Episode #98 Dr. Stephan Guyenet – Neurobiology And How Your Brain Can Keep You Fat

Stephan GuyenetOur guest this week is Dr. Stephan Guyenet, a respected neurobiologist, health advocate and author. We discuss the way our brain can affect our attempts at health improvement, and how we can find ourselves fighting against our own body when it comes to fat loss.

Junk foods which are calorie-dense can disrupt brain processes and leave the body thinking it needs to increase fat levels. Reducing food intake on fasts and fad diets can therefore leave the body reacting to starvation. Eating healthily should make you feel good, and if you are balancing your nutrients.

Adjust your food levels as you go along, and stick with the things that make you feel better. Nutritional diets need to adapt as our circumstances change – and as we get older. With hormonal changes happening when we age, estrogen levels drop in women. This makes it harder to lose fat – especially around the middle.

We talk to Dr. Stephan about his work on Dan’s Plan – designed to help people become aware of factors that affect health, and to make changes that will have you feeling better. Track your progress towards your goals, and be mindful of the reality of your experience. When you start to find the right levels for you, your cravings should reduce and you should start to enjoy the new foods you are eating.

Find Dr. Stephan Guyenet online here

Bookmark Dr. Stephan’s upcoming blog here

Check out Dan’s Plan for more information

Order Why do We Gain Fat, and How do We Lose it? here

Keep an eye out for The Hungry Brain, out in 2016

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FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

MELISSA: Welcome back, Dr. Stephan. Thanks so much for taking time to be on the program today.

DR GUYENET: Thank you. Glad to be here.

MELISSA: Well, I’ve been really anxious to talk to you because the fields you work of neurobiological research, I guess would be the best way to put it, and biomedical research and how the brain affects and doesn’t affect, I guess you could say disease, aging, nutrition and obesity, is a fascinating area. Can you give us a little overview of exactly what kind of work you do for the layman?

DR GUYENET: Yeah, sure. So just to start off with a little bit of background, the brain is the body’s information processing organ. It’s kind of like if you think about it as an analogy with the computer, the brain is your central processing unit as well as your hard drive and your RAM. So the brain is really where a lot of the information processing happens, both in terms of your behavior, including what and how much we choose to eat, as well as our physiology. So the brain also regulates a lot of our physiology by controlling things like what’s going on in your fat tissue, what’s going on in your cardiovascular system, what glands are secreting what hormones or whatever. The brain is the CPU of the body.

So obviously, it’s got its hands in many things and one of the things that it has its hands in is the regulation of food intake and body fat stores. So that’s the thing that I’ve been working on in recent years is how does the brain determine or food intake? How does it determine how much fat we carry and how does that process change in people who are putting on weight and why is it so difficult to lose weight ones that happens. So it turns out all these things have a lot to do with these brain circuits that are regulating appetite and body fatness.

MELISSA: Now, what disrupts those circuits or what have you found that’s kind of throwing the monkey wrench into someone who made—have started out at a certain weight and been healthy and then at some point, finds himself way over weight or extremely prone to other medical issues?

DR GUYENET: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I mean, that is also a pretty tough question. I mean, in a general sense, I can say a few things about what we’ve learned. One of them is that the reason we  put on weight is that we’re consuming more calories than are leaving our bodies. And essentially, the only food property that has ever been shown to actually affect body fatness—or to directly affect body fatness—is the food’s calorie content. So that being said, there are a lot of food properties that determine how much of that food we’re gonna eat. So even though calories are kind of the direct reason, there are a lot of indirect reasons that revolve around the type of foods that we’re eating, the setting in which we’re eating them, the broader food environment as well as other diet and lifestyle factors. So, I mean, there are a lot of things I can get us to overeat by kind of giving the brain the wrong cues, giving the brain cues that are gonna favor higher food intake rather than lower food intake. And some of those are coming from, like I said, like from the food itself. So for example, foods that have a very high calorie density, you’re gonna eat a lot more of those before your brain registers that you’ve eaten those calories and so you end up eating more food.

And so that’s one of the things that can contribute to higher calorie intake. Another one is just kind of the fundamental economic leanings over our own brain. So the human brain is always kind of looking for a deal, so whether it’s for our employment, or whether it’s when we’re shopping, or whether it’s when we’re eating food, the brain is always thinking how can we get the most benefit for the least cost. And in this case, the brain has some kind of specific ideas of what “benefit” means. The brain basically likes calories and it likes things associated with calories like sugar and fat, and starch, and foods with high calorie density. But it—sorry, I lost my train of thought here-

MELISSA: I was gonna jump in there but I don’t wanna interrupt you. I was gonna say is that why there was such a hubbub? I think it was last year something like that, when all the mainstream press was printing how sugar was more addictive than cocaine, processed sugar, because the brain would react to that, and you may have the opposite view. You’re the one who does the research, but it was all around printed everywhere, “Whoa, Oreos are worse than cocaine!”

DR GUYENET: Yeah, I mean, certainly human junk food is extremely fattening to every animal that’s ever been tested on. I mean, you can feed Oreos, cookies, hotdogs, chips, bacon, all that sort of thing, you can feed that to a rat and it will overeat and become massively obese. You can feed it to a dog and it will overeat and become massively obese. You can feed it to a monkey and it will overeat and become obese.

MELISSA: And is that because it dysregulates the brain or it’s addictive?

DR GUYENET: Yeah, it’s because it sends the brain the wrong signals. I mean, those foods have a massively high—

MELISSA: Calories, but no nutrition.

DR GUYENET: —benefit-to-cost ratio. I mean, they contain all those things that our brains are hardwired to seek, like that fat and that sugar, and that starch in a really dense package. And they’re really easy to eat. They’re very convenient. They’re right under our noses and they’re cheap. So the costs are very low. Benefits are high, costs are low, and that favors an overeating scenario, so at least in the short-term. In the long term, there are changes that start to happen in the brain that cause you to defend that excess fat mass. And this happens in the part of the brain called the “hypothalamus” that whose job it is to regulate how much fat you carry on your body. And this is what we studied when I was working at the University of Washington.

And basically, what you get, what you see when you look in the brains of both rodents and humans who carry a lot of fat is there’s a lot of inflammation in the hypothalamus, that brain region that regulates body fatness. So there’s a lot of inflammation. There are a lot of cells getting activated that are playing a role in this inflammatory response. There are pro-inflammatory factors being secreted. It’s kind of a mess. And so that we think plays a role in the fact that that brain region is not regulating body fatness in the same way that it was when the person was lean. And so what we see is that brain region becomes less sensitive to these signals that are coming from the body that are telling it that the body already has enough fat, so it can’t hear those signals very well anymore and it says, “No, we need to eat more. We need to put on some more fat,” or “At least we need to maintain what we already have.”

And this is why, I mean, this has been borne out by many people anecdotally but it’s been shown by many studies as well. Someone who is obese can go on a diet and lose weight but their body will fight it. Even though an obese person who loses 20 pounds, they thought—you know, in all likelihood, they’re probably still in the obese range, but their body is gonna fight that even though they have lost or even though they’re still carrying a lot of fat, their body is gonna fight that. It’s essentially gonna kick in starvation response. They’re gonna get hungry. They’re gonna want more food. They’re gonna become more tempted when they’re walking past potato chips or ice cream or things like that. They might feel colder and more sluggish and that’s part of this brain response that happens whether you’re lean or obese when you start to lose weight.

Now, there are ways that you can potentially circumvent that and make your brain more comfortable at a lower weight, kind of skirt around these reactions that happen. And there are people such as yourself, Melissa, and others, who have had this experience of losing weight when they make a major shift in diet quality where it’s not difficult, it doesn’t feel like your body is fighting you. It feels like your body is helping you. And basically, what it boils down to is diet quality in terms of the calorie density and the palatability and the nutrients and the fiber in your food can kind of reset—not completely reset, but partially reset what your hypothalamus is doing in how it’s regulating its body weight, so all of a sudden, your hypothalamus says, “Well, hey, maybe I don’t wanna be at this higher weight so much anymore and I’m gonna help you get down to that lower weight and help it be easy by naturally regulating your energy intake and your energy expenditure.” Whereas if you had stayed on your old diet, or hypothetically, if someone stays on an unhealthy diet but just tries to eat less of it, they’re gonna be struggling to eat half the amount of whatever, soda and pizza they’re eating before that’s a much more difficult proposition, because they’re fighting against those circuits that are trying to get them to keep eating more and try to keep their body fatness up.

MELISSA: Right, and I think it’s my contention, not being a scientist at all, that if you try to exercise more and eat less, and through a processed food model, where you’re still consuming basically processed food and things that are not, how should I say, like pure such as pastured meats or eggs or things like that, you will not be successful. It’s a battle of will power and weight knuckling it through depravation, I would say, until you get to the point where you can’t maintain that anymore and you revert to old tactics, I guess, and just go back to eating whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like. It’s sort of the crash-and-burn response. And I’ve subscribed to that method of weight control for years and basically all I did was wreck my overall health. I just got worse and worse because I would lose weight, gain weight back, lose weight, gain weight back and I was completely inflaming my body every time I did things because I was trying to kill myself with exercise, which is as most scientists know now, is not the best way to lose weight. You need to move but you don’t need to run marathons or climb Mount Everest in a weight loss pursuit. It’s much more effective to change the quality of the nutrition that you’re giving the body so it can work.

And another area which—and I don’t know how this fits with the brain maybe because it’s sending the brain some mixed signals that you spoke about was the biggest thing I discovered and I actually was told about it back—oh, almost I guess 15 years ago when it was first coming out was metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. And a lot that’s happened over that time but I began to realize that if you have, like when you look at your blood work and it shows that your blood sugar is so high in the pre-diabetic area, until you can get that inflammation down, you’ve got issues because your body is getting the wrong signals and using things in the wrong way. And that was like a breakthrough in understanding what wasn’t working for me. And I’m assuming that the insulin hormone is basically like what you’ve just said before. That’s sending the wrong message to the hypothalamus and that’s how things are getting screwed up.

DR GUYENET: Well, so sort of.

MELISSA: Sort of?

DR GUYENET: Yeah, so-

MELISSA: In my unscientific description.

DR GUYENET: It’s all right. There’s a lot of information out there and a lot of opinions on this but what I can tell you, the best hypothesis that we have is what’s happening with elevated insulin in people is—so there’s a correlation between elevated insulin levels and obesity and it’s not that the elevated insulin is causing the obesity, the elevated insulin is really the result of insulin and leptin resistance. So leptin is the main hormone that regulates the size of your fat stores. Leptin talks to your brain and tells your brain how much fat is on your body and insulin talks to many parts of your body, including the brain, to help regulate metabolic processes related to blood glucose and fatty acid levels in your blood, and how your body handles dietary carbohydrate, kind of what it does when you eat carbs. And normally when all that’s working, right? You can eat carbs and it’s not a problem, but when your body becomes resistant to insulin and leptin, then those hormones have to go higher and higher and higher to be able to have their normal effects in the body.

MELISSA: Right.

DR GUYENET: And they have to have their normal effects or else you have diabetes and obesity, because if those hormones aren’t working, things are really screwed up. So basically, the body just keeps cranking and cranking and cranking more and more and more of those to try and keep up with the fact that the tissues can’t hear them very well. So the elevated insulin seems to be more of a consequence of obesity than it is the cause of obesity. But at the same time, when you have elevated insulin, that is a marker of the fact that your tissues aren’t hearing the insulin very well and they’re probably not hearing leptin very well either, and that means that they’re probably not doing their job as well as they should be. And that’s when your blood sugar start going up and that’s when all sorts of metabolic problems start to happen.

MELISSA: Got it. Yeah, I just—like I said, in looking at blood panels and stuff, I notice the correlation between getting blood sugar down and insulin under control and weight loss, and also restoration of health in other areas. So the recovery of the liver and some of these things that were going on with me personally seem to make massive improvements over what I would consider a short period of time like 60 days, 90 days, and things like that, whereas the conventional medical community was like, “No, you just need this medication or that medication.” It seemed to me that wrong approach, and listeners have heard me talk about it so much, but that’s very informative of what you’ve said.

And I wanna just follow this track a little further because one of the things that you also have been studying is aging and the effect that aging and nutrition and the brain, how they all work together, and I know a lot of people over time that it takes this attitude of, “Oh, when you get old, you become forgetful and here, everything doesn’t work as well as it should.” And I’m one of the people that doesn’t wanna have that happen. I do wanna go into older years being just as sharp and active as I can be. But lately, there’s been a lot of studies out and things published about how there are some very key things which you can do that can help you not go into early Alzheimer’s or have suffered memory loss and a lot of these things. And I like you to talk about that a little bit.

DR GUYENET: Mm-hmm, yeah. So yeah, I mean, this is a really big issue because—I mean, as a nation, we’re living older and older which in many ways is a good thing but it’s exposing us to a greatly increased risk of things like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias which are becoming huge problems both on individual and a societal level. So what can we do to avoid these? So my feeling is that there are a lot of chronic diseases that we have today, including Alzheimer’s disease, including other form—some common other forms of dementia, that relate really back to one thing, and that is excess calorie intake. So once you have prolonged excess calorie intake and you’re accumulating fat, it places a lot of metabolic strain on the body, and this is what all weight loss diets, all health promotion diets have in common, they reduce in number of calories that people eat. And it really—you can look at calorie reduction by any means, if people are reducing their calories, their metabolic health is generally improving.

And I think one of the best illustrations of that is a recent study that came out on calorie restriction. So there are these people who are really into trying to restrict their calorie intake to extend their lifespan. So these people will go for a target of like 25% to 30% restriction. And animal studies have shown that, at least in certain strains of rats and in certain other species—excuse me, certain strains of mice—you can extend the lifespan substantially by that sort of calorie restriction. So people try to do this and there’s not really any consensus yet on whether it’s gonna extend lifespan successfully in humans. However, they’re doing is pilot trials on people and trying to see what kind of effects it has on biomarkers of health. And basically, when these people reduce their calorie intake, these are people who started off healthy. They’re healthy, lean people, they reduce their calorie intake and all of their health biomarkers improve across the board. These aren’t even people who are overweight, you know. Some of them are overweight but not very overweight. So—I mean, and you see this in any study where calorie intake is going down. You see it in studies of calorie restriction in monkeys. You see it in rats. You see it in dogs, pigs, everything. To me, it’s a fundamental principle of health is remaining an energy balance is going to place less strain on your metabolism and it’s going to reduce your risk of obviously excess body fat, but all of that has trickled down effects to diabetes risk, cardiovascular disease risk, and a number of other metabolic-related diseases.

So as it turns out, the brain, like any other organ, requires the proper metabolic support to remain healthy. And so, you see significant metabolic deterioration, premature metabolic negative changes in people’s brain and who are going through Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. You know, some types of dementia are just cardiovascular disease too. You get all these little mini-strokes happening all over your brain and I mean, that’s a cardiovascular issue. And I’m not saying that calorie intake is the only player, certainly it’s not in cardiovascular health but it is a major player. And you see this in people’s blood work. Depending on their weight, they can have vastly different blood work.

So I think that’s kind of a fundamental principle of brain health as well as overall whole body health. But the question is, “How do you get there?” And this is where things start to get a little bit more tricky as we were talking about. If you go into the doctor’s office and the doctor says you need to eat less, that’s not really a very effective intervention. I mean, it may be technically correct, but in practice, it just is very difficult to apply in a way that works in part because of these brain circuits that are gonna very persuasively oppose that process. And so, how do you do it in a way that’s giving your brain the right signals to be able to eat a healthy amount of healthy food? And I think changing your food environment, so there’s not a lot of food around that’s tempting to you, changing your diet quality so that it’s not favoring overeating anymore, the types of foods that you’re eating, that includes macronutrient composition and includes eating whole foods that are rich in water and fiber, getting enough sleep, getting regular, physical activity, those are all things that are gonna favor brain activity that starts to bring you back to a healthier weight and healthier calorie intake, and healthier metabolism.

MELISSA: Now, I was just gonna ask you when you’re talking about calorie restriction a few sentences ago. Now, will this play into how some cultures have fasts that go on for a week or they do specific fasts for, I’m thinking of, like India and some of Asia for a holy day or some event that comes around? Would that come under the heading of calorie restriction?

DR GUYENET: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, there are these amazing studies that were done like a century ago where they take people who are diabetic and they just put them on a fast for a week or two. And the diabetes basically goes away.

MELISSA: Interesting.

DR GUYENET: If they go back to their old diets, it’ll eventually come back, but there’s actually an effect that’s somewhat durable that happens when calories are restricted. And there was a recent study that replicated that by putting people on 500-calorie diets for a few weeks. And basically, their diabetes went away after that treatment for another several months. And so—and again, that doesn’t last forever necessarily—

MELISSA: Right, it’s that fine balance, like you talked about, where you have the brain kind of reset itself to the correct almost setting, but if you go too far one way or the other, the brain goes, “What? We’re starving. Whoa. We’re gonna hang on to everything. We gotta do something with different,” or if it goes too for the other way, you know, it tips one way or the other, so it’s a delicate adjustment of the dials there.

DR GUYENET: Yeah, that’s right. And the other thing is that calorie intake, it has to be tailored to the individual.

MELISSA: Right.

DR GUYENET: If you’re looking at traditional societies that are already kind of just barely getting enough calories, it’s probably not gonna be good for you to do prolonged fasts. But if you’re looking at a culture like ours which is really a wash in excess calories, because it’s a wash in these extremely cheap, convenient, high-calorie foods that are super tempting everywhere, then we’re always being pushed, most of us, to eat excess calories. And so doing things to reduce it is gonna tend to improve our health. So it depends on the context.

MELISSA: Yeah, and I think too, just try and experiment at home, listeners, where you eat, you know, say 2,000 calories, and that is mostly comprised of vegetables and cooked vegetables, and a small amount of protein, and you’ll find that that’s a lot of calories. You won’t find that you’re starving or even 1,500 calories, if it’s the right kind of nutrients that your body needs because I know I eat a large amount of cooked vegetables with every meal and it’s a job to get those all in.

DR GUYENET: Mm-hmm. Yeah—

MELISSA: So it’s changing your—and I know one thing that I found very helpful was I adjusted my food as I went along in terms of the kinds of food I was eating, the amounts of vegetables and clean proteins, you know, pastured meats and things like that, and as you get that mixed right for whatever your body, you know, your own personal body is, you will find that the cravings for things like sugars all that dissipate because you hit the balance and I think I was talking to Dr. Jade Teta that does a lot of work with people also trying to improve their health and he said once you get that right formula or prescription for your body with all your nutrients correctly adjusted, you’ve got the magic formula that will work no matter what’s happening. You know how to choose the right foods for you and the right amounts to help you recover from anything or help you continue to lose weight or help you recover from illness, whatever it might be.

DR GUYENET: Yeah. And I think it’s important to acknowledge the role of variability, the individual variability or individual differences, because the diet that helps one person eat moderately and maintain a healthy weight might not necessarily be the same one that helps another person maintain a healthy weight.

MELISSA: Right.

DR GUYENET: At the same time, there are some general principles that tend to work for most people.

MELISSA: Yeah, I think that the individuality is something that’s almost never addressed in traditional fitness and weight loss plans and it’s one that I think is really valuable and should not be overlooked which brings me to another topic I wanted to get to before we run out of time here, and it’s kind of circling around to what we’re talking about now, but that is a lot of women, and particularly as they get older, suddenly find that they used to be able to drop 5 pounds or 10 pounds relatively easy. And as they get into say, over 35 or into the 40s or 50s even, it becomes more and more difficult and a lot of times people again just say, “Oh, that’s just because I’m getting old. You know, just because I’m not as active as I used to be.” But I know you wanted to talk a little bit about this area.

DR GUYENET: Yeah. I thought it might be useful for your listeners. So yeah, I mean, during menopause, you get some major hormonal changes that are happening as women who have gone through menopause are probably well-aware of. But the major one is that your estrogen goes way down. Your average estrogen levels go way down. And as it turns out, the brain response to estrogen, and not—in particular, the part of the brain that I was talking about earlier, the hypothalamus, there’s a little region in the hypothalamus called the “ventromedial nucleus” that has a ton of estrogen receptors in it, and that’s one of the parts of the brain that helps regulate body weight. And so basically, what happens when the estrogen goes away is that region of the brain becomes a little less sensitive to these signals that are coming up from the body that are telling the brain that you have enough fat. And so all of a sudden, the brain starts—it’s kind of like the inflammation thing that I was talking about earlier, it’s a similar process. The brain says, “Oh well, now suddenly, I don’t think we have enough fat right now so we’re gonna eat a little more and we’re gonna lower the metabolic rate just a little bit and we’re gonna put on some fat. And by the way, it’s also gonna be a lot more difficult to lose fat than it was before.”

And that’s what you see in the study is you see that around menopause, many women start to put on weight, but not just weight in general, in particular, they start to put on weight around the abdominal area, kind of belly fat, so the distribution of fat begins to change. And we know that that has a lot to do with those changes in estrogen that occur.

MELISSA: Yeah, so that sort of enlightens us on what’s happening there. And how to address it I think in another way is, like you said, to try to vary your diet from processed food, if you can. It certainly will help out. But you also have, just dovetailing on that, you have a plan, actually, it’s called “Dan’s Plan” which you developed which is also called an ideal weight program plan. Can you talk a little bit about that and how it works, how it’s made up, what the components are?

DR GUYENET: Yeah, sure. So this is a fat loss program that I co-developed with my business partner Dan Pardi who is also a researcher in the field of sleep and food intake. So Dan is a really—he is an expert in the effects of sleep and insufficient sleep on food intake, really smart guy, and he—when him and I got together, he had a program called “Dan’s Plan” that he put out there for free. Anyone can go to the website and sign up for Dan’s Plan for free, and it’s basically designed to just help people maintain awareness over basic lifestyle behaviors that have a big impact on health, so things like how much sleep are you getting, what time are you going into bed, what’s your weight, what’s your weight trajectory looking like, and how much physical activity are you getting and how well is your physical activity lining up with best practice guidelines?

So it may seem like, some people think, “Well, you know, I already know how much I’m sleeping. I know how much I’m exercising.” But the reality is most people don’t. Most people will find that when they actually begin tracking those things, reality does not correspond exactly to what they thought.

MELISSA: Right, very true.

DR GUYENET: Yeah, and so it’s always great to track, to maintain awareness. And this is a totally free service, anyone can go to Dan’s Plan and sign up for it. It’s really cool. So basically, what we did was we created a diet and lifestyle program that dovetails with the Dan’s Plan tools that are already there. So we—this incorporates the lifestyle tracking tools which we think are really important for people to maintain daily awareness and it adds on top of those diet and lifestyle guidelines. And I think one of the things that I think is really important about these tracking tools is people can get kinda sidetracked by new information really easily, like maybe some study comes out in the news and says,  “Oh, you know, grapes will make you fat” or whatever the latest thing is. And they lose track of the fundamentals. It’s very easy to lose track in fundamentals and maintain awareness and consistency of those fundamentals every day. So that’s why we like to incorporate these tracking tools in with our diet and lifestyle guidance.

So we have a couple of different diets, one of them, the one that I’ll focus on is called the “Simple Food Diet.” And basically what it is, you know, a lot of diets are a little gimmicky in the sense that they have their one thing that they focus on, and that’s like the answer to all your ills, you know whether that’s—

MELISSA: Which of course, it never is.

DR GUYENET: It never is, whether that’s low-fat or low-carb or you know, whatever. And I’m not saying that those diets are bad. But what I am saying is that if you take a broader look at the approaches that are available and in the scientific literature, you can bring together best-in-class approaches into something that, in my opinion, makes a lot more sense, by adding all those things together that we already know are effective. So the diet incorporates things like improving your food environment in your home, so there’s less temptation, eating lower calorie-density foods, eating higher protein. We have a tool that helps people figure out how much protein to eat. And eating whole foods basically that you’re making in your home.

It’s my firm belief that if you’re not willing to make food in your own home, then you’re gonna have a much harder time controlling your weight than if you’re relying on restaurants and the processed food industry to prepare your food.

DR GUYENET: Yeah, for sure.

DR GUYENET: I mean, that’s the fundamental principle of healthy eating and so we really focus a lot on trying to make people competent in their own kitchens by giving them—showing them how to cook simple meals and giving them recipes and things that are really accessible. And not everyone will need that. Some people are already good at cooking and they just want information on what types of things they should focus on. And we’ve got that covered too. But really, it’s about focusing on simple, whole foods that have certain properties that are more satiating and make fat loss easier than the kind of standard, traditional approach which is counting calories and eating less.

So this approach does not involve any calorie-counting. The goal is to have your appetite naturally control your calorie intake to naturally reduce to a healthier level, in a way that’s not painful for you that doesn’t involve excess hunger and that’s sustainable and healthy as well. So that’s the goal, and then there are sleep and physical activity guidelines that relate specifically to exercise as well. And we think basically the overall picture is you have this brain that’s taking in certain signals and reacting in certain ways. So we’re just trying to give it the right signals to do the right thing in a way that involves the least amount of pain for you.

MELISSA: Yeah, and I think, I couldn’t agree more. Like I said, I think when you change the kind of things you’re eating and you get the levels or the amounts correct, you’ll find, like I said, that you—a lot of cravings in a while, things that you thought you first would want will dissipate slowly. And I think one of the key things for me was throwing out the calorie-counting and the scale at first because I basically outsourced it. I just said, “Okay, we’ll track these things with all that. The gym will take the weight and write down the numbers and do the measurements and stuff once a week or once every two weeks and then I’ll have something on paper I can report back to my doctor with.” But I’m not gonna be involved with that intimately because it’s gonna throw me off my game and it’s gonna make me focused on, “What? I didn’t lose two pounds this week? Ah! My life is over! Where’s the ice cream?”

So I think for people particularly getting started, I think the ignoring calories and getting weighed in every day is killer. I think you have to get away from that. Definitely, you wanna track things though. I can’t say enough about tracking because I totally agree with you that you think you’re doing a lot of things that you’re not doing, and particularly eating-wise, unless you’re keeping track, like using a tool, like MyFitnessPal or something to really track what you’re taking in and seeing your macronutrient picture which all goes for you in just two seconds. All you have to do is tap, tap, tap, and boom, you’ve got a whole pie chart of what’s going on. And it’s so helpful because you can say, “Oh, I need more vegetables at lunch today because I don’t have my macronutrients quite right.” And it just makes the whole thing so much easier for the average person who’s busy in their everything else. But I think that’s key in people getting started because those are the two major downfalls is they don’t see immediate progress and then they get depressed and it’s all-or-nothing gambling mentality. Well, it’s not working now so I might as well go off it and eat ice cream or whatever, pizza. Whereas if you don’t do that and let someone else track for you or enlist a friend or a neighbor or somebody in your family, you can get going much better, and if you are tracking, you can improve yourself each meal. You can top up things that are low and correct things that aren’t.

And I think also the sleep and all that I found to be very, very helpful because I definitely improve my sleep. And as I got better and better as my health improved, so did the sleep improved. And by keeping a little longer, using again an app, there’s tons of them out there, you can use to track your sleep and seeing how things are going and I find whenever I’m having bad sleeps and disrupted sleep or travel, and I’m in a noisy hotel, I just don’t feel on my game the next day, and I know I need to sneak in a nap some place or just get myself back to 100%. So I think that’s one of the big things people ignore and all the problems that can come with sleep like sleep apnea and all these things that are actually depriving you of oxygen and also disrupting your brain, and doing a whole bunch of other bad things for you. I think people ignore those signals for too long and they don’t address them.

But we’re out of time and I wanna be sure that people know where they can find you, where they can find your website. And also, we’ll put a link to—I think it’s www.dansplan.com for the Dan’s Plan diet thing. We’ll put a link in the show notes to that. But where can people find you online? Because I’m sure they’re gonna want to read more about you and your studies and what you’re doing.

DR GUYENET: Yeah, so my blog is at www.wholehealthsource.org. That’s where I write most of the stuff that I’m communicating to the general public. I have a book that’s gonna be coming out in late 2016 called “The Hungry Brain.” And that book is all about why we overeat even though we don’t want to, why does the brain kind of favor overeating even though we have no intention of doing it. And I’m also soon gonna be launching a new website, www.stephanguyenet.com. So that’s gonna be my new blog shortly here.

MELISSA: Cool. And there’ll be new stuff that you’re finding out and sharing with the public on there?

DR GUYENET: Yeah. So some of it’s my own research. Mostly, it’s research that I read that other people are doing and that I just think is important and I wanna comment on it or maybe there’s a recent study that’s been in the media, and maybe I think it’s been mishandled by the media or just things like that.

MELISSA: I think that’s a great service because every day, as you say, and I think it’s one of the major reasons why people, again, give up or have a depressing view, is they go, “Oh, well, you know, today you’re supposed to eat avocadoes and then tomorrow they said they’re killing you.” And this study comes out and that study comes out, and as we know, most of the “news” websites just are looking for clickbait to get people to click on things. So they take whatever study and take it to the end extreme, and it may not be that that’s what the study is saying at all. So I think the blogs of people who are actually scientists, and I’m totally not a scientist at all, are good because they can take a study that’s come out and give you the more realistic viewpoint on what it means and what the—

DR GUYENET: Yeah, and put it into context.

MELISSA: Right.

DR GUYENET: I think it’s important to put it into context because I mean, you know, the news, it’s entertainment fundamentally more than anything.

MELISSA: Right.

DR GUYENET: Especially when it comes to health. And you know what, a lot of times, it’s written by people who don’t know that much about health or don’t know that much about science. So I think it can definitely distract people from the fundamentals.

MELISSA: Yeah. For sure. So that’ll be a good place for people to visit and we’ll put a link in the show notes that it’s coming soon, and people should definitely visit that or put it on their bookmark so that they can check it out and see what new information is being explained by you on that site.

DR GUYENET: Great, thank you.

MELISSA: Well, thanks so much for sharing some time with us today and enlightening us on all your work. It’s been fascinating and I hope you come back down the road when your book comes out.

DR GUYENET: Alright. Thanks, Melissa.

 

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