it was a very messy, messy thing, where it’s really hard to put into a box which I which I, I think is tough to deal with depression in general, not just for me, but I think it’s, it’s tough to get one definition wasn’t and I’ll tell you this, I’m sorry to cut you off. There’s like because you’re in Canada, and I’m here. Like, I sorry, you guys are making. So what I will say is it wasn’t great. Okay, because at the time, I was labeling it as grief. So, you know, I was putting this pressure on myself to get over. I remember, two weeks after he was killed. I had started my class in college, and I had a panic attack in the class. And I thought that was just Crieff. And wasn’t that was anxiety and depression, when a lot of times people talk about those in the same sentence with same breath because like, they tend to travel the same pathways, right? So it wasn’t grief. And this is gonna sound weird, too. But I did have bouts of grief, but that felt cleaner. Yeah. Okay. And I and which is weird to say, right. But I remember, you know, being I was working. I was working somewhere I was at work. And also I’d had this intense bout of grief and I was crying but it was a very different feeling. And, you know, that’s something that you have to go through. You can’t circumvent that you have to go through grief. Yeah. The depression you don’t have to go through. Yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  14:58

And I think it’s so important that we talk About what people’s experiences are of the symptoms of, you know, certain mental health issues. Because yes, we do have the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that tells us, you know, what depression is defined by or what anxiety is defined by, and they have a criteria that you need to fulfill. But oftentimes, it doesn’t exactly fill that specific criteria. And people have these experiences that are like, no one experiences the same, right. And so it’s so important that, you know, when we’re using platforms like this, for people to understand that it can look different for everybody. And you know, to try and talk about it in as many different ways as we can so that people can say, Oh, I think that’s me. I think I don’t doubt that. Yeah, I think I felt it right. I


Zack  15:42

salutely. I yeah, just to echo that I have a copy of the DSM because I’m studying for January. And I was reading about that. And I wanted to write that and say, yes, asterisk. Yeah. Because there’s Yeah, more. You could write. I don’t know how many books on it. And you can’t know. It’s like writing a book about a person. Yeah. Can’t get everything. Yeah. About even just one person in another book, you know, so it’s a it’s a very big thing. Yeah. Right. However, that being said, right. I don’t think anyone is outside of treatment or help, right? Yeah. Well, mine is totally different minds. That’s individual to me. Yes. But there you can, you can get help. Yeah. No one is outside of that. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, there’s


Jenna Fortinski  16:40

always a way out.


Nicki Kirlin  16:41

And I think that’s a tricky thing that we and Jenna and I have had this conversation sort of off recording and in our own conversations about mental health in general. But that sometimes the tricky thing about doing the diagnosis piece is that then we put a label on things. And then people think that it has to be associated with that label, right? Like whatever is going on for them has to fit under this little box. Here. We’re saying before, and if it doesn’t fit in that then it’s not necessarily happening, which isn’t true at all. And you’ve just validated that experience, right? So it’s great that we can have, like Jenna said, this open conversation and talk about it and say it can look very different for every person. Yeah,


Jenna Fortinski  17:19

yeah, definitely. Okay,


Nicki Kirlin  17:22

so you shared in your book about your journey to finding the right therapist. So and you and I think you kind of share it from the perspective of sharing your mistakes that you’ve made on on your journey of trying to find somebody. So what were you What were you looking for in finding sort of the right therapist?


Zack  17:44

I didn’t know. Okay, so I when I went, I saw someone, and it didn’t, you know, really sit well with me. It I mean, it was fine, but I didn’t feel really anything. I was like, Okay, this isn’t for me, which was the wrong thing to do. To be fair, I was 19. Yes. I’m sorry. I mean, I apologize. Sort of, but 19 isn’t an adult. And I know legally I yeah. But like, I just didn’t have the I’m not where with all but like the maturity and the, I guess the insight. At that age, there was no way I could have and I’m not knocking 19 year olds. You know, if this is more of like something I hope people carry, like, into adulthood, if they’re kicking themselves for something they do when they’re 17. Because like, dude, you’re 17 you’re gonna show anyway, so I did stupid stuff, right? I went to her once. And I said, Okay, this isn’t for me. And then I tried again, I found a guy I kinda liked us as a couple years later, I kind of liked and then he ended up moving away. And after a few months, and he said, here, go with my partner. And she and I did not click at all I went once and I said, Okay, once gonna give this up for a while, because it’s very easy to just give it up. Yeah, it wasn’t until I was taking college courses. And I was taking psychology courses. And I liked it so much. I like the professor so much, and the classes so much. I was taking class that didn’t even count towards my major I just seeking them to take on. Yeah, finally, at the end of one of the classes, I was like, hey, do you take private clients? And he? And he said, Yes. So he was the one who finally I could kind of open up to and he was the one I mean, and he kind of, it’s hard to, again, write a lot of stuff is like hard to say, cuz he’s a fox. Right? Yeah. But and like vibes for lack of a better term, but like, he got it. And like, he knew I was interested in certain things. And he’s the one who showed me like the Myers Briggs test, which was like, fascinating, right. And I think I’ve talked about that a little bit in the book. I highly recommend that anybody take that gamble lot of insight from that. Yeah. So finally, no, my point is when he was my fourth one, so you know if, if it doesn’t work the first or second time, that’s an All right, a lot of people it took them six or seven tries. Yeah, yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  20:05

And so what was it about the first few that you felt? Like what was it that wasn’t working? Was it just that general feeling? Like you said, like those vibes or was there something specific that you like, you could put your finger on? Like, oh, that’s exactly what it was. It wasn’t working.


Zack  20:18

I can tell you so. So the third one she was, she was like, straight out of a textbook. I was like, there was no humaneness to it. And I’m a very informal person. And she was very formal suit. Just not I’m not knocking youth again, but she was just out of school to okay. Yeah. And she was just trying to do everything by the book. Yeah. So and I’m not saying that you can’t be a young, great therapist, but it was just, it just wasn’t aligning.


Nicki Kirlin  20:53

Yeah. And it’s funny, because we often, like will say, like, what does that even mean? When you’re talking about vibes or feelings? Or or knowing and we knock that we say, like, let doesn’t like, that’s not, that’s not factual? Like, that doesn’t mean anything to me to say that. But in therapy, that’s often the most important part is are those feelings are those vibes? Yeah. And that general approach, right, like, it’s so key to whether you establish that relationship or not. And yeah, if you have anything else that you want to say,


Jenna Fortinski  21:22

Yeah, like, for me, as a therapist, in my practice, I always have that conversation in the first session with my clients. And I say, listen, like, I’m a very, like, laid back, you know, like, let’s put our feet up, let’s just have a conversation, like, we’re not going to talk about theories or approaches or anything like that, let’s have a relationship, let’s talk about where you’re at today, I’m not going to have like a pre determined schedule of of these steps that you need to move through. And, you know, like, there are therapists out there that do that, which is good, great for them. But for me, in my approach, it’s very important that people see me as a human being and that I’m, I’m just, you know, I’m here to walk along with you. Right, and to get you where you need to be. And, yeah, it is important, I think, when people are seeking support, that they they look at that as part of the equation of is this right fit for me? Exactly. Because there are people that do appreciate the very structured approach and have you know, that need a just laid back conversation, right? Yeah, plays a huge role. Okay, so in your book is full, full and full in full and full of strategies and tips, and, and there’s so much good information in there. And what I love about it, which everybody listening knows about me is that it’s simple and straightforward. So the book is amazing. And I wanted you to kind of think about and give us maybe what you think are like, the maybe like the top three or what the really like, three strategies are that you just thought were like, What got you where you needed to be?


Zack  22:54

Okay, well, that’s tough because like I say in the book, right, there’s no silver bullet. So it’s just like, I don’t think there’s there’s one thing that’s going to get anyone there. Yes. I honestly don’t think it can be just the three. Okay, so I’ll give a few that absolutely help. But I don’t think even three can get you like, all the way there. So yes, yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  23:16

Yeah. Stepping Stones, let’s just say stepping stone on them. So yeah,


Zack  23:19

so great stepping stones. So while while we’re on this topic, I have like a, I think the second chapter is like about mindset. And I feel like that’s really important for people to read. But that’s also kind of hard to talk about. Because it’s, it’s more, it’s not as tangible. So if anybody wants that chapter, shoot me an email, and I’ll send that to them. Okay, great. Thank you can just check that out. So that’s good. That’s out of the way Now, as far as tangible things Yeah. You know, obviously, you know, a personal trainer and I think the getting your, your body in order is really important. On more than one level, and I just have a brief story. I know we talk a lot Sorry, guys



know, that’s what podcast is all about. We love it.





Zack  24:07

so yeah, a few months after, you know, my friend was killed. So I’ll give you some stats right now. I’m five, nine, and 170 pounds, which is like nothing to mention this, whatever. Then I was five, nine and 124 pounds. Wow. Yeah. So almost a 50 pound difference, right? Yeah, I’m not a heavy person. Ya know? So if if I got sick so my my primary care doctor, she’s she would say she’s like, you know, if I get a little too late. She’s like, if you get sick, there’s nowhere for you to go. Yeah, so there was nowhere for me to go. That was a little. A little scary. Almost. Yeah. And because I felt like it was out of my control. Yeah, and also I thought I was doing the best things. This is pre like, like, internet explosion, I would say although we have a different problem now because I feel like it’s info BCD there’s too much information. There’s so much bad information. Yeah, but at that time, everything you saw on nutrition was about losing weight, because that’s the more common thing. Right, right. Yeah. People who need to lose weight. Now I’m getting to your point. So hang with me here. We’re rounding third round. We’re good. We’re good. Okay, sorry. That’s a baseball reference. That’s an American. So, okay, so coming to a Canadian. Alright. So that’s the


Jenna Fortinski  25:31



Zack  25:37

Hockey terms. Were at the crease, right? That’s the thing. Yeah, I got in trouble once for hitting the ball. Like in the crease. I didn’t know why I got in trouble. Yeah. I was a crease. What does that mean? Yeah. I’m on 24 pounds, right? So I was 24 pounds. So I was lucky enough to play in bands with at that point, I just joined another band where the guys were like, really into fitness. So I, I was like, yeah, I’ll start working out because I had only worked out like, as a byproduct of karate. So then I was like, Okay, yeah, I’ll get into like fitness for the fun of it. Right. And when I could physically see myself gaining the muscle, and I could physically see the number on the scale going up, and I could physically carry weight, I could see the number would say, you know, 25, then I could see Is it 30? When I couldn’t do the 30. Before. That was a real powerful moment, because something clicked. I was like, I have control over this. Yeah. Right. So is that that so for? That’s one of the big reasons I bring fitness into this is because you can see it happen. And I don’t want people to get married to wait because, like the scales a measure of weight, right? It’s not a measure of health. So I don’t want people to get married to that. But seeing progress is another thing. So that was that was really nice. Yeah. So fitness was you know, that’s just close to my heart too. And I just love it. And of course getting you know, we’ll maybe put them together the nutrition too, because you actually create more serotonin in your gut than you do in your brain. So a lot of people are actually giving probiotics to get your guts sorted out. Yeah, to sort out these like chemical issues, right. Yeah. I don’t think that’s a silver bullet. I always say that, because it is really important. Like, you’re not just going to go take a probiotic and then feel great, right? Yeah, that’s part of it. Right? Yeah. Like diet is part of it getting, you know, I highly recommend anybody gets an allergy test to see what doesn’t work. I pointed to my back because you know, the stick. Yeah. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Yeah. But they can see like, what’s your, what’s your intolerances are? And your allergies are? Yeah. If I have a glass of milk, it’s not going to end well. Now I know that right. So now I can go do all the other things. And this is all going to add up. Right. All right. I, this sounds a little weird that I don’t know if I wrote this. I may have written this in the book. I think practicing forgiveness is super important. And of course, you know, there’s the old cliche, you know, make sure you forgive yourself. And yeah, of course, I absolutely believe that. But specific to people with depression, you tend to be extra hard on other people who are giving you crappy advice. They don’t know. And they can’t know. They don’t know what you’re going through. And I do talk about this in the book. When I say when people would say to me, it could be worse. That was the worst thing people say to me. It’s like, yeah, it can be worse than this. You say this is this is as good as it can get. That’s how I took it. when really they were trying to say practice gratitude, or maybe something like that. Yeah, that’s what they were trying to get at. What I would much rather people say is, it can be better. You’re not stuck here. It can be better, right? Yeah, that’s what I would much rather So practice that forgiveness with other people. Because they can’t know. Yeah. Can I give another one? Yes. Yeah. We’re not keeping count. Yeah. I got a book full of these guys. Yeah, exactly. What would be your all night night? I’ll say, oh, man, I gotta pick a good one. Now, I know. I’m gonna I’m gonna spin it around and did one resonate with you.


Jenna Fortinski  29:32

I just I like the, like, the practical ones. Like the ones that you’re talking about are so good. Like how you like yeah, like because I think people need tangible people need things that they can say like, like yes, like this is this is what something that I can do every day that’s going to help me get where I need to be right and I like that you say that there is no silver bullet and I do think that that is like a something that’s tangible in a way Yeah. To understand that, you know, even if you are on medication, that’s not the only solution, right? There’s so many other things. Right. And I, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just want to come off of that. Yeah. So I have a friend who’s who deals with not so much depression, but with very intense anxiety, right? Yeah. And what he did was he went finally to the medication, and he’s better. However, he still calls me all the time with all these still has panic attacks still as anxiety issues. And I always say to him, dude, you have to do the work. Yeah.


Zack  30:37

This is just see when I did the medication. That was the that was the very last thing I did. Yeah. And I’m glad that it was the way that happened. Because I knew that I have exhausted a decade of trying other things. Yeah. I found out what worked and what didn’t. And I could have kept going without the medication. I would have been. Okay. Yeah. Because it was that last little bit, you know, yeah. You know, that that felt like you really rounded things out. But I The important thing. What I’m saying is I did the work, right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So that’s important to note, too. I don’t know what we were talking about the important note, right.


Nicki Kirlin  31:20

No, it is. Absolutely. And I think like, what you what you’re both are saying is that it’s a combination of many things that leads you to this path of progress. Like you were saying. It’s stepping stones to get there. No, yeah.


Zack  31:33

Yes. Small stepping stones. Yeah. So. And I remember this to thinking like, well, I worked out Why don’t I feel great. Yeah, more. You know, I ate the salad. Right? Here. It’s those micro goals. Yes. Small stepping stones. Right. And it’s a small victories that you can add up. And what I do still, is I’ll have a sheet of things that I do every day, right? So I kind of look at it like a pilot, right? So I’m a I’m more of like a in case you can’t tell I’m a little all over the place, and like kinda like an emotional dude. Yeah. But like, pilots are very, like, if they run into trouble, they’re not like, Oh, you know, what do we do now? What do we do now? They have a checklist that they run through, right? So I have essentially my daily checklist that I run through, and it’s individualized to me. I mean, I have some of my supplements and stuff. And it just feel and I know I’m going to take him but it feels good to like cross them off. I do stuff on paper. Like to work on paper. Yeah. But and you know, work out whatever. Right? Yeah. So even just creating a checklist stuff that works for you. Yeah. Hmm. I think it’s, it’s really nice. I told him I was like, dude, create the checklist to go one of the things that you want to do, even if it’s something silly, like I have people, a lot of people including myself have a trainer stuff, anterior pelvic tilt, right. So like, it’s your pelvis is tilted a little bit because you have tight things from working out and stuff. So even just getting those stretches in great. cross it off. Well, yeah. Next thing I do. Kind of focuses your mind. Yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  33:04

It gives you that sense of accomplishment to


Zack  33:07

momentum. And yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I always recommend doing it on paper. I don’t know if that’s just like a new thing. But I just love the physical bringing into the physical world, you know, as opposed to, yeah, you know, little box where everything else in the world exists, right?


Jenna Fortinski  33:21

Yeah, it doesn’t. Yeah, it doesn’t have the same fact. I


Nicki Kirlin  33:23

always tell my clients like I need you to write with your hand with paper and a pen, right? It’s such an intentional activity. Yeah. Right. Because you have you have to be paying attention. You have to be intentional about what you’re doing. And it’s it’s actively happening in front of you as you’re writing it now. Right, which is a totally different experience than just thinking it in your brain. And then it leaves. Yeah, this is typing it like on yourself. Yeah, exactly. I get easily distracted. Right. Yeah, exactly. There’s something. Yeah. There’s something to be said for having a pen in your hand. And a paper in front. Yes. Yeah. Maybe this is because we’re all a little bit old school.


Jenna Fortinski  33:56

showing our age. Yeah.


Zack  34:04

Right now, there’s an eight year old rolling your eyes. Yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  34:07

Right. Is that hey, if that eight year old is listening to podcasts, I’m proud. Yeah, that’s true. That’s a good point. Yeah. Okay, so this speaks to mindset, which he he kind of talked about a little bit again, he said, He’s like, if you want the mindset chapter, I’ll send it to you so we can talk about it to whatever Yeah, yeah, cuz this next question is was in your mindset? Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah. Okay, so


Nicki Kirlin  34:31

then this next piece is it’s, you’ve referenced it as a Native American parable in your book and in Canada, I think we would refer to it as an indigenous teaching perhaps is the right language around it. So we so I’m going to recite it and then we have some follow up questions for you on on the quote. So the quote reads, an old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy, it is A terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. He continued, the other is good. He is joy, peace, love, whole hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you. And inside every other person to the grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, which wolf will win? The old turkey simply replied, the one you feed. So our question that we wanted to follow up with you on with this quote was, what does this teaching mean to you?


Zack  35:47

It’s so good, isn’t it? It’s It’s unbelievable. It’s fantastic. It’s so good. Man. I have my next tattoo planned out. Right. Yeah, truly, truly. Right. Like, it’s good. It’s so good. Yeah. Yeah. And that can be tough. When, especially in a deeper states of depression, right? Because it’s almost like our brain is running our mind. Right, really, we? I feel anyway, it’s the other way around. The brain is the organ that we use that our mind uses. Mm hmm. Yeah. Right. Yeah. So and I don’t know if this is fact or if it’s theory, but right. So I guess it’s just theory, because how can you know, so that we’re geared towards negativity? Because back when we were cavemen, you know, it was more advantageous to dodge the saber toothed Tiger than to go after the food because the food can wait the saber tooth tiger can right. That’s, that’s the theory. Right? Yeah. But I, you know, I sounds good to me. But, you know, I, my point is that we’re, we’re almost experts at creating the negative path on our mind, right? Oh, this person didn’t text me back because they’re mad at me. Or, you know, this, this meal is going to be terrible because X, Y and Z, right? So we’re almost masters at that. Especially when it comes to relationships, right? So it’s like, judging what other people are thinking, right? And that can spiral out of control really easily with people with depression. So, you know, but let’s just say I’m feeding the courage, wolf. Okay. And I’m thinking about somebody who didn’t text me back. Oh, well, maybe they’re not okay. Maybe they’re just forgetful. Maybe I should be more forgiving me. You know, those can all line up. Next thing you know, you know, you call them up and they’re like, Oh, hey, dude, I’m just gonna call you I was just on the phone with my mom. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Real easy to let that spiral out of control. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I mean, that’s a maybe a silly example. But but it’s almost like a practice where you have to practice feeding that courage, wolf.


Jenna Fortinski  38:13

Yeah, absolutely. And I love that example. Because I think like, That’s such a real, like, people truly struggle with that stuff. Yeah, that goes back to you know, we talk a whole lot about people, probably sick people here hearing about it. But we talk a lot about social media, right. And I think like, you know, that, that teaching really speaks to me in terms of, you know, what we see in the palm of our hands every day. Because, you know, it’s easy for us to develop this sort of self hate and comparison way of thinking, and to really feed that Wolf and to really think, Well, I’m not enough, I’m not doing enough. I am not doing nearly as much as they are. I wish I could I don’t have the resources or don’t have the ability. Yeah. And so yes, I think like that teaching was so important. Because at the end of the day, we are in control to a certain degree of where our thoughts go. Yeah. Right. And we are able to say, okay, you know, what, I am going to force myself to think about this in a positive way, and I’m going to force myself to feed the positive wolf. Right. And, but it takes a lot of effort. And like we’ve said before, is that Yeah, human beings actually do think negatively, and, and it takes work to be happy. Yeah, it takes work. Oh, absolutely. Yeah.


Zack  39:29

Yeah, I have to put the work. Yeah. Yeah. Do you think do you think from your experience, do you think meditation helps in us?


Jenna Fortinski  39:39

First, well, I think okay, so meditation and mindfulness are two different things. To me. I think. Mindfulness is huge in terms of keeping people present and keeping people in check. Right. And I do think that meditation is useful in terms of reflecting and also setting intentions for yourself, right. So I do think that they can be used For certain people, I don’t think it’s for everyone. But I do think that it should have more of a presence in today’s society, especially with all the information that we consume on a regular basis. I think it would help to weed through, you know, all the noise or all the stuff that we don’t really need to carry or need to feed into write and create these stories about for ourselves.


Zack  40:23

I would say that that’s one of our biggest challenges. Like, modern times, I guess. Yeah. It’s just this. figuring out what to focus on what not to focus on. Yeah. So much, it gets sucked under so quickly, just scrolling through your phone and just getting sucked in. And everybody having a good time showing off their new clothes or whatever it is. The tip of the iceberg not seeing. Yeah, yeah, it’s a it’s a complex landscape. Let’s call Yeah, yeah, for sure.


Nicki Kirlin  40:52

Yeah. And I think that first step is just having that awareness. You know, like, for so many of us that we get so ingrained in that practice, that we don’t even realize that that’s happening to us, now. We are being overwhelmed by information or that it is flooding your phone. You don’t realize it until you step away, and you look back and then you think, okay, like, I need to evaluate my life. I need to see what’s going on. And that’s like, usually one of the biggest culprits. Yeah, it is that sense of that of information overload that’s happening right in the palm of your hand. Yeah. Or if you turn on the TV, too, right. Yeah. Like we were chatting before we started recording about watching the media watching the news. Yeah. And what an impact that has on our thoughts. Yeah. So yeah,


Zack  41:32

I have a my professor, my screenwriting professor, she had this fantastic practice, which I haven’t done, but I would love to do it. She called it a digital Sabbath, where every Sunday, she would turn off her cell phone, it didn’t go on a computer at all, and you just spend the day with our kids or doing whatever. Yeah, nothing. Yeah, it’s like, man, how it like, that sounds like a vacation.



Right now.


Jenna Fortinski  41:57

It does. And for me, like, that’s one of my first like, one of the first triggers I pull with my clients, you know, when they come in, and they say, like, I’m really struggling and, you know, you don’t maybe having symptoms of what might be characterized as depression or anxiety or whatever my case, where are you at with social media? While I’m all I, you know, all the major platforms, and Okay, let’s shut that down for a couple weeks, and then come back and check in with me, right? And they come back in and they’re like, Oh, my God, like, my life has changed, right? Like I, you know, I’m spending time with my kids. I have a relationship with my husband. And, you know, like, I’ve noticed how much it really holds me back. Right. And, but it’s a big commitment. It’s a big commitment to let it go. Right. It’s so hard for people to do that. So there’s that sociated with it. Right.


Nicki Kirlin  42:44

So yeah. And I think and we’ve chatted about this on other episodes, too, but it’s that it’s finding that balance. Yes. Right. Yeah. Like, maybe it’s not always realistic to completely laminated your life. Yeah. So how do you find that nice balance where it is, you know, you’re able to consume that information or use those technologies in a healthy way? Yeah. Right. Like, that’s, that’s so hard to find that in that balance? Yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  43:09

Yeah. Okay. Okay, switching gears, a little bit from the teaching, which is amazing. We love it. So based on your experience with depression, and maybe what you’ve learned in the schooling that you have done, would you and you’ve kind of touched on a little bit in the book and then, but I wanted to get your opinion on it. Do you think that depression can be beat or cured?


Zack  43:40

I don’t want to say cured, can be beat. Okay. Because if I stopped doing all of the work, I could see myself getting sucked back in. But I’ve conditioned myself at this point, you know, where it’s, it’s like second nature. Yeah. To keep up all these healthy habits. So and I, so I hesitate to say, cured, right? Yeah. And I would certainly feel it if I came off of the medication, you know, I would be fine during the day. And it was always it’s funny, right? It was like, I’d be fine during the day. And then eight o’clock at night, it seemed like it always set in. Yeah. So like it would make it would make things like really difficult. I don’t know if it was the testosterone drop or what’s going on, but it felt like a chemical thing. It didn’t. It wasn’t like something that like would happen. It was just something internally, right. Yeah. Yeah, so I don’t want to say cured, but it can be it can be for sure. Absolutely. I mean, teasing. Yeah. So yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  44:46

No, and I think that that’s important, because I think that you know, people that are struggling and they they feel like you know this will never end right. And you know, like can I ever live a life without feeling this way? And I think it is important that we Talk about that you can get to a place in your life where you do have these practices in place. And it does become second nature and you won’t even notice that, you know, it’s a part of your life. And that’s always my goal to for for clients is, you know, I want you to have strategies that will feel natural to you and you feel like it can fit into your life, right?


Zack  45:19

And what’s gonna work for you isn’t what’s going to work for everyone else. Exactly. Yeah, like I had that I had, like a very small chapter on clothes in there, right or like, but what I was trying to get out was, you can’t you can only fake it so much, right? I was driving to this interview in a suit. And I was absolutely miserable. Because that was my idea of success. Yeah. Right. Because that was what I saw other people doing. You can’t force me into a corporate job until it because it wouldn’t work. I would be like, prison for me. I’m an ENFP. We talked about Myers Briggs. Right? Yeah, like a corporate job. That’s not going to work for me. Yeah. And that’s okay. So like it. Let’s just say you’re trying to get out of this. And you’re going for, you know, success. Maybe someone everyone else’s vision that you’re hearing about, you know, that’s not success for you. Yeah, that’s totally cool. Yeah. Your own success.


Jenna Fortinski  46:09

Yeah. Yeah. And I think, again, going back to the, you know, beating a dead horse a little bit, but going back to the social media is that people do feel the pressure that they have to be the same, right? That they have to feel the same, to go through to walk the same path and all of that, and I love in your book that you give lots of different strategies that people can really like, pick and choose and say, Okay, I’m gonna give this one a try and see if it fits, right. And if it doesn’t fit key, then I’ll move to the next one. Right. And it’s, it’s important for people to understand that that’s part of the process is really figuring out what fits naturally in your life at that time. Right? It


Nicki Kirlin  46:45

can be flexible.


Jenna Fortinski  46:47

Yeah, and it’s gonna change. Yeah, that’s right. And it’s gonna change, right? Like, you’re depending on what’s happening in your life, like it might work this week, and then maybe, you know, three weeks down the line, or, you know, six months down the line is not working cable, then you need to switch it up. Right. It’s


Zack  46:59

different. Absolutely. But the thing is that you’re doing the work, and that already is a win. Yeah. So women?


Jenna Fortinski  47:05

Yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  47:08

Okay, so can you just give us a sense of like, given your your experience of living with depression, depression, and kind of your, you know, your, your passion of doing the Personal Training, and then the nutrition? Focus? What do you think is the like, the connection between all of those pieces, because we know that there is a connection, and that they are closely linked? That they all you know, should be, if one’s not good than the other one’s not good. And there’s, there’s a sort of unique connection between the three elements. So what what is your perspective on that now? Now understanding you know, what you’ve what you’ve lived through, and the changes that you’ve made in your life? How do you explain that connection?


Zack  47:48

Okay, so your brain is part of your body of course, right? Yes. And this is gonna sound crazy. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this one. But some people think that attribute some bouts of depression to dehydration on if you’ve heard that one.


Nicki Kirlin  48:02

No, I haven’t heard that.


Zack  48:04

That’s like been a thing. Or maybe just in my circles, where there’s like, a lot of dehydration going on. It’s really affecting people’s moods. Fine. I think that’s part of it. It’s not all of it. Yeah.





Zack  48:20

I had another brain thing that was really good. It was gonna be so profound is gonna knock your socks off, and I can’t think of it right now.


Nicki Kirlin  48:26

Yeah, you know what you can even think about, you can email people.


Jenna Fortinski  48:32

But this really brilliant idea.


Zack  48:36

No, of course, you know, you’re like I said, your your brain is part of your body. And one thing that I well, getting back to the hydration thing, because it’s simple. The first thing I do not every morning is I drink a big, tall glass of water, right? And I notice it. Like I feel this before I turn my phone on. And I do I do feel physically it’s solid, but I do feel it. Because I remember the first time I did AlphaGo I feel like my things going up. Like, I don’t want to be like, gross about it. But



But um,


Zack  49:12

but it’s also just that intention, right? You know, you’re setting your day off on that in that positive way. So I have this little morning routine where it’s the it’s the tall glass of water, and then I’ll pour a second one. Maybe I’ll drink a second. I don’t know. But I’ll have breakfast. I’ll have my supplements. And I always eat like the same breakfast that’s really healthy for my body. And then I’ll do like these few other things. Right. Right away. That’s my when I’m starting off my day, you know, in a positive way, but those are all just physical things, right? Yes. So yeah, it all it so it all links together because yeah, it’s it’s helping my physical body, but it’s also the mindset of putting the work into my physical body. It all feeds on itself, right.



Yeah, absolutely.


Nicki Kirlin  49:56

I think that’s that’s a great example of illness. straighting how that connection can be there between what you’re doing in a physical sense. And you know, what you’re consuming, and then how that’s affecting your general mental health state for the day like you’ve like you’ve said, you’ve, you’ve set your day now, right? Because you have that practice in that routine. So that’s a great example of that.


Jenna Fortinski  50:18

Yeah. So we made it to the last question. And we’re gonna challenge you a little bit, maybe, maybe not, maybe you might think like, oh, whatever.



That’s fine. Okay,


Jenna Fortinski  50:29

so what we’re wondering about is we’ve actually had this question submitted as a topic for a podcast from one of our listeners, and we thought that you’d be a good person to ask about it.





Jenna Fortinski  50:42

so the the question was around, how do we get someone that we love or that we care about? To start to make changes in their life when we noticed that they’re struggling? And more specifically for men? How do we get a man to, you know, make the change? Or to see that maybe, maybe if he doesn’t have the awareness that he’s struggling? Or if somebody you see is struggling? How do you intervene? That should you? What would your thoughts be on that? Given what you’ve gone through? What did you need to hear? What would you want it to hear?


Zack  51:20

So I hate speaking in apps, I’m not going to speak in absolutes, but in general, yes, men tend to not be as eager to reach out for help from other people. I’ll just say that in general. Yeah. And I certainly fell into that. Yeah. And, of course, you know, this would all their circumstances, you know, whether they live with this person, or what their relationship is this person, this could all this all matters in my answer. Okay. So these are my caveats. Alright. So what I wanted to hear at the time, honestly, I don’t know if there was a right answer. If somebody could have said something to me. I’m trying to think because I remember like, my mom asking me to go to therapy. And I was, I was like, No, like, I don’t want to talk about this. I’m, I don’t want to talk about this horrible thing I’ve been through, you know, I don’t. I’m not gonna do it. Yeah, you know, yeah. And, you know, part of it. I was 18. And I was rebelling, you know? So it’s a complex thing, right? Yeah. If it is a really good question. And oh, man. I’m biting my tongue right now. Okay. Yeah. So


Nicki Kirlin  52:53

don’t bite just I


Jenna Fortinski  52:54

want you to I want you to say what you want what you need to say. Because I think it’s, it’s a real question. And it’s a reality, right, is that this is a hard thing for people to navigate, right?


Zack  53:05

Yeah, I don’t want it to seem like Okay, so this is just from my background, right? Yeah. You want to get them outdoors, and you want to get them moving. And I’ll save this. I’m in the northeast. And we, I forget what the percentage is, but it’s a massive percentage of people are actually extremely low on vitamin D. Because we’re not outdoors enough. And because we just don’t get enough sunlight, right? Or I actually was so low on vitamin D, that I was getting, like, little micro fractures in my neck. On and I was taking a multivitamin every day. So people who say multivitamins are worthless. No, no, because imagine if I wasn’t taking that multibyte Yeah, exactly. So I had to actually go on prescription vitamin D. And they were like, dude, you got to spend more time outdoors, right? So get them in nature. And, and this is what I was hesitating towards, is get them into a yoga practice. And I know, I, it sounds a certain way. And I know, I know, it’s kind of loaded. But I feel that with yoga, you’re getting the socialization, you’re moving your body, learning new things. You’re getting the you know, the meditation, there’s, there’s, it’s such a multifaceted thing. And if you can approach a man with Hey, sorry, I got a quick side story here, but this is worth it. Okay. Yeah. So hold your breath. So the first yoga class I took. I was in grad school, and it was free. It was the only reason I was taking it right. So there were all these dudes out in the like main area on the weight machines like lifting free weights. And then I was in this other area with this girl just fresh out of high school. And we were waiting around just talking before our yoga class. And she said, You see all these dudes out there moving all these weights around. She’s like, they have no idea what fitness is. And boy, was she right, I have never been so sore in my life. Yeah. Because you’re using your body in a different way. So So I hesitate. Because what another reason I hesitated because I hate that generalization of men are into sports. Yeah, whatever. They’re into working out. Either way. Yeah. If you if you can somehow get them into yoga practice. So get them to come with you say, hey, I want to try this when you might come in with me. I’m shy, make up something, whatever. If you can get them doing it. And if they can realize the benefits of like, injury prevention and durability, and isometric movements. Mm hmm. Well, I that’s that’s kind of a symmetric, you’re not moving. But you got any exercises? Right? Yeah. I, you’re gonna work your body in really cool ways. It’s, it’s gonna work everything. So I kind of feel like that’s a really good way to start. Yeah, that’s kind of a loaded. Not a great answer. But that’s, that’s what I was. No, no, that’s fantastic.


Jenna Fortinski  56:24

Yeah. And I think what stands out to me and was super important for people to hear is that it’s not really about what you say. Right? Like, there’s nothing you can say that’s going to give somebody like, oh, like I Oh, God, right. Yeah, I got it. Right. It’s more about what you do. Right. And that’s what I love what your answer is that it is about what you do, how can you walk alongside that person? And just let them know that you’re there. Right. And I think that that’s, you know, that’s a really good way to get somebody on board towards, Okay, you know what, I can do something I can make a change, right? And look after myself. Exactly. Yeah. And that’s what it’s about. It’s not about what you say. And I think that’s a big misconception is that people are always wondering, What do I say? Like, how do I say it? How do I have this conversation? Right? And really, at the end of the day, there’s nothing you can say, yeah, person has to be ready. That’s all right. They have to be ready. Yeah.


Zack  57:19

And again, at the risk of like, getting in trouble, because I just hate, you know, like making these generalizations. But you know, men like to do things. Exactly. Yeah. Like most of my socialization is done at band practice, because we’re doing something else, right. Yeah. Yeah, it’s not like I have, you know, it’s not like we’re just sitting around talking with each other. It’s like, yeah, we’re talking as we’re doing this other thing, right? We’re going fishing or going snowboarding, whatever. That’s right. And again, just generalization. Yeah. Yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  57:48

Yeah. No. And I think that’s, that’s a very valid point. Yeah. I think I think in a way it can, it can be applied to women as well. Right. Like, you’re sure. You’re not saying that it’s gender specific. Yeah. But I think that there’s there’s a lot of value in that in in saying that. Jenna, how you’ve how you’ve phrased it is walking alongside with that person. So the example that you gave Zach is so fantastic. Because it like you said, like, convince the person to say, Oh, well, I just want you to come and do yoga with me. Because I’m shy. Yeah. Right. Like whatever it is to get that person sort of there with you in that journey, I think is fantastic. That’s great advice to frame it that way. It’s really, really good.


Zack  58:27

Oh, good. I feel better about it now. That’s our job. Part of the gig, right? Yeah, hate mail, too. But it was a genuine answer.



Well pass on your email. That was fantastic.


Nicki Kirlin  58:54

Thank you so much for being open and honest. I mean, that’s, and that’s our aim, right. And as podcasts is to have these open and real conversations about what people are struggling with. Yeah. And you’ve, I mean, yeah, you’ve captured it perfectly. Yeah. It’s so fantastic to have your perspective from what you’ve been living through. And the things that have worked for you. And the things that haven’t worked for you I think is really valuable.


Zack  59:18

Yeah. So thank you so much, so much. No, thank you guys for having me. Like, it’s like a total honor. Really. Thank


Jenna Fortinski  59:24

you. Thank you. And so please go and download his book or purchase his book, The depression relief playbook. It’s amazing. I love it. Love, love, love. And I think if you’re after the the simple, effective strategies, you’ve captured that so good on you, and thank you for putting the work into that and sharing that with the world. I think it’s it’s going to help a lot of people so thank you hope so. As always, we would like to close this episode with a quote chosen by Zach. It comes from Jim Rohn. If you wish to be healthy, study health. If you wish to be wealthy study wealth, if you wish to be happy, study happiness