Low-Calorie “Food” Nonsense with Team Diabetes Daily
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Ginger: Hi, I’m Ginger with Diabetes Daily and I’m really excited to share with you this three-part video course with New York Times Best Selling Author and SANE Solution CEO, Jonathan Bailor.
In these videos, you’ll see how almost everything we’ve been taught about wellness, nutrition, diabetes management, and fat loss have actually been proven wrong by modern science. And best of all, you’ll get a first look and special free preview of the SANE Solution System which is actually a complete system that promises to give Weight Watchers a run for its money because it’s all about improving the quality of what you eat rather than helping you eat a 1,200-calorie diet of highly-processed products. Are you ready? Let’s get started.
All right. Here we are with Jonathan Bailor from the SANE Solution and Healthy 2.0. He is the author of The Calorie Myth and an all-around good fella, talking about nutrition and good lifestyle and trying to help people like us with diabetes live the best we can. Hi, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Hey, Ginger. It’s a pleasure to be back. Thank you so much for having me.
Ginger: Yes, this is number two of our video series and in this one, we’re talking about low-calorie diets and the pitfalls around low-calorie diets and low-calorie “foods”. I put foods in quotes there and we’ll talk about that.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s a bit of a disaster, Ginger. Folks may not know this so it’s helpful just to give a quick bit of context. When we talk about diet foods and low-calorie things, one, my whole mission in life and my organization’s whole mission in life is to help give people the tools they need to not focus on the quantity of toxic, addictive, edible products that they’re putting into their body but rather to provide them with tools and services where they can just improve the quality of the food they’re eating. When we look at the existing tools and services out there — let’s just use Weight Watchers as an example because that’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Most people don’t realize this but a lot of these companies — these Weight Watchers, these Jenny Craigs — that sell calorie counting — for lack of better terms — they make the vast, vast, vast majority of their money on low-calorie edible products that they sell to make their impossible programs possible. And I mean impossible literally because I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it is, at worst, impossible, and at best, unreasonable, to expect a person to go through their life without sufficient energy. That’s like saying, “Hey, just drive your car but never actually put gas in the tank.” It doesn’t make sense and this is why — this is a fact; this isn’t my opinion — if you look at the most rigorous data out there, 95.4 percent of the time, when people try to go on low-calorie/calorie-restricted/these conventional diets, they do not work out long term. That’s not because starving yourself doesn’t cause weight loss. It does. Most countries where there’s a famine, you don’t see spiking obesity rates. The reason it doesn’t work long term —
Let’s be very clear. Starving yourself can cause short-term weight loss. So can cutting off your leg. Right? It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. But the reason it fails long-term 95.4 percent of the time is all but 4.6 percent of us are not willing to go through our lives hungry, tired, depressed, in a brain fog, with terrible sexual function. You just can’t live your life. Again, it’s like putting inadequate fuel into a car. You’ve just neutered the car’s ability to be a car.
Ginger: And your body is too smart to want to be hungry all the time. It knows that’s not what it wants — is to be under-fed and hungry all the time – so you’re going to run out of willpower.
Jonathan: You’re absolutely — that’s more hardcore science. Up until maybe ten years ago, there was a theory that we can run out of willpower. That’s been proven. It has now been proven. It’s called decision fatigue. You have a fixed amount of willpower. This is why habits are so powerful because a habit is something that doesn’t require willpower.
Jonathan: So you literally have a fixed amount of willpower and when it runs out, it’s just someone puts a soda in front of you. Actually, Ginger, here is a very interesting example. This is very cool. A lot of people talk about eating late in the evening and how hard it can be — so think about it like this. When you first wake up in the morning, most of us don’t struggle to not just pound a bag of Oreos. You don’t wake up in the morning and you’re not just like, “I am just going to eat a gallon of Haagen-Dazs ice-cream.”
Jonathan: But at 10 p.m. at night, that feeling happens. “I’m just going to eat an entire bag of Oreos.” Now, is there something unique about the evening? Actually, there is. At the end of the day, you’ve been exerting willpower all day long. You’re literally out of willpower. So when you come home from work or after spending a full day with your family and you’ve had to exert willpower and make all these decisions, your willpower is spent. Now, just imagine if, on top of the existing complexities of life and especially the added complexity of managing diabetes, you now are counting calories and doing math. That’s just not a sustainable model.
Ginger: And you’re hungry and you’re not getting enough calories of the calories that you’re counting, yes.
Jonathan: And that’s literally a constant decision, Ginger. If you’re hungry — so think about it like trying to not go to the bathroom because I know that sounds silly but it’s a core need. You can hold it in. You can not go to the bathroom for a while but the longer you wait to go to the bathroom, the more your brain is like, “Go to the bathroom” and then you have to say no. “Go to the bathroom.” “No.” Every time you say no and metaphorically bop yourself — no, no, no — that’s willpower. If you’re trying to not eat food, you are literally — every second of the day — exerting willpower, and that’s why it can’t work. By 1 p.m., you’re just like, “I’m done.”
Ginger: Right, yes. And you mentioned habits and how valuable habits are. Just to clarify for people, a habit is not something that you make an effort not to do. A really effective habit is a habit that you make an effort to do. Like, “I choose to eat an apple with peanut butter and a bell pepper for lunch” is a habit versus “I choose to order Dominos delivery.” One is a habit and the other is a habit and I’m not making a habit out of trying not to choose Dominos delivery because that’s willpower.
Jonathan: Ginger, it’s a critical point that focusing on pursuing the positive versus attacking the negative is really, really important and that’s really what I’m all about; that’s what you’re all about; and that’s what SANE Solution is all about.
Contrast — Food is the enemy; eat fewer calories. That is the model of restriction and here’s what not to do. It’s the stick in the carrot versus the stick. That’s the stick. The carrot is literally the carrot. I want you to eat so much SANE, nutrient-dense whole food that you’re just too full for garbage. How easy is that? My mom used to say to me, “Jonathan, there’s so much good in the world. Don’t ever crowd out the good with the bad.” There’s so much positivity in the world. If you can just fill yourself and your life with that positivity to crowd out the negativity, it makes it so much easier. What’s the easiest way to avoid a toxic relationship? Be in a great relationship because then you just don’t have time to be in a toxic relationship.
Ginger: Surround yourself with great people and then you won’t have any tolerance for the not-so-great.
Ginger: Interesting. You kind of just touched on this. One of the biggest problems I see with low-calorie diets in people I’ve worked with over the years, you hear it when they’re describing, “I can’t lose weight. I eat this for breakfast and I eat this for lunch and these tiny little meals, barely 300 calories or maybe even 200 calories, and then at the night, I eat such garbage and I’ve, one, run out of willpower but I’m also starving.” So a huge problem with low-calorie diets is your body knows by the end of the day that it was not fed properly and it’s going to try to make that up.
Jonathan: Yes. That’s exactly right. A thought experiment that I think is very freeing for people — so just think about it like this. This is not far-fetched. We probably already know someone who fits these criteria. Let’s say there’s a person, Tom. Let’s say Tom has 100 pounds of excess fat on his body. This is excess fat. We all need some fat. You die if you have no fat in your body. We all need some fat but Tom’s got 100 pounds of excess fat on his body. Let’s use the common wisdom calorie math if there’s 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. So Tom has 350,000 calories — excess calories’ worth of body fat — in his body already and he eats a breakfast that’s this big and he eats a lunch that’s this big. At that point, Tom has probably taken in, like you said, maybe a total of 500 calories and his body is saying, “Tom, you’re hungry.” But Tom has 350,000 calories already in his body.
Think about that for a second. Tom’s brain is saying, “Tom, you haven’t eaten enough calories or you don’t have enough calories available.” But Tom has 350,000 calories already in his body. So here’s the question that most calorie counter advocates would argue. “Tom just needs to try harder to lose that weight. Instead of eating 500 calories, Tom should eat 300 calories.” The question I think we should be asking is, “Why does Tom, who already has 350,000 calories in his body ready to be burnt — why is his brain saying, “Tom, eat more calories, eat more calories” instead of saying “burn the calories that you’ve already eaten that are sitting in your body already.”
If you hear about being fat-adapted or switching to primarily metabolizing fat versus sugar, this is why this is so transformative because when you go off of these processed sugars, what you do is you restore your body’s and your brain’s abilities and your hormonal regulation such that just because you’re not eating calories through your lips doesn’t mean your body can’t eat it off your hips. So what you find — and this is where sometimes people get tripped up — is if you just try to eat fewer calories, 95.4 percent of the time, that will not work out because you’re fighting against your body. However, if you heal your body first through an abundance of whole healthy food, what you see — and this is what they’ve seen in clinical study after clinical study — they call it a spontaneous reduction of caloric intake. People who, for example, eat dramatically more non-starchy vegetables and nutrient-dense sources of protein, whole food fats, and low-sugar fruits, these individuals will accidentally — I use that term intentionally because researchers say “eat as much as you want” — they will accidentally consume 1,000 fewer calories per day than when they were eating junk. Again, effortlessly; they’re not tired, they’re not hungry. Why is that happening?
After eating high-quality food for a long enough period of time, you’ve metabolically healed your body to a point where it’s going to say, I might need 2,000 calories. I mean, for Tom. Tom’s a big guy so he probably needs 3,000 calories per day to even move his body around. So while he may be eating only 2,000 calories accidentally, through this hormonal healing, he’s restored his body’s ability to burn those stored calories. So Tom is still getting 3,000 calories per day but he’s restored his body’s ability to get it from the calories that are already inside him and thus he effortlessly — his calorie count does go down but he’s not trying to make it go down; his brain is doing that for him. Did that make any sense?
Ginger: Yes. You have to open up your brain to the fact that what you eat affects more than just the scale; it affects all kinds of hormones in your body that affect your body’s ability to burn calories properly and maintain proper weight and proper hormone levels. Insulin, obviously, is the biggest one for us but it goes far beyond that and doctors don’t talk about it because they figure it’s all over our head but it’s crucial and it all comes — a lot of it; not all of it — comes down to the choices we make in food and real food versus processed junk.
Jonathan: That’s why the low-calorie products are such a dangerous approach to weight loss. Let me give you one silly example and then one more specific example. Cigarettes don’t have calories in them. They don’t. They’re a calorie-free treat. Or are they? So any pharmaceutical — any pharmaceutical — SSRI, insulin doesn’t have calories in it. Does that mean you can just put it into your body and it doesn’t do anything? Of course not. Right?
Jonathan: If we believe what the mainstream media tells us, if it doesn’t have any calories in it, then that’s actually a good thing. So let’s just take this low-calorie food. First of all, to disassemble actual food into its component parts and remove calories, you can’t just do that. You have to put something in there in its place. If you remove fat from a nut, it would taste odd. So what happens is, when you see these edible products that are marketed as low-calorie, that which is natural has been taken out and you have a bunch of calorie-free artificial stuff put in and the only —
Again, if I take calories out of food but were to slip some Prozac in its place, you would totally be like, “I’m not going to give that to my children. This biscuit has Prozac in it.” But MSG has been proven — there is a dose-dependent relationship between the amount of MSG you eat, which has no calories in it and is in just about all edible products, and inflammation in a part of your brain known as your hypothalamus which regulates your appetite. So the more MSG you eat, the hungrier you will be. Bottom line.
Jonathan: And it has no calories in it, though. So when we go down this low-calorie slippery slope, we subject ourselves to just — and you’d be shocked, Ginger. The food industry is not regulated like the pharmaceutical industry is, so I can’t just create Jonathan’s Magical Drug and sell it as a pharmaceutical. It takes about a billion dollars to get a pharmaceutical to market. The food manufacturers can deem their own ingredients safe, tell the FDA, “Hey, we think this is safe,” and then release that to people.
Jonathan: But it’s all going into your body. At the end of the day, what’s the difference between food and a pharmaceutical? You’re putting stuff into your body.
Ginger: Yes. A recent study came out with artificial sweeteners showing that it raises blood glucose levels and insulin needs causing insulin resistance in people and when you share that with people, some people say, “Well, I drank a diet soda and I didn’t see my blood sugar go up,” not realizing that it’s really a subtle but omnipresent effect on your insulin needs; not this momentary moment in this brief part of the day where your insulin needs go up. It’s scary but you have to really wrap your head around that bigger problem in order to understand it and believe that it’s like the MSGs. The MSG issue is that there aren’t calories in MSG — there aren’t calories in aspartame — but that doesn’t mean it’s not affecting your body in a negative way.
Jonathan: That’s exactly — just like cigarettes don’t have any calories in them, right? We understand this intuitively. I think we sometimes just need to be reminded of it.
Ginger: Yes, yes. So can you talk about some of your least favorite low-calorie products in marketing?
Jonathan: The more marketing that’s associated with anything that you put into your body, the more fearful you should be. That’s really the bottom line.
Ginger: That’s perfectly said. If there’s a commercial for it, there is a problem.
Jonathan: The irony is that a study was done where the people who are most sensitive to their health are the people that this marketing affects the most because imagine I’m someone that doesn’t care — if I don’t care about my health, marketing really has no impact on me. Whatever. So it’s the very people who care the most about this stuff that are most impacted by food marketing.
There’s no better example of this than — this is a little bit weird of an example but there are people — body builders, fitness competitors — people that are super dialed in — super dialed-in — to how they look. There is a multi-billion dollar industry around supplements for these people and if you look at these meal replacement packets and stuff, it just lists all these benefits. I mean, yes, there’s vitamins in there so, yes, it’s going to have benefits but when you pick up some spinach and some salmon, it has way more benefits. The more people are dialed in, especially diabetic products and shakes and bars, they make all these claims which do impact us on a subliminal level and it’s competing against things like vegetables and fruits and meat and fish which don’t have any marketing help. So literally, you’ve got to say the more marketing that’s associated with it — it’s a little bit like an old saying, which is “weak point, yell loud as hell.” If someone has got something that’s valid to say, usually they don’t have to beat you over the head with it. It’s just like, “Hey, if you lie to your partner — it’s “methinks thou dost protest too much.” Some of these foods are protesting way too much.
Ginger: Yes, that’s a great point. I used to work around body builders a lot. That section in Vitamin Shoppe or GNC that is not vitamins, it’s not health products, it’s just for body builders trying to make the most out of bodybuilding and none of those products are regulated or have been approved or even researched and they make a bajillion dollars off of that. That’s a funny point.
Jonathan: Also, they market so aggressively. Like, is it true that if I take whey protein powder and I put it in a glass and I take a vitamin pill and I put it in a glass and I mix it up, vitamins have positive impacts on your body. Obviously, protein is important but what is implied by the market — like, I could market that shake and say, “Helps to avoid sarcopenia and develop lean muscle tissue and avoids scurvy and rickets and dementia.” All of those things are true because that’s what protein, vitamins, and minerals do but the implication is that you should eat Jonathan’s Magic Concoction instead of eating whole foods which do everything that concoction does and much more way better because there are elements in nutrition that we are just starting to understand such as phytochemicals and the synergy between certain vitamins and minerals which whole foods just take care of. Like, they’ve figured that out. Every time we try to re-engineer stuff, we get it wrong.
Ginger: Interesting, interesting. You were talking about body builders being sensitive. The other people are obviously the people trying to lose weight so when you see — I don’t remember the name of the product line; it starts with a W — Whitman’s or Waltman’s — they’ve got all this stuff and it’s in the pharmaceutical section of your grocery store and it’s like zero-calorie chocolate syrup. What is in that? People buy it because that’s got to be healthier for them than eating real chocolate, they think.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s a little bit like — I love that example of chocolate syrup that has no calories. You’ve got to wonder what’s in that. Just like if I say, “Hey, here’s fillet mignon and it’s a quarter.” You’d be like, “How can fillet mignon only cost a quarter?” Right? That’s like, “Hey, Ginger, I’ll give you heart surgery and I’ve got a doctor that will only charge you 100 bucks to do heart surgery.” You would probably say, “I don’t want heart surgery from a doctor who’s only going to charge me 100 bucks.” Similarly, if chocolate syrup has no calories in it, you’ve got to wonder what’s going on below the surface. I love that example.
Ginger: Yes, that’s scary. What are some other common products that you think people fall for the most often? Low-calorie.
Jonathan: I would say beverages and breakfast products.
Jonathan: Breakfast is the most manufactured meal of the day for a lot of us just because we’re in a rush so it’s either eat this 100-calorie bowl of cereal, which first of all, nobody pours 100 calories’ worth of cereal into a bowl. It just doesn’t happen, we think. A serving size of most cereal is like two-thirds of a cup. You could basically fill a shot glass up with two. Nobody eats that small of a cereal. Or 100-calorie breakfast bar. That stuff’s all disastrous. Low-calorie drinks — I’m not a huge fan of drinking calories in general but there are plenty of natural no-calorie drinks such as water or green tea or black coffee. I mean, there’s all kinds of — or water with fruit essence in it. Take a strawberry, put it in a blender, fill the blender up with water, blend it for two minutes, and now you have strawberry water and it cost you a dime.
Ginger: Right. And it has an insignificant amount of sugar in it — fructose. It’s not like —
Ginger: It’s just about the same as drinking a glass of water.
Ginger: Do you want to get into it all — diet sodas and Powerade Zero’s and all that?
Jonathan: Well, I personally think that just beverages in general should — we really need to take a look at our beverages because even if it has no calories in it, the more sweet stuff you’re drinking, the more you’re conditioning your body to just say, “If it’s not sweet, I’m not interested in it.” That’s very dangerous. Think about it like alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the more alcohol you need to have the same effect.
Ginger: To feel satisfied, yes.
Jonathan: The taste of sweet works the same way and that’s why, if you are able to wean yourself off of sweets — that doesn’t mean you never eat anything sweet — but if you are — for example, a lot of folks which live a SANE lifestyle which is very similar to a way that an optimal diabetic lifestyle would be treated, you eat an almond and you taste sweet. The day you can taste sweet in an almond or you eat a sugar snap pea and you say, “That is sweet.”
Jonathan: But if you give a child who’s just been bombarded with sweet, sweet, sweet, they eat a sugar snap pea and they’re like, “This is bitter and disgusting.”
Ginger: Yeah, yeah.
Jonathan: It’s not bitter and disgusting. It’s just that, just like if you give someone who has been pounding a twelve-pack of beer every day for their life, one beer, they’re like, “This beer has no impact.” It’s the same kind of thing.
Ginger: Yes, and I want to emphasize that it doesn’t matter if it’s real sugar or fake sugar, it still is affecting you the same way. Recently there was an article on this family that cut sugar out of their whole diet for like thirty days or something and when they tried to eat it again, they were just so desensitized — or sensitized, I guess I should say — to how sweet it tasted that they just could not eat that straight sugary dessert kind of thing anymore. They reshaped their taste buds in a way and helped their brain actually think normally about sugar.
Jonathan: That’s what’s so exciting because a lot of people think that eating the way that we advocate is saying, “You can’t enjoy sweets anymore.” That’s actually not true at all. Eating this way will make you enjoy sweets more.
Jonathan: Because you will get the same high — for lack of better terms — off of just regular food so you don’t have to go out of your way to drink something sweet because it’s just like a heightened awareness of everything and that is actually a really cool experience. So it’s not that you never taste sweet again; it’s actually that you become more sensitive to sweet and taste it everywhere and from healthy places in the future.
Ginger: And if you were to have a slice of cake, you’re going to want and need a much tinier slice of cake to enjoy than what you used to need to enjoy dessert. It’s crazy.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s very cool. I think that’s a pretty good summary of the low-calorie slippery slope that folks can go down because again it takes you in the wrong direction of sweeteners, it takes you in the wrong direction of non-calorie-based toxic stuff that can be injected into food. What do you think are some key takeaways from this discussion, Ginger?
Ginger: I mean, definitely, one that would be great is if folks could go home and maybe just for one day — if two days or three days sounds too overwhelming – just one day, look at what you’re eating. Write it all down for a day and then just look at what on here is a real food and what on here is the food I’m eating because I think it’s going to help me lose weight and really evaluate how much real food there is in there.
Jonathan: Yes, I think that is really key, Ginger. My takeaway combines the lessons we learned in our first conversation with the lessons from today which is that food isn’t your enemy. In fact, food — actual food — I’m going to be crazy and define food as things you can find directly in nature — directly in nature — so there’s no such thing as a bread bush and there’s no such thing as a Cheerios tree. So unless you can find it directly in nature, I will argue there’s a spectrum. Food is found directly in nature; edible products, over here. So you want to stay as close as possible to the spectrum. If you enjoy these things when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and just do that. I don’t care if it’s — do what works for you but you will achieve a level of success that no amount of calorie counting will ever achieve for you.
Ginger: All right. Nicely said. In our next video, we’re going to talk about not just what to avoid but actually what to eat instead so stay tuned for that video. Thanks, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Thank you, Ginger.
Ginger: Hey, Ginger again. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Be sure to click on the SANE Solution link on this page to get your free Diabetes Daily SANE Solution Plan. To learn more about SANE Solution, visit SaneSolution.com. Thanks for watching. See you again soon.