Do Calories Count or Not with Metabolic Effects’ Jade Teta

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Jade: Hey, guys. Welcome. It’s Dr. Jade Teta here and I’m here with my buddy, Jonathan Bailor, the author of The Calorie Myth. Today we have something special because Jonathan and I often times get together and talk shop, and we’re going to kind of let you in on one of our little powwow sessions because we like to do this. We like to talk some of the in-depth science stuff. In this particular interview, part of the thing I want to do is give Jonathan a chance to talk about his book in depth, answer some of the criticisms for those of you guys who are very into this stuff and pay attention to every piece of work that’s been put out, and it’s exciting for me because I know Jonathan is just excellent at what he does, and I wanted to give him a chance to explain some of the stuff that he and I talk about all the time to you guys. Jonathan, welcome. Thanks for being here, man. Thanks for doing this live with me. I know we talk a lot, but I really appreciate you being here and letting The Metabolic Effect crowd get a chance to hear you.

Jonathan: Thank you so much for having me, Jade. It’s a pleasure.

Jade: All right, man. First question – you know this was going to be a question that people asked you. They’re going to say, “Listen, come on, Jonathan, calories absolutely matter. Anyone who says anything different does not know what they’re talking about. How can we take your book seriously, The Calorie Myth?” You tell me and tell the listeners – Do calories not matter? Do calories matter? What’s your take on that?

Jonathan: Calories absolutely matter. The good news is I state that explicitly in the book, so before anyone criticizes the book, I would encourage them to read a few pages of it.

Jade: Right.

Jonathan: Also, maybe to listen to our podcast where I cover this explicitly. The calorie myth isn’t that calories don’t exist or that they’re mythical like unicorns. The calorie myth is this idea that we must – must – consciously count calories in order to avoid obesity and diabetes, which has to be a myth. It has to be a myth considering that no one knew what a calorie was, let alone count them, prior to the obesity epidemic. That is the calorie myth. The calorie myth isn’t that calories don’t exist; it’s that using them as the centerpiece to a healthy lifestyle has to be wrong.

Jade: Yeah, it’s a really important point you bring up because in mine and my brother’s work as well, people are always getting into this battle over “Do calories matter? Is it hormones that matter more?” And the bottom line is – I think you and I agree – a lot of people don’t know this about you and I both – but we essentially say and agree is that you need two things to lose weight, to lose fat. One, you need a calorie deficit, and two, you need hormonal balance. The problem with the “eat less, exercise more” approach – this “counting calories and playing calorie math” approach – is that you can get a calorie deficit but you throw hormones out of balance, so it’s getting one of the equations but not the other, leading to problems later on. You describe this whole thing very nicely in your book. Take us through your description of how this works – why we really should not be focusing on just counting calories and why we should go about it a different way.

Jonathan: First and foremost, Jade, I want to back up and say, “Why does anyone think we need to count calories and not anything else?” For example, vitamin C is also critical to life. We don’t need to consciously regulate “vitamin C in and vitamin C out” or any other vitamin or any other mineral or any other amino acid or any other essential fatty acid. We all know that the body is designed to regulate itself. How is it that we don’t need to consciously balance blood sugar all day every day? Our body just does that for us. How is it that if you drink more water, you automatically go to the bathroom more? How do these things work? It’s because your brain is smart. Your brain is designed to take care of life-sustaining functions for you automatically.

Now, if you want to do something unnatural – aka [sic], have 3 percent body fat – will you need to do unnatural things? Yes. However, that’s not what my book is about. My book is not about how to achieve 3 percent body fat. My book is about helping reverse the 100,000 percent increase we’ve seen in diabetes and pre-diabetes in the past hundred years; it’s about ending the $1.7 billion global economic burden obesity now puts on this world; it’s about helping the 40,000,000 children under the age of five who are overweight.

I would encourage anybody who wants to just pick apart things to think two things first and foremost. One is, who you’re talking to matters a lot. We all speak to our mothers differently than we speak to our friends at a bar or a nightclub. How you’re going to phrase anything depends a lot on your audience. I know for me – and I know for you, Jade – we’re trying to help people not die and not suffer. That’s a much different goal than trying to see your abs. There may be something you do to see your abs and if you’re going to argue with someone who’s out there preaching how to not become obese, it’s kind of like we’re talking past each other a little bit because we’re talking about two different things. What you and I are talking about is saving lives, not esoteric nuance calorie math discussions.

Jade: That’s a really great point that you bring up because what I see – and you and I talk about this all the time and I know it’s a pet peeve of both of ours – is this idea of individuals, maybe in the strength and conditioning world or in the research world of sports and sports and nutrition, really picking apart a lot of what goes on in the health and fitness world. I think you and I would agree there is a lot of garbage that goes on in the health and fitness world. It’s just the nature of it. It’s a lot of people doing things that you and I may not agree with, but the bottom line is what you and I tend to do – and I know this about you, you know this about me – is we tend to focus on what we can agree on rather than getting bogged down into these arguments that just end up confusing people.

I like what you said about this idea of, if we’re talking to a 225-pound NFL linebacker or a bodybuilder, we’re talking differently, but if we’re talking to the Walmart crowd, the people who just – they’re not going to count calories. They’re going to be sitting at a potluck dinner and see a spread of food in front of them, and they’re going to be dealing with hunger, urges and cravings and things like that, and our education needs to be done in a way that basically says, “Hey, listen. We’re not going to tell you to stop craving and stop being hungry, which is not realistic. What we’re going to tell you is, eat certain amounts of foods that are going to make hunger and cravings less likely in the long run so you can achieve that calorie deficit.”

You and I are going to talk about it in a way that is not so, like you said, esoteric in a sense. What I would say is that yes, we agree calories absolutely matter. Yes, we agree – I hope we all agree, everyone who does this work – that hormones and all of that matter, and that ultimately this idea that you’re just going to take somebody and basically say, “Hey, look, eat less and exercise more and rely completely on willpower” is going to fail and the research bears this out: 95 percent failure rate. 66 percent of the people gained the weight back and more. Any other model in any other industry would have been thrown out a long time ago, so we need to have change.

One of the questions I want to ask you because this is going to be another thing that comes up for you and other authors like you – it comes up for me – is this idea of, “Come on, Jonathan. Why all the marketing hype? Why do we have to market?” What would you say to that, in terms of when you’re out there trying to market your book? From my perspective, that’s absolutely required but I want to hear what you have to say about those sort of criticisms that you’re out there trying to sell a book.

Jonathan: You have to have money to do anything in this world, right? Right now, you and I are talking over the internet because we were able to buy a computer and pay for an internet connection. This idea that you can make a difference in the world with zero dollars is an interesting one. That said, both you and I know that if your goal is to make money, selling books is not a very good way of doing that.

Jade: Not a lot of people know that, but it’s a good point.

Jonathan: Not a lot of people know that. Unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, you’re not making money from selling books. The reason you and I are trying to sell books is because a book is a brilliant way to condense a lifetime’s worth of information into one single unit that can help people transform their lives.

If you and I want to make mainstream change, we have to get out to people. How can anyone get their message out to anyone without marketing? I mean, it would be wonderful for us to be like the ancient Greek philosophers and sit in a room and write and philosophize all day, but again, is our goal to be right or is our goal to help people? For all of those that are more concerned on being right, that’s fine; to them, that’s fine. I’m a bit more concerned with saving lives and, fortunately, being right, being in line with the scientific community and then translating that into something that will pragmatically help people – and Jade, you do this very well in your practice. Taking the truth and making it practical and enjoyable is very hard, but it’s essential. It’s absolutely essential because you can be right all day, but if it’s not practical, it’s not going to happen.

Jade: Yeah. In that process, often times, you’ll see some people say, “You have to sort of dumb things down a little bit when you do this.” I’ll say two things in regards to that. One thing is that – and I know you feel the exact same way – but for me and you, I’m extremely passionate about what I do and helping people, whether it’s weight loss, whether it’s through diabetes, whether it’s what I do in the clinic. Bottom line is, if you believe strongly in what you do, you’re going to market the hell out of what you do. You fall in that bucket as well as I do that, to me, I see marketing as absolutely essential. Some people have this negative idea that they see it as sales – we’re just trying to sell something – and I would say, “Yeah. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to sell you on something that is going to help you get better.” I see it as serving, not necessarily selling. To me – people ask me about this all the time – I wish that I was even a better marketer. You know what I mean? I think that you have to have that skill. Anyone who gets out in front of people has to have the skill of marketing and selling that particular story.

To your point, Jonathan, you have to also make this stuff tangible. We have to make this stuff tangible, and that oftentimes means, number one, the marketing side is give people what they want and then once they’re in and once we have their attention, then teach them what they need to know. Sometimes those things can seem a little bit disconcerting to people. For instance, yours and my book both sort of have the title of “eat more, exercise less.” And so, someone hearing that, they hear “eat more, exercise less.” You and I know that’s a marketing attention grabber because we’re essentially saying, “Hey, look, this is absolutely possible. Eat the right foods, you could eat more of them and you end up eating less. Exercise the right way, you could still burn a ton of calories and get the results you want without doing hours and hours of cardio. To an untrained eye, that looks like you’re just throwing out marketing stuff, but that’s what gets people in. That’s the entry, and then you tell the story inside.

Briefly tell us a little bit about how The Calorie Myth deals with this idea, then, of essentially saying, “All right, so now we’ve got your attention.” Now we’re essentially saying, “You need to balance calories, you need to balance hormones, and we can do it in a way that is much smarter.” Give us your approach to basically saying, “Look, here is a smarter way to do it that accomplishes what everyone is saying we need to accomplish.”

Jonathan: Sure, I will absolutely do that, Jade, but since I never really get to talk about this marketing thing, I’d like to just spend a little bit more time.

Jade: Yeah, absolutely.

Jonathan: The other thing to keep in mind is, Jade, the real enemy in this is edible product marketers. The cause of the obesity epidemic – and we can talk about whether it’s hormonal, caloric excess, or whatever – is the compositional change of what we’re eating. That is borne out in every culture around the world. When any culture goes from eating things found directly in nature to eating processed, heavily-marketed edible products and beverages, they become fat and sick. If anyone in the world wants to sit behind their keyboard, believing that they’re smarter and better than everyone else, while people are dying and while Coca-Cola and Unilever and Kraft are dumping billions of dollars into marketing and that somehow we can just stand by idly and not do anything about that? Again, is the goal to be right and better than people or is the goal to help people? The enemy here is edible product marketers. If anyone thinks that you can help someone in middle America who is struggling with their weight, who gets all of their nutrition information from the mainstream media, magazines, and the back of cereal boxes, by typing out long verbose treatises on the internet and never marketing? Again, is your goal to be right or is your goal to help people? That’s really, really important.

Jade: Just briefly I’ll say to that, too, to really just drive this home, is that I think that is important. Anyone in this industry – honestly, I think yours and my message will be to any of the experts out there – we’re all for the debate, but let’s also start looking at rather than just going to this place where we want to pick apart everyone’s work, I think it would be much more valuable if we start focusing on what are the commonalities that we all have, because the truth of the matter is, there are way more commonalities between what all the experts are saying than differences.

Jonathan: Jade, I’ll take it one step further – and I’m getting a little amped up here, so I appreciate the effort to…

Jade: I like when you get amped.

Jonathan: I’m not for the debate. I think it’s ridiculous. If the world was invaded by aliens tomorrow, the US and China and Russia and Brazil and Canada and France and Germany wouldn’t be saying, “Hey, guys. Let’s argue about our political nuanced differences.” We’d say, “Millions of people are dying because of these foreign alien invaders. Let’s work together to prevent mass death.” Mass death is currently happening because of edible product marketing. Mass death. The economic burden of just type 2 diabetes in just this country is $50 billion greater than the economic burden of tobacco.

So, keep that in mind, anyone. When you want to argue about nuance, you are spending your time arguing while people are dying. Until we can get back to where we were, let’s say, in the 1960s or even 100 years ago – 100 years ago, the earliest recorded rates of obesity were sub-3 percent. Once we can get from 70 percent overweight to 3 percent overweight, then we can talk about nuance – about how we can see our abs – but until we get there, let’s focus on saving lives.

Jade: Touché, touché. I got you, man. It’s a great discussion to have because for some reason, there’s just too much of this stuff going on, but let’s move on and let me give you a chance to give people the scoop on The Calorie Myth in terms of this idea of how we create a situation through not counting calories and just paying attention to smarter nutrition and smarter exercise. How does that work? Just give us the brief in terms of how does it work for us to do that?

Jonathan: You absolutely need to have a calorie deficit, just like you absolutely need to score more points than your opponent to win a sports competition, but the question is, “What’s the most sustainable and practical approach to having that happen long-term?” For example, you could tell someone, “Your conscious goal should be to create a caloric deficit.” That can’t be required and that can’t be the most effective approach because, Jade, none of us were put here to consciously spend our time counting calories. However, you could tell people to eat in a way where a caloric deficit ensues effortlessly, and hunger doesn’t accompany it. That is critical.

It has now been established in the scientific community that willpower is a fixed resource. Once you understand that willpower is a fixed resource, you understand that telling anyone that they need to be hungry for the rest of their life is basically like saying, “The way you lose weight is by taking a rocket ship to the sun.” It’s not possible. It’s like telling someone, “Hey, just go to the bathroom less for the rest of your life or just sleep less for the rest of your life.” It’s ridiculous and it’s rooted in a belief that obesity is a moral failing, because if you understand the science – understand that hunger isn’t sustainable – you understand things like hormones, you understand your brain’s involved, you understand your gut bacteria’s involvement, and you understand that calorie quantity doesn’t do anything about that system. Think of calorie quantity like the quantity of gas in your car’s gas tank. The quantity of fuel you put into a car may affect how long the car could run for, but it doesn’t change the system of the car itself, whereas if you put premium gasoline in a car’s gas tank or if you put kerosene in a car’s gas tank, that changes the system itself. If you understand the science and you understand that obesity is the result of a dysfunction of the system, you realize that it’s not through starving the system that you heal it; it’s through healing the system that you heal it and if hunger isn’t sustainable, the only way to do that is through food quality rather than calorie quantity.

Jade: Yeah. Let me say a couple of things there. This will speak to both the experts in the field who will be watching this and also the lay person who is trying to get some information to use. The first thing I would say is one of the things you said, Jonathan – you and I talk about this all the time – is this idea of understanding the science. I think it needs to be clear that this isn’t single cherry-picked research studies we’re talking about. This is understanding the holistic science – the way the nervous system connects to the endocrine system, connects to the immune system. This isn’t about just “I can read research and I can pick a particular study that shows X, Y, Z.” When I think you’re saying “understand the science,” we understand the holistic nature of the body. We’re not talking about cherry-picking research studies here; we’re talking about how the system works, as you put it. The other thing is understanding this idea that the metabolism does not work like a calculator, and it does not work – some of the hormone people say it works like a chemistry lab. It doesn’t work like that, either. It works more like a thermostat. It is an adaptive, reactive system that is going to respond to what you do to it.

What Jonathan is essentially saying is, if you try to just count calories and eat less, what’s your body going to do? Your body is going to get more hungry, your body’s going to start having cravings, and your energy is going to start fluctuating. If you can’t learn the signals that your body is sending you, you’re doomed to fail. I think what Jonathan is telling everybody is that he’s basically saying, “Okay, count calories all you want. Try to just lower calories. Guess what? It is impossible to do because your body will constantly be fighting against you. That’s not the way it works. Why not work with the way the metabolism works?”

One hint I can give from my clinical practice is, I tell my clients, “Pay attention to hunger, energy, and cravings – what I call, HEC. Keep your HEC in check by eating the right foods, sleeping appropriately, combating stress, exercising the right way, and when your HEC is in check, you naturally are going to lower calories anyway. You’re going to naturally adjust that thermostat. I think that ultimately when you’re listening to what Jonathan is saying and what’s in The Calorie Myth book is this idea of learning to understand how the system works, not cherry-picking research studies, but understanding the holistic nature of the metabolism, understanding the thermostat nature of the metabolism, and doing this in a sustainable way. Would you say that that’s essentially what you’re trying to get across? Would you add anything to it?

Jonathan: You hit the nail on the head there. Just to take it even one step further – and this is a real nuance, but I think it will help people, and that’s that you talked about a thermostat, you talked about changing the system – that is spot-on – and then you said, “You will lower caloric intake.” I think it just might be a semantic issue, but the thing that makes this smarter approach that you and I talk about and that the science shows works is it’s not actually “you” consciously lowering your caloric intake. It’s your brain automatically resetting and doing what it did for every single person in every culture that ever lived and for every other species on the planet prior to the current obesity epidemic – and that was they eat till they’re full, they stop, and they don’t become obese. None of them counted calories, very few of them went to gyms, and we had dramatically lower rates of obesity and diabetes. So, by eating the right kinds of foods, you enable your body to do what it must be designed to do, and that is to help you not die.

Jade: Yeah. Here’s something that’s great for you and I to talk about, something we’ve talked about before, and something I think would be interesting for the people listening to this to hear: the right foods. This is a tricky thing to get around because you and I have certain things that are going to be things that we just like, but when we say “the right foods,” I think you already hinted at this. At a very high level, we’re talking about get the processed foods out. I think everyone would absolutely agree with that.

But then in my clinical practice – and I know when we write books – this is something for everyone to understand – when people like Jonathan and I write books, we cannot go through all the nuances of every single individual aspect of nutrition. What we’re trying to do is provide a blueprint for you to understand. The people who follow The Metabolic Effect, they know that their job is to take that information and adjust it to their unique metabolic expression, psychological sensitivities, personal preferences, and find a solution that works for them in the long run. But I think when we talk about foods – the right foods – I think it would be interesting for people to hear what you consider “the right foods” to be and what I consider “the right foods” to be and also answer some of the questions around – if rice, for instance, is so bad, how come Asians eat so much of it and remain lean? What is the deal with this? This idea of good and bad foods and what are some basics we can get them to come from the book and also the takeaways they can get from this interview.

Jonathan: Jade, what is right for you to eat is completely goal-specific, as you know from your practice. If your goal and if your starting point is you’re a 300-pound individual who is diabetic and who has weight-cycled ten times in your life, what we would recommend for you is going to be dramatically different than for a 23-year-old CrossFitter who has 6 percent body fat.

Jade: Yeah. Let me stop there because that is absolutely critical, what Jonathan is saying there. It is goal-specific. It is not the same. For some reason, we’re all speaking of it like it’s the same. Sorry to interrupt. Keep going. I just want to make that clear.

Jonathan: My pleasure, Jade. Actually, here’s a helpful analogy for folks. Any debate about “this one diet is the right diet” is a bit like saying “this outfit is the best outfit; everyone should wear this outfit all the time in all circumstances.” We know that’s not true. What’s better – a fire engine or a Toyota Camry? Well, if your house is on fire, a fire engine’s a lot better, but if you just need to get to your grandmother’s house, I wouldn’t want to drive a fire engine there. Again, is the goal to be right and to argue or is the goal to help people? If the goal is to help people, it’s going to be individualized.

That said, that doesn’t mean this is totally relative. For example, I wear glasses or contacts. If I were to give you, Jade, my glasses and say, “Here, Jade. Your vision’s blurry. Put on my glasses. They’ll help you,” they may actually make your vision worse. That said, that doesn’t mean there is no science to the eye and that doesn’t mean there aren’t characteristics that all glasses share that help them help anyone see better once they are customized to that person. I think, Jade, what you and I try to do is we try to look across the vast body of scientific research and say, “What are those core principles? What are the things that make foods generally higher quality versus lower quality?” I identify those four factors using the acronym SANE.

Jade: Yeah, I think it’s absolutely critical points you are making here. Certainly, we’re all human. You could look at someone across the street and say, “Okay, there’s another human” but you get up on them and you see, “Oh, Jonathan looks different than Jade looks.” We have these same differences in our metabolism as well. I love your analogy of the eyeglasses because it draws it home really quickly. I would say that if we go now into those foods that when you look across the vast range of clinical practice and research, what are the commonalities?

These foods are going to be foods rich in protein, rich in fiber, rich in water, and rich in vitamins and minerals. These tend to be – yes, they’re called different things – whole foods, the real food movement, this kind of thing – but these things are typically things that you’re going to be able to pick up if you are out in the wilderness or kill in the fields. That is something that more and more people are beginning to become familiar with, with the whole Paleo movement and things like that. That’s also not to say that there are not carbohydrates and starches and fats that are also available to you. I think that those are the things, in my way of thinking, that people need to be aware of.

If we can eat the vast majority of our food in terms of what I call “fat loss foods” that are rich in protein, fiber, and water, and I know you share this with me, which is common across – most nutritionists would say this. What are they? Vegetables, animal protein sources, protein sources, and fruits. Then we start getting into more of the starches and the fats, which is going to get into more of your analogy of if we’re talking to someone who is an NFL linebacker, we’re certainly not going to tell him to cut out carbohydrates. But if we’re talking to a sedentary 300-pound man with diabetes, we’re probably going to be telling him not to do the white rice. I think then there’s that spectrum in between. I think that’s essentially what people have to understand. When you start having increased exercise, let’s say, what would you say in terms of “all right, carbs are the big bad guys in nutrition.” Would you say that we should be eating carbs at that time? What types of carbohydrates would you advocate?

Jonathan: When speaking of your approach to carbohydrate, I think we have to again get goal-specific and say, “Are we looking at food as energy or are we looking at food as therapy?”

Jade: Yeah.

Jonathan: Because if you’re a healthy athlete, you’re looking at food as an energy source. If you are someone who is sick and suffering, food is therapy to you. Now, sugar is non-therapeutic. Certain fats are therapeutic. So if we were to say, “Eat this starch,” eating is a zero-sum game, meaning once you’re full, you’re going to stop eating. So if you eat one thing, you’re not eating another thing. My work is focused at individuals who are suffering, not necessarily at athletes. These people need to eat therapeutic foods. White rice is not a therapeutic food. There is nothing unique about white rice that other foods don’t do better with less side effects and with more essential vitamins and minerals than white rice does. That doesn’t mean white rice will kill you; it just means if your goal is nutritional therapy, why would you eat white rice instead of vegetables, nutritious protein, whole food fats, or lower-sugar fruits, because eating is a zero-sum game. That’s the important thing. Any time we tell someone to eat one thing, we’re implicitly telling them, “Don’t eat something else.” That’s what the USDA misses completely. When they say half your plate or a quarter of your plate should be whole grains, they’re saying, “Don’t put vegetables on that quarter of your plate.” That’s what I can’t wrap my head around. Why, in a country where 70 percent of us are struggling with our weight, would we be telling people – because this is what the USDA is telling people – “eat grains instead of vegetables,” which is ridiculous.

Jade: Yeah. Just for those who are not experts in this discussion but who are enjoying this discussion, one thing I’ll point out, and this is sort of a review for most people who are experts, but when you think “grains,” most people say, “Jade, you said high-fiber, high-water, high-protein foods.” Most people will think grains are high fiber. You’re going to have to follow me on the discussion, those of you who are listening, but whole grains do have more total fiber than vegetables. So you might think, “Oh, well, that means they are better. They are high-fiber foods.” However, they have way, way, way more sugar/starch and so we need to speak in relatives. Vegetables have much, much less starch and sugar and much more fiber and water in comparison, not to mention the vitamin and mineral concentration in vegetables.

That’s why Jonathan is saying, “Whole grains and things like that – you may have been convinced that they are the healthiest thing and the best thing to be putting on your plate, but they pale in comparison to vegetables and fruits.” I just wanted to make that distinction because it often times throws people off and people like you and I, we’re so used to this argument by now, we forget, oh my God, that’s right. The American Heart Association, American Diabetics Association – they’re saying eat all these whole grains because of the fiber, and the truth is, yeah, you’re getting some fiber but you’re getting a whole lot of sugar and starch that you don’t need unless you are the CrossFitter who is 3 percent body fat or the NFL linebacker who needs it for their sport. I think that’s an important distinction to make.

Jonathan: Absolutely, Jade. It’s really important when we’re talking about individuals who are sick and suffering. We’re using food as therapy, so we’re looking for concentrated therapeutic doses of vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory fats, amino acids, things like that. If you’re trying to get a concentrated dose of essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids from starch, the amount of starch you would have to consume would put you in a wild caloric surplus. It would create all sorts of hormonal havoc. Could it be fine once you’re already healthy? Yes, but again, remember: if your goal is to heal the neurological inflammation, the gastroenterological dysregulation, and the hormonal dysregulation at the heart of obesity and diabetes, you need therapeutic doses of nutrition. So we’ve got to look at the foods that are most concentrated, and as you said, vegetables are way more concentrated in these essential substances than starches.

Jade: Yeah. To drive it home for everybody – and again, for the experts who get into this – this is how I break it down. Here in North Carolina, where I am, and pretty much across the United States, we have these all-you-can-eat buffets, and what most people will do at these buffets is they’re going to put yeast rolls on top of pasta on top of rice on top of corn – all this starch – and then they’re going to plop down a big piece of fatty meat next to that, and then they’re going to wedge between that, maybe you’ll see a few green beans wedged between all that white stuff and that fatty meat. What Jonathan and I are saying is that think about this completely different.

If you’re eating all that starch, you’re necessarily not eating the vegetables. So what you want is, green beans on top of broccoli on top of salad greens on top of kale – all these vegetables – and next to that, a piece of meat and then wedged between all of that green stuff and that piece of protein, then maybe you have a little bit of starch to your tolerance level. This is more along the lines of what Jonathan and I are talking about. And guess what happens? Those two plates, by the way, if you just want to say, “Well, what about calories?” Go back to those two plates. Just what Jonathan said to everybody: which one is going to have three times the amount of calories in it? The one with all that starch loaded up. Which one is going to fill you up more? The one with the vegetables and protein. Which one is going to make it more likely that you don’t overeat and eat the wrong things at your next meal? Right? That’s how you want to be looking at nutrition.

Here’s one thing I want to ask you about, Jonathan, because when we have these discussions – and this now is getting into some of the people who want to take takeaways – people are going to be in this place where they say, “Well, come on, food is fun. Food is like – I want to be able to taste good food. I want to be able to stick my face in a big cheesecake every now and then. I want to be able to enjoy that stuff.” So, how do you handle that? Can we do that stuff? How do we do it? What about processed foods like protein shakes and protein bars and these convenience foods that try to load up on protein and fiber? How do you handle that, and can you use them in your plan?

Jonathan: Let’s start with the synthetic edible products first. To be very clear, modern science has introduced a lot of advancements, and there are a lot of demands on us today that weren’t on us in the past. I personally – I do – I absolutely use whey protein or casein-based protein. I love Quest bars. They’re the SANEst bars in the world. Would I eat them as the cornerstone of my diet? No. Do any of the supplement manufacturers that I trust and respect tell you that they should be the cornerstone of your diet? No. They are supplements. That’s the definition of a supplement. Penicillin doesn’t exist directly in nature. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use penicillin to help our health. So they can absolutely play a supplemental role.

When it comes to enjoying food personally – and the research shows a lot of promise around here – I prefer lifestyles, especially for individuals who are not in the athletic arena but are more in the everyday arena, that are higher in fat and lower in sugar and starch, because personally I think that is more enjoyable, because there are healthy non-caloric, non-hormonally-damaging ways to get the taste of sweet, whereas if you don’t eat fat, there’s no other way to get that taste. If you want to enjoy food, you need the fatty flavor, you need savory meaty flavor, you need sweet, and you need salty. Sweet can be accomplished with xylitol, erythritol, lo han guo, or stevia, whereas if you just try to go without fat, that’s a pretty big part of having an enjoyable life, and if you go lower in sugar and starch, you can do things like use coconut flour, use almond flour to make SANE, healthy versions of almost anything. We’re talking cookies, cakes, pies, ice creams, not that those should be the cornerstone of your diet, but if you go on the higher-fat side, lower-sugar side and use non-caloric sweeteners instead of sugar and starch, you can literally – and I promise you because I’ve experienced this personally – eat almost anything. You just eat it smarter and you stop when you’re full.

Jade: Yeah, I would agree with that. I think you and I would agree. We all know people, and the people listening to this know people, who can do the sugars and the cakes and the cookies in their old-fashioned forms much as your grandmother used to make, and stay lean. But not many people can. However, there are more people who, once you get lean and once you get where you want, can enjoy high-fatty foods, some of these things that you’re talking about, and not get this rebound.

One thing I would also say to people – and I’d be interested, just as an aside, on your take on the research on this – what we’re finding in rat studies and more and more human studies we’re looking at, is this combination of fat and sugar and salt – these combinations of foods impact your ability to stay on a diet and make you crave other foods. I like the way, Jonathan – I do the same thing, and you and I have even talked about this before – but I like to separate those two things out and tell people, “Don’t combine them as much as possible.” There’s this whole movement in our industry where people have their cheat meals or their reward meals on the weekend, and if that’s a big pizza and a cheesecake and all that kind of stuff with combined sugar and fat, that can cause brain chemistry changes that make you crave those things Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, making it very difficult for you to get back. I do think it’s interesting, when you think about enjoying food, being aware of this and also being aware of this idea that you can go for the fat and enjoy the food and get your sugars in these low-calorie natural alternatives that you’re bringing up.

That’s what Jonathan’s talking about when he says xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that we actually make in our body every day. I know it sounds like a chemical but we actually make it in our body every day and it’s in trace amounts of fruits. Erythritol – same thing, another sugar alcohol. Stevia comes from a plant. These are all sweeteners that are very low-calorie or no-calorie that you can use combined with some of these fats and get a better effect. That sweet taste is still going to impact those of you who are sensitive to sweet. Even though they’re natural sweeteners, you still may get cravings, but I think when you start looking at this idea of protein-rich, fiber-rich, water-rich foods, and then eating starches and fats to our tolerance, and then enjoying fat foods in a way that is smarter, where we’re essentially saying, “Hey, let’s use fat to fill us up.” Let’s not necessarily overdo the sweets because there are other alternatives. I like the way that you say that.

I’m taking up a lot of your time but if you had to say – we’ve covered a lot of stuff today – but if you had to say, Jonathan, the things that you would like to leave us with, and a summation of The Calorie Myth book, what would you say are the most important takeaways for individuals out of this discussion?

Jonathan: The more we, as a community and as health enthusiasts, can stop talking about calorie quantity and start talking about food quality, the more we’ll help end suffering in the world because the research is clear: simply telling people “eat fewer calories” does not work. We can argue about whether or not it works from a metabolic perspective all day, but in practice, it doesn’t work. It fails 95.4 percent of the time. It doesn’t work. We can keep telling people to try harder at something that doesn’t work, which doesn’t make any sense and is inhumane, or we can tell people – and I know this sounds crazy – “do what we did prior to the obesity epidemic,” which is just focus on things you can find directly in nature that will cause you to eat more, as Jade said, water, fiber, and protein-rich foods and in doing so, your body will re-regulate, automatically take in an appropriate number of calories, and supplement that by burning calories that are already stored on your body in the form of body fat. You can either focus on calorie quantity or you can focus on food quality. I would urge us as a community to push the mainstream in the direction of food quality.

Jade: I love it, man. I appreciate it. Thanks for being here. Thanks for doing this live for everybody. We need to keep doing these things, man, because this is just highly educational. I always learn a ton from you, my man. I’ll talk to you soon, all right?

Jonathan: Thank you so much, Jade.

Jade: All right, man.

Jonathan: Wait, wait! Don’t stop listening yet.

Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at

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