A Mind-Body Approach to Weight Loss with Jon Gabriel
Jonathan: Hey everybody! Jonathan Bailor, back with another bonus, Smarter Science of Slim podcast. If you’re going to talk or even think about slim, there is, I can’t tell you how many people have sent me an email or a Facebook message or a tweet or a fax, well actually no faxes, saying, there is one guy you have not had on your show yet. If you’re going to add the freaking word ‘slim’ in the title of your podcast, you’ve got to have him on.
You have undoubtedly seen him; he speaks all over the world. He’s been all over television, all over the media, all over just about any nutrition documentary you see. Today’s guest is nuanced because he’s a super inspirational guy, very positive message, very charismatic individual and really out there helping people to live better lives via his method, which he calls The Gabriel Method; a mind, body, non-diet approach to weight loss. Jon Gabriel, welcome to the show, brother!
Jon: Thanks so much, Jonathan. I appreciate it.
Jon Gabriel: Approach to Weight Loss
Jonathan: Jon, for the few people out there that don’t know your story, and I say few because you’ve been telling it very well for quite some time, can you give us your background?
Jon: Sure. Back about 10 years ago I lost about 220 pounds after struggling with weight for a long period of time, trying every diet I could, including working face to face with Dr. Atkins, going to the Pritikin Institute, working with acupuncturists, homeopathic doctors and naturopath, everyone I could and being frustrated.
I came to a place, this is back in 2001, where I was over 400 pounds and I decided I was never going to diet again because I knew that there was something else that was causing my weight gain and it wasn’t just about calories in, calories out because there was a time when I never had to worry about weight.
All of a sudden back in 1990, I moved to New York and started gaining and gaining and gaining. No diet worked. I decided I was never going to diet again and instead, I was going to figure out what triggered my weight gain. What was the real thing that was going on? I stopped dieting and I started doing a lot of biochemical research. I had a foundation or a background in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania and it gave me enough of the foundation to go on the internet.
I started studying anything I could about the hormones and enzymes involved in weight gain and weight loss. I also studied everything I could about stress because I knew that stress was a big component for me. I started to understand what was happening with me and basically, what was happening with me, what was happening with people all over the world is that there’s a trigger, a switch that goes off in your body that forces you to gain and gain and gain, and I lived through this. I was able to understand the mechanism that causes this switch and I was able to address what I call, real issues that were causing me to gain weight.
Then over a two and a half year period, I lost 220 pounds, got down to 183, which I’m 6’2, so pretty much a perfect body weight. I did that without restrictive dieting. Now my diet definitely improved but I started craving healthier and healthier food. I’m starting to have more and more energy. I started exercising more too but it became more of an organic thing. It wasn’t forcing. It wasn’t a struggle and I lost that weight.
That was over ten years ago. And then, as I said, I put them together in a formula that I published as The Gabriel Method and since then, it has been translated into 16 languages and it’s really touched a cord with many, many people who know that there’s more to weight loss than just calories in, calories out. That there are other things that are causing the problem and that’s really what my method’s all about – all these other things.
Jonathan: Jon, that really hits home with me as an individual as well as I know of our audience because we talk all about how the body seeks to store or burn calories depending on all these other variables. Just like with age it seems like we mysteriously, despite our best efforts, whether it’s stress or something else, it’s not that calorie equation. I’ve got a book coming out called The Calorie Myth, speaking exactly to that. So, what have you found are those things that do matter, that do flip that switch?
Jon: Well, the first question I ask myself when I came to this sort of place where I decided I was I’m never going to diet again, and started trying to find answers for myself instead of looking outside for other so-called experts who weren’t able to help me. The first question I ask myself was, “Why do we have fat in the first place?” because in our modern day society, we don’t need to carry around 200 pounds of extra weight. Why do we have it? What’s the purpose of fat?
Well, thousands of years ago, and I’m sure all of your listeners know this, but thousands of years ago, we needed fat to survive. We were living outdoors, we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from and if you went through a long winter, when it was cold all the time and you did not know when your next meal was coming, so you’re hungry all the time.
So that combination being cold all the time and being hungry all the time, causes a certain chemical change in your body, certain things happen. Your cortisol levels get elevated, your triglycerides get elevated, your pro-inflammatory cytokines, pro-inflammatory hormones get elevated. All of these things act as a signal to your brain that you’re in a famine or that you’re in a hypothermia, chronic hypothermia, or you’re cold all the time, and the response that your body uses is to gain weight.
So, there’s four things that your body does in response to this stress. One, is you become insatiably hungry. Your brain stops listening to your stomach when it says it’s full, so you’re eating all the time. You start craving the most sweetest and fattening foods. Your metabolism slows down and your body loses the ability to burn fat. So, when you combine all those things together, your body gets transformed into a human fat storage machine and you really have to live through it to experience it.
So, I’ve lived through that scenario where my body was chronically forcing me to gain and gain weight. We have this kind of myth, you know, you talk about the calorie myth, the biggest myth is that overweight people are weak or lazy or over-indulging and they just eat less and try harder and I know that’s not the case because I know I’m not a weak person, I’m not lazy. I was running three companies at the time that I was gaining all this weight and I could not lose the weight, no matter what I did. That was meeting with fitness trainers at seven in the morning and as I said, working face to face with Dr. Atkins.
So, you have to live through this switch going on but what happens is, if you were in a famine or in chronic hypothermia, you would have these chemical changes that would activate this switch. You would become Leptin resistant, so your body, your brain would stop listening to the hormone Leptin, which tells your brain how much fat you have in your body. So, it’s as if your brain does not know how much fat you have in your body or acts like you have no fat in your body. You’re insulin resistant so your insulin levels gets elevated, which is the fat making hormone. You combine all those things together, you’re a fat storage machine. You have to live through it to experience it. It’s not about people are lazy. You have to reverse it.
Now, what’s interesting is that for some people, some of the stresses in our lives today, and they’re physical or mental stresses, they could be either, but for some people the stresses in our lives cause the exact same chemical and hormonal changes in our body as if we were in a famine or a chronic hypothermia. So what happens is our brain effectively gets tricked into thinking we’re starving to death, even if we’re living in a land of all you can eat excess empty calorie foods. So when your brain is tricked because of the stresses in your life into activating this fat program when there is all you can eat excess empty calorie, starchy, carb foods is a recipe for disaster and that’s why we get morbid obesity.
Now there’s several things that can activate this switch. Mental chronic stress causes chronic elevated cortisol levels, chronic elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines and chronically elevated triglycerides. All those things are the exact same things that happen when you’re in a famine or chronic hypothermia, so chronic stress can cause your body to activate the stress.
Medications can do it, processed foods can do it. Digestion problems can do it, eating foods that cause an inflammatory response, anything, gum disease; anything that causes inflammatory response will cause this chemical hormonal condition. So what happens is for some of us or most of us that have a chronic weight problem, our brains are being tricked into activating a switch simply because the stresses in our lives are causing the same chemistry in our body as if were in a famine.
Jonathan: Jon, it seems like one of the key distinctions you’ve made and one of the reasons this resonate with so many people is the eating, the massive hunger and the lethargy and the surplus calories in and deficiency of calories out. You’re not saying that doesn’t happen, what you’re saying, if I understand correctly, is that is a symptom of an underlying disturbance. Again, it’s a symptom, it’s not a cause and what we need to do if we want to maintain lasting health and fitness is address that cause, that inflammation, that stress, that—I call it a metabolic clog—and that’s when it becomes a lifelong success. Is that accurate?
Jon: Exactly, because if you try to focus on the calories in and calories out, it’s like the tail wagging the dog. You’re not dealing with the real issue and your body will self-regulate once your hormonal balance re-adjusts. If you look at just Leptin resistance, for example, which happens from the stresses of being in a famine but also happens from a lot of stresses in our lives, if you look at Leptin resistance, what it does basically is, it interrupts your brain’s ability to accurately gauge how much fat you have on your body.
So imagine for a second that you are 400 pounds, and I don’t have to imagine because I lived with this, but imagine you’re 400 pounds and your brain actually thinks you have zero fat on your body because that’s what happens when your Leptin resistance is severe enough. Your brain acts and operates as if you have zero fat on your body.
So what would your brain do if you had zero fat on your body? Your brain would make you insatiably hungry. It would lower your metabolism. You would eat and eat. You would be too tired to exercise. You would store all that weight very, very quickly as fat and you wouldn’t want to let go of it for anything. And that’s what people are going through and that’s what needs to be addressed.
Now, when you do address it, when you reverse the Leptin resistance, the switch goes off. So what happens is, imagine this scenario. Imagine your brain is operating as if it thinks you have zero fat on your body, yet you have 200 excess pounds on your body, then all a sudden, in an instance, your brain regains the ability to accurately assess how much fat you have on your body because the Leptin resistance goes away because the stress went away. It’s like your brain says “Oh my God! Where did this fat come from? We’ve got 200 pounds of fat on us.” Now what do you think your brain is going to do?
In a second, you’re not going to be hungry anymore, your metabolism is going to speed up, you’re going to become very efficient at burning fat, you’re going to get rid of the fat. Your brain and your body know how to burn fat when it wants to and it wants to when you reverse this chemical condition. So the whole issue of calories in, calories out goes out the window when you regain the ability to accurately assess, when your brain regains the ability to accurately assess how much fat you have in your body. The whole issue goes out the window.
I have so many people saying to me, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m just not that hungry anymore.” And I say, “Nothing’s wrong with you, your body is able to determine how much fat you have in your body and wants to lose weight now. Just leave it alone. You don’t have to measure. You don’t have to count calories anymore. Throw those scales out the window. Don’t worry. You’re addressing the real issues now. Your body will work with you now.”
Jonathan: Jon, it seems like something that we can all get into intuitively as well because if you go in any typical workplace, if not everyone, the vast, vast majority of people are eating incredibly unhealthy. The average American is getting 40 and 60% of their calories from processed garbage. Yet if you go in that office and you see everyone who is eating unhealthily, some of them will be slim, some of them will be average looking and some of them will be morbidly obese. They are all eating the same amount of food.
Jon: Well, let me qualify that. They’re all eating what they want to eat, not that they want to eat. So, everybody thinks that thin people are more disciplined but they’re not. A naturally thin person is less disciplined than an obese person who is trying to lose weight because the naturally thin person never thinks; they just eat whatever they want. It’s just that they want less food or they’re burning more calories. You watch a naturally thin person, they might eat pizza and donuts and all those kind of stuff but they miss a lot of meals too.
It’s very rare that a morbidly obese person that’s counting calories misses a meal just because they’re too busy or they’re not hungry. They’re thinking when their next meal is. They’re plotting when their next meal is. They’re regulating, they’re calculating. They don’t miss a meal and that’s because their body’s forcing them to gain weight and they’re fighting it.
Now, the interesting thing you said about if you look in the workplace and some people were naturally thin, one thing I discovered is that stress for some people causes the same chemistry as a famine. So those are the people that are gaining and gaining in the workplace. But stress for some people causes, the same chemistry, as if you’re running away from a tiger. It’s a different chemistry and that chemistry makes your body more sensitive to Leptin, reverses insulin resistance and makes you thinner and thinner, speeds up your metabolism.
So, you’ve got these people that are as thin as a bone and stressed out all the time and eating junk food all the time, it’s because stress is causing a different chemistry in their body and their bodies are reacting differently. It’s flipping a different switch. It’s flipping what I call the “get thin or get lean” switch, which is basically your body, if you were living thousands of years ago, outdoors, where you were chased by tigers every once in a while and you had to sprint and run away, that’s a different stress that causes different chemistry. That makes your body want to be thin as possible for survival reasons.
Typically, the people in the workplace that are really, really thin and effortlessly thin, the stress is causing that type of chemistry in their body, not the chemistry of the famine.
Jonathan: Jon, it seems like we’ve been individuals such as yourself, individuals such as myself now or even more and more in the scientific community, we could spend an hour here talking about the underlying endocrinology and biology about this. Look at the hibernating animals. The scientific community has known for a long time that there is more going on with the regulation of body fat, than us needing to do calorie math, especially when the concept of a calorie didn’t even exist until the obesity epidemic started, at least, not at the mainstream.
So, why do we still live in a biggest loser culture? It seems we all intuitively get this concept, if nothing else, of slow metabolism, fast metabolism but why is it so hard to let go of eat less, exercise more?
Jon: It’s frustrating. It’s really frustrating and it’s particularly frustrating for people who have bought into the whole medical paradigm, hook, line and sinker. They go to their doctor and their doctor just rolls their eyes, since they walk in and say “You’ve just got to eat less”. They say, “I am eating less,” and they go, “Oh, I bet if you wrote down everything you ate, you’d see,” and just shames them; shames their kid, everybody gets shamed and it’s just not taught in medical schools. Dr. Ron Rosedale, who I love, from the Rosedale Drive, if you haven’t interviewed him, I recommend you interview him, he’s brilliant. But he basically calls it kindergarten medicine.
It’s kindergarten medicine to look at your body as like a sink, that’s calories in, calories out, where the calories are the water going in and the drain is where the calories going out. It’s kindergarten medicine. There’s so much more going on in your body that has to be factored into the equation and modern, mainstream medicine is not factoring it into the equation. It is shameless and in my opinion, highly, highly irresponsible.
Jonathan: Jon, I don’t know if you intentionally brought up the sink metaphor but the calories in, calories out, applying it out to a sink metaphor, it’s interesting because I think we might actually be able to make that sink metaphor work in the proven model. So, for example, you talk about things like chronic stress. Well, imagine that chronic stress being the wrong quality of stuff going into your mind and the wrong quality of stuff going into your body, processed garbage, stressful things.
Imagine that being like having chronically having some hair fall down your drain. It’s not because too much water is going in, in fact, if more water goes in, more water will just come out but if the wrong quality of stuff goes in the sink, then the sink loses its natural ability to drain that water and then the water level rises and stays risen and you can put less water in and you can flip more water out with a teaspoon, but that’s not really solving that problem, that clog, that switch. Does that make sense?
Jon: Yeah. It makes perfect sense and there’s a lot actually to that in terms of the real physiology of what’s going on, because the reality of what’s going is that ourselves are being blocked from getting hormonal signals. They’re being clogged. They become resistant to the hormonal signals that they need to in order lose weight. So it’s that blocking, it’s that clogging. Also, we’re blocked and clogged with toxins and all kinds of things like that. So, it is literally a blocking and a clogging that does cause the problem. So, I think that’s a great analogy.
Jonathan: Jon, we’ve talked about the problem. We’ve talked about the misperception. We’ve talked about the discrepancy between what the mainstream is saying and what science has actually proven and what you’ve lived through and what you’ve helped thousands, if not tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people live. What are you telling people, like what is the Gabriel Method? Obviously, you don’t get rid of farm, but what types of food are we eating, what exercise of are we doing?
Jon: I’m happy to give away everything as long as you want because I want this information out there but the first thing I’m doing with most people is dealing with mental, emotional stress because mental emotional stress is that clog. All day long you’re stuck in traffic, you’re late for work, your boss is going to get mad, you don’t know how to make your mortgage payment. That’s hair going down your drain all day long. That’s clog, clog, clog, all day long.
So I’m dealing with mental and emotional stress, childhood trauma, working with professionals that helped work through childhood trauma issues, doing visualization to help re-program your associations with stress, helping you calm your nervous system, meditation, all of these different things.
So, first and foremost, I’m dealing with mental and emotional stress. Secondly, I’m dealing with digestion because most of us, our digestion is totally off. It causes inflammation; the inflammatory hormones cause it to activate this fat switch.
So, I’m doing things to reverse the digestion problem, eating more live foods, having probiotics, digestive enzymes, finding alternatives to dairy and gluten and most grains and then dealing with specific nutrients, getting omega-3 fatty acids, which we’re starving for, which reduce inflammation, getting good sources of protein. So, protein, live food, omega-3, at every meal I try to get people to do visualization every morning. Having what I call a detoxifying lifestyle, that is you are taking in less toxins and you’re then eliminating what is left, so lots of fresh green juices.
Again, we’re not measuring calories, we’re not restricting anything but we’re focusing on adding really healthy things that will improve digestion and nutrition and detoxify and have healthy habits like visualization to deal with stress. When you combine all those things, over a couple of months period, you start to become less hungry, you start to have more energy, then I introduce exercise in a very specific way to activate what I call the “get thin or get eaten” adaptation.
So, what we do is you’re doing sprints like 30 second sprints, where you’re visualizing that you’re being chased by a tiger because your brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined experience so you’re trafficking it on to the “get thin or get eaten” adaptation. You’re tricking your brain into thinking you’re living in a world where you need to be thin in order to be safe. That combination of eliminating all the things that are causing the hair and the clogs in the drain by eliminating the inflammation and nourishing your body and reducing the stress and then imposing stresses that get your body to want to be thin.
That combination shifts your set point, so, if your set point was 300 pounds, your set point now is going to be 200 pounds and maybe it will take six months, but gradually, over time, a momentum will develop and you will become that new set point weight.
Jonathan: Jon, we use a lot of the same words. I just can’t help smile at them. I’ve got to get you a copy of the upcoming book. I think you’ll like it. We might be related in some way that we did not know before, so it’s fun. Well, I love your first name, if nothing else…
Jon: Well, we have that connection, there.
Jonathan: Well Jon, you’re obviously out there changing lives so many lives. What’s next for you?
Jon: We’ve got a lot of things that are happening. I’ve got a kid’s book coming out in about six months. I’ve got a visualization book coming out in about a year from now. In about two months from now, we’re doing a 21 day meditation for weight loss challenge. Then in the beginning of the year, for the New Year, we’ve got a New You six week, step by step class where we have classes a couple times a week and I guide everyone through the processes of turning off all these different switches, all these different hormonal things that are causing you to gain weight and step by step, embracing the Gabriel Method principles.
Jonathan: And Jon, I’m assuming folks can learn more about that at your website, which is the gabrielmethod.com. Correct?
Jon: Yeah. We’ve got hundreds of pages of free information and we’re always putting out webinars and seminars and question and answer sessions and free reports. So, it’s a good resource.
Jonathan: Excellent! So folks, if you liked what you heard today, which you undoubtedly must because if you listened to this podcast then you like what Jon is saying because we’re saying a lot about the same stuff. Check out his book as well, The Gabriel Method. Obviously an amazing man. Jon, thank you so much for being the change, that both you and I want to see in the world. Truly an inspirational story and I appreciate all the passion and heart and mind that you dedicate to this cause.
Jon: My pleasure, Jonathan. Thanks so much. Your podcast sounds incredible. I’m going to start listening to it more and more because you’re out there and I love the way you’re connecting with people.
Jonathan: Thank you so much Jon. Well, listeners, I hope you enjoyed this wonderful conversation with this wonderful man as much as I did and please remember this week and every week after—eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Talk to you soon.