Abel James: The Man Who Broke iTunes

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Jonathan: Hey everybody, Jonathan Bailor back — with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim Show and it is sunny here in Seattle, which is shocking because we are recording two days before Christmas and it is just like freaking sunny. And it’s also sunny inside because I am speaking with one of my dear friends and one of the sunniest individuals I have the pleasure of spending time with. He is a luminary–a luminescence, because we are talking about sun and light, individual in the wellness community. He recently actually broke iTunes. He had not only the number one rated show on iTunes, but also simultaneously the number five rated show while having like number one and five in the app store and I like — it was like Eminem when 8 Mile came out where he had like the number one album and the number one — he is like the Eminem — that is the bottom-line — he is the luminescent Eminem of the health and wellness community and his name is Abel James. Abel, what is up, brother?

Abel: Jonathan, I think that is my favorite intro of all time.

Jonathan: Well,you’re welcome to use that on your bio if you want, it’s all good.

Abel: The Eminem of iTunes.

Jonathan: The luminescent Eminem of iTunes.

Abel: Oh boy —

Jonathan: Well folks, as you can tell, Abel is a great dude, he is a buddy of mine and I wanted to share with you today — actually Abel and I had the unique opportunity to spend two days together recently and it was a lot of fun, wasn’t it Abel?

Abel: Two days straight, no less. Yeah, it was a blast. We were running on fumes at that point, but it was so much fun and Jonathan, I was really excited to film with you in particular because I think you have such a balanced approach to all this. You definitely have all of the knowledge and the research, but you also approach this from a really cool communication standpoint where I think you can distill these crazy and sometimes like dichotomous subjects and distill them down to something that most people can understand.

Jonathan: Well thank you so much Abel. I appreciate that and one of the things that I loved most about our time together and just the reason I want to have you back on the show — one of many – is during our time together we were talking about like Abel, you’re having all this amazing success andyou’re changing all these lives, but even in our time together it was like, is Abel Paleo? Is Abel this, is Abel that? Like, no, he is Abel James and he’s about helping people to live better, but can you tell us a little bit — like that’s not easy, it’s not easy to not put yourself — like to label yourself and put yourself with a camp. So, how do you do that? How do you keep the energy up to do that and to really be your own person staying focused on the ends rather than the means?

Abel: I think it’s all about the process. It’s not about this wild intervention that you do with yourself from time to time going 100 percent Paleo and then cheating a while and then trying another version of a similar diet, or like following another guru in the same space and doing what they say to do which is probably eating beans on only Tuesdays or something crazy like that. It’s all about finding peace within your own process and understanding the diet that works best for you, and Jonathan, we talked about this a lot when you were at the house in terms of what you’re eating every day. That’s different from what I’s eating every day not just because of a difference in philosophy necessarily or at all, but because we like different things. We travel in a slightly different way to different places and we have completely unique favorite foods and dislikes of food. So, it’s all about taking all of these crazy variables and trying to come up with something that works really, really well for your own lifestyle, health, and happiness.

Jonathan: I love that radical — and it’s not even a really radical customization, let’s call it common sense customization. There is no one outfit that looksbest on everyone that they should wear all the time. Like it totally depends on circumstance and I love what you said too about this — not doing this extreme diet for six days and then having to do something else some other day and I think you and Allison really embodied that becauseit just seemed like you had achieved what I referred to as nutritional serenity, where you just eat. Like you just eat and it’s not like there is this thing like a cheat day because there is no need to cheat because what you’re doing does not feel like a deprivation.

Abel: Yeah.

Jonathan: So you just–you’re just living your life and you’re focused on living your life rather than monitoring and counting and blah, blah, blah what you’re putting in your mouth.

Abel: That’s absolutely true. It’s amazing how easy this all is and once you get the hang of it — let me just say that once you get the hang of it, it is very, very easy. So, you don’t have to count anything, you don’thave to think about the types of food that you’re eating, it is just like, am I hungry right now? Got to take your own temperature and see how you feel and some days that means that either I will be fasting or Allison will be fasting at some point, we’re kind of going back and forth day-to-day on that. It’s — every meal is different, but they follow the same guideline. So, once you know what those guidelines are, you can get really creative and quite indulgent with what you’reeating. I think as evidenced by when we went out to eat, Jonathan, we ordered like I don’tknow, like a dozen things and just shared them all around, and you ordered, I think, a whole pig, wasn’t it?

Jonathan: It could have been. I would neither confirm nor deny that statement. No, it’s true Abel and do you think — I think maybe some of the reason there might be — confusion might be the wrong word, but do you — do you think there is a difference, a difference in your approach to eating and exercise, because there’s two distinct goals. There’s a goal of looking like a fit individual not becoming diabetic, let’s call that goal A, and then there is goal B, which is like being a shredded athlete on a Cross Fit commercial. Is there — it seems like those are two different goals, what would you change about the way you eat or how you exercise depending on those goals?

Abel: It changes a lot because those goals can work very much against each other. The performance goal can completely be at odds with the appearance goal and you’d think that they would go together and often times they do generally speaking, but when you’retalking about vascularity and getting down to a super-low body fat, usually the way that that happens is by sacrificing performance to some degree because you’reexercising restriction in favor of trying to lose extra body fat, whereas, if you want to totally crush it at the gym, then carbing up can be really useful, being totally ketogenic can make you a little foggy. I mean there are different ways to do it, but they’re kind of competing goals and I can tell you one of the most interesting things about all that, Jonathan, is that once you understand the guidelines there — I have been in both situations, been completely shredded, ripped, incredible shape and also been in not that great a shape in terms of conditioning anyway, just doing like the bare minimum of exercise, and that’s where I am right now, but the difference in terms of what you look like in the mirror can be somewhat negligible, which is really interesting. I measure myself sometimes after not binging for two weeks, but certainly indulging in a lot of ways if I’m travelling internationally, eating cultural foods, for example, and just seeing that it doesn’t make that big of an impact on my body is really interesting because you can fiddle with all those little things and turn all those little knobs, but once you know that the basics of how your body is operating, you can indulge in a lot more that you ever thought possible.

Jonathan: I love the point about there are very different goals and they require very different approaches because I think one thing that sometimes we can lose sight of which causes a lot of confusion is even when you look at the super-shredded fitness competitors that’s like game time for them. They have an off season, they’re not like that–

Abel: Right.

Jonathan: All the time and even athletes are — there is always an off season and the reason there is an off season is what they’re doing by definition isn’t sustainable.

Abel: Yeah.

Jonathan: And when you and I are talking about our approaches, I think usually we’re biasing towards sustainability.

Abel: That’s right.

Jonathan: And that is different, right? Like the way that you get to three percent body fat is not a sustainable approach because that is not healthy. You’re not supposed to have three percent body fat. So, what have you seen to be some of the biggest dietary differences between when people are sort of going for this very specific short term goal versus the state of nutritional serenity?

Abel: That is a great question and one that I think most people don’tthink about enough, but I have really been on both sides of that. I’ve run marathons often 50 plus miles a week for a while. I was doing that and I could get away with eating almost anything because of the sheer amount of effort I was putting out and my particular body type makes it so that it just burns all of the muscle off of me and I can burn a lot of carbs that way. And you can get fast, but you’re also — you’re kind of drawing a debt from your body’s own perspective. Yes, you could be performing at a high level, but at the same time, you’reaging more quickly and you’rerisking injury and especially repetitive type injuries. You can be burning up your joints. So a lot of the people who are super-high performers, especially at a younger age are certainly not, later in life.

So you’redrawing that debt and if you draw too much, all of a sudden you’relooking at the average lifespan of an NFL player for instance being like 51 years old despite them being in incredible shape for the majority of their lives. You’reburning through all sorts of different things, some that we can measure and some that we can’t. And so it’s all about finding that balance and I think a lot of people want to be — they assume that if you look fit then you have to have that sort of dedication to exercising three hours a day and being a high performance athlete, but actually that’s not the case. Most of us used to be quite slim and beautiful just naturally because that’s what our bodies want to be and so when you learn how to eat effectively — and especially eating effectively for that lifestyle, which tends to be low-ish carb compared to someone who is doing high-performance training, once you understand that, it can be pretty easy to do it for a lifetime.

When you want to scale that performance back up — if I want to do eight hours of Krav Maga tomorrow, then you bet I’m going to be eating couple of sweet potatoes, but because I haven’t really been exercising in a few weeks to be quite honest, I am certainly not carbing it up right now.

Jonathan: I know some listeners heard — are hearing this, it’s easy – it’s easy sentiment and may have some question marks popping into their head, but you made a point there that I think we don’thear enough, which is the default state. The earliest day that we have is from the early 1900s around obesity rates comes from the military and they were sub-three percent.

Abel: Wow.

Jonathan: And any time if you like just look back in history, actually the obesity and being overweight was just like — just didn’t really exist, so it is not the default state, but what I think we find ourselves in Abel and I’m curious as to how we can get out of this, is like it’s not hard to not get lung cancer, just don’tsmoke, however, if you lived in America in the early 1900s when everybody smoked everywhere, then even if you chose not to smoke, you were subjected to secondhand smoke. It’s easy to not get lung cancer –

Abel: Yeah.

Jonathan: But, it’s really hard to not get lung cancer if you live in a culture where you are just inundated with it at every turn.

Abel: Right.That’s a really good point, but like you said, the natural state is to be healthy and so in a healthy body, you can really get away with quite a lot like humans always did. You could indulge, you could find a whole pot of honey and probably eat the whole thin and it’s not that big of a deal aside from taking a nap after a big sugar-crash after that.

What we find today, is that so many of us are fundamentally broken and the vast majority of people who are overweight or obese, it’s not that they’re fat that’s making them sick, it’s — they get sick first and then the fat is a side-effect of that. So what we are looking at are people who are broken metabolically and I think you’ve described this very well in your book and in your podcast as well, but that’s really what we’re talking about here is that people — if you’reeating the way that humans have always been eating at least mostly for the majority of your life, none of this stuff is really an issue. You just — being fat won’t be a problem because you don’tget fat, you will not have to lose weight, that’s an unnatural state of being in a place where you need to lose weight to be healthy and unfortunately that’s where we find most of us today.

Jonathan: And this idea, Abel, about really getting dialed into what is and isn’t normal, I think is key because for a lot of us, we’ve got a lot of stuff going on in our life. It’s like I have enough to worry about and if you can kind of understandthat you are not defective by default and that normal — like, it’s not normal to be hungry. Calories are not something to be avoided like fat doesn’t make you fat. Fat makes you full and even if you do indulge, like we were talking about this where you ate a whole pumpkin loaf or something like that –

Abel: Yeah.

Jonathan: And it’s not like your body is dumb, your body is like, oh my god, I just ate 2000 calories. You’regoing to be really full for a really long time and your body isn’t stupid, right?

Abel: Yeah, well, unless you’redoing things to trick it and break it. So, if you eat 2000 calories of Oreos, you probablymight– or you go and get Chinese food, the junky flash fried Chinese food that’s mostly fried rice or whatever from college, you’redefinitely hungry an hour later, but it’s not because you did not eat enough, it’s because your body is totally jacked up now as a direct result of consuming MSG and mostly high-glycemic carbs which just affects your brain in all sorts of negative ways.

Jonathan: But isn’t that in and of itself, Abel, that point you just made about how you can eat food and not be satisfied. That in and of itself just seems so crazy — like the whole point of the reason that we eat is to fulfill a need. But what we’re eating today is not only not fulfilling that need, but in many cases, it’s making it worse, like it’s making us hungrier.

Abel: Yeah, and what people are doing is they are paying more to get, on purpose, less food. So when you look at those like 100-calorie packs, I mean it is every marketer’s dream or every supply-chain manager or what have you because it’s — you’reaiming — if you’refollowing this whole calorie type deal, what you’reaiming to do is get less and less food for the same price or sometimes even more. What we recommend is the exact opposite of that. If you’regoing to eat something, it should fill you up, that’s the whole point of eating food. You’renot eating food and trying to get nothing from it. It’s such a bizarre concept that I think a lot of people haven’t really stared down in the face yet because it’s not glaringly obvious, but man, when you take a step back and you look at what most people are doing, it is pretty sad. You’regetting less and less food on purpose, because supposedly, that’s supposed to keep you slim in some way or another.

Jonathan: And to you point earlier Abel about it’s — you’rebuilding up this debt with some of this physical approach you could take or you’realso building up a debt not only just from a hunger perspective, you can’t just not sleep.

Abel: Yeah.

Jonathan: Like that is going to catch up with you. You can’t just not go to the bathroom, it’s going to catch up with you. You can’t just not eat, it will catch up with you, but we often also forget of the emotional aspects. Like there is so much in you — you covered this so well, there is so much of an emotional side to eating and to continuously be racking up the debt of not — there is a reason foods taste good. I mean it seems like we were going to talk about default states — it seems like feeling full and enjoying eating is the default state of a human, but what are we told to do today is to like fear food and to constantly be hungry. That’s ridiculous.

Abel: And trick your body by eating food, right? There’s this undercurrent of trying to confuse your body into being able to have your cake and eat it too. I would argue though that we need to simplify it a bit more and just look back to some of the generations that came before us. It was — you — part of being satiated, part of being full at the end of a meal was having experienced that meal. It’s taking the time to savor — if you’regoing to eat a little piece of chocolate then you shouldn’t just scarf it down like a dog might. You should enjoy every bit of that and in that enjoyment, you’reactually telling your brain that this is incredible, this is nutrient dense, this is something that you love and it tends to fill you up much more quickly if you are taking the time to acknowledge that what you’re eating is delicious, which most of the time, or hopefully all of the time, it is.

Jonathan: Abel, that is spot on from a common sense perspective and it’s also been proven from a scientific perspective, there’s been these really cool studies done where they would take soup and pastries, or just various types of things and they would present participants with a version which the fat or the savory element was visible. So, like — and then they provided people with a version of that same food — again, isocaloric meaning they had the same number of calories, but one didn’t look decadent and the other one looked decadent.

Abel: Wow.

Jonathan: And consistently, the one that looked decadent, people felt more satiated — or they sometimes did not even finish it because they were like, oh, I could only eat half of that, but when it looked — and when you think about our culture, like some of these most toxic substances, they don’teven look good, they look like garbage.

Abel: Yeah, I mean just look at like a tray of nachos– that looks the same way coming up as it does going down, and vice versa. It’s not a real pretty picture.

Jonathan: No, I love that and I love the idea of savoring your foods and feeling conscious. Well, Abel, you mentioned to me before this show that you celebrated your holiday a little bit early this year and I am curious how did you navigate the dietary landscape over the holidays because that can sometimes get a little dicey.

Abel: We made lots of sweets ourselves. That’s the real trick because you can have your cake and eat it too if you make the cake, but yeah, unfortunately you’resurrounded by so many sweets, but I’ve doing this for long enough that they don’ttaste good anymore. For the most part, they’re just too sweet and after you have experienced that enough times, it doesn’t really look like food anymore. So, if I see a cake that’s — or a cookie that’scovered in frosting, it doesn’t look appealing. It certainly used to, I would go right for it, I would eat the whole pie or whatever, but now my body has learned to associate it with sugar-crashes and if you go from eating really high-quality food, to eating something that’s a complete sugar-bomb and full of gluten and other junk, you can feel it almost immediately and you feel terrible. So, it has become relatively straight forward to navigate it, but the easiest way to get through is last night for example, I cooked up another like chocolate-pumpkin loaf and I didn’t eat the whole thing, but I did eat quite a bit of it and it’s wonderful.

You can make — I made myself a fatty coffee with peppermints so it’s kind of like a homemade Frappuccino type thing, but I made it with things that are safe and not going to give you a sugar-high and a crash. So, if you make these foods through the holidays, if youtake– it doesn’t have to be a huge effort either, I am a guy and I usually don’tlike to spend loads of time in the kitchen like Allison might, so I like to get in and out and you can make an amazing dessert in five or ten minutes. So making that little bit of effort ensures that not only do you get to eat your desserts throughout the holidays, but they’re not doing any sort of damage that a lot of those other foods would be doing to you if you ate every rum ball that you saw at the parties and ate that stale fruitcake or whatever. So, if you can avoid just a little bit of that and fill yourself up on your own delicious food preferably, then it makes the holidays a breeze.

Jonathan: It’s cool too, Abel. I know people have this experience where they’ll prepare some of these amazing recipes that you and Allison provide and then when they do bring them to holiday gatherings or just social gatherings in general, if they don’tsay anything, people are like, oh, this is so good, and then you’re like, well, now you know, here’s the secret.

Abel: Yeah, and that can backfire too. I remember Allison was serving one of her desserts to a bunch of teenagers and as they were eating it, she mentioned that there is zucchini in it because it was a cobbler and it tasted like apple. It was amazingly good, but she said, oh yeah, there are vegetables in there, and they were like, oh, this is gross now.

Jonathan: Oh I love it, that’s so funny. Oh man, Abel–it’s always a joy, I am delighted you had a wonderful holiday and it was awesome spending some time together and what is next for you in the fat-burning dynasty?

Abel: Yeah, so obviously you can find me at fatburningman.com, and that’s the name of my show as well. We just launched Fat Burning Chef which is basically the top cooks and friends and bloggers in Paleo and beyond get together and put all of our favorite recipes in one place. That’s at fatburningchef.com and then Jonathan, we have that epically new-school, Fat Loss Master Class which is basically eight plus hours of videos explaining how you can live your life and be lean and happy forever. It is possible, and I am really excited about it because it’s something that is so new and so different and as you well know Jonathan, we’re getting into video a lot more in 2014 and I can’t wait to hear what people think of Fat Loss Master Class.

Jonathan: I love it. So, give us both those URLs one more time Abel.

Abel: All right so, I am at fatburningman.com and you can certainly find everything through there, and fatlossmasterclass.com is where you can find the video course, the home study course with Jonathan and myself.

Jonathan: I love it. Well Abel, it is always a pleasure, I wish you all the best in 2014, it will certainly be an epic year.

Abel: Thanks so much Jonathan.

Jonathan: Have a good one brother.

Abel: You too.

Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you have enjoyed this wonderful conversation as much as I did. Again, our guest is the amazing Abel James which if you’reone of the five people that don’t subscribe to his podcast on iTunes, go ahead and check it out because it is wonderful. And then of course, he and I are collaborating on this cool thing called Fat Loss Master Class which you can check out online as well, and remember, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Chat with you soon.