Introduction: Smarter Science of Slim
In other fields, when bridges do not stand, when aircraft do not fly, when machines do not work, when treatments do not cure, despite all conscientious efforts on the part of many persons to make them do so, one begins to question the basic assumptions, principles, theories, and hypotheses that guide one’s efforts. —Arthur Jensen, University of California
Over the past few decades, we’ve been trying harder and harder to be healthy and fit. The result: we got heavy and sick. What’s going on here? When did healthy and fit start making us heavy and sick? And why is everyone calling us lazy gluttons?
If a doctor prescribes us a medication and it makes us worse, is that our fault? No. However, it is up to us to stop taking it and to find a new doctor. Similarly, if an architect builds us a house and it crumbles, is that our fault? No. But we better find a good contractor who knows how to build something solid and safe.
We have to apply the same logic to health and fitness. We’ve received so much contradictory, damaging advice over the years—often resulting in frustration and extra pounds. It’s high time for us to make a better choice. But what other option do we have than the decades-old calorie-counting approach?
I have good news and bad news. Scientific and technological advancements have been just as amazing in the health, fitness, and fat-loss arenas over the past forty years as they have been everywhere else. But here’s the bad news: Nobody’s told us about them. The field of modern nutrition and exercise science has provided a proven alternative, and it does not involve complex calorie counting, confusing workout routines, or other gimmicks.
We can think about the modern approach to avoiding obesity and diabetes like we would the modern approach to avoiding lung cancer: No need to track breaths in and breaths out—just enjoy clean air. Don’t avoid everything. Just steer clear of things proven to poison and break your lungs. Similarly, no need to track calories in and calories out—just enjoy so much delicious healthful (what I call “SANE”) food that you are too full for the (“inSANE”) foods that break your metabolism.
We’ve gotten worse while trying harder because we’ve been written a bad prescription and given a faulty blueprint. The traditional approach to health and fitness is like attempting to avoid lung cancer by smoking light cigarettes and jogging. We’re still destroying our respiratory system—albeit more slowly—and even some well-intentioned jogging cannot undo that damage.
Likewise, eating less of a traditional diet and doing more traditional exercise does not prevent obesity and diabetes. It may delay them, but the diet still destroys our metabolic system—albeit more slowly—and the exercise does not undo that damage. Fortunately, we have the solution: We can use simple and proven science to make “healthy” healthy again.
We Can Live Better
Starting in the 1970s, diet and nutrition experts reduced food and exercise down to a lowest common denominator: calories. They told us that we just need to eat fewer calories and exercise more to burn them off. It doesn’t matter what we eat. “There are no bad foods,” they said, “only bad quantities. Everything in moderation.” In this same spirit, many experts claimed the type of exercise we do is irrelevant—as long as we get our heart rate up for a certain amount of time so that we burn a lot of calories.
This dual set of recommendations led to a world where nearly half of all women and a third of all men are following a diet plan while the fitness industry has blossomed into a $30 billion business that employs more than a half a million people. In other words, we trusted the experts and took the calorie counting concept to heart. Here is what that has done to our hearts (and waistlines):
Judging by these results, the calorie-counting approach is not effective. We’re trying, but it’s not working—anywhere. The worldwide rate of obesity has more than doubled since 1980. The number of people who are overweight today equals the total world population a century ago. Most disturbing, David S. Ludwig MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital reports: “Obesity is such that this generation of children could be the first basically in the history of the United States to live less healthful and shorter lives than their parents.” In the words of Dr. Susan Wooley, cofounder of the Eating Disorder Clinic at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine: “The failure of [heavy] people to achieve a goal they seem to want—and to want almost above all else—must now be admitted for what it is: a failure not of those people but of the methods of treatment that are used.”
While this is heartbreaking, there is hope. The counterproductive results brought upon by the misinformation of the past have led contemporary experts—people who spend their time in research labs, not on television or in magazines—to seek out an alternative. These experts knew we couldn’t begin to find the answer until we were ready to admit the fallacies of those old theories. “How may the medical profession regain its proper role in the treatment of obesity?” Albert Stunkard, MD, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and founder of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania, asks. “We can begin by looking at the situation as it exists and not as we would like it to be. . . . If we do not feel obliged to excuse our failures, we may be able to investigate them.”
This realization within the scientific community has been wonderful for us because it led to decades of transformational fat loss and wellness research. The only issue is that this research, buried in dense medical journal articles and research papers, has not yet found its way out of academic circles.
You and I are going to fix that. Once we simplify this science, we can escape the myths at the heart of the obesity, diabetes, and heart disease epidemics. We will experience something truly liberating: we will see how accurate information makes it easy to get slim and be healthy.
Does that sound too good to be true? Have you ever met anyone who eats as much as she wants, does not exercise, and still stays skinny? We all have. So the question is not: “Is simple lifelong slimness possible?” Millions of naturally thin people have already demonstrated that it is. The question is: “How can I burn fat automatically, like naturally thin people?”
Along the same lines, have you ever met anyone who easily avoids foods most of us crave? Again, we all have. The question is not: “Is it possible to avoid foods that many people crave?” Millions of vegetarians demonstrate every day that it’s possible to resist drive-thru burgers for life. The question is: “How can we get our minds to see harmful foods in the way that vegetarians’ minds see meat?”
The modern science of health and fitness has revealed a surprising and encouraging answer: We don’t need to eat less and exercise more (harder). We can eat more and exercise less—smarter.
Smarter is the key. The focus should be on food and exercise quality instead of quantity. By eating plenty of higher-quality food and doing less (but higher-quality) exercise, we unconsciously avoid overeating and provide our body a unique combination of nutrition and hormones, one that reprograms the body to behave more like one of a naturally thin person. Likewise, psychologists have pioneered techniques we can use to reprogram the way our mind perceives food. If we dedicate a few hours to freeing our mind, it can free us from the cravings that sabotage our efforts.
We’re literally dying to know the facts about fat loss and health, but who has time to examine thousands of pages of scientific studies? It took me over a decade of being sleep deprived, sending countless e-mails, and calling researchers around the world to understand and integrate over thirteen hundred nutrition and exercise studies into this book. Thankfully, you won’t need a decade to absorb this information—you just need a few hours to read it and five weeks to allow it to change your life.
I’ve simplified my findings into a five-week plan to burn fat and shed pounds quickly, and a flexible lifestyle program that improves your health and helps you slim down permanently. You’ll learn:
- How supposedly “healthy” foods cripple our ability to burn fat
- How to burn fat while eating more food
- How to get all the benefits of exercise in a tenth of the time
- How eating less sets us up to gain fat in the long run
- How a few minutes of a new form of exercise immunizes us against fat gain
- How we fix the underlying hormonal condition causing us to gain fat
To start, let’s look at a point-by-point comparison of the 1970s calorie-counting theory and the 2010s smarter science of slim. On the left you will find the advice you’ve read dozens of times. Now look at the right-hand column. There is quite a difference.
To be clear, the “eat less, exercise more” approach can work—just not very often, easily, or enjoyably. Studies show that counting calories does not keep off body fat over the long term, 95.4 percent of the time. To put that into perspective, quitting smoking cold turkey has a 94.5 percent failure rate. Put these to facts together: we are more likely to give up the third most addictive substance in the world (trailing only heroin and cocaine) without any help than we are to shed weight using the “gold-standard” advice you have been taught your whole life (the gospel of what I was taught back in my personal trainer days).
The modern smarter approach is not about better versus worse, but simple versus complex: When we’re hungry, we eat smarter foods until we’re full. When we work out, we do smarter exercise for a shorter period of time.
That’s it. Freed from hunger or complicated calculations about how much we’re eating or exercising, we can spend our energy on our dreams, jobs, and families. The calorie-counting model is so complex that there are reality TV shows about it, with contestants constantly doing food math and spending life-draining hours in the gym. Worried about how much we’re eating or exercising, we have little time or energy for anything else.
Both approaches can get you to “the other side.” But while counting calories is like frantically zig-zaging through a minefield, eating more and exercising less—but smarter—is as natural and low key as strolling through a meadow.
Consider a study done at Skidmore College comparing a traditional calorie-counting “eat less, exercise more—harder” program against a simpler “eat more, exercise less—smarter” program. Let’s call the groups in the study the Harder Group and the Smarter Group.
The Harder Group ate a more conventional Western diet while doing traditional aerobic exercise for forty minutes per day, six days per week. The Smarter Group ate a smarter diet while exercising only 60 percent as much, but with higher quality. The study lasted for twelve weeks and included thirty-four women and twenty-nine men between the ages of twenty and sixty.
At the end of the study, the Harder Group ate less food and exercised eighteen hours more than the Smarter Group. The Smarter Group focused on high-intensity cardio and resistance training, and ate more but higher-quality calories. Here’s what the researchers found:
Intrigued? It gets better. The program in this book takes the strategies used by the Smarter Group to the next level.
We don’t use the same surgical techniques we used forty years ago. We don’t use the same computers we used forty years ago. And there’s no need to use the same nutritional and exercise approaches we used forty years ago. Thousands of studies show a simpler, safer, and more sustainable way to trim off those unwanted pounds while improving every aspect of our health. It is time to free ourselves from outdated Calorie Myths. It is time to enjoy a smarter science of slim.
The Calorie Myths
In the first part of the book, we’ll cover the new science that lays the foundation for the program. It may be tempting to skip this section and jump straight into the “how-to” information, but I would caution against that. Without this foundational information, the practical steps later in the book won’t make sense because you won’t have any context for understanding them. So please give the science a shot. We’ve given the Calorie Myths decades to confuse us. Let’s give the smarter science a few short hours to clear things up.
We’ll start by digging into research around the set-point—a range of about ten pounds that our body works to keep us within. We’ll see that processed food creates a hormonal “clog” that raises our set-point weight and causes chronic fat gain. We will also see how healing our hormones and lowering our set-point weight, via high-quality whole-plant and animal foods, keeps us slim as reliably as our existing set-point keeps us heavy. We will free ourselves from trying to manually regulate calories in and calories out—a maddening, never-ending task that’s just about as feasible as trying to manually regulate all your breaths in and breaths out.
Next, we’ll see how the message “a calorie is a calorie, so eat whatever, just not too much” is about as accurate as saying “liquid is liquid, so drink whatever, just not too much.” We will find that the quality of calories varies wildly and is determined by four factors: Satiety, Aggression, Nutrition, and Efficiency.
- Satiety is how quickly calories fill us up.
- Aggression is how likely calories are to be stored as body fat.
- Nutrition is how many vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, etc., calories provide.
- Efficiency is how easily calories are converted into body fat.
Whether a calorie is high quality or low quality depends on where it fits on the SANEity spectrum. High-quality calories are on the healthy end of the SANEity spectrum. They are nonstarchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole-food fats, and low-fructose fruits. They are Satisfying, unAggressive, Nutritious, and inEfficient. These SANE foods fill us up quickly and keep us full for a long time. SANE foods provide a lot of nutrients and few of them can be converted into body fat. Even better, SANE foods trigger the release of body-fat-burning hormones, clear clogs, and lower our set-point. The more of SANE foods we eat, the simpler slim becomes.
Low-quality calories are just the opposite. Starches and sweets are on the unhealthy end of the SANEity spectrum. They are unSatisfying, Aggressive, nonNutritious, and Efficient. When we eat these inSANE foods we have to overeat to satisfy ourselves. These inSANE foods provide few nutrients and they are easily converted into body fat. Triggering the release of body-fat-storing hormones, inSANE foods cause clogs and raise our set-point. The more inSANE foods we eat, the more complex slim becomes.
Next, you and I will walk through research revealing why the quality of our calories is so important. We will discover how calorie quality controls the hormones that control our set-point. We’ll also see how the clogged-up and myth-filled food world of today has a long history. One of the lowest-quality sources of calories in the world is starch, but our government refuses to recognize this fact. In its pyramid and plate, starches are promoted vigorously as though they should be the cornerstone of a healthy diet. We’ll see how big food, fitness, and pharmaceutical corporations exploit these government guidelines and graphics to keep people and profits fat.
The Solutions: Get SANE and Smart
Here’s where we’ll get practical. You and I will cover how to put the science we learned into practice in our everyday lives to achieve long-term fat loss and health. We will see that SANE eating is enjoyable and sustainable. When we eat an abundance of high-quality whole food, our tastes will change, our cravings will disappear, and we will be too full to be tempted with processed low-quality food. Eating more SANE food causes the quality of our diet to rise, which lowers our set-point, and our body begins to work more like the body of a naturally thin person.
We’ll also explore the massive disconnect between what we’ve been taught about exercise and what researchers have proven. We’ll explore how exercising to enable our body to burn fat for us long term is completely different than exercising to burn a few calories right now. We will see how moving our body slowly, safely, and forcefully, speeds the metabolic healing at the heart of making slim simple. We will see how far from making us bulky, smarter resistance training is the key to staying slim and healthy. We’ll then wrap up by exploring how to exercise smarter.
Five-Week Smarter Science of Slim Plan
In the last part of the book, I will offer you a complete five-week mental, nutritional, and physical plan that will forever free you from yo-yo dieting and optimize your health. We’ll work through mental activities that enable us to overcome subconscious roadblocks that could derail our fat-loss efforts regardless of how much science we know. We’ll discover psychological tools that enable us to easily eliminate the desire for inSANE foods. We’ll see exactly how many servings of SANE foods we need to eat to heal our metabolism and how easy it is to grocery shop, cook, and eat out SANEly. I’ll arm you with more than thirty recipes, snacks, and substitutions that speed hormonal healing. Finally, we’ll see safe, smarter exercises that we can do at home or at a gym in just twenty minutes per week. (That’s not per day—that’s per week.)
This smarter science of slim has dramatically and permanently improved the lives of many people and it will do the same for you. Let’s get the myths and misinformation out of the way and make slim simple again. Let’s eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better.