Jonathan: Welcome to Living the Smarter Science of Slim, where we provide a scientifically proven lifestyle for long-term health and fast lost by eating more and exercising less, but smarter.
Carrie: Eat smarter, exercise smarter, live better – I am so ready for that.
Jonathan: Welcome to Living the Smarter Science of Slim. This is Jonathan Bailor here with Carrie Brown, in studio, in Seattle. Carrie, how are you doing today?
Carrie: I am doing just awesome – very glad to be here.
Jonathan: Just awesome – and today Carrie, we’re going to pick up where we left off last time. We talked about set point weight, fat metabolism system. And today let’s dig into how to lower our set point weight.
Carrie: I’m very ready to talk about how to lower my set point weight.
Jonathan: So before we get into the actual science of lowering the set point weight, there’s two important things to know. One is: we can lower our set point weight. Dr. Keesey at the University of Wisconsin, tell us that, “The set points are not fixed. We can absolutely make our body automatically regulate us around a slimmer body composition.” Like today, it might be regulating us around a heavy body composition. It’s not a theory. It’s a fact.
Carrie: Well I know that for sure because I have lowered my set point about 10 pounds.
Jonathan: I love it. I love it. And in fact, I get pretty excited about lowering our set point. Dr. Woods, I think, puts it pretty well here at the University of Cincinnati. Actually, let me preface his quote here. It’s easy to think of the set point as bad news, right? We talk about eating less and exercising more. It doesn’t work because our body will always fight to keep us in a specific range. Well, are we kind of screwed then? We can’t do anything about it.
Imagine if we could harness that power to have our body automatically keep us around a slimmer range. So, Dr. Wooley puts it like this: “The existence of a precise regulation of body fat is often interpreted as inferring that attempts at controlling body fat are futile. Quite the contrary. The existence of a negative feedback control system implies that the system is susceptible to external influences and that advantage might be made to the rigor of the system.”
Not exactly the clearest articulation of the point, but a good point nonetheless.
Carrie: Well I have to say that for 4 years, I felt like I was screwed – that my set point was – no matter what I did, that set point was staying. I didn’t know it was called a set point then but there was nothing I could do to change that weight. Now I understand how it works. Like Dr. Woods said, I actually feel empowered – not screwed.
Jonathan: Exactly. Once we understand our set point, we learn how we can manipulate it and we learn how we can make it work for us – rather than against us. So let’s talk about how we lower it. Let’s just jump right it. But the short version is: the higher the quality of our eating and the higher the quality of our exercise, the lower our set point. The reason for that again – recapping last week – set point primarily is determined by our genetics and our hormones. We can’t change our genetics but we can change our hormones. The way we do that is through diet and exercise. Quality – not about quantity – the short version.
The long version – well let’s talk about some studies, because I think they really make the point most clearly. Is that okay, Carrie?
Carrie: I love studies.
Jonathan: Love studies?
Carrie: Okay, well, I love your studies.
Jonathan: Well this study is one of my favorites and it involves some of our furry friends – rats.
Carrie: That’s a very cute rat you have a picture of right there.
Jonathan: It’s a very cute rat. One of the reasons this study was done on rats – well you’ll see – it’s not something you could actually do on humans. So anyway, let’s dig right into it. This study was done at Georgetown University. And the study was really looking at – what is it that changes the set point? These researchers really tried everything, which is what makes this study cool. We’re looking at rats.
The researchers divided normal rats – normal adult rats into 3 groups. One group ate an unlimited amount of normal rat food. The second group ate an unlimited amount of low quality food – what we all think – crackers, cookies, things like that. And the third group ate an unlimited amount of normal quality rat food plus a bitter substance called Quinine. So remember, they’re all eating an unlimited number of calories, but the quality is varying. Make sense so far?
Jonathan: Let’s also point out why it’s interesting to do this study on rats. Rats – they’re not trying to eat less. They’re not trying to exercise more. Rats just do what naturally comes to them. This is interesting because imagine if we could just do what naturally comes to us and stay slim. So it’s interesting to think about.
Let’s talk about the study. So the normal group – they’re normal, eating normal quality food, unlimited. They stayed at a normal weight. The rats that are eating an unlimited quantity of low quality food – they gained weight, as the researchers expected. And the Quinine group lost weight. So at this point, nothing unexpected happened – nothing unsurprising yet.
Carrie: Well, what’s surprising is the normal quality group had no restriction on the amount they could eat and they stayed the same. They didn’t get any bigger.
Jonathan: Actually, that’s a fantastic point. I’ve never made that connection. But Carrie, you’re right. The vast majority of animals are a perfect model for this set point because – give them all the food they want- they’re not going to eat and eat until they explode. And we will too once we fix up our metabolisms.
Okay, but here’s where the study gets interesting. So the normal group weighs a normal amount. The lower quality amount weighs a higher amount. And the Quinine group weighs less. The researchers weigh less. The researchers basically then starve the rats. Because they’re starving, they are going to temporarily lose weight – temporary though. They all lost about 10% of their body weight. Now here’s where the study really gets interesting. Again, they starved the rats. They all shrunk a little bit.
They then gave the rats access back to their respective qualities of foods. The normal group ate and ate and ate until they reached precisely the normal weight they were before. The low quality ate and ate and ate until they reached the heavier weight they were at before they were starved. And the Quinine group ate and ate, but until they reached that slimmer set point they were at before. So food quantity temporarily moved them away from their set point. But food quality is what determined the set point that they automatically targeted.
Carrie: Got it. That’s fascinating. Because we just don’t look at food intake that way.
Jonathan: We don’t, really. We always think in terms of quantity, quantity, quantity. That’s really not the key. When we think about quality, quantity takes care of itself. So that looks at the quantity of food, but the researchers weren’t done. They wanted to test the whole exercise more. So they took all 3 groups of rats and did the best they could to make them exercise more. Again, they’re rats, so they really couldn’t get them gym memberships. But they could, and they did, put them in cold rooms so the rats would sit there and shiver all day and burn a bunch of calories – kind of like rat aerobics.
Carrie: Okay. I’ve even tried that.
Jonathan: Actually there are some people that recommend that. It’s not a good idea. You’ll develop an extra layer of subdermal fat to keep you warm. But, anyway. Don’t use cold therapy to lose weight. It’s not a good idea. Now, what’s interesting though, is that despite the fact that these rats were exercising more – all 3 groups ate more so that they would again, maintain their lower, higher, or normal set point, respectively. Every single rat, in spite of exercising more, just ate more to maintain their respective set point weight determined by the quality of their diet.
Now Carrie, last leg of the study. The researchers wanted to force the rats to eat more. So they actually hooked up stomach tubes to each of the rats and pumped them full of their normal, low quality, or Quinine food. Now, every single rat automatically adjusted the amount of food they consumed normally, so that they would maintain their normal, higher, or lower weight targeted by their set point. Even having food pumped into their stomach, again, they just automatically regulated to counteract that.
Carrie: So give that rats are not worried about what they look like or peer pressure or –
Jonathan: Media exposure.
Carrie: Any of that. You’re saying this study shows that there was a biochemical – is that the right term? – a physiological change that was forcing them to stay at their particular set point weight. There was nothing else that was doing that.
Jonathan: Exactly. And when we look at animal models like this, we can isolate these external factors. It would be nearly impossible for every time we do human studies – they’re amazing – but we can never control them as much as we control animal studies. Summarizing this study, eating less didn’t cause long-term weight loss. And that’s what we’re after. We’re after long-term. The set point won out. They ate less but when they were given access to food, they went back to their respective set points. Exercising more didn’t cause long-term weight loss. They just ate more and the set point won out. Having additional calories pumped into their stomachs didn’t cause long-term weight gain. The set point won out. The only thing impacting the rats’ long-term weight was the quality of their calories and that’s because it changed their hormones which changed their set point.
Carrie: That’s amazing.
Jonathan: The good news is that –
Carrie: We’re not rats.
Jonathan: We’re not rats. The second bit of good news is – okay, is the Smarter Science of Slim – basically, we use a bitter substance like Quinine and lace all our food with that and we drop our set point. No, it’s really just about eating water, fiber and protein-rich foods, natural foods, non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins and natural fats. It’s all kinds of good stuff. We’ll talk about that later. But the key thing to take away here is that quality is inversely related to our set point. So if the quality of our diet and exercise is low, our set point goes up and if it’s high, our set point goes down.
Carrie: This other thing, though, is that this proves that one, we can change our set points, but also that if we have a little hiccup, if we go on vacation and eat crap for a week, cause that’s what some people like to do on vacation, or don’t exercise for a week, we may have minor changes in our fat, but as soon as we get back home and start doing normal things, our set point is going to take us back to wherever we set it at.
Jonathan: How much we eat and how much we exercise will, absolutely will cause a temporary change in weight. Just like – we can temporarily hold our breath or we can temporarily hold our eyes open so we don’t blink. But over the long term, our body will balance us out. The key is to lower that balance point. The second study I wanted to talk about is about the rat equivalent of what you just talked about. Let’s imagine we have two groups of rats. Let’s put one of them on vacation.
Carrie: Can I be that rat?
Jonathan: Yes, you can be that rat. So this study took place in St. George’s Hospital and Medical School. There were two groups of rats. There was one who was eating regular rat food. And let’s call the other group the vacationing rats. The vacationing rats ate really a low quality diet that is pretty typical for most western cultures – so a diet very high starches and sweets. So for 16 days, the researchers let the normal rats eat as much as they want of normal, natural rat food. And the vacation rats eat as much as they want of low quality starches and sweets – American type food. And the other thing to keep in mind about these rats is they were all little baby rats. They’re all going to be gaining weight but the rate at which they gained weight varied dramatically.
The rats who were eating the lower quality diets gained much more weight than the other rats. But on the other hand, on the seventeenth day of the study, those rats – let’s say they came back from the vacation. The researchers switched them from that low quality diet to a natural rat diet. And I’ll post this graph up on the show notes. But what Carrie and I are looking at here is those vacationing rats, automatically, in about 9 days, just naturally weighed the exact same as the normal rats.
Carrie: And again, because they’re not people, they weren’t trying. It’s a pretty amazing graph. I’m glad you’re going to post it on there because that’s a pretty compelling graph.
Jonathan: Yeah, they reached exactly the same point because the rats fundamentally are very similar genetically and their hormonal makeup was changed by their diet quality. But then we normalize that. Their weight normalizes itself.
Carrie: So set point is really where it’s at.
Jonathan: It is where it’s at. We want long term health and fitness. The idea is not to fight against our body. Because again, that’s like trying to not sleep for a long period of time. It’s not going to work. It will catch up. What we need to do is transform and re-enable our body’s natural ability to keep us slim. And that’s all about quality not quantity.
Carrie: So my new strategy should be lower my set point to wherever I want it to be. And when I go on vacation, not worry about what I’m doing because I know when I come back, automatically, I’m going to go straight back to that set point.
Jonathan: Essentially, yes. I would never recommend that never anyone goes to all inclusive resort, drinks all the soda they could and eats all the donuts they can and waffles and stuff because when they come home, it will all magically take care of itself. Going up and down in a weight like that is obviously not good for your health. But the key point is absolutely right on, Carrie. And that’s – you do not have to be perfect day in and day out. The body will – any bumps in the road – the body will normalize over the long term. Think, again, think about it like that clogged sink, Carrie. A sink becomes clogged when you chronically put the wrong quality of stuff in it. However, if a few strands of hair fall in the sink every 3 weeks, it’s not going to get clogged.
Jonathan: So again, in sharp contrast to calorie counting and exercising obsessively, where unless you do that all day, every day, precisely, for the rest of your life. And to be clear, if you do, if you eat 1,000 calories every day for the rest of your life and exercise for two hours a day for the rest of your life, you will lose weight and keep it off. But the question is, can we realistically do that? Does it make for an enjoyable life? Does it harm our health? Well it actually does. And there’s just a healthy and safer, more practical way. And that’s to change the set point.
Carrie: Yeah, I’m never going to be signing up for 2 hours of exercise a day.
Jonathan: Not to mention that the actual damage it does to our body. I mean, your joints – bouncing up and down and running and things like that – it’s not say they’re terrible for you , but they’re definitely not without their own side effects. Pick up any edition of Runner’s World or any kind of magazine like that. There’s always tens and tens of pages with how to deal with injuries. So, again, let’s work with the body. Let’s not fight against it. And let’s use science to do that.
And that kind of segues nicely into the second part. Let’s step back from science for a second. Let’s move into philosophy. Let’s talk about the eighteenth-century German philosopher Emmanuel Kant. Shall we?
Jonathan: He proposed a very helpful theory when we talk about moral issues. But it’s also surprisingly applicable when we talk about long term health and fitness, which is what we’re about here at the Smarter Science of Slim. In terms of moral aspects, he said, “We can tell whether an action is morally good or morally bad if it makes sense for everyone to do it all the time.” For example: is it okay to lie? No. Because if everybody lied all the time, well then society would fall apart.
Jonathan: So that kind of makes sense. Let’s think about that same logic. What if we did, always and forever, in terms of fat loss? We see all these diet programs. Do this for 21 days. Folks, we have to be able to do this always and forever. If we’re driving on the freeway and we step off the accelerator, we’re going to decelerate. If we eat 1,200 calories a day, that might get us some great results – but can we really eat 1,200 calories a day always and forever? Can we channel a manual cot and say, “Hold on, before I start any new eat less, exercise more routine. Can I legitimately do this for the rest of my life?” If the answer is no, we’re actually going to do more harm than good if we started.
Carrie: That’s a really cool analogy. I like that. I’m going to have to think about that now.
Jonathan: The key thing – there’s hopefully some goodness there in terms of if you can’t do it always and forever, don’t do it because it’s not going to work. But there’s actually a deeper and more important point there. It’s not – let’s use the car analogy. You’re driving your car, you take your foot off the accelerator, you decelerate. The way it actually works with your body is – if you do eat less and exercise more programs and you don’t keep that up for the rest of your life – which a vast majority of people will not because life is too complicated to spend your time counting calories and days in the gym. Not only will you decelerate, but your car will actually go in reverse. So when we eat less and exercise more, we’re actually conditioning our body to gain weight and more weight than we loss in the long term. That’s the whole yo-yoing problem.
Carrie: That’s all you hear, isn’t it? When diets fail, not only did they gain it all back but then they gained some more. That’s a common mistake.
Jonathan: That is a proven phenomenon. In the next few podcasts, actually, that’s what we’re going to talk about. If you’re choice is between eating less and – like, tomorrow I’m just going to start eating less and doing nothing. The science unequivocally shows that it would be better for you to do nothing. The issue is not necessarily losing weight. Almost anyone you ask has probably successfully lost weight at sometime in their life. The issue is keeping the weight off. If we approach weight loss incorrectly, we will absolutely do more harm than good. Think about it like anything in life. If you take the wrong prescription, it’s going to be much worse than if you too no prescription at all.
Jonathan: So the question is not, “Oh, just do something.” No, please, don’t just reach in the medicine cabinet and take anything. Don’t just do something. Do the right thing. Because, for example, researcher Boyle, in the American Journal of Physiology, tells us that in rat studies – and we’ll talk about human studies here, coming up – as soon as rats stop eating less, in the studies, they gain weight – Carrie, get this – 20 times faster than a rat normally would, until they return to at least their original weight. This is actually called – there’s a term for it – it’s called fat accumulation. Nobody wants to gain fat 20 times faster than normal. So please, before trying any diet or exercise program, be a philosopher. Call on a manual and ask yourself: “Can I do this forever?” If the answer is yes, do it. If the answer is no, skip it.
Carrie: I’m going to have to re-think everything now.
Jonathan: The good news is – again, we’re all about practicality and permanence here. That’s why I’m so exciting about what we call eating more, but smarter, and exercising less, but smarter. Everyone can eat as much non-starchy vegetables, delicious lean protein, and natural fats. So we’re talking any kind of leafy green – basically the vegetables you put in salads – cucumbers, mushrooms – Carrie, give me some more.
Jonathan: Tomatoes. More, more.
Carrie: I had to say that because it was so British.
Jonathan: It was so British. Cucumbers, celery, all that kind of fun stuff. Proteins – so any kind of seafood, chicken, or organic grass-fed beef, turkey, ham – all that kind of fun stuff. And natural fats – nuts, seeds, and even certain kinds of fruits such as berries and citrus fruits. And certain select dairy products, like Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.
Carrie: And eggs. I love eggs.
Jonathan: And eggs. I left off eggs. We can even use things like whey protein, which is great source of protein. All we have to do, is truly, eat so much of that that we’re completely satisfied. We’re completely full. We’re enjoying our life. We’re enjoying food. And then 10 – 20 minutes per week of eccentric training, which is a new form of exercise that really helps our hormones. Carrie, we can all eat as much as we want, whenever we want, as long as it’s in those food groups and make 20 minutes a week for exercise. We can do that forever. We absolutely can.
Carrie: Although, I think I should point out these 10 – 20 minutes of exercise will nearly kill you. Especially if you’re like me and you have some arms that are as strong as some wet pieces of spaghetti. But it is only 10 – 20 minutes, and then you don’t have to do it for another week. So – let’s not candy coat it too much. The exercise is hard.
Jonathan: Absolutely. It’s just not –
Carrie: It’s just not long. Fast and furious.
Jonathan: In my experience, back in my personal trainer days, Carrie, there’s no shortage of effort. People – eating less and exercising more is hard as hell. And people do it and try it all the time. So I’m absolutely convinced that we can do just about anything for 20 minutes a week.
Jonathan: But what we can’t do is 2 hours a day, every single day. No. We also can’t be hungry. Asking someone to be hungry for the rest of their life is just absurd. We can’t maintain that. And same thing with eating more. It’s not eat more starches and sweets. It’s eat more high quality food.
Carrie: One of the other things I like about the exercise is not only do you only have to do 20 minutes a week, but I find when I do it properly, I get to the point – actually quicker than 20 minutes – where I cannot physically do any more. I have to stop. Because I either feel like I’m going to throw up or I literally can’t move any more. So that’s really cool.
Jonathan: It is – it may sound a bit odd, but Carrie, tell me what you think here. In some ways, it’s kind of an invigorating feeling. I think all of us have had the experience of getting on the treadmill for 60 minutes. Are you kidding me? Now they have treadmills with multi-media systems hooked up to them because it’s so dang boring. With this, it’s just – strap yourself in and get ready folks. You’re going to be focused. You’re going to be fully engaged. And then you’re done for a week.
Carrie: Yes. I must admit. I tried all sorts of things to get myself to cycle – read a book, watched a movie, whatever – just to keep me doing it because I had to do it for so long. There’s no way that you can do these exercises and concentrate on anything else at all. It’s just like 10 minutes of absolute hell and then it’s over.
Jonathan: So let me bring it back to good news here. Another –
Carrie: That is good news.
Jonathan: Another positive thing about it being shorter and your focus is there’s a lot less risk for injury. We’ll talk about all these exercises in detail. Often when people get injury when they’re exercising, often it’s because they’re not focused. You’re just kind of running along and there’s a divot in the road. Then you’re tripped and fell and sprained your ankle. Or because, you know, you’re really engaged. When you’re focused on stuff, we’re being deliberate. We’re not injuring ourselves. That’s also a very positive thing.
Carrie: One of the things that I also love is that you can do it all at home. You don’t have to be almost passing out in front of other people. You’re not doing the hot, sweaty, ugly thing – running down the street. None of that. 10 minutes in your own house. It’s pure goodness.
Jonathan: And for those who do enjoy going to the gym, that is also possible. In fact, as you become – again, let’s not sugarcoat things. I appreciate you for saying that earlier, Carrie. It’s not eat more of anything. It’s eat more of basically anything except starches and sweets and things with processed garbage. But other than that, the sky is pretty much the limit. It’s also exercising less but exercising with a level of safety and intensity that many people have never experienced.
And again, circling back the beginning of our episode – the higher the quality of our food and the high quality of our exercise – the lower our set point. So we need to continue to find ways to exercise with higher quality and eat with higher quality. And as we become stronger and as we continue down our exercise path, we will need to add resistance. That may require going to a gym for some of us. For some of us it may not. But for now, to get started, everything can be done at home. And if you already are pretty advanced, you can absolutely do this at the gym. But you don’t have to.
Carrie: That’s awesome. I’m still at home because my arms are still as weak as wet spaghetti. I’ll get there.
Jonathan: I wasn’t really planning of talking on exercise too much in this episode, but while we’re on the topic – Carrie, you may find this hard to believe. I find it hard to believe because I do not like exercising. I know you do not either. But there are some people who do enjoy exercising. Carrie is speechless. Carrie has no comment. So if you are an individual who enjoys exercising –
Carrie: Get over it.
Jonathan: No, no, no. We talked about this before the show, Carrie. I’m just kidding.
Carrie: There’s other things you can do that are way more fun.
Jonathan: If you enjoy exercise because it’s a hobby or because it’s fun for you – go ahead and do it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if that is your goal – if your goal of exercise is to have fun, there’s certain kind of exercises that are fun. Often, those exercises are not effective at fat loss. But they are effective for certain individuals. They type of exercise we’ll do here – high quality exercise – is not fun because its goal is to be not fun. But it gives dramatic and incredible hormonal results.
If you like exercising, keep it up. Just add this. If you don’t like exercising, that’s great because you don’t really need to. This high quality training will help you more than low quality exercise ever could. And we will back it up with all kinds of data in later podcasts.
Carrie: So this isn’t just the only exercise you should be doing. This exercise is targeted at losing weight.
Jonathan: More specifically, it’s targeted at lowering our set point, which will enable our body to burn fat for us and not muscle. We do not want to burn muscle. That’s what we’ll talk about in the next podcast – why we don’t want to just eat less because eating less burns everything. It doesn’t just burn body fat. It does nothing about our set point. And actually, I think that’s a good ending point, Carrie. Next week we’ll just pick up with why eating less does not cause long-term fat loss. It does cause short-term weight loss – no question. We even saw that in today’s studies. But we’re not after short-term weight loss. We’re after long-term fat loss.
Carrie: Well that episode flew by. We must be having way too much fun.
Jonathan: We’re having way too much fun. Hopefully everyone else is having fun. Carrie, any closing statements?
Carrie: I’m thrilled that I don’t have to exercise much. And I’m really excited to hear the next bit about how we can permanently lower our set point.
Jonathan: Jonathan Bailor, Carrie Brown, Living the Smarter Science of Slim. Eat smarter, live better. See you next week.
This week Carrie and I covered three things:
– You can stray from your set-point temporarily by lowering the quantity of food you eat and raising the quantity of exercise you do. Yet you cannot adjust your set-point itself unless you focus on changing the quality of the food and exercise. The higher the quality, the lower your set-point.
– Discover Dr. J.W. Peck’s facinating set-point lowering research at the University of Utah.
– Hear how eating less did not cause long-term weight loss. The set-point won. Exercising more did not cause long-term weight loss. The set-point won. Having additional calories pumped directly into the stomach did not cause long-term weight gain. The set-point won. The only factor that did impact rats’ long-term weight was the quality of their calories. That worked because it changed their set-point.
– Learn about Dr. Nancy J. Rothwell’s study at St. George’s Hospital Medical School in London. Growing rats were divided into Low-Quality American Diet and High-Quality Natural Rat Diet groups. Rothwell let all of the growing rats eat as much as they wanted for sixteen days. On the seventeenth day the rats continued eating as much as they wanted, but Rothwell switched the Low-Quality American Diet rats to the high-quality natural rat diet. Here is what happened (click the picture to make it bigger):
The 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant proposed a helpful theory when thinking about moral issues. He said we can tell whether an action is good or bad if it makes sense for everyone to do it all the time. For example, is it okay to lie? No, because if everyone always lied, society would fall apart.
His logic is even more useful in the fat-loss field. Find out how.
We ended with a quick introduction of how we raise the quality of our exercise to lower our set-point weight. See how you can exercise less–but smarter–and enjoy better health and fitness.