This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Jim Nicolai. In his own words:
“Jim Nicolai, M.D., is the former Medical Director of the Integrative Wellness Program at Miraval Resort and Spa, one of the first interactive integrative wellness programs of its kind at a destination spa resort. He is a board-certified family practitioner and a graduate of the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona in Tucson, under the direction of Dr. Andrew Weil. A graduate of the Indiana School of Medicine, Dr. Nicolai completed his family practice residency at St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers.
Dr. Nicolai has a special interest in whole-person medicine, addressing patients as mental and emotional beings, energetic and spiritual entities, and community members, as well as physical bodies. His expertise is in combining conventional medicine with the intelligent use of complementary and alternative therapies, including herbs and other botanicals, vitamins and supplements, nutritional counseling, lifestyle management and stress reduction.”
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. This has actually got a double bonus podcast. We are going to do something a little bit fun today, a little bit of a surprise for you. We have friend at the show and all around, great guy, Dr. Jim Nicolai back and you remember from his first show that he is the author of the wonderful book “Integrative Wellness Rules” you have seen him on the Dr. Oz show, he works very closely with the wonderful [Dr. Weil 09:41]. He is a board certified family practitioner and a graduate of the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The author of “Integrative Wellness Rules”, Dr. Jim Nicolai. Welcome back to the show brother.
Jim: It is good to be here man.
Jonathan: Aside from my…I’m not going to read anymore words for this podcast. What we are going to do listeners, Dr. Jim is a brilliant guy who has been digging into some advanced review copies of these upcoming calorie myth book and will shoot me some awesome emails with some awesome questions and I said, “Jim these questions are so good, we should just talk about them on a podcast”, so we are going to have a guest podcast where the guest interviews the host, that is crazy.
Jim: You got to love it, right. We will just flip the world on its ear.
Jonathan: Exactly, so I am going to turn the show over to you Jim and do with it what you will.
Jim: First of all I have to tell you I love the work that you are doing. I think what you are really trying to say not only with calorie myth but also with what you have done in the past with Smarter Science of Slim is exactly what I try to teach to my patients and the people that come in to see me and the biggest challenge I think especially when you look into nutritional information is this tendency to get bogged down and if I do this what happens, if I do this other thing and what trumps the other and so that is one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about, we totally agree on the fact that the rise in blood sugar creates crazy havoc in the body, it starts the whole process of making me the clogged sink.
My question is as we begin to look at this and we teach inflammation as a part of the clog, one of the biggest challenges that I have often seen is the way meat is produced these days, produces a pro-inflammatory response because frankly beef and chicken and a lot of our livestock are fed corn and grain which has high omega-6, so my question is when you are eating what is the better choice to eat something that is more meat based, cage-free chicken and beef that is fed corn and grain or do we go to eating starches and sweets, I think I absolutely have my answer, but I would love for us to talk about this so people get a little bit more direction in that regard.
Jonathan: Jim it is a perfect example of the profound nature of your questions because in another way to phrase is, correct me if I am right, but I just want to make sure as many listeners as can understand what we are getting at here is what is more important or is one more important than the other, the macronutrient breakdown of your diet or the source of those macronutrients wherever they are from, like is it better to eat a pristine toxin-free non-inflammatory 80% starch diet, like some people on the internet would recommend or is it better to eat a toxic, but more macronutrient balanced and inflammatory diet?
Jim: Absolutely and I think that is exactly it, is one going to trump the other every time, I think that is really the biggest question and it would be great for us to chew that over.
Jonathan: Jim I think this get back to what is the goal because actually there is a great example of this in the recent book by my good friend, [Adam Bornstein 13:45], and I forgot his co-author’s name, but it is called “Unleashing the Alpha” or something like that.
Jim: Yes, “Unleashing the Alpha.”
Jonathan: So, they talk about and it is true and if you ask any bodybuilder or physique athlete, if your goal is purely aesthetic, it’s the macronutrients and it is the raw calorie count and it is impact on hormones. If it is aesthetic, you could get ripped up and on the cover of a magazine while killing yourself. In fact, a lot of people are killing themselves to do that. If our goal is long-term health, then I think ideal world is proper macronutrients, proper micronutrients as well as getting them from a toxic-free non-inflammatory environment, but we had to chose, I think if your goal is more aesthetic, you could be a little fluffier on the pristine toxic-free, anti-inflammatory, blah-blah, but if your goal is more health related then you would have to focus much more on the anti-inflammatory lack of toxins approach.
Jim: Yes, ultimately like as we have said, I guess the question is if I am eating a pristine 80% carbohydrate diet, a very, very high carbohydrate diet at some point, if I still have the genetic makeup that is going to produce a clog, I am going to produce the clog and ultimately my focus is if I am trying to talk to people who are may be eating chicken or beef, as they are dialing back on some of their high carbohydrate foods, to me it makes absolute sense that says “If I can’t get the cleanest form of wing chicken or beef, I certainly want to eat that relative to a lot of starchy vegetable or a lot of sweets or a lot of very highly dense carbohydrate foods.”
Jonathan: Jim the other thing that is key and I agree with you wholeheartedly is there is often a false dichotomy about like the way meat and fishes produced is toxic, but the way starches isn’t toxic, like bread and like our GMO soy and dwarf mutant wheat that has a bunch of pesticides put on it like it is not as if going starch heavy automatically means pristine quality, in fact there is a whole group of wonderful Paleolithic diet advocates and researchers who talk about these anti-nutrients in a whole another aspect which only comes into play if you are eating starches.
Jim: Exactly without a doubt. This is a beautiful thing when two geeks get together, right? You just start going nuts, but ultimately when you begin to look at one of the primary, the drivers or one of the main heavy hitter is insulin and if you are taking that insulin response and jacking it up, the primary thing regardless of how good it might be toxin-wise if it raises blood sugar and in turn raises the insulin response that is the cornerstone of the clog and the more we can back that down to me is the order of priority that I want to give to my patients and the people that are talking to me about this.
Jonathan: Yes, I would agree.
Jim: It sounds like we got that one covered. I have written about this in my book and one of things that you have talked about both in your videos and your books is getting fats from whole food sources whether that is nuts, whether that is seeds, I am a huge fan being from Italy of olives, avocados, and part of the thing that I am really, really looking into is what are the anti-inflammatory effects of olives and potentially olive oil because part of the thing we talk about is certainly vegetable oils may not necessarily be high on the SANE score and I have written about the pretty amazing anti-inflammatory effects of specifically olive oil, so I would love to get your take on that.
Jonathan: The reason sometimes my message seems anti-oil is not so much that it is anti-oil. I have both olive oil and coconut oil in my house, but rather that is always just pro-whole food. My brain exploded one day because I was like why is everyone talking about coconut oil and olive oil when they are not talking about coconut and olives because everything that is in coconut oil plus a bunch of other great stuff and the same thing with olives and often the same people who talk about these oils are people who are like, “And whole foods are so good for you!” and Jim the reason I want to make the point is not at all and I always say this like if you are going to use oil, if you need to use an oil to cook, use a coconut oil.
If you need to use an oil not to cook or to cook at very low temperatures, olive oil is good stuff, but what happens and you see this already as you go to the store, I was at Costco the other day, they sell coconut oil and of course the coconut oil on the label, it is like you should eat two tablespoons of this a day, just eat it, like literally eat tablespoons of coconut oil and if you read the mainstream media the way it is presented is that you should use it like a supplement, you should just eat oil and like why not just eat coconut, the whole food and why not just eat olives the whole food.
Jim: Yes, and I think what it really is speaking to and I think this is why I love your messages, it is speaking to the message and that is to say let’s get back to the time when we could not press olive oil out of olives and how did our body respond at that point and what do we get as a result of it as opposed to putting towards bionic foods or even super foods or super pieces of food. Let’s just take the food as how we put it into our bodies and use that as the overarching concept, I love that about you and what you are talking about I think it is absolutely right on and I think it just speaks to as you get these points of quibbling, where do you go, where you really tie your anchor to the overarching concept and that is just eat whole food, real food, food that drives you to health.
Jonathan: Jim, I really appreciate those kind words and the distinction you made there because also on the spirit of unity for example the author and researcher [T. Colin Campbell 20:58] who wrote “The China Study” who is a friend of the show, been on the show twice, listeners know I am not a huge fan of all the things he says in “The China Study,” but if you read his second book “Whole,” he has these really awesome points and there were awesome points in “The China Study” about how the government should not be all involved and blah-blah.
His whole premise of his second book “Whole” is there is an almost spiritual level of keeling that happens. When you consume food as intended by either intelligent design or evolution whatever you believe in, like intelligent designer designed it the way you find it in nature or if you ascribe to the evolution, you evolve to thrive off of it as it exists in nature and when you break that down biologically and starts seeing that when you eat the fat in coconut combined with the type of fiber found in coconut combined with the types of vital nutrients found in coconuts, that does something different in your body than if you just drank medium chain triglyceride oil.
Jim: Exactly without a doubt.
Jonathan: The former is so much more miraculous, so again it is to use another religious spiritual type analogy, it reminds me of the biblical story of the “Tower of Babel” where humans tried to say we are going to be like or smarter than God and we’re going to build a tower to Heaven and it crumbled and that is my [Michael Pollen’s 22:35] message, we have gone down this path of nutritionism of trying to outsmart nature over the past 40 years and we have learned that that is not a good idea.
Jim: So, let us do something differently where can we just get back to simplicity where ultimately it provides us all that we need if we just go to it. We were talking about a couple of other things and at my work as a bariatrician as I worked with weight loss in the past and some of the things that you often see is people are beginning some sort of a nutritional strategy is let us say we are doing it right, we are not just sucking water out of a clogged sink or we are not eating less or exercising more to the point of starvation, but let us say we do it right. It seems as if as you go down and I have seen this, I do not know if you have observed this too, but as people are doing it correctly and weight is being lost, there usually is a point where if you are driving a new set-point that people reach plateaus.
Part of what I have talked to patients about is if you are doing it correctly, the weight will take care of itself, but it is really important especially as people are driving towards changing their lives to get a sense of how long does it take to reset a set-point and once you have reset a set-point, how long does it take to reset another set-point, have you gotten the sense of what that might be or how would you be talking to people about that as they may are doing everything correctly? What we are talking about here, they get great results and then they hit a line and that line begins to start getting frustrating if they have got a longer goal to get to.
Jonathan: The key thing I have found in discussing this with people Jim, is that we have to be very clear on what is natural because we are talking about like the body when it is unclogged will pursue automatically its natural state and its natural state is one of health. Natural healthy body for many people the vast, vast majority does not include 6-pack abs and a normal healthy man has testosterone levels fall as he ages, it just happens and for women estrogen levels fall and you become less insulin-sensitive like that is what aging does.
We can slow it down, but that is the natural state, the natural state for a healthy 60-year-old woman or man is to have a different body composition than they had when they were 20. So, I think sometimes people say “I have plateaued”, whereas in reality what has happened is they are at their healthy natural body composition, but because we live in a society that makes them feel they need to be like a professional fitness model, they feel like they have plateaued where they haven’t and in fact what they want to do now Jim is very unnatural and if you want to do unnatural things then you will have to take unnatural steps. The natural that is very simple, but we have to understand what natural and normal actually is.
Jim: Yes, I love it and I think it really speaks to… I am a champion of Dr. Andrew Weil. He wrote a great book called “Healthy Aging” and one of the things he talked about is anti-aging is a problem because aging is not a disease and as we age appropriately and naturally, we do not necessarily have to fight the changes that occur, we can bring them and optimize them to the right place that they need to be, but ultimately aging is a part of what the natural process is and if we are odds against it, we are going to have a problem like we have already said. It is interesting that we begin to look at the pieces of set-point. I think what I often talk about what you see and what I see too is I get people on these kinds of changes and they noticed healthy means a number of things.
It means I feel better. I am not hurting as much. I have more energy. Oh my goodness, I do not know what to do with all of this energy. Actually, when I hit the bed, fall asleep and stay asleep, there is something about my feeling right with the way of the world that just feels good and true and to me those are just as much representation of health as how well your waist is and how well you are putting your pants on.
Jonathan: To contrast with that because that is absolutely true and I think we can all associate with that. We could also associate with the emaciated persons who are so concerned with their appearance that they feel like crap, they look like crap, everything about their health is terrible, but you can see their ribs, they are skinny, good job. Who cares at that point? A quick personal story is, back when in my trainer days, back when I was doing eat less exercise more before the Smarter Science of Slim, you and listeners know that my struggle was being too skinny. I wanted to be bigger, I wanted to be like my athletic older brother and I was eating 6000 calories.
I was spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on supplements trying to get bigger and bigger and I got to the point where I, being completely transparent here, very much considered taking anabolic steroids and I took pro-hormones like the things that [Mark McGwire 28:54] took which are legal things, they try to boost your body’s natural ability to produce testosterone and such. Those didn’t really work, so I was like okay, it is time to try steroids. I did not actually end up taking steroids because I had this profound moment which was “Jonathan, you started on this journey to be healthy, you are now considering taking steroids. What has happened to you? Where did you go?” That is why I didn’t. I did not take them because it was against the law or because they were expensive or blah-blah, I did not take them because I said “Jonathan you started this to be healthy, what is wrong with you?” and I was like “Okay no steroids for me.”
Jim: I love that you have just said that story because I think what it does is there are a whole lot of people that are going to hear you and go “Oh my gosh that is me in the sense that I know at the core of my being what healthy is.” Healthy is right, good, true balance. It is nothing more than feeling that you are moving with the harmony of the world around you and you are along with it for the ride and the more we can begin to define that and convey that to people that is what you look for. That is your target and the journey begins to be made in finding that and then maintaining it not necessarily to having perfection or what everybody else wants you to have or what our culture says is right or what you need to have.
All of those things I think are what both you and I are here to do and what our mission is about in propagating this story for people, so I love that. My final question…gosh I could give you a man-hug over the phone for that one because that was beautiful. Part of what we talked about pills, potions and powders, you talk about potentially taking supplements as a way to see if you can get better or make that happen. In my work, I certainly will recommend various different things both herbally and in the dietary supplement world to help people when their clog is broken to see if we can improve that process outside of food.
My question to you is, we talked about pills, potions, and powders as ultimately overarchingly being bad, there are some I think that help in my practice, particularly what you have written about, whey protein powder for instance and some particular things like vitamin D and fish oil. I just love to get your take on some things that may not necessarily fall into the category of whole food, but in our culture and in our very fast-paced living, might there be some things that could help us along that might allow us to do just as good of a job as that overarching whole food concept is driving us forward.
Jonathan: Absolutely, the message I try to communicate whenever possible is that it is not that supplements are bad; it is that supplements as indicated by their name are designed to supplement, not to be primary. So I made the statement in the calorie myth something along the lines of “There is no pill, powder, or potion in the world that will do for you even remotely that which eating whole nutrient dense foods will do.” I am definitely not against supplements, like that would be a bit analogous to saying I am against putting a brace on your broken ankle.
Absolutely not, there is of course places for modern technology, especially in acute situations like if you break your ankle, you just need to rest it and let your body heal it, but we do not just say okay sit down for six months, we say here are some crutches, here are an aircast, here is a brace, here are some anti-inflammatory medication to help the process, you can raise it, you can put ice on it. There are a bunch of stuff we can do to optimize, but like let us say you did all that stuff and then went out and were like “Okay I am just going to skip rope on one leg, the leg with the broken ankle,” we would be like what the hell, none of that other stuff matters, you are re-breaking your ankle. That is the key thing and I also sometimes over-index away from supplements just because it is so easy to over-index on them.
We all want the magic pill. We all want to just take this thing and you can continue doing whatever you are currently doing and everything will workout. So, I am not against them, but I over-index against them because they are so easy to abuse.
Jim: I think it is the same thing in the lines of whole foods versus pieces of foods or food-like substances. I mean the overarching concept is to say “I am going to get this from my primary source and if I need a little help I will get that”. I think what I have talked about too is being on the Dr. Oz show, I have to tell you that if you took everything that Dr. Oz recommended there would be a laundry list of stuff that you would be forced to take and not unlike the quote in your book, you might get fooled by the 5000 pills that were stuffed into yours.
In this world of so many choices and so many things especially in the supplement world, one of the things that I have often told people is you got to simplify and anything that you are taking more than two, three, or four things means that you are overreaching and the more that you can pullback and begin to start living better through some of what your choices are food-wise, sleep-wise, exercise-wise that’s when the supplement stream can be simplified and if it is simplified you can do it regularly because any time you are taking more than 5 things a day, your brain is going to explode and that is ultimately I think where a lot of people come to see me because they have no clue what to do or how to do it.
Jonathan: Jim I think there is a third category…there is food and then there is supplements and then there is convenience whole foods. Let me give you an example. Cod liver oil, I guess you did call that a supplement, but also is olive oil a supplement? Is wheatgrass powder a supplement because it is a whole food, it just does not have water in it. I think there is also this really exciting opportunity we have where instead of taking a synthetic X, we could say is there a way to freeze dry or desiccate or just dry out, like for example desiccated beef liver tablets as delicious as they sound are like if you are deficient in B vitamins or have a problem with energy levels, before you go shot and five hour energy, you might just want to eat some beef liver and if you do not like liver then you might just want to take a small portion of it that has had all the water sucked out of it and just take it with a glass of water, you are still eating a whole food, it is just been combined with modern technology to concentrate everything but the calories.
Jim: I think as advocates for and coaches of this way of living and this way of being, the more I think yours and my job is, is to help people navigate through all of the choices to make things simple and like you said to make them effective because ultimately if it is not working for you, you need to trash it and it is not your deficiency, it is the program’s deficiency. So for whatever is working for you, great, but if it is not, then we need to re-tool and look for something else and it is I think our role to be able to help people with that.
I agree with you when I am on the fly having a quick shake of whey protein powder and some greens that I can pop in with some flax and literally takes me 3 minutes is a better solution than waiting 7 minutes at McDonalds for Egg McMuffin and a big cup of coffee and so from that perspective we have to be able to drive individuals to good choices so that they ultimately are finding that it is working for them and I think that is how we roll.
Jonathan: Jim, it is extremely exciting because we live in an economy where if we as consumers demand something, you will see amazing progress very quickly, an example is gluten-free. So when people started saying “I do not want gluten and stuff”, it took about a year for that to become an entire section of the economy deciding to be gluten-free, now that does not mean they’re healthy. The reason I am going that direction is the more we can focus people on simple whole foods, you start to see things, I have no affiliation with this company, but I am incredibly impressed by them like Quest Bars.
So, this is a new form of protein bar which its primary ingredient is whey protein isolate followed by milk protein isolate followed by prebiotic fiber, they use prebiotic fiber in studies to literally heal the gut bacteria and lower the set-point of rats and mice. It is extremely healthy for you and then it is like almonds and some stevia. There is like literally six ingredients in the bar, all of which are totally natural and if you eat one of these things, if someone just said “Hey try this”, you would think it is a chemical poop storm, but it is not. As people start to demand this that does not mean there is no such thing as convenience foods that is the brilliance of modern technology. I do think we can function and we can, if we going to be SANE on a plane, you can absolutely be SANE on a plane and I think it is only going to get easier over time as we vote with our dollars because ultimately, the day that no one buys Pepsi anymore, is the day that PepsiCo will stop producing it.
Jim: Yes, without a doubt. It is so amazing that you talked about this because right when you are talking about what you said it gave me the exact image of and that is what I take on a plane. When I can’t or do not want to eat the five-dollar packaged IN-SANE food that they are telling me that I can get, I have packed already those kinds of foods that I know I can eat and not have to be hungry for the next 8 hours. It is possible, I think the work that we are doing is to just help people navigate and streamline on a path that allows them to get on the other side of it, where on the other side health is, that is I think what we are going to keep on doing and this has been fabulous my friend.
Jonathan: Jim’s like “Am I supposed to do the outro for this show? How is this suppose to…?” Listeners, please if you are not driving, give a little round of applause here for our guest. We did not really plan this, so round of applause Jim. Who knows you might be seen in your own podcast.
Jim: This was absolutely awesome man. I really appreciate the time.
Jonathan: Thank you so much Jim. I so appreciate the questions. I know the listeners do too and listeners obviously you can see why I have spent so much time not on the podcast also talking to Jim, he is obviously a brilliant, brilliant person as well as a spiritual being. You can tell he has got his head on straight and he has also got an M.D. So, he is like the best of both worlds, which is awesome. So, Dr. Jim Nicolai, thank you so much for hosting today’s show.
Jim: My pleasure, my friend.
Jonathan: Folks if you want to learn more about Dr. Jim, please check him out at drjimnicolai.com. Last name is spelled N-I-C-O-L-A-I and his book is “Integrative Wellness Rules.” Absolutely check it out and please remember this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.
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