Jonathan Bailor | The SANE War on Obesity (Episode 421)

Modern science tells us how we can exercise less and eat more to naturally lose weight, avoid diabetes, and beat the obesity epidemic.

“You don’t cure diseases through starvation.” -Jonathan Bailor

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Is sugar more dangerous than cigarettes?
  • Why are there as many overweight people today as there were total people alive a century ago?
  • Why does calorie counting fail for 19 out of 20 people who try it?
  • Tell the difference between the quality approach vs. the quantity approach to wellness.
  • Learn how to keep your diet SANE (Satiety, Aggression, Nutrition, Efficiency) for weight loss without starvation or an overwhelming exercise regimen.
  • And so much more…


The obesity epidemic is a new phenomenon that was unknown to our grandparents’ generation. Consider this: since 1980, the obesity rate has more than doubled; one in three American kids are overweight or obese — and, for the first time in history, expected to die at a younger age than their parents. What has changed in the past few decades and how can we naturally overcome the factors that make us fat and diabetic?

In episode 421 of The Art of Charm, we talk with wellness technology expert Jonathan Bailor about how understanding the correlation between nutrition, neurobiology, gastroenterology, and endocrinology will allow us to overcome antiquated notions of health and beat the obesity epidemic.

(Direct Download)

More About This Show

Eating sugar and heavily processed food in excess is bad for us — that’s no surprise. But it’s a danger that isn’t taken as seriously as some other health hazards — like smoking, for instance. It’s socially acceptable to reward a child with candy; imagine what the world would be like if it were equally acceptable to reward a child with cigarettes.

Jonathan Bailor is the author of New York Times bestseller The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better. He’s worked with doctors and scientists from the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Harvard Medical School, UCLA, and the Cleveland Clinic for over a decade to determine how modern science can explain and solve the problems we face on two related fronts: an obesity epidemic and a diabetes epidemic. “The vast majority of Americans are either diabetic, pre-diabetic, or let’s say pre-pre-diabetic,” he tells us, “which means if they’re not already pre-diabetic, they will be in about five years.”

Jonathan’s efforts to turn the tide in this war against society’s increasingly poor health led him to found, a program that helps people make positive lifestyle changes based on modern scientific findings rather than relying on outdated advice that’s woefully inefficient.

SANE Science

The general population’s knowledge about eating and exercise generally boils down to this: eat fewer calories, avoid fat (because it gives you heart disease), and get more cardiovascular exercise. 40-50 years ago, this is what science told us. We’ve come a long way since then, but society’s been much slower in adapting to new findings in fitness — mostly because a lot of vested interests that make a lot of money have grown around the old science.

The body does have daily energy needs, but you can’t trick your body into needing less calories by eating fewer calories — just as you can’t tell someone with Irritable bowel syndrome to go to the bathroom less frequently as a “cure” for the condition. Modern science is showing us that there’s more in play than just the quantity of calories that are being consumed. The quality of food today is fundamentally different from the food we ate yesterday. An apple pie today, for instance, isn’t the same apple pie that your grandmother would have eaten as a child. Her apple pie would have been made with simple ingredients: dough, apples, and salt. Our apple pie will probably consist of some unholy concoction of high fructose corn syrup, apple mix, and sugary pastry dough that’s been frozen and processed. Even without taking a microscope to the science, a reasonable observation could give us a few clues toward understanding the ripples that might result from these differences. Before there was an obesity epidemic, our food supply consisted of basic ingredients that didn’t deviate radically from their natural form. Now, we have factories churning out cheap, artificial facsimiles of edible substances that are designed by humans seeking to maximize profits with minimal nutritional value.

Now let’s look at the science. 40-60% of calories eaten today are from things that didn’t exist two generations ago. Sugar and other chemicals present in overly processed “food” can disrupt the human body’s processes that naturally regulate appetite and ideal weight. For instance, leptin is a hormone that is secreted in proportion to the amount of fat that you have stored. It’s like a gauge in your body that tells your brain what’s in reserve and what should be taken in and stored.

Someone who is obese might have 25 times more leptin in their bloodstream than a healthy person, so it’s possible for them to feel hungry and tired even though they may be drowning in an excess of stored energy. Their body is unable to receive the signals that leptin is trying to send, so it keeps demanding more fuel. As it would be nearly impossible to try and overeat yourself into obesity by taking in natural foods available before the obesity epidemic (e.g. clean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and nuts), it’s the abundance of low quality food in our modern diet that science is pinpointing as the culprit behind our inability to regulate a natural balance.

The SANE approach to addressing this imbalance takes these factors into account when appraising the foods that you should be eating:

Satiety: How full does this food make you, and how long does it keep you full? You can eat 900 calories of Pringles and it has no impact on your appetite — so you can keep eating. On the other hand, if you eat 600 calories of salmon and sauteed kale, you’re likely to be satisfied.

Aggression: Hormonal impact. For instance, some foods will cause an unnatural insulin spike, whereas protein will affect the body’s hormones in a much different way than carbs and fats.

Nutrition: How many essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids does a food provide relative to its toxic components?

Efficiency: About 10% of your calories over the course of a day are burned just by turning food into energy. Certain sources of food aren’t energy — like protein, which is a structural component. Burning protein as energy is inefficient, so your body has to perform metabolic alchemy and chemical conversions to do so, which is why people often notice weight loss with high protein diets.

SANE foods are high in water, fiber, and protein; they’re found directly in nature, like vegetables, meats, fish, nuts, and seeds.

In contrast, a lot of the processed foods we find on modern grocery store shelves are dry, low in fiber, and low in protein, like cookies, cakes, crackers, breads, pastas, and sodas (and Pringles).

Approaches to Wellness

What the SANE system strives to do is reclaim the body’s natural power of self-regulation that existed before the onset of the obesity epidemic. You want to work toward healing your metabolism with a mix of higher intensity, lower duration exercise than old science would have you believe is beneficial, and enough natural food to keep you satisfied without craving beyond your body’s capacity to process it. Contrast these two approaches to wellness:

Quantity: Eat 1,200 calories of whatever; exercise accordingly and try to ignore your constant hunger pangs.
Example: Weight Watchers tells you that it’s fine to skip breakfast and lunch if you want to have cake for dinner.

Quality: Eat higher quality food until you’re full (which can equate to a much higher caloric total, but it works with your body’s natural processes rather than breaking them).
Examples: Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, veganism, vegetarianism — all of these lifestyles work for a number of people. What they have in common: none of them recommend counting calories. They agree that eliminating certain (unnatural) foods allow you to enjoy an abundance of other, higher quality foods.

SANE subscribes to the latter approach as being more sustainable for the average person. If you’re the one in 20 people for whom the calorie-counting, quantity approach works, then more power to you! We still urge you to listen to this episode of The Art of Charm for more science-backed reasons to consider the other approach.


If you enjoyed this session with Jonathan, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:

Click here to thank Jonathan Bailor on Twitter!

Resources from this episode:

The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor
Jonathan Bailor’s TEDx Talk: Can Superman End Diabetes?
The Art of Charm bootcamps

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1164 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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in Health & Fitness, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Podcast