JB With Dr. Ray Hinish on Cut The Fat Podcast
Dr. Ray Hinish
Ray: Hi! Welcome to the Cut The Fat podcast. I’m Dr. Ray Hinish, and ladies and gentlemen, my hand has been forced. I had to call in an exterminator, so on the line with me is Jonathan Bailor, author of the book The Smarter Science of Slim, and I’ve charged Jonathan with the task of exterminating the calorie myth of fat loss from your minds. Without further ado, let me introduce Jonathan. Hey, Jonathan!
Jonathan: Hey, Ray how’re you doing?
Ray: Good! How about yourself?
Jonathan: Oh, real good, thanks.
Ray: Good, have you ever been introduced as an exterminator of the calorie myth?
Jonathan: I have not.
Ray: There’s a first for everything.
Jonathan: All right, great!
Ray: Well, as I mentioned, Jonathan is the author of the book, The Smarter Science of Slim, and let me tell you Jonathan, this book is arguably one of the most fantastic and scientific books on the process of body fat change that I have seen on the market as of yet. I’ve got to say, Kudos, for writing this book.
Jonathan: Thank you Ray, I really do appreciate that. It definitely took quite a bit of the time, but it was a pleasure to put it together; and I’m glad it was useful.
Ray: Yeah and I think it is, I think this is going to be one of the favorite shows of our listeners, because I know how they think and they really do like the science, so let’s jump right into this. The big issue here is this calorie myth, right?. Tell us what is the calorie myth?
Jonathan: Well Ray, let me ask one quick follow-up question, and that’s when you’re referring to the calorie myth. I actually see there as being three calorie myths, so maybe we can talk about all of them. The first and most pervasive is the idea that there’s this simple mathematical equation, calories in, calories out and that we need to manually control the variables in that equation in order to maintain health and fitness.
There’s a second myth, which is related to the first myth, and that’s that a calorie is a calorie; and because all we have to worry about according to the first myth is the quantity of calories, and if quantity is all that matter, then a calorie is a calorie. That’s myth two, and myth three is that calories all up are really all what we need to think about. That is very much a myth. Hormones and other things matter dramatically so all three, first, second, third. What can we do here today?
Ray: Well actually, why don’t we start this way? I want to throw a curve ball your way, because just like nobody has ever introduced you as an exterminator. I want you to first argue in favor of the calorie myth, okay, because, Jonathan, there is a reason why this is the accepted model by so many “experts” out there. It is the accepted model by practically every government agency out there that is about health and wellness. So why is it? Why has this been the most accepted model in weight loss?
Jonathan: It’s not that calories in and calories out is irrelevant, like saying that is as absurd as saying that it is the be all and end all. Clearly, if we were to sit down and eat 20 sticks of butter and consume 10,000 calories, we would gain body fat. That will happen. The challenge is that this concept that we can and need to manually regulate calories in, calories out and that we can use this mathematical equation to accurately predict what caloric imbalances will do, has simply been disproven. Let me elaborate on both of those points.
The first is, I talked about the idea that we need to manually regulate calories in and calories out. Ray, that’s about as reasonable as saying that a person needs to manually regulate breaths in and breaths out. Our body is designed by default to automatically take care of mission critical functions. Think about blood coming in and going out of your heart or even the balance of sodium and potassium and electrolytes within your body. We don’t have to consciously monitor those things, why do we have to monitor consciously calories in and calories out? We don’t. Our body is designed to take care of that for us.
It’s the science of the set point that has been studied extensively, but for some reason, and I can tell you that reason, we’ve been led to believe for this one particular area of our body, we need to manually control it, and the reason for that of course is that it’s frankly impossible to accurately control calories in and calories out. There’s an amazingly profitable market to sell products and services that makes it seemingly possible to do this impossible task. The second part of that myth, I don’t remember what I said the second part of the myth… Do you remember what I said the second part was?
Ray: On the second part was that a calorie is a calorie.
Jonathan: Yes, a calorie is a calorie. Oh, sorry, no actually I remember now, it was that this equation. There’s an equation the assumption is that we need to manually enforce it. That’s not true. The equation matters, but our body will automatically regulate it, so the equation does exist. It’s the idea we need to manually regulate it, that’s a myth. The other thing which is a myth, the second component of that calories in, calories out myths is that our body works like math. It doesn’t. Let me give you a quick example. We have been told, and this is accurate according to the data that we eat more now. We eat more now, and we do.
If you look at the data, we are consuming an average of 425 more calories per person per day than we did four decades ago. So according to calories in/calories out, we should gain some weight. That’s true. We have gained some weight, but here’s what’s not true. Let’s actually do calorie math, like, let’s explicitly do it. 425 extra calories per person per day, okay, lets multiply that by 365 days in a year, now let’s multiply that by 40 years because that’s what we had since the ‘70’s, and then we divide it by 3,500 because there’s 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. According to calories in/calories out, your metabolism works like math.
The average person should have gained about 1,700 pounds of fat since the ‘70’s. Obviously, that’s ridiculous and that’s because our body automatically regulates calories in/calories out. It automatically tries to keep us within a state of homeostasis. When we cut calories, our body reduces energy. When we increase calories, our body expends more energy, so again even the idea that we can do this, we can’t. When you cut calories your body will slow down, so, you don’t know how many calories you’re burning.
This is just a ridiculous proposition. There is some truth to it, the body does it automatically, but the absurdity comes in when we start to think that we are smarter than our body and that we can override our body. Just like we could try to keep ourselves awake. Our bodies are going to win out. Just like we can try to not blink, our bodies are going to win out and try to keep ourselves healthy. Fundamentally, if a virus gets in us, we’re going to get sick, so a much healthier strategy is to try to work with our bodies, rather than fight against them by ripping calories out, either through starving ourselves or by exercising obsessively.
Ray: A lot of people might listen to that, and say, “Wait a minute. We have a good example of how the calorie model does work could be something like the Biggest Loser Competition.” So you’ve got a bunch of people, extremely overweight, you put them on a ranch, you put them on 1,200 calorie diets, and you exercise them all day long, and they burn tremendous amounts of fat? Isn’t that proof that it is about calories.
Jonathan: The formalized way people make the argument which you just made which is a very, very common argument, so I appreciate you bringing it up, Jonathan, doesn’t the law of thermodynamics prove that if you eat less and cut calories you have to burn body fat? Let’s break that down because again, the first thing we talked about there is an element of truth there, but we’ve taken it too far and we’ve misrepresented the truth. And to be clear Ray, that’s why these myths become so ingrained because they’re not crazy.
There’s elements of truths, but they’ve been stretched and misrepresented a bit, so I want to bring that back into what science has actually shown. Let’s talk about eating less and how that “works” for the Biggest Loser people. There are laws of thermodynamics. there’s four of them. There’s not one law of thermodynamics. Two of them have nothing to do with fat loss. They have to do with defining absolute 0. Another less interesting things, the two that do apply here tell us that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only change forms. Now, that is interesting.
That tells us that if we have a system like our body, and if we reduce the amount of energy we put into it, something has to happen; because energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change forms but, Ray, there’s a key point there. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only change forms. If we put ourselves in a state of caloric deficit, what the applicable law of thermodynamics prove, is that our body has to do something, they do not prove what our body has to do. To see what our body has to do, we have to look at biology, not thermodynamics. When we look at biology, what we see is that our body does four things.
The first is, if we just cut down on the food that we are eating, we are going to become malnourished, because we’re taking in less food, less nourishment. That’s certainly not good for our long-term health. The second thing that happens is that our metabolism slows down, and our mind slows down. We’ve all experienced this. You go eight hours without eating, because you’re on the road and you’re groggy and you’re tired and your mind feels foggy.
That’s because your body slowed down. The third thing that happens is, if you’re still in the state of caloric deficit at that point, your body will burn tissue. Sadly, it’s not going to burn fat tissue. It’s going to burn muscle tissue. Why? It does not have enough calories. What is it trying to do? Preserve calories. What burns a lot of calories? Muscle tissue. Studies actually show that 70 percent of the weight we lose when we eat less is coming from muscle tissue. That’s certainly not helpful when it comes to long term fat loss. Yes, we’re losing weight, but is that really what we want? I think what we want is long term fat loss. Now, at that point, if we’re still at the state of caloric deficit, we will burn fat; but, Ray, at what cost? The Biggest Losers will attest to this. I’m working with two of them, Jay and Jennifer Jacobs from Season 11. Jay was a finalist, and Jennifer is a much-loved contestant on the show. What we’re dealing with right now is the consequence of starvation dieting, where they’ve burnt off a tremendous amount of muscle tissue.
They’ve suppressed their metabolisms horribly and this has made it nearly impossible for them to keep fat off their body. I believe that our goal is not weight loss, short term. I believe our goal is long-term fat loss and health. There is no question. I will shout this from the mountaintops and science backs it up. If your goal is to lose as much weight as possible, put as little stuff in your body as you can and get as much stuff out of your body as you can. Wrestlers and boxers and any athletes who need to make weight can tell you how to lose 15 pounds in two days.
They’ve been doing it for generations, but it’s not healthy and it doesn’t help you in the long term. What helps you in the long term is all about healing your metabolism, providing your body with an abundance of nutrition so that it will burn fat, preserve muscle tissue, and preserve your metabolism. Ray, I think really therein lies the distinction is the ‘cut calories model’ is effective at weight loss, but I would argue that that’s not what we’re after. What were after is fat loss and robust health, and we don’t do that by just eating less food.
Ray: Right. I’d like to say there are three things that the perfect fat loss program needs to deal with. It needs to improve body composition obviously because were on a fat loss program to burn fat and build muscle to change our shape basically. Second, it needs to improve health. Obviously as you mentioned, it is possible to lose weight and be less healthy than when you started, right? Then third, it’s got to improve energy levels. If your program doesn’t do or achieve all three of those goals, then it is not a successful fat loss program, because it’s not sustainable. Would you agree with that?
Jonathan: I would not only agree with you but I’ll take it one step further, and in addition to being sustainable which is a key to what you just said, things like making us feel depressed and in reducing energy levels and causing our hair to fall out in certain cases because we’re malnourishing ourselves. Certainly, that’s nothing anyone should tell anyone to do, and this is kind of a morbid example, but when people get really amped up and they say eating less has to work, look at people who for example in war torn countries don’t have enough food. They all lose weight, you’re right, but I don’t think that’s what we’re after. We don’t want to look like starved, food deprived, war-torn individuals. Yeah, you’re going to lose weight but is that how you want to do it? That’s a bit like saying, “I want to get these weeds out of my garden, so I’m just going to pour gasoline all over my garden.” Yeah, you’re going to kill your weeds, but no flowers are going to grow. Yeah, you know what I’m saying?
Ray: Yeah, exactly that’s a great way of putting it. It’s funny that you said that because today I was kind of surfing around weight loss blogs, and I came across one that I’ve been following for some time, not because, I got any real value from the blog itself, but because it just interests me. There’s a blog and the blog’s called The Token Fat Girl, okay, that’s the name of the blog. It’s been a while since I hopped on that blog and looked around, so I go there today and today’s post is this. The title of the post is Not Goodbye, and this is how it starts. I’m not going to read the whole thing. It says, “This post is a long time coming.
I’m taking a break from The Token Fat Girl for a while. I write this on the heels of attending a blog festival, I guess, Blog or 12 I guess, this just feels right now. It’s been a struggle for me to keep the blog up this past year, if not longer.” “To be frank, I’m bored with talking about fat, food and fitness. I’m tired of reading about it as much as I am about writing about it. I’m not, however, tired of working towards being a healthier person but blogging about this does not feel healthy to be anymore. It feels degrading. I find myself waiting for other’s to tell me if what I ate looks healthy enough or if my diet plan is to their standards, if I’m eating few enough calories, if I’m losing weight like they did, moving like they are, doing it their way. Congratulation then encouragement when they approve, silence when they don’t. I’m done waiting on approval and acceptance on this with my weight loss.”
The post goes on, basically she’s happy now. She’s given up. She’s saying, “I’m so sick of counting calories. I’m so sick of not seeing results.” And the posts directly before this, and a lot of her posts are this way, showing her meals, her diet, and the post directly below this, which was July 25th is showing her breakfast, and what is it? It’s a big breakfast cookie. What we have here a classic example of the person who’s counting calories and seeing dismal results, and quite frankly, people feel like failures because of it. How do we get out of there? How do we get away from this, this feeling that we if we fail at losing weight or fail at burning fat, that it’s connected somehow to the person that we are.
Jonathan: Let me pop out one level Ray, to answer that question and say that blog was so profound because it really captures this idea that we’ve been sold; and I say sold intentionally, that maintaining health is complicated and hard. Think about that for a second. How can that be true? Humans, homosapiens, are the most successful, and we’ve thrived on this planet more than any other species, save maybe cockroaches because they’re pretty successful, too, at surviving. If maintaining health and fitness was as complicated as we’re led to believe, how have we been doing successfully for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years?
The idea of counting calories was ludicrous up to about 50 years ago. If you ask your grandmother, if she counted calories, she says like, what? Exercise, aerobics wasn’t even a concept in the mainstream until the ‘60’s. My mother was told that if she exercised, it would make her infertile, just this whole model in some ways is absurd. We are designed to be healthy when we eat food. Now, a breakfast cookie isn’t food. When we accept that we need to eat food-like products that we’ve been inundated, then we need the count calories because we’re basically putting toxins into our body; and we need to minimize the amount of the toxic stuff we put into our body.
If we just eat food, and I define food as things you can find directly in nature, so until someone shows me there’s a Cheerios tree, I’m going to even lump whole grains into non-natural category. When we eat food, we escape this big, fat trap in the psychological mass that we’ve been put in. Ray, that’s all we did up until the 1970’s. Folks just ate food, and we were doing better with cardiovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, everything.
Ray: Hold that thought, Jonathan, because we’re going to get into, I guess what you called the four calorie quality factors, which kind of come into play and explain this process of…. You know what? We don’t even need to go into that really. What you’re talking about, and you and I were talking about this earlier is that, the best appetite suppressant — when people talk about I’m hungry all the time, well the best appetite suppressant is real food, right?. Before we get into that, you mentioned starvation previously.
It reminds me, my sister had called me in to do a 16-week weight loss program with her, a bunch of her friends and co-workers and so forth. I go in. I do this program. We’re halfway through the program, and we’re halfway on week eight; and the only person in the class who had not lost weight or burned fat was my sister. Everybody else was chugging along, some faster than others; but she was the only one in the group who had not burned fat. I’m sitting there wondering, why is that? Before the class started on that day, I overheard her giving advice to one of the other participants of the group. Here’s what she said. She said, “If you’re not hungry, you’re not losing.” Right then and there I knew why, why she had not started to burn fat yet. That’s it! That’s the poison in our society, right then and there, in that statement. That’s the poison, and that’s why I have you on today, Jonathan, because one of the most frustrating things that I have to deal with is convincing people that this calorie myth concept, the concept that you must count calories to lose fat, you must lower your caloric intake to ridiculously low levels to burn fat is so hard to get out of their head.
They’re called the vampire myth, because you can shoot it, stab it, bludgeon it, and it refuses to die. Talking about the starvation, will you give me your definition of starvation? What would you define as starvation to the body in today’s day and age?
Jonathan: I would define starvation… first I want to separate out energy and nutrition, because I think those are two very important concepts to pull apart. Our body, for example, has stored energy. Fat is stored energy, but in many cases our body does not have stored nutrition. We need to ingest vitamin C, we need to ingest essential fatty acids, essential amino acids. Our body cannot synthesize these things. I would define starvation as our body having insufficient nutrition, and that’s what I think is the key distinction because when we just eat less food, we provide our body with less nutrition.
When what we are actually trying to do is make our body become in a state of exogenesis or external energy shortage so that it has to suck energy from its own stores and burn it off but we conflate those two concepts, Ray. We think that the only way to get our body to burn off stored energy is to reduce nutrition. That’s not true. We can eat more food and take in more nutrition and still have our body burn off energy that we have stored.
In fact, the only way I’ve seen, through my research to enable our body to effectively burn off stored energy is to take in more, not less, nutrition; because in some ways that gives our body permission to burn off our energy reserves because it does not detect this sort of crisis state. It realizes we have an abundant amount of nutrition, and we’re not starving, so if it needs extra energy, it’s going to keep our metabolism going; and it’s going take it from our hips and from our belly, rather than burning off our muscle tissue or just slowing us down as it responds.
Ray: This is the key point. What you’re basically saying, Jonathan, is it’s possible for somebody to eat 500 calories above what their “metabolism or what their dietician” says it’s their basal metabolic weight, their minimum amount of calories they need. It’s possible for them to eat 500 more calorie and still the body be in a starved state.
Jonathan: Absolutely! I’m trying to think the Michael Pollan, who is a very, very famous author, brilliant man, made a statement of saying that we… “Given the new food type products we are all consuming have ushered in a new species onto the planet, and that’s a species that is simultaneously overfed and undernourished. You can see this all the time. There’s children who are obese, an abundance of energy, and have rickets, a shortage of nutrition. How do you have an obese person that has rickets? Well, it’s because they’re eating food-like products that are high in energy and low in nutrition. When you eat food, you take in lots of nutrition and you do not over consume energy.
Ray: Let me ask you this, so you’ve define starvation as anytime really when your body is lacking the nutrition to thrive, basically. Is that in a nutshell what you are saying?
Ray: How does somebody know if their body is in a starvation mode? I’d like you to speak specifically to fat loss. If we have somebody out there listening, who’s trying to burn fat, how do they know if their body is in a starved mode?
Jonathan: If you feel like crap, you’re starving; and if you feel wonderful, you’re not. I say this very intentionally, because, individuals who eat more, but smarter, as I advocate in my work, will burn fat, their clothes will shrink, they will shrink, their clothes would no longer fit. They will shrink and they will have more energy, they will have more mental acuity, they will feel more satisfied, and they are achieving their physical goals, whereas traditionally we think it’s just par for the course that, “I’m going to diet, and it means I’m going to be crabby and feel like crap until I can’t keep that up and go back to eating more food.” You don’t have, those two things don’t have to go together. You can shrink and feel great and if you don’t, you’re starving yourself and that’s not sustainable.
Ray: Jonathan, lets go back to The Token Fat Girl. From what I got, from her blog post, her “final blog post.” She’s still going to continue to blog, I’ll point that out, but this seemed to be like the final blog post. What I’ve got from it is, she feels that she is genetically fat. She’s going to be fat forever, because she just has the genes for this, so she’s going to focus her attention on living her life, rather than just trying to live her life to lose weight. Do you believe that some people are just genetically going to be fat forever, or is there something that everybody can do to improve their fatness?
Jonathan: Both are true. There are people who are going to be genetically predisposed to being heavier. We’ve all experienced this. We all know there are two brothers and one of them is heavier, and one is lighter and that just seems to be the way they are; and we all know naturally thin people who eat whatever they want and don’t exercise and stay slim. There is definitely a genetic component, and there’s another component. It’s the hormonal balance in your body.
These two things add up to make what’s called your sub point weight, and while we can’t change our genetics, Science has proven unequivocally that we can’t change the hormonal balance in our body. In fact, we’ve all experienced this. If we ate the same way we ate when we were 15, we would gain a lot more weight now than what we did when we were 15. Why? The quantity and quality of food we would be consuming in this experiment is the same, but our hormonal balance has changed. Any woman who has gone through menopause will tell you this straight up. She can eat the same things, and she’s going to gain more weight.
This woman, my heart goes out to her, because she has been taught something by society which is not true. She is not broken, just like one person may have a tendency to be alcoholics, that does not mean they have to be alcoholics. Just like people may have a gene which predisposes them to let’s say manic depression, doesn’t mean they have to fall into states of depression. There are always things we can do to help address our genetic makeup, and the same thing she would do is the same thing that anyone would do. It’s just that she might not get as great results as anyone else, and that is simply, eat more nutritious foods.
To be clear, let’s be very clear here, Ray, that, she may have a bit of an uphill battle, especially if she has cut calories chronically in the past because what that does, is it essentially destroys your metabolism. I go into this in detail in my book, but the more we yo-yo, the worse off we are long term. This has been shown in study after study after study. If we go down, then up, then down, then down and up; and if we want to go down again, it’s going to be harder than the first three times, because our body is like conditioning itself to not starve. It doesn’t want to starve.
When we keep putting it in these states, it will over-compensate and make it harder for us moving forward. So, is she stuck? I mean, Tara Parker Pope basically made the same point in the New York Times saying, “You know what? I’ve tried everything, and it doesn’t work. You know what the one thing Tara hasn’t tried is eliminating what I call insane foods, which are starches and sweets, and consuming so many non-starchy vegetables, high quality proteins and whole food, natural fats that she’s too full for starches and sweets. I am positive that this blogger hasn’t done this either.
Ray: Her name is Laurie, by the way. I do want to point out that, I was actually quite moved by Laurie’s post, and I think the place that she’s at right now actually places her in a better position to find the solution than she has been when she’s been blogging all these years. I pointed out that the big breakfast cookie was the post directly beneath this. Below that was a breakfast of a piece of bread with some egg beaters on top and a big bowl of fruit.
Below that was a pasta salad and below that was a meal of a pumpkin chocolate bread and then below that was a Kung-Po chicken, which was actually okay. Below that, was for dessert was another big bowl of fruit with some granola placed on top of it. What would you say to Laurie today? If she was sitting there, right in front of you, she just got done telling you she’s basically given up on this and she is just going to go and be the best person she can be and not obsess about her weight any more, what would you tell her?
Jonathan: I’m going to use a silly analogy here. I hope it works. I haven’t thought through it all the way. I would say Laurie, pretend we are in my home town, not where I live now, but my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, in the Midwest; and Laurie, your goal is to get to California, and so far what you’ve tried, is you tried taking a car and driving east and then you tried to get into a plane and then you went east. You got on a skateboard and you went east and you got on a bicycle and you went east. We’ve got to go west.
You’ve tried all of these things, but you’ve been pointed in the wrong direction, and you’ve tried different flavors, but it’s all in the wrong direction. You’ve tried and this is what we all do. We’ve all tried different flavors of eat less, exercise more. It’s no different, fundamentally, everything we’ve been taught, all these new “programs” are just a repackaging of eat less, exercise more and what I would say is, “Yes, that’s awesome. Where you’ve reached now Ray, I echo you. You now know that doesn’t work. You now know you need to go west. You know you need to eat more and you need to exercise less, but you need to do that smarter. You need to focus on food and exercise quality, rather than food and exercise quantity.
Ray: There’s this image about the whole weight loss process, Jonathan. I am sure you’ve seen it, I know I’ve seen it and the image is that it has to be suffering. Just like when my sister was talking to her friend in that weight loss class, which broke my heart by the way, when she told her, if you’re not hungry, then you’re not losing. It’s just this thought process, that this whole process of weight loss needs to be miserable. I’m sure you don’t know my story, but, in a nutshell and I’ve told this in previous podcasts, when I was young I had a crush on a girl named Kelly Harrington. At a neighborhood Christmas party, somehow I’ve gotten a hold of her shoe, and she was chasing me through the house.
As long as I had that shoe, I knew I had the attention of the girl of my dreams. I was overweight, out of shape, big Pepsi bottle glasses, and so I wasn’t the swiftest creature in the world and she cornered me pretty quickly. I turned around and looked at her in the eyes and, the words that came out of her mouth, I will never forget this because it rings and like I can hear them right now. She said, “You’re fat. Give me back my shoe.” I gave her back her shoe. I walked across the street, and I went upstairs to my bedroom; and I cried for like three hours.
I looked over in the corner of the room and I saw this weight set that I really hadn’t noticed before. I picked it up. It was a single dumbbell, but it only had a weight on one side and I pushed it to the middle. I picked it up and started curling that weight and curling that weight. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just did it every night. I got up, when mom put me to bed, I’d get up, I picked the weight up and I curled that weight until I couldn’t curl it anymore and I’d go lay down in the bed and I’d fall asleep. Then one day I wake up in the morning, and I go into the bathroom and my older brother is brushing his teeth and I flexed my little arm in the mirror and this bubble popped up. It was a muscle.
At that moment, I looked in Loren’s face, which was my brother, and he said, “Where did that come from?” At that very moment, I knew I was onto something. I knew that I didn’t have to be fat anymore. I didn’t have to this thing that Kelly didn’t find attractive, Kelly didn’t love. I, as that adolescent, figured all I need to do is lose the weight, and Kelly will love me. I started to go out… when I got home from school, I would put on my tennis shoes and I would just go run because somewhere I heard that running burns calories, and you start to lose weight.
I also heard that you’re fat because you eat too much, so, instead of eating two bowls of Fruity Pebbles, I started eating just one bowl of Fruity Pebbles. I started to lose weight. I started to get healthy. I started to fall in love with health and fitness at that point, at that young age. I fell in love with health and fitness. My point is, when I think back to that time, when I was trying to change my body, it was empowering. It was a time that I felt most alive. I felt happy. I felt energetic. I felt like, “Man, this is the best.”
Every single day I get up with this feeling, this sensation of just, “I can’t wait to come home from school and go run and play and exercise. This whole calorie model of weight loss, of losing weight, I think it’s just destroying us. It’s destroying us just like with Laurie. She’s gotten to this point because her whole model is based on calories. We’re just exhausted by the whole process. A lot of our listeners are that way, but I digress I guess. I’m off on a tangent.
Jonathan: I love that story. It is exhausting, and just to go back to something I said earlier; and I don’t want to repeat myself. I do think that this is such a foundational thing. We need to bring back to the dialogue, health can’t be complicated. We were healthy as people long before we even knew what a calorie was. How did we do that, and how can we do it today? Knowledge of a calorie is not required to be healthy. How could it be? How can this be complicated?
An animal, humans are animals, having the ability to keep itself healthy is the single most basic ability any animal can have, just like we have to have the ability to breath. We have to have the ability to keep ourselves healthy, but what we’ve sort of downloaded into our mind is this broken software that makes it complicated. It’s not. It’s really not. Once you let go of these calorie myths just like you saying, and it’s also not a terrible process. It’s health.
It’s achieving health. If you think about it in terms of healing your body, you’re going to shed fat, and you will feel better because you’re healing, you’re nourishing. If you take care of your metabolism and nourish it, and you heal it, it will take care of you. Don’t fight against it. If you fight against it, it’s going to fight you back, and that’s why you feel bad.
Ray: That’s a great, great, way of saying it. Jonathan, if it’s not about the calories, so to speak, then what is it about? How do we start making the shift? How do we make progress?
Jonathan: It’s about food. First of all, we need to stop thinking about calories, we need to start thinking about food. If we want something to think about scientifically, most people don’t, they just want to be told what to do, and that’s cool because most people just want to live their life, they don’t want to think about these kinds of things. If we want something scientific we should think about hormones. If we want something nonscientific we should think of food.
Let’s quickly define food. I’m going to define food as something you can essentially find in nature. Now, there are exceptions to that rule, just because you can find it in nature doesn’t mean it’s good for you, but chances are, if you don’t find it in nature, it’s not going to be a positive thing for you to ingest. If you want to talk about more of a scientific approach, hormones are what control everything in our bodies, right? The way our stomach communicates to our brain that communicates to our nervous system, that in turn communicates to our muscles. It’s all controlled via hormones, just like we’re speaking English now, our bodies speaks hormones to itself.
We can use food to influence that hormonal conversation, and when we start to see food essentially as a drug or something we can use to change that hormonal conversation from one of “store fat, store fat,” our whole body is just saying store fat to getting our body to say burn fat, burn fat, burn fat. We can do that, but the way we do that is by focusing on food and the impact on our hormones, not on the quantity of calories we’re consuming.
Ray: Jonathan, is this basically a low-carb program? Is that what you promote? What are we talking about here? Is it primarily low carb? Is that what’s providing the benefit?
Jonathan: It’s not low carb. I define low anything as abnormal, like low this, high that, no. Non-starchy vegetables are the single most important component of a healthy, long term way of living and way of eating. There are carbohydrates saying things like low carbohydrate, high in fat. I try to steer away from because it polarizes people through visceral actions. It’s a diet mindset, and I’d like to move away from that. What I’d like to focus on is saying high quality carbohydrates, and there are low quality carbohydrates. You should eat high quality carbohydrates.
There’s high quality protein and low quality protein, you should eat high quality protein. There’s high quality and low quality fat. Focus on the high quality. What I do in my research is I provide us with a framework by which we can identify what is high or low quality, and then each individual just consumes as much of the high quality fat, protein, or carbohydrate as they like, because some individuals actually find that eating a lot of high quality fat gives them the best results.
Some individuals find that eating a lot of high quality protein gives them the best results. Believe it or not, some individuals find that eating high quality carbohydrate gives them the best results. It’s a little bit of where personal experimentation comes in. The point is, let’s establish a scientific framework, so that we can evaluate good and bad; and let’s eat a lot of good. I think we can all agree on that.
Ray: I’ve heard the quote once that, “To the Scientists, there is nothing so tragic on earth as the sight of a fat man eating a potato.” A potato can be labeled as a natural food. It grows out there in nature. Would you consider a potato a good quality carb?
Jonathan: I would not, and this goes back to my earlier statement, of just because something is natural, it doesn’t mean that it’s good. I was looking at this gentleman on another podcast, and he made the funniest analogy, he said, “Snake venom is natural. It doesn’t mean we should consume it.” There are plenty of natural things that are not good to eat. Saying if it’s natural is a general rule. General rules always have exceptions. The criteria I like to apply are the four factors of calorie quality. You alluded to this earlier, but what science has shown are the ways we should evaluate foods.
We evaluate it satiety, meaning how quickly it fills us up and how long it keeps us full. We evaluate its aggression meaning how quickly it turns into glucose and how much insulin it triggers in our body. We evaluate the amount of nutrition it provides us, and we evaluate its efficiency or how readily our body can store it as body fat. I abbreviate those factors using the acronym S.A.N.E, where high quality foods are sane, satisfying, unaggressive, nutritious, and inefficient, and low quality foods are INSANE. They’re not satisfying. They are aggressive. They’re not nutritious and they aren’t efficient.
If we look at potatoes, for example, they have relativity low satiety. We have to eat a lot calories worth of potatoes to fill us up and they do not keep us full very long, that can be studied, it’s not debatable here. You can study it in a lab and people have. Their aggression is incredibly high. They trigger a massive wave of glucose and insulin in our body. Their nutrition is relativity low when compared to things like non-starchy vegetables and organ meats and seafood and their efficiency or how easily our body can convert them chemically into triglyceride is quite high when compared to a lean protein or a fibrous vegetable.
We can then say, “I have nothing against potatoes.” I personally have eaten potatoes in the past. I don’t eat them anymore. I don’t work for the anti-potato counsel, but according to the scientific criteria, they are low quality. It’s not that carbs are bad. Again, it happens to be the case that most of us get most of our calories from INSANE, low quality carbohydrates, such as starches and sweets but on the other end of the spectrum, non-starchy vegetables are carbohydrates and they are the most SANE foods in the world.
While some people tend to characterize a SANE way of eating as low carb, it’s actually not fair because the better way to characterize it is, there’s a difference between avoiding an excessively high-carbohydrate diet and eating a little low-carbohydrate diet. There’s a huge distinction and what I advocate is, first and foremost, the vast majority of the foods you put in your body in terms of volume should be non-starchy vegetables.
I’m talking what most people think is somewhat a ridiculous amount of non-starchy vegetables, like 10 plus servings per day. Every meal, every time you eat, you’re consuming non-starchy vegetables, so, from a caloric perspective, are you getting a lot of calories from carbohydrates? No, not necessarily, but from the amount of food you’re eating, the backbone of your diet is technically carbohydrate. It’s a subtle distinction, but it’s an important distinction.
Ray: Somebody might listen to what you are saying and say that sounds a lot like a low glycemic diet. How is this any different like than a low-glycemic program?
Jonathan: Well, low-glycemic programs, for example, pasta is low glycemic; but it has a high-glycemic load and it is not very satisfying, and it’s very aggressive. Glycemic load and glycemic index is really represents one of the four factors that determine the quality of the calorie. So, to be very clear, there are a lot of similarities in a SANE life style, and a low glycemic lifestyle or a lifestyle that a diabetic would have to undertake, just like a Paleolithic or a hunter gatherer type diet seems to be low glycemic or even low-carbohydrate diet happens to be low glycemic.
Even if you’re a fan of T. Colin Campbell and that whole movement, technically that’s also low glycemic-ish. They’re saying to eat sugar. They’re saying to eat the low glycemic forms of carbohydrate. I do think that there is pretty much consensus. If you look at it like Gary Taubes versus T. Collin Campbell, they both agree that high glycemic is not a great option for you, and they are on either end of the spectrum. I think we all agree on that. It’s the stuff in the middle where there’s some disagreement.
Ray: Just to be clear, Campbell’s work is the China Study, which is really a vegetarian style of eating, right? Taubes work is primarily low carb.
Jonathan: Yes, their great representations of either end of the spectrum, whereas Taubes is very much animal focused and fat focused with carbohydrate really low and protein being kind of a side note, fat is the focus. Campbell essentially explicitly comes out and says if it comes from a plant it’s good for you; if it’s from an animal it’s bad for you, and clearly that’s false. Sugar comes from a plant. No one thinks it’s good for you. Salmon is one of the most healthful foods in the world. For anyone to debate that is a bit like saying one plus one equals three, yet that is what his assertion seems to imply.
Ray: Well, what about fat? Fat is one of the macronutrients that get a lot of bad press. What’s your take on fat? How should we regulate that? Or should we at all regulate it?
Jonathan: We should consume… I’m going to sound like a broken record here, we should consume whole foods that are generally found in nature, so things like, high-quality animal products or organic grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, wild-caught fish; these are going to have plenty of fat in them. We shouldn’t be afraid of them. Things like coconuts, and nuts and seeds are going to contain all kinds of fat. Coconut, oh my God, it’s got the saturated fat in it but what people don’t realize much of that fat which is call medium-chain triglyceride, which is now being shown actually helps the body burn fat.
Let alone, it does not help us gain fat, it helps us burn fat. The same thing applies to many polyunsaturated fats, such as Omega 3 fats, found in seeds such as Chiai, flax, as well as seafood. Again, it’s not carbs are bad, protein is bad, fat is bad. There are high quality foods, and there are low quality foods. What we need to do is come together as scientists and agree on those criteria and then just stack rank foods because otherwise this turns into a religious debate.
Biology isn’t a matter of opinion. We can debate whether or not it’s moral to eat meat. We cannot debate the chemical reaction that happens in the body when you eat meat. That can and has been studied, so, let’s focus on the science. Let’s focus on establishing criteria by which we evaluate the helpfulness of food, satiety, aggression, and efficiency and let’s just apply those criteria; and let’s go from there.
Ray: In your book, and the book once again is the Smarter Science of Slim, and we’ll give all the details about the book. It’s in our resources section of the Cut the Fat podcast website, and it has been since we updated the site to the new website and will continue to be so, Jonathan, because this book is just fantastic. I guess in the book you have a framework that you call the Five Steps to Eating More Smarter. Can you kind of give us those five steps, kind of the finishing touch on this interview?
Jonathan: Sure, I’ll quickly… the book doesn’t say how to eat more smarter because my editor would crush me if I wrote that. It says how to eat more, smarter. Everyone like this guy kind of knows what he’s talking about, but he says eat more smarter, well he clearly doesn’t know what’s going on.
Ray: They should know that that was hyphenated, and I guess I didn’t know how to verbalize that. You’re right, it’s Five Steps to Eating More, Smarter. So what are the five steps?
Jonathan: Well, actually, I’ll give you six here. We kind of passed over one step, step zero, eat water, fiber, and protein-rich foods. Listeners may be saying great SANE, satiety, aggression, nutritious, and efficiency… Dear God, how do I apply this? They all have three things in common, satisfying, unaggressive, nutritious, and efficient. SANE high quality foods have three things in common. They’re high in water, they’re high in fiber, and they’re high in protein. They’re generally found in the perimeter of your grocery store.
Another rule of thumb, they need to be refrigerated or frozen, generally speaking. Water, fiber and protein, things that is dry, low in fiber, low in protein, aka starches and sweets, INSANE low quality. Things that are wet, rich in fiber, rich in protein, non-starchy vegetables, certain fruits like berries and citrus fruits, any kind of seafood, high quality meat, whole food, natural fats, nut, seeds, etcetera. SANE good for you. Okay, that’s step zero.
Step one is essentially, eat so many non-starchy vegetables, high quality sources of protein and whole food natural fats, that you’re always too full for dessert and maybe not always, always is only if you want to achieve the highest of fat loss goals; but the point is, we’ve all been too full for dessert before. We all can intuitively grasp the concept of being so full of good food, that we kind of lose our appetite for bad food.
What’s even better is, if you do this for 21 days your taste will change, you won’t even crave the bad food any more or the INSANE food. Do not focus on depriving yourself. Humans do not do well when we are told we can’t do things. Focus on taking in so much good, so much SANE food that that you’re too full for INSANE foods. That’s step zero and one. Any questions, so far Ray?
Ray: No, that’s fantastic, continue.
Jonathan: Shall I go on?
Ray: You shall go on.
Jonathan: Step two, is remember your ancestors. If it is advertised on television, if it’s not something your grandma would recognize, if the ingredients list is more than four things longs, probably it’ not going to work out well if you put it in your body. Step three is buy groceries in bulk. I say this for two reasons. One, natural, SANE food are generally not packaged heavily, and you can generally buy them in bulk.
If you can’t get it in bulk. and it comes in these little like singe serving containers, it’s expensive because of all that packaging, so it’s probably INSANE so focus on buying groceries that you can buy in bulk and do buy them in bulk, because I want you to eat a lot of them. I want you to eat so much, SANE foods. Fourth step is to drink a lot of water and a lot of green tea. Water is incredibly important, not only because it is the single most important nutrient, I like to call it, in our body, but also because many times when we feel hungry, we’re actually thirsty, so make sure you’re properly hydrated because it will help you to avoid over eating.
In addition, green tea is incredibly powerful and incredible beneficial to your body. It’s almost like vitamin C, where it’s like, oh my gosh, the amount of things that green tea has been shown to help from a fat loss perspective as well as a cancer prevention and yada, yada, yada, green tea is incredibly good for you. Stick with green tea rather than green tea supplements and again would your grandmother, would your ancestors recognize green tea supplements? No. Does the FDA regulate them? No. Stick with green tea, the natural plant.
Finally, do what works for you. That’s why I love this framework. ’m not going to sit here, in the book I say, generally speaking, people have success when they get about the same number of calories from carbohydrate, protein, and fats. It’s a 33/33/33 breakdown. We are not here to be mathematicians. The point is, if you focus on non-starchy vegetables, high-quality protein, fruits such as berries and citrus, nuts, and seeds, do what is working for you.
If you’re eating a lot of fruit and don’t seem to be achieving your goals, cut back on the fruit and increase the fat. If that doesn’t work for you, bump up the protein. Do an n=1 experiment. As long as it’s SANE and it works for you, you will benefit your health, and you will benefit in terms of fat loss for the rest of your life; because you won’t be hungry, you will feel great, and therefore you can keep it up.
Ray: Truly awesome, Jonathan, really, really well said. As I predicted this definitely one of my favorites, and I’m sure it will be one of the favorite podcasts episodes for our listeners. The book is The Smarter Science of Slim. Jonathan give us the details. How do people get exposure to more of your stuff? Your blog? You have a podcast now, which is fantastic as well, so how do people get a hold of you?
Jonathan: Lot of great options, a lot of free things, and then some things that cost money, but they don’t cost a lot of money, just a little bit. The book is available anywhere you buy books. I generally recommend people go to Amazon. You can get the best deal there. It’s available physical, old school book as well as Kindle. The Kindle copy is like $8.19, and most people don’t know this but you can actually read Kindle Books on your computer. You don’t need to have a Kindle.
A great cost effective option if folks want something under $10.00. Then there’s the website, the Smarter Science of Slim dot com. All kinds of great resources and on that website you’ll find my blog, again a good resource. You’ll also find links to my podcast, which is also available on iTunes, it’s myself, and my co-host a wonderful British woman by the name of Carrie Brown. We essentially step through the science found in the Smarter Science of Slim, in bite-size chunks. There is also a wonderful community on that website, the Smarter Science of Slim Support Group, where you can discuss recipes, and what’s working for and what’s not working for you.
There’s wonderful success stories, like people talking about what if I want my kids to go SANE? How do I do that? All that kind of fun stuff, and there’s even some companion eBooks. So, maybe a good place to start is just go to the Smarter Science of Slim dot com, check out all the resources there, podcast, blog, community and of course I would highly recommend picking up the book not because it makes me a lot of money, because it doesn’t make me a lot of money, because what find, it essentially provides a complete and scientifically proven alternative to everything you have been taught up until this point in your life.
I do want to emphasize that one of the things that I am most proud of in this book to work is that it’s not just another person’s take on this. I had the good fortune, for the past decade, work with, had the opportunity to work with some the most brilliant medical and scientific researchers from around the world. This book is essentially a compilation of 1100 international research studies and collaborations with doctors at Harvard Medical School, John Hopkins, UCLA and it’s even been approved as curriculum for registered dietitians by national accreditation boards.
It really is a complete, comprehensive, and easy to read alternative approach to long-term health and fitness and one that I think many folks find to be a lot more sustainable than eating less and exercising more.
Ray: Awesome, it definitely gets my endorsement. I love the book, and it is well referenced and as you mentioned an easy read. Defiantly check it out The Smarter Science of Slim.com. Also, you can check him out on FaceBook. For those of you who are just tuning in to our podcast for the first time, you can find out more information about us as well. We have a brand new website, cuthefatpodcast.com. You can also subscribe to our podcast via iTunes. We ask that everybody go on and rate our podcast on iTunes as well.
We’d love to read those reviews and also check us out on FaceBook, just search for cutthefatpodcast, all one word. Be sure to like the page and leave comments/questions on there and we are always thrilled to answer them on FaceBook. That’s it for today’s show. Once again, I’d like to thank Jonathan Bailor of the Smarter Science of Slim for joining us and talking about calories and eradicating, exterminating this myth that calories are everything when it comes to weight loss. Try to be back with us on the next podcast, we hope to see you guys there. Thanks again Jonathan for joining us on today’s podcast.