Huffington Post and Freeing Yourself from Calorie Myths


Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor and Carrie Brown back with another Smarter Science of Slim show. Carrie, how are you doing today?

Carrie: Jonathan Bailor, you are wearing shorts, it’s the middle of October. What is going on?

Jonathan: It gets warm in the studio when we are together Carrie because we produce heat and energy and electricity because we are talking about SANEity.

Carrie: Or is it all just hot air?

Jonathan: I like my hypothesis better than yours.

Carrie: Hi Jonathan.

Jonathan: Hello. Speaking of things heating up, in today’s podcast we are going to talk about how things got a little heated up kind of at least on one end of the conversation on a recent Huffington Post article I wrote and the commentary that ensued.

Carrie: Uh-Oh.

Jonathan: Just to give our lovely listeners some context. You haven’t checked out by blog in Huffington Post, just type Huffington Post Jonathan Bailor and I wrote an article recently at the time we are recording this, I believe it was called something like a 118,000 Reasons Dieting Makes You Fat or something like that and the point of the article was basically going through two studies of the Harvard Medical School performed which showed that in sample of something like 118,000 people, the more calories people ate, the lower their body mass index, which of course does not mean that the more calories you eat that that will somehow magically lower your body mass index. You are eating inSANE calories.

The more calories you eat, the higher your body mass index will be, but what was incredibly fascinating about the studies and the point of the post was that to say that the answer to obesity is to just eat fewer calories we know is wrong, but besides that it’s not supported by the data because in this study for example that people who ate the fewest calories did not weigh the least.

Carrie: I have nothing further to say because you wrote the blog post and it was all awesomeness and there we go.

Jonathan: Okay, I am going to take the microphone away from Carrie now. You have lost microphone privileges for this broadcast Carrie. Okay, so the thing I wanted to cover though in this episode and I thought that Carrie would have some opinions on as well is another blogger on the Huffington Post then chimed in with the following commentary. So, let’s do these in order. So again, remember that the point of this article was really just to make sure that we heal our relationship with food, we no longer fear food, and we don’t starve ourselves anymore in an effort to be healthier.

I think everyone would agree that starvation is unhealthy with the exception of this wonderful other blogger who touts that she has twenty years of experience and therefore is an authority. She writes “I hope no one who reads this actually BELIEVES this blindly as truth. There is so much more to realize fact not burning the same or more calories than you consume will lead to weight gain” and she goes on in her comment – I won’t read the whole thing, but just saying telling people they can eat more if the food they eat is higher quality is just cruel and she goes on to say a bunch of other things.

Carrie: I have something to say now.

Jonathan: Go yes.

Carrie: I have never eaten as much in my life as I have since I met you and yet I am smaller and lighter now than I have been for the preceding X number of years, I don’t even remember how long I spent eating less and exercising more. I don’t even remember how many years that was, but since I have met you, I have eaten more food than ever, but hey I smaller and lighter.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Carrie: Take that.

Jonathan: Take that and also lets just take a step back because friends, like I used to get angry when I saw things like this, but now I honestly – it’s a sense of disappointment because people will read this woman’s comment and I know what she is trying to say, but she doesn’t even really know what she thinks because here is what she said in her comment, let me actually read this “Not burning the same or more calories than you consume will lead to weight gain.” That’s true. Of course that’s true just like if you drink more water than you urinate, you will have more water stored on your body, but like that’s not saying anything.

The question is not does an excess of calories cause body fat? Of course, an excess of calories causes body fat, but why is there an excess of calories? Why are we driven to eat more? Why doesn’t the body just bring those calories off for us? Eating less like the blind guidance to just eat less is rooted and this is why after I wrote my reply comment. She commented no further because it’s a bit like the emperor’s new clothing.

At the root of the eat less dogma is the belief that obesity is a moral failing that people who struggle with their weight are just too stupid or just too weak to eat fewer calories because that’s the only justifiable way to make that argument, you either think that obesity is a moral failing or you think it’s a metabolic disease and if you think it’s a metabolic disease, less of the stuff that causes it can’t cure it. That just doesn’t make any sense. It might slow down the dysfunction but just like breathing less will never cure allergies or smoking less will never cure lung cancer, you need to take different inputs in to be curative.

Anyone who is just making this argument people just need to eat less, one they don’t understand the fundamental biology of weight gain and two they are insulting everyone who struggles with their weight and I don’t think that’s acceptable.

Carrie: How can I add anything to that? The master has spoken, but I can only say that from my experience, Jonathan is correct. What Jonathan teaches us is what’s worked for me and I know it has worked for countless other people who e-mail Jonathan who e-mail me, who post on Facebook or [indiscernible 07:30] or whatever and say that for the first time they have been able to successfully lose weight and it has not been hard because they have not been hungry because they are eating more than ever.

Jonathan: This is the other major failing with this point. She makes another comment in her comment; I am quoting verbatim now “Unless you have some kind of medical issue or unfortunate genetics, the surest way to keep weight off is to keep tabs on your calories coming in and to have a good sense of how many calories are going out.” As reasonable as that sounds right because we got to empower ourselves because some of the stuffs seems reasonable, but it’s actually ridiculous.

Again the statement which seems reasonable, but let’s show why it’s ridiculous not to humiliate this person who I am sure is well intended, but so that you don’t feel bad about yourself and fall back into this calorie myths which have been proven false. Look around, if they worked, we wouldn’t be in the dire straits that we were in today. Unless you have some kind of medical issue or unfortunate genetics, the surest way to keep weight off is to keep tabs on your calories coming in and have a good sense of how many calories are going out.

Okay, if that was true, how did anybody like in the early 1900s, the earliest record we have of obesity rates was sub-three percent. In the early 1900s, no one knew what a calorie was. If the surest way to keep weight off is to keep tabs on calories coming in and calories going out, how did the rates of obesity remained so low prior to anyone knowing what a calorie was?

Carrie: That’s a very good question.

Jonathan: It can’t. So, it’s like just reductio ad absurdum is like a Latin argument approach which is just this is absurd. She is saying you have to do something which was not possible to do prior to the problem existing.

Carrie: We were much, much, much, much more successful at maintaining a healthy weight when we didn’t know what a calorie was versus now.

Jonathan: It just gives me a little bit amped up, not a little bit, actually a lot amped up.

Carrie: [indiscernible 09:44] come on.

Jonathan: Then she goes on. So, I wrote this comment which bunch of wonderful Huffington Post users were like “Oh, you know, it’s very reasonable, that’s very nice.” She comes back with – remember the scientist who did the Twinkie diet? He ate only junk food, but LESS calories that he had been traditionally eating and LOST. He didn’t feel great because all of all the crap, but his vitals improved from the weight loss. So again, the point she is trying to make here is like “Look it’s obviously just about calories because they was some professor who went on a Twinkie diet and lost weight.”

Now again folks, this is an area where we have to empower ourselves with an alternate view of common sense because it seems like common sense to just say “Well if you eat 1200 calories of Twinkies, you will lose weight, so therefore calories are all that count, right? Okay. No.

You can also lose weight by cutting off your leg. That is a fact. Like it is a fact, you can, you will lose weight instantly, probably thirty to fifty pounds depending on who you are if you cut off your leg. That doesn’t mean it is a healthful or useful approach, right?

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: It is absolutely true that if you eat 1000 calories of Twinkies a day and that’s all you eat, you will lose weight. So what? If you pour gasoline on your garden, you will kill all of the weeds. You will also kill everything else. Again, for someone who has 20 years of experience supposedly in this industry, it seems it’s just unfortunate because like the data has spoken, research has been done, the failure rate – the failure rate of just eating less is 95.4 percent. That is a higher failure rate than the failure rate of people who try to give up smoking cold turkey.

Remember nicotine is the third most addictive substance in the world trailing only heroin and cocaine. So, like just why – and then you have to ask yourself why would anyone even argue this point anymore? Like there is so much science, there is so much clinical research, there is so much underlying endocrinology, there is so much epidemiological research like these Harvard studies we looked at and just look around and there is the common sense that bottom line if people eat till they are satisfied and you tell them to eat less, you are therefore arguing that people need to be hungry for their entire life. That is literally impossible.

If you look at some of the new behavioral research that’s coming out where they are showing that will power is a fixed resource, like it’s finite and when you run out of will power, you are out of it, telling someone that they have to be hungry their entire life is literally impossible, you cannot be hungry your entire life.

Carrie: Now that is something that I would call cruel.

Jonathan: Excellent point.

Carrie: That is something that I have not been since I met Jonathan and for that I am so grateful. You have no idea.

Jonathan: You haven’t been hungry, not you haven’t been cruel.

Carrie: I haven’t been hungry.

Jonathan: Folks, again that’s just another – so assume, again [indiscernible 13:00] okay now I am going to get amped up because…

Carrie: [indiscernible 13:02]

Jonathan: The more you think about this unless the person is just completely ignorant, but if someone is a blogger on the Huffington Post with 20 years of experience, I am going to assume she is not just ignorant. The only justifiable reason to just say “Well just eat less” is the belief that people who struggle with their weight are just weak and like they are not just eating till they are full, they are eating in excess and if they would just stop being so gluttonous, they would lose weight. That’s false.

Ninety plus percent of people who struggle with their weight stop eating when they are full just like everyone else and that’s why it’s heartbreaking and they get on the border of tears when you ask them about their weight problems because they tell you, “I just do whatever everyone else does. I eat the standard Western diet until I am full and then I stop. Why just doing that make me fat and not my friends?”

So, the answer according to this other blogger on the Huffington Post is those people should just be hungry for the rest of their lives. They should just try harder. That’s ridiculous. Like any good scientist would say that’s absurd. Anyone with common sense would say that’s absurd.

Carrie: That’s cruel.

Jonathan: That’s cruel and it’s insulting and I think it’s time for us to do better than that. So, I applaud this woman for spending 20 years of her life trying to help people. I would encourage her to may be have the same transition that I had once I noticed as a personal trainer that while I having a unique biology could consume 6000 calories per day and not gain weight even though I wanted to while my predominantly female clients over the age of 35 who more often than not had children and were very, very stressed out, would eat 12 to 1400 calories per day, exercise excessively and not lose weight and not enjoy their life.

So, instead of just being like try harder, let’s take a note from Dr. Albert Stunkard over at the Department of Psychiatry and the founder for the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania, who tells us how can the medical profession regain its proper role in the treatment of obesity?

We can begin by looking at the situation as it exists not as we would like it to be. If we do not feel obligated to excuse our failures, we may be able to investigate them. Seriously Carrie, I am going to keep going. I am going to keep going, I am sorry. Carrie is like…

Carrie: I am just letting you run with it.

Jonathan: I have to because…

Carrie: You will run [indiscernible 15:33] eventually.

Jonathan: Seriously, there is one simple realization that – this might upset people. I am tired of thin people – it is not all thin people, but it is a good chunk of them who are probably thin regardless of what they do because they are naturally thin. Somehow thinking that they are morally superior because literally how arrogant is it to say to someone just eat less and exercise more, like there is no other medical condition in the world if someone has allergies, we don’t say just breathe less, just inhale less and exhale more. If someone has diabetes, we don’t say eat less and exercise more, we realize it’s a food quality problem. If someone gets heart disease, we don’t say eat less and exercise more. We say change your lifestyle, change the quality of what you are doing.

Why we attribute the cause of metabolic dysfunction. Now demonstrably proven metabolic dysfunction to a moral and character failing, as Carrie said that is cruel, it is unacceptable and listeners seeing these comments just reminded me that neither Carrie nor I will rest until the science prevails and these cruel and unfair judgments are put to the wayside.

Carrie: Go Jonathan.

Jonathan: Everybody, here is the good news friends, here is the good news. If this blog post existed 10 years ago, which again I don’t know if blog posts existed 10 years ago, but if it did, the rest of the peanut gallery that commented on this post would have agreed with said eat less, exercise more expert, nobody did.

Every single person who replied – and mind you folks this was not – the person who commented she was quite snarky and included all caps in her replies, but my replies and the replies of the other readers were all very calm, cool, and collected because there is an old saying “weak point shout loud as hell” because when someone knows they are wrong, they often times have to overcompensate by just yelling and getting really excited whereas when we have the facts on our side, which we do, not only one can we reply and then actually once we replied and presented our argument, she didn’t reply because there was no reply, but two, I was just so encouraged Carrie to see that the other, the 10s and 10s of other comments that were posted on this article were all like yes, it’s not about starving yourself and literally 10 years ago, the majority of people would have said yes, people just need to try harder, which is amazing, like that is a cultural shift that I am so excited about.

Carrie: I think people are just – they are having to take on both the fact, the eating less and exercising more is clearly not working because we are fatter and unhealthier than ever. So, it can’t be. We have been doing it for 40 years and things are not improving. They are actually getting worse. So, it’s hard for people not to say we need to do something different is clearly isn’t the answer.

Jonathan: Just to address any remaining concerns for folks who may have read the article is again much like a lot of what we heard over the past 40 years was well-intended, but it needs to look a level deeper. This article nowhere does it say, like “You should just eat more calories.” No, the answer is you should eat high quality food and when you eat high quality foods, your body will naturally consume and expand the proper number of calories to keep you in homeostasis and keep you healthy just like it does for every other aspect of your biology.

Do you need to monitor phosphorus in and phosphorus out? No, but it’s really important. Do you need to monitor vitamin C in and vitamin C out? No, but it’s really important. So, why would you have to do that for calories? The answer is not just “Eat more calories and you will magically feel better.” No. It’s about increase the quality of foods you are eating and then eat them in abundance because your body will take care of the rest and that is so exciting, so promising. Science is on our side, common sense is on our side, and it’s just a more compassionate loving and caring approach and that’s a pretty good trifecta.

Carrie: I think so, changed my life.

Jonathan: Anyway, check out the post. At this point, it will probably be quite old, but there will be some other good posts up there too and again just smile because the tides are turning what would have historically been one of many people preaching the conventional and proven and effective approach was one person who quickly stopped when she noticed that her boat of moral arguments and insults to people would no longer be supported in a society that has evolved beyond that and realized the deeper metabolic conditions at the heart of obesity and that I am just so encouraged by that.

Carrie: Good job, sir, as always.

Jonathan: With that we will lighten things up next week, but I thought that would just be a cool opportunity to share in an awesome experience with our listeners.

Listeners, this week and every week after remember; eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.

Carrie: See you.

This week Carrie and I respond to a delightful comment discussion that followed our recent article on the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-bailor/dieting-myths_b_4040811.html