Episode 3: Kristen Meinzer on loving yourself just as you are

Photo: Lauren Eliot Photography

Photo: Lauren Eliot Photography

This episode is with Kristen Meinzer, host of By The Book, When Meghan Met Harry, and CNN's Lisa, Sandra & Kristen Go To The Movies. She's the author of So You Want to Start a Podcast, an inspiring, comprehensive, step-by-step guide to creating a hit show that covers everything from hosting and guest booking to editing and marketing, while offering plenty of encouragement and insider stories along the way.

Kristen’s shelf-care includes beautiful plants, birds, travel mugs, Dolly Parton, and most importantly, loving yourself, no matter what.

And don't forget to show off your #shelfcare! Tag us on Instagram to be featured on our feed.

Let's rest and recharge together!
kate and lauren


KATE: Hello! My #shelfcare this week is definitely something you’ll want to check out. It’s an app called AUDM, which turns all those articles you have bookmarked into podcasts! AUDM is subscription based and lets you listen to feature stories from publications like The Atlantic, NY Mag, and The New Yorker. I also can’t rave about my Mnemosyne notebook enough. I love the entire line and find that the quality is unmatched. For a stationary nerd like myself, I have found this brand to be the ultimate find.


LAUREN: This week my #shelfcare is a podcast—Finding Fred, a new show from iHeartRadio and Fatherly that "digs into the deep and simple language of Mister Rogers to uncover his very adult lessons about how to build a meaningful life." Every episode is like a big hug. I cried multiple times, throughout each of the first two episodes. (The second episode talks about the famous foot bath storyline with Officer Clemmons.) The show also talks about the beauty and simplicity of Mister Rogers's messages: you are perfect the way that you are. As a kid, I already knew that. The world has since ruined me. I need this message now. Mister Rogers isn't for kids, it's for adults. It is adult self-care. I've paired it with something that makes me feel like a 5-year-old—Cover FX Glitter Drops. I put a teensy dab on my cheeks and it looks like a cloud of glitter has exploded upon my face. It's not for everyone. Caveat: the glitter will get on everyone you know the moment you touch them. I actually think that's a good thing. It's statement makeup.

Books and products recommended in this episode:

Kate: Okay, let's jump right in. You want to describe your self care? 

Kristen: Yes, let's do it. So I sent you guys a photo, this photo for anybody else out there who doesn't see the photo, who's not currently on the website, but you're going to go to the website. I know you are. What's your website again? 

Kate: And the Instagram. Theshelfcarepodcast.com

Kristen: Yes. Everyone go to theshelfcarepodcast.com and look at the photo that I submitted because that is a view out my bedroom window. You'll see that there are brick buildings and brownstones and trees and maybe you will even see my bird feeder out there. So that's my bedroom window and on the shelf, left to right. So on the far left is a plant. And when I first moved to New York, 1999, 2000, during my first two years here, I bought a couple of plants just at neighborhood grocery stores and they're philodendrons, one’s a polthose, I believe I'm pronouncing that right. And these are plants that you supposedly cannot kill.

Kate: That's the most important thing. I just moved into a new apartment and thinking about buying plants, I need ones that will not die. 

Kristen: Yes. So I did my research and I found out what can I neglect for up to two weeks at a time and it'll still be fine? And, just went to the grocery store and got one my first year and then one the second year. And then these plants have grown and grown and grown. Each of the plants I think had maybe five or six leaves when I bought them. And now they take up giant pots and I have about 10 of them in the house ‘cause I take all the clippings and grow new plants. And then about half a dozen or maybe a dozen and my friends also have plants made out of the clippings. And yeah, I just like to clip the, pay attention to them, love them. 

Kate: Pay it forward.

Kristen: Yeah. And so it's something that I love that I can pass on the love a little bit. So I feel that, you know that plant is always on that little window sill and it would be disingenuous for me not to have included that. 

Kate: And talk about your bird feeder a little bit. 

Kristen: Yes. Yes. So my bird feeder, Santa brought it to me a couple of years ago. I love watching birds. Birds are very special to me. I just think it's miraculous that we get to live on a planet where creatures fly. And it's like how cool is that? How cool would it be to fly? Yeah. The next thing over then on my shelf-care is the package of bird seed. So we switch up the brands all the time. Or I should say my husband Dean does cause he's the one who buys all the bird seed.

Kate: Okay. So moving along, you also have your travel mug. 

Kristen: Yes. Um, I call it my sippy cup. Um, I use a Contigo brand one. I mean, I believe that there are many, many, many great brands of travel mugs. This just happens to be the one that I use and I have a couple of different styles but I never leave home without my Contigo travel mug and I use my sippy cup constantly cause I'm always thirsty. On the flip side, I go to the bathroom a lot, but I drink a lot of water. I absolutely abhor plastic bottles and I don't want to ever be in the habit of buying plastic bottles. And so I carry my sippy cup and I just refill it everywhere, whether it's in public bathrooms or drinking fountains or in the kitchen right here as I did when I first arrived. And so I never leave home without it. 

Kate: I love this Dolly Parton bust magazine. 

Kristen: Yes. So I'm a big Dolly fan. Dolly Parton is just a national treasure, a world treasure. She speaks sweetness and light in everything she does. 

Kate: She is the American version of Dean. Dean is to New Zealand what Dolly is to the U.S.

Kristen: She is so special and she has such a gift for somehow not coming across as partisan. People love her regardless of how they vote, regardless of what their religious leanings are, people absolutely love her and I love her and everything she has done with the success that she's attained, she's just given back tenfold to the world. And so I just love her. And this Bust magazine that is in the photo is actually a gift for my friend Sarah Bentley because she knows that I love Dolly and she also knows that I love Bust magazine. I'm friends with one of the editors at Bust actually, full disclosure. And it's just good feminist, completely intersectional, body positivity. It's everything that you want in a magazine. And I just think as somebody who grew up in a world where almost all the magazines, everybody weighed about 90 pounds and was five foot eight and white, and that's not true with Bust. So Bust magazine's great because there are people who look like me, I'm Brown and you know, depending on who you ask, I'm stout and I'm not white. And so it's just good to have a magazine that exists that celebrates all kinds of people. And this particular issue of Bust has Dolly on the cover and she celebrates all kinds of people and she just spreads the love and her whole spirit is, I love you and I believe in you and I want to bring a little rainbow to you because I know that, you know, sometimes there's a lot of rain in your life. There's rain in my life, you know, so she's just fabulous. 

Kate: It's hard not to think about Dolly Parton and not think about her beauty routine. You can only imagine how long it takes. You know what if I was Dolly Parton, I would just go to bed like that and wake up like that and just keep layering it on. But what is your take on your beauty routine? You don't strike me as someone very high maintenance.

Kristen: I’m pretty low maintenance. As I was saying when I first walked in here, this wasn't on mic, I just got my annual haircut. 

Kate: It looks amazing. 

Kristen: Thanks. I'm a total cheap ass and you know, haircuts cost a lot in New York. 

Kate: So much in New York.

Kristen: For all you folks in the rest of the country who are able to go to your neighborhood, Super Cuts are great clips and get a $12 haircut, there are a couple of those still in New York. I think there's like two Super Cuts left probably in New York. There are a couple of beauty schools here where you can do it, but for the most part, haircuts cost like a hundred dollars in this town. It's insane. But there's a place in my neighborhood I just walked by today and I popped my head in and I said, “could you give me a really good shampoo and a haircut? I don't need a blowout, but how much does it cost?” And they said $34. And I paused and I thought, oh, that's like twice as much as I normally pay. And I'm like, I'll do it. I'll do it. I'm going to get the $34 haircut and shampoo. So I did it. And then they were really sweet. They threw in a hair dry for me and everything. They dried my, they were really great. And yeah, I gave them a very nice tip. They were fantastic. 

Kate: They knew it was out of your comfort zone to pay that much.

Kristen: Which in New York, that's an insanely cheap haircut, by the way. It's a place called Prospect Hair. Shout out to Frankie who cut my hair today. He was really nice. It's really affordable by New York standards, but you know, I'm a cheap ass. 

Kate: Full disclosure. I have such an issue with paying New York prices that I happen to get quarterly haircuts and it just coincides with every time I'm home visiting my parents. 

Kristen: Where's that? 

Kate: In California. And I'm able in Southern California, I still go to the same person who's been doing my hair since high school. It's so much cheaper that I even justify it with the flight. I'm like two birds, one stone, get a haircut and visit the rents. Perfect. Perfect. Okay, so finally, the most exciting thing I have to admit is your book.

Kristen: Oh, my book, I had to include my book because originally I wanted to give you guys a photo of myself working and you guys were like, no, no, no, no. It's gotta be a book. So it feels really like self-promotional and I apologize for this, but I included my book because my book is writing, working, spreading confidence in other people and kindness. Those are versions of self care for me.

Kristen: I would rather them have an encouraging guide that is built on over a decade of experience than to just go online and read all the articles written by blowhards and tech bros. There are a lot of people who act as gatekeepers in the podcasting world. It's a lot of white dudes who frequently make it sound a lot harder than it has to be in some areas and a lot easier than it is in others. And I just wanted to lay out the truth, like these are things that you should be thinking about and you have it in you to do this. And the technology is not actually the hard part. That's really easy. The hard part is knowing why you want to start a podcast and who is it for and how are you going to structure it and how are you going to find your community and make sure that they know about your show so that they can benefit from it.

I'll say in the beginning, I'm sure I was the worst interviewer on the planet when I started out and I remember, and I even talked about this in my book, I sucked at being interviewed in the beginning too.

Kate:  You would not believe that. 

Kristen: Now I'm much more relaxed about it, but the first time I was really thrown into the deep end on TV as a kid, the light went on saying, you're on air and it was live TV and then later on when I went into radio and did it again, I was just like popped right into the studio and then 2 million people are listening. The light is on saying I was live and I'm like, I really don't know what I'm doing here. You're asking questions I wasn't expecting, Oh God, what am I going to do? How do I do this?

And you know, it's hard being on both sides of the mic. So in my book I do actually try to give guidance on both how to give a great interview and how, meaning in the guest role and also in the host role, how to do that. So I want to put stuff out there that I wish existed when I was starting out. 

Kate: One of the things that is so present on your podcast is your relationship with Jolenta Greenburg, your cohost. Your roles are changing now that you have your new podcasts as well. Do you want to talk about your new project? 

Kristen: Yes. So in addition to, By The Book, in By The Book, we're really at the center of the story. It's a reality show where I would call it a version of stunt reality where we throw ourselves into situations. We followed the rules by a different self-help book. In each episode we record ourselves. You can hear how each book enhances or destroys our lives. 

Kate: More often than not, destroys. Have there been any that you've re-read?

Kristen: Oh god, no. I hate self-help books. I can't stand them. 

Kate: Of course! Because your roll is the skeptic. Jolenta probably has a different answer. 

Kristen: Yes she does. She does. So you know, on By The Book we're really at the center of the show, we’re the subjects of the show, and our poor suffering husbands are as well. But our spin off show is called We Love You And So Can You, and we started this show partly because so many listeners have written us over the years saying, “why don't you choose me to live by self help books with you? Why don't you choose, you know, somebody who has a different perspective than you? Because you're two women in Brooklyn who come from media backgrounds who, your lives are so different than mine and I am a black man, or I'm an LGBTQ person in the Midwest, or I'm somebody over 50 or I'm a teenager.” And we would get so many letters from people who, you know, there's no way Joe Linton, I can pretend to be a teenager. There's no way Jolanta or I can pretend to be another race other than she's white and I'm Asian, you know, that would be disingenuous. And also just weird and creepy. So we'd been thinking all along at some point we would like to bring other people on to go on a journey with us and how would we do that? And we decided eventually the best way to do it would be to make what we call a makeover show for your heart. 

Kate: It really is. I just listened to the first episode and it felt so warm and touching, and it's such a feel good. 

Kristen: Oh, we're so glad 

Kate: It’s exactly the role that podcasts can play in self care, because you feel better when you're listening to it.

Kristen: Oh, I'm so glad. I'm so glad. Yeah. In each episode we have a different person, they have a predicament and we give them a set of self love steps that they can say, that's malarkey. This is nonsense. I'm not going to live by that rule. I'll change it up because Jolenta and I aren't trying to be gurus or thought leaders or you know, or experts in any way. Just because Jolenta and I lived by 50 self help books, doesn't mean that we're people who are like I said, we're not experts. We're just people who have lived experience and we would never try to force anybody to do something they don't want to. And we say upfront to all of them, we're not experts. If you want to live by these steps, go for it. And so in some cases they really mix up the steps or they'll live by them to the letter and then at the end of two weeks, we check in with them and hopefully they feel a little bit more able to handle their predicament. And hopefully they love themselves a little bit more. That's the goal of each episode. 

Kate: I loved myself a little bit more after listening to it. 

Kristen: Oh, that makes me so happy. And Jolenta and I want people to feel that way with everything we make. And one thing I think, I learned this from Jolanta, Jolanta is so good about just showing all the parts of her that a lot of people would be embarrassed by. And these are things that I didn't use to do before the show because prior to hosting this with Jolanta, all my hosting was being a critic, essentially. These are my thoughts on pop culture or these are my thoughts on movies or these are my thoughts on the British Royals. And you know, sharing thoughts is not the same as sharing my own pain or sharing my own trauma or any of those things.

And Jolenta that's her bread and butter as she says, every time I'm going through something horrible, I think, how can I turn this into a show? 

Kate: You know, with my co-founder for the podcast, Lauren, one of the things that's great is that we compliment each other and we fill each other's gaps. And Lauren pushes me in ways and I push her in ways. And it sounds like that's very similar to the partnership that you have with Jolenta where you're probably more vulnerable at times because you look to Jolanta and she inspires that in you. 

Kristen: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And it was terrifying at first and it was the third episode into By The Book that we lived by FRENCH WOMEN DON’T GET FAT

Kate: I remember that episode. Every single person listening, listen to that episode because it was so inspiring and so smart and so relatable. So thank you for that. 

Kristen: Oh thank you. It was terrifying. I stayed up, I think I didn't sleep for like 72 hours before the episode went live because I had never made myself so vulnerable in media before. And I was scared, what are people gonna think about me? Are they gonna think I'm a loser? Am I setting a bad example? Will people think that I'm actually saying it's okay to be anorexic? ‘Cause I have a history of disordered eating and living by this particular diet book, which tells you to not eat for the first 48 hours, just put me into a tailspin. It was terrible. And so, living by that book and then putting myself out there was so scary. And then within the first couple hours of the episode going live, we started getting one letter, two letters, 50 letters, a hundred letters of people who wrote in and said, thank you. I didn't know that other people can talk so openly about going through this. I read a couple of secret blog posts from people I’ve seen a couple of celebrities who are already wildly respected and are still skinny no matter what they say. And you know, and you know, I think a lot of the people who speak out traditionally about disordered eating already look like supermodels. So it's hard to even relate to them when they talk about it, if that makes sense. 

Kate: It completely makes sense. 

Kristen: Yeah. And so, so many people wrote in and said, just having somebody who looks like me. Somebody who is not white, somebody who's not tall, somebody who isn’t necessarily someone who normally talks about this. And I relate to you and I feel seen. And so that episode really was just a mind blowing experience for me because I went in so terrified and afterward I was so relieved and thankful that I actually put myself completely out there for it. And I've done that again and again and again on the show. 

Kate: Listeners are very grateful for that episode. It just hits such a cord and you can tell by the response that you got. And while I was listening to the first episode of We Love You, I was thinking to myself, if you were on an episode as a guest, is there anything that you would want to improve upon or anything that you would want to you know, not fix, I hate using that term, but radically accept about yourself that you might be resisting right now?

Kristen: Oh gosh. I’m afraid if I say no, then I sound smug, but like, no, I don't want to do this. And the reason why is because I think By The BOok we, like I said, we've lived by 50 books. I feel like I put myself through this every single day of my life already. And the version I put myself through is, I mean, you know, some of these books are horrible. Some of them tell us to do really dangerous things. There was one book, THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A FUCK, that essentially tells you to step on death's door so that you really know the power of life. So, you know, face death and I'm thinking like, and I remember standing in the middle of traffic, you know, I think it was like a four lane highway or something and that episode I recorded myself and it was just idiotic.

There are things that some of these authors who were born on third base and had everything handed to them tell the rest of us to do. Hey, if I can do it, you can too. And it's like, no, because you were already born rich, well-connected, heterosexual, white and male. And I am almost none of those things except straight. And so no, you were already born on third base and now you're telling me that I have to do certain things to have the same success as you. I can do all of those things for the rest of my life and I'll never have all of the advantages that you have. That's just what it comes down to. And why should I stand in the middle of traffic and potentially get hit by a car just so that I can live like you?And afterward, I'm still not him. And that's fine. I'm actually better off as me.

Kate: And there's this level of should. You should be able to do this, you should. It sets you up for failure. And there's a level of shame in it too, if you can’t do it. And that's something that Lauren and I talk about a lot is that should feeling. I should be better at this. I should. And the only way to accept that is to accept it and just say, you know, yes, there's a lot of shoulds, but that's not where I want to be. It gets into that fixing mentality. 

Kristen: But why should anyone anything?

Kate: Exactly. 

Kristen: Yeah. No one should do anything other than like, you know, be you. That's fine. You're perfect the way you are. Nothing's wrong with you.

Kate: Which is such a great thing to hear. And that's one of the takeaways from the episode. And I can't imagine that that wouldn't be, it's just love yourself because all of these people get better once they actually love the person that they already are. 

Kristen: Yeah. And then, you know, problems are still going to exist. They're not going to go away because you're a certain weight on the scale or because you wake up at a certain time every day or because you do anything else like dress a certain way, that's not going to fix all of your problems. People still lose jobs even though they dress the way they should. People still get divorced even though they're the weight they should be. You know, all of these things still happen.

Kate: You’re just hungry throughout the process. You’re just hangry. Maybe that led to the divorce, maybe if you had some carbs.

Kristen: So all of these shoulds, they're not gonna fix your whole life. They just aren't. Most of them won't fix any of your life, honestly.

Kate: Kristen, thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate you taking the time and I will continue to be an avid listener of your podcast and I love the book. It's been very helpful and will continue to be helpful and just thank you again. 

Kristen: Thank you. This was so fun.

Kate: Good. I'm glad to hear that.