Todd: Welcome, Jonathon.
Jonathon: Todd, thank you for that lovely introduction. I’m so excited, I’m getting choked up. Thank you for the lovely introduction, and I forgot how much we had to cover, so I’m going to have to blow through some of this information. We have a lot of good ground to cover.
Todd: Absolutely. That’s great. Thank you, again, and let’s get started. I’m excited about this information. So when it comes to most things in life, we welcome the latest advances in science, like from the convenience of our smartphones to the lifesaving technology of our hospitals. Scientific advancements allow us to be more efficient, more productive and lead better, happier lives. We value science. We celebrate innovation and progress. We seek to be in the know. So why are we following fat loss, eating and exercise advice from the ’50s?
Jonathon: Todd, there are two things to focus on here. First, it is because it’s what we’ve been told. But the more important question is — we’re doing what we’ve been told — but everyone on this call and listening to this summit needs to understand — think about it just for one second.
What you’ve been told to eat and how you’ve been told to exercise is literally the same thing we’ve heard for the past fifty years. We don’t use the same iPhones we used five minutes ago, yet in the midst of the greatest obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular disease crisis in the history of the world, the best the mainstream media can do is the same advice we were given fifty years ago. How is that even possible? Is it as if biologists have just been sitting on their hands for the past fifty years, saying, “Yep, we figured it out. Just eat less and exercise more. We’re going to stop doing research.”
Obviously, that’s not what’s happened. Regardless of anyone’s personal beliefs about eating and exercise, I think we can all agree that being told the same things we were told fifty years ago smells a little funny. There has to have been progress, so why aren’t we getting told about it?
Todd: That’s exactly right. I can’t believe how we keep going forward with this kind of information when there is such great new information that can help us all that’s fantastic. One of the biggest things is, everybody’s talking about calories, calories, so what is the calorie myth?
Jonathon: The fundamental problem and the reason we have not been told any of this revolutionary information — because Todd, you are correct — there has been a dramatic amount of information developed and technologies and innovations in this space. That’s what I spent over a decade of my life on covering, as you mentioned in my background, and even in my current position as a senior program manager at Microsoft. People always ask me, “What in God’s name does an engineer at Microsoft do in the health arena?”
At Microsoft, what I do is I work with the most brilliant technical people in the world, to take their innovations and make them understandable and accessible and useful to everyday people. I spent seven years on the Microsoft Word team, for example, a piece of software we’re all probably pretty familiar with.
But I do the same thing when it comes to biology. Over the past decade-plus, I’ve worked with the most brilliant minds around the world — Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, UCLA — all around the world to say what’s actually been going on in the fields that actually matter when it comes to chronic disease and obesity. Thinks like endocrinology — the study of hormones. Gastroenterology — what your stomach and digestive system is doing. Neurobiology — how your brain is involved in this. Those are the areas we should be looking into.
I love heart surgeons. Heart surgeons are amazing. They’re amazing at fixing your heart; that’s their job. They are not obesity experts. Even a family practice physician — their job is not obesity. They are not endocrinologists.
My mother and father are college professors and they’re brilliant people, but my mother is an English professor. I would not ask her about calculus. The key thing is just because someone is a doctor does not mean that they are an expert in the research fields that actually matter when it comes to curing the disease that is obesity, the disease that is diabetes, cardiovascular disease, et cetera.
We’re not getting our information from those actual experts, so I’ve made it my life’s mission to talk to those actual experts, to read over 1,300 studies — firsthand, primary research — to see what have the actual experts — people often with PhDs that do research — nothing but research — they don’t see patients; they do research. What have they discovered and what clues have they outlined? What you find, Todd, is a dramatically different conclusion, and that’s that this idea of a calorie and that we should think about calories is one of the biggest myths available.
It’s not that calories don’t exist. It’s not that you can eat 10,000 calories and not gain fat. It’s just like using calories to evaluate eating and exercise habits is a bit like using eye color to judge intelligence. It just doesn’t work. It’s not relevant.
Let me give you one concrete example. The most recent data that came out about caloric consumption in the United States estimated that the average American male is consuming 3,700 calories per day. The same data set recommends that the average American male consumes 2,700 calories per day, so there’s a 1,000- calorie surplus according to the most recent data available, published in September of 2013.
Okay, Todd, if calorie math worked the way we’ve been told for the past fifty years — stick with me here, because this is really simple and it’s really transformative. If the average American male is consuming 1,000 extra calories per day and there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, then the average American male should gain 2 pounds of fat per week, or 104 pounds of fat per year. That is not happening. Calorie math doesn’t add up.
As long as we continue to have dialogs about calories, we’re walking in the wrong direction with our eyes closed. It’s just not the relevant conversation. What the actual experts have shown is that it’s the quality of the food we’re eating.
Coca-Cola isn’t bad for you because it has 140 calories in it. It has nothing to do with the calories in it that makes Coca-Cola bad for you. Diet Coca-Cola doesn’t have any calories in it, and it’s terrible for you. An avocado has a massive amount of calories in it, but it’s great for you.
We need to look at the quality of the food we’re eating and the quality of the exercise we’re getting, because that’s actually what changes the way our brain functions. That’s what’s affecting our neurobiology. That’s what’s affecting our hormones — our endocrinology — and that’s what’s affecting our gut bacteria or our second brain or our gastroenterology. Food quality, exercise quality — rather than quantity — is the key.
Todd: Fantastic. Impressive. Thank you so much for that Jonathon. That’s a great insight into really the reality of everything, and that’s fantastic. So if I don’t count calories, how do I avoid overeating?
Jonathon: Such a critical question, Todd, because we’ve been led to believe — and this is so important for all of the listeners of this summit — think about it — the idea that we need to count calories consciously — let’s back up for a second.
There’s a part of your brain called the neocortex. This is the front part of your brain. This is the part of the brain that makes people people. The reason we are more intelligent than maybe your pet dog is because we have a part of our brain called our neocortex, which allows us to do things if we want, like count calories. A dog cannot count calories even if it wanted to.
When people say, “What if I don’t count calories? Won’t I overeat?” Backing up a second, every other species on the planet does not even have the intellectual capability to count calories, yet they effortlessly avoid obesity. How is that possible, and how is it possible that every single human being that existed prior to us even knowing what a calorie was — let alone counting them — had a dramatically easier time avoiding obesity and diabetes than any of us do? The earliest recorded rates of obesity come from the early 1900s, and they were sub-3 percent.
In that same timeframe, diabetes and pre-diabetes was 100,000 percent less common than it is today. About 1 in 4,000 people were diabetic at that time, whereas today about 1 in 4 people are diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Again, it has to be a myth, Todd, that, my God, if we don’t count calories, how are we going to avoid overeating? That question is backwards. The question should be how in God’s name could we possibly have to count calories, considering that nobody knew what a calorie was when we were all better off, and animals can’t count calories, yet they avoid obesity effortlessly?
Todd: That’s a great point. That’s really something to ponder upon. It really does make sense, doesn’t it?
Jonathon: Todd, just to dig one level deeper. The reason people are now told to count calories is because we don’t eat food anymore. This is the problem. Up to 60 percent of the average American’s calories comes from non-food. Food is defined by something you can find directly in nature. There is no such thing as a Cheerios tree. There is no such thing as a bread bush. Unless it’s found directly in nature, it’s not food.
If you eat non-food, aka you eat things that your body is not designed or hasn’t evolved — depending on your belief system — to digest, you’re going to have problems. Think about it like putting kerosene in your car’s gas tank. The less kerosene you put in your car’s gas tank, the better. But that doesn’t mean you should just overall put less fuel in your car’s gas tank.
If we’re eating non-food and we eat 1,200 calories of it, we will be quote, unquote, better off than if we ate 12,000 calories of non-food. But the issue isn’t the number of calories consumed. It’s that we’re putting kerosene in our gas tanks. You do need to count calories when you put poison into your body, because the amount of poison you put in is bad so you need to minimize the amount of poison you put in.
But since when did eating have to be involving poisons? What if we just ate everything that we ate prior to all these problems happening? That seems like a pretty easy solution, and it seems pretty commonsensical to me.
Todd: It really does, and unfortunately, today’s fast-paced society — I guess we’re all getting lazy and we’re just going for convenience. That’s, I’m sure, contributing to the huge weight gain throughout society.
Jonathon: Well, Todd, I beg to differ respectfully that we’re getting lazy or we’re too busy. It’s that we haven’t been given proper information. We go to McDonald’s and we see on their menu their healthy choices, and healthy is determined by the choices that have less than 400 calories. Healthy is determined by the number of calories in it. Is a Chips Ahoy 100-calorie snack pack healthy because it only has 100 calories? By that logic, I could take anything in the world and I could shrink the serving size down and then call it healthy because it will only have a certain number of calories in it.
The thing we struggle with, Todd, in this culture is 70 percent-plus of Americans believe that they eat a healthy diet. But the healthy diet we’ve been prescribed is not healthy, as evidenced by the skyrocketing rates of everything we’re trying to avoid. So we’re doing the best we can with the information we’ve been given, but we’ve been given incorrect information.
Todd: That is so true. That’s a great point. Thank you, Jonathon. It’s right in your face, so it’s easy to see that, as you say, just by cutting back a portion doesn’t make it healthy for you. That’s for sure.
Thermodynamics — I’ve been doing a little bit of research about that. Doesn’t the law of thermodynamics prove that if I eat less, I’ll burn fat?
Jonathon: When the attendees of this conference start to talk about what we’re covering here with their friends or maybe even their trainer or their dietician, they’re going to hear thermodynamics. This is the number-one response you’ll get to people who have been versed in the traditional eat less, exercise more, calorie dogma. To be clear, this is what I taught my clients back when I was a personal trainer before I did all this research. It didn’t work. It didn’t work for my clients. It didn’t work for me. That’s what led me on this research odyssey.
Again, if you haven’t experienced this science, it’s hard to do anything else because you’re just doing what you’ve been taught. That said, there are four laws of thermodynamics. First of all, anyone who says to the listener or to the viewer the law of thermodynamics — just to be respectful — they don’t actually know what they’re talking about because there is no law of thermodynamics. There are four. Two have nothing to do with what we’re talking about here. They have to do with defining absolute zero and things like that.
But there are two that matter, and when you put them together they tell us that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It can only change forms. What the mainstream does is they take this logic and they say that if you take a human body and you deprive it of energy — so you eat less and you create what’s known as a caloric deficit, meaning that you’re taking in fewer calories than you need. Then since energy cannot be created nor destroyed — it can only change forms — and your body needs energy, therefore, your body has to burn fat. The basic argument when invoking the relevant laws of thermodynamics is if you create a state of caloric deficit in the human body, it must burn fat.
There is a huge flaw in that logic, Todd. Here is the flaw. Here is what the laws of thermodynamics actually prove. If you put the body in a calorically deficient state, it has to do something. That’s what they prove. Thermodynamic physical law does not prove what that something is. To figure out what that something is, we need to look to biology. What biology shows us is first of all, if we just cut the number of calories we take in, our body doesn’t react by burning fat; it just reacts by slowing down. You put less fuel in your body, it just runs slower, right?
When’s the last time you dieted? How did you feel? Tired. Cold. Your brain didn’t work. That’s because your body is saying, “I don’t have enough energy.” Guess what’s easier than burning fat? Using less energy. So it just runs on less energy, and you feel terrible. That’s why 95.4 percent of people who try to eat less end up unsuccessful.
That’s not enough. Your body does slow down, but it’s not able to slow down enough to make up for that caloric deficit. It will burn tissue, but who says it has to burn fat tissue?
Thermodynamics certainly don’t, and biology doesn’t either. If your body is short on calories and it wants to burn tissue, what tissue is it going to burn? It’s going to burn the most calorie-hungry tissue it possibly can. It can’t burn your liver off, and that burns a helluva lot of calories. It can’t burn your brain off. That burns a lot of calories. But you know what it can burn off? Your muscle tissue.
You know what the last thing you’d ever want to do if you want to be healthy and slim long-term is? Burn off muscle tissue. If you’re in a state of caloric deficit and your body slows down dramatically, which makes you feel terrible and not able to rock your mission and just be a productive person on this planet — if that’s not enough, then it’s going to burn off your muscle tissue, which is like a long-term curse for sickness and obesity. If at that point you’re still short on calories, then it will burn fat, but at what cost? You’ve set yourself up for long-term fat gain and sickness because, Todd, if you ever stop starving yourself — you don’t have to overeat, you just have to stop starving yourself — then all the weight you lost is going to come back as fat, and you have a slowed-down metabolism and less muscle tissue for the rest of your life.
Todd: That’s fantastic. Thanks for clarifying that. That makes a lot of sense and certainly clears up the thermodynamic question. That’s for sure. Thank you, Jonathon. So why isn’t a calorie a calorie?
Jonathon: We know this intuitively, but it’s just great to remind ourselves. A can of Coke that has 140 calories in it obviously does something different to our body and to the mood and behavior of our children than if we were to feed them 140 calories of something more wholesome. Maybe some nutritious protein and vegetables. We get that. We know that. So a calorie is absolutely not a calorie.
In fact, if you want to get into the science, there are four factors that the scientific community has shown differentiate calories from one another. The first is satiety or how quickly a calorie fills you up and how long it keeps you full. For an example of an edible product that has low satiety, think Pringles. Pringles advertises, “Once you pop, you cannot stop.” It celebrates the fact that this source of calories will not fill you up.
What is light beer? Light beer is a way to deliver calories into your body that will not prohibit you from eating other food. That’s not good. Eating calories that in no way satisfy you is a great way to set yourself up to overeat because your body is going to eat until it’s satisfied. So we want to eat calories with high satiety.
The next factor is aggression. This has to do with glycemic index and glycemic load and the blood sugar and insulemic response that food has. Folks are pretty familiar with this one. We want to eat less aggressive foods, not things like refined sugar, refined flours, because those cause a bunch of hormonal chaos in our body.
The third factor is nutrition. We all get this one, right? There are some sources of calories that are dramatically more nutritious than other sources.
The final one is the least well known, and that’s efficiency. Efficiency is how
readily our body could store a source of calories as fat. So there are three primary sources of calories — protein, fat and carbohydrate. Eating protein and trying to use that for energy is very hard for your body. Protein is not an energy source; it’s a structural component for your body.
For example, if you did increase the percent of the calories you were eating from protein, you would unconsciously burn more calories throughout the course of the day because your body would be trying to use those protein calories as energy. To do that, it has to do a bunch of actual chemical manipulations. Think about it like biological alchemy. It is taking lead and it has to turn it into gold. It’s taking amino acid, which is the breakdown product of proteins, and it needs to convert it into glucose, which is actually what your body runs on in addition to fat. To do that just burns a bunch of calories, so protein calories are very inefficient.
We generally speaking want to err on the side, when in doubt, of eating less efficient calories or calories that are not as easily stored as fat by our bodies. I abbreviate these four factors — satiety, aggression, nutrition and efficiency — using the acronym SANE. We want to eat SANE, high-quality calories. Todd, just to make this really simple for all the participants, there are three things you can look for in a food — any food — to determine if it’s SANE or inSANE. We want to eat SANE foods.
SANE foods are high in water, fiber and protein. InSANE foods are low in those things, so they’re dry, they’re low in fiber, they’re low in protein.
So what does that mean? That means the SANEst food in the world is non-starchy vegetables. These are vegetables you could eat raw. You don’t have to eat them raw, but you could eat them raw. Like, you can’t eat a potato raw. You can’t eat corn raw. You can eat spinach raw, cauliflower, cucumbers, mushrooms, asparagus, green leafy vegetables — all that delicious stuff. Non-starchy vegetables — SANEst substance on the planet — should be 50 percent of our plate as often as possible.
Next on the list are nutrient-dense proteins. Nutrient-dense proteins are by and large non-toxic seafood and humanely raised meats, like a grass-fed [inaudible 22:25] from a non-sick cow. You don’t eat sick cows. Sick cows make people sick.
Then we want to eat whole-food fats. Whole food is important. A lot of people talk about oil. It’s not that oil is bad for you, but we want to eat whole foods. Yes, olive oil is good, but you know what’s even better? Olives. Yes, coconut oil is good, but you know what’s even better? Coconut. So focus on whole-food fats — avocados, coconut, cocoa, shea seeds, flax seeds, almonds — whole-food fats.
Finally, low-fructose fruits. So these are the fruits that provide us the most of what we need — vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals — and the least of what we don’t — sugar, and especially a particularly damaging sugar called fructose. The fruits that give us the most of what we need and the least of what we don’t are berries — strawberries, blackberries, raspberries — and citrus fruits — lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits.
Those are the SANEst substances in the world stacked from top to bottom. As you’re probably suspecting, the least SANE substances in the world are not food. They’re processed starches and sweets. They’re dry, low fiber, low protein, trans fat-packed, packaged, processed nonsense. Stuff that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or frozen. Stuff that your great-grandmother wouldn’t even recognize as food.
So stay SANE, and just eat more of those water-, fiber- and protein-rich foods I just outlined.
Todd: I love that the sanity is much better than the insanity. I loved how you present that. Thank you, Jonathon. That’s fantastic.
Just [inaudible 24:09] there, we talked about hormones today. So what’s more important, calories or hormones?
Jonathon: Everything that happens in your body happens because of hormones. A common experience that I hear about every single day is — I’m sure your listeners can associate with this — you’ll do the same thing you did maybe when you were a teenager, and you know it will do something different to your body now. Why? Why was it that when you were a teenager, you could eat a certain way and exercise a certain way and get one result, whereas if you do that fifteen, twenty years later, you get a different result? What has changed about the equation?
What’s changed is your hormone levels. Your hormones determine everything, right? They’re what make men different from women. They’re what make you different when you’re fifteen to when you’re forty-five. If you take a person and you inject them with hormones, like steroids for example, they can just sit on the couch and their body builds muscle. That’s because testosterone says, “Build muscle.” So even weight training — the point of weight training is really not to work your muscles. The point of weight training is to stimulate hormones which then cause your muscles to change.
Everything that happens in your body happens because of hormones. Hormones are the language of your body. The way your brain communicates with your body is through hormones.
So if you want to talk about one common denominator, it’s not calories. Your body doesn’t care about calories. Your body cares and speaks hormones, so that distinction is critical because if you focus on hormones and not calories, everything about eating and exercise changes. Because the quantity of foods you eat has no bearing on your hormone levels. It’s the quality of food you eat that has bearing on your hormone levels. The quantity of exercise you do is really not the determinant of exercise’s impact on your hormones. It’s the quality of exercise that you do that influences your hormonal balance.
Todd: That’s perfect. I love how you simplify things. Thank you so much. I just have a final question for you on how can exercising less burn more fat.
Jonathon: Back to the point of hormones. We’ve been taught we need to exercise more. One quick disclaimer. When I say exercise less, I don’t mean sit on the couch all day. There’s activity. Walking around, taking the stairs, playing with your kids. That’s not exercise. That’s being a person. People are like, “I took the stairs versus the elevator.” That’s not exercise. Elevators didn’t used to exist. People are designed to take the stairs. You don’t get bonus points for taking the stairs. I apologize if I broke anyone’s heart there, but that’s not exercise.
Baseline, we need to be active. We need to walk. Exercise is a very unnatural thing when you think about it. No one exercised until recently, so if we’re going to exercise, we need to be very careful with the way we do it because it’s a very powerful stimulus. The way we’ve been taught to exercise is to jog. Basically, just go out and jog as long as you can. If you like to jog because it’s fun, that’s fine, more power to you. But if you’re jogging in an effort to change the way your body fundamentally works, aka to change your hormonal balance, the research is unequivocally clear that you would be much better off exercising with more intensity.
So think weight training rather than exercising with less intensity. When you exercise with more intensity, you have to exercise less. Not because you’re lazy, but because the harder you work, the less exercise you can do because you run out of energy faster. Just like if you run your car at 200 miles an hour, you can drive for a shorter period of time than if you run your car at 20 miles an hour. Your car isn’t being lazy. Your car is just running out of fuel. It’s the same reason you can’t sprint for as long as you can walk.
If the determinant of the impact on exercise on long-term health and wellbeing is hormone impact, and hormone impact is determined by the intensity of exercise, and the intensity of exercise is inversely related to the quantity of exercise you’re doing, because if you can exercise for a long time, by definition, it’s not intense. Then ironically, instead of telling us to exercise more but with less intensity — because that’s the only way you can exercise more — we should be being told to exercise less but with more intensity.
Todd: That’s perfect. It makes sense. I’m sure everybody would prefer to do a quicker workout than have to walk on a treadmill for two hours. Something that’s much nicer to do, something quickly, more rapidly, and get the heart going and just feeling overall better. That’s for sure.
Jonathon: Absolutely, Todd. Such a key point is in study after study after study, the single most important determinant of any lifestyle program, in terms of long-term success, is how well you can adhere to it. Whether it’s low fat, low carb, Paleo, South Beach, whatever, in actual studies, the single most important factor to an individual’s success is compliance. I don’t care what diet it is. If you cannot do it for the rest of your life, it can’t work because when you stop doing it, any of the benefits go away.
So it’s really important. If the “experts” are telling us to spend ninety minutes a day
exercising, you might as well tell us to draw a four-sided triangle. Are you joking? Ninety minutes a day? I’m a single mother with three kids. You want me to spend ninety minutes a day away from my kids at the gym? How is that supposed to work?
But if we tell a message of, actually, no. You can spend fifteen minutes in the comfort of your own house using your own body weight and actually doing it with your kids and do dramatically better things for your health. That’s when we can see long-term compliance, and that’s when we can see long-term success.
Todd: I’ll bet you that’s a big relief to lots of people to hear that. Thank you for sharing that, Jonathon. That’s great. Do you mind telling the listeners how they can find out more about you? You’re kind enough you’re offering a free gift to our listeners as well. Maybe a little bit more information about that please.
Jonathon: The free gift is very exciting. If you sign up, just jump over and give us your email address. We’ll never, ever spam you, but what we will do is get you started on two things free of charge.
The first is a twenty-eight-day quick-start program. We blew through a massive amount of information today, and we only scratched the surface. Knowledge is power, as we’ve all heard on the little infomercials on television. What we try to do in this twenty-eight-day program is educate you. You’re not going to get hit over the head with top-ten lists and tips and tricks and da-da-da-da-da. No.
You’re going to learn the way your body actually works. Once you learn that, just like once you understand algebra, you can add up any combination of numbers. It’s not like you try to memorize every possible combination of every possible set of numbers. That’s not the way the human mind works. You need to understand the principles. You need to understand the underlying rules. Once you do that, you are set for the rest of your life because you will know what to do in every circumstance.
So we’ll do a twenty-eight-day program, free of charge, to help you learn that. Then in addition to that, to keep things light and fun, every single day we’ll send you a quick daily tip. Either a recipe or a motivational tool or a fun info graphic. You’re going to get the deep intellectual engagement, and you’re going to get the fun, lighthearted daily tips.
That’s a lot of fun. It’s all free. Check out that gift. Then if you want more information, there’s a bunch more. You can check out our show on iTunes, which is called the Smarter Science of Slim. We’re very blessed to consistently be one of the top-five shows worldwide when it comes to wellness, so please do check that out. It’s the Smarter Science of Slim show.
Finally, my entire life has been leading up to the publication — I’m not sure when this airs — but the New Year’s Eve 2013 publication of the book, The Calorie Myth, which will be the definitive work disproving the primacy of calories. Bringing you from that myth and enabling you and your family and all your friends to unlock the modern science of eating and exercise and achieve slimness and health in a much more sustainable and enjoyable way.
Todd: Well, that’s fantastic. Certainly looking forward to reading that when it comes out — The Calorie Myth. I’m sure everybody looks for that, that it’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing your time and your knowledge and information, your passion about everything that you do, Jonathon. Boy, you do a great job and your information is very impactful for us all. Again, I really want to thank you for your time, and I want to wish you all the best and all the best in 2014 for you.
Jonathon: Thank you so much, Todd. It’s a pleasure.
Todd: Thank you. Take care.
This week we have the pleasure of sharing and exclusive Rebroadcast of Jonathan Bailor’s Session at the Unlock Your Greatness Summit