Abel James: Exposing The Dark Side of the Diet Industry


Jonathan: Hey everybody, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus episode of the SANE show and today I am thrilled to bring you back one of the friends of the show and one of my personal friends, a gentleman who I hold near and dear to my heart and have spent some wonderful time with, both himself and his delightful fiancé and will continue to do so in the future because he is a rock star, it is the Fat-Burning Man, Abel James, what’s up brother, welcome.

Abel: Hey Jonathan, thanks so much for having me.

Jonathan: Abel, I’m so glad to get you back on this show because I know your life has been a whirlwind over the past couple of months. You’ve been big into the podcast and web world, dominating that for many years and now you’re really breaking into the mainstream, which I love to see and that’s where we need to make change, so I was hoping you might be able to tell us a little bit about that story and give us an inside scoop on what’s been going on there and what you’ve liked and not liked.

Abel: Totally. Yeah, so this is great because I don’t really get to talk about it all that often and on my own show I try to let the other person be the star for the most part, right, and I try — you know I tell my own little stories and anecdotes to connect the conversation together but really it’s a — I don’t see it as the place to always just totally unleash what’s been going on. So I like the behind the scenes stuff and there’s a lot of it. At this point, you know, I’ve done hundreds of interviews with a lot of the top people in health and so I have dirt on almost everybody and the real story is that a lot of them have beef with each other, some of them see each other as competition, some of them see me as competition, it’s fascinating. For the most part they’re really, really good people, but I think what would interest your listeners a lot is the way that they’re live, the things that we all agree about, which should sound familiar.

One of the biggest reasons that the diet industry is so big and you’re so confused is because it’s in the diet industry’s best interest to keep you confused. And that’s why you see all this misinformation. What I can tell you, even, like, from the diet gurus who I know, very well, a lot of them, and all different shapes and kinds and good ones and bad ones, they almost all, if they’re walking the walk, are eating loads of non-starchy, green, leafy veggies, every single day. They’re drinking loads of water, they’re living a low toxin, low pollution lifestyle, spending time outdoors for the most part and they’re very physically active, almost across the board, even the ones who are selling you, you know, exercise in five minutes, which we all, you know, have that headline on some blog poster, whatever. The reason we have that is because at some point you’re competing with the worst of the industry, right.

So let me just cover off on that first. What these people are actually doing, the way that they’re — knowing everything that they know about the health within this industry, they do take supplements, some of them, but it’s not really anything that would surprise you; the only ones they have in common tend to be vitamin D, maybe vitamin A or an A-D combination, which would be, like, cod liver oil, fish oil, something like that. Magnesium is another big one. And there are a couple of other ones that people kind of add in there, but then some people are very healthy, totally against supplements. But loads of green leafy veggies, a fair amount of protein and that could come from healthy animals or it could come from plants, but it’s some form of protein. And this is just the way that people are living and they’re all physically active.

So if you want to be like that, then those are the exact things that if you even do like a couple of them, you are probably going to, you know, trend towards optimal to some degree and that progress will get you there. So just know that you already have enough information right now to be as fit as almost any diet guru out there and that’s the secret, like we’ve talked about before Jonathan, there are no secrets, as much as people tell you there are. And even, like, I’m guilty of using that language as well because it’s like, they seem like secrets, you know. When I was — so I got to hang out — this was super cool — the Tim McGraw band and Danny in particular who is their lead guitarist are big fans in the show and they’ve lost — like, Danny lost forty pounds, I’ve a show coming up with him. We jammed together and hang out in Austin on the tour bus with the whole Tim McGraw band and they get it, they know what foods to keep stocked on the bus, which are like lots of fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, they got [lamb bars?? 04:49] with blueberries in them and pemmican and like all this cool stuff and they’re really into.

But at the same time, like, how many people today [05:00] are overweight or obese not because they’re, you know, sitting around eating Doritos all the time, but because you’re actually trying to do the right thing and buying the diet foods: the reduced fat, the reduced salt, the reduced cholesterol, the foods that, you know, argue that they’re good for you because they don’t have something in them type foods; those diet foods are the things that are making a lot of us sick and that too much information gimmickry whatever is making people fat and sick and confused. So that’s just kind of like a mini-rant, we can take this in whatever direction you’d like to Jonathan.

Jonathan: So Abel, one of the cool things about new media and the amazing show you have and the show here is that we’re able to just talk, right, like, you are beholden to no sponsors, to know corporate interests and I know now, you are moving into the mainstream publishing arena, I know 2015 is just going to be epic for you; have you or have you seen pressure to modify your message at all to accommodate that new arena you’ll be performing in?

Abel: Every day. I was — I was writing in my notebook as I do all the time, yesterday actually, and I calculated that I — many months ago, I reached the point where I’ve turned out more than a million dollars just for my podcast and mailing list, in advertising sponsorships and other deals of various kinds. That’s obviously a lot of money. When I set out to do this, I didn’t do it for the money and that’s, you know, very obvious. I — it’s amazing the type of, like, solicitations that I get from people to advertise or endorse things using my name at this point. And it’s — I’m just like, You’re aware that I don’t have any advertising sponsorship or what have you on my show or anywhere else, right, that’s like my whole deal, this is what I tell them and they’re just like, Oh yeah, yeah, but here’s forty thousand dollars, does that change..? And I’m like, No, that changes nothing. Like I don’t want your forty — and, like, I’m turning down more than forty thousand dollars a month, every single month that I have my show.

And you know, at some point you do have to make money and I made the decision to tran — basically I worked in consulting with food manufacturers and the federal government and a lot of different people before that too, so I’ve kind of had, you know, nine lives in the food industry and a lot of different places and a lot of different ways and so, yeah, now I have book deal with a major publisher and there have been some bumps in the road, I don’t — I think that they’ve done a really good job at trying to move things forward, but the nature of the industry and the nature of contracts and whenever you kind of get pointed toward the limelight and there’s a publicity team and there’s infrastructure and there are lots of lawyers. Then there’s a big temptation in a lot of these companies to kind of own your name a little bit, and it starts small. And I’ve prevented that from happening in every situation I’ve been in, and I just want to be 100% clear about that, I can say whatever I want about whatever I want, whenever I want to.

And I — you know, with whatever deal I get, that’s how I approach it. And my lawyer knows that very well and I have to have a really good one because there are sharks out there and in fact I would have signed something that would have compromised, you know, my name, so someone could have used my name to do something that I wouldn’t agree with, for example, which, you know, it sounds like this would be kind of weird or unique to me or whatever, I’m like this guy that came out of nowhere and this rock star in the podcast world then just got this huge book deal, whatever, this happens to almost everybody who you see on the front of a book or you see on a TV show or anywhere else. And it might surprise a lot of people to learn that these people with big names that you see at Starbucks and at the grocery store and on commercials and The Today Show, franchises, whatever, these big names of celebrities are not owned often times by the celebrities.

And what I mean by that is that they are essentially a brand and they are not even making most of the money from their own name, they’re not choosing when or where they appear on media, someone else is calling all the shots. They’re kind of a puppet. And when I — so I’ve been a musician for a really long time. I actually did a lecture at Dartmouth when I was I think like twenty years old. I did a big project about technology and how that’s had an impact on popular media and specifically the music business.

And basically what you found back then was instead of singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan that you found in the 1960s that were contributing to the popular discourse and basically making political statements and trying to, you know, be progressive with [10:00] their art, you found that in order to reach triple platinum, these record companies were basically finding a hot young girl who they could mold into whatever they wanted to and then installing a team of songwriters who would just write things off the cuff and then professional musicians around them who are just studio musicians, no personality basically, where they try to tone down the personality so that you the only thing that sticks out is that, you know, the person up front, it could be boy or girl, young or old, doesn’t really matter, it’s still happening now.

But you have these install bands that are putting out manufactured music. It’s almost the exact same thing in the diet industry. And so I know that you have been — I’m sure that you have been presented with a lot of things like that where there is a temptation to be like, Oh, crap, that is a lot of money, like, I’m I an idiot, am I crazy for like turning this down? Is there no other way? I had Tucker Max who’s become a good friend, he’s also a best-selling author, I think he’s had a — I think his book was, like, on the best — New York Times’ best-seller charts for like seven years straight or something like that, so he knows the business. And we were just talking about how that is kind of the way that it is. And the deals that I’m being presented with, not uncommon kind of just like what happens in the industry.

In the movie industry — and he’s had a movie as well — is even worse, like, they try to screw people even more and so, yeah, there’s a big problem with people assuming that because there’s a talking head on TV, speaking to them maybe very sincerely, that they’re speaking from the heart and mean what they say. Because I know for a fact, knowing a lot of them, that they say things that they don’t mean and that they don’t believe, on national television, in their books, everywhere else and that kills me. So I try not to have people like that on my show or in my materials or whatever. Sometimes it still happens, but just know that that does happen and so choose your gurus — who should be yourself anyway — but choose your gurus very carefully.

Jonathan: So, Abel, as you’re taking this road less travelled, and how — so how do you — I mean, at the heart, we all — I mean, I don’t know — I know you and Allison are getting married here soon and you may want to start a family so you are going to have to potentially put some kids through college and be able to just, you know, go on some vacations and buy healthy, delicious food; what is your approach then to monetizing on this more noble path which I too I’m trying to take and is not always easy, so what is the plan there?

Abel: Yeah, well fortunately, I grew up with very little money and super scrappy and I’ve been like buying and selling stuff on eBay since I was, you know, using my dad’s name at twelve years old and, you know, I’ve been scrappy for a long time and — so that’s allowed me kind of grow my platform and my blog and be able to monetize it with mostly my own products or products like I built with you, like Fat Loss Masterclass, which is basically like a joint project that’s information that we believe in that’s designed to include the biggest questions and interests and pains from our communities. I like to crowd source our products. So basically I’ve — it’s important to have money, I realize, in this process as much as I kind of like resented it growing up not having it. I think a lot of us struggle with, there’s like, if someone has money they’re bad or whatever, there’s a lot of that psychology out there and that’s something I still struggle with.

But you realize that, like, the resources of having a kick-butt team around you, like I have an incredible — we were just talking about this before this recording, like, in order to make our product and get it out to our communities, I have an amazing guy on my team named Tyler and he does marketing and tech and a lot of things that, like, I could do or not do nearly as well as him but I need him to help me. Alison is another great example. She helps us do recipes, she does a lot of operations stuff, she’s all over the place and absolutely amazing and in order to pay the bills, like for myself her and Tyler and the admin assistant and the people who are helping putting the podcast out there and the people who will help schedule the podcast and all the rest of it, yeah, you need to, like, make some money and it’s not like an insignificant amount.

So the way that I’ve done it is kind of like [end?? 14:23] scrappy, not — like, I don’t want to live on a yacht. I was listening to a great podcast actually with Alec Baldwin and Jerry Seinfeld and basically Alec acting — asked him — asked Jerry this question about — basically after Seinfeld, after the last season, they had the — basically he had the option of being presented all these offers and being as big as he wanted to, you know. He could have had the Seinfeld — the Jerry channel, you know, and franchised everything out and been a billionaire, billionaire many times over, whatever and he’s — he just kind of like [15:00] slyly responded, That’s not me, I was in those rooms, I’ve been in those rooms for years, like, I don’t want that, I want to do art. And I wanted to say things my way. And I don’t want to be on a yacht, I want to be on a surfboard and that’s how I tend to think about these things.

And I don’t want just me on a surfboard, I want everyone on the surfboard, right, I want us all to be hanging out, having a good time and money is only really useful for trying to spread our message of truth and having a great team. And so the way that I do that is by — I have an app company like you do, we do mostly recipe apps, build websites, I do some consulting and it’s working out really well and the thing that I like most about it is that I can be who I am and say what I believe in. And I’m wrong sometimes, but at least, like, there isn’t a company puppeting me the whole time, because that’s just wouldn’t do.

Jonathan: Well and that’s why I’m so attracted to you, Abel, because I think it may also have to do with some of our similar upbringing, not only from a scrappy, more middle-class to lower-class upbringing, but also, I know we have some experience in the technology industry and it’s common knowledge — I believe Mark Zuckerberg and the folks that invented Twitter have gone on record many times saying that, you know, add value first, add value — you know, we’ll figure out how to monetize, you add value to people’s lives and it will not be hard for you in the future to make money. Now for the five-ten years —

Abel: Yeah, we’ll make up jobs for you.

Jonathan: Exactly, in the five, ten years it takes you to do that, you’re going to need to scrape by somehow but how much of this do you think is sort of a short-term versus a long-term focus and where do you see yourself in the longer ten-year time frame?

Abel: Yeah, I don’t want to play a small game and there are a lot of people who will try to get you to play that game as you level up in the process. And so for me, as long as I have — since I’d be happy living in a tent on a surfboard anyway, it gives me the ability and the confidence to be like, Oh, you want to give me a half million dollars, and this just happened like two weeks ago, and I’m like, No, I don’t want a half million dollars. And they’re like, What? No one ever says — you can’t say no. And I’m just like, I just did, you know, and that — so I mean, stuff like that happens and as long as you know that you’re true to yourself, then, I think you’re always going to keep growing. I see myself as — I just want to affect as many people as possible, I think that I’m an example and I want to be an example of bringing the best in life to other people.

Because there are — and that doesn’t just mean food, that’s one avenue to get there, but I mean, I’m a musician, I think art affects people. And I know we, you know, agree about a lot of this stuff. I think that people need to be educated with the right stuff, not propaganda and nonsense and marketing, you know. Even more kids are reading in school. I did a keynote for the Department of Education, I know that what kids are learning in schools, what I learned in school was wrong and propaganda. What I want is everyone to have access to the right kind of information so that they can make their own decisions without external manipulation or influence. They need at least the opportunity to access that information, you know, a trusted source for that. And so I want to be that and as big as that needs to be to make the world a better place, you know. I’m really, really interested in technology.

I’m playing kind of in health right now, specifically, but I’m all about, like, doing one thing really, really well and then moving forward and kind of expanding from there. And health is a great way to affect people; it’s one of the biggest issues of our time. There are going to be other issues, so I can’t guarantee that I’ll always be in exactly the same place, I didn’t even predict that I would be here, but I know that I’m not going away and I want to be — you know, not because I want to be powerful or, like, make a crapload of money but because I want to be around good people and make the world a better place.

I want to be as big as I possibly can and that’s really the genesis of all of this and no amount of money is going to change that ever and that’s something that’s just like, you can’t ever make that kind of compromise because as soon as you do, you can’t sleep at night and then you just kind of — I mean, you can make mistakes, of course, we all do, but you need to be able to sleep at night and there are going to be many — especially if you’re a type-A successful type person, you’re going to be presented with a lot of things that will prevent you from sleeping at night, so just say, No, you like — deep down you know which things those are and so that’s how I live my life.

Jonathan: Well that’s beautiful Abel, well where can we go to stay abreast of all this amazing stuff you’ve got going on?

Abel: Sure, easiest place to find me for the health stuff is fatburningman.com and the podcast is also FatBurningMan [20:00] and my other stuff is Abel James, A-b-e-l, and you can Google me, find my website, if you want to hear some of my music it’s there, it’s also on FatBurningMan, so FatBurningMan is probably the easiest places to find it.

Jonathan: Cool and folks, please stay tuned because I know Abel’s got some amazing stuff coming up and also I had the distinct honor and pleasure, if you like, this conversation that we’ve had. Today, Abel and I spent time together in person, recorded a massive amount of these truths that are not manipulated or influenced by anyone else and we called it Fat Loss Masterclass and there’s another one called Fat Loss Mastermind and you can learn more about that project, it’s a wonderful at-home study course, fatlossmasterclass.com. And Abel, I just want to, again, thank you personally, I think you are the change we both want to see in this industry and in the world so I can’t thank you enough for being that example brother and thanks for coming on the show.

Abel: Thanks Jonathan, the feeling is mutual.

Jonathan: Well viewers and listeners, I hope you enjoyed this wonderful chat as much as I did. Again, Abel James is the Fat-Burning Man and be sure to check out fatlossmasterclass.com and remember, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better, we’ll chat with you soon.

This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Abel James. In his own words:

Intro to Paleo: Quick-Start Diet Guide to Burn Fat, Lose Weight, and Build Muscle

“Abel James is a #1 best-selling author, top 10 App Developer, musician, radio show host, entrepreneur, and veritable health crusader. Abel’s work has been featured in WIRED Magazine, Paleo Living, and hundreds of media outlets in business, technology, psychology, and health.

Within its first year, Abel’s Fat-Burning Man Show rose to the #1 most popular health podcast in the United States and United Kingdom and went on to top the charts in more than 7 countries across the world for the past 2 years.

A former strategic advisor to the food and beverage industry, Abel now acts as a consumer advocate who exposes the truth behind deceptive marketing practices, misleading corporate propaganda, and powerful special interests that have accelerated the worldwide obesity epidemic and health crisis. Abel harnesses the techniques he developed for the Wild Diet to achieve extremely compelling results in fat loss and health for his clients and the community.

Abel’s quick-start guide, Intro to Paleo and The Musical Brain are distinguished as #1 Amazon bestsellers in health and psychology. The Musical Brain explores evolutionary biology and how musical training and experience affects the brain.

Abel and his team developed Caveman Feast, the #1 App in Food and Drink across the world and #6 App overall in the Apple Store in 2013.

Abel has advised Fortune 500 and federal government clients including Microsoft, State Street Global Advisors, Lockheed Martin, the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, and the Library of Congress.

A research junkie, Abel James completed high school and college in a total of just six years. Distinguished as Valedictorian at New Hampton School, he earned his A.B. from Dartmouth College and graduated as a Senior Fellow with Honors with a concentration in Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Hailing from the frosty backwoods of New Hampshire, Abel James lives with his rambunctious yellow lab, Bailey, in Austin, Texas.

Abel enjoys strong coffee and cheesecake. Preferably together.”