(Breather) Fatty popcorn boy is me — two years after exiting a really strict ketogenic eating strategy (mostly on account of R&D while writing The Keto Reset Diet with Mark Sisson) and embarking upon an experiment to increase overall caloric intake, including by default, carb intake.
The experiment was inspired by my NourishBalanceThrive.com consultations with Chris Kelly and Dr. Tommy Wood — both of whom have appeared on the podcast. From review of my bloodwork, there was speculation that I might be depleted from the combined stress of high intensity workouts at an advanced age and ketogenic eating patterns with extended daily fasts.
The experiment worked really well and I enjoyed a noticeable bump in energy and recovery rate. Dr. Tommy assured me that I could hit the healthy foods hard, theoretically up to the point of maximum returns represented by adding body fat! Fast forward to two years later and this is exactly what happened: With standards relaxed, occasional indulgences started to become habitual indulgences. Without really noticing, I had packed on around eight pounds of extra body fat. The before and after photos are: Before on March 22, 2019 weighing 172 pounds — the most ever in my life. The comparison photo is exactly three months later (June 22, 2019), weighing 164lb. I’ve been around this weight for over 20 years, but occasionally with varying levels of muscle mass and body fat. In this recent effort, my weight change seems to be mostly all body fat, so I’d guess I was 12% level at 172, and 8% level at 164.
Excess body fat has never been a main concern due to my lifelong athletic pursuits, but it was an awakening to see a body built by popcorn, dark chocolate, and habitual mindless eating in the mirror. Always eating healthy food with high standards and keto friendly in recent years, but lacking any guidelines, structure, or discipline regarding caloric intake/meal patterns. I might as well have had a dark chocolate IV at times! Sure, you could have worse problems than eating an exceptionally high quality diet with some accumulated extra caloric intake here and there over time, but the experience got me thinking about the importance of discipline in one’s diet. We’ve all heard countless success stories from people who cut processed food, grains, sugar, and bad oils, and immediately lost a ton of weight. However, it’s also no secret that many folks actually struggle with either weight gain or stalled fat loss after they’ve switched to eating a whole-foods, nutrient dense diet. How can this be? Well, it can result from many different factors, but a lot of the time, it’s just the simple fact that you can’t expect to mindlessly eat and not gain weight – even if those foods still do fall into the “healthy” category.
Here are some insights I’d like to share if you have body composition goals or frustrations, and want to do something about it and succeed:
- Writing a book causes body fat increase. Need to negotiate for fat farm/spa retreat tuition with future book deals.
- Modern humans enjoy incredible luxury, comfort, decadence. This is mostly unhealthy. We need to orchestrate ways to move more, perform explosive fitness efforts, introduce hormetic stressors like cold or heat exposure, spend more time fasting/eat less food, and make concerted efforts to disconnect from hyperstimulation and constant connectivity.
- Habits are implemented through repetition and endurance. A main success factor in my three-month fat loss journey was to establish a rule out of the gate of no calories until 12 noon. Simple, non-negotiable, committed. Every morning, there was no will power or decision fatigue involved, because I had established a rule. Instead, I focused on my morning health regimen (Flexibility/Mobility Routine followed by Chest Freezer Cold Plunge), possible morning workout, and then getting my butt into the control tower to start working. No distraction with having to prepare and digest a meal until some great momentum has been created with habitual peak performance behaviors in the morning. Yes, I did notice getting I frequently got hungry around 11:30am––probably part psychological and part digestive circadian rhythm expectation.
- I believe my morning immersion into 34-38F chest freezer cold plunge for 5-6 minutes helps boost fat metabolism. I often get an intense hunger sensation minutes afterward, which I ignore and it passes in ~15 min (Dr. Cate Shanahan confirms this is the spike of ghrelin getting the stomach growlin’, and that the effects subside quickly. By not eating, I believe I turbo-charge fat metabolism and ketone production because my body needs to get energy from somewhere if no meal is imminent.
- Dropping fat is way more difficult than adding fat, duh. I have more empathy and appreciation for the challenge.
It’s interesting to trace how the definition of the word diet has changed drastically over the years. But let’s go back to its original meaning – diete, as it was first used in the English language, used to mean “a day’s journey.” What a cool concept! Instead of thinking of diet as this restrictive, negative thing that you must follow exactly every single day, why not think of it as a day’s journey: a positive experience, a series of mindful decisions you make for yourself, as you nourish yourself, in order to continue on with your day. If this whole fatty popcorn boy saga has drilled in one thing, it is the very valuable lesson that self-discipline = self-love (Thank you Will Smith for that one!). It’s all about making the best decision for yourself in that present moment, and sometimes that means a healthy, homecooked meal, and sometimes that means you just need to munch on some popcorn and chocolate! Diet is a day’s journey, one that you are in charge of, and yeah, it’s easy (and even normal) to get a little lax now and then. But when you implement discipline and mindfulness when it comes to the food you consume throughout the day, every single day, not only does it make it so much easier for you to stay on track with your health and fitness goals, but that kind of disciplined mindset bleeds into everything else you do in life. Self-discipline equals self-love (and, also allows you to enjoy eating your popcorn without becoming the fatty popcorn boy!)
Brad talks about discovering that he needed to lose excess fat. [04:26]
Sometimes appetite regulation and caloric efficiency sometimes don’t line up well. [07:23]
Brad restructured his eating style and found it enhanced his enjoyment of eating. [10:14]
The idea of carnivore diet is emerging. [14:19]
If you’re experiencing a fat reduction plateau, get in there and do some weight bearing sprints. [16:23]
Dr Phil Maffetone references the idea that a sprint workout can have a metabolic effect lasting for up to 72 hours afterward. [18:37]
As soon as you spike insulin, you shut off fat burning. [20:36]
When Brad tried to change his eating habits, he found it more difficult than he thought. [24:30]
Get Over Yourself Podcast
BRAD: 00:00 Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is author and athlete, Brad Kearns, discovering ways to be healthy, fit and happy in hectic, high-stress, modern life. So let’s slow down and take a deep breath. Take a cold plunge and expertly balanced that competitive intensity with an appreciation of the journey. That’s the theme of the show. Here we go.
BRAD: 04:26 Time for a breather show about fatty popcorn. Boy. Yep, that’s me and I’ve had a recent experience that has been very interesting and illuminating. I want to share it with you and it has to do with getting my dietary habits and other lifestyle habits under control to pursue a goal of dropping some excess body fat. This is a rare and unusual occasion for me because I really haven’t worried about that in my entire adult life. Of course I was a high performing athlete for many years and kept in shape, ate healthy, everything was great. But then one day I woke up, this was in March of 2019 and I stepped on a scale for the first time in a long time. I probably weigh myself twice a year for whatever reason, maybe a checkup or something. And I checked in at 172 pounds, which was an all time personal record of life.
BRAD: 05:24 And it was a little shocking. Uh, I decided to take a picture at that time, uh, of the fat popcorn boy. And it was kind of a disturbing occasion where I said, you know what? Although I have extremely high dietary standards and tremendous awareness, knowledge, uh, focus on the, uh, idea of healthy eating and healthy living, I also had a lack of structure in discipline in many ways with my dietary patterns. In other words, I was kind of indiscriminate with my, uh, food intake levels. My eating window had expanded and I was, uh, capable of, uh, repeated or regular celebrations ever more regular celebrations for things like, uh, evening popcorn binge when I’m gathering with family or relaxing after a, a nice busy, productive day. Uh, and this was spinning off of, I’ve talked about this on podcasts a lot where I was in strict nutritional ketosis and pricking my finger every day for about five months straight.
BRAD: 06:29 And learning about this exciting new dietary trend back in 2017 when Mark Sisson and I were working on the Keto reset diet and doing a tremendous amount of r and d to something that was relatively new to each of us to going into strict Keto and seeing what happened. So that was great. And then, uh, at the inspiration of my, uh, good consultants, mentors at Nourish Balance Thrive, Chris Kelly and Dr Tommy Wood, who’s been on two shows here on the channel. Oh my goodness. He made an insight after reviewing my blood work and my, uh, my complaints about crash and burn patterns associated with my, uh, athletic goals and devoted training regimen. He said, you know what, maybe you should try consuming more healthy food just in general more calories because you’re an old guy trying to perform magnificent athletic feats and here’s this Keto thing and it’s working really well for you.
BRAD: 07:23 And you have appetite regulation and caloric efficiency. But sometimes those two things don’t line up well. In other words, if you’re performing a high intensity sprint workout and you happen to be 53 54 years old and then you’re fasting after like a good boy because that’s what Keto is all about, and getting that autophagy going in that caloric efficiency, sometimes those, uh, features, those factors added up together. 36 to 48 hours later in my case, created some crash and burn experiences where my energy was lousy and I attributed it to the, uh, combination stressors of the high intensity workout and the minimal caloric intake. So basically I was given the green light to go and chow down some extra food. And I remember Tommy saying, I asked him, how do I know, you know, what level of caloric intake is more appropriate or more effective?
BRAD: 08:15 And he goes, well, when you start adding excess body fat, you know that you’re doing pretty well and you’re well fed. So here I am two years later, uh, having executed those orders wonderfully and experiencing a nice bump in my performance and recovery from just adding a little more food to the diet, uh, and waking up, looking at, uh, the result of, uh, months of popcorn celebration and nothing against popcorn, especially when you enjoy it moderately. Uh, but me being of the personality attributes, uh, that I am, uh, I was kind of the guy who would eat the entire bowl. It tasted so good and it had been so, uh, lacking from my lifestyle for the previous decades. So I kind of went a big in to it, if you will. Same with my dark chocolate passion and my spanning the globe to find the greatest dark chocolate on the planet right now.
BRAD: 09:10 Leading contenders, Lily Bell Farms in Oregon and also Coracao from the bay area of California. Oh my gosh. Those are good Creo chocolate in Portland, Oregon. So I’m doing the research, getting chocolate experts on my podcast, like Torea Rodriguez, and becoming a chocolate snob in the manner of a wine snob. Since I’m not a wine drinker, I gotta go to chocolate and do my thing. And it’s so exciting and fun to taste the different flavors and okay, all of a sudden I’m a high consumption, dark chocolate person, a frequent consumer of evening popcorn rather than an occasional consumer. Because once you start to leak these things into the picture, you start to lose your structure and discipline and guidelines and boom, all of a sudden, oh, I’d say I probably added seven or eight pounds of body fat in the span of a year, a year and a half, whatever. So I decided just for fun and to turn the corner, turn things around that I would try to, uh, drop this excess body fat somehow some way.
BRAD: 10:14 And the first thing that I put into place was some standards, some structure into my eating patterns. And that was to be no calories before 12 noon. And of course, I had done this for years before, especially during the Keto experiment. I was fasting until 12 or one every day, pricking my finger to determine my blood ketone levels and then carrying on for there with my first meal. So I said, you know what, I’m going to try doing that again. It wasn’t in the name of peak performance or to improve as an athlete. In fact, there was a possibility that uh, it might’ve compromised my performance and recovery as I think it did, uh, before that. But the main reason I was doing it is just to say I was doing it to myself and putting into position, uh, another rule and guideline. So I kind of stack that up with the off disgussed morning routine where I do my flexibility and mobility drills, my leg and core work on the ground right after I wake up.
BRAD: 11:13 I haven’t missed it in about three years. And then of course my morning chest freezer, cold plunge, which you’ve heard plenty about, there’s a whole show dedicated to it and these pattern behaviors that I created or developed into habit through repetition and endurance, I wanted to add the no calories until 12 noon, uh, objective to the list. Just so I could become a more disciplined, focused person. Guess what happened? It enhanced my enjoyment of eating because I had that structure and I didn’t have that unregulated food consumption all day long. Of course, around 1130, every day I started to get hunger sensations and that was pretty funny because of course a lot of that’s mental or psychological, some of it’s the a body clock kicking in. Uh, but, uh, I’d often get these hunger sensations, strong hunger sensations in the morning after my cold plunge. So this typically takes place, uh, seven, seven 30, eight o’clock in the morning.
BRAD: 12:11 Uh, but those would pass after about 15 minutes. So I’d get that growling stomach like I was really hungry in association with cold exposure. Uh, we know there’s research suggesting supporting the idea that cold exposure kick-starts turbocharges fat burning. So what I did there was I basically ignored the hunger sensation and it would go away after 15 minutes. And I declared that for a few hours there. However long the effect lasted, I was in a heightened fat burning state thanks to the cold exposure combined with not consuming any calories. Okay. So all this stuff felt good. It wasn’t super difficult. It wasn’t struggling or suffering, but it felt like I was turning the corner and becoming a more disciplined person with greater appreciation for healthy foods and meals. Sound good? Yeah. Sound good. Especially today, man, because we are existing here in a lifestyle of incredible luxury, comfort, decadence, laziness, uh, inertia, momentum against healthy living because there’s so many examples of a, the luxury, comfort decadence that we kind of fall in line.
BRAD: 13:25 And so we don’t move enough during our busy days. We allow these indulgent foods to leak into the picture more and more because everyone else is eating them and making a quip like, hey, everything in moderation might as well enjoy life or hey, might as well celebrate today. I’ll start my, uh, more disciplined eating patterns later. And all these things kind of tend to, uh, snowball and then you head into a downward spiral where you don’t stand for anything. You don’t have any discipline structure, uh, in your diet. Of course, I’m not eating grains and sugars for, uh, 10 years refined. Uh, industrial seed oils are out of the picture. So it wasn’t a fact of, uh, it wasn’t a case of tail spinning into really poor eating decisions. It was rather just that lack of structure with meal times or, uh, discipline over the total number of calories that I consume.
BRAD: 14:19 So now I’m on a different healthy path and I’m not eating until 12 noon. Around the same time, I get my first exposure, a deep exposure to this, uh, emerging concept of the carnivore diet. And it’s extremely interesting and compelling to me. I’m not going to make a proclamation right now that, uh, this is the end all and everything else is off base, especially the concept that, uh, eating plants is unhealthy for you. That’s super controversial and more and more science and practical application is needed before we make sweeping conclusions for everybody on the planet. But when I heard Dr. Paul Saladino first discuss it at length on Ben Greenfield show and subsequently many other shows, including get over yourself podcast. So listen to that show, he made so much sense and his argument was so compelling. I decided to dabble in a carnivores ish, uh, eating patterns.
BRAD: 15:17 So, uh, downsizing my, uh, mass consumptions of plant life, my world famous stir fries that I would make for large groups of people and consume plenty of that including, uh, nuts, seeds, nut butters, things like that, that are also part of the plant community. So I tightened up my dietary choices further. And by tightening up your choices, you have the added benefit of kind of a less stressful, uh, experience when you’re doing meal planning, where you eliminate the variables of willpower and decision fatigue from your dietary choices. So you’re emphasizing, uh, most entirely animal foods eating things like eggs, salmon, eggs, fish, grass fed beef, uh, liver, especially the organ meats and the nose to tail strategy that Dr Saladino is emphasizing. So importantly, bone broth to get your collagen and Glycosaminoglycans, things that you don’t get from muscle mates. So it was kind of fun to experiment with a new dietary strategy.
BRAD: 16:23 But just like with the example of waiting until 12 noon to eat, uh, my eating choices were limited and therefore, uh, I had these nutrient dense meals that were highly satisfying of course because of the, uh, high protein, high fat content of carnivore, you’re not wanting for anything after you have a big old steak or a giant burger. And sure enough, I started to drop excess body fat and the day of this recording here we are in June, so it’s exactly three months after I took the fatty popcorn boy picture, I’m down to a 164, so that is about eight pounds probably back to my routine weight, um, over previous decades or maybe even a better and better body fat levels because I’ve also upped my commitment to sprinting. And if you’re experiencing a fat reduction plateau, that would probably be one of the greatest suggestions is to get in there and do some weight bearing sprints.
BRAD: 17:30 Uh, ideally if you have joint issues or you’re a novice, it might not be able to go out there and slam some running sprints so you can do low impact or no impact sprints. But the weightbearing nature and the impact trauma that occurs when you’re, uh, doing explosive sprints, uh, in running, uh, are a great stimulus for the reduction of excess body fat and the development or maintenance of lean muscle mass. Uh, Mark Sisson likes to convey this idea with the quip. Quote nothing cuts you up, like sprinting end quote. And it’s true when you’re sprinting, you are performing, uh, at what some scientists have measured as a 30 x factor in something called met metabolic equivalent of task. And so they’ve measured the energy output, the metabolic output required for an assortment of, uh, activities, starting with gardening or brisk walking, and then jogging, and then a casual bicycling, a weightlifting, dancing, uh, and you see the scoreboard of the met value for each of these.
BRAD: 18:37 So if you’re doing a brisk walk, your met might be four or six, or you’re gardening, you’re doing a three or a four. And this represents, uh, how many times more than your resting metabolic rate, uh, the activity requires or demands. So if you’re sleeping and your baseline metabolic equivalent of task is a one, and then you’d go and garden, you’re up at three or four a, you start jogging, you’re up at nine or 11. Same with easy cycling, but sprinting because you’re asking for, uh, an all out explosive effort are getting up to 30 MET And when you perform a 30 MET activity, it has a lasting effect on your genetic and hormonal functions lasting for many hours afterward, Dr Phil Maffetone, uh, references, uh, the idea that a sprint workout can have a metabolic effect lasting for up to 72 hours afterward.
BRAD: 19:31 So giving that stimulus, even though the workout itself is very short in duration, can have a profound effect on your metabolic function and your ability to drop excess body fat. Of course, it mostly comes from, uh, restricting, uh, carbohydrates and total calories in the Diet. So your clearest path to dropping excess body fat is fasting, uh, eliminating all forms of refined carbohydrates, so grains and sugars. And of course, getting rid of those industrial seed oils even know they’re not carbs and they don’t cause an insulin response. What they do is promote dysfunctional fat metabolism. Uh, Dr Cate Shanahan, and I get into this in detail on her show, but when you consume these oils and they’re integrated into your cell membranes, you have more difficulty burning those cells off your body as fat because they contain this harmful chemical. So you’ve got to completely ditch the industrial seed oils in your quest to become a fat burning machine and also eliminate those processed carbs that spike insulin.
BRAD: 20:36 As soon as you spike insulin, you shut off fat burning. Instead, you’re burning the energy you just consumed from your powerbar or whatever snack you had, your Starbucks drink that has secretly seven pumps of liquid cane sugar in there, and you’ll be burning that energy off stimulating insulin as a consequence. And then locking fat away in storage. And sure enough, running out of energy because insulin insulin’s clearing the bloodstream of energy and then you’re going to be hungry for more food. So when you transition over into fat adapted eating pattern, you get really good at burning off all the stored body fat that you have, especially when you’re also throwing in a time restriction. So not eating any calories until noon. Of course you’re in a fat burning state from the previous evening when you ate your last meal or food. So going from 8:00 PM to 12 noon, that’s 16 hours in a fastest date, burning body fat, perhaps even making ketones and then gracefully transitioning into meals that are not high insulin stimulating meals.
BRAD: 21:39 Of course, they carnivore pattern for me helped me do that. And you know, the veggies are not a big problem here either. So if you’re going for a plant based diet or whatever kind of eating strategy you’re following, you can still do a minimal insulin stimulating diet. Taking care to move around throughout the day and keeping that fat burning going, the momentum that you’ve built, keeping it going by moving around. There’s some interesting studies showing that even a 20 minute, uh, sitting session being still in a chair for 20 minutes can generate a noticeable increase in insulin resistance. And compromised fat burning and also a decline in cognitive function and oxygen and blood circulation in the brain. So when you sit, you get tired and you stop burning fat, which means you get hungry and cranky. That’s what they call hangry, hungry and angry together the afternoon blues.
BRAD: 22:39 So one of the secrets to burning off excess body fat and making the most of the benefits of your workout, especially sprinting, is to get up and move and take five minute breaks throughout the day or do these micro workouts that are so interesting. A new trend in fitness where instead of a formal workout lasting for long duration, you go under your pull up bar in your closet and you haul off a single set. Or I go outside and I see my hex bar dead lift and I just do one set and then carry on with my busy day. Maybe two sets, but of certainly not a formal structured workout that you’re only gonna do a couple few times a week. But you have time for these micro workouts. Doing a set of 20 air squats in your cubicle, you’re not going to get sweaty. It’s not going to ruin your day or interfere with your work, but it’s going to give you that surge of uh, oxygen, blood circulation in the brain so you feel alert and it’s also going to kickstart fat burning.
BRAD: 23:34 Again, that’s been compromised after as little as 20 minutes of sitting around. So we have this big picture plan that I’m sharing with you where first of all, I had to become aware that I did have, uh, some undisciplined unregulated dietary patterns that had caused a packing on a little extra body fat. Second, I put into practice, I’m a some structure and some commitments, some guidelines. My choice doesn’t have to be your choice, but my choice was, hey, how about not eating any calories until 12 noon? And that opened up a wonderful world of greater dietary appreciation and also a accelerated fat burning because I wasn’t giving myself calories in the morning. Third, we got to move around more throughout the day. And then fourth, adding that, uh, brief high intensity workout into the mix can be a wonderful catalyst. Put it all together and I got to say at the end, this is a success story.
BRAD: 24:30 That’s great. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be recording it. Right. Uh, but along the way I noticed that it was more difficult than I thought. I had to put a lot of things into place to get the body fat off that had been added so easily that I really didn’t notice. Uh, so that’s funny. I have greater empathy and appreciation for the challenge of trying to drop excess body fat, especially when you’re doing everything right. You’re doing everything that is said in the book or everything that you’ve heard on a podcast and it’s not happening at the pace or at the level that you dreamed about. Um, so that was, you know, there was a little frustration along the way. Like, Gosh, I’m stacking up all these things. I’m eating way less food and I’m not having, uh, nearly as many departures from clear focus as I had in previous time.
BRAD: 25:19 And, uh, I don’t see any noticeable different or I’m stepping on the scale and I still weigh the same amount. So I think we, um, have breakthroughs in a metabolic function and fat reduction in a fractal manner, not a steady manner. So keep doing what you’re doing, stay the course, believe in the process, enjoy the process, don’t struggle or get negative about the process and then the results will happen naturally thanks to your pure motivation. Maybe we’ll cover this topic further, but I just wanted to share that stuff with you and be honest, authentic, vulnerable, the real deal. I’m fighting the same battles. We’re all human. We’re doing the best we can even fatty popcorn boy.
BRAD: 25:58 Thank you for listening to the breather show. Thank you for listening to the show. We would love your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would also love if you could leave a rating and a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. I know it’s a hassle. You have to go to desktop, iTunes, click on the tab that says ratings and reviews, and then click to rate the show anywhere from five to five stars and it really helps spread the word so more people can find the show and get over themselves because they need to. Thanks for doing it.