Body Weight Culture

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Interview With Matt Stone of 180 degree health


For the past several months I have been reading just about all of Matt Stone's posts on http://www.180degreehealth.com/.  I find his ideas on diets, nutrition, and metabolism to be a breath of fresh air.  Then I read one of his e-books and I was even more impressed.  I guess what I am saying is that you should prepare to have your face melted by the awesomeness of what you are about to read.

I have been wanting to interview Matt for some time, and we were finally able to make it happen.  Instead of an audio interview, I thought we would try something new, so I am going to post a print version of the interview here and now.

 If you are struggling on a diet, or have always had issues with food, please read this interview.  I think you will find it to be eye-opening.

Also, do your self a favor and visit Matt's website:  http://www.180degreehealth.com/

He has several e-books that are extremely affordable (http://180degreehealth.com/2012/01/diet-recovery).

You can learn more about Matt here: http://180degreehealth.com/meet-matt-stone.

Again, I have to give a big thanks to Matt for the time he put in to this.  This is one of my favorite interviews that we have done and I think the information is of great value.  Now, lets proceed with the face melting:

Matt, I’ve really enjoyed reading your website.  There is a ton of great information there.  You have devoted a lot of time and energy in to studying health and nutrition.  Could you give us a bit of your background and explain what got you interested in nutrition/heath?

My background is in writing. As a writer I had to pick a dedicated research topic, and the field of health and nutrition was an easy pick.  I could fall asleep reading or hearing about any topic on earth.  But sit me down in front of something pertaining to health and nutrition and I can’t put the book down.  It has always been this way. I knew that my natural curiosities about the subject made it the perfect fit.  I have always been interested as a lay person. But about 6 years ago I made the switch to full immersion.  I have read 300 books, perused hundreds of blogs, hundreds of studies and articles, and have spent an equal amount of time conversing with people from all over the world about their health. So you could say I have amassed quite a great deal of knowledge and insight over the years due to this immersion. Things have really come together for me in the last couple of years after the first major breakthrough I had in my exploration – which was using dietary and lifestyle manipulation to achieve an increase in metabolic rate in a very unique way.

I also had a ton of health problems as a kid, which were all treated with the standard courses of medical action at the time.  By age 6 I was already missing my tonsils and my appendix. All of my molars had severe tooth decay, then I grew in my adult teeth and lost all those molars to tooth decay within a couple of years.  My eyesight was horrible.  I was overfat, had allergies, asthma, frequent illness, sinus infections, was always on antibiotics and over-the-counter decongestant and anti-histamine type of drugs.  I was a mess.  And by the time I was a teenager I really longed to figure out another way.  I really wanted to figure out how I could get my body doing this on its own, fighting and winning its own battles.  I had a deep yearning for self-sufficiency and doing things on my own anyway at that time.  And sure enough, when I just let myself get sick and didn’t medicate, within a couple of years I was no longer getting sick anymore.  No more sinus infections or anything like that. No more colds or flus.  And that’s kind of what my site is and was originally intended to be – a sort of progressive, forward-thinking health information site dedicated to helping people find ways to take their health back into their own hands and stop handing it over to an industry that prides itself on its mediocrity… an industry that calls taking a pill every day to fix a problem a “cure,” when it’s really a “crutch.” 

I’ve seen you mention books such as Intuitive Eating, The Gabriel Method, as well as some of Geneen Roth’s work.  These aren’t books that I typically see mentioned on other nutrition-related websites, however, I have found all of them to be influential on my own thinking about nutrition.  What is it that you got out of these books?

I think the health industry has become way too “sciency,” if you know what I mean.  Humans and our complex social interactions, relationships with eating, modern food environment, upbringing, heredity, etc. are hugely influential.  But the scientific-minded always want to control all the variables and treat eating as if it’s something that takes place in a controlled environment in a lab somewhere.  And nutrition is just one tiny fragment of what influences our health.  I’ve come up with a lot of sayings over the years.  Not everyone will “get” what they mean, but one is, “The perfect diet is very unhealthy.”  Another is, “Feeling guilty about what you eat is more unhealthy than any Krispy Kreme doughnut I’ve ever had.” 

In other words, things are complex.  Not simple.  We are not laboratory animals at all, but something completely different, with complex thoughts, emotions, and so on.  And all of these are known to exert very powerful physiological changes within our bodies – influencing our appetites, what we crave, and our hormonal response to the very food we ingest.  Anyway, I could go off on tangents there for all eternity.  But yes, those books are essential reading.  And those just scratch the surface of the amazing books out there that present something totally outside of the realm of your typical health and nutrition website.  Others might include Robert Pool’s Fat: Fighting the Obesity Epidemic, Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin, Paul Campos’s The Obesity Myth, or Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size… just to name a few.

I know the Intuitive Eating book as well as Geneen Roth’s books focus on the idea that dieting doesn’t work mainly because the more you restrict, the more you will eventually end up binging.  What is your take on this yin and yang idea?

Each person’s relationship with food is different, but this is generally true on both a physical and psychological basis.  On a psychological basis, we know that anything that is scarce becomes radically more appealing.  Sort of the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” effect, but much greater.  I mean, just take a look at the principle of scarcity in terms of how it impacts economics and supply and demand.  The astronomical prices of almost all luxury items are based on the fact that those luxury items are scarce.  It is human nature to want, and to become increasingly fixated, on that which is scarce or forbidden. 

In terms of actual scientific study, one prominent obesity researcher claims to have compiled over 75 studies showing the fattening effects of restraint, aka dieting or restriction, on bodyweight long-term – which seems to be even more pronounced in kids. 

But there is physiological truth to this as well.  Let’s say you take fat out of your diet.  When you do that, your body starts using glucose as fuel at a higher rate and stops burning so much fat for fuel.  And then, when you add fat back into the diet, what happens?  It is far more fattening than it ever was before because your body no longer burns it when you ingest it.  It just goes straight into fat storage at a higher rate until you start burning fat more effectively again.  Plus, metabolism typically falls with macronutrient restriction, whether low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie, vegan, or a combination (even Dr. Atkins knew this). Combine increased cravings for that food with enhanced storage and lower metabolism and you’ve got a good recipe for weight regain.  Even eating a “healthy” diet makes “unhealthy” food more fattening. There’s a lot more going on there biochemically to insure you gain that weight back, but that’s the simple fundamental truth of what happens in reality.

Or take out carbs… Pretty much everyone who tried the Atkins diet got to later realize that carbohydrates became increasingly fattening the longer one avoids eating them (and trigger more blood sugar swings, bloating, cravings, pimples, etc.) – probably because high-fat diets increase the storage of intramuscular fat, which causes muscle insulin resistance, and, for a while until that problem resolves itself, impaired glucose metabolism. 

But yes, Scott Abel sums it up best when he says, “For every diet there is an equal and opposite binge.”  But even without the binge, studies where people adhered to a diet that caused weight loss eventually regained all the weight – even with calories maintained at the exact same level and even while following the exact same diet.  It’s unfortunate no one amongst the general public knows this, but of course I’m greeted by dozens of new people every day on my site who are really upset that the diet they were losing so much weight and feeling so great on eventually stopped working – and reversed itself back in the other direction. 

What’s even scarier is that most studies focus on short-term changes in things like blood chemistry – say, blood glucose, blood pressure, LDL, triglycerides, etc.  And long-term effects are typically the opposite of the short-term changes.  So there are scientific studies showing that “x” makes biomarkers for heart disease better.  But in reality the changes in biomarkers typically follow the same pattern of body weight – down, and then back up to where it started a year later, except slightly worse.  You could end up an obese diabetic following all of the studies that “prove” that such and such diet lowers blood sugar, insulin resistance, and body fat. 

In terms of intuitive eating, it’s also incredibly vital that we are somewhat in tune with our bodies’ biological needs.  There is nothing more fine-tuned in existence.  Take, for example, the sensation of thirst that we experience when we eat something salty, or exercise.  Imagine trying to go by a book or some ratio to regulate this somehow, instead of going by our own biofeedback.  When you think of the massive complexity involved in osmoregulation, the changes that take place to stimulate sensations that trigger our brains to register the familiar feelings of thirst, etc. it boggles the mind.  Our biological needs change on a minute-to-minute basis.  Our “intuition” when it comes to what we do and ingest is one thing humans have never been more removed from.  Do you think our ancestors drank when they weren’t thirsty, ate nothing but leaves when meat was present, felt sleepy and decided to go for a run to perk up?  It’s absolute insanity that modern humans are doing stuff like this today.  And how detrimental this is is completely unknowable.     

Your website seems almost like a place where life-long dieters can go to recover?  It seems to promote the idea of restoring or increasing metabolism in order to improve health or to lose weight instead of starving to lose weight.  Is this accurate?

First of all, it is assumed that starving to lose weight is a viable option.  Statistically-speaking, this strategy is the best known way to gain visceral fat (belly fat) that has ever been discovered.  Paul Campos is correct when he states, “dieting is the single greatest predictor of future weight gain.” 

My latest book is called Diet Recovery: Restoring Hormonal Health, Metabolism, Mood, and Your Relationship with Food.  So yeah, you could definitely call my site a place to recover.  Metabolism is a great indicator of overall health and functionality, so I put the emphasis primarily on that.  With a rise in metabolism you see increased rate of wound healing, increased immunity, mood enhancement, stronger gastric secretions and better digestion, improved glucose metabolism, higher levels of sex hormones for better fertility, menstruation, sex drive, muscle-building, and dozens of other beneficial changes.  Most will become 100% fat proof as well – virtually incapable of gaining another ounce of fat no matter how much they try to eat.  That’s a natural result of truly maximizing your metabolism.

And yes, people sometimes lose weight.  Sometimes it happens right away.  Sometimes it happens over time.  Sometimes it never happens.  But there’s no question my results exceed the less than 5% success rate that has been achieved by the world’s leading obesity researchers.  But my site is about something much bigger than weight loss, which is, if you actually get deep enough into the research, mostly a cosmetic issue unless you are talking about extreme, morbid obesity (for example, Americans over age 65 with a BMI of 30-35, which is classified as ‘stage 1 obesity,’ have the best longevity and morbidity statistics according to the compiled NHANES data).  It’s about quitting the dieting vicious circle and living your life again – focusing on your health and happiness and less on your appearance.  Linda Bacon promotes something similar and sums it up quite well…

“Decades of research – and probably your own personal experience – show that the pursuit of weight loss rarely produces the thin, happy life you dream of.  Dropping the pursuit of weight loss isn’t about giving up, it’s about moving on.  When you make choices because they help you feel better, not because of their presumed effect on your weight, you maintain them over the long run.” 

I notice that you recommend eating more and exercising less.  You also say that a diet for treating obesity should be higher in calories, not lower in calories.  Explain how this approach can lead to weight loss. 

I assume that accumulating excess body fat is a sign of a decreased metabolism – or at least that the body is trying to store and conserve energy.  Sure enough, having a body temperature below 98 degrees F first thing in the morning is common to virtually all very overweight people (but underweight people are often even worse off!).  A recent study on obese dogs came to that conclusion, showing that below-normal rectal temperature was universal amongst obese dogs compared to normal weight dogs. With humans, no researchers have paid much attention to this – an epic fail on their part, as this is a very important piece of the puzzle – potentially the most important piece. 

I think everyone intuitively knows this.  Almost everyone understands that our metabolic rate declines as we age, and that’s when we start to accumulate more body fat.  Most eat whatever they want and maintain great leanness in their youth, only to eat like birds later in life and swell up and feel tired all the time.  That’s the body trying to hoard and conserve energy.  It’s probably a somewhat natural and unavoidable process.  We’ll never see a 73-year old Gold Medalist in Gymnastics, because certain declines are inevitable.  But we can certainly slow down that process, and even reverse it somewhat. 

I recommend eating more and exercising less just to restore metabolism, which, if someone is really dedicated (and open-minded!), shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to achieve.  It is very much a temporary strategy with a very specific goal in mind.  It’s not something to be done forever, just as, say, fasting is not something that can be continued forever but may have some therapeutic use in some circumstances.  It’s not intended to trigger weight loss during that phase, but to reset one’s ability to lose weight once completed.  Having a low metabolism is not a viable place to start when hoping to lose some weight.  When your body temperature is say, 96 degrees F, fat loss is incredibly difficult – and harmful if forced off. 

As metabolism increases, cortisol (sometimes called the belly fat hormone) decreases and thyroid hormone production increases, which, in turn, triggers an increase in testosterone, fat burning enzymes, progesterone, DHEA… all these things are highly beneficial for weight loss long-term.  It also decreases appetite and helps to overcome food addictions, not to mention ends the fattening mentality of restraint and restriction.  This also improves one’s ability to tolerate greater thresholds of exercise, recover more quickly, and get more physical changes out of their exercise/training if they so choose to pursue that. 

You recommend the use of body temperature as a tool for measuring metabolic function.  Sounds like the goal is to increase body temperature, which would represent an increase in metabolic function.  Where did this idea originate and what can people do to raise their body temperature?

This idea originated with Broda Barnes, an endocrinologist who practiced several decades ago and had perhaps the best clinical results of any doctor in history.  His primary focus was raising body temperature.  He did this with desiccated thyroid hormone primarily.  But I knew that this epidemic of low body temperature must have a cause, and a solution that didn’t rely on medication and bowing down to the medical/pharmaceutical industry. 

I figured it must be linked to some change, or changes, in diet and lifestyle in modern times.  We can see this problem getting progressively worse as basically all of our chronic diseases are on the rise – each of which have a clear association with metabolic rate (and is probably why being OLD is the top risk factor for most degenerative diseases).  If it is getting worse, then we must be doing something to cause it to get worse. 

So I looked around for the potential causes – and am always looking and building on that base of knowledge, and for solutions that didn’t involve taking thyroid hormone.  And I’ve certainly made progress.  In fact, it’s doubtful that thyroid hormone supplementation could ever compete with some of the dramatic rises in body temperature that some of my fans have achieved.  A woman I worked with recently has gone from roughly 96F to 99.2F in 3 weeks, and no, that’s not a fever she’s running.

If you want to raise body temperature most effectively, you would eat slightly beyond appetite (110% full, none of that 80% full crap!), particularly within 30 minutes of waking each day and during the first half of the day every time you get hungry, while sleeping and relaxing as much as you possibly can.  For the most rapid improvements, eat a lot of whatever you have been restricting (carbs are best for low-carbers, cream is best for low-fat folks, and steak is best for vegans), a wide variety of foods (buffets are the best), and absolutely whatever it is that you are craving or that sounds good to you.  I wouldn’t do any exercise for the first 2-3 weeks.  Just take those off. 

Once body temperature is up, then you can start to choose more natural and nutritious foods if you like (natural foods have a much lower calorie density than refined foods, which makes them fine to eat when metabolism is high as long as you can keep it there eating that way, but makes it much more difficult to actually move the thermometer up), doing some hard muscular work like weightlifting or interval sprints (not endurance exercise, which is extremely anti-metabolic), and living more of a normal, healthy life. 

Seems like the leaders of the paleo diet movement are quick to remind us that saturated fat in the diet has been unfairly demonized and I agree with this.  But would you say that it is equally ridiculous to demonize carbohydrate?  What is your take on this and low-carb diets in general?

At the very least it is equally ridiculous – in some ways MORE ridiculous.  Low-carb diets have shown to perform just like all other diets – about 6 months of weight loss followed by a plateau at best, weight regain the norm, and a long-term increase in body fat at worst.  The ones that stay on the diet don’t fare very well, and most people don’t stay on the diet and end up binging really hard.  If you want someone to binge really hard and become less healthy and beat themselves up over it, help them to get started on a low-carb diet.  The chances of that happening are far higher than their chances of long-term weight loss success. I don’t see what all the fuss is over.  It seems ridiculous that people are still talking about this.  Macronutrient warfare is a strange and unwinnable game.  Guess what, the cause of obesity isn’t fat, carbohydrates, protein, or even calories.  It’s not even one thing.  We know of dozens of factors in obesity.  And there’s a strong global correlation between high carbohydrate intake by percentage of calorie intake and low rates of obesity.  Tough to blame obesity all on carbohydrate consumption when there are 3 billion living exceptions all over Africa, Asia, and South America.  Lest we forget there are several hundred primate species getting at least 70% of their calories from carbohydrates without obesity problems.       

We recently interviewed Jimmy Moore who I think the world of.  He was very honest and discussed his weight loss with a low carb diet and he also told us that he has recently struggled with weight re-gain.  He is now working with a doctor in an attempt to try to figure out why he is now gaining weight on the same diet.  Do you have a guess as to what is going on here?  Does it come back to the yin and yang of the body that we mentioned earlier?  It does typically seem that the faster people lose weight, the faster they tend to gain it back.

Well, I mean the hormonal reasons are quite clear.  As you lose fat, leptin decreases.  As leptin decreases, basically every energy-regulating system in your body ramps up for fat storage.  Our body does everything in its power to maintain a weight set point – or restore that weight set point if you have lost weight.  Some people get lucky in changing their weight set point.  It has been done before.  But there’s no foolproof blueprint laid out anywhere.  Those that are successful are still an anomaly and baffle the world’s leading obesity researchers and doctors. 

Working with a doctor or not, Jimmy is unlikely to find anything but temporary solutions to his problem.  I was pleased to see that he is thinking of doing some strength training this year – to get strong (not to lose weight).  That is often very effective, especially when you look at your diet as “fuel for exercise performance and recovery” along with that – a common theme amongst the vast majority of successful long-term 100+ pound weight loss cases.  But he will have to face his carbohydrate demons head-on if he hopes to succeed.  I don’t see him getting his metabolism out of the rut it’s in without them.  

It seems to me that the paleo diet folks are basically promoting a diet that is high in natural whole foods.  How could you have a beef with that?  Does it all boil down to the fact that anything with the word “diet” means restriction?

The answer to this question is very complex, and hints at all the various intangibles when it comes to eating.  I could go on for days about epigenetics, the intrauterine environment, how the digestive tract of a human raised on processed food develops (it is often unequipped for later going back to an excess of whole, unrefined foods).  I think what irks me the most is that Paleo represents a big step backward in terms of our understanding of the medical or precise use of nutrition.

Let’s just look at post-workout nutrition.  Hard exercise puts the body into an extremely unfavorable hormonal environment.  Stress hormones are circulating at high levels, and doing great damage, tearing the body apart, attacking the immune system, even damaging DNA similar to how radiation damages DNA.  The goal with post-workout nutrition has always been to shut down these stress hormones as quickly as possible.  That is best performed with the most refined, high-glycemic, rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates on earth… stuff like maltodextrin.  Is that a natural, whole food?  No, it’s supranatural – far better than natural.  And, in that context, is far healthier than eating grassfed lamb and a bowl of cabbage. 

Leading Paleo authors like Loren Cordain understand this.  But essentially you are saying that we shouldn’t eat Paleo, but should eat a modern food in this circumstance because we KNOW that the modern food is superior in that context.  This is a precise and intelligent way to use nutrition.  There are many precise and intelligent ways to use nutrition that have nothing to do with Paleo, or even natural foods.  And what is natural has always been shown to be inferior in some regards. 

Take the cooking of food for example – all creatures will have distinct competitive advantages if they eat cooked foods – with greater development of size and strength and higher fertility rates.  Cooking was one of the major “unnatural” things that humans did, and it was the most important improvement in nutrition we ever discovered.  The cultivation of grains and dairy products was another important improvement to what was “natural.”  Grains and dairy products are what I rely on most to help people raise metabolic rate.  When taken out of the diet many people undereat and ravage their metabolic rate in the process, a common theme on a Paleo diet, especially among lean, young people with higher metabolic needs.

Paleo is just another “food pyramid” that degrades what I envision the future of nutrition to actually be – which is the most important medical tool that an individual can use to conquer health problems on his or her own.  Paleo helps some people in some situations.  In others it causes tremendous harm.  If we cooperated we could probably figure out when to use it, and when to use other strategies.  But I can’t even state the obvious about Paleo’s shortcomings without invoking a defensive reaction from a movement that limits the wide field of nutrition used as a medical tool to fruit, non-starchy vegetables, tubers, and animal products. 

Meanwhile, a 6-year old kid with a life-threatening low platelet condition is dramatically improved in 72 hours with my suggestion to stuff this kid with as much ice cream as is humanly possible.  Knowing what to feed a dying 6-year old to overcome a specific medical disorder is powerful knowledge.  And it had everything to do with knowing how and when to take advantage of the supranatural properties of glorious, refined, white sugar and Neolithic cow’s milk.  The fields of health and nutrition should be inclusive, not exclusive.  Paleo is part of the problem, not the “solution.” 

And yes, of course it is unsustainable and unrealistic for most people and triggers a lot of food issues, fear, guilt, and self-fulfilling prophecy (Eek! If I eat that bagel I will feel inflammation later!).  It is in many ways a dietary prison.  It is simply not necessary to go to such extremes of dietary restriction to achieve magnificent improvements in health.  And as more and more unfolds in the coming decades in terms of nutrition research, Paleo, fittingly, will be looked upon more like a blunt object. 

What is your take on water?  Do we all really need 64oz or ½ of our body weight in fluids or whatever the most recent recommendation for water is? 

I think water overconsumption is one of the biggest mistakes health conscious people are making in the world today.  The original recommendations stemmed for the average person’s need for total fluid intake per day, including the water content of foods (which is very high – especially if you eat boiled food or a decent amount of raw foods).  I can honestly say that drinking too many fluids, especially water, but also things we drink for motivations other than thirst such as warm drinks (to get warm, not to quench thirst), stimulants, alcohol, etc. can totally override an otherwise idyllic health regime. 

People should not be peeing clear.  For those who aren’t particularly healthy to begin with, glucose and electrolyte at the cellular level are scarce enough as it is.  When you take in any fluid that has a lower concentration of glucose and electrolyte than the solution in your cells, glucose and electrolyte travels out of the cell via osmosis, and the diluted extracellular liquid rushes in.  At this point, your cellular energy supply has been totally flooded out.  The result, depending on how poor your metabolism and overall health is, is symptoms like headaches, migraines, seizures, bradycardia (with symptoms like light-headedness, dizziness, blurred vision), fatigue, cold hands and feet, anxiety, heart palpitation or arrhythmia… and I’ve seen even more ailments triggered by this overhydrated state.  This is no secret either.  This is basically the list of symptoms from what is called “Water Intoxication,” or drinking too much water.  Wikipedia that ish.   

The big problem is that one of the primary symptoms of overhydration is DRY MOUTH/THIRST . 

Anyway, that’s another easy thing to change that often brings about radical improvements within a week or two, sometimes less.  This is probably the most remarkable thing I’ve come across since having the big metabolism breakthrough back in 2009.  Go easy on those liquids!!! 

Thanks again Matt!  This has been more than informative and I think our readers/listeners will really enjoy it!  Please keep doing what you are doing.   -Hunter

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