RANT 🙂 Why Claiming Eating Too Much & Exercising Too Little is the CAUSE of Obesity is Absurd
Read the Transcript
Hey, Everyone. It’s Jonathan Baylor back with another Smarter Science of Slim show. Great show for you this week. To get started off, if you’ve heard the great Peter Attia or maybe the great Gary Taubes, or read anything other than mainstream nutrition information, there is a movement afoot and that movement is about understanding the actual cause of obesity.
I don’t want to turn this podcast into too metaphysical a discussion, but this is really really important. Understanding the cause of a problem is key to finding the solution to that problem. If you have a fever, understanding the cause of that fever, say a viral or bacterial infection is key because unless you know that, you can never solve or cure the underlying issue.
You might be able to treat the symptoms. You could just say, “Oh, I have a fever . My body is too hot so I’m going to get into an ice bath and that will cool my body down.” But you not being in an ice bath wasn’t the cause of you getting a fever. It may seem like a semantic issue but it is really, really important. Remember that analogy because it’s really helpful and we’re going to use a bunch of analogies this week.
Really the point here of this seemingly esoteric discussion is that we need to understand the actual cause of obesity versus symptoms. For example a fever is a symptom of an underlying disturbance in our body. The fever itself is not the problem; it is a sign that there is a problem. It is not the cause of our sickness.
The solution to our sickness if we have a fever is not just to lower the fever because we could do that by getting in an ice bath. The solution is in curing the underlying cause of that fever. Now why am I repeating myself? Because for 50 years confusion about causes of obesity and related metabolic conditions have caused so much psychological pain and physical pain to so many people that we have to put an end to this.
We have to put an end to it because just like we don’t criticize people for not getting into ice baths when they have a fever, we shouldn’t be criticizing overweight individuals for “eating too much and exercising too little” because as we are seeing in the modern metabolic research, eating too much and exercising too little isn’t the getting at the cause of the problem.
Of course there are outliers who are eating 10,000 calories of garbage per day, but they represent the small, small, small minority. The vast majority of people who are suffering with overweight — friends, this two thirds of the American population. If we’re going to make any moral claims about people, if we’re going to say that people are just too lazy and too stupid to take care of their weight, we are talking about nearly 70% of the American population.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think 70% of the American population spontaneously got stupid and lazy. In fact, I think we’re stronger and we’re smarter than we’ve ever been. But we all have — not all of us, 70% of us — have metabolic fevers. We are displaying physical symptoms of an underlying problem.
While of course by definition for overweight to exist, there has to be a surplus of calories. By definition, you cannot create body fat from nothing but to say that that is caused by eating too much and exercising too little is missing the point entirely, and it is hard to wrap one’s head around that because it seems intuitive but it’s not giving us any new information.
Earlier I mentioned the great Peter Attia and Gary Taubes and they really, especially Gary, brought this into the public light, but it’s a challenge to understand this. I’m going to try to break it down. I am going to try to build off of Gary’s great work. Gary says that when someone claims that eating too much and exercising too little is the cause of obesity, they are not really saying anything because of course that is true.
For example, imagine that you asked a coach of a sports team why they lost the game and they said the cause of them losing the game was that they scored too little and the other team scored too much. I know that might sound a little bit silly, but isn’t that what we’re told by the mainstream media and a lot of mainstream medical practitioners — that we’re losing the metabolic game because the other team is scoring too many points and we are scoring too little?
That’s obviously not a cause. That coach in that press conference would get laughed at. Of course, ma’am, the other team scored more points and you scored too few and any time another team scores more points than your team you will lose the game, but what was the cause of that scoring discrepancy?
The cause of you losing the game was not that one team scored more points than the other; that’s the definition of losing a game. The cause is “Well, what happened?” Did someone drop the ball? Did someone play poorly? Did your captain have the stomach flu? There are other things below the surface.
And that’s so important, because just like the coach wouldn’t say, “Oh, well. The problem, the cause or the reason we’re having a bad season is the other teams are scoring too much and we’re scoring too little.” But no, here is the solution, guys. Don’t worry. Here is the plan.
Are you ready? Moving forward, we are going to score more points and we’re going to cause the other team to score fewer points. Right? That must be the solution because the problem is they’re scoring too many and we’re scoring too few, so obviously the solution is we need to score more and they need to score fewer.” No new information has been revealed.
It sounds absurd but what happens to a lot of us when we go to our doctor’s office? We walk in, sit down, tell our doctor we’re struggling with our weight. It’s just creeping on. We’re not doing anything different. It’s not as if we’re going on these eating binges and sitting around all day. In fact most of us are running around like crazy people. We’re always on the move.
Oftentimes we don’t even have time to eat let alone eating too much. And our doctor tells us “Well you just need to eat less and exercise more.” How is that helpful? How is that any different from a coach saying, “Team, we just need to score more and prevent the other team from scoring as much. We need to score more and they need to score less. You need to eat less and you need to exercise more.” That’s not helpful.
Why? Why is fat actually accumulating? If, in fact, we are eating too much — which by definition, if we are gaining fat we are — the question is why are we spontaneously eating too much? No animal in nature just eats and eats and eats until it becomes obese. It stops, it naturally stops.
That was also the case for every generation of humans that ever existed prior to the current two or three. In fact the earliest data around obesity shows that in the early 20th Century, the rate of obesity was at or under 3%. Three percent! Today nearly 70% of us are overweight. We don’t have a history of obesity.
We are not designed to be obese, regardless of your theological views, whether or not you believe we were intelligently designed or we evolved, there is no species on this planet that has evolved or was designed to be over fat. By definition that’s “over” — too much — the body doesn’t want to be that way.
The solution is not to get into a metabolic ice bath. It’s not just to starve ourselves and to move more. The question is why. Why all of a sudden are we “eating too much and exercising too little”?
Really, that’s not even the right question to ask. The right question to ask is “Why is the balance of calories in and calories out not hitting that sweet spot, that metabolic sweet spot that it has for so many generations, in fact every generation, especially when the data is clear that overweight individuals are not just eating way more than everyone else? They’re not.
From a numeric perspective, we are as a civilization eating more calories. We’re eating about 300 more calories per person per day on average over the past few decades than we had in the ‘70s.
But that poses an interesting question and that is, “Why aren’t we all ridiculously obese?” because according to the metabolic math we’ve been taught, if the average American has consumed about 300 too many calories per day over the past 40 years or so which is a fair assumption to make because in the 1970s when we started collecting this data I am referencing we were relatively weight stable. Obesity rates were not climbing like they are today.
But according to that data, according to the metabolic math we are all taught day in and day out, we hear these news stories, “Eat one less cracker a day and you’ll lose 20 pounds because that’s how metabolism works. Right? We work like a math equation.” False.
If that were true, every American — every American — should weigh over 1000 pounds, well over 1000 pounds! Just do the metabolic math. 300 calories per day times 365 days in a year times 40 years or so, divide that by 500 calories supposedly in a pound of fat and you get every single American weighing over 1000 pounds. So the question is not “How can we get two thirds of our population to eat less and exercise more?”
Just like if we had different disease epidemic that caused people to have fevers, that caused their body temperature to go up rather than their body fat levels to go up, we would not say, “Two Thirds of the Population, you just need to get into ice baths more.” But we do tell two thirds of the population, “You just need to eat less and exercise more.”
The underlying issue, the underlying question is “Why?” Why do two thirds of the population react to this increase in calories by storing excess body fat while the other third of the population does not? It is not a moral issue. Go into a school cafeteria, for example. Go into a workplace cafeteria.
Go any place where there are people gathered together. You will see uniformly bad eating habits. It’s not like two thirds of the room are over there shoveling food into their face and the other third is over here doing push ups and wall squats. No! Everyone is behaving basically the same way, but about two thirds of the room will be overweight and one third will not be and we know this. Think about children. Think about a football team.
On a football team you have linemen. These are the gigantic people that are protecting the quarterback and trying to get the quarterback, that big set of men, generally men. Then you have wide receivers. These are the people that catch passes. Linemen and wide receivers go through the same physical conditioning during their practice.
As an ex-football player myself I can say it’s not that the linemen go and we have them eat at that phase while the wide receivers, these more slender players, are out doing jumping jacks. No, we’re all doing a lot of exercise and in fact the same exercise. But the linemen don’t become wide receivers and the wide receivers don’t become linemen.
Why is that? Because there is an underlying biological difference between those to body types and this is not controversial at all. We’ve known for generations that there are three basic body types: endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph. Endomorph is generally a bit stockier, mesomorph is right in the middle and ectomorph is a little bit lankier.
Telling an endomorph to eat less and exercise more to become an ectomorph only makes sense in a model where we think if you take a football team and you put them all through the same physical conditioning program that they’ll all become linemen or that they’ll all become wide receivers. It is simply flawed.
Two things. One, we’re different. Not everyone is the same and not everyone is going to react to the same types of foods the same way and we know this. There are millions of people who eat whatever they want, don’t exercise and stay slim. So why aren’t we talking more about that? Why aren’t we talking more about the cause of naturally thin people staying naturally thin in this toxic metabolic environment we have? Because that seems to be hinting at the actual cause, hinting at a metabolic disturbance that is taking place in individuals who are struggling with overweight that is not taking place in naturally thin people.
We’re isolating variables. We’re seeing most of the population doesn’t have good dietary habits. Fair. That’s absolutely fair. Most of the population is “not exercising enough” which is actually not true and we’ll get into that in another podcast, but let’s assume that’s true. Why then are only two thirds of the population overweight?
Because we are confusing causes with symptoms. Saying that an overweight person is eating too much and exercising too little is providing no new information. It is like saying the team that lost the game scored too few points and that the other team scored too many. We need to dig a level deeper.
In the sports analogy, we need to say, “Hmm. What was it about the other team that caused them to score more points? What was it about our team that causes us to score too few points?” If in fact an overweight individual is overeating, which by definition they are, we look at the data and it is quite clear that you can have an overweight individual eating 1800 calories per day – not a lot of calories – and they stay overweight.
How is it possible for an overweight individual to consume 1800 calories per day and remain overweight? How can 1800 calories per day be overeating? That is not a lot of calories. So it’s not necessarily that we’re eating too much. Is it that our body is not reacting to what we’re eating the way it should be?
Has it become too easy to overeat? Is there this underlying metabolic disturbance that causes the quantity of food we need to eat to be full and satisfied to be overeating? Let’s unpack that for a second. Every human being dare I say is going to eat until they are full, long term.
I have yet to meet a person who can go through their entire life hungry just like we can’t go through our entire lives sleep deprived or our entire lives not going to the bathroom or not blinking or not breathing. There are key biological functions that we must perform consistently to stay alive and thrive and that the body fights to maintain. Maintaining energy is one of them.
The body doesn’t want us to starve. It also doesn’t want us to be overweight, so why is it that eating to satiety, eating until we are no longer hungry is causing some to be overweight and others not to be?
Now again of course there are people, exceptions, that are just going bananas and they are eating crazy amounts of garbage food. But I have never met anyone who is eating crazy amounts of actual food, for example, things you could find in nature, non starchy vegetables, things you put in salads, plants you could eat raw — cucumbers, spinach, leafy greens, peppers, olives, mushrooms — nutrient-dense proteins, meats and seafood and fruits and nuts and seeds. I’ve never really seen anyone just gorging on these foods consistently and becoming overweight.
But what we do see are “foods” or dare I say edible products such as Pringles which tells us “once you pop you can’t stop”. They actually advertise the fact that if you eat this food you will overeat because if you’re hungry and you choose a can of Pringles to satisfy you it will not! It tells you that. It is open about that and it celebrates that. Same thing with Jello. “There’s always room for Jello!” Well that’s not really a good thing.
This is really just an exploration getting us to question these underlying assumptions which are obviously not helping us. We’ve been told to eat less and exercise more for the past 40 or 50 years while the rates of obesity have sky rocketed up. It’s not helpful.
It is like telling an anorexic, “Well you just need to eat more.” An anorexic is not missing the data that they’re not consuming enough food. Right? What they need is help understanding why? What is the underlying cause that is resulting in them not eating food and fearing food and having an unhealthy relationship with food?
It’s the same thing for those of us who struggle with overweight. We’re not going crazy with food. We’re not! We eat like our friends. We eat like we did when we were younger and we move as much as our friends, but we’re gaining weight. Why is that happening? What’s going on here?
The answer is not to eat less and exercise more. Hopefully you can take that away from this podcast. You’re of course probably wondering, “Well, what do you do instead?” The good news is quite simple.
First free yourself from “eating less and exercising more”.
Second, look at the quality of the food you are eating. The simple explanation for this is we’re all going to eat until we are full, all of us, every single one of us. Assume people eat until they are satisfied.
We cannot control, as people would lead us to believe, how much we are eating because hunger is not sustainable, just like we can’t control how often we go to the bathroom. Of course, we can hold it for a little bit but eventually you’re going to go to the bathroom. And we can “control” how much we sleep but not really. If you get four hours of sleep a night, yeah, you’re controlling it as a bunch of other terrible metabolic stuff happens and you are half asleep during the day. The body is really in control.
We can’t control whether or not we get sick. We can take all the Vitamin C we want, but at the end of the day, if the virus gets in the body the body is in control. What we can control is what we put into our mouth, the quality of the food we are eating. The body will regulate the quantity.
The body will tell us when we are full. The body already does. It is just doing it too late maybe, and we can dig even deeper into that because the question of course then is why do some people, even in the face of eating low quality food and eating a lot of it, not gain weight while other people who eat low quality food and a lot of it do.
But to keep things simple and to wrap up this week’s show, every single person on this planet long term cannot live a full, happy and healthy life without eating until they are satisfied. So telling people to futz around with the quantity of food they are eating is foolish because it assumes that hunger is a viable option. It is not!
What we can control is the quality of food we put into our mouths and that is absurdly simple. If you cannot find it directly in nature, I would highly recommend not putting it in your mouth and instead putting something you could find directly in nature in your mouth and do not worry about the quantity.
Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Eat things found directly in nature, ideally in this order in terms of volume:
• Non starchy vegetables. Again, these are vegetables you can eat raw, things you generally find in salads. You don’t have to eat them raw but you could. You cannot eat corn raw, you cannot eat potatoes raw.
• Nutrient-dense protein. Meats and seafood, nuts and seeds especially cocoa, coconut, chia, flax, macadamia nuts.
• And then finally, low fructose fruits. Not all fruits are created equal. Berries and citrus generally tend to have the most of what we need, vitamins, minerals, chemicals and the least of what we don’t, fructose.
We don’t tell people who have fevers to get into ice baths despite the fact that it will lower their body temperature. And we don’t say that the cause of our favorite team losing the last game was that their opponent scored too much and they scored too little. And we don’t tell anorexics that the cause of their very sad condition is that they are eating too little.
We know from a common sense perspective there is something deeper going on that causes these conditions and it is only when we acknowledge that cause that we can cure it. Please don’t fall victim to the degrading and unhelpful “Starve yourself and stair-stepper”, stereotypes and misinformation.
Two thirds of us are not lazy gluttons. We simply need new information and that new information tells us very clearly, “Eat more, exercise less, just do it smarter,” and that’s what we’ll dig into in the rest of our time together. I hope this was helpful. Have a brilliant week. Chat with you soon.