Eating less and exercising more has been proven wrong but is still how we’re all told to lose weight. We are told that our metabolism sits back while we consciously regulate our weight. That is not how our body works.
“This study examined the relationships among body fat…energy intake, and exercise…There was no relationship between energy intake [calories in] and adiposity [body fat]” – Dr. W.C. Miller, Indiana University
Telling us that we need to manually regulate calories in vs. calories out is about a resonable as telling us that we need to manually regulate breaths in vs. breaths out. If we take care of body, it will automatically take care life-sustaining functions.
“The average human consumes one million…calories a year, yet weight changes very little…These facts lead to the conclusion that energy balance is regulated with a precision of greater than 99.5%, which far exceeds what can be consciously monitored.” – Dr. J.M. Friedman, Rockefeller University
Think about it like this: We don’t have to worry about beating our hearts thanks to our circulatory system. Similarly, we don’t have to worry about balancing our calories thanks to our fat metabolism system…or so we’ll discuss in this episode.
The key to long-term wellness is keeping all of our body’s systems working properly by eating a lot of high-quality SANE food, and doing a little , but higher-quality, exercise. In the case of our fat metabolism system, this lowers our set-point weight and keeps us slim “automatically” like naturally slim people. The key question for us is: “How do we get our body to behave more like the body of a naturally thin person?”
Like this podcast? Please share it on Facebook & Twitter and leave a quick review on iTunes.
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: Jonathan Bailor, Carrie Brown – here in studio – Seattle, Washington. Talking about, get ready for it, the fat metabolism system.
Carrie: And you know Jonathan, last time we were here, I said I wasn’t convinced that I wanted you to be fiddling with my fat metabolism. But since then I have changed my mind.
Jonathan: You are comfortable with me fiddling?
Carrie: I am comfortable with you fiddling with my fat metabolism. Let’s go for it.
Jonathan: Let’s start with a quote by Dr.Wooley from the University of Cincinnati that says, quoting – “The best data available suggest that the obese eat no more than the lean.”
Jonathan: Now let’s think about that for a second. The best data shows that people who weigh more are not, in fact, eating more. That is a myth.
Carrie: I’ve always thought – because I’ve heard a lot of big people say that – and I’ve always thought that it must be, somehow, that once you’ve reached a large weight, that it actually doesn’t take much to keep you there. That’s what I’ve always kind of rationalized in my mind.
Jonathan: You’re headed in the right direction. Once you reach a certain point, it’s a bit self-fulfilling. And it has nothing to do with the calories you’re taking in – quantity wise. It has nothing to do with the calories you’re burning off – quantity wise. It has to do with your hormonal balance and how we can change that. And that’s because we don’t regulate calories in, calories out when our metabolism is working properly. But we do need to control the quality of the food we eat and the quality of the exercise we get, so that our body can function properly.
Carrie: If you can get my body functioning how it use to when I was a naturally skinny person, I will love you forever.
Jonathan: Well Carrie, think back to high school biology class, which I know was only a few years ago for you.
Carrie: Oh, absolutely – just as if it were yesterday.
Jonathan: So you know, we all learn how we pump blood with our circulatory system and we breathe with our respiratory system and how, you know, most men think with their reproductive system.
Carrie: No comment.
Jonathan: No comment? Well there’s another major system in our body and it’s called our fat metabolism system. It’s really the core issue at the heart of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and heart disease epidemics. It’s the breakdown of that system caused by the wrong quality of the food being put into it.
Carrie: So, you know, you often hear a lot of people, particularly women, who are chunkier than they would like to be say, “My metabolism slowed down since I had kids. I have a really slow metabolism. I’ve got to do something – if I exercise, it gets my metabolism up.” Is that what you’re talking about?
Jonathan: That’s exactly right, Carrie. We all have an intuitive understanding of the fat metabolism system. We say, “Oh, Jane, she has such a fast metabolism. She can eat whatever she wants.” Or, “Ever since I’ve turned 30, my metabolism must have slowed down. I’m eating the same and I’m exercising the same. And I’m gaining fat.”
Carrie: So is there any truth to that? Is that what’s really going on?
Jonathan: Well, there is a bunch of truth to it. It’s not so much about it’s slowed down, per say. It’s that, again, I’m going to say this over and over again – the hormonal balance in our body has changed. And because it’s changed, our body fundamentally wants to store more fat. Even if we eat less and exercise more, it’s just going to fight even harder to store more fat. We need to change that balance so that our body wants to store less fat.
Carrie: You make it sound easy.
Jonathan: Well it’s easy once we have the right information. Think about it like a sink. So, Carrie, instead of thinking about your body like a balance. Like we’ve all been told – calories in, calories out – just balance it. Think about it like a sink.
Jonathan: So you’ve got a sink in your mind. Now when a sink is functioning properly – you know, you poor water in and water comes out. The water level stays low automatically. And if you poor a lot of water in, the water level may rise for a moment, but the sink will automatically regulate it back down. More water in just means more water out. Make sense so far?
Jonathan: But now, what happens if you put the wrong quality of stuff in a sink? Like some hair, maybe?
Carrie: Oh. You see how long my hair is. Do you know how many times I’ve had to battle with the sink and the bottom of my shower?
Jonathan: So the sink gets clogged and regardless of the amount of water you put in, the level of water begins to rise and it stays risen, right?
Carrie: You know last time – and this is a little bit gross, sorry people – but last time my shower actually stopped draining all together. And I was actually paddling in the bottom of my shower.
Jonathan: You’re like taking a bath while you took a shower.
Carrie: And I kind of got down there and there was a bit of hair and I pulled and pulled. You know, it was almost a cat I pulled out of there. It wasn’t, but you know a small creature of hair I pulled out.
Jonathan: Well yes, that is a very visual – readers, listeners you will not forget this story. So when you have a seemingly cat stuck in your drain, any quantity of water will cause the water to rise, and that’s because there’s a clog. The sink has lost its natural ability to balance the water level around a lower – let’s call it a set point. And that clog was cause by the wrong quality. It wasn’t high quantity. If you just pour a lot of water over and over and over again into a sink – again, that’s never going to clog it. A clog is caused by low quality. Our bodies work similarly.
When we put the wrong quality of food in our body, our body loses the natural ability to automatically regulate us around a lower level of body fat. And instead, no matter how many calories we take in and how many calories we exercise off, our body fat level creeps up and stays up, just like that water in your shower.
Carrie: You know, I thought you were going to blind me with science. But I’ve got to say, that’s making sense to me. That’s making total sense to me.
Jonathan: Carrie, when you do want to remove that clog from your shower – it’s, again, it’s not really about less. It’s not about less water in. That doesn’t solve the problem. It treats the symptoms, but it doesn’t solve the problem. And it’s not about sitting there with a teaspoon and bailing water out. It’s not about water in and water out. It’s about – dog-gone-it, there’s a clog in the sink and we need to clear it out. And we do that by changing the quality of stuff in. Maybe we’ll pour some Drano in. Maybe we use a plunger and force that clog out. It’s about quality, not quantity.
Carrie: You’re right. Because after I pulled that small animal out of my shower tray, I still – that even wasn’t enough. And very quickly, I got back to the point where I was paddling. So I went and got some – I don’t think it was Drano. It came in a black bottle and was sealed in this amazing metal thing with highly dangerous stuff. I brought it home and took that sucker down. It worked great. Ever since then, I have a share and work drains away. So, I really get what you’re talking about here.
Jonathan: So it’s beautiful, Carrie, because what we’ll find is – again, we do not have to be afraid of food. In fact, the right kinds of food are a bit like that magical black bottle. They force that clog out of our metabolic system and enable us to – when we eat more, burn more automatically, like those naturally thin people. And when we do more intense but very safe exercise, it’s like – you know, giving that drain a few shots forced that clog out. And again, just fix the underlying problem, not just treat the symptom and reap long-term benefits – not “Oh I lost 10 pounds in two weeks, but then gained those back in the next two months.”
Carrie: I should probably mention at this point – this doesn’t involve Drano. No Drano involved.
Jonathan: No drinking Drano. But metaphorically –
Carrie: That would not be safe for you.
Jonathan: That would not be safe and that’s not what we’re doing. We really want to focus on clearing that fundamental, metabolic clog that cause our body to want to store more fat, regardless of how much we eat and much we exercise. It’s really, Carrie – fundamentally, the theory that weight gain is caused by too many calories has been disproven. Can I give you a really interesting study that shows this?
Carrie: Go right ahead.
Jonathan: So, I’m actually going to do two examples. First is a really fascinating study that was – well it cost $700,000,000 – Dr. Evil type of money.
Jonathan: $700,000,000 – it was called the Woman’s Health Initiative. The reason it was so expensive, Carrie, is it tracked nearly 49,000 women for 8 years.
Carrie: I’m staggered.
Jonathan: Staggered at the scale of this study. What’s fascinating and what was really – it makes for such a great study to look at – there were two groups of women. One group consumed an average of 120 more calories per day for 8 years. So at the end of the study, 120 calories more per day times 365 days in a year times 8 years means that each individual woman in this one group at on average 350,400 more calories than the women in the other group.
Carrie: So they gained a bunch of weight, right?
Jonathan: Well according to calories in, calories out – the calorie math theory – they should have gained about 100 pounds. Right? Because a pound of fat is 3,500 calories – 350,000 extra calories. So the women in the – let’s call it the “eat more” group – must of gained 100 pounds average each, more than the other woman.
Carrie: Over 8 years.
Jonathan: Yes, over 8 years.
Carrie: So 10, 12 pounds a year.
Jonathan: What the study showed, Carrie, is that these women gained, on average, less than a pound.
Carrie: How is that possible?
Jonathan: It’s possible, Carrie, because again – our body will automatically regulate us around a set point. And what that set point is at – or the body composition that set point focuses on – is determined by our hormonal balance by our genetics. We can’t change our genetics. We can change our hormones. And we change our hormones by the quality of the food we eat and the quality of the exercise we get. So, what we need to focus on, Carrie, is restoring our body’s natural ability to do that.
Let me give one more study to illustrate how once we’ve lost that ability, eating less really isn’t helpful. Ready for one more study?
Carrie: I am, but I’ve just got to tell you, we spent $700,000,000 on a study that proved that eating less and exercising more doesn’t work. And we’ve never heard about this study. That just blows my mind.
Jonathan: Well let’s dig into this second study here, Carrie. It took place at St.Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Now very different study here, Carrie. We have two groups of people and they were both in the trauma ward. And there was a group of thin people and a group of heavy people. These individuals were put on zero-calorie diets.
Carrie: Okay. So they just starved? They were just on water, or –
Jonathan: Well, no. It was a very unique – they were trauma victims, so they couldn’t consumer food. But they were put on an electrolyte type mixture to keep them alive. But what’s so fascinating about this study is that – we have heavy people, we have thin people, on zero-calorie diets. What the researchers found is that the thin people burned off nearly 50% more body fat than the heavy people.
Carrie: How does that work?
Jonathan: Think about it for a second, Carrie.
Carrie: They don’t have the extra to burn off, so that just seems backwards when you think about what we’ve been taught.
Jonathan: And what it shows, again, Carrie, is such a profound, metabolic clog existed in the obese patients, that despite the fact they were eating zero calories, their bodies still didn’t have the ability to burn fat as the thin people who had so much less of it. We’ve got to forget about eating less and focus on making – healing our bodies – making this metabolic healing.
Carrie: That’s incredible.
Jonathan: So let me quote the researchers here. This is straight from the horse’s mouth: “Obese patients could not take advantage of their most abundant fat fuel sources but have to depend on the efficient use of the breakdown of body protein, or their muscles.” So they burnt muscle tissue more readily than they burnt fat tissue.
Carrie: So you know, everyone jokes about: “Oh, I can skip a meal because I’ve got plenty of fuels. I’ve got plenty of padding to burn up.” If you starve yourself – if you skip meals, you actually don’t burn up that padding that you so desperately hope will burn up. But your body doesn’t burn the fat first. Is that what you’re saying?
Jonathan: Well it depends on this hormonal balance. What we find in obese patients, or in individuals who are carrying an excess amount of body fat – the reason they’re carrying that excess body fat, Carrie, in the vast majority of cases, is because – you’re exactly right – their body has lost the ability to burn it. It’s not because they’re eating too much. It’s not because they’re exercising too little. It’s because their body cannot effectively burn fat for fuel.
Carrie: Okay. That changes everything. And that turns everything we’ve been taught on its head. Everything.
Jonathan: It absolutely does. And in fact, when you talked about that – “Oh, I can just not eat and get a 500 calorie meal off my hips.” That’s just not true. We’ll dig into this later podcast but studies show that up to 70% of the weight we lose when we just starve ourselves – besides water weight, of course – is coming from muscle, not from fat.
Carrie: So the stigma that large people have – that all they do is eat all day and they’re obsessed with food and that’s all they do – is, actually they’re probably not eating any more than anybody else.
Jonathan: Well, Carrie, we all know thin people who eat a heck of a lot and eat very unhealthily and stay thin – and of course, there are people that eat a heck of a lot – but it’s not what’s causing them – because it’s not causing everyone to be heavy. There’s plenty of people who eat like – I mean, look at the average high school student who isn’t obese. We have a horrible crisis in our country with overweight children. But there’s plenty of children who are not overweight and it’s not like they’re eating salad every day. They’re still eating candy bars and soda. But somehow, their body’s just able to deal with it.
Carrie: Hey, I remember when I was going through school. For four years to get myself through school, I worked at McDonald’s – so just weekends, and then summer, Easter, and then Christmas vacations. In the summer, I would do a double shift and I would eat every single day two Quarter Pounders with cheese, two extra large fries, two chocolate milkshakes and two apple pies.
Jonathan: And a partridge and a pear tree?
Carrie: No, no. I had to draw the line somewhere. I was 98 pounds soaking wet. And I did that every single day. That was what I ate, every day for 7 weeks of the summer holiday. I was still 98 pounds soaking wet at the end of that.
Jonathan: So your body can do it, Carrie. It’s not magic. We just have to restore that ability. We might not be able to restore 100% of it, but we can get 90% plus of it back, which is great.
Carrie: Now, if I go to McDonald’s and eat three french fries, I gain ten pounds. What the heck?
Jonathan: Well, the implication here, Carrie, with this study – Dr.Freedman from Rockefeller University puts it really well, and that’s: “The implication is that something metabolically different about overweight individuals results in obesity independent of their calorie intake.” And I know, again, there may be a lot of people listening who just say, “What? No.” But the data keeps coming.
Dr.Miller at the University of Indiana studied this and found that – I’m quoting here: “This study examined the relationship among body fat, energy intake and exercise. There was no relationship between energy intake and body fat. None. No relationship.”
Carrie: So, let me get this right. You’re saying that we’re not the problem. It’s the biology. It’s not me that’s failing. It’s not what I’m doing. I’m not doing it wrong. It’s the biology that’s controlling this.
Jonathan: You’re not doing it wrong in terms of: “Oh Carrie, you’re eating too much food and you’re not exercising enough.” What you fall in victim to is bad information. We live in a country where many of us – in fact, U.S.A. Today ran a survey last year, where 72% of Americans believe they ate a balanced diet. So many of us believe what we’re doing is correct, but we’ve been given bad information. So no matter how many pills you take – if it’s the wrong prescription – or no matter how many keys you use to open a door – if it’s the wrong key, it’s not going to unlock the door. If it’s the wrong prescription, it’s not going to make you feel better. The answer is the right information and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.
Carrie: Hey, you know, that just reminded me. The other day I was planning a meeting over in Toronto and I had to organize the food. They sent me all the menus over and I was looking at all the breakfast menus. This hotel is very eco-healthy and heart-healthy and all that kind of stuff. I was excited to look at the menu. And I was actually flabbergasted that the ones that were highlighted as the “heart-healthy” and the “lifestyle” – the healthiest options – one of them had zero protein. None. It was entirely carbohydrate. It was oat muffins. It was cooked oatmeal. It was fruits. I can’t even remember, but it was French toast and it was amazing to me.
You saying that made me think how they think they’re doing the right thing. They think they’re giving people healthy options, and they really do. People read that. It’s just like a little drip, isn’t it? Okay, this is healthy. So they read it and they go, “Okay, oat brain is healthy. And oat meal is healthy.” And they actually go on, believing that is true.
Jonathan: This isn’t the first time that’s happened, Carrie. Think back in the early twentieth century when smoking was marketed as being healthy. There were doctors saying, “Smoking’s good for you. It’s good for your t-zone.” But then the science made it to the surface and then we learned what was actually happening. It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to smoke ever. It does mean that no one should smoking, thinking that it’s good for them. And that’s the horrible crisis we face in our country. So many of us are working so hard but we’re doing things that are in many cases, harmful rather than helpful, because we’ve been given bad information.
Carrie: But it’s really sad to me that a lot of people genuinely believe they’re doing good things for their health but it sounds to me like they’re not. They don’t even know it. That’s a tragedy.
Jonathan: It is a tragedy, Carrie. And we have to re-focus from eating less, exercising more to this metaphor of a clog. As researchers put it more technically – profound metabolic disturbances or clogs exist in the obese state that constantly interfere with normal hormonal responses that help us to naturally burn fat. Carrie, once we burn this clog – and remember, we do that with high quality eating, high quality exercising – not about less eating, not about depriving ourselves of food, not about exercising all day. Our body is designed to keep us healthy and fit if we just get out of its way.
Carrie: Well, if you ever tell me that I can’t eat food, you and I are going to fall out real fast.
Jonathan: That is what we’re told, Carrie. Not only are we told not to eat food, but the “food” that we’re told to eat is quite often, not food at all.
Carrie: I really try to stick to the outside of the grocery store. So I like to think that most of what I’m eating is fresh stuff. I am aware a lot of the stuff in the middle is probably, like you say, not food at all and grew up in a laboratory, which I find very scary.
Jonathan: Carrie, I love that you stay out of the middle of the grocery story. Because if you want to protect your middle, it’s a good idea to stay out of the middle of the grocery story. High quality foods or sane foods, as we’ll talk about later – these are the foods that act like Drano in our clog analogy and restore our body’s natural ability to burn fat. They’re satisfying foods. They’re nutritious foods. They’re unaggressive. They’re inefficient. We’ll define all that stuff later, but fundamentally, it’s just food, Carrie. It’s non-starchy vegetables – like things you put in salads, lean sources of protein, any kind of seafood, lean meat, non-fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, certain fruits like berries and citrus fruits, and nuts and seeds – it’s just food. But that’s not what we find in our grocery stores.
Carrie: It’s incredible when you think about that probably 75% of the contents of grocery stores are the bit in the middle. It’s no wonder people are confused about what’s healthy and what’s not, when 75% of what the stores offer is not fresh food and in some cases not any kind of food, let alone fresh food.
Jonathan: Well there’s not a lot of products – I mean, sadly, there’s not a lot of profit in food. The profit is in theses food-like products. We have a multi-trillion dollar food industry. If we just focused on eating healthy foods, a lot of that profit goes away. So they have a big incentive to focus us on eating food-like products, which are not what we’re designed to eat, are not hormonally helpful and again, cause this clog which destroys our ability to burn fat, regardless of how little we eat or how much we exercise.
Carrie: So not to de-rail you – and I think we’re probably going to talk about this in a later episode – but are you kind of intimating that we’re losing health in order for food companies to grow a profit?
Jonathan: Carrie, we’re going to definitely focus on the cause. Because once we get through these myths and replace them with science, the biggest question is, “Why the heck did those myths come to be in the first place?” And what we’ll find is that back decades ago, there was some well intended, but misguided bureaucrats who put some laws and some policies into practice that were not brought out by science. Since then, big business has exploited those because in terms of the food, pharmaceutical and fitness industries – heavy and sick population is a much more profitable than a healthy and fit population.
Carrie: Hey, that does sound like a whole podcast on its own. So let’s get back to you fiddling with my fat metabolism. I would like that.
Jonathan: Back to fiddling on your fat metabolism system – well, to summarize – and I think we really do need to summarize at this point, Carrie. Think about every other system in our body. We don’t have to manually control our breathing rate or our immune system. Our body, when it’s functioning properly, takes care of those things for us. Think about calories in, calories out – like Dr.Freedman for Rockefeller University tells us, “The average human consumes 1,000,000 calories per year. Yet, weight changes very little. These facts lead to the conclusion that energy balance is regulated with a precision of greater than 99.5%, which far exceeds what can be consciously monitored.”
So when we think about how hard our body works to keep up on an even keel health wise, it becomes difficult, for example, to understand why the American Heart Association – it advises us, “How can you manage your weight in a healthful way? The answer is simple: balance calories in with calories you burn.” But we don’t need to once we heal our body because it will do it for us. And Carrie, ironically, the American Heart Association knows this, because they later said, “Few reliable data are available on the relative contributions to this obesity epidemic by energy intake and energy expenditure.”
And I might be missing something, but if few reliable date are available, then how did we come up with the answer to eat less and exercise more?
Carrie: I guess the lore of thermodynamics just kind of makes sense on a very primitive level. What goes in must come out. I guess somebody just ran with it.
Jonathan: I love that you brought that up. In a later podcast, we will deal with just the law of thermodynamics, and we will show that there is some truth with it. But the way we’ve all been told about it misses a giant piece of the puzzle. And we’ll show that thermodynamics actually proves that eating less and exercising more leads to fat gain and harms our health in the long term ironically. But the point here, Carrie, is we don’t have to worry about beating our hearts, thanks to – if we have a properly functioning circulatory system and if we don’t have to worry about being sick for the rest of our life, if our immune system is up and healthy and we do not have to worry about balancing calories in, calories out once we heal our fat metabolism system by clearing our clog with more high quality food and high quality exercise. The reason for that, Carrie, is that high quality food and high quality exercise lowers our set point weight. And that’s what we’ll talk about in our next episode. Our set point weight and what we can do to lower it.
Carrie: Well, I am really excited to hear of the next bit.
Jonathan: Jonathan Bailor, Carrie Brown, signing off – see you next week.