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SANE 401 / Lesson 6

Why You Aren’t the Problem

Hey, everybody, Jonathan Bailor back with another Smarter Science of Slim show, where we dispel calorie myths and we present you with the modern, simple science of eating and exercise. It is going to be an awesome show this week. I want to put to rest, once and for all, this idea of eating less and exercising more, because bottom line – bottom line – it’s not working, and I get a little perturbed when people defend it.

Why? To the people who are arguing about this, if your goal is to help people, how much more data do you need until you start to propose a different approach? The data is incredibly clear, so are you more concerned with being right, and sticking to your guns, or are you more concerned with actually helping people out of the biggest obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and heart disease epidemics we have ever had? And of course, the irony is that these individuals, these so-called experts, who are so concerned with being right rather than actually helping people, are not proposing the right information. It is the information from 50 years ago. Where else, when it comes to our lifestyle, do we rely on recommendations from 50 years ago? Could you imagine if we were using phones from 50 years ago, or airplanes? Even surgical techniques are wildly different from when they were introduced 50 years ago, so why would anybody still be advocating, and vehemently advocating, eating and exercise approaches from 50 years ago which are kindergarten logic?

Really, just eat less and exercise more. Telling someone who is struggling with overweight to eat less and exercise more, let’s be honest here, is like telling someone who is having stomach problems to just go to the bathroom less. “What’s your problem? Just go to the bathroom less.” Or telling a depressed person, someone who is struggling psychologically, to just frown less and smile more. It doesn’t make any sense. We know, we know, that when the body is behaving in an abnormal state – and let’s be very clear, obesity and diabetes and cardiovascular disease are abnormal states, we’ve been led to believe that they are normal states and that they are inevitable, and that we need to try harder, and that’s false, that’s absolutely false, and it’s obviously false.

Basically, no one was obese or diabetic prior to the previous three generations, when ironically, no one thought about any of these things, or even knew what a calorie was, and there were no gyms. This idea that we need to consciously intervene because our default state is one of obesity and diabetes, so we need to consciously count calories to somehow override our stupid body, is dehumanizing, ignorant and wrong. Our body doesn’t want to be overweight, any more than it wants to have cancer. The most basic ability any organism has is not dying, and being overweight and diabetic is not good for you, so you have to imagine that the body evolved or designed, depending on your belief system, natural mechanisms to combat these things, and that rather than just saying, “Starve those mechanisms,” we need to understand those mechanisms, and we need to stop telling people to just eat less and exercise more.

Seriously, next time someone tells you to eat less or exercise more, or you hear someone say, “Well, the problem with these overweight people is that they’re just lazy and stupid, and they need to eat less and exercise more,” first, remind the individual who is saying that, that they are calling 70% of the American population lazy and stupid, and personally, that’s ridiculous. Secondarily, ask them if they think depressed people should just frown less and smile more, because it’s literally ridiculous. And then ask them if they really think it’s a good idea to keep advocating this flat earth theory of weight regulation when since the 1970s, when this advice first hit the mainstream, in 1977 the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs told us, quoting directly, “To avoid overweight, consume only as much energy as is expended. If overweight, decrease energy intake and increase energy expenditure.” AKA, if you are overweight, eat less and exercise more.

That was 1977. In 1977 about 40% of the population was overweight. Today, about 70% of the population is overweight. When that advice was given about 4.5 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes. Today, it is well over triple that number at around 19%. When that advice was given, we had about 4.4 million cardiovascular disease discharges from hospitals. Today that number has increased to 6.2 million. And when that advice was given, we had about 1.8 incidences of nonfatal heart disease. Today, that has risen to 2.2 million. All major indicators are showing that the advice is not only not working, but it is potentially causing even more problems, because it’s not like things are just holding steady. When they gave this advice the Senate probably did want to help, so they hoped those numbers would go down. Not only are they not going down, they are not staying even, and in fact, they are rising at exponential rates.

So, seriously, if an individual’s job is to help people, think about this: Why would they continue to advocate information, or an approach, that isn’t working, regardless of why it’s not working. You can tell people, “Hey, keep doing that thing that isn’t working. We’ve tried it for 40 years; why not try for another 40?” No, especially when the data is unequivocally clear that there is a smarter approach. In fact, let’s talk briefly, and we’ve covered this in a previous show, about how ineffective eating less and exercising more is. There was a study done in the International Journal of Obesity that showed that less than 5% of people who attempt to eat less and exercise more to lose weight are successful long term. Specifically, it is a 4.6% success rate. That is absurd. Could you imagine any other approach, advice, program, product, service, continuing to be in business if it only worked 4.6% of the time?

To put in perspective how ridiculously low of a success rate that is, the American Cancer Society did an analysis of the percentage of people who are able to quit smoking long term without any help. And remember that nicotine is the third most addictive substance in the world, trailing only heroin and cocaine. What percentage of people are able to quit the third most addictive substance in the world, long term, without any help? 5.5%. That’s obviously low. But you know what it’s not as low as? 4.6%, which is the longterm success rate the International Journal of Obesity showed people have when they try to eat less and exercise more. What you have been taught since you were a child, what I was taught as a trainer, is an obsolete theory of weight regulation that is harder to execute and less effective than just trying to quit the third most addictive substance in the world, cold turkey.

Eating less and exercising more is either wrong, impractical, or both, and experts can argue all they want about why it doesn’t work or whose fault it is, but the bottom line is, it’s not working! So why can’t the mainstream learn from a pretty smart guy named Einstein, who told us that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? That is, literally, insane, while for the past 40 years people are just dying left and right and struggling, and the incidence of obesity and diabetes is skyrocketing simultaneously, about a third of the population is suffering from depression, because now they think that they are at fault because they are doing all they can to eat less and exercise more, but it’s not working, so they think they’re flawed in some way, so now they go on antidepressant medication which actually breaks the system designed to regulate their weight and they get even fatter, and then they think they’re even worse. Let’s just tell them to do that more. That is ridiculous. In fact, I would argue it’s almost immoral. It is basically immoral. We know the approach doesn’t work.

Yet, for example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tells us, quoting directly: “To manage your weight, balance the calories you eat with physical activity. Have a carrot, not a carrot cake. Or have cherry yogurt, not the cherry pie.” Thank you, condescending U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Missing the point, but that’s okay, if you, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, want to paint 70% of the American population as stupid and lazy, well then, enjoy your ivory tower, but the rest of us are going to be looking to the modern science to solve this problem.

Or consider this gem from the American Council on Science and Health, quoting directly: “My three-step weight loss plan. 1. Don’t expect a government bureaucracy to solve your problems. 2. Don’t single out one substance and complain that addiction to it has caused all of your overall lack of self-control. 3. When you are ready to start dealing rationally with your weight problem, if you have one, eat less and/or exercise more.” Really, American Council on Science and Health? How about a different three-step plan? Call me crazy, but let’s consider a different three-step plan. I’ve got to calm down here, I’m getting a little too amped up. Step 1: Try something. Step 2: Evaluate the results. Step 3: If the results are bad, don’t tell us to do the same thing harder.

Dr. Jensen at the University of California captures this logic pretty doggone well. He tells us, “In other fields, when bridges do not stand, when aircraft do not fly, when machines do not work, when treatments do not cure despite all conscientious efforts on the part of many persons to make them do so, one begins to question the basic assumptions, principles, theories and hypotheses that guides one’s efforts.” AKA, we’ve been fed a load of calorie myths, they are not working, and in any other field of study, for example, if a surgeon was taught a way to perform heart surgery, and 95% of the patient’s died as a result, you’d better believe that the heart surgery field would re-evaluate that approach. However, that’s not what is happening when it comes to the most basic areas of our lives, eating and exercise.

And this dates back a long way, to Hippocrates. This is a direct quote from Dr. Friedman, a wonderful pioneer in the modern science of eating and exercise. Dr. Friedman, from Rockefeller University, tells us: “Hippocrates wrote that the obese should eat only once a day, and take no baths, and sleep on a hard bed, and walk naked as long as possible. Longterm fat loss will require that we move beyond this 2000-year old prescription and instead develop strategies that are based on 21st century science.”

That’s all we’re talking about. It’s really not that radical. 2000 years ago, the best we could do, from a weight regulation perspective, was to tell people to, in the words of Hippocrates, “Eat only once a day, and walk naked as long as possible.” Certainly, the mainstream isn’t telling us to walk naked, but maybe that’s the next fad diet, who knows? But the point here is that 2000 years ago, that sort of kindergarten logic, “Just eat less and exercise more,” which is, again, like telling a depressed person to just frown less and smile more, was the best the medical field could do.

But friends, we can, and have to, do better today. And we can. We absolutely can, actually, better than the experts, people that study the fields that actually matter, from a science perspective, when it comes to weight regulation, not people in ivory towers throwing down moral judgments because they’re genetically thin so they just think they are better than everyone else, when in reality, their overweight friends probably consume fewer calories than they do.

We’ve got to go back to science, and again, the good news, the actual experts, people who study neurobiology, how the brain regulates our bodies, people who study gastroenterology, how our second brain, our gut, is involved in weight regulation, and endocrinologists, people who study our hormones, the language our body speaks, have made dramatic advancements over the past few decades. No better is this captured than by Dr. Wooley at the University of Cincinnati, who tells us, “The failure of people to achieve a goal they seem to want, and to want almost above all else, must now be admitted for what it is: A failure not of those people, but of the methods of treatment that are used.” Amen, Dr. Wooley. How long are we going to sit idly by while people have no idea what they are talking about, because if they did, they would not be saying these things, because it have been disproven by science for decades. “Oh, well, calories are all that count. It’s just about consciously counting calories. A calorie is a calorie.” That’s just patently false. There are tens of thousands of pages of science, clinically disproving it.

Instead of saying these kinds of things, we have to rise up. We have to take the power back. We have to listen to the actual experts, and fix the system, the system that kept us slim and not diabetic for hundreds of thousands of years. Think about this again. Every single generation of people, everywhere in the world, prior to even knowing what a calorie was, let alone counting them, had better obesity and diabetes-related outcomes than we have today. How did they do that? If going to the gym and counting calories was required to avoid these things, how is it the case that before those things were even possible, we didn’t have these problems? It’s because we’ve been fed a load of myths, and in fact, when you think about how absurd this eat less, exercise more recommendation is, it is literally saying that you need to be hungry and spend 10+ hours per week, every single week, for the rest of your life, to maintain a healthy weight.

90% of those who struggle with their weight are not gluttons. They are like everybody else. They eat until they are full, and then they stop. However, they eat until they are full and stop and they are overweight, while a naturally thin person eats until they are full and then they stop, and that naturally thin person isn’t overweight. What’s going on there? What’s the difference from a biology perspective, or is it that the quality of the food we are eating can cause us to overeat? It’s not a moral failing on our part, we’re doing what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to eat until we are satisfied. No one can be hungry for the rest of their life. That’s like telling someone, “Oh, just sleep less for the rest of your life. Oh, just go to the bathroom less frequently for the rest of your life. Oh, just blink less, breathe less.” It’s ridiculous.

You can’t just decide to eat less long term. Hunger isn’t sustainable, nor should it be. No one was put here on the earth to be hungry for their entire life. That is absurd. Seriously, if the only way to maintain a healthy weight over time was to be hungry and time-deprived, wouldn’t all of us be overweight? Think about it. It’s not really shocking that 70% of us are overweight, it is shocking that 100% of us aren’t overweight, because the information that has been given to us is so patently wrong that the real surprise here is how 30% of the population is able to not be overweight in this ridiculous calorie myth laden environment we have been placed into.

And there is a lot more going on here. A great example is, look in a school cafeteria, especially an inner city cafeteria where the vast majority of the students – go to an area that is economically struggling, look in the cafeteria where almost all of the students are eating the food that is provided to them by the school system. It is a fascinating experiment because you have hundreds of children who are all eating the same thing. And it is not as if 70% of the lunchroom is eating chips and soda and garbage, and 30% of the kids are eating kale salads and unbuttered toast, right? They are all eating the same thing, yet some of the students struggle with their weight, while some of them do not. Instead of, again, having people sitting in ivory towers and make moral judgments about the children who are doing the exact same thing as their thin counterparts and saying there is something wrong with them, why don’t we look to the biology, the neurobiology, the endocrinology, the gastroenterology, to explain why some people are able to maintain slimness relatively easily, and while others struggle with it?

The good news is that there is so much science explaining these things at the most basic level, and of course, we will dig into this more and more and more, week after week after week. It is your brain. Your hypothalamus is designed the regulate your weight automatically, just like it regulates your blood sugar, your blood pressure, your breathing, your blinking, any other mission-critical function in your body. Except for individuals who struggle with their weight. There is inflammation in their brain. Their brain is not able to do that appropriately, it starts to regulate them around a higher set point weight. It is as if their body’s thermostat has gotten turned up. Their body will still regulate; this is why people don’t weight 10,000 pounds. It will just regulate about an elevated set point. It is also why when these people try to eat less it doesn’t work because their body is fighting against them, to work to maintain a heavier weight. It is not as if their bodies want them to weigh less if they would just eat less, it is that their bodies don’t want them to weigh less, no matter how little they eat.

And that’s just the neurobiology. There are two more pieces. One is endocrinology, or hormones. There is all kinds of hormone wackiness going on in the state of obesity and diabetes. It is known as metabolic disregulation. Hormones like leptin, insulin, testosterone, estrogen and cortisol are all out of whack. Take anyone who is consuming any number of calories, getting any amount of exercise, and flip their hormones out of control, and they will gain fat. Ask anyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes what happened when they started injecting themselves with insulin, and almost always you will hear they gained fat. Why? Because insulin is a fat storing hormone. If you inject it into your body, you will gain fat, regardless of the quantity of calories you consume.

Then of course, there is the gastroenterology aspect, our gut bacteria. Researchers have now shown, repeatedly, that obese individuals have a predictably different set of bacteria in their stomachs than individuals who are not struggling with overweight, and in fact, if you take the gut bacteria from a metabolically healthy mammal and you transplant it into the stomach of a metabolically unhealthy mammal, the metabolically unhealthy mammal will become healthier, and will burn fat without changing anything about the quantity of calories they are consuming because the system, itself, is being fixed.

So friends, please, I know I got a little bit amped up in this podcast, but I just get so frustrated because people like myself, people in this field of eating and exercise, are in the business of enabling you to live better. Our job is to provide you with tools that work. It is not our job to make you feel bad about yourself, and to keep preaching an approach that has been proven to fail for 40 years, that has been proven to fail by epidemiological research, and that has been proven to fail by clinical research. So, let’s all take a step back. Let’s stop blaming ourselves, because you know what? We’re doing the best we can do based on the information we have been given, but we have been given bad information.

If a doctor writes you the wrong prescription, and you get sicker, it’s not your fault. However, once you realize that you have been written the wrong prescription, you now have the opportunity, and also the responsibility, to get the correct prescription to implement that, and to rock your mission, your purpose here on the earth, as awesomely as you can. Because for 70% of our population, we literally do not know what it feels like to be fully alive, because when we are struggling with metabolic issues, it is just like having the flu, or having a cold. It’s a disease, and it puts a damper on every area of our lives.

We are at a crossroads where we can change that because we finally have access to the right information, information that tells us it is the quality of the food we are eating, rather than the quantity, that matters. It is the quality of the physical movement we are getting, not the quantity, that matters, from a longterm weight loss perspective. And these calorie myths literally need to be forgotten about. Our scales literally need to be thrown out the window, because they are not accurate measures of anything, from a health and human wellbeing perspective.

On one hand, we have a lot to be angry about, as you can tell by my 20+ minute rant on today’s show. But we also have a lot to be happy and hopeful about, because once we identify the problem – and that problem is not us – that we’ve been given bad information, we have the power to transcend that. We’re not the problem, the information is the problem. We know that, we can change that, and we can live a Smarter Science of Slim, instead of being subjugated by calorie myths.

If you like what you heard on today’s show and you are interested in learning more about this Smarter Science of Slim, this modern metabolic simple science that you can implement right now to free yourself from these calorie myths, please check out my new book, The Calorie Myth, from Harper Collins. You can get it anywhere books are sold. And you can get a bunch of free bonus stuff at the book’s website, caroliemythbook.com.

My name is Jonathan Bailor, and remember, this week and every week after, eat more, and exercise less. Just do that Smarter.