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Am I Eating Too Much and Set-Point Weight Details

Jonathan Bailor- Hey everyone, welcome to another Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Jonathan Bailor here along with my fabulous co-hostssss.

Carrie Brown- Aha!

Jonathan- More than one!

Carrie- Hi everyone.

Jonathan- And Carrie is one.

Carrie- Carrie is one, you can spot which one I am.

Jonathan- We also have (for the first time ever, definitely not the last) a brand new addition to the podcasting team who will be gracing us with her presence here every once in awhile, Dr. Cathy Britell.

Dr. Cathy Britell- Hi Jonathan, hi Carrie!

Carrie- Hey!

Dr. Cathy- It’s really good to be here.

Carrie- It’s really good to have you, some more estrogen in the room – yes!

Jonathan- Woo-hoo, Dr. Cathy is here! I’ll let her tell you a little bit about herself, but she is helping us to… We’ve got a wonderful community on the Smarter Science of Slim website, you can find it at smarterscienceofslim.com/community. Totally free, a lot of great questions and answers going on. Sadly, I have run out of time and been unable to keep up with all the questions and answers. Dr. Cathy has been kind enough to be an awesome moderator, awesome facilitator, and then to bring to our little podcasting world questions that may need our unique insights. That’s why she’s here and it’s going to be awesome. Cathy, tell the listeners about yourself.

Dr. Cathy- I’m a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation. That means I take care of patients who really want to make functional gains. People who have had strokes, people who have had spinal cord injuries, who have arthritis, or who just have general weakness and need to be restored. What I do is restorative medicine. Awhile ago I became aware of the Smarter Science of Slim and I found it to be a really, really wonderful way for both myself and my patients to get healthier.

Jonathan- Woo-hoo!

Dr. Cathy- Yeah!

Jonathan- That’s awesome.

Carrie- I wish you all could see the smile on her face.

Jonathan- Dr. Cathy, how long have you been doing this? How long have you been changing people’s lives in this way?

Dr. Cathy- With rehabilitation medicine, I’ve been in practice for thirty-six years.

Jonathan- Thirty-six years!

Carrie- And she’s only forty-four!

Dr. Cathy- Umm…yeah.

Jonathan- She got her medical license when she was eight.

Dr. Cathy- I was one of those child doctors.

Jonathan- Doogie Howser – Ms. Doogie Howser.

Dr. Cathy- I just love being here. I love what SANEity and smarter exercise has done both for myself and my patients. It’s really an honor to be here and to be working with you all.

Carrie- Great to have you.

Jonathan- Absolutely great to have you and absolutely awesome to be talking about this wonderful Smarter Science of Slim community. Again, thank you to everyone who is participating. If you haven’t participated, please jump in there. If you’re familiar at all with internet discussion boards – forget all of that, because it’s extremely positive, it’s extremely supportive, it’s not the anonymous sniping you see on the internet. So, please check it out, it’s free and it’s awesome. Let’s cover some questions.

Dr. Cathy- Plus, there are a number, huge number, of very knowledgeable people…

Jonathan- Yes.

Dr. Cathy- …there who are so good at answering questions, who are so kind and so supportive. It’s just a tremendous community – people that you really enjoy knowing.

Jonathan- Absolutely, absolutely. It is the epitome of a support group.

Carrie- We love that.

Jonathan- We love that. Questions…

Dr. Cathy- Yeah.

Jonathan- …from said support group.

Dr. Cathy- Ok, CookieCat from Germany writes that she’s eating about a gram of protein per pound of body weight. It really seems like a lot to her and she’s concerned that this might have some adverse health effects, particularly for her kidneys. She’d like some reassurance that this level of protein is ok.

Jonathan- In terms of reassurance, the good news is, we have lots. Not only is there one or two chapters in The Smarter Science of Slim dedicated to the distillation of no less than hundreds of studies showing that there is very, very little (if anything) for normal individuals to be worried about here. I also just blogged part two of a three part series on protein talking about the benefits and risks (or lack thereof) for normally functioning individuals. As long as you’re eating an otherwise SANE diet, practicing an eccentric exercise routine, consuming a sufficient amount of fluids, and are otherwise normally healthy – you’re all good. Dr. Cathy, what about for those people who are not otherwise healthy?

Dr. Cathy- One thing that I would add is that there are a couple of groups of people who really do need to limit the amount of protein that they eat. One of those is people with severe liver disease. These folks are generally very, very ill, so they wouldn’t be doing Smarter Science of Slim. They’re on a very, very special diet, wouldn’t be on a fat-loss program. The other group (many of whom will be interested in fat-loss) are people who are very obese and diabetic, who might have abnormal kidney function or who are on dialysis. They, of course, need to be very closely monitored and follow the dietary advice of their medical care team.

Jonathan- Assuming you do not have these conditions, eat the amount of protein we’re talking about – which is anywhere between 1 and 200 grams of protein. There’s a rough guideline in The Smarter Science of Slim that says approximately a gram per pound of body weight. That assumes a non-morbidly obese individual. If you weigh (let’s say) 400 pounds, no one’s recommending that you eat 400 grams of protein. The upper bound for a normal individual would be about 200 grams.

Dr. Cathy- Absolutely.

Jonathan- As we talk about – trying to get those in thirty to fifty gram doses is also very important to maximize muscle protein synthesis, as well as satiety, and to minimize potential gastrointestinal distress if one consumes too much protein in a single sitting – such as farting and so on and so forth.

Dr. Cathy- Yeah.

Jonathan- Don’t want that.

Dr. Cathy- Don’t want that, if you really want to live with people.

Jonathan- Yes. So please, if you have any remaining concerns, we did a previous podcast all about protein (one or two). Listen to that, lot of great stuff. Check out Smarter Science of Slim last two blog posts…well, by the time this airs…search for “protein” on the website, there’s a bunch of information. Check out the book, it will put any fears you have to rest. Don’t take my word for it, the research is quite clear.

Carrie- Alright. I love protein, you know that.

Jonathan- I do too.

Dr. Cathy- Urzay from Australia is finding she’s not able to eat the one gram of protein per pound recommendation plus ten servings of non-starchy vegetables. She just can’t stuff that much food down. She wonders if this is a problem and how she should deal with this?

Jonathan- I’ll give a very high-level answer and then I think this is a great topic just to discuss. The high-level answer is – just like we don’t want to be uncomfortable from hunger and we don’t want to under eat, we (of course) don’t want to be uncomfortable from over eating. The idea here is to achieve nutritional serenity (or dietary serenity) where you just feel happy and content with the amount of food you’re consuming. Part of the reason I advise eating more but smarter is not so that we feel uncomfortably full, but rather so that we give ourselves a therapeutic dose of nutrition, as well as we find it easy to avoid things that might be difficult to avoid if we’re ravenously hungry all the time. That doesn’t mean we should ever stuff ourselves to an uncomfortable level.

Dr. Cathy- I think one of the other keys is remembering to eat frequently. Sometimes if you get busy, you’ll have breakfast at six in the morning and not think of eating until noon. At which time you’ll be way too hungry and really then won’t be eating enough protein, enough non-starchy vegetables. If you can have that nice snack about ten in the morning, that really helps too.

Jonathan- Yep. Also, spacing it out was a very good tip I read many moons ago in the support group. Simply, if you don’t eat any vegetables with breakfast or you don’t eat protein with breakfast, you’re basically done for. To try to fit it in in the next eight hours just isn’t going to happen. So, making sure you get protein and vegetables at every meal is key. Eating two to three servings of non-starchy vegetables in a sitting is surprisingly easy. Most people don’t realize, but a carrot is a serving. A normal size carrot – that’s one serving of vegetable. Do it every time you eat (don’t overstuff yourself) but if you’re doing it every time you eat, it should work out pretty well. Carrie, what’s been your experience?

Carrie- Well, I just think that if…I have a huge appetite, you know.

Jonathan- Carrie’s like, “I don’t understand the question!”

Carrie- But I know that not everyone is like me, some people do have a really small appetite. I think they should not worry so much about the overall quantity. If they just focus at every meal having a balanced meal with protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables – and not focus on getting the ten in.

Jonathan- Yeah.

Carrie- I think, take it down to meal size and have every meal be balanced, don’t beat yourself up if you have a small appetite.

Dr. Cathy- Yeah. The other thing that’s really useful is green smoothies.

Jonathan- Absolutely.

Dr. Cathy- You can get a lot of vegetables in green smoothies. Kind of sip it while your friend is having coffee and you’re having a conversation.

Jonathan- Yeah, absolutely.

Carrie- Soups too.

Jonathan- Yes.

Dr. Cathy- Absolutely.

Carrie- Soups are a brilliant way to get a boatload of veggies inside you without even really realizing it. Soups and smoothies, if you’re struggling with the whole veggie thing, that’s a great way to get more in.

Jonathan- Absolutely.

Carrie- It’s to drink them, we know Jonathan loves drinking his vegetables.

Jonathan- I do, I do. Not because I love it, but more because I’m lazy. So, it’s all good.

Carrie- Whatever works.

Jonathan- Whatever works! To Carrie and Cathy’s point – smoothies are gonna be great, soups are gonna be great. Please, don’t let the one gram of protein, ten servings – don’t get so much hung up on that. This is about food, about living life, about being practical and permanent. To Carrie’s point – eat protein at the meal. Do make sure it’s thirty grams or greater because (actually) that’s a threshold at which something useful is going to happen. Cathy’s making motions at me…what am I doing?

Dr. Cathy- Just pounding on the table gently.

Jonathan- Oh, I’m pounding on the table? Ok. I’m getting reprimanded.

Carrie- By two of us now, double trouble.

Jonathan- It’s double trouble. So, don’t get so hung up on the numbers, but do focus on the decent amount of protein. Make sure you’re taking in the vegetables, make sure you’re taking in the natural fats at every meal, and everything else will take care of itself (ideally).

Dr. Cathy- Absolutely. Here’s a really interesting question – AMO is wondering about that rat study that you cited in the book where the one group of rats was given normal-quality food, another was given low-quality food, and a third normal-quality food laced with quinine. He wondered what was the mechanism of the quinine-laced-food rats having a lower weight and a lower set point in all the experiments?

Jonathan- There’s a couple things here. First, there’s a very deep level of science involved with neurological regulation of appetite and what’s called food palatability and food reward. There’s a researcher out of the University of Washington by the name of Stephan Guyenet. I had the pleasure of having coffee with Stephan (maybe) two months ago. Brilliant, brilliant researcher, he has a blog (I think it’s called) thewholehealthsource…Just look up ‘Stephan Guyenet University of Washington’ and this would be your go-to resource for understanding how the palatability and reward derived from food influences one’s neurological regulation of appetite, aka set point. Also check out Michael Schwartz, another researcher at the University of Washington. A lot of great work there. Just because this gets very, very, very technical, I don’t know how deep we can get in to it here on the podcast. The short version is – check out Dr. Guyenet’s work, his blog is fantastic. Look up food palatability/food reward and I think you’ll get more scientific information than you probably ever would want along this subject.

Dr. Cathy- Maybe I could put some links to that on the forum on that question.

Jonathan- Absolutely, that’d be wonderful.

Dr. Cathy- Great. Along the line of set points, Popcorn has some really, really interesting questions. I was just fascinated by these questions, so I think we’re going to have fun with these. First, is the set point different from the body fat percent?

Jonathan- So, the answer is yes. The more detailed answer is… the set point is an abstraction. You can’t go to the doctor and have a test done which will tell you what your set point is. It’s not like your cholesterol level, your body-fat percentage, or even your waist circumference. It’s the abstraction of a concept, which is – the body regulates itself. We don’t have to monitor the electrolyte levels in our blood, we don’t have to monitor the sodium levels in our blood consciously, (unless we’re diabetic) we don’t need to monitor our blood sugar levels, and (unless we’re hypertensive) we don’t need to monitor our blood pressure levels. The point is – any biological organism tries to maintain a state of balance. Life only happens within a small range, right? The point is that the body has a series of negative feedback loops. If things get high, it tends to down-regulate them and if it gets low, it tends to up-regulate them. Your set point is essentially the range in which your body thinks either you have too much or too little fat on your body. So, your body fat percentage is a reflection of a level of body fat your body thinks is healthy for you to have based on a complicated set of neurological and hormonal factors. In some ways your body fat percentage is an effect, the set point (which is just an abstraction of a bunch of complicated neurological and hormonal stuff) is the cause. Does that make sense?

Dr. Cathy- That makes sense. I think so. Our next question…

Jonathan- I think it made sense!

Dr. Cathy- I think it made sense. No, I was sitting here thinking…

Carrie- Notice I said nothing.

Jonathan- Like… “What?”

Dr. Cathy- I was sitting here thinking about how good you are at explaining those…

Jonathan- Except in this instance. Just kidding.

Dr. Cathy- …in real people’s terms a whole lot better than I would have been under the same circumstances. She asks, “Is the set point influenced by muscle mass and body fat percent (the ratio of muscle mass to body fat percent) or does that ratio matter?”

Jonathan- Again, the set point itself is an abstraction of the neurological and hormonal factors. For example, if you have more fat on your body – body fat is actually a functional organ, it does release hormonal signals, leptin being one of the primary hormonal signals – so individuals who have more body fat, tend to have higher levels of circulating leptin. Part of the reason they continue to gain fat is because they become leptin resistant, much like diabetics become insulin resistant. There are some studies done on obese patients where their blood levels of leptin are twenty-five times higher than normal weight individuals. So, the problem is not that their body isn’t releasing hormonal signals which the brain should interpret as, “raise my basal metabolic rate, start burning more calories,” the problem is the brain doesn’t hear that.

Dr. Cathy- Right.

Jonathan- This is due to research emerging about inflammation around the brain. It’s a complicated area which is why I generally just say, there’s a set point – meaning your body is smart, you don’t need to manually balance calories, your body is designed to do that as long as you keep it healthy. However, things like the amount of fat on your body does influence your set point in one sense because it influences your hormonal balance. Same thing with the amount of muscle on your body. So, is it in any way that is practical or meaningful to us – meaning should we change our lives in some way based on that knowledge? No. It’s just if you want to influence your set point (which again is just an abstraction of a bunch of complicated stuff) eat SANE foods to drive the hormonal change which will change your set point, and do eccentric or any exercise that’s going to work your deepest muscle fibers (your type 2 – your type 2B muscle fibers specifically) and you will lower your set point.

Dr. Cathy- Great. You just answered her next question which was, “What tells the body to find another set-point?” That’s a perfect answer.

Jonathan- I do want to dig in to that, if you don’t mind – real quick, Dr. Cathy.

Dr. Cathy- Sure.

Jonathan- The importance of hormones, I think, can not be understated. Let me give an example which may sound odd, but I think we can all relate to it. Most people know what anabolic steroids are and most people understand what anabolic steroids do, right? You could take a man or a woman and sit them in a chair, not have them lift any weights, and if you inject them with anabolic steroids, they will grow muscle. How do we explain that? The way we explain that is anabolic steroids tell your brain to kick off the development of muscle. What do we think builds muscle when we stop thinking about hormones? We think exercise builds muscle, it doesn’t. Exercise triggers hormones, hormones build muscle.

Carrie- Stop banging on the table.

Jonathan- I’m not! I was patting gently on the table.

Carrie- He’s getting excited, people.

Jonathan- I’m getting excited. When we age, kind of the opposite of taking steroids happen. In men, our testosterone levels fall. In women, your estrogen levels fall. That causes (essentially) the reverse of what an anabolic steroid would do, in the sense that it causes you to store more fat and potentially burn off more muscle. This is why we do want to do eccentric exercise and we do want to eat smarter, so that we can restore a more youthful, more positive hormonal balance – which is reflected in your set-point.

Dr. Cathy- Yep.

Jonathan- Make sense?

Dr. Cathy- Makes a lot of sense, yeah. She goes on to ask another question. I really love the way Popcorn thinks here, she’s…

Jonathan- Although her name is kind of inSANE.

Dr. Cathy- Her name is a little inSANE.

Jonathan- What’s up with that, Popcorn?

Dr. Cathy- What is up? Yeah.

Jonathan- Why don’t you call yourself ‘Former/Pre-Popcorn’, or something like ‘Spinach’.

Dr. Cathy- But you know, I really like her anyway because she’s brilliant.

Jonathan- She is.

Carrie- We love Popcorn.

Jonathan- Yay, Popcorn.

Carrie- We just don’t eat it.

Dr. Cathy- So, “If the body adjusts to a lower and healthier set point, why is it prone to trend upward instead of trend downward – provided one’s diet and activity stays relatively stable?”

Jonathan- This one is wondrously explained (or very conveniently explained) by the over arching thing we’ve talked about so far. As you age, your hormonal balance changes in the way we just described. It changes in to a balance which promotes fat storage rather than fat burning, and muscle deterioration rather than muscle growth. Because of that, the body tends to adjust to a higher, or more fat storing, set point simply because of the hormonal change that accompanies age. Which is unfortunate, but that is just what happens when we age.

Dr. Cathy- Yeah, exactly. I think that you answered a lot of her other questions, but here’s one – the last one that she asks, “If over a year, let’s say someone gains thirty pounds, then they lost thirty pounds over the following year. Would that gain change one’s set point? Would weight number one or weight number two be the set point?

Jonathan- Technically, you don’t even need to say set point if you don’t want to. You can just say: everything in your body is controlled by hormones in your brain. That’s actually not true because your gut is almost like a secondary brain as well. Your body communicates through hormones and there’s various things like – your gut talks to your brain, talks to your muscles, talks to your eyeballs, talks to everything else. Hormones are the communication channel. Your set point is just a representation of the snapshot of that system, or what that system believes it needs to defend at any given point in time. If you lose weight, if you weight cycle, that does tend to elevate your set point. Why? Your body is put in a state where it knows that it can be put (at any point in time) in to a state of starvation. Your body doesn’t want to die. If your body thinks that at any point in time it could be starved, it will naturally tend to maintain a higher set point weight to protect you should you starve again in the future. This is a funny analogy, but imagine you’re the mayor of a city, the city has a horrible snow storm, and you believe that more snow storms will come in the future. You will buy more snow plows and you will keep more snow plows on hand because you believe there will be more snow in the future. So, if our forecast for the future has a high likelihood of starvation because historically it has, our body is going to buy more snow plows (aka store more fat) to protect us in the incidence of starvation.

Carrie- You have the best analogies.

Jonathan- Thank you.

Dr. Cathy- That’s great. That’s also why the body (if you cycle) will tend to want to metabolize your muscle if it’s in a starvation mode rather than metabolizing fat, because it never knows when it’s going to get it’s next meal.

Jonathan- Absolutely. In fact when you stop starving yourself, it gets harder and harder. This isn’t just fat. When a theory (or body of knowledge) works in many arenas, I think that’s good news. If you look at muscle mass – if you are a man and you’re trying to gain muscle, you will reach a point at which you’ll notice that no matter how hard you train, how much protein you eat, and how much sleep you get – you stop growing muscle. There’s really nothing more you can do unless you took anabolic steroids. Your body has an upper bound to the amount of muscle it wants to gain, it has a lower bound to the amount of fat it wants to store. If you start to hit that lower bound because you’re starving yourself, your body is going to say, “eh, eh, eh,” and that lower bound is going to raise. It wants to protect itself. So, if you do starve yourself and then you do go off of that starvation diet, it’s called fat super accumulation. It’s been studied extensively. Your body will do everything, it will literally direct all of its energy to keeping your metabolism suppressed so it can store (all of the now) excess calories as body fat. Which is bad news.

Dr. Cathy- Absolutely. Should we move on to exercise?

Jonathan- Can I do my little blurb about set point?

Dr. Cathy- Oh yeah, please do.

Jonathan- I was reading these questions beforehand and I probably should have started with this analogy because I think it might help. It’s one that I explore a little bit more in my next book. Again – what is a set point? A set point is just a range in which your body tries to operate, it’s a self-regulating system. Think about your set point weight a bit like your set point body temperature. The only problem with this analogy is we all have the same body temperature set point (essentially), we don’t all have the same body fat set point. But, when you have your temperature, 98.6 degrees, when does your temperature go up and stay elevated? Well, it goes up and it stays elevated when the body breaks down, when the body becomes sick or broken in some way. If you have a fever or you’re sick, your body’s broken. There’s things you can do to lower your temperature in the short term, such as sitting in an ice bath. That doesn’t actually do anything about the source of the problem. On the surface, your body temperature is cooled down – but you’re still sick, your body is still broken. Because of that, as soon as you get out of the ice bath, your temperature is going to go back up. You haven’t solved the actual cause of the elevation. Think about your body fat set point the same way. When we have an elevated set point, it’s a bit like having a fever in our metabolic system. We are sick, metabolically. Unless we can heal that system…Carrie and I have talked about his before, Carrie had some awesome analogies. To heal that system takes two things. One, we have to stop putting the things in it that break it. Two, we have to start putting the things in it that heal it. That’s the elimination of starches, sweets, and processed seed oils and then the addition of nutrient-dense vegetables, nutrient-dense protein, and whole-food fats. By doing that we essentially cure our metabolic fever and we allow our body fat set point to go back to a normal, healthy state. Now, it’s important to note that that normal, healthy state is not the same for everyone and it varies with age. A post-menopausal woman will have a higher normal, healthy body-fat set point, than a fourteen-year-old man. It’s not bad or good, it’s just the way it is. A normal level of hormones for a post-menopausal woman is certainly different than normal level of hormones for a twenty-two-year-old man. Make sense?

Carrie- Mmm-hmm.

Dr. Cathy- Sure.

Carrie- Annoyingly, it does. I mean, I don’t like it, but it is what it is. Right?

Jonathan- It is.

Carrie- If you know what it is, you can do something about it. I mean, not everything, you can’t make your set point back to when you were thirty. You can keep it the best it can be at that age.

Jonathan- Yep, absolutely.

Dr. Cathy- It’s kind of like what I used to tell my kids when they were small, “Life isn’t fair, but you’re very special.”

Jonathan- The good news though, to be very clear, is that we can do amazing things with intelligent eating and intelligent exercise. If you’re a young person who’s eating inSANEly, not exercising at all (or even doing traditional modes of exercise) frankly, you’re at a disadvantage to anyone (of any age) who has access to the information we’re talking about here.

Dr. Cathy- Exactly.

Jonathan- Right? You see pre-diabetic five-year-olds that have pot bellies. It’s not because they’re lazy or stupid. It’s because they’re operating and being fed the wrong types of foods, which are breaking their system. Having access to that information regardless of your sex/age/life circumstance, and then implementing it – that’s really the key.

Carrie- All good.

Jonathan- That’s all good.

Dr. Cathy- It’s so important. I’m really, really excited about some of the moms on the forum who are talking about ways that they can get their kids to eat SANEly, to give up the Cocoa Puffs and the cereals in the morning. There’s been some really, really good discussions about that. I think that’s so very important. It’s probably where the best good is going to be done.

Jonathan- Mmm-hmm.

Carrie- Start out how you mean to go on.

Jonathan- Absolutely.

Dr. Cathy- Exactly. That’s just wonderful.

Jonathan- Cool. Well, I actually think we’re actually out of time for questions for this week. We’ve got more, right?

Dr. Cathy- Oh, we have more!

Jonathan- “We got allota more,” as Mr. T would say. So, we will definitely have Dr. Cathy back to provide us with more awesome questions from our awesome Smarter Science of Slim support group. Which, if you haven’t checked out yet, please do, at thesmarterscienceofslim.com/community. Sign in with Facebook, have a good time. Dr. Cathy’s in there, Carrie’s not – but she really sends her wishes.

Carrie- Carrie’s in the kitchen.

Jonathan- Sadly, I am no longer in there but I think I have something like 1750 posts. So, I think I…

Dr. Cathy- Maybe you’ve earned…

Jonathan- …a little leave of absence.

Dr. Cathy- …a break.

Jonathan- We’ll answer the questions here if we can’t answer them in the community. Thank you all for joining us.

Carrie- Bye, everyone.

Dr. Cathy- So long, folks. See ya next time.

Jonathan- Remember to eat more, exercise less, but do it smarter.

This week we have some wonderful question from the amazing members of the free online Smarter Science of Slim Support Group:
– Am I eating too much protein?
– What should I do if I’m too full for all of these non-starchy vegetables?
– How the taste of food affect my set-point weight?
– Can you dig deeper into what my set-point actually is?