Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
How do you put a claim like this into a short video (above)? In all honesty you can’t, but hopefully it will whet the appetite enough for you to dig deeper and listen to the full fascinating interview with investigative journalist and NYT bestselling author Nina Teicholz.
In 2014, Nina released her book ‘The Big Fat Surprise’ that was nine years in the making. Within the book she reveals the unthinkable: that everything we thought we knew about dietary fats is wrong.
The book received rave reviews including:
“Most memorable healthcare book of 2014″ – Forbes.com
Full Interview: A Big Fat Surprise! Why I Eat Saturated Fat & Exercise Less
Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of the Health Sessions.
So, if you’re watching this in video you can see it’s a beautiful day here in Sydney as I stand on my local Maroubra Beach and I might even be tempted to get a wave a little bit later, as well, but on to today’s guest.
We have the fantastic Nina Teicholz today. So, if you’re unfamiliar with Nina, she is an investigative journalist and she spent the last nine years putting a book together that was released in 2014 called “The Big Fat Surprise.” It hit The New York Times bestsellers list as well, which is an awesome achievement.
So, if you’re wondering what Nina’s all about, well the title of the book is a slight giveaway, but yes, dietary fat. And if you’ve been frustrated over the years, like myself and Stu, about the mixed messages of nutrition and what the hell’s going on, Nina sets the record straight today. Especially when it comes to what fats we should be eating, what fats we should be avoiding and even the whole debate around vegetable oils, which I avoid like the plague anyways. I don’t even debate about it anymore.
So, there’s gems of information.
Now, I must admit, I didn’t know a great deal about Nina, but she came highly recommended and this is the first time I met on this podcast today and I thought she was an absolute rock star. She was awesome. And yeah, it was a pleasure interviewing her and yeah, you’ll get a lot out of it.
Stick with it, because it’s action-packed and it’s probably a podcast I’m going to listen to twice, just to make sure I understand all the information.
Last, but not least, I know I ask every episode, but if you could leave a review for us. If you’re enjoying these podcasts and you get something out of it, all I ask is that you leave a review. Five star it and subscribe to it. This is going to help other people reach this information too so they can benefit from it as well.
One of my ambitions is to get the Health Sessions into the top ten on iTunes, in the health and fitness space and I really need your help to do that. So, we’re definitely gathering momentum. We’re moving up the charts and this would mean a lot to us if you just took two minutes to do that.
Anyway, let’s go on to Nina. It’s an awesome podcast. Enjoy.
Guy Lawrence: Hi, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cooke. Hi, Stewie.
Stuart Cooke: Hello buddy.
Guy Lawrence: And our lovely guest today is Nina Teicholz. Nina, welcome to the show.
Nina Teicholz: Thanks for having me. It’s good to be here.
Guy Lawrence: It’s awesome. Very excited about today. It’s a topic that definitely fascinates us. We’ve had various people coming on the show, talking about all things, fat especially, and looking forward to getting your collective experience over the years and being able to share it with us and our audience. Yeah, it’s going to be awesome. So, it’s much appreciated, Nina.
So, just to get the show started and the ball rolling, would you mind just sharing a little bit about yourself, what you do and your own personal journey for everyone?
Nina Teicholz: Right. Well, I’m a journalist. I’ve been a journalist for decades. I live in New York City. And about a decade ago I sort of plunged into this whole area of nutrition.
And that started because I was doing a series of investigative food pieces for Gourmet Magazine, which is a food magazine in the states. And I was assigned to do a story about trans fats, which are now famous, but back then nobody really knew about it. I wrote this story that kind of broke that whole topic open in the U.S. That led to a book contract and I started writing a book about trans fats.
And then I realized that there was this whole, huge, untold story about dietary fat in general and how our nutrition polices seemed to have gotten it terribly wrong. And then after that it was decade of reading every single nutrition science study I could get my hands on and just doing this, like, deep dive into nutrition science. At the end of which I wrote this book called, or I came out with a book that was published last year, called “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.”
That book has been controversial, but also successful. It became a bestseller internationally in, you know, it really was the first book to really make the case for why not only fat was good for health, but saturated fat. You know, in butter, dairy, meat, cheese, the kind of fat in animal foods was not bad for health.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: And maybe those foods were even good for health. So, that, of course, turns everything know upside down on its head. So…
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Absolutely.
Stuart Cooke: Fantastic.
So, just thinking then, Nina, that you’re completely absorbed in research and medical studies and things like that. At what point during that journey did you question what you were eating?
Nina Teicholz: Well, I started out as a, you know, what I call a near-vegetarian. Since I was in my late teens I had basically, like most American women, I had eaten a pretty low-fat diet, very nervous about eating any kind of fat at all. And I hadn’t eaten red meat in decades. I had like, little bits of chicken and fish. And I was, you know, I was a good deal fatter than I am now. But I also used to just exercise manically. I use to, really, for an hour a day, I would bike or run and I still wasn’t particularly slim.
So, when I started this book, it took me, I would say, a few years until I started really believing what I was reading. Which is to say, that fat wasn’t bad for health and I started to eat more fat.
And then I started to; like, I would say it took me a good five years before I would; I could actually cook a piece of red meat. Like, buy a piece of raw red meat and taste it, because I just hadn’t, you know, all I had in my; I’d only had vegetarian cookbooks and it just seemed; it was like a foreign thing to me.
But, I’m not one of these people, like, I know you probably have listeners who they just like they see the light from one day to the next and they can radically remake their whole diet and that was not me. It just took a long time for me to make that transition.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. In a way it’s such a big topic to get your head around in the first place, because we’ve been told the low-fat message, well, I have my whole life, you know. And when I first started hearing this myself, I was like, “Really? Come on. No way.” But then over the years, you know, I applied it and it’s changed my life, really.
So, what I’m intrigued in as well, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with us, Nina, is how did we end up demonizing fat in the first place?
Nina Teicholz: Well, that really goes back to the 1950s. I mean, there was always this idea that fat would make you fattening, because fat calories are more; they’re more densely packed. And there’s nine calories per gram of fat and there’s only four or five in carbohydrates.
So, there was always this idea that maybe fatty foods would also make you fat. But it really didn’t get going as official policy that all experts believe; it started in the 1950s and I have to back up a little bit if you don’t mind?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Go for it.
Nina Teicholz: I mean, it actually started with saturated fat, right? It wasn’t; it all started with the idea that saturated fat and cholesterol were bad, would give you heart disease. And that really started the 1950s.
It’s a story that I tell in my book, it’s been told by others, how a pathologist from the University of Minnesota named Ancel Keys, developed this hypothesis. He called it his diet-heart hypothesis, that if you eating too much saturated fat and cholesterol it would clog your arteries and give you a heart attack.
And this was in response to the fact that there was really a panic in the United States over the rising tide of heart disease, which had come from pretty much out of nowhere. Very, very few cases in the early 1900s and then it became the number one killer. And our president, Eisenhower, himself, had a heart attack in 1955; was out of the Oval Office, out of the White House for 10 days.
So, the whole nation was in a panic and into that steps this Ancel Keys with his idea. It wasn’t the only idea out there, but he was this very aggressive kind of outsized personality, with this unshakable faith in his own beliefs and he kind of elbowed his way to the top.
So, the very first recommendations for telling people to avoid animal foods, saturated fats and cholesterol, in order to reduce their heart attack risk, those were published in 1961 by the American Heart Association, which was the premier group on heart disease at the time, still is. But at that point there was nobody else.
And so, that started in 1961. Then by 1970 they’re saying, “Well, its not just saturated fat. It’s all fat, because if you reduce fat in general that’s likely to keep calories low.” That was always the argument. That somehow it would just keep calories low and so that was probably a good idea to avoid fat all together. That started in 1970.
Then you see this low-fat diet, which, you know, there’s no evidence. There was no clinical trials. There’s no evidence at all. It just was like; kind of this idea that people had. That was adopted by the U.S. government in 1980, so then it became federal policy.
The whole government is kind of cranking out this idea and all its programs are conforming with it and then throughout the ’80s you see it spreading around the world. So, it spreads to your country. It spreads to Great Britain. It spreads everywhere. And then all Western countries follow the U.S. and our advice.
So, that’s how we got into this whole mess.
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Nina Teicholz: And, you know, it’s; now we’re starting to get out of it. But it’s been decades in the making.
Stuart Cooke: Crikey. It’s ludicrous when you think about it based upon zero, I guess, concrete medical knowledge at all. I’m just; I’m intrigued about the studies that are set up, that guide us on this journey. I mean, how are these nutritional studies, I guess, initiated? And it seems that they can be so easily biased. Is that true?
Nina Teicholz: Oh, you know that is such a huge topic.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: I mean, there are thousands of nutritionists studies and we all know what it’s like to feel like be whip-sawed by the latest study and how do you make sense of them? How do you put them in perspective? Is really the question. What do you make of the latest mouse study to come out?
So, the way it all began was with the study that was done by Ancel Keys, called the “Seven Countries Study.”
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: And that was done on nearly 12,000 men, men only, in seven countries, mainly Europe, but also the U.S. and Japan. And that was a study; it’s called an epidemiological study; and that’s the key thing to know about it. It’s the kind of study that can show an association, but not causation.
So, it can show; it looks at your diet, and usually these studies they test diet just once and they ask you, “What did you eat in the last 24 hours?” You know how well you can remember that, right? And then 10 years later they come back and see if you’ve died of a heart attack or what’s happened to you.
So, even in the best of studies where let’s say they ask you three times what you at in the last 24 hours or they try to confirm what you say with what they measure; maybe they measure your diet. But even in the best of those studies, they can still only show association.
So, let’s say they find, as Ancel Keys did in that first epidemiological study, let’s say they find that you don’t eat very much saturated fat and if you’re one of those people, you tend to live longer. But not eating a lot of animal foods, you know, in post World War II, let’s say Greece or Italy or Yugoslavia, which is what Ancel Keys discovered; that was; those people were also, they were poverty-stricken people, devastated by World War II. They also didn’t eat a lot of sugar.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Nina Teicholz: Right? Because they didn’t have it. But; so you don’t know, was it the sugar? Was it the fat? An epidemiological study can never tell you. Or is it something you didn’t even think to measure? Was it the absence of magnesium in the soil? Was it your, you know, now is it your internet use? Is it your exposure to plastic? You don’t know all those things you can’t think to measure. You’ll never know in an epidemiological study.
But that was, that Seven Countries Study was the basis of that original American Heart Association recommendation and it’s also been the basis of a lot of other bad advice that’s based on these kinds of studies that only show association.
So, the better kind of data is called a clinical trial, where you taka a group of people and you divide them into two groups and you give one group this kind of, you know, a high-fat diet; the other group a low-fat diet and you see; everything about those groups is the same. It’s what’s called “controlling.” You’re controlling for internet use, for magnesium in the soil, or whatever. You take them in the same city; you assume they’ve got the same exposure to all that stuff, so you don’t have to worry about it. You just can measure the effect of the diet or you know, give one a drug and the other not a drug.
So, clinical trials are the kinds of studies that can provide rigorous evidence. And, you know, that they’re harder to do. They are expensive. It’s expensive to feed people. It’s expensive to; you know, usually the good clinical trials really control the diet all day long. It’s best if you do them on institutionalized people, where you can totally control the diet.
But there are clinical trials out there now; now there are after all these years, and you know, all those clinical trials show first, you know, one that saturated fats does not cause heart disease, does not cause any kind of disease, and that the low-fat diet that we embarked upon, when it was finally tested in big clinical trials, was shown to be either, at best, totally ineffective and at worst, it looks like it could very likely provokes heart disease by creating worsened blood lipids.
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Nina Teicholz: So, but, those clinical trials, when they eventually came out it was sort of too late, because the official dogma had already charged ahead.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Crikey. Yeah. We’re still seeing an absolute barrage of low-fat goods on the shelves and that message is still loud and proud. People are still completely fearful of fat. It’s insane, isn’t it?
Nina Teicholz: Yeah. I don’t know what the official recommendations are in Australia, but I know in the U.S. they’ve tried to back off the low-fat diet. Like they don’t include that language anymore.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Nina Teicholz: But they still model all their diets as being low-fat. Low-fat is sort of defined as anywhere between 25 and 30, 35 percent of calories is fat.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, okay.
Nina Teicholz: You know, before the low-fat diet we were; all our countries were eating 40, 45 percent fat.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: So, we’ve really dramatically reduced our fat intake. But, you know, our officials just can’t; it’s hard for them to back out of it. It’s just our; all of our food supplies are based on the low-fat diet. I mean, all of our cattle has been bred to be leaner for instance, you know, amongst many other things.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. From over the years of what I’ve seen as well, even if people adopt a higher-fat diet, there’s still a huge amount of confusion about fats themselves.
Nina Teicholz: Right.
Guy Lawrence: So, I’d love to get a little bit of clarity on that today as well. Like for vegetable oils for instance. You know, where did vegetable oils come from and the idea of them being healthy, when, you know, when I avoid them like the plague.
Nina Teicholz: Well that’s another amazing story and I’m not flogging my book, but it’s only place where the history of vegetable oils is really set out. And I just couldn’t believe what I’ve discovered about them. I mean, so the basic thing to know it that they didn’t exist as a foodstuff until really the early 1900s.
Before 1900, the only fats that were really used, well at least in America, I don’t know about Australia, but were butter and lard. Around the world it was butter and lard were the main fats that were used in cooking. And there was some olive oil in Italy, you know, in the Mediterranean.
But that starts later then you think, actually. And before that all oils were used; they were used for industrial uses. They were used to make soap. There were a lot of uses of oils, but it was not for eating.
And then; and so the very first oils introduced for eating, just as plain oils, they didn’t come around; in the U.S. they were introduced in bottles in the 1940s and before that they had; oils are unstable, you know, and they oxidize and they go rancid and they won’t last in shelves.
So, before that, in 1911, in the U.S. at least, they were introduced as like a kind of imitation lard. It was called Crisco that we have. And that they harden the oils through a process called hydrogenation and that produces trans fats. Which is why we all know about that now.
But that was first invented to make those oils stable, to harden them, so that they don’t oxidize and grow rancid.
So, that’s when they came into our food supply. That industry, the vegetable oil industry includes some of the biggest companies in the world now; ADM, Monsanto, Cargill, IOI Loders Croklaan. I don’t know if those are familiar names to you, but they’re huge companies. And they from the very; from the 1940s on, they figured out how to influence; like for instance, they were hugely influential in launching the American Heart Association. Which then wound up recommending vegetable oils for health. Because …
So, if you get rid of the saturated fats, what do you replace them with? You replace them with unsaturated fats and that’s vegetable oils.
So, these companies got their products recommended for fighting heart disease, basically. And they did that by infiltrating into our most trusted institutions, including the American Heart Association and also the National Institute of Health. And that’s why we think vegetable oils are good for health.
I mean, the main argument was that they lower your total… and originally it was they lower your total cholesterol. And then we could measure other things like LDL and HDL, the argument was they can lower your LDL cholesterol and therefore they fight heart disease. Well, I mean, that whole cholesterol story turns out not to be so simplistic.
So, that’s how they came into the food supply and that’s how they came to be viewed as healthy.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah and did it in everything. Like when you walk into the local supermarket, well the commercial supermarkets, I should say; they’re in so many foods.
Stuart Cooke: Well, yeah, 99 percent, I think, of our processed and packaged foods will contain them in some way, shape or form which is kind of crazy. And you touched a little bit on trans fats as well earlier; Nina and I wonder whether you could just talk a little bit about that today? Because that is, that’s a phrase that is quite fearful over here and I know on the packaging at least a lot of the manufacturers are very proud to say, “zero trans fat.” So, what exactly is it?
Nina Teicholz: Well, so when those vegetables oils are hardened, that process that I just mentioned called hydrogenation, that’s just an industrial process and one of the side effects of that process is it creates some amount of trans fats in that hardened vegetable oil, right? You harden the vegetable oil so it can be used precisely as you say in those packaged goods, right?
So, a lightly hydrogenated oil would become; be used as the basis of like a frosting or something. A soft, creamy substance. And the more; if you create; a more highly hydrogenated oil containing more trans fats would be used to say make the hard chocolate coating of a candy or something.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Nina Teicholz: So, you have varying amounts of trans fats in all of those hardened vegetable oils that are the backbone of our food industry.
Trans fats, you know, from that very first introduction of Crisco imitation lard that they were always in there and scientists kind of knew about it and were worried about it, from the 1970s on. But it really wasn’t until they were; really didn’t become exposed and known until the early 1990s. And it turns out that they slightly raise your LDL cholesterol. I mean, that’s; that was the evidence that upon which trans fats were kind of hanged by various expert agencies.
Trans fats are not good for health probably, but not for that reason. I mean, I think their effect on LDL is very minimal. They also seem to interfere with the functioning of your cell membranes. They kind of lodge themselves into critical key spots in every single one of your cell membranes. And they increase calcification of cells.
So, definitely trans fats are not a good thing. They were kind of condemned, I think, for the wrong reason. But, you know, the main issue now is like, what’s replacing trans fats? So, if you get rid of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, what replaces them? And my worry is that they’re just being… in restaurants, which used to use these hydrogenated oils in their fryers.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: Again, they were hydrogenated to be stable. That means not to create oxidation products when heated. So, in this country at least, restaurants are going back to using just regular old non-hydrogenated oils, which are toxic where they’re heated.
They create these hundreds of oxidation products and they create massive inflammation in the body, I mean, there’s all kinds of very worrisome health effects of those non-hydrogenated regular vegetable oils.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: They’re also inventing new oils. There’s something called, interesterified oil that they’re inventing to try to use instead of these trans fats oils. So, the trans-free options are to me, like, equally worrisome or if not more so. And, you know, what should be happening is just to return to butter and lard. That’s what we used to use.
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Nina Teicholz: That’s what we used to use. Those are solid, stable fats that … and tallow, McDonalds used to fry their French fries in tallow. They’re solid and they’re stable and they don’t oxidize and they don’t go rancid.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: And that’s what we should return to. But we can’t, because we’re; there’s this taboo around saturated fats that we can’t use them.
Guy Lawrence: Wow. That’s incredible, isn’t it? I was going to say with the next question, like to just to simplify everything we’ve just discussed for the listeners, is like, what fats would you eat and what fats would you avoid? Like from everyday to …
Nina Teicholz: You should cook with stable natural fats. Lard. Butter. Ghee.
Guy Lawrence: Ghee.
Nina Teicholz: Coconut oil. Tallow if you have it. Those are stable. They’re natural. They’re the fats that we’ve always cooked with throughout human history.
If you want an oil for your salad dressing or whatever, olive oil, which; olive oil is better than vegetable oils. The reason is that olive oil is what’s called monounsaturated. It only has one double bond that could react with oxygen. Vegetable oils are polyunsaturated, meaning they have multiple double bonds. Every single one of those double bonds can react with oxygen. So, you want to just keep your double bonds low and that means using olive oil in favor of those other vegetable oils.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Fantastic.
Nina Teicholz: Is that enough?
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. That’s good advice.
So, you touched upon the olive oil as well and I’m just thinking about, you know, in our society today we’ve got a diet for everything. You know we’ve got Paleo diet, low carb/high fat, Mediterranean; crikey there’s so many. With the research that you’ve done, are any of these existing diets close to optimal for long-term health?
Nina Teicholz: You know, I think; so, looking at the clinical trial research again, that kind of good rigorous data …
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Nina Teicholz: It’s strongly supports a lower carb/higher fat diet for better health. That diet is better at fighting helping people lose weight, at keeping their blood glucose steady and under control, which is how you keep diabetes; prevent diabetes or keep diabetes under control and also for improving cardiovascular risk. The majority of cardiovascular risk factors seem better on that diet. So, that’s a diet with anywhere from 45 to 80 percent fat even and carbohydrates, you know, 20 to 40 percent carbohydrates.
I mean, people really respond to diets differently.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: And so, your nutrition needs are different if you’re young, if you’re a child, if you’re elderly. It’s just so important to know that people respond differently to different diets. But; and critically it depends on whether or not your metabolism has kind of tipped over into this unhealthy state.
So, if you’re obese or if you have diabetes or if you have, are fighting heart disease, you are more sensitive to carbohydrates. So, your tolerance for them is lower. If you’re healthy, if you look like you guys, your tolerance is higher for carbs. If you’re active and you’re burning calories a lot, your tolerance is higher.
So, you know, you have to kind of adjust your nutrition plan based on that. But, you know, I think that one of the key things to realize is to eat a higher fat diet you have to eat, and if you want your fats to be natural, based in natural real foods, you just; it has to be a diet that’s higher in animal foods.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Nina Teicholz: You know, that’s again why; it’s one of the reasons why meat, butter, dairy, eggs, cheese is important to have in any kind of diet. The other reason is, is those are the foods where, you know, the majority of nutrients are, like almost all nutrients are, that you need for good health. And that’s not true in plant foods. It’s very hard to get the nutrition you need on a plant-based diet.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah and this is coming from someone that was a vegetarian, like you said as well.
Nina Teicholz: Yeah. Oh my God, you know, I had anemia. I had; most of my young adulthood I had anemia and all kinds of health issues that I had no idea were based on nutrition, but seem to have been now that they’re resolved.
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Wow. And just to tie up the fat thing and I know because one question we get asked a lot, “Well, how much fat do I eat?” So, what would a plate look like for you at a meal? Could it be as simple as you cook your veg, you have your steak and then you put a big knob of butter on it kind of thing to have the dietary fat for that meal? What would your advice be?
Nina Teicholz: Yeah. I mean, that sounds like a great dinner to me. I mean, I’ve heard various ways of explaining it to people, you know. Like, half your calories should come from animal foods and half the volume on your plate should come from plant foods. Or what did somebody else say? Eat meat; eat animal foods until you are full and then have some fruits and vegetables.
Guy Lawrence: Wow.
Nina Teicholz: You know, I think, yeah I think like visually if you think like half your plate is being; having animals foods on it, like eggs, meat, diary and then the other half being salad greens, you know, fruits and things. That’s probably a pretty healthy diet.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Just keeping it simple.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely. So, just thinking now then based upon where we are right now, with all the information that’s coming from, you know, the government, the doctors, you know, health advisors. So, if I go to the doctor’s and the doctor says, “Look, you know, you need to get in better shape. I need you to adopt a low-fat diet.” Now, that’s hugely confusing for me now with this barrage of information, new information that’s come out, saying the complete opposite. So, where would I start if I come back from the doctors with that info?
Nina Teicholz: Right. Well, first you sign up for your podcast.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: That’s a good one.
Guy Lawrence: We send it to so many people and friends, you know, who have had that message.
Nina Teicholz: Yeah. And then you send your doctor my book or you send him your podcast. I mean, this is; I mean it is confusing. I think that until the paradigm shifts and our expert advice shifts, we’re going to live; we’re all going to live with this kind of cognitive dissonance between what our doctors say, who, you know, by the way have; most doctors, at least in America have about one hour out of their entire, what, seven-year education is at one hour or one day is devoted to nutrition. Really, they don’t know about nutrition. Even though if you look at polls, most people get their dietary advice from their doctor. So, that’s unfortunate.
But you really do have to become a little bit of an independent thinker, I think, on this subject. You know, especially if you feel like if the low-fat diet isn’t working for you, then there’s your own; I mean, in nutrition everybody is their own “n=1” experiment, right?
Stuart Cooke: Yup. Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: You know, you can go on a low-fat diet and see if it works for you over time. And then if it doesn’t you can go back to your doctor and say, “You know, that really didn’t work.” And he’ll say, “Well, you didn’t exercise enough and you didn’t lower your fat enough.”
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Nina Teicholz: And you can try that advise and see if it works for you. Or you can go on a higher-fat diet and see how well that works.
I mean, I just think that this is a field where there is a kind of alternative view and you have to kind of wean yourself from expert advice in this field. Because the expert advice is really misinformed and it’s entrenched. So; and I think that’s not going to change any time.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. It’s a huge topic and its, yeah, which; you touched on exercise as well. So, question would be, exercise and heart disease are highly related, you know, heart disease and prevention. What’s your thoughts on that?
Nina Teicholz: You know, the recommendations for exercise are mainly based on this idea of burning calories, right? And that’s all based on this idea that weight, your weight, is determined by your calories in, how much you eat, subtracted by your calories out, how much you exercise.
And so, that’s why their recommendations are, you know, burn as many calories as you can. Or, you know, exercise an hour a day to burn calories.
But it just turns out that, you know, weight is not so simply regulated by calories in versus calories out. And we all know, like, I could probably go to a meal with you guys and you’d probably eat a massive amount of food and I’d be sitting there eating like, nothing and thinking, “Why are these guys so slim?” I mean, we all know people for whom that’s true and we all know fat people who just don’t seem to eat very much and we assume that they’re all, you know, stuffing themselves with ice cream every night. But that’s not necessarily true.
The experiments on exercise are uniquely depressing. I mean, they show that when; here’s the most depressing one I’ve ever read, which is kind of emblematic of the whole field, which is, they took a group of people. They had half of them do nothing. The other half trained for marathons for an entire year. They ran like a hundred miles a week, at the end of which the groups were the same in weight. The marathoners hadn’t lost any weight or any more compared to the controlled group. And that was, because when you exercise a lot, you get hungry and then your body, well, your body’s not an idiot, it knows; like it just wants, you know it will make you hungrier and then you’ll eat more and then you’ll replace the calories that you burn.
So, that kind of aerobic exercise does not seem to be effective and there’s a lot of studies like that. I mean, I’m sure you’ve talked about it on your program, the kind of exercise that seems to be supported by better evidence is, like, intense exercise, like, lifting weights or doing sprints or you know, really intense exercise that changes your actual muscles at a cellular level, will actually change their sensitivity to insulin.
Which is totally fascinating. But you don’t have to do a ton of that exercise, you can just do like 15 minutes of it, of intense exercise, and that seems to make, you know, enough of a difference to have an impact.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect. Perfect. Yeah, I have a little 6-minute workout that I do couple of times a week and I’m done and dusted in 6 minutes, but it knocks me sideways. But I feel great for it and I sleep better afterwards and I don’t have to spend hours in the gym on a treadmill.
Nina Teicholz: It’s too bad you’re so obese, really. Obviously it’s not working.
Stuart Cooke: I know. Well, you can’t really see the full body …
Guy Lawrence: Stu, I tell you, as I’ve mentioned on many podcasts, Stu’s body fat is probably at about 8 percent, right? I mean, he eats like a horse, like I can’t keep; like he probably eats physically twice the amount of food I do in a day. It’s incredible. I don’t know how he does it or what he does, but …
Stuart Cooke: Well, it is interesting because we had some genetic testing done on the both of us and our makeup is so very, very different. And it really is a slap in the face for everybody who counts calories, because we are so uniquely different. I couldn’t put on weight if I tried and I have tried. Whereas it’s the opposite for Guy. So, it really does, you know, take a little bit of a mind shift to think, “Well, perhaps it isn’t just about what I’m eating.” Because our bodies are kind of chemical machines rather than just, you know, adhering to the simple principles of energy in/energy out. So …
Nina Teicholz: That’s great.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: For women, I would say for women, especially women, you know, of a certain age like me, you know, then there’s other factors; your hormones become involved.
Stuart Cooke: Yes.
Nina Teicholz: I mean, your fat in technical terms, your fat deposition is controlled by your hormones, right?
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Nina Teicholz: And the reason that carbohydrates fatten you up more is that they trigger the release of a hormone called insulin, right?
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Nina Teicholz: And then when you get to be my age your hormones change and it becomes; and so that also messes with your fat deposition and then you have to, you have to make adjustments or figure that out. But I mean all of that just shows you that fat is controlled. The deposition of your fat on your body is controlled by your hormones. Insulin is one of those hormones and other hormones have an effect as well.
So, it’s really not about the number of calories that you eat.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Nina Teicholz: One of the great things about eating a higher-fat diet is it just; you don’t have to count calories. Which is like such an enslaving, awful way to live. You know, you can just eat until you’re full. All the tests on the so-called Atkins diet, all the formal scientific experiments, they don’t tell the people to control calories. That diet works even without counting calories. So …
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Nina Teicholz: And that’s a fundamental thing, because that is a terrible way to live. Like where you’re counting the number of calories in your toothpaste, because like, you know, you’re just; you’re, I mean, you’re like, “I’m never going to get back in that dress.”
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. The other …
Stuart Cooke: I was just thinking that’s just a perfect product; just low-carbohydrate toothpaste. Why didn’t we think of that? We’d make a fortune.
Nina Teicholz: If you’re counting calories.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. True. True.
Guy Lawrence: And the other thing we see all the time as well, is that when people are counting calories, a lot of the calories they’re indiscriminate about what they eat. Like, there’s no nutrients in to them whatsoever except glucose half the time, you know. It’s just processed carbs and they keep to that. I often wonder what that would be doing to you know, the gut health, the inflammation and all these knock-on effects that are coming from that as well. It’s huge.
Nina Teicholz: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. And just supports; we certainly don’t push the calorie-counting message, that’s for sure.
Stuart Cooke: So, given the fact then, Nina, that you’ve written this amazing book and you’ve just got a wealth of knowledge and it’s a question now that we ask everybody on our show and if you don’t mind and I apologize in advance; can you tell us what you ate today?
Nina Teicholz: Sure. I don’t mind. It’s not very interesting. Let’s see, I two fried eggs for breakfast.
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Nina Teicholz: I drink a lot of coffee. And then I had a huge bowl of full-fat cottage cheese with walnuts and some raisins for lunch. And I haven’t had dinner yet, because I’m here in California. I don’t know what time it is there, but I haven’t had dinner yet.
Stuart Cooke: Right. Okay.
Nina Teicholz: That’s it.
Guy Lawrence: Perfect. There you go.
Stuart Cooke: Fantastic.
Guy Lawrence: And just touching on that, another thought that came in, because for anyone listening to this that is still eating a low-fat diet, you know, what would you advise them in terms of what you found on transition, you know, to allowing the body to adapt and utilize fat more as a fuel?
Nina Teicholz: Well, so a few things; one is that if you’re transitioning to eating more red meat, if you haven’t eaten red meat in a long time you don’t have a lot of the enzymes that you need to digest it and it does take awhile to build those enzymes back up. So, that’s kind of a slow transition.
The other thing is that typically when people switch to a higher-fat diet, I’m talking about like an Atkins diet that’s quite high in fat, there’s a transition period during which you feel awful. And one of the problems with a bunch of these trials on the Atkins diet is they were like, “Oh, let’s test it for three weeks.” And everybody feels horrible during those three weeks. And they’re like, “Oh, that diet must not work.”
But you have to test it for a longer period of time, because there is this transition period. Your enzymes are changing; your regulatory pathways; your metabolism is changing; you’re switching to burning fat rather than glucose as fuel. That takes time and there are resources to try to help you make that transition without suffering too much.
You know, you’re supposed to drink bone broth and have more sodium and you know, there’s various things that you can do to try to replenish some of the nutrients that are depleted. And you know there’s books; I can recommend a book about that. But you have to get through that transition period and then you start feeling better. That’s the crucial thing.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Fantastic. Yeah I just wanted her to touch on that.
And we have a couple of wrap up questions that we ask on the show every week and one was what Stewie just asked for, what you ate today?
Another one is, what books have influenced you the most or what would you recommend to people and this can be outside the nutrition or anything. Is there any that spring to mind?
Nina Teicholz: Well, I haven’t read anything other than nutrition for so long. I feel like, oh yeah, there was probably “Catcher On The Rye” back when I read other kinds of things. But, you know, in nutrition the most important writer in nutrition in my view is Gary Taubes. His book, “Good Calories, Get Bad Calories,” is like the Bible, I think, of this whole field. I think it’s, you know, fantastic. It’s; my book covers a lot that same territory, but it’s maybe a little bit lighter and also covers some other things.
So, yeah, I think that’s the most important book I can think of in this field. He also wrote a book called, “Why We Get Fat.” That’s a little more user-friendly.
Yeah, and then you know, Jane Austin. Read about human nature. Never gets better than that.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect. That’s excellent.
Guy Lawrence: Excellent. And the last one, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Nina Teicholz: Oh, you know I get asked this and then I’m like, “I don’t know anything about; I don’t know how to live.” I don’t know. Actually I just don’t know how to answer that.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: I think that maybe in this field, for this audience, the point about taking care of your sleep. I’m a chronic insomniac; I’ve been for years. And that so interferes with your weight, and your ability to function and I’m just getting my sleep in order and I would say, yeah, attention to your sleep. It’s just as important as what you eat.
Guy Lawrence: Perfect and we certainly agree with that one.
Stuart Cooke: That is excellent advice. I am absolutely consumed by all things sleep right now. So, in another conservation, I could chew your ear off about that topic.
Nina Teicholz: Oh, I would really like that. I would really love to hear actually what you know.
Stuart Cooke: Likewise.
Nina Teicholz: It’s a whole; that’s another topic where, you know, where you go to your doctor and what they say is so unhelpful, you know.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely.
Nina Teicholz: And what you find on the internet is largely unhelpful and it’s hard to find your way to good information. So …
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, they’re all alike. I’m been; I have been infatuated by this probably for the last two years and I’ve read a billion books and a million podcasts. And yeah, I’ve got all these strategies as well that are just like gold and I know now that if I do this thing I’ll have a better nights sleep and it just works. So, yeah …
Nina Teicholz: Thank goodness.
Guy Lawrence: Can you share with us tip, Stu for anyone that’s listening out there.
Stuart Cooke: Okay. One tip; I’ll give you two tips.
Guy Lawrence: There you go.
Stuart Cooke: Blue light and devices wreck sleep, because it interrupts with the body’s production of melatonin. So, if you’re staring at a laptop at 9 o’clock at night and then expect yourself to go into a blissful sleep, it won’t happen.
So, I’ve just been; I wear these blue light blocking glasses. You know, I look like a construction worker. But, crikey, you put them on and ten minutes later you feel sleepy. It’s that crazy.
Nina Teicholz: Wow.
Stuart Cooke: And so, yeah, for me it’s kind of devices off at kind of 6 p.m. and then I try and get into more of a sleep routine where I read and listen to music and prepare myself for sleep wearing those glasses. So, that works.
And the other thing, is a little bit of carbohydrate-cycling. So, following a reasonably low-carbohydrate diet, I tend to have most of my carbohydrates at night before I go to bed. And that really helps with insulin and puts the body in this sleepy state and helps me stay asleep during the night.
So, I find that if I restrict my carbohydrates in the meal at night and just have, I’m going to say carbohydrates, but I’m thinking more of the starchy carbohydrates. So like, sweet potato, things, you know, outside of just the veggies. It works. So, a baked potato, with like guacamole on it; a steak, some veggies covered in olive oil; is my go-to-sleep meal.
We have that on a Monday evening almost religiously and I get the best sleep on Monday night. I just do. So, I’ve been researching a little bit more about that; just about starch and stuff like that and how that plays with our sleep.
Nina Teicholz: All right, I’m signing up for your pod. I’m …
Stuart Cooke: No problem.
Nina Teicholz: Those are great ideas. I’ve heard them, but I mean, that is; really sounds very smart and you’re right. If you can encapsulate that advice and get it out to people, that’s incredible service. So, sign me up.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.
Stuart Cooke: All right and thank you.
Guy Lawrence: That’s a good one, Stu. That’s awesome.
And so, what does the future hold for you, Nina? Anything exciting coming up?
Nina Teicholz: No. I hope to be; have a very dull life and get a lot of sleep. But I am; I’m particularly interested in trying to change the actual nutrition policy, you know, that exists, so that; which is so influential. That’s why your doctor gives you the wrong advice, is that they get their recommendations straight from the government and that’s also true in Australia, I know.
So, I think that that needs to change and I’m hoping to work to try to move that along. And basically, you know, nutrition reform. I mean, it’s one thing to write a book, but then you just have to get that message out there. So, I’m working on that.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. And for everyone listening to this, where is the best to go to get more of you so that you; your website?
Nina Teicholz: I do you have a website.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Nina Teicholz: It’s not so active, but there’s a lot of information there, which is: www.thebigfatsurprise.com.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. And they’d be able to get your book from there too or just on Amazon?
Nina Teicholz: Yes. I think it should still be on Amazon. There’s actually a new version that’s being sold in the UK without the thousands of footnotes at the back. So, that’s; might even be considered beach reading, because it’s a light enough book to carry with you.
Guy Lawrence: Well, Stewie’s going through it at the moment, I’m waiting for him to finish and then I’m going to be reading it.
Nina Teicholz: Oh, good.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Fantastic.
Nina Teicholz: Great. Well, it’s lovely to talk to you both.
Guy Lawrence: Thank you so much for coming on this show, Nina. That was an awesome and yeah, everyone’s going to get so much out of it. That’s brilliant.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you again, Nina.
Guy Lawrence: Thanks, Nina.
Nina Teicholz: It’s really been great to talk to you.
“Health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living.” -
… Health Promotion
My mate was faced with something that he felt was a serious problem, his job demanded lot’s of hours, blood, sweat and tears on a weekly basis. He loved his job but his health was beginning to suffer. He’d been at it for four years and whenever he fitted exercise into his routine it became too much and simply exhausted him.
When we met up one evening, he told me that he had a 6.30am spin class that morning with a jog lined up for the following night. He also looked like he was going to have to crawl home like a lizard as he was that tired! I did feel for him.
After discussing the food pyramid at length and coming to the conclusion it sucked, I really felt we’d need to look at his exercise regime too.
I asked him why he was exercising?
After a bit of a dumbfounded look he said he wanted to be fitter, leaner, toned and healthier. He was feeling like a slug with no backbone when he sat in his office chair and he desperately wanted it to change.
From where I was sitting, his road to greater health wasn’t looking pretty. All I could see for him was fatigue, burnout, frustration, possible injury and an attitude that said ‘screw you’ to exercise with a million justifications on why he can’t do it anymore.
Do you like the idea of exercising less & becoming a lean mean health machine in the process?
Health. It’s a simple process really
First of all, let’s clear up a little confusion. Health and fitness are not the same thing. I’ve seen many people who are pretty fit but not very healthy, and I believe their exercise regime was contributing to their poor health… Just like my friend was starting to do.
The World Health Organisation defines health as -“…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease…”
So in other words, just because you are not sick, doesn’t mean you are healthy. And the same goes for your fitness, weight loss and it’s relationship to health too.
Exercise and weight loss: What’s the deal?
Cut out the fluff and look at the facts for a moment. When a person exercises on a regular basis, more energy is needed for the body to recover hence you eat more. So…
1. The more you exercise, the more your appetite will increase.
Common sense right? When someone decides to get on a health kick, they start to exercise more and so they will naturally begin to eat more. But they generally eat more of the wrong type of food. This won’t do anyone any favours. In fact, this will cause longer-term problems.
My friend had pushed his body to the max for 45min. After his shower he was ravenous and unprepared, he then went an ate a big breakfast in a takeaway roll! He told me he thought it was ok to do ’cause he just earned it!!!
This isn’t going to help his recovery. Not only is he consuming poor nutrition, but by eating a lot of processed carbs like that (the big white roll), it will raise his blood sugars and create an insulin response. When the body is producing insulin, you will not burn body fat. What do most people eat in their daily diet? A lot of white processed carbs. And they wonder why they are struggling to lose weight.
This is where preparation is key.
2. All exercise benefits are gained in the recovery. Not during exercise.
Your recovery is only as good as the food you eat. Period. After stressing the body through exercise, nutrient dense food is paramount! If you eat high carb processed foods you are then feeding the appetite but not the body. This will compound with interest overtime. This is not smart as it completely undermines the benefits exercise has to offer.
3. I believe 70-80% of body composition comes from the food we eat.
Think about it for a moment. My friends love handles and pear shaped body came from mainly what he shoved down his throat on a daily basis. The other 20-30% is yes, mainly exercise, but also genetics, stress reduction and a positive attitude. If your health is the priority here, clinging onto a unhealthy lifestyle and hoping exercise will fix it is a big mistake. This will only make matters worse.
Exercise less and lose more weight
He was wanting to fit in 3-4 x 1 hour gym sessions a week, and it was already taking its toll. Now contrary to popular belief, if he wants to loose weight healthily, it’s about increasing the efficiency of his metabolism, not increasing the metabolism itself through exercise.
In other words, it’s not about making your engine run hotter. It’s about making it run smoother and more efficiently.
He is vigorously exercising in the hope of boosting his metabolism, he is also attacking it from the wrong angle. Yes he may burn a few more calories, but he’s also increased his appetite (worked up a hunger). Also, long bouts of extreme exercise increase free radicals and oxidative damage. These are directly linked with inflammation and degeneration associated with ageing, thus speeding up the process… This will also effect the immune system, leaving you vulnerable to illness… Sound healthy?
If he wants to make his engine run more efficiently and not hotter, he’ll have to look at the food he eats. The key is to keep your insulin levels in check. This is accomplished of course by eliminating our favourite friends: Sugar, starch and most processed carbohydrates. Then increasing his natural fats with each meal. If he did this he would be teaching his body to burn fat rather than sugar/carbs for fuel to get him through the day.
Thus maximising his metabolic/engine efficiency.
And of course, with 80% of his body composition coming from the food he eats and how efficiently he burns them, naturally the first thing he should focus on is his nutrition. I’ve written many posts on nutrition, so explore the blog. But here, here & here are great places to start. Even if all he did was reduce his sugar intake (and we’re not just talking about table sugar here, think bread, pasta etc) he’d be off to a flying start!
If he tackled this head on, by getting himself more organised and eating food that serves the body and not stress it, he would automatically start to feel better over time. This would have a positive outcome on his work and his stress levels. Good things would happen before he even put his runners on.
Always remember: You can never out train a bad diet.
So what now?
Armed with the above knowledge, I asked my mate why he would want to spend up to 4hrs a week in a gym when he could achieve his goals over time in probably 1 hr a week? If people want to spend hours in the gym or do a spin class that’s fine as exercise has so many benefits, but as the only tool for weight loss? Unfortunately he was struggling to fit it in as it is, and he was using sheer willpower to get himself through these intense long cardio sessions.
1 hour a week was much more appealing and realistic than 1 hour a session.
He was now beginning to see that to gain success with weight loss, it needed to be a byproduct of living a healthy lifestyle. Not living for weight loss and hoping you become healthy.
And why/what exercise should he be doing? I’ll cover it in my next post. I’ve blabbed on long enough for this one!
On a side note: I truly enjoy writing these posts, hence our frequent blog posts. At the end of the day though, these are just my thought’s and feelings around a topic I’m passionate about. I encourage everyone to do their own research and check out the facts for themselves.
If you did enjoy the post and got something from it or have something to share on the topic, I would love to hear your thought’s in the comments section below. If you feel others would benefit from this then it would be great if you could share it using one of the icons below (Facebook etc). Cheers, Guy…