Caryn: Hello, everybody, we’re back, and it’s October 1, 2013. Thank you for joining me today on It’s All About Food, Debunking Myths. There are so many myths out there, we could spend a long time debunking them because so many of them get into our core, they get into our skin, we really believe them as fact. But we’re all here on this planet, I think, to learn, experience joy, move forward, and improve ourselves. Some of that means learning that some things that we always believed to be true are not. There was a time when we all thought the world was flat, right? I think it isn’t.
Anyway, let’s go on and talk about The Calorie Myth with Jonathan Bailor. Collaborating with top scientists for over 10 years; analyzing over 1,300 studies; synthesizing over 10,000 pages of research; and garnering endorsements by top doctors from Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, Yale, and UCLA, Jonathan Bailor is a preeminent nutrition and exercise expert and former personal trainer who specializes in utilizing high-quality food and exercise to simplify health and fitness.
He has registered over 25 patents and authored the revolutionary upcoming The Calorie Myth. He serves as Senior Program Manager at Microsoft; hosts a popular syndicated wellness radio show; blogs on The Huffington Post; and consults for organizations around the world. His free 28-day quick-start eating and exercise guide is available at BailorGroup.com. A summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of DePaul University, Bailer lives outside of Seattle with his wife, Angela, and works to enable others to live better through simple, proven science. Sounds good to me. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Thanks for having me, it’s a pleasure.
Caryn: Yes, it’s good talking to you again.
Jonathan: Absolutely, I have so enjoyed having you on my show and appreciate you reciprocating the love.
Caryn: Yes. So let me put my disclaimers out there so we can get to the meat of the conversation, or the vegetables of the conversation. We both are aligned on so many issues. I am a vegan and Jonathan is not, but we are promoting so many of the same things. It’s so important that this alignment is there and we can focus on those things, because as more and more people see the power of healthy, minimally-processed plant foods in their lives, and getting rid of the junk, we will all get to a better place. How is that?
Jonathan: Absolutely, absolutely, Caryn. I like to tell people, just to add on to what you said, regardless of vegan, vegetarian, kosher, Halal, low-carb, high-carb, medium-carb, whatever it is, there’s a way to do that that is in line with proven science to further your health. And there is a way to do that as the media and the marketers will have you believe. You and I are right in line with however we want to eat, let’s make sure we’re doing it in line with science and in line with responsibility with the planet.
Caryn: There you go. All right, let’s talk about this thing called the calorie. Now, I don’t know when the calorie was actually discovered or when we first recognized it existed, but we’re learning more and more about it. I think the calorie is actually a kilocalorie, is it not?
Jonathan: It is. It was never intended to be something — it’s been treated as the lowest common denominator, the great equalizer. You can eat 100 calories of Ding Dongs or you could eat 100 calories of broccoli, and in either case, if you just go walk at this pace for this period of time, you’re net neutral and everything is the same. Obviously, that is not true.
Caryn: That’s a myth.
Jonathan: We know that’s not true.
Caryn: That’s so not true, that’s such a myth. It’s fascinating what we’re learning and we will continue to learn, because I think humans in general are just at the beginning of a long journey of active learning. In terms of nutrition, we’re really just at the starting point. What’s fascinating for me is how calories have become important. You can definitely develop this a little bit more, but for a long time people were thinking about the volume of food, how much volume or weight, and not really realizing that it was the calorie. Now we are realizing maybe it’s more than the calorie.
Jonathan: That’s absolutely correct, that’s absolutely correct. One key thing for us to all keep in mind because we’ve been so bombarded with counting calories, how many calories are in this, you need to burn calories, is remember that nobody, except for some very few scientists, up until 40 years ago, had any idea what a calorie was, and we were all slimmer and we were all healthier before that. Right?
I don’t mean to blow the roof off right in the beginning, call me crazy, but we’re smarter than every other animal on this planet, and they also don’t know what calories are. They seem to stay diabetes-free and to stay at a healthy weight without counting them, either. I think we may have been fed a bit of a load of baloney here, which is not helping us.
Caryn: I agree, we shouldn’t be counting calories. I just have to step aside for a moment as a scientist and say that a lot of things have happened over the last 40, 50, 60 years that point to why we’re fatter. Counting calories, I think, is a method, a way of dealing with us getting fatter; but a lot of nasty things have been going on.
We’ve been creating these foods that aren’t really foods; people have been convinced to eat these highly-processed things with lots of salt, sugar and fat and very little calories. Certain foods have been made cheaper with all kinds of food subsidies. There are just so many different things that have been happening, plus there are all kinds of plastics and stuff and things that are out there that affect us. Some of them affect our appetite; I mean, it’s really mind-boggling. But if we get back to simplicity, we really can solve a lot of problems.
Jonathan: It’s important. Your point is well heard, because I’m not one of those people that is saying calories are like unicorns, they don’t exist. If you eat 10,000 calories worth of anything – well, if you eat 10,000 calories worth of broccoli, your stomach would explode way before you became obese.
But if you were able to eat 10,000 calories, you would gain fat. We are eating too many calories. In fact, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered in 2011 – they did this amazing study – that the average person today is consuming about 570 more calories than the average person back in 1977.
Of course, who is the average person? But it’s interesting data. So, it’s like, Wow, doesn’t that just prove that we’re all gaining weight because we’re eating more calories? But hold on, if we actually do the calorie math that we’re all taught, if you actually add up the amount of calories over 40 years that that should be, and then the amount of the weight we should have gained, the average American today should weigh well over 1,100 pounds. Like from 2006 to 2011 alone, the average American should have gained 476 pounds, according to calorie math.
Caryn: Oh, okay; so something is wrong with the equation.
Jonathan: Exactly. We have gained weight. On average, we’ve gained about 20 pounds; but that’s 98% less than calorie math would have us believe. It’s not that calories are irrelevant; it’s just that they might be a small fraction, as you mentioned, of a much bigger picture. If anyone says, Just have this 100-calorie snack pack, it’s only 100 calories, run in the other direction.
Caryn: There are so many different games that they play with calories, too, to deceive people. Putting serving sizes on labels and saying they are a certain amount of calories, and people never eat those serving sizes, they eat a lot more. Things can be really deceiving if you’re counting calories, which is why it’s important not to.
Jonathan: The other really liberating thing, once you can free yourself from counting those calories, not only can you sit down at the table and enjoy food instead of doing math – because I don’t know about you, but when I sit down and I’m hungry, the last thing I want to do is math – is you avoid the following horrible myth: Okay, eat that 100-calorie snack pack because then you can just go jog for 15 minutes and it’s like you didn’t do anything. That’s analogous. When you actually look at what these quote, unquote, edible products do to us, that’s like saying, Hey, Caryn, I’m going to smoke two packs of cigarettes, but it’s okay because I’m going to go jog afterwards and that cancels it out. Right?
Caryn: Yes, I don’t like thinking that way. We have a law in New York State regarding fast-food establishments, that they have to put the calorie and nutritional information on every meal. I don’t eat in your typical fast-food restaurant; or I think it’s fast-food and chain restaurants.
There’s this one restaurant in New York City called Le Pain Quotidien, which Americans might read as Lee Pane Quo-ti-dien, but it’s Le Pain Quotidien, which means the daily bread. It’s a really nice chain in New York City. I don’t know where else they are, but they serve a lot of really lovely, fresh, locally-sourced from sustainable sources, some very nice selections.
Because they fit in this category, they show on the menu all the calorie and nutritional information for every meal. Frankly, I find it disturbing that it’s there. Because I start looking, rather than at the food and what I feel like eating, I am like, Oh, this is 450 calories; oh, this is 259 calories; and, Oh, what am I doing here and why am I looking at it? I don’t like it.
Jonathan: There’s also this misunderstanding. What you said is so true, it’s about food, it’s about food. Humans are here to eat food, not to think about calories. Also, there’s this hubris involved. I love earlier that we were talking about humility; we’re just starting to learn these things.
Bottom line, no one is going to go through life hungry; and bottom line, you need to eat a certain amount of energy or you’re going to be hungry. This thought that somehow you can deceive your body into eating less than it needs to fuel itself and that you won’t be hungry, it’s a manipulative mindset. You can trick your body and that’s not…
The body is brilliant. The body doesn’t need to be tricked. If you just feed the body food, nutrient-dense food, it will keep you slim and healthy, as it did for every previous generation that existed. We don’t need to trick it, there’s no trickery involved.
Caryn: The thing with processed food, there are so many things wrong with so many things that come in a package or a box, but they don’t for the most part have much water in them and they’re dried and concentrated, not fresh, alive food. When we eat it, we don’t have that feeling that we get from a lot of food, plant foods that have fiber in them; we don’t get that sated feeling, and our brains ultimately don’t get the sated feeling, either, because they’re not getting a lot of nutrition from these foods.
Then the ultimate response is, Feed me more. You talked about eating 10,000 calories of broccoli before. I like to tell a lot of people, If you want to lose weight, just eat a pound of greens, raw, and then you can have whatever you want. They are like, I can’t eat a pound of greens. That’s the point.
Jonathan: That’s the number one recommendation when I talk about a SANE lifestyle, or eating satisfying, unaggressive, nutritious and inefficient foods. The single most important component – and the research backs this up unequivocally – is a mass, mass amount of non-starchy vegetables. If listeners are going to take one thing away, it’s like everyone agrees on that – which is funny, like even the most vehement Paleo person and the strictest vegetarian – non-starchy vegetables, the vegetables you can eat raw, green, leafy vegetables, cucumbers, mushrooms.
I’m going to make the boldest claim: Stop worrying about anything else until you’re eating double-digit servings of non-starchy vegetables per day. That one action will do more for your health, happiness and appearance than anything else you could do.
Caryn: What does that look like, double-digit servings, in terms of a day?
Jonathan: Not that much, not that much. For example, if you don’t saturate your breakfast with starch; so let’s say you’re someone who is an omnivore and you were to have an omelet that was stuffed with non-starchy vegetables. Cooked non-starchy vegetables are quite small, so it would be very easy for a normal person to eat three servings of vegetables with breakfast. You could also do a green smoothie; a lot of my vegetarian and vegan friends do green smoothies, and that’s very easy. Again, that’s three servings of non-starchy vegetables right there.
Lunch, that’s another thing. Basically, if you can do three servings breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’re there. As long as you don’t fill your plate with starch, it’s really easy. When you start seeing vegetables as less of a side and more of the main dish, like don’t put your stir-fry on top of rice, put it on top of a bed of vegetables; don’t put your curry on top of rice, put it on top of a bed of vegetables; and you accidentally eat double-digit servings of non-starchy vegetables.
Caryn: Let’s talk about starch for a minute, because there are some people that really promote a high, whole-carbohydrate diet versus eating and focusing on non-starchy plant foods. What does the science have to say about that?
Jonathan: You need calories, you need energy. There are two primary sources of energy, fat and sugar; that’s bottom line. When you eat starch or you eat sugar, you’re getting your source of calories from sugar. Because they are all the same when they leave your stomach.
If you’re eating more fat, then you get fat. If you’re eating a very low-fat diet, very low-fat diet, you do need to get calories from someplace. You could get them from protein, but it’s not a good idea, because protein is a structural component, it’s not an energy source. So you’re going to have to eat more starch. I personally, in the research I reviewed, it generally errs more on the side of getting energy at least in a balance between sugar and fat. But if you avoid fat for whatever reason — you have to eat. Sadly, I have no other options for you, or else you starve to death.
Caryn: Well, there are other people on a calorie-restricted diet, that’s another conversation.
Jonathan: Absolutely. I think personally that, especially for vegan and vegetarians, my favorite sources of fat, where I get my energy from, are plant fats. I could eat cocoa and coconut and chia seeds and flax seeds and avocados and macadamia nuts; I would gladly take 60% of my calories that I get in a day from those whole-food, nutrient-dense, fiber-dense plant fats. The research shows that that is one of the most therapeutic things you could be doing for your health.
Caryn: All those sound good to me.
Jonathan: And an under-appreciated dietary lifestyle. I would love to see more attention placed upon a high-fat, higher fat vegetarian or vegan diet, where you swap those starch calories for whole-food plant fats. I think it’s a fascinating and a very promising way to live.
Caryn: There’s a number of studies that we need to have done, and they haven’t been done for a number of reasons. One, it’s costly to do the studies that are really going to be significant, because they take a lot of people and they take a long time. It’s not something that can be done over a short period of time, especially when we’re using humans to do the studies, which we need to, and not animals, or not other animals, because they are not the same as we are. So it’s expensive.
I think a lot of the studies that have been done just really haven’t understood a lot about nutrition. We are really at the beginning of learning about it. Not all protein is the same, not all fat is the same, not all carbohydrates are the same; and we need to differentiate that. Some studies on fat have really gotten a bad rap, but they haven’t been getting fat necessarily from the best sources.
Jonathan: That is so key, especially so many people, they talk about epidemiological studies or observational studies where you compare one population with another population. There’s thousands of variables, thousands of variables. Then the media says, Well, this group ate – just hypothetically – say this group ate more protein than this other group, and they had higher incidents of cancer.
That might be very well true, but if that one group was also – let’s say the high- cancer group – let’s say that their protein was coming from Spam and hot dogs, which no one would recommend, and they weren’t eating any vegetables. Okay, so was it the protein that gave them cancer, or was that the toxic, processed foods they were eating, and a lack of vegetables? You’ve just got to unpack some of these things, because when you have those epidemiological studies, Science 101 is a minimized variable. Observational studies do not do that in any way, shape, or form.
Caryn: That’s just like when there are studies that come out that evaluate meat eaters versus vegetarians and vegans, most of those are not good studies either, because you can be a junk-food vegan or a healthy vegan or somewhere in the middle. The same with vegetarians, the same with the meat eaters. We really need to be looking at the food, where it comes from, what the person’s lifestyle is; and that’s too many variables.
Jonathan: My work is trying to simplify. That’s my whole purpose on this earth, is to say, I don’t care if it’s plant, animal, whatever; how satisfying is it? Meaning, how quickly does it fill you up and how long does it keep you full? How aggressive is it a.k.a. what’s the blood-sugar response? Is it overworking your pancreas or not? Is it nutritious? How many nutrients are you getting per calorie?
It’s a mathematical question and a moral question. And then, how efficient is it, meaning how readily can your body store this fat? We can take every food in the world and just plot it on what I called the SANE-ity spectrum, plant, animal, doesn’t matter. And it’s not a moral discussion. It’s just like saying, Let’s get a criteria. What is a high-quality food? Let’s establish that framework and then let’s all, whatever our moral inclinations, whatever our taste preferences, just try to stay as SANE as we possibly can.
Caryn: Try and stay as SANE as we can?
Jonathan: SANE: Satisfying, Unaggressive, Nutritious, and Inefficient.
Caryn: Very good. Okay, we just have like a couple of minutes left. Your book, The Calorie Myth, doesn’t come out until the end of the year; probably a good New Year’s Eve kick-in-the-butt type of book.
Jonathan: Exactly. It’s New Year’s Eve, but it is available for pre-order now online.
Caryn: Okay, great.
Jonathan: So you could reserve your copy.
Caryn: I didn’t mean New Year’s Eve, I meant for the New Year’s resolutions that people always make, because so many of them do realize, Okay, new year, let’s try and get healthier this year. I say why wait until New Year’s, let’s start right now. People can visit your website at TheBailorGroup.com.
Jonathan: Exactly. We also have a free podcast; you can find it on iTunes as well as The Smarter Science of Slim. As you mentioned, at Bailor Group, B-A-I-L-O-R Group, there is a massive amount of free resources. So no need to wait, like you said, until New Year’s Eve to take control of your health.
Caryn: How did you get so smart?
Jonathan: When you spend 12 years in your life reading research and having no friends or life, you kind of kind of — this is what you do.
Caryn: Yes, I know it’s hard. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I’m quite passionate about food. I’m only interested in talking to people who want the information, I’m not really looking for — it’s hard to talk to people who are not interested, and I think if we just focus on those who really want the information, that’s a good place to go, an interested audience.
Jonathan: Absolutely, and I think when you said “interested in the information,” that is key. People who are seeing this as a productive area where we can make progress rather than, I’m right and I have the answer. Because at the end of the day, we’re trying to be healthy. Frankly, if I meet Sally Smith on the street and she’s got some genetic mutation which makes Pepsi and Cheetos healthy for her and she gets her blood tested and it’s like, Wow, the more Pepsi and Cheetos she eats, the healthier she gets, we can measure that. I’m like, you know what? I’m not going to say you’re wrong. Let’s just, whatever makes you healthy, do that and forget about everything else.
Caryn: Yes, it’s all about what makes you feel good and happy and healthy. I’m all for that. Jonathan, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. It went really fast, and here we are at the end of the hour. All the best to you and The Calorie Myth.
Jonathan: Thank you so much.
Caryn: I recently read that — actually, it was in my former guest’s book that it takes 17 years for health information to get out from the original science to the doctor and utilized. So I hope the information in The Calorie Myth takes a lot sooner to get absorbed because we need that information now.
Jonathan: Thank you very much.
Caryn: Right. Take care, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Thank you. Bye.
Caryn: You’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. I’m Caryn Hartglass. Have a delicious week. Bye-bye.
Welcome to another “bonus” episode of The Smarter Science of Slim podcast. A lot of readers and listeners have noticed that there’s quite a bit of Smarter Science of Slim activity going around the world and web, and have emailed asking for one place they could get all things Smarter Science of Slim…at least from an audio perspective.
So here we go!
Between “standard” SSoS podcast episodes I’ll share SSoS interviews etc. from all around the world and web. I hope these are helpful…and heck, if they’re not, or if they become repetitive (interviewers tend to ask me similar questions), feel free to skip them 🙂
For this week, here’s an interview I did with the lovely Caryn Hartglass on the It’s All About Food show.