Dr. Jonny Bowden – The Rogue Nutritionist
Dr. Jonny Bowden
Jonathan: Hey everyone! Jonathon Bailor, back with another bonus, Smarter Science of Slim Podcast and today, we have round two. This guest was so insightful and so entertaining on the first show, we had to have him back. We’ve got round two, with none other than the rogue nutritionist, Dr. Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, all kinds of other acronyms, COOL, that’s the one I just gave him, and he’s here to share all of his insights with us. Dr. Jonny, welcome to the show.
Dr. Bowden: Thank you; I love the “cool” part, that’s my favorite of all.
Jonathan: Well, you’ve got to add that to your website, and we can come up with what it stands for.
Dr. Bowden: Okay, done.
Jonathan: We should have the readers, or excuse me, listeners, you post, reply to this post with comments, what you want “cool” to stand for.
Dr. Bowden: Very good, love it.
Jonathan: Well Dr. Jonny, on the first show, really enjoyed having you, because we dug deeply into your new book, The Great Cholesterol Myth, and we talked about how there’s just so many myths out there and I thought we did an excellent job covering that. What I wanted to talk about in this show was some of the other pervasiveness, because you’ve been in this industry for quite some time, and you speak your mind. Aside from The Great Cholesterol Myth, your great new book, what other great myths are out there?
Dr. Bowden: Well, where should we start? Low fat diets work. Aerobic exercise is the best way to lose weight, and in fact, exercise is a good way to lose weight. Those are myths we could take apart for an hour. Low fat diets are healthy and help people lose weight, and reduce the risk for heart disease, greens are necessary in the human diet. Whole grains are as good as fruits and vegetables. We could go on and on and on with myths. Where do I start?
Jonathan: Well yes, so we…
Dr. Bowden: Saturated fat is bad for you, saturated fat is going to clog up your arteries and give you a heart attack. I don’t know, there’s probably more myths than we have time to go over. Pick you myth and let’s go at it.
Jonathan: Well, let’s see, I’ve got my list here that you were saying, and I personally, because this is one of my passion points, is the myth that we can just eat whatever we want, Jonny, as long as we exercise, because it’s just like, let’s move, let’s just join a gym and that’s the solution to our problems, right?
Dr. Bowden: Well, yeah. Do people actually still believe that?
Jonathan: Oh yes, I think they do.
Dr. Bowden: Now some of things I feel they’re so far past their expiration date, that there aren’t too many people who still hold on to them but I could be wrong about that. Do people really still think they can eat whatever they want and as long as they exercise?
Jonathan: Dr. Jonny, I hear most frequently, the reason people exercise is so they can whatever. Why do you exercise? So I can eat these garbage foods. That is the motivation behind exercise.
Dr. Bowden: Yeah, it’s twisted thinking on a couple of levels because number one, even if it were true, and let me emphasize, let everybody be clear, everybody pay attention, stop multitasking and listen for one minute. It’s not true. But even if it were true, it wouldn’t address the issue of health. What it would address was, okay, if there was some magic way, and let me underline there is not, it’s not possible to eat anything as long as you exercise.
But even if it were true, all it would is that you wouldn’t get fat. It wouldn’t meant that you wouldn’t have a fatty liver, that you wouldn’t have plaque building on your arteries, that you wouldn’t have 100 other things that fly beneath the radar of health. You triglycerides wouldn’t be elevated, that your risk factor for diabetes wouldn’t go up. It wouldn’t mean any of those; it would just mean that you wouldn’t get fat.
The idea that you can burn off enough calories to compensate for your seven happy meals a day, might keep you slender, but it certainly wouldn’t keep you healthy. Let me emphasize again, in case anyone wasn’t paying attention, it’s not possible to exercise and therefore be able to eat whatever you want.
Here’s the thing to remember, Jonathan, and it’s an old saying from the training world, from the personal training world, and it’s one of the things I did learn in personal training world that actually turned out to be true, and it’s this. You can’t out train a bad diet, period. You cannot. Let me just give you the math. I’ve said many, many times that calories are not the whole story, they’re not. That’s another myth, that’s it all about calories and exercise, but let’s do the calorie math.
Even though they’re not the whole story, they’re enough of the story to make sense to people. Let’s just say that you went to the gym and you worked out for 45 minutes, how many calories do you think you’d burn? Well you probably know the answer.
Jonathan: I’m not a good person to ask. Most people would probably say 400-500 calories.
Dr. Bowden: Five, eight, no way Jose. You’re lucky to do 300 calories a half an hour if you’re working out pretty hard; maybe 600 an hour tops. What do you think a latte at Starbucks is? I mean, seriously! What do you think a large latte with whipped cream, it’s about 400 something calories! You have one what you consider to be like a treaty kind of snack, you have just wiped out the calories that you burned at the gym, and most people don’t even burn that much.
If you are a downhill skier, going for competition stuff at the Olympics, you might burn 800 calories an hour. If you’re Michael Phelps, you might burn 700-800 calories an hour in Olympic quality swimming. Most people are lucky to get 500 down in an hour, and most people aren’t doing an hour. Do the math, you just can’t do it.
Jonathan: Jonny, what I think a lot of people fail to realize, and it’s unfortunate, is that we are designed to not burn a lot of calories due to physical movement. From an evolutionary perspective, to have to expend a lot of energy to move, puts you at a survival disadvantage, so everything about our biology is designed to minimize the calories we burn during movement.
Dr. Bowden: That’s correct, that’s exactly correct.
Jonathan: In fact, part of the reason, if you trace it way back, that anthropologists, or excuse me, historians believe that we evolved to walk on two legs instead of on four, is exactly that reason. It takes dramatically fewer calories to walk on two legs , than it does to on four legs, so from an evolutionary perspective, the least calories that you can possibly burn by moving, the better, but from a calorie math perspective, it certainly not helpful, but it is the reality.
Dr. Bowden: Yes, that’s exactly right.
Jonathan: Jonny, what are your thoughts on, I wonder if exercise, because, as you said, this has been proven through personal experience, it’s been written about in The New York Times, the mainstream media has thoroughly covered. When you look at the research, exercise doesn’t really make a difference from a weight loss perspective. Do you think it’s this mindset?
I think it may go back to this pharmaceutical mindset, which is, you can do whatever you want, as long as you take a pill or do this other thing on top of that unhealthy behavior, and it will allow you to keep doing that unhealthy behavior as long as you have this indulgence on top. What do you think about that?
Dr. Bowden: Well, I think it goes to the heart of the way we look at our priorities in life. I think you’re absolutely right, that most of us have a very childlike attitude towards this. We want our toys, we want our cake, we want to be able to eat it. We just want to do the thing that’s going to be the least amount of effort that will allow us to do these things and indulge our senses.
If there is a way that we can eat whatever we want, take whatever drug we want, do whatever we wanted in life, and indulge in every possible bad impulse that we have, and somehow take a pill and wipe out the effects of that, I think that people would be lining up to buy that pill. That’s just the nature of the beast. The fact is that there is no such pill that will allow us to do that and will wipe out the effects of bad living, if you will, so what we’ve got to do is to figure out how to live a joyous life, have a lot of fun, indulge in a lot of sensual pleasures, eat great food, have wonderful sex, go out in the sun, do all these things, and not do so much damage, and that is totally doable.
I don’t understand why we want to put all this effort into trying to be live as badly as we can, so that we could just find a pill or some magic thing that we could do that would wipe out the results, when we really can have so many of those pleasures in our lives without doing a lot of damage.
My God, I eat well and I indulge in stuff, and I have a great life, and I’m healthy as horse. I think it’s a thing that’s possible thing to do. If we continue to search for the magic pill that’s going to wipe out the results of bad choices, we’re never going to find a way to have those good things in our lives without the negative things and without the negative results.
Jonathan: Here, here, Jonny. A common question I get asked is if I go sane or eat the way that I recommend to folks, what do you think about cheat days? My general response is, if you feel like you need a cheat day, you haven’t yet found the right way of eating for you, because you should, daily, be enjoying yourself. You should be enjoying these delicious, whole, healthy foods, and they are satisfying. If you feel the need “cheat,” I feel like you haven’t yet hit that sweet spot yet. What do you think?
Dr. Bowden: There are a couple of things to say about cheat day thing. It’s a complicated subject and I’ve written a lot about it and I’m glad you brought it up. A couple of things to say about it. Number one, if you deconstruct the bad advice that we’ve been getting for decades, that being overweight or being obese is simply a matter of too many calories and not enough exercise. That’s number one. That is the dumbest, stupidest, most simplistic advice I can think of, and it’s very deconstructive because a lot of people who are walking with major weight problems that they haven’t been able to fix, it’s caused them to really blame themselves and think, “There’s just something wrong with me. It’s as simple as eating less calories and exercising,” and that’s simply not true. So let’s start by deconstructing that.
Now, why is not all about calories? It’s not all about calories because weight is driven by hormones, and the food that we eat sends a message to the body to release certain hormones and to hold back on certain other hormones, and these hormones are like a big email system. They all have subject lines and messages, and some hormones say, “store fat” and some hormones say, “release fat” and some hormones say, “break down muscle” and some hormones like testosterone say, “build up muscle.”
You have all these hormones and they’re releasing response to food, and unless you look at the hormonal response to food, you’re really going to be up, you know what kind of creak, when it comes to losing weight, because you’re going to be ignoring one these most important factors in weight gain, which is hormones.
Now, if I’m right about that, and I am, then a cheat day can completely throw you off hormonally. If, in fact, a certain food is going to stimulate your fat burning hormone and if you stay away from that food for six weeks, and then you absolutely go to town on the seventh day, you’re going to be in a hormonal state in which you’re going to store every single calorie. Cheat days can really screw you up badly. That’s the bad side of cheat days.
Now, the good side of cheat days is that if somebody has a really healthy metabolism and they don’t have a carbohydrate intolerance, which is very, very common, and it’s really a matter of them kind of keeping things reigned in and keeping things at a good balance during the week, once in a while they can process the idea of moderation, and they can have a couple of bites of something or a special dessert on Sunday afternoons. It doesn’t throw them off and they don’t feel bloated, by all means. I think that that’s a great idea. But this blanket idea that we have to grit our teeth and use willpower and stay away from great foods for six days a week and then on seventh day, whoa, cheat day, we can go to town. That’s going to screw up your metabolism, and it’s going to undo all the good work that you did the first six days.
Wouldn’t it be better to find a system that allows you lots of pleasure, allows you lots of sensual delights, maybe once in a while an indulgence that goes a little bit further than you might want to go, and you pick up the pieces the next day and it’s not such a big deal. Sure. But this idea of building in the cheat day once a week, to me, doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Jonathan: Jonny, it sounds like the distinction you made there is almost like the distinction between someone who is a recovering alcoholic and someone who’s never had a problem with alcohol, meaning that, if you’ve never really had a problem with alcohol and you choose to have some wine with dinner occasionally or drink with friends, that’s one thing, but if you are a recovering alcoholic saying, “I’m going to have a cheat day and drink some beer or some wine,” that’s a different scenario, isn’t it?
Dr. Bowden: Well, I’m very glad you brought that up because you probably know from my diet program, Unleash your Thin, which is available through my website and through other places on the internet, I have spent a great deal of time talking about my own history with addiction, and how I have used many of the lessons learned from conquering just about every addiction that man can have. I’ve used that in my diet program because I do see tremendous parallels between addiction to heroin and cocaine and alcohol, and internet porn and gambling, and anything else that you can mention that people get addicted to. I see an enormous parallel between that and our addiction to the foods that make us fat, tired, sick and depressed. Let me underline what you just said. This whole idea of moderation, everything in moderation, is B.S., because, and I continue from the perspective of the addict, the great example you gave.
If you’re an alcoholic, guess what dude? There’s no moderation! I’m telling you that as somebody who hasn’t had a drink since 1982. If you’ve got anaphylactic shock when you eat peanuts, guess what? You don’t get to eat peanuts in moderation! If you’ve got a major sugar addiction and a major sugar intolerance and you gain weight when you look at Ben & Jerry’s, guess what? You may not be able to have your cheat day and indulgence in sugar in moderation. That’s just the way it is.
This everything in moderation is another piece of bogus, dumb advice that’s caused people to go, “Oh well, as long as I have it in moderation it will be fine.” Well, you tell that to the guy who’s in the hospital for anaphylactic shock because he came in contact with a peanut. It just can’t be done that way, I’m sorry. Life’s not fair.
Jonathan: Well, Jonny, that’s a great example. There’s so much information “out there,” and people often ask me and I’m sure you get asked the same question, is this good or bad, or right or wrong? Of course, there’s proven biology and there’s universal truths that have been demonstrated in the lab, but for things like cheat days and what foods you can and can’t enjoy in moderation, these are things that really require us to look in the mirror and say, “Does doing approach A help me or does doing approach B help me?” because A and B may actually both be valid approaches. The question is, what’s valid for you?
Dr. Bowden: I’ve said that throughout my entire career. The question of what’s the best diet, is the wrong question. The question should be, what’s the best diet for me? It’s always about matching the person with the product. I, for example, love Calvin Klein suits but they look horrible on me because they were designed for guys who are 6’2 and a size 42. They fit beautifully if you happen to be 6’2 and a size 42; I’m 5’7 and size 38. Calvin Klein doesn’t look good on me. It’s not a matter of who’s the best designer, it’s what fits my body.
Now, again, a shameless plug, and I’m only mentioning this because I really believe these concepts. In Unleash Your Thin, we build a science experiment into the program precisely for that reason. Yeah, I think, in general, we eat too many carbohydrates. In general we don’t need wheat in our diets, and we certainly don’t need as much. I have certain basic things that I think are more or less true for most people, but what we do on Unleash Your Thin is, we start with a phase in which you kind of clean out the cupboard, take out all the foods that are usual suspects, the ones that cause the most people the most problem. After that washout period, you, personally, start adding back foods at a very specific rate, in a very specific ways so that you can test your reactions to those foods.
What happens, Jonathan, is that when people are eating the same thirteen foods, and that seems to be the number that most researchers and scientists have come up with, we tend to keep about thirteen foods in heavy rotation in our diets, whatever those foods are, but we eat so many things with so many ingredients during the day. We graze all day, we could have a delayed food sensitivity reaction to something and have no idea what’s causing it. We eat something on a Tuesday afternoon for a snack, and Wednesday morning we’ve got brain fog and headaches. We’ve got lots of energy that we don’t know what the heck caused it. It could have been something that we ate as recently as fourteen hours ago, but who remembers.
What we do on Unleash Your Thin is, we clean out the closet, we take out all the usual suspects of the kinds of foods that cause people problems. People start to lose weight, and then in phase three, we go, okay, let’s take this food category and we’re going to experiment and we’re going to add a little bit, you’re going to decide how much.
We’re going to add this back and you’re going to keep a journal and people find that wow, they can figure out, “When I eat A, I feel foggy. When I eat B, that’s when I stop going to the bathroom.” They start making these connections and associations so that they can actually customize a program for themselves and by the end of the program, they’ve got a diet that actually works them.
It may not be the same diet that the person next to them came up with. It may eliminate more foods or it may eliminate less foods, or it may allow more portions of a certain type of food than the person next to them, but it’s going to be customized for their physiology and they’re going to do it themselves by noticing their reactions to these foods.
Jonathan: Jonny, it is so key that we take that ownership. Are personal trainers helpful? They’re absolutely helpful. Can nutritionists can be helpful? They can absolutely be helpful. Can dieticians, can surgeons, can doctors? Of course, but at the end of the day, unless we take that responsibility, it’s not going to happen, right?
Dr. Bowden: That’s pretty much how I feel about it.
Jonathan: Jonny, one concrete example, this is a silly example, but I’d love to reiterate your point about you’ve got to see if it works for you, is, the more and more I read, the more and more it seems like a terrible idea to watch television before you go to sleep. So the other day I did an experiment. Traditionally, when my wife and I lay down to go to sleep, we have the television on and we just fell asleep while watching some mindless television.
She and I can fall asleep within ten minutes like clockwork if we have the television on. When we don’t have the television on, we can’t seem to fall asleep; we can’t seem to quiet our minds. There’s this advice, “Jonathan, it is a bad idea to watch television before you go to sleep,” but I fall asleep and I sleep better. I fall asleep faster and I sleep significantly better when I watch television before I go to sleep, so it seems that it would be absurd for me to do anything other than the approach that gives me the best results. What do you think?
Dr. Bowden: Well, I think that’s a really good example and here’s what I would do if I were you. There’s something that’s so mindless about it for some reason, it just takes you out of your head. Here’s how I would compromise with that. Get a sleep timer. Put the TV on, let it act as a soporific; it will put you to sleep, but don’t let it be on all night while you’re sleeping, because that’s where the real danger is.
I know that it’s not having it on while you’re falling asleep that’s so bad, what’s bad is that it’s on all night and you start dreaming of thigh masters. You get infomercials at 3:00 am, they sneak into your subconscious, they get into your dreams and you’re not even sure if you’re half awake or wide awake, and all of a sudden someone’s screaming about PX90 and it’s in your dream. So get yourself a little timer, you and your wife fall asleep to Chelsea Handler, and then have the thing go off! That’s the end of it.
Jonathan: I love it.
Dr. Bowden: There’s your compromise. I just saved your marriage.
Jonathan: I love watching that, and I think you may have a crystal ball over there, because that is exactly what we do. We definitely don’t let it run. It’s just lulls you into sleep. Not the sleep thing in particular, Jonny, but it seems like such a core point, but in all your clinical experience, this idea of try it, if it helps you with your goals, keep it up, and if it doesn’t, try something else. That seems to be the most obvious and simplistic advice we could give, but fundamentally, that’s actually not the advice we’re giving. We’re giving that you just need to try to starve yourself harder and you need to try to exercise more. Why are we being given just more of the same, rather than being told to try something different?
Dr. Bowden: This is a very deep philosophical issue and people have written about this for centuries, what is the nature of man? During the 20th century when dictators like Hitler and Stallion came to power, many, many book in sociology and social psychology were written about what causes people to just follow leaders like this? The thing is, I think that from the reading I’ve done over my lifetime, I think the best I can come up with is that people like simple things laid out for them, and they don’t like to have a lot of choices, and people get kind of overwhelmed when there’s a lot of choices.
You have, an entire population basically trying to sound bite a complex world into, “Is this food? Is this a good diet? Should I do this? Is this good? Is this bad?” That’s what you get, and the downside of that, what that costs us, is a lot of shades of grey, a lot of subtlety, a lot of texture, a lot of multifaceted, nuanced discussion of complex issues, because we want to break everything down into the good/bad. You see it in the political discourse. So I think your question goes to the heart of what kind of lives do we want to have?
Do we want to have something that allows for some contemplation, for some discussion, for some evaluation, for some, well, on the one hand this, on the one hand, that, or do we want to just have this you know, rah-rah this is right, this is wrong, USA? That really goes to the heart of what you just asked. It is a lot more difficult to evaluate things for yourself and to see what works and what doesn’t. People, like me, obviously, I’m not a vegan, I don’t know if it’s obvious to your listeners, because they don’t know me, but I’ve been on the low carb end of things for a while. If you had to identify me somewhere on the political spectrum, I’d be closer to the left wing of lower carb diets. I haven’t been terribly friendly to veganism. On the other hand, people will write, “I’ve been on a raw food diet, I feel great!” I go, “Great! Stay on it!” I’m not in a political position about this. I don’t need you to be on the diet that works for me.
When people are on something that’s making them feel great and their weight is managed, their energy is good, their libido is good, their joy is high, don’t change it if it isn’t broken. Now I think very often with some of those diets, you see a therapeutic effect because people have been eating so badly that when they shift their diets to almost anything. I don’t care if it’s vegan, I don’t care if it’s paleo, I don’t care if it’s the Billy Bob Thornton orange food diet, they switch to anything and they feel better than the American diets. Sometimes you see an improvement that may not be sustained over years.
I think that some people who have gone on the vegan programs, or the raw foods programs, feel great for a while but two to three years down the line, when you talk to them, there may be some challenges that have come up that weren’t necessarily obvious in the beginning. But that said, if somebody’s doing something that’s working for them, God bless them, keep doing it!
We really are talking to people who are doing stuff that isn’t working for them and then we want to experiment with some choices and with some alternatives that might make them feel better, lose more weight, have more energy, have better libido, whatever it is that they’re trying to address, but if something’s working for you, why play with it? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Jonathan: Jonny, I really cannot emphasize my support for what you just said any, any higher because so much of the nutritional dialog that goes on, is spent saying, “I don’t care if this is working for you. In the real world, my approach is better.” If we start to look at some of the things we read and some of the discussions we see, look at it through that lens.
If you see that happening, if you see a person saying, “I don’t care if this is working for you in the real world. You should do what I’m saying instead,” I would personally close that internet tab or turn off that television show or shut that book, immediately.
Dr. Bowden: Well, bring this full circle to our latest book, The Great Cholesterol Myth, this has been the challenge with us all along with this whole cholesterol craziness. I see since we wrote the book and since we went on Doctor Oz and The Doctors and we’ve gotten a lot of publicity for The Great Cholesterol Myth, people literally come up to me in the street, practically, certainly at any dinner party or any function that I go to, and they tell me these stories in which they go to their doctor…
Now, I’m talking about people…I’ll give you a typical person. No risk factors, an incredible triglyceride/HDL ratio, which is one of the most predictive numbers for heart disease; no reading on their CRP, which is a measure of inflammation; no abdominal fat, no obesity, great fitness, no body fat, and their doctor wants to put them on a statin pill. Well, why is that? Because their way is right, and I go, here’s the thing, are you treating risk or are you treating cholesterol?
The reason I brought this up is because this is a perfect example of that kind of group think that you’re talking about. The doctor thinks that if your number is over 200 you go on a pill, it doesn’t matter whether you’re not at risk, it doesn’t matter if you have a perfect calcium coronary scan showing absolutely no occlusion or plaque, it doesn’t matter. If that number says that, that’s what you got to do, and that’s the moronic thinking that I think that I’ve attacked for 22 years and why I’m called the ‘Rogue Nutritionist,” it’s dumb thinking.
You’ve got a doctor who says that, change doctors. That’s the same person who’s telling you, “Well, your diet seems to be working, you’re losing weight, you’re feeling great, you have great libido, you have great energy, but you’re not on the diet you’re supposed to be on! Just change to my diet!” That’s the same moron thinking, and I think that when you encounter that, the best thing to do, as you say, close the internet tab, change doctors, change friends, and just get the hell out, because that’s bad advice.
Jonathan: Well, Jonny, I can give people some good advice, and I can tell them about a website
that is not going to do that, and that is obviously here. We’ve got Dr. Jonny Bowden and his website, is Jonny, Jo-n-n-y, Bowden, B-o-w-d-e-n, and as you can hear here, Jonny is full of great insights, great enthusiasm, and great common sense. Jonny, your most recent book, The Great Cholesterol Myth, obviously doing very well. Congratulations with that, and your program which you’ve mentioned, what was it? Find Your Thin?
Dr. Bowden: Unleash Your Thin.
Dr. Bowden: There’s a link on my website if you want to find out more about it.
Jonathan: I love it, I love it. Well Jonny, thank you for all that you do and all you’ve done for decades to help just quell this insanity that is out there. I really appreciate it.
Dr. Bowden: Thank you so much, it’s great to talk to you, Jonathan, anytime.
Jonathan: Thank you again, Dr. Jonny. Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did, and remember, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.