Every year hundreds of new books are published about how to lose weight and get healthy. New gyms open. More and more research is done on the ideal diet and exercise program. Well-meaning medical doctors write life-changing, meme-filled, snarky blogs. Despite all these efforts, America’s waistline continues to increase. Why are these diets and exercise programs failing? Could it be that we are missing a huge piece of the health and weight loss equation? Yeah, we are missing something really big and I’m not just talking about fasting. America is chronically underslept. This lack of sleep is making us overweight, diabetic, and also quite sleepy. I will explain…
Below are obesity rates in the U.S. by year as compared to our average sleep amount. As we get less sleep, our weight increases. Why does this happen? There are lots of reasons, but first, a couple disclaimers. First, I don’t believe that sleep deprivation is the only cause of our obesity epidemic. Second, the graph below only shows a correlation which doesn’t prove that insufficient sleep causes obesity. In the next few paragraphs, I will make the case that sleep plays a much bigger role in our health and fitness than most of us think, in the hopes of motivating you to stay in bed longer. I know “stay in bed longer to lose weight” sounds like clickbait, but just keep reading. That also sounds like clickbait.
While the above graph shows a strong correlation between sleep and obesity, it’s still just a correlation, and better studies are needed to show if poor sleep is actually causing obesity. The fictitious lower graph shows that as pirate prevalence goes down, global population goes up. This is also a correlation, but probably mostly coincidental. So, we shouldn’t be fooled by statements solely based on a correlation, that’s bad science.
Fortunately, in recent years there have been many scientific studies showing a causal relationship between lack of sleep and obesity even after adjusting for factors like exercise, age, sex, and proximity to a Cinnabon. Here is the link. Why does insufficient sleep causes weight gain? Great question. One important and often overlooked cause is hormonal. When we don’t get the proper amount of quality sleep, a stress hormone called cortisol goes up. High cortisol causes us to lose muscle and gain fat, regardless of what we eat! Cushing’s syndrome is a disease characterized by too much cortisol and the effects (shown on the right) are devastating and very similar to persistent lack of sleep. High cortisol from lack of sleep or Cushing’s syndrome makes getting healthy as f**k impossible.
Incidentally, Addison’s disease is when cortisol levels are too low (opposite of Cushing’s syndrome). JFK had this disease. The symptoms are tan skin, thin appearance, extra confidence, and frequent, aggressive episodes of coitus.*
Sleep loss just doesn’t cause obesity, but it can also lead to type 2 diabetes. Rates of type 2 diabetes are much higher in under-slept adults, but like the pirates and global population, this was just a correlation, until one study took a group of healthy fit young people and limited half of them to just four hours of sleep per night. The researchers fed both groups the same healthful food. After just one week, the under-slept group’s blood sugar levels were so high, they qualified as “pre-diabetic”! WTF? I’ve been taking care of diabetics and pre-diabetics for years. Why am I just learning this? This has been repeated in different studies with even less severe sleep disruptions. Type 2 diabetes will take an average of 10 years off of your life, but even just having slightly high blood sugar triggers high insulin, increased body fat, and a host of other bad stuff. Here’s my article about insulin and blood sugar.
Lack of sleep makes us hungry as f**k. Pro-satiety hormones (leptin) and pro-hunger hormones (ghrelin and endocannabinoids) all go in the wrong direction after just two nights of poor sleep (6 hours or less). This is a double or even triple whammy for weight gain, because these hormones cause us to be persistently hungry but also not fully satisfied by eating. In one well controlled experiment done at a sleep study hotel, patients ate an average of 340 calories more per day when they were restricted to six hours sleep as compared to when they were allowed 8 hours sleep. Additionally, those sleep deprived subjects tended to choose more junk food (cookies, pretzels, chips, Chili Lime Cheetos, etc) and they reported excessive cravings for high carb foods. Basically, not sleeping enough gives us the munchies.
Poor sleep crushes dieting efforts and causes muscle loss. One study took a group of dieters and let half of the subjects sleep normally and sleep restricted the other half to just 5.5 hours per night. While both groups lost weight, the low sleep group lost mostly muscle while the group that got good sleep, lost mostly fat. Losing muscle while retaining fat lowers our metabolism and makes us less sexified, technically speaking. This is the opposite of bueno, I might even dare to say it’s no bueno. If you haven’t noticed, the theme of this article is that good sleep helps us lose weight.
How did one group or researchers turn a group of virile, strapping men in their 20’s (think shirtless Abercrombie and Fitch models spraying each other with water from a hose) into a bunch of middle aged dad-bods with jean shorts on riding lawnmowers? They limited their sleep to only 5.5 hours. This sleep restriction aged these young men by 15 years in terms of their testosterone levels. Testosterone is important for weight because it promotes muscle building while simultaneously decreasing body fat and low testosterone in men is linked to truncal obesity. Sufficient, restorative sleep boosts testosterone and also growth hormone which is responsible for injury repair, muscle growth, resurfacing the lining of blood vessels, and essential for healthy cardiac function and blood pressure. Growth hormone is also the number one reason NFL players visit doctors in Mexico, so you know it must be good.
While there is some evidence that exercise improves sleep, more research is needed in this area. What has been repeatedly shown is that great sleep boosts your exercise performance and poor sleep greatly decreases your ability and likelihood of exercising. Shawn Stevenson’s book, Sleep Smarter recommends morning exercise as a key for better sleep at night. Don’t worry, I’ll go into my recommendations for getting great sleep in my next post.
Many of us are trying so hard to get thin and healthy that we are waking up at 4 AM to go to the gym, spending tons of money on powders, pills, food scales, and Lululemon apparel and not getting the results we could get from simply staying in bed and getting a great night’s sleep. This should come as great news because sleep is free and it feels amazing.
In conclusion, poor sleep makes us gain weight by screwing up our hormones, spiking blood sugar, lowering our metabolism, shrinking our muscles, holding onto body fat, increasing our cravings, and sabotaging our workouts. Clearly, getting sufficient quality sleep should be a priority of anyone who is trying to get healthy as f**k or maintain their healthy as f**k status. It’s ridiculous that this is not more emphasized by the health community. It’s clear from my research that not getting enough quality sleep is the perfect activity, if your goal is to become obese, diabetic, and sleepy. I will put out my best sleep improvement tips in the next few days. Thanks for reading.
*Addison’s disease is a rare autoimmune disease that is characterized by low cortisol. Symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, low blood sugar, hyperpigmentation of the skin, and depression. JFK had this disease. I’m not kidding. I was kidding about the coitus part.
One of the primary resources for this article was the amazing book, Why We Sleep by Dr. Mathew Walker. I highly recommend it.
Fasting is the forgotten pillar of great health. Everyone talks about diet and exercise because there’s money to be made there. We don’t talk about fasting because it’s free and you can’t sell free things and expect to make money. Fasting is actually better than free because you save both time and money on food when you fast. Fasting is far more effective than any pill, health shake, or wart-removing cream and the only side effect is a little hunger and looser fitting pants. Effective at what you ask? All the things, more to come on this. I’ve written about time restricted eating, AKA short fasts of 12-24 hours. This is the why and the how of a longer fast (48-96 hours). The good news is that we don’t have to do these fasts very often (monthly or quarterly is sufficient) and the benefits of such fasts are long lasting, miraculous, and sometimes weird. Before we get to the details, here is Cliff Clavin (from the 80’s Sitcom Cheers) and his buffalo theory…
“Well ya see, Norm, it’s like this… A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That’s why you always feel smarter after a few beers“. -Cliff Claven (John Ratzenberger)
Cliff Claven’s buffalo theory is actually a metaphor for fasting and autophagy (pronounced “uh tof Oh Gee.”) Autophagy is when the body intentionally kills off its own cells that are damaged, too old, or no longer working properly. What does this have to do with fasting? I’ll tell you. Ideally we would be cleaning house at the cellular level constantly (with autophagy) but unfortunately our bodies don’t really do much autophagy in our normal fed state. So these useless cells just hang around in a state called “senescence”. They get in the way, they turn into cancer, and are a major reason why our organs don’t work as well as we get older. It’s only when our bodies sense fasting or an extreme caloric restriction, do we start to get rid of these old, useless cells, AKA the slow buffalo. This herd thinning improves our body’s function, appearance, and efficiency. But wait, here’s the best part, after getting rid of the old saggy cells, the body generates new taught, sexy cells. This happens all over the body including our liver, brain, kidneys, skin, and muscles. Fasting induced autophagy and cell regeneration literally reverses the aging process on the cellular level. Scientifically speaking, that is fucking awesome.
Our bodies were meant to fast. Our ancestors lived for 7 million years without reliable food sources. For almost all of human history; fasting was a regular occurrence. Only recently, have we had refrigerators stocked with food and drive-thru’s open 24 hours per day. And while continuous access to Crunch Wrap Supremes and Seven Layer Burritos is convenient, it’s not what nature intended. On an unrelated note, I have woken up and found a Taco Bell receipt for 90 dollars. I was in college.
The effects of fasting last a long time. One study involving diabetics showed greatly improved glucose control in the subjects who did a 72 hour fast in the days following the experiment. What fascinated researchers, was how these effects lasted more than three months after the fast, despite no other dietary changes. Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist and author of the Obesity Code (great book), is literally curing type 2 diabetes in a matter of weeks with these longer fasts.
Fasting is simple. I have written over 70 thousand words about what to eat. Clearly, the ideal diet is kind of complicated, nuanced, and controversial. Fasting is simple. Just don’t fucking eat. That’s it. I will give some more details in a bit. I used to get frustrated after explaining my dietary theories to a patient only for them to come back two weeks later and happily report that they switched to whole grain pasta and margarine because that’s what they thought I recommended. To be clear, whole grain pasta and margarine go against everything I believe in. Just seeing it in the store hurts my soul, but my communication skills weren’t strong enough to overcome my patient’s 65 years of whole grain/saturated fat brainwashing. So, I tried the new approach of recommending fasting to my patient, and I was totally understood. Of course, there were the obligatory questions like, Can I have tea? Yes. Can I drink diet coke? No. Can I have fat free fig Newtons? Fuck No.
Weird benefits from fasting. If you’ve lost weight in the past, you may have some extra loose skin and connective tissue hanging about causing such conditions as “Lunch Lady Arms” or in my case “Old man Butt”. When we fast, these conditions improve, not just because we lose weight, but the process of autophagy, takes in those useless cells that are just hurting our self-esteem, slowing our buffalo herd, and not serving any other purpose. When morbidly obese people lose massive amounts of weight using conventional means, they usually have to get surgery to get rid of that extra skin, but those who fast to lose massive amounts of weight have no such issues, because of autophagy.
Another weird thing that happens when you do a long fast, is that you keep pooping. You can be two days since your last meal, but still having poops! Who knew? This can be very beneficial for cleaning out your digestive plumbing and will help your digestive health for months after your fast.
Fasting can lower total body inflammation and is a tool used in combating autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and many others. Fasting has shown to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and greatly reduce its terrible side effects, specifically fatigue, hair loss, and nausea. Finally and most notably, fasting induced autophagy can help get rid of some of the pre-cancerous cells that could lead to tumors down the road. Fasting is free, simple, natural, and an amazing tool for living longer and better. So now that you’re onboard, here are some tips for completing a long fast.
The first rule of fasting is that we don’t talk about fasting.
The second rule of fasting is that we don’t talk about fasting. It’s annoying when people go into great detail about their diets (I’m looking at you vegans), their pets, or their bowel movements. Refer them to my website and be done.
Eat a high fat, low carb meal in the evening prior to starting a fast. This will help keep your insulin low and allow you to go immediately into ketosis (fat burning) and avoid a metabolic slowdown. If you ignore this advice and binge on pizza and cookies, you will have elevated insulin (from eating carbs) and are therefore unable to access your fat stores for several hours. Your body’s only option is to slow down it’s burn rate, plus you will get crazy hungry. All of this is bad.
Avoid strenuous workouts during a long fast, but brisk walking, yoga, and aggressive hanky-panks are all encouraged.
Stay hydrated and replace electrolytes. Eating normally covers your electrolyte needs, but since you aren’t doing that, replacing your sodium, magnesium, and potassium are important for keeping you feeling good. If you get a headache, it’s probably because your electrolytes are off. Drink some tea with salt and lemon added.
Prioritize Sleep. If you are sleep deprived, fasting is not a good idea. We will actually hold onto fat and burn muscle in a fasted and sleep deprived state. This is obviously bad. Get sleep. Sometimes, fasting can make sleep more difficult. If this is the case for you, add more magnesium (400mg) and melatonin (5-10mg) at bedtime.
Avoid Temptation. Try not to schedule barbecues, parties, or fancy dinners whilst fasting. I even avoid cooking for my kids because just being around food can be difficult. Instead, I reheat some frozen food for them. Don’t judge. They love it. Getting buy-in from your partner and friends can be a big help as well.
Have Some Rescue Foods. I allow myself up to 5 tablespoons of MCT oil or coconut oil (per day) that I mix with coffee or tea if I’m getting hangry. Sometimes I also have a cup or two of bone broth to keep me happy if I have to see patients during my fasts. Coffee and tea can be satiating, and I add a little salt in my tea and coffee when fasting. While the MCT oil and bone broth are technically not allowed on a strict fast, for my purposes it still counts as a fast. I try to keep this type of thing to the minimum, however. Lemon water, sparkling water, pickle juice, apple cider vinegar, plain tea, and coffee can all help, and are fasting approved beverages.
Schedule Non-Eating Activities, especially during meal times. A Netflix marathon, video games, extra naps, or other distractions can help get you through a long fast. Be self-indulgent. You’ve earned it.
Break your Fast. Weigh yourself later. As long as it’s not an excessively long fast (more than five days), it’s not dangerous to eat whatever. I recommend eating a smallish meal at first to avoid having an upset tum-tum and/or bum-bum. You will probably notice a pretty substantial weight loss after allowing for a day to normalize. I find that this weight stays off too. I often do a long fast following a weeklong vacation of overeating and debauchery to lose whatever weight I gained whilst being bad.
I use the free app “Zero” to keep track and to help me stay motivated during my long fasts, that I do once or twice a quarter. I get hungry initially during the fast but after the first 14 hours or so, I generally feel good. I feel a lot better in the days and weeks following the fast. It’s actually very empowering to know that you can go without food whenever you choose. My patients are super proud of themselves after finishing their first long fast and I bet you will be too.
In conclusion, the occasional long fast can be an empowering tool for weight loss, longevity, and to keep your buffalo herd moving at healthy pace.
Below are a few amazing products that I use and some commentary on how and why I use them. I will continue to update this buying guide for your journey to get healthy as f**k. If you haven’t read my own very very personal journey, feel free to read and laugh at my pain. Some of these products are a bit spendy, but this is important stuff, and miracles aren’t cheap. You obviously don’t have to use these exact products. In some cases I will explain why I chose this brand over others, but often it doesn’t really matter.
Cali’flour pizza is amazing. If you don’t use the link below, make sure you use the correct spelling because the cali’flower website is mostly cannabis, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not healthy as f**k or “HAF” for short. There are lots of cauliflower pizzas on the market that aren’t that healthy. They are full of BS ingredients like brown rice flour and tons of carbs. These pizza skins only have cauliflower, eggs, cheese, and salt. They take longer than they advertise to get crispy in the oven, but they’re delicious and healthy as f**k.
Quest MCT Oil Powder. This MCT oil powder is the secret to a great cup of morning coffee. Adding this with some Bulletproof Octane Oil (listed below), grass fed organic butter, or coconut oil is the perfect energizing way to start your day.
Broccoli Sprouts. I wrote about broccoli sprouts in my Top Ten Reasons to eat more Veggies article. Here is what I said: A number of studies show the greatest health benefits from vegetables may be derived from the cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli sprouts). The micronutrient that seems to be the most active in terms of cancer fighting is sulfurophane and this stuff is in highest concentration in broccoli sprouts, 50 times higher than any of its closest competitors. What are broccoli sprouts you may be asking? They look like the little microgreen sprouts that go on your turkey sandwich when you buy them premade from that organic deli near your work. I can hear your wheels turning, “so more turkey sandwiches for lunch then? Got it.” Not so fast my friend, those are alfalfa sprouts stuck to the Havarti on your sandy and while they are reasonably good, and nutritionally speaking your sandwich is far superior to Eric’s microwave burrito, they aren’t broccoli sprouts and therefore you are not enjoying the amazing health benefits from what very may be the healthiest food on earth. Broccoli sprouts are not bad tasting either, they are a little spicy with a nice bite to them and may actually be the healthiest food on earth. Did I mention that? If there is a weird nutritional thing I do, besides eating my children’s hair, it’s growing my own broccoli sprouts and I’ve taken to buying the sprout growing kits for my friends and family as gifts. They are fun to grow and reach maturity in about a week. I add them to salads, or whatever I happen to be eating that day. If I have more than I can eat fresh, then I freeze them and add them to smoothies. The supposed benefits of broccoli sprouts seem to be ever-growing as more and more research is conducted. To date broccoli sprouts have been shown to help with depression, hair loss, and preventing cancer, specifically breast and prostate cancer. Current research suggests that it is active against all cancers, but more studies are needed to confirm this. The more I read about these things, the more I want to move out to the country and start growing broccoli sprouts full time. I grow by broccoli sprouts in my kitchen window and no soil or fertilizer is required. Just a little bit of sunlight, some municipally sourced tap water, and love. I actually task my children with spraying them with water every day as a chore, but they usually forget and so I end up doing it myself. I tell them that in my day, I had to carry the water from a well to water my father’s tobacco plants, which he turned into cigarettes. Then, he would make me smoke all of the cigarettes, to teach me a lesson, about hard work, farming, and smoking. At what age should we stop lying to our children? My vote is for right after never. This reminds me, a recent study showed some of the greatest benefits of vegetables and sulfurophanes was seen in smokers, but this probably applies to anyone who regularly exposes themselves to cancer causing substances like coal miners, tanning salon workers, and coal miner smokers who regularly use tanning beds. It makes sense that those at highest risk of cancer would then derive the greatest benefit from a cancer fighting food, but try telling that to those tanned, chain-smoking coal miners, they’re just so cool, tanned, and living in flavor country, they don’t listen. I am trying to avoid telling you exactly what and when to eat things, but I think it’s in your best interests to start eating broccoli sprouts now, if not sooner. Here’s the link.
Bulletproof Brain Octane MCT Oil. This goes in my coffee most mornings with the powder, turmeric, and whatever else I have lying around. It gives me a big jolt of energy from the fat and my brain seems to work on overdrive when I drink it. With this brand, I don’t get such intense bouts of diarrhea as compared with other MCT oils, and while I miss the thrill of gastrointestinal urgency, I really enjoy the mental clarity this stuff gives me. It can make the top of your coffee oily, which is why I pair it with the Quest MCT oil powder.
Super Fat. This stuff is organic, high quality fat, nut butter that is delicious and filling. It will tide you over if you get in a pinch between meals. I eat these very often when I’m at work and I don’t have time to sit down to eat. I can’t recommend these enough, also their name is pretty good.
These Mushroom Elixers are great for either getting energized and creative or winding down. The first one is the energizer and the second one is the relaxer. They have other options but all have shown to boost brain power and increase cognition, and if you were paying attention, you would note that those two descriptors are exactly the same thing. I need another mushroom coffee.
This magnesium is amazing if you have trouble relaxing for bed without a bottle of wine. Magnesium is a natural smooth muscle relaxant that is a twofer because it helps you sleep and also helps you poop when you wake up the next morning. It’s kind of a miracle elixir. I don’t have trouble with sleep or pooping but I’m in the minority on this. Please get your hands on this stuff if either of these things are an issue for you. Also, it tastes delicious and won’t cause diarrhea or accidentally pooping the bed.
I cook a lot with coconut oil. This stuff also goes in my coffee and most baked goods. If you have another brand you prefer, no big deal. I like Costco’s Kirkland brand for the price and because it’s organic. If you are unsure about coconut oil, be sure to check out my article in its defense.
I like this brand of almond flour but I’m not opposed to others. I use almond flour instead of regular wheat flour and also for things like breadcrumbs. I use it most of all in my low carb pancakes. Here’s the recipe. Full disclosure, my kids put Nutella all over my low carb pancakes, effectively defeating their purpose.
I write in this as part of my morning and evening bed routines. More to come on this later. Tim Ferriss recommended it and I pretty much try whatever he suggests. I’m a big fan of this.
I put this in my morning coffee and also try to season as many dishes as possible with this stuff. It’s not proven to be super anti-inflammatory like some people say, but I like the taste and am holding out hope for future research to show even more benefit.
I always ask my back patients if they do yoga. 100% say no. Most say, “but I stretch”. Yoga is what you need. Most guys have no idea how to stretch. I ask the people who “stretch” to touch their toes and it’s like a rectal exam from Andre the Giant. Lots of moaning in what sounds like pain, but I can’t be entirely sure.
I will add more products that I like, use, and trust in the future. I used their Amazon links because I am an affiliate and get a small kickback if you use my links to buy these products and others. If you find another product, brand, or site that is cheaper or better, I encourage you to go with that one. My kickback is quite small and I’m a doctor, so I’ll be fine. No matter what site you use, I encourage you to give these products a try. Thanks.
What happens when a Sports Medicine trained physician, motivational speaker, and published author Jason Valadao writes an article and posts it on drjimmywestbrook.com? Website credibility increases as does our collective wellness, and it just takes 36,000 Seconds.
I feel honored that Dr. Jimmy has asked me to stop by and make a contribution to his project. I want to praise you for taking 180 seconds of your precious time to read this today. My pal Dr. Jimmy has put together quite a website and nobody writes quite like him. Thanks for reading his stuff. This writing project has definitely slowed his progression towards full-blown alcoholism and while the number of corpses in his basement is still alarming, they seem to be accruing less rapidly and I think he’s doing better overall. I didn’t write this just to hype up Dr. Jimmy or to tell you to buy my new book. It’s called Exceptional Every Day, but I do think you should take a look at http://jasonvaladao.com. My book makes a great gift for kids starting college or really anybody who is trying to live their best life.
In the spirit of teamwork, I wanted to share a few thoughts on getting started with exercise – rather simple exercises that can get you started down a new path toward health and wellness – or rather this idea of just getting our collective butts in gear, and MOVING. And I specifically made it my intention to make it easy, and at the very least to make you curious. Not curious like Dr. Jimmy who should really mind his own business during our post-workout shower time, I’m a married man for goodness sakes. I mean curious like my 6-year-old who is curious about everything. She is so curious she wakes up most days around 0500 to workout with me. Before you start calling child protective services, I promise that I don’t wake her up, and I surely am not into having my little child workout because I am obsessed with her becoming an Olympian, pro-athlete or a fancy Chico’s model like Jimmy’s Mom. She is simply curious about the process.
Pre-ramble aside, this article is short and sweet. I am giving you just a few words of guidance to get you MOVING. Jimmy and I will provide you with plenty more along this journey, as it really is a PROCESS, and you will surely laugh, smirk and possibly even curse along the way. But you will be damn proud of yourself when you look in the mirror and wake up each morning with a renewed sense of purpose and feel good about life.
Only two more minutes left depending on how fast you read. On your mark, get set, MOVE!
You saw the title and you did one of two things: you either gave it a perplexing look or you rapidly pulled out the calculator function on your smartphone to figure out how many minutes those seconds add up to. I will tell you that 36,000 seconds is equal to less than half of the 86,400 seconds you are privileged to have during a single day. But why do I speak of such a number? I am simply asking you to commit to this amount of time over the next 4-weeks. Hold on. Don’t get stressed out. Before you give me a bunch of eye roll emojis or send hate mail my way, take a deep breath. Remember, this is Jimmy’s website, so send the hate mail his way and also remember that I am not asking you to commit to 36,000 seconds each day. Not even close. I want you to reach that total over a 26-day span. Another weird number for you. Not seven days, or a WHOLE 30, but just 26. If you do more that’s OK. Before you start, there are a couple of rules that you must follow:
You need to commit to at least 1800 seconds each day, Monday through Friday (or any 5-day period in a row depending on your personal LIFE schedule)
Saturdays and Sundays are free (or 2-days in a row as mentioned above)
Based on the above rules you need to commit to 20 workout days out of the 26-day period, which means you get 6 days off to use any way you wish (don’t do what Jimmy does, it will only lead to group meetings and blindness).
And here is the MOST IMPORTANT rule: you MUST do the workout within 5-minutes of waking up each morning, after drinking 8 to 16 ounces of water without consuming any food, caffeine, BCAAs or pre-workout (this is very important and why not save your money, at least for this 26-day period.) This will also really improve our sleep and stress level throughout the day.
If you are already immersed in your own routine and it is working for you, then keep going. Keep MOVING. Share this with someone you love, or anyone that you think needs a jumpstart on their health and wellness. Let’s keep this super simple. No APPLE watches, Fitbits, or pedometers required – the truth is many of them are quite inaccurate…a future article coming your way about this). 1800 seconds of pure MOVEMENT.
The following are a few exercises to help get you started. You are free to modify as needed. Pick just 3 or 4 – or all of them if you wish – and then create a routine. Be creative, mix up the order, focus on upper body one day, lower the next, or do them together, but remember to keep moving. 1800 seconds will pass you by before you even realize it. (By the way, if you don’t know already, you can Google any of the following if you are unsure of what they look like)
Pushups (on your knees is okay)
Walking up and down a staircase
Jumping in place (use a mini trampoline if you have one), or with a jump rope
Planks and Glute Bridges
Step-ups on to a chair
Back rows using an exercise band tied to doorknob
Dumbbell overhead press (if you don’t have weights you can use a 1-gallon jug of water in each hand)
Standing Calf Raises
Turkish Get-Ups (my favorite; and you can do them with or without weight, diagram below)
Irish Yoga (not a real exercise, but this is what happens when Jimmy edits my article)
And these are just 14 exercises that any of us can do at home.
The goal is to simply get us MOVING. To start building a new healthy habit into our lives that won’t empty our wallet, will keep us from over-eating at breakfast (you will actually feel full after the workout and might even decide to try out some intermittent fasting, which is something that Jimmy and I both love), and will give us energy for the day ahead. I know it looks very easy for some of you, perhaps a lot more difficult for others, and trust me, it is not all that bad once you start. Starting is the hard part. Take it upon yourself to believe in yourself. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And as has been the case throughout the history of our individual lives, establishing just a single good habit will likely lead to several more. Thanks for giving us 3-minutes of your time today. Get some good sleep tonight because those 1800 seconds will be knocking on your door before you know it. Godspeed! -Dr. Jason Valadao
Thanks to Dr. Jason for stopping by my humble website. I’ve read Jason’s book (Exceptional Every Day) and it was amazing. I have definitely made some changes for the better in my life thanks to his book and guidance. Full disclosure, his book is low on memes but heavy on inspiration. When purchasing Jason’s book on Amazon, use the above link and if you enter the promo code “BigBoy” at purchase you will get two more copies free if you purchase three, at the price of five, and better still, 25% of your purchase will go to support Amazon stockholders. -Dr. Jimmy Westbrook
I have told Jimmy on numerous occasions, no such promo code exists. -Dr. Jason Valdao
Calorie counting is pointless, like a pencil with a broken tip #Dadjokes. Counting calories keeps us in an unhealthy dieting cycle that is making us fat and corporations rich. Here are 10 reasons why calorie counts are 60% irrelevant, 40% misleading, and 100% bullshit.
10.Calorie counts are inaccurate. According to one study, restaurant calorie counts can vary from reality by as much as 35%, but as you will read, calories are pretty much useless anyway. If you choose to ignore my advice and make food decisions based on calorie counts, know that a lot of your calorie data is inaccurate. This is like having a scale that gives you your weight in some useless archaic measurement like cubits, hands, or furlongs but is also randomly inaccurate by 1.21 gigawatts.
Furthermore, the calorie counts we get from nutritionists and food companies is biased against whole foods. This is because processed foods are generally 100% digestible while whole foods are not. When we eat foods whole like carrots, corn, and peanuts, we only fully digest some of the food and the rest is not metabolized but instead passes through our digestive system to help clean things out. This means that a lot of the “calories” in whole foods do not count but rather just contribute to the digestion of other foods and help clean us out. You know what I mean. This is how food is intended to work.
When foods like carrots, corn, and peanuts are processed, the foods become much more digestible, which means we will absorb all of the calories they contain. This is a huge win for processed food manufacturers because if the true absorption was accounted for, their healthier whole food counterparts would have lower counts by comparison. Check your toilet following a meal of whole corn vs corn flakes to note the difference in absorption. Actually don’t, just take my word for it. FYI, when I say “whole corn” I don’t mean the cob too. Also, apparently Michael Bublé doesn’t know how to eat corn on the cob.
Whole foods’ calories are more difficult to track and this encourages calorie counters to eat more labeled, pre-packaged, pre-made, processed garbage. You can’t accurately measure the calories in my Tuscan bean soup, not even with a food scale, but if you buy a “Healthy Choice” or “Lean Cuisine” meal you can very easily enter this into your food journal, add up the day’s calories, and in all likelihood cry yourself to sleep. This is what happens. We stop cooking because cooking takes time and messes with our calorie math, and we eat low cal processed junk and that is literally the worst thing we can do for our health and waistline. P.S. My Tuscan bean soup with kale and sausage is fucking delicious and super good for you. Recipe to follow.
9. The math doesn’t work. When scientists fed prisoners upwards of 10,000 calories per day and limited their exercise, they were supposed to gain a pound or more per day, based on the caloric math. After several months of this, the amount of weight gained was a small fraction of what was expected and a few of them barely gained weight at all! The opposite is also true, during WW2, conscientious observers were enrolled in a starvation diet study, and the amount of weight they lost was only a very small fraction of what was expected. Finally, the Nurses Health Initiative study followed 50,000 women for 9 years. They found that reducing 300 calories per day and increasing exercise should have helped the women lose several pounds each month but the exercise/low cal group lost less than one kilogram over 9 years, as compared to the women in the control group who ate more calories and didn’t exercise much at all. All of these results seem to make calories irrelevant because we find that if we eat more or less calories, our body’s metabolism speeds up and slows down, to keep us near our set point. This is why “yo-yo dieting” can be especially bad as it can slow our metabolism, making it harder for us to lose weight in the future. If we ignore calories, eat real food, keep moving, and engage in fasting, our set point can shift and we can lose weight permanently.
8. Calories are Outdated Science. The Bomb Calorimeter (pictured below) was invented to measure calories** and it’s so last semester. It’s a high tech device straight out of the 1870’s when its use in nutrition was pioneered by a guy named Wilbur Atwater, who was later convicted of donkey molestation and mail fraud. The bomb calorimeter actually burns things to assign a calorie count based on how much heat it puts out. Our bodies don’t actually ever “burn” things, it’s a figure of speech, unless we are physically on fire. This fact makes the bomb calorimeter somewhat irrelevant in my expert opinion. My lazy boy recliner is probably around 170,000 calories in the bomb calorimeter but if I eat it, I won’t gain weight because my recliner isn’t super digestible, it’s not even food. Just like I won’t gain weight if I eat 10,000 calories worth of wood, feathers, or broccoli (see what I just did there?) So why do we use this outdated technique for selecting food choices? It is super helpful in selling garbage foods to the public. See reasons 9 and 6. Also, don’t eat your couch or any other non-food items, unless someone cooler than you dares you to do so.
7.Weight Gain and Loss is largely a Hormonal Process. There are many hormones in play here but two of the biggest are insulin and ghrelin. I’ve written a bit about insulin before. Here is a link. To summarize, insulin is released from our pancreas when blood sugar is elevated. Insulin does a lot of things in our bodies but here are two big ones. Insulin takes glucose in the blood and stores it as fat, and insulin stops us from using our stored (belly and ass) fat as fuel, even if we are eating a low calorie diet. It actually does other things too, but that’s another article. If I took two groups of people and gave half of them extra insulin, the half that got insulin will gain way more weight, regardless of calories. Also, some would die of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which is why we can’t actually do this study, but it works on mice. Diabetics will gain weight after starting or increasing their insulin dosing. Conversely, diabetics who stop or dramatically cut their insulin dosing will lose weight (don’t do this without a doctor’s supervision). All these super eloquently made points seem to make calories irrelevant and insulin reduction the key to weight loss.
Metformin is a drug that I recommend for lots of people***. It causes a safe lowering of blood sugar which then lowers insulin, which causes you us to lose weight and also live longer, independent of calories consumed. I’ll talk about metformin and a couple of other drugs in an anti-aging post next month. Full disclosure, I take metformin (1000mg daily) when I remember, which is about half the time.
Insulin also makes us hungry because it causes our blood glucose to crash. Eating a low calorie/low fat diet keeps our insulin high and blocks access to your fat stores. To put this in common financial terms, having fat stores in our body is like having money in a savings account. It’s a reserve. Some have more reserves than others, but we all have some. When we have high insulin levels, it’s like cutting up your bank card and checkbook because you’ve got so much money in your pockets that you don’t need the reserve. If we are dieting and eat even small amounts of food that increase insulin we cut the bank card and our bodies have no choice but to cut spending by slowing metabolism. This is the dreaded starvation mode. It’s only when insulin is turned off, can we get access to our bank account and “burn” all that stored energy on our love handles.
Starvation mode not only screws your weight loss but also leads to muscle loss, and keeps you tired, hungry, and cranky. Hungry, tired, and cranky, which I abbreviate as “Hanky” is the feared triad that leads to grocery store meltdowns in children and angry Facebook posts in adults. We can avoid all this hankiness by eating healthy, fatty, filling food that doesn’t increase insulin.
Ghrelin is another important hormone that causes us to be hungry. Ghrelin (hunger) is turned off when we eat fat, but not with carbohydrates. So when we consume 300 calories of soda, we stay hungry, but 300 calories of bacon and eggs, turns off our hunger signals (ghrelin), and we feel good. Also, insulin isn’t stimulated with the bacon and eggs, so it’s a two-fer. So why do we even talk about the 300 calories? Probably because, we’ve been programmed to do so.
6. Calories allow Kellogs and Kraft to compare Poptarts, ricecakes, and margarine to salmon, carrots, and coconut oil. The Poptarts, Ricecakes, and margarine are terrible for us and the salmon, carrots, and coconut oil will nourish your body and provide much better mouthfeel. When calories and cost are the primary yardsticks, the foods appear comparable and because the foods in the second group are more expensive and lack catchy logos, cartoon spokespeople, and Heart Healthy labels, the good whole foods often lose out.
5. Counting Calories leads to low fat eating and that’s bad. The easiest and most logical way to cut calories is to cut fat because fat has 9 calories per gram, which is more than protein (4 calories per gram) and carbs (4 calories per gram). Unfortunately, we have a lot of data (see reason #1) that shows this approach to be wrong.
To make matters worse, low fat diets are often processed, chemical rich, and nutrient poor. These low fat/low cal diets put the focus on arbitrary numbers. Our focus should be on quality ingredients, micronutrients, keeping blood sugar stable, and taste. Counting calories encourages purchases like food scales, food journals, and takes the fun out of eating.
I’ll give you an example of the terrible decisions calories encourage. Let’s say you’re a calorie counter and it’s dinner time on a Wednesday evening. You have 400 calories left for the day before you reach your predetermined calorie max of 1600. You decide to eat a salad, but avoid putting olive oil on the salad to save the 220 calories that the olive oil contains, so that you can have a Twinkie (220 calories) while you watch The Golden Girls followed by Sex and the City, which is essentially the same show as far as I can tell. An hour after eating the Twinkie, you feel hungry and crappy and can barely even enjoy the hilarious quips of those delightful old ladies (Sarah Jessica Parker is my favorite) but you are at your max calories for the day and don’t want to break your diet, because it’s almost beach season. So to cheer yourself up, you go out and score some crack instead. You end up blacking out, and wake up three days later soaked in your own urine and vomit in an abandoned building about 35 minutes southeast of Houston. When you get back home, you are pleased to find that you have lost 8 pounds but your doctor informs you that you have contracted hepatitis C. This is what counting calories does to thousands of people every day.
4. Shrinkage. Do you know about shrinkage? It’s a real thing. It can shrink like a frightened turtle. I’m talking about your stomach of course and when it shrinks, it’s a good thing. Unfortunately, a low fat, low calorie, high carb diet encourages stomach stretching. When we eat low fat carbs, our only trigger to stop eating is the stretch receptors in the stomach because as we discussed above, ghrelin (hunger) is not turned off by carbs. It’s this repetitive stretching that causes the stomach to grow. As our stomachs grow, we often need larger and larger volumes of food in order to feel full. Folks who have gastric bypasses lose a lot of weight initially because they have their stomachs surgically shrunk to the size of an egg. Unfortunately, a lot of gastric bypass patients regain the weight over a period of 5-10 years, because they overeat and eat too many carbs, which causes the stomach to stretch back out to a much larger size, which is the opposite of shrinkage, and this is bad. So shrinkage is a good thing, in this case.
When we eat fat and to a lesser extent protein, we stop ghrelin (hunger), and trigger satiety hormones, most notably something called cholecystokinin (CCK) before our stomachs get so full that they stretch. CCK slows our stomach from emptying and keeps us feeling full sooner and longer. So our stomachs shrink over time and we feel full with much lower volumes of food, which is a good thing. This is one way we can train our bodies to eat less by eating higher calorie and higher fat foods. I know it’s counter intuitive, but the obvious and intuitive choice of cutting calories and reducing fat has been one of the greatest public health failures of the past 100 years and one of the food industry’s greatest victories, so let’s try something else.
3. Biochemistry I took biology at the University of Washington, biochemistry from Cal Berkeley*, and also in medical school at Florida State University. No big deal. I was forced to learn countless metabolic pathways and at one point, I was able to regurgitate them by memory. I can tell you that not once in any of my biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physiology, or biochemistry classes was the term “calorie” ever referenced or found on any metabolic pathway(see below). This is because calories are units of heat in physics, not biochemistry and our metabolism is way more complicated than what nutritionists tell us (3500 calories = 1 pound of fat). I truly wish it was that simple, but it’s painfully more complicated than that. I admit that in general, people who consume way too many calories, generally gain weight, but that weight gain is usually in the presence of high carb consumption which drives insulin up. So the cure for obesity isn’t less calories, it’s better healthier food. For instance, if we were all to drink 29 tablespoons of olive oil today, which equals around 3500 calories, would we all gain a pound of fat on our bodies tomorrow, like we are supposed to by that silly math equation? Of course we wouldn’t. This point and many others makes counting calories a moo point. It’s what a cow thinks. It’s moo.
2. Life isn’t that fair.There isn’t some little man in your belly with an abacus and tally, adding up your calories and putting fat on your body like some dickish bean counter accountant (pictured below). You know how some people eat whatever they want and never gain weight and others glance at a burrito and gain five pounds? Weight gain and loss is not always fair and not always simple, if it were, would over half of Americans be overweight?
And while your milkshake may bring all the boys to the yard differences in gut microbiome, genetics, cortisol (stress), age, insulin sensitivity, the rate of digestion (AKA gastric emptying time), intestinal absorption, drugs, sleep (more to come on this soon), meal timing, white and brown fat distribution, glycogen levels, testosterone, estrogen, exercise patterns, basal metabolic rate (calories you burn through living) and the macronutrient makeup (fats, protein, or carbs) of your meal all play a role in how your food is digested and metabolized into energy, turned into muscle, and/or packed onto your lovely lady lumps.
1. The Biggest Loser and other examples of calorie counting failures. We have many large scientific studies that have tried to show the benefit of eating a low calorie and low fat diet, all of which have failed in the long run. Even ethically questionable starvation studies from the 1940’s show that extremely low calorie diets cause our metabolism to dramatically slow over time which leads to weight regain. The best and largest study to date was the women’s health initiative that involved 48,000 women over 8 years. Half of the participants engaged in frequent health counseling, dietary fat reduction, calorie cutting, and exercise. The other half (the control group) continued eating their regular (unhealthy) diet and not exercising. After 8 years of dieting and exercising and going to what I assume were terribly boring counseling sessions with dieticians, both groups gained the exact same amount of weight, and had the same health outcomes (heart attacks, strokes etc). This and many other studies hoped to show the benefit of a low calorie diet and exercise, but failed to show any long term benefit. Please don’t take this as a reason to stop exercising, by the way.
A more public example of this is the show the Biggest Loser. But Jimmy, I loved that show and people lose a shit-ton of weight on their low calorie/ low fat diet. Yeah, I loved that show too, but the contestants start out morbidly obese, workout 23 and a half hours per day, take stimulants that Jillian and Bob hand out like sugar free Extra gum and Jenny-O turkey (this reference doesn’t make sense if you don’t watch the show.) What’s worse is that a recent follow up study conducted six years after the show had finished, revealed that nearly all of the contestants regained most, if not all of the weight. This isn’t because these people fell off the diet wagon or lack of will power, but instead the study shows how this type of weight loss slowed their metabolism down to such a degree that regaining the weight was a forgone conclusion. Countless other lowfat diet studies show the same thing, including The Women’s Health Initiative Study mentioned above.
In conclusion, it’s not that I don’t believe in calories as a concept. I just don’t think counting them is helpful and I think carbs and sugar are way more important things to watch. Furthermore, we’ve tried counting and cutting calories for a long time. We’ve all had similar results. We lose some weight. We gain it back. We feel guilty about it. We should try something different. The first step is to realize that a lot of what the food and diet industry is telling us to do is wrong and that in order not to look, feel, and age like a normal American, we may have to do some things that aren’t considered normal. More to follow on this. If this article intrigues or amuses you, be sure to sign up for my newsletter where I will be discussing things I am researching and learning about. Thanks.
*Biochemistry from Cal was an online course, but still. **Calories are a unit of heat and are a common term for the scientific term “kilocalories” abbreviated “Kcal”. I use the term “calories” instead of “Kcal” because it’s easier. ***Talk to you doctor to see if metformin is right for you.