“Lifestyle does not affect energy expenditure the way we think,” says Dr. Herman Pontzer.

Get ready for a wide-ranging conversation with Dr. Herman that will truly keep you on your toes and challenge everything you thought you knew about exercise and energy expenditure. His work is centered around studying the physiology of both humans and apes in order to gain a much deeper and nuanced understanding of how ecology, lifestyle, diet, and evolutionary history affect metabolism and health. Here to talk about his sensational new book, Burn, and deeply driven by his interest in anthropology and evolutionary biology, Dr. Herman shares some incredibly thought-provoking insights during this episode. You’ll surely want to order your own copy of Burn to read, as it will expose you to many surprising truths about the way your body functions that will inspire you to completely overhaul the way you work out, especially after you hear that humans burn the same number of calories every day, regardless of exercise habits. 

In this episode, you’ll learn about metabolic diversity, the difference between being a high calorie burner and having a fast metabolism, and why we should rethink why we exercise. You’ll also learn why metabolism is closely linked to longevity, why workouts don’t matter when it comes to trying to drop excess body fat, and the secret, sensible method for successful fat loss. Dr. Herman also gives some beautiful commentary towards the end of this episode about how his time with the Hadza people has profoundly impacted his perspective on life. If you want to give back to the amazing Hadza community and help protect their health and culture, please click here to learn about The Hadza Fund.

TIMESTAMPS:

New research blows the lid off how we really burn calories, lose weight and stay healthy. [01:52]

Your daily activity level has no bearing on the number of calories you burn each day. [06:07]

If you exercise more, your body compensates by turning energy expenditures and other tasks down. [11:17]

What’s the use of exercising if we don’t burn any more calories and lose weight than when we sit around? [13:40]

Of course, exercise is an important activity for your health and longevity.  It just doesn’t show as a number decreasing on the scale. [19:04]

You can eat carbs, turn them into fats and then burn the fat. [22:29]

If you want to manage your weight, focus on diet. [23:51]   

The Hadza, who eat off the land don’t go hungry. [28:23]

If someone goes on a crash diet trying to starve for weight loss, the body puts the brakes on everything with metabolic adjustments that don’t last. [30:28]

What is the recommended strategy to drop the excess pounds in Herman’s opinion? Find a diet that makes you feel full on fewer calories.  [32:13]

If you cut out the added sugar and processed foods that most people eat, it is a great start.  [35:26]

There was a study determining how full someone felt after eating various types of food.

The best predictors were protein levels and fiber levels. [37:06]

Exercise is very important, not for burning calories but for general well-being. But social connections have an effect on how your body functions, too.  [39:39]

There really is no easy way to go about this. There are many “experts” talking about things that are not scientifically based. [42:15]

What is metabolic diversity? Two people can be the same size, same body composition, same lifestyle and be very different in their calorie burn. [43:59

Our paleolithic brain is not built to handle the processed foods we have today. [49:13]

It’s important to go slow with your new dietary changes. [50:30]

Are the Hazda getting too much of the outside world from researchers? [52:29]

What has Herman taken away from his studying the Hadza? [01:04:10]

LINKS:

QUOTES:

  • “We have to rethink why we exercise.” 
  • “Feel full on fewer calories.”
  • “If you’re asking yourself, ‘Why am I even bothering to exercise?’ the answer is: for all the stuff you can’t see. That’s what you’re exercising for, not the number on the bathroom scale.”
  • “Exercise gets everywhere. Exercise doesn’t just get to your muscles. All sorts of signaling molecules get sent out when you exercise, and it affects all your systems across your body.”

LISTEN:

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B.Rad Podcast

Brad (1m 52s): Hey listeners, I’m so excited to tee up my wonderful and wide ranging interview with Dr. Herman Pontzer, author of the sensational new book called Burn. And boy, oh boy! Fasten your seatbelts because he is going to blow the lid off our conventional notions about fitness and diet and everything that the fitness and diet industry is predicated on. Here’s the subtitle new research blows the lid off how we really burn calories, lose weight and stay healthy. And Herman is deep into a anthropology, evolutionary biology. He provides some really high level takeaway quotes to set the context really nicely. Brad (2m 37s): One of them is quote, the name of the game is to turn energy into kids. That is our evolutionary purpose. And he talks in great detail in the book about how metabolism is closely correlated with longevity. That’s his life’s work, his energy expenditure, and the big takeaway that I jumped to right at the start of the show to get you excited interested is that humans burn the same number of calories every day, regardless of our exercise habits. So this is what Herman does. He investigates the physiology of humans and apes to understand how ecology and lifestyle diet, and evolutionary history affect metabolism and health and how he called gene evolution influenced musculoskeletal design and physical activity. Brad (3m 23s): So if we’re reeling from this grand assertion, that basically our workouts don’t matter in the context of trying to drop excess body fat. How do we do it? Listen to the show and you’re going to find out. And he offers up a very sensible theory that integrates all manner of lifestyle habits. So that’s cool. Cause that’s what we’ve been talking about all the time is optimizing your sleep and how that affects fat, burning your exercise and moving more throughout the day as being vastly more important even than adhering to a devoted exercise regimen because of all the hormonal and metabolic consequences of regular movement. Brad (4m 3s): And the fact that your workout doesn’t really contribute to extra calories burned in this additive model that is now been turned around as being flawed. However, working out, fitness, developing muscle mass and athletic competency has all kinds of correlation to health and longevity. It’s just not about burning extra calories in exercise to lose weight. So what is the secret to fat loss? Here it is. You’re ready. I’m going to quote Dr. Herman Pontzer: Find a diet that makes you feel totally satisfied on a fewer calories. It really is as simple as that, how do we do that? Well, he’s going to talk about eliminating these hyper palatable foods that a lot of people are blaming and that’s certainly the place to place our major focus as these processed foods that don’t provide nourishment, not as much say tidy as a truly nutritious food and they get you coming back for more and more. Brad (5m 0s): And I think one of the most valuable parts of the show and also the book is how we get to come in and see a one of the last hunter gatherer societies left on earth, the Hadza and get all kinds of insights and takeaways that we can really reflect upon and some beautiful commentary at the very end by Dr. Herman talking about how his experience with the Hadza influences, how he makes decisions and reflects on the various things that are going on in hectic high stress, modern world. Interestingly, the Hadza remain in their primitive hunter gatherer society by choice, they’re near villages. They could walk in there and get an internet connection or a smartphone or whatever, but they love their simple lifestyle. Brad (5m 46s): You’re going to learn about the Hadza’s a word XY, which means to give and the realization that humans are built. We’re designed to live in cooperation, not conflict. A wonderful show with Dr. Herman. Pontzer, the author of Burn. Here we go. Dr. Herman Pontzer. I am so excited to connect with this interview and talk about your sensational new book called burn. And we’d been talking about it, looking at the, the insights for many months before the release. And so now the book launches upon us and we’re going to learn some insights that are going to blow our minds. Dr. Pontzer (6m 28s): Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here, talking with you about it. Yeah. Brad (6m 32s): The, the, you know, the book covers contain marketing hype and that, you know, this is a sensational new diet. That’s gonna make you lose weight, like no other diet ever and all that. But in your case, the, the marketing content is very well-worded and it’s not really high because your research is, is blowing the lid off our fundamental beliefs about how the body burns calories and lose or maintains weight. And I want to start off with a bang here for the listeners to pay attention. So I’m going to quote a, I think it was from chapter three where you said your daily activity level has no bearing on the number of calories you burn each day. And with that, I hand it over to you. What the heck are you talking about, man? Dr. Pontzer (7m 14s): But that is, that’s a shocker. It was for me too. So, you know, we can ease into this gently. You know, I’m trained as an anthropologist and as a physiologist, I’ve been interested in how bodies use energy, my whole career, because, you know, from an evolutionary point of view, which is how I think about humans, the whole name of the game is turning energy into kids, right? So if you can figure it out, how you burn energy, you can figure out a lot about any organism. And that includes us. Now, if you want to understand how humans burn energy, and you want to kind of do it in an evolutionary ecological context, you don’t care about people burning energy in New York city, or, you know, in a westernized industrialized context that, you know, the frame of reference that you want to have is what hunting and gathering does to us, because we were hunting and gathering for two and a half million years, right? Dr. Pontzer (8m 0s): So that is the lifestyle that shaped us. And there are a handful of, of hunting and gathering groups that are still doing it today. And so we went and worked with one of them, the Hadza in Northern Tanzania. And a population like that’s magic because you get to ask the question, what would my body be like if I grew up as a hunter gatherer, right? I mean, it’s so cool that you can do this. And so we go there and we work with these guys. And the whole goal is to just show the world how many more calories they burn than the rest of us. Because we know they’re really physically active and we’re going to show just how high those energy expenditures are every day. It’s about 10 years ago that we did this work. I go there with my buddy, Dave Rocklin, and my buddy Brian Wood. Dr. Pontzer (8m 41s): We measure the energy expenditures using this sort of complex isotope tracking technique, the gold standard for doing this work, get back home, look at the data. And we can’t believe it because, you know, if you, you can imagine, and we can talk it more if you want, but, you know, hunting and gathering, it’s hard work, right? You’re doing a lot of activity every day. And the number of calories they’re burning was no different than your average American here in our sedentary industrialized lifestyle. So that was the first solid evidence for me, personally, that lifestyle does not affect energy expenditure the way we think. Brad (9m 19s): So now we have this foundation from which the entire fitness and diet industry has been built upon for the last a hundred years, or whenever we first started to want to talk about dieting and so forth, we’re getting shape. And when we started to go into industrial age with factory work and no humans were no longer fit and healthy and moving around all day. So, you know, now we’re basically at a dead end and we need, we need Dr. Herman to, to wind us out of there. And it’s interesting. So when you went, you were expecting these guys to come through with their 7,000 calorie days, like the iron man triathlete. And that’s what blew your mind when you got home? Dr. Pontzer (9m 56s): Oh, absolutely. I mean, I could show you the grant proposal. We wrote national slash foundation. And in fact, you know, if listeners who are in research will know that you never get the grant the first time you apply for it. Right? So we didn’t get ours the first time either we got pushed back and review, and please think about this and that. And one of the reviewer comments was we know what we’re going to find anyway. What’s the point they’re going to have these really high expenditures. You know, that we know that what’s the point of measuring this stuff. So it’s really funny. I mean, I think nobody was more surprised than us about these results. Now I’ll say this, you know, the first time you get shocking results like that as a scientist to go, Oh, I must have screwed up. Or this is, you know, this is a weird phenomenon. Dr. Pontzer (10m 36s): So we’ve looked at other populations, we’ve looked at other species. This is true across the board lifestyle, just as not push daily energy expenditure around the way that that were sold. Brad (10m 48s): So, if that’s the case, how are we going to explain some of the things like, you know, I was a pro triathlete for 10 years and I trained for many, many hours a day. I was a calorie burning machine. I was a calorie consuming machine, but I guess there was some compensatory factors going on where I burned fewer calories when I was off the bike. Then the person who was sitting at the next cubicle working all day or something? Dr. Pontzer (11m 16s): Yeah, that’s right. So what we’re finding is that if you exercise more, you should, by the way, this is not an anti exercise, but if you do have to do the exercise, but what that does is your body reacts. And it compensates by turning energy expenditures and other tasks down. Now, you know, even when you’re a really physically active person, elite triathlon, elite triathletes, I’m not sure, but even, you know, your typical recreationally, active person, they’re burning most of their calories every day on things that are not physical activity. You know, your immune system, your digestive system, your stress reaction, you know, inflammation. Things like. You can turn all those things down and free up a lot of energy, basically for the activity. Dr. Pontzer (12m 0s): And then what that does is at the end of the day, the total number of calories you burned, hasn’t really moved because you’ve just juggled around how you spend the calories rather than increasing that top line number. Brad (12m 11s): And that could be a very bad deal. You know, Chris Kelly from Nourish Balance Thrive, I think, and he gave this great quote that I’ve been thinking about since he, since he uttered it. And he said, reproduce, maybe he’s quoting you. I’m not sure because we were talking about you during the whole conversation, but he said, reproduction, growth,, repair and locomotion are a zero sum game. And if you do more of one, you take away from the others. So the triathlete who’s, who’s burning calories, riding his bicycle is getting suppressed, immune function, muscle repair, all the things that we need to be to maintain our health. Dr. Pontzer (12m 45s): Yeah, that’s right. And you know, he, might’ve been talking about the work that we, we, you know, that I’ve discussed and I’ve done. It is kind of a zero sum game. You know, you can put, I’ll say this while you’re doing that triathlon, right. You can push your calorie expenditure up for that half day. And if you’re in a real training, you know, a training month or a real, you know, you’re ramping your training up for a couple of months in preparation for the season. That kinda thing. Yeah. For awhile, you can go up above that ceiling, but know your body really keeps things kept. And, you know, for most of us that juggling that, that metabolic compensation, you know, this zero sum game thing here is good. Because for most of us more exercise means less inflammation or exercise means less stress-free activity, you know, cortisol levels and adrenaline levels you know, keeps your reproductive hormones in, in sort of in a place where they’re supposed to be rather than sky high. Dr. Pontzer (13m 39s): But that’s right. If you are, you know, an ultra marathon runner, a triathlete, if you are pushing your body to that level, okay, now you’re cutting to the bone. And now that you’re here, some game can become to come back and get you, because now you have not enough energy left for the essential stuff. So for the rest of us who are trying to live a healthy, happy, balanced lifestyle, get out there and move to, to counterbalance the, the sedentary periods. What is the, sorta like… What’s the, what’s the compulsion to get out and move if it doesn’t, it’s not going to do any good anyway, in our, in our flawed, you know, conventional notion here. Dr. Pontzer (14m 21s): Yeah. Well, that’s, I think that’s right. I think we have to rethink why we exercise, right? I think if you tell folks that you should eat, you should exercise that you can have, you know, at beach ready body or whatever it is, you know, or you, you can lose your weight through exercise. Most folks aren’t going to have that result because most folks, their bodies adjust. And, you know, it just, we know that exercise is not a great tool for weight loss. Brad (14m 47s): When we tell people that some of us know, but, you know, take, take down all the billboards across America with, you know, the massive marketing dollars behind it. And yeah. Then that’s why, I guess, you know, the smoke is going to be clearing. That’s why your book’s called Burn. We’re going to have a lot of smoke here, man. You’re starting up your light and stuff up here. Dr. Pontzer (15m 6s): I hope so. I mean, if we can sort of set the record straight, just on that note, that would be so important. Exercise is really good for so many things. You know, it just doesn’t help for weight loss for him much. So we have to rethink, you know, look, if you’re looking at the bathroom scale, that number is not changing. And you’re like, what the hell is going on? Why am I even bothering to exercise? The answer is for all the stuff you can’t see. All the things you can’t see that are going on. As you adjust to that exercise regime, that’s all the good stuff that’s going to keep you moving and fit and healthy and happy, especially as you age. But even right now, that’s what you’re exercising for. Not for the number on that bathroom scale. Brad (15m 47s): Well, the regular daily movement as demonstrated by the Hadza and people that are trying to, you know, be as healthy as possible. We know this, this objective to move is even more important than adhering to a devoted exercise schedule, where you get your butt on the spin bike at 6:00 AM and put in that hour, and then sit around the rest of the day. And when we’re moving around, is this going to have a positive impact on things like our appetite, our, our hunger and satiety levels and our ability to burn fat versus being dependent on dietary carbs for energy? Dr. Pontzer (16m 25s): Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s a good point. They weave activity into their entire day, right. Literally from when they wake up with the sun and until they go to bed, you know, they’re, they’re moving the whole time. Brad (16m 37s): Yeah. Tell us about your, your voice recorder and how you’re out there. The early field research I want, I want to hear that anecdote. It’s so funny. Dr. Pontzer (16m 46s): Learning to be an anthropologist with the Hadza. So, you know, my, my graduate student training, I was more on the physiology side of the apology. I sort know how the body works, you know, the mechanics of it, but I hadn’t done a whole lot of field work with other populations. And then I started doing this project with the Hadza, with my buddy Brian Wood, and he’s spent his whole career with the Hadza. He’s probably spent more nights in a Hadza camp then in his own bed, the last two decades. And Brian’s wonderful and a good friend. And you know, so when we were out there and you’re in these small camps, you know, grass huts in the middle of Savannah, and you spend your days, either you spend your day at camp doing science stuff there, or else you spend your day out following the Hadza, going out with them because they don’t spend a day in camp. Dr. Pontzer (17m 30s): They get out fine. Well, when you’re doing that, you know, you keep notes and the best way to keep notes. There’s a little voice recorder. Cause otherwise you’re kind of constantly scribbling down. So you’d keep this voice recorder knows. And every five minutes you’re supposed to mark what you’re doing. And I got all this, you know, this is what Brian told me. He said, look, every five minutes, you gotta note what you’re doing fine. And I just, I would go out on these day long follows. And every five minutes, I’m saying 7:55 walking, eight o’clock walking. And you just feel like an idiot because you’re walking around, whispering into this little device. And the Hadzas are, who are used to weird researchers. They’re like, what the heck is this guy doing? Dr. Pontzer (18m 9s): And I got back to camp one night and I said, look, man, I feel I got to tell you, Brian, it just seems weird that I’m just constantly saying, walking into my recording machine. And Brian goes, Oh, you don’t have to do that. And I said, what do you mean? You don’t have to do that. Of course you have. I mean, you have to keep notes on every five minutes, but you know, if you skip, if you skip one, if you skip a check-in, we just assume you’re walking. Because like, that’s, that’s the, that’s what you’re always doing. Right. That’s the null hypothesis here. That’s that’s the baseline for Hadza is walking. And so, you know, he’s like, Oh, you know, nobody who would actually say that every five minutes that you’re walking, of course you’re walking. Dr. Pontzer (18m 52s): It was really kind of funny. And I was like, Oh wow. That’s, I mean, it makes all the sense in the world and it just shows you just how much you’re on your feet in a traditional society like that. Brad (19m 3s): It’s so, because they’re on their feet so much, they’re getting a number of health benefits. Like you said, the stuff you’re not seeing on the scale. And I think if we’re not, and we’re sitting around, even though we’re burning a lot of calories.` I guess I’m going to ask you, you know what, what’s the, the negative effects of sitting around. But I also want to ask like, Oh, I forgot, but tell me, tell me about that one first. Dr. Pontzer (19m 31s): Well, so that’s the, you know, the science of inactivity has become this sort of its own science in the last couple of years. But when you’re just sitting around your muscles, especially if you’re like me right now, I’m in a comfortable chair. I shouldn’t be, I should be doing something else. But anyway, here I am, you know, in a comfortable chair and my muscles are very relaxed, which means they’re not burning any calories, which means they have no need for fuel. And so these fatty acids that these lipids that are floating around in my blood that are there to be burned, you know, that’s what they’re there. That’s what that’s for. They’re not getting used. And so they’re kind of building up because they’re beginning produced, but they’re not getting burnt. They’re not getting burned up. Dr. Pontzer (20m 11s): That’s what an activity seems to be. Th th that’s why activity seems to be so bad for you. If I spend hours like this, and thankfully I won’t, I’ll get up and move after we’re done talking. But if I spent hours and hours like this on the sofa, watching TV or at work or whatever those hours spent with high blood lipid levels, or just, it turns out, we know now that those are associated with really bad health outcomes, bad heart health outcomes, a range of things. If I can just get moving a little bit, or if I was like a Hadza man, and I was squatting instead of sitting in this comfy chair and I had a little bit of tonic muscle activity going on, that would, that would maybe set me straight because it doesn’t take much, but you gotta get your muscles a little bit active to, to pull in, to sort of Hoover up all that fat in your blood and use it. Brad (20m 59s): And I guess also you talked about this in the book. It was, it was a really wonderful blend between fun, interesting insights and storytelling about the Hadza. And then we had some heavy science, like it could actually be a textbook for a college class where learning about mitochondria and photosynthesis and the history of the planet and the energy. It’s all about energy expenditure. I want the listeners to realize that’s your life’s work. And it extends in so many areas. And I want to talk about longevity relating to calorie burning. But on this direct question, I guess there’s also the oxidative stress resulting from eating a bunch of food and then not getting up and doing your walking every five minutes, like the Hadza, Dr. Pontzer (21m 39s): Right? Well, there’s that too. And you know, there’s all sorts of bad things with an activity, the oxidative stress pieces there, for sure. You know, oxidative stress is interesting because you kind of, I mean, it’s hard to avoid it completely, right? The fact that we have these metabolic engines, there’s always going to be a byproduct. There’s always gonna be a waste product. And oxidative stress is a part of that, but normally your body has a lot, all these, you know, antioxidant strategies, you actually have a gene or set of genes, actually that make an enzyme to break oxidative stress things, and they help repair. You can get antioxidants in your diet. So normally that kind of give and take of, of oxidative stress, production, and repair that’s imbalanced. Dr. Pontzer (22m 20s): But inactivity is one of these ways that you can get out of balance. That’s right. And it causes all kinds of trouble. Brad (22m 26s): I’m wondering if it could be simplified to your, you know, we talk so much about wanting to be a fat burning beast rather than dependent on dietary carbs as your primary source of energy. So if you’re up and moving around at a, at a comfortable pace, right, the Hadzas are not training for the next triathlon. So I imagine most of this is low level activity. So they’re burning fat constantly at a, at a nice rate because they’re walking and they’re not getting those, those crash and burns that someone might have sitting at a desk, especially after that hour long spinning class where they just torched themselves in the morning. Dr. Pontzer (23m 3s): Yeah. That could be the case. I mean, I’ll say this, the Hadzas, aren’t a high-fat diet population. So that’s interesting, right? So you can burn fats, right? You, you could, you could eat carbs, turn them into fats and then burn the fats. And they might well be doing that, but they don’t have high fat levels. So they don’t have a high fat reserve to pull from. But, you know, the, that’s been an interesting piece of this because we know that, you know, really sugar-rich diets can be a problem for a lot of people. The Hadzas eat a lot of honey, you know, they eat a lot of tubers, which are starchy and stuff like that. So the finding, I think we need to work on next sort of how we square the circle on the nutrient intake that they have and the health outcomes that they have and how they’re burning those calories and stay in a nutrient balance. Brad (23m 48s): Okay. So what about the, the slightly frustrated listener now who can cross off some of their resolutions that, you know, the secret to fat loss is to hit more, more spin classes or whatever, what do we do? How do we get the excess body fat off the body? Dr. Pontzer (24m 4s): Yeah. I mean, I think this comes back to the old adage. You cannot run a bad diet, right? You know, the, or you cannot run. Your fork is another way I’ve heard that said, which is fun. You know, if you want to work on your diet, you want to manage, sorry, sorry. If you want to manage your weight, you need to focus on your diet. Almost every other thing in your health. Every other aspect of your health is going to be related to exercise. But weight specifically is really about diet because what our work with the hottest shows and other people too, it’s really hard to move that energy expenditure piece of the equation, right? At the end of the day, the, every calorie that’s in your body, every gram of fat or protein or whatever carbs, it’s all calories that you ate and didn’t burn off, right? Dr. Pontzer (24m 57s): So your weight is fundamentally about that balance between energy and an energy out. It’s really hard to move the energy out piece. It’s really hard to move that with lifestyle. So you got to focus on the energy that you take into your diet. If you want to, to really try to manage your weight. Brad (25m 11s): So how do you do that? Dr. Pontzer (25m 12s): Well, you know, I think a lot of people have found that a great way to manage energy intake is through a low carb diet. People have huge success with that. There are people who have a lot of success through fiber heavy diets, right? And from my point of view, you know, and, and we might have a fun discussion about this, but from my point of view, either way, you’re basically finding a diet that feels good, that feels satiating, and that is limiting your calorie intake so that you don’t over consume. And there’s a couple of different ways to get probably a whole variety of ways to get to that. Brad (25m 46s): Yeah. It could be any trick that you want to pull out of the deck. I’m, I’m fascinated by the carnivore diet, due to the nutritional density and the fact that some people can heal from these auto-immune and inflammatory conditions caused by plants. But guess what, if you restrict everything except for animal foods, you’re going to have a good success rate with dropping fat, because all of a sudden your diet’s limited from, you know, the, the, the glutton American presentation of the, at the buffet, right? .And there’s this other aspect of it too, which is this sensory sensory specific satiety, right? This is the classic Western situation in the industrialized world, but nobody in the history of the planet has had this issue before. Brad (26m 28s): But, but this will be familiar to most of your listeners. You go to a restaurant, you order the steak, it’s fantastic. You couldn’t eat another bite. And then unless you’re, you know, if you’ve already, unless you’ve already sworn off the carbs, then they bring around a dessert plate and you think, Oh, actually I could eat another bite. Dr. Pontzer (26m 46s): In fact, actually I could have a slice of cheesecake right now, you know. And you go home and you think, Oh gosh, I’m gaining weight. And it’s because of that, darn well, you pick, is it because of the darn cheesecake? Is it because of the darn steak, whatever it’s actually because you overate calories. Now, why did you be able to read the calories? It’s because your brain was doing a pretty good job making you feel full about that heavy protein, heavy fat meal, you just ate, but all of those sweet carb reward systems were wide open. They weren’t protected, right. That your cause your brain and your brain goes, Oh, that that would actually be pretty nice, too. In Hadza land that doesn’t happen. In Hadza land the meal, come home, you know, the, the tubers come in and eat tubers to your stuffed or the kudu kudu until you’re stuffed or ward hog or whatever it is, or honey. Dr. Pontzer (27m 35s): And it isn’t just like, Oh, would you like dessert? Or we, you know, there’s none of that. Right? So I think that by cutting carbs out of your diet, right? One of the reasons that’s going to work is you already know you’re not going to have the cheesecake. You’ve already sworn it off and good. And that’s great, right? That’s one great way to do that. Right? You, you would have the same result if you had the vegetarian option. And then in terms of calorie intake, any out you’d have, if you had the calorie, the, the, the vegetarian option and sworn off the cheesecake, that would, that would be good too. You know? Brad (28m 7s): So it’s this concept of hyper palatable foods. That’s becoming popular now where especially the pairing of carbs and fat together, which you’re saying that never happens with the Hadzas. That they don’t have honey glazed warthog or anything of the sort, nothing at all. Dr. Pontzer (28m 21s): No, I mean, their, their diet is actually pretty bland. You know, I wish I could tell exotic stories of, of all the crazy meals you have in Hadza land, but you don’t. It’s like, you know, roasted antelope, roasted tubers, honey. Honey’s tasty. You know, the, the berries they eat are really fibrous, not very sweet and it, you know, it’s filling, it’s good food, but it’s not, I wouldn’t ever describe it as delicious. It’d be hard to market a Hadza diet. Brad (28m 54s): Now we know that there’s all these unfortunate compensatory mechanisms we under consumed calories and that doesn’t work for fat loss either in, in, in real life. Is that ever an occasion for the Hadza where they have some periods of scarcity even, even today. So what happens? Dr. Pontzer (29m 15s): Well, so, you know, they don’t have, I mean, they don’t have refrigerators and they don’t even have, you know, they don’t smoke foods or anything like that, or any way to preserve them. So every day they wake up and they got to go get food from the landscape. So potentially there’s a shortfall, you know, potentially they’ll have a short fall day. What I can tell you is that for the, you know, the weeks and months that I’ve spent in Hadza camps, I’ve never seen them hungry for a day. You know, they, they know that landscape to them is like Trader Joe’s. You know, they, they like, Oh, that’s the tubers are over there. And I can go get a zebra if I head out that. Yeah. And they, they know it very well. They’re comfortable there that it don’t feel, I don’t think they ever wake up scared that they’re not going to get food that day. Dr. Pontzer (29m 56s): And they would never intentionally starve themselves. Now in the history of being a hunter gatherer, are there ever periods over the course of your life when you know, things are bad for a couple of days or whatever. And I just haven’t observed that myself. Sure. That probably must happen, but, but regular sort of fasting the way that’s become popular. Isn’t something that we see in the Hadza. That doesn’t mean it might not be good for you, whatever, but it’s not something that we see in a hunting and gathering group that I’m aware of. Brad (30m 28s): And can you describe the adverse effects of someone who takes it upon themselves to join The Biggest Loser show and starve themselves for six weeks in the interest of dropping body? Dr. Pontzer (30m 40s): Yeah, that’s right. I mean, if you go on a crash diet and you really cut down the calories that way, again, you think about yourself from an evolutionary perspective. The name of the game is turning energy into kids and surviving until the next chance you have to do that, right? So you gotta survive and reproduce. If you starve yourself, you really limit your calories severely, your body responds by going, Oh my God. You know, times are bad and it puts the brakes on everything, right? So that can, all those sorts of metabolic adjustments it can do to exercise. It can do across the board to everything, you know, to, to reduce energy expenditures in the face of, of severe calorie restriction. So, you know, The Biggest Loser contestants you’re familiar with that show some really great work that came out of there. Dr. Pontzer (31m 24s): Actually. I mean, I think it’s just an absolutely vicious show. You watch these people. I mean, they’re just suffering, you know, it just seems horrible to me, but anyway, the other, the really tragic thing about The Biggest Loser, is that it doesn’t last, right. I mean, it’s, it’s sad enough to watch these people, just, you know, who are desperate enough to try to go through this. The real tragedy is you come back six years later and I’ve done this. And it just about everybody’s gained all the weight back. And it’s because they haven’t found a lifestyle that keeps them at a way that, that works for them. They haven’t found that diet that helps them feel full on less, and, you know, the starvation and extreme thing they did, actually, the body responds to that really negatively. Dr. Pontzer (32m 6s): Right. So, yeah, don’t go extreme, I think is the lesson we learned from that. Brad (32m 13s): So now as we zero in on that goal to drop the extra five, 10 or 12 or 17 pounds, we have, what’s the, what’s the recommended story. Dr. Pontzer (32m 23s): Yeah. I mean, you know, I think for me is you’ve got to stick to the principles and look, I’m not a dietician. I’m not a clinician. You know, I study energy expenditure. I study how the body works. That’s what I’m interested in doing. That’s where, yeah, that’s, that’s my science. And what the science says to me is there is no easy fix. That it’s actually very hard to move your weight around a lot. People have that. That’s why we use struggle is it’s hard. The body responds in ways that that frustrate that weight loss. But what seems to be successful is finding that diet that works for you. In other words, that makes you feel full on fewer calories. Dr. Pontzer (33m 4s): And for a lot of you, that might be a carnivore diet for other people that might be a high fiber plant-based diet. Some people might get by with a mixed Mediterranean diet. You know, I, I’m not, I, I have no, I have no dog in the fight, as they say. I I’ve got no allegiance to any particular diet. And I think anybody who’s serious about the metabolism science of it would say the same thing that, you know, there’s a lot of ways you can potentially get there. None of them are, you know, wave your magic wand and, and it’s going to be easy for everybody. Brad (33m 36s): I love the alliteration there a feel full on fewer calories. That’s, that’s a beautiful secret we could, we could get, we could get some skin in the game. It could be the, the, the Pontzer diet. Just, you know, get out there. Right. It’s pretty simple. So do you, do you challenge the possible oversimplification of that? We just need to reduce carbs and lower Insulin in order to drop fat? Dr. Pontzer (34m 5s): Oh, that’s interesting. So, yeah, in my view, the reason that that low carb meat-heavy diets work is not because of anything to do in particular with insulin. In fact, there’s some really recent work coming up in the last couple of weeks that shows that, you know, drugs that actually ramp up your insulin levels, but that affects satiety, are great for weight loss. Semaglutide, which is this interesting drug that gets into the satiety signaling pathways in your brain. It has this, it boosts your insulin levels up, much higher than they are before you’re on the drug. Dr. Pontzer (34m 46s): And people are showing weight loss of like, you know, 15, 20, 30% of body weight. So, and as far as I’m aware, you know, the, the, the careful tests of the carbohydrate insulin model of obesity work by people like Kevin Hall, for example, just doesn’t bear out that mechanism. So, you know, from my point of view, insulin of course is really important hormone. It’s going to be involved in everything to do with weight maintenance and everything else, but that particular hypothesis, that carbs are bad because of what they do to insulin and because of what insulin does to fat, I don’t, in my view, the science doesn’t bear that out. Brad (35m 26s): So I guess we can back up and look at the nutrient deficiency of the many processed carbohydrates that we eat, knowing that they’re not giving us any benefit and contributing to the excess caloric intake that standard. So that’s a big deal. Dr. Pontzer (35m 44s): Yeah, exactly. And you know, if you would cut out sugars, especially added sugars, you’re going to be cutting out a whole raft of ultra processed foods that are terrible for you. So, Hey, if you want to go cut up added sugars out of your life, that’s a great start. Actually. I have a fantastic idea. Do you know that over half the calories, the typical American needs are from ultra processed foods, the 30% of the calories you eat as a typical American are purely added sugar and added oil, right? Yeah. That’s disgusting. And so, so yeah, if you go to a diet of foods that, you know, you buy fresh from the store, and I realize that’s a privileged thing to say it, you can be hard to afford that. Dr. Pontzer (36m 25s): Not everybody has access to good foods, but that issue aside for a moment, if you can go out and buy those foods that are whole foods and are not alter processed and added sugars and added oils, everything else, you will be healthier. That’s my, that’s my wager. And I stick to that one. And I don’t think it’s had any, Brad (36m 43s): Any magic to do with insulin or not? Dr. Pontzer (36m 46s): I don’t think so. Actually. I think it’s just that if you cut out sugars, for example, like I said, you’re going to be healthier just by cutting out all those ultra processed foods. Brad (36m 54s): And arguably more satisfied because you’re not, you know, challenging these delicate hormonal processes and experiencing a hunger spike three hours later. Dr. Pontzer (37m 6s): Yeah. I think that’s right. I mean, there’s this really great study done in the nineties by a woman named Susan Holt out of Australia. And she had people eat a hundred calories of different kinds of foods and she would check on them before they started eating it. And then after for a couple hours and she would just ask them, how do you feel now? And so she was able to get ratings if they’re pretty, pretty reliable. People rated the same foods, the same ways, you know, how full do you feel after a hundred calories of bread? So bread was the, was the, the baseline, right? So bread already, you can feel high Brad (37m 38s): gold standard of diet. Dr. Pontzer (37m 41s): It wasn’t, she wasn’t promoting bread. She just wanted to have something that was standard. That was common that she could use, you know, over the whole experiment. So, but baked goods, or even worse than bread, they make you get hungry right away. So you might think, Oh, well, yeah, baked goods added sugars. Sure, absolutely. No good for you. But the big things that determined if people felt full or not the best predictor of, if it made you feel full or not were either the protein levels or the fiber levels. And so the work I’ve seen since then, that’s a nineties, the 1990s studies, it seems to support that idea. So I think those are what you want to focus on protein and fiber, and guess what, you’re not going to find protein and fiber and ultra processed food either because protein and fiber are expensive and hard to sell. Dr. Pontzer (38m 26s): And so, you know, it comes back to the same story. Brad (38m 31s): What about the movement aspect in terms of feeling satisfied or not compelled to overeat? Is that have some relationship? Dr. Pontzer (38m 41s): I do wonder, I think if we can get away from the idea that exercise is useful because of the calories burned and how it adds to my extra, to my, you know, Brad (38m 51s): And, and we can get away from that, people get away. Yeah. If we can move away from that Dr. Pontzer (38m 56s): And have a much more nuanced or complex way of thinking of how the body works and say, exercise is really good for us, it doesn’t seem to be doing this calorie thing that I thought it does, but it’s doing other things, but what are those other things? Well, first of all, like I said, it’s, it’s really juggling how you spend your energy on other tasks, but I think you’re right. That it could also have satiety component to it. I mean, exercise gets everywhere, you know, exercise, isn’t just in your muscles, exercise gets in, you know, all sorts of signaling molecules get sent out when you exercise. It affects all your systems across your body. So I think absolutely there could be a signaling piece there. I also say that exercise seems to be really good to help you keep weight off if you managed to lose it. Dr. Pontzer (39m 39s): So that’s an important piece of the puzzle. Why is that? Well, again, it could be a sort of regulation issue. More than just the calories, but yeah, if I’m, I’m down with that, man, if we can just move away from this kind of, you know, what we’re sold, which is the kind of cartoon version of how the body works. And if you exercise more, you can earn that donut, right. If we can get away from that and get towards, okay, exercise is important. Now let’s talk about why I think we can all be better off in the science is going to get more interesting. Brad (40m 9s): Well, it occurs to me too, that we have these weird modern inputs such as boredom, cognitive fatigue from focusing on a screen, things that are hunter gatherer ancestors and, and friends in Hadza land have no concept of, but I think we turn to food for stress relief, a break from sedentary period, to get up and walk. Now, now, unfortunately everyone’s working at home. So they’re walking eight yards to the refrigerator instead of having to go around to the corner, the corner shop and, and burn some calories. But if that could be replaced with more movement, I mean, the Hadza must be too busy to sit down and eat six small meals a day like the bodybuilder. Dr. Pontzer (40m 48s): Yeah. Yeah. That would be tough for them to do, but that’s, you know, we spend 87% of our lives indoors and another 5% in a car. Brad (41m 2s): Are you making that up or is that? Is that stuff that’s real? Dr. Pontzer (41m 5s): That’s real Brad (41m 6s): Goodness. That’s unbelievable. Dr. Pontzer (41m 9s): It’s horrible. And you know, and, and we live these lives where we, you know, you move away for work and you get separated from your social network. You know, how many people see their grandparents every day? You know, or have connections to their aunts and uncles and cousins? And that’s just how life is. And, and that’s it. We’re going to have to, we’re going to have to deal with that. But we would be lying to ourselves if didn’t think that those have effects on the way that, that our bodies work, because we’re social animals, we’re built to be outside. Circadian rhythms are a real thing. And when we, we blow those up with the craziest sleep schedules and TV, binges. There’s trouble. So, you know, it isn’t, I talked with folks about you and sorry, I talk with folks like you about diet and exercise. Dr. Pontzer (41m 56s): And, you know, I think you’re right, that we need to expand this discussion. It’s more than just the diet and exercise. It’s the social connections it’s getting outside. It’s staying on a circadian rhythm that, that makes sense for your body. All those things matter. And you know, it’s not just one thing Brad (42m 15s): Well said. I appreciate that. I mean, that’s, that’s kind of what we’re looking for, gimmicks and shortcuts and it doesn’t, it doesn’t work that way. Dr. Pontzer (42m 23s): Yeah. I hope people will check out the book. But you know, maybe, well, I can see why people are drawn to books that promise an easy answer. And I can see why people write books to say there’s an easy answer. But as wishful thinking man, I don’t think it works that way. I think, I think we actually understand what the problem is more than we want to admit. And we’re just going to have to buckle down and try to deal with it. Brad (42m 53s): Well, Herman, you just revealed yourself as a, as a true scientist. I remember talking to Dom D’Agostino one of the leading researchers in the ketogenic diet. It was in preparation for writing this book several years ago when keto was just coming out and Mark Sisson and I had to get up to speed and I’m interviewing him. And he said, I don’t know. So many times during the interview that finally I became exasperated. I’m like, dude, that’s like your favorite answer. What’s going on? You know? And he says, be aware of people that, you know, drew these sweeping proclamations and conclusions because that’s not real science, but that’s what we’re drawn to. And that’s what we see on a, you know, the good morning show where they, the expert comes in and says, this is how it is with great certainty. Brad (43m 33s): But real science is constantly requiring that open mind and that critical thinking and observation and not, not judging. Dr. Pontzer (43m 41s): Yeah. I think that’s right. And you know, that’s why it’s so much fun because when I wake up in the morning, I get to do creative, fun work and I get to go wherever the data leads me. But that means I also have to have an open mind about it. And, and not already know the answer because if I already knew the answer, I wouldn’t be doing science. Brad (43m 60s): That’s great. So back to, you know, the, the, the blow away initial statement that we burned a similar number of calories every day, despite our exercise output. You also had a concept, a new term that I learned in the book called metabolic diversity, such that there is some variation between individuals of the same weight and so forth. Can you describe that a little? Dr. Pontzer (44m 22s): Yeah. That’s interesting. And this is another one of those sort of eyeopening things. Well, let’s start with, first of all, how most people think about, you know, how many calories they burn every day. If you look at your Fitbit or you look at your online calorie counter, right? You type in your body weight and it gives you a number, well, maybe it says 2,500 calories a day. Well, of course, I think we know that that’s an estimate. The question is how far off is that likely to be? And the answer is it can be pretty far off. You know, the two people, same, same size, same body composition, same lifestyle could easily be different in their calorie burn every day by 500 calories a day easy. Dr. Pontzer (45m 2s): I mean, in fact more than that, wouldn’t surprise me. If somebody is 250 above and somebody sent her 50 below, I kind of would expect that would be normal. I wouldn’t be, I wouldn’t, you wouldn’t bat an eye if you studied energetics like I do. And that’s really interesting. Okay. 500 calories a day. My God. I mean, and that’s even after for you account for activity level and after you account for body size, all the stuff that you think you might want to account for. So what the heck is going on that somebody is burning 500 calories a day, more than another person. That’s the equivalent of running five miles by the day, by the way. So, you know, so somebody’s body is running five miles more than that. Doing what, you know what we honestly don’t know. We don’t know how to explain that, that residual expenditure yet. Dr. Pontzer (45m 44s): We know it’s real because I know that if I measure you today and I measure you in five years, if you’re a high expenditure person today, you are going to be a high expenditure person in five years. And if you’re low today, you’re gonna be low in five years. So we know it’s real. It’s not just measurement error. It has to do with something about how the body is burning calories and what tasks the body’s doing. And, but exactly how that works out is, is yet to be discovered. Brad (46m 8s): So I guess, are you saying now it’s possibly just genetic variation or genetic good fortune because it must be correlated with lower body fat level. If you happen to be a high calorie burner, I don’t know, Dr. Pontzer (46m 21s): It is crazy. It actually isn’t so if you’re a high calorie burner, right? That’s, it’s different than the somebody who says, Oh, I have, I have a fast metabolism. I can eat anything I want. That’s different. We actually, that would be an interesting study to do, to see if people’s perceptions of how fast they burn calories, have any relationship to how many, how fast they really are. It doesn’t look like it has any relationship. You know, whether you feel like you can eat anything you want has to do with how your brain’s wired, whether or not you have. So, so back to this question about high and low energy expenditure people, people with high metabolism, you’re the, you’re the person who burns more calories on the somebody, your size and shape should. Dr. Pontzer (47m 4s): You are not protected against gaining weight into the future. We know this, we’ve done this work. Somebody who has a low energy expenditure, you’re below average for your size body composition age, you are not doomed to gain weight. And that’s because you’re, it all comes back to your brain. Your brain does a phenomenal job matching how many calories and how many calories you burn off. And, you know, to within 99.99% accuracy. And it’ll do that at a low level. We’ll do it at a high level. Your brain doesn’t care. Your brain doesn’t know that you’re a higher, a low level first. And it just knows that this is how many calories I burned. So many calories you need to eat Brad (47m 45s): Well. Well, how do we screw that up then with lifelong accumulation of excess body fat, if the brain, so if the brain is so smart, Herman, how he tells me to eat for ice cream? Dr. Pontzer (47m 56s): Oh, well, so th this is why, you know, this is more evidence. I think that, that it’s these ultra processed foods that are really troublesome because we know from work on brain scans, while people eat different foods, we’re thinking about even, just think about different foods that it lights up your reward systems in ways that push you to over consume. And it doesn’t have to be much, right. So think about this. If you gain two pounds a year, and that that is the American obesity crisis is two pounds a year. You’re a normal weight, 20 year old you’re 20 pounds overweight or 40 pounds overweight by the time you’re 40. Two pounds a year is still only a mismatch of two, 360fifths of the energy that you brought in and took out everyday. Dr. Pontzer (48m 45s): So in other words, it’s a, it’s, it’s less than a quarter of a percent that you are mismatching energy intake and expenditure. Brad (48m 55s): So that’s like a, a macadamia nut per day or something to that effect, or an M and M Dr. Pontzer (49m 1s): yeah. Brad (49m 1s): I don’t know if you’re sponsored by M & Ms. We hear a lot about M and M’s in the book, like climbing that, what is it? Cimbing a flight of stairs and burns one M and M is that, is that our scientific calculator? Dr. Pontzer (49m 13s): Right? Know, I was trying to make calories real. What’s the smallest unit that people would be familiar with. And so I went with an M & M about four calories as I recall, but that, yeah, but that’s right. So it only, you know, it’s like an M & M a day. And so when you see that kind of, that’s a, that’s a regulation issue, right? The fact that you’re seeing that kind of creep, right? That’s a regulation issue. That’s not like an I ate a cheesecake today issue, and that’s a thousand calories, right. Cause you’re not off by a thousand calories. You’re off by four. So this is, this is a regulation issue, right. More than anything. And I think, again, I pin it, I pin the blame on these hyper palatable ultra processed foods that our brains are, your paleolithic brain just, is not built to handle. Brad (50m 1s): Do we need to tackle this problem necessarily in a linear manner? Or can we have a really good two week training camp or hiking vacation where we get some work done, we drop some body fat, we return to regulation, or perhaps tipping over the scale with an extra M & M per day. And then kind of stair-step down to our ideal weight. Or do you have any comments on the pace? Dr. Pontzer (50m 30s): Yeah, I would say you have to go kind of low and slow in general, because if you go too fast, you’re going to see the Biggest Loser phenomenon. You’re going to see your body put the brakes on. So, you know, how slow is that? That’s a tricky question, but you know, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t go any extreme. I want to go to any extremes. I would try to find that diet that makes you feel full on fewer calories, but that hiking idea is a nice one. I liked that. And I know that personally, when I go on a backpacking trip or if I do field work, which is kind of like a backpacking trip, you know, I, I tend to lose a little bit of weight. I tend to get more exercise because it’s more exercise than a desk job. Dr. Pontzer (51m 11s): And, and I feel great. So yeah, I’m, I’m behind this, let’s do this, Brad, but let’s have this, let’s have a hiking approach. I like it a lot. Brad (51m 21s): Well, did the athletes go to training camp and they come back and they’re, you know six pounds lighter and they’re ready for peak performance, probably unsustainable. But now from, from listening to you, it’s, you know, if we do achieve our objectives. So it’s, a lot of people are showing that they can do it. It’s just a matter of staying there rather than regaining the weight back. And I guess we could point most of the blame knowing now that our calorie burning is consistent through the winter, the summer, whether the gym was closed or not, we can point the blame on the hyper palatable foods and making those choices to overeat. I love the example of, you know, having that wonderful dinner in the restaurant and then the dessert cart comes over and they even usually say, can I tempt you with some dessert? Brad (52m 5s): Which is, you know, good, clear, that’s a clear choice of words there. Cause that’s what we’re we’re doing is we’re messing with that brain. That’s so smart. That knows exactly how satisfied we are and we’ve eaten just the right amount. Dr. Pontzer (52m 18s): Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Yeah. I bet you can’t eat just one as it’s not just a marketing gimmick it’s that they, they know exactly what they’re doing. Brad (52m 29s): Whew. Okay. Before I let you go, I wanna, I wanna hear a little more about the, the scene down there. And one thing occurs to me, these Hadzas are getting quite famous. Now there’s a lot of research on them. Are they at risk of getting, you know, infiltrated with candy bars or whatever else people want to bring them? I mean, I saw pictures from Paul Saladino’s trip and I think, you know, some of them had, you know, attire on that came from the outlet store or whatnot. So how did they mix in and what else do we have left in the world that are truly pure hunter gatherer populations for study and appreciation. Dr. Pontzer (53m 5s): This is a really important question. And I want to, I want to take a little bit of time on this because I think this is exactly something we need to all be thinking about. First of all, the Hadza are not, you know, sort of trapped in Amber time machines, right? They are modern folks like you and me, all humans, we’re all the same. All the same humans. We’re all the same species. We’re all modern humans. They grew up in a culture that is a hunting and gathering culture. And so that’s why they’re interesting to somebody like me. But who are all these people? They are, you know, the closest thing that we get in the States to somebody, a group like the Hadza that are like the old order Amish. Dr. Pontzer (53m 47s): I grew up in Pennsylvania and you see Amish folks up in some parts of Pennsylvania that they don’t have a lot of the modern conveniences that we live with. Typically they just won’t do it. You know, it’s, it’s like kind of a 1700s farmstead kind of lifestyle. And they choose that and they stick to it and you know, and it’s, it’s legit. It’s how they grew up. It’s their tradition is it’s real, but it’s also a choice in a way, right. They could, you know, cash in and, and go and work a factory job or something like that and get the internet and everything. But they don’t because they don’t want to. The Hadzas are the same way they know about the outside world. They see people driving through. Dr. Pontzer (54m 27s): They see tourists occasionally. They see researchers occasionally and other folks coming through. I mean, that part of Africa is crowded with different tribes and different groups. So, you know, it isn’t like they don’t know about the outside world and haven’t seen a candy bar or haven’t seen a computer or whatever. They just don’t want to do it. And so they stay remote and they stay in their bush camps if they want to. It’s interesting. Some of the camps are closer to villages. We don’t work in those camps, but they have some of the camps are closer to villages because those guys, you know, they want to be able to walk into town occasionally. And I don’t know, hangs see town, you know, I don’t know. But even the ones in the bush camps, they will find a way to walk into town sometimes and trade for a cotton shirt because cotton is more comfortable than animal skins. Dr. Pontzer (55m 9s): Right? So could they make their shirt out of animal skins? Absolutely. But they also, because they know about the outside world and they’re not, they’re not, they’re not dumb. Well, come on out and you know, they’re savvy, they’ll try it and you can get what’s nice and, and take the good parts back with them basically. So, you know, I don’t worry about the Hadza being tempted or being infiltrated if they wanted to do that, they would already would, you know, and, but they liked their lifestyles are proud of themselves. They’re proud of their culture and they should be. And so they stick with it. I worry about when they don’t have a choice anymore. I worry when groups around them that have a little more political power or a little more money or whatever, you know, push them out of their traditional lands. Dr. Pontzer (55m 54s): That’s that’s attention, right. Narrow now. And that part of it has been for decades now and that part of Africa. And so I worry about that, but I don’t worry about them sort of waking up one day and going, Oh gosh, I wish now that I know about the internet, I’m going to go leave for town. I’m not worried about that because they already know about the internet. They just don’t care. Brad (56m 17s): And there’s, are there any occasions of outlying individuals that strolled into town and, you know, instead made the, like a Floyd Landis, the great tour de France cyclist grew up in, in Mennonite, Pennsylvania. That’s right. He wanted to race his bike and his family forbid him because they needed to work on the farm. And he said, forget this man. I’m going, I’m going to the top. And he, he, you know, spring-boarded into modern, modern living in high-profile sports. Dr. Pontzer (56m 42s): Yeah, that’s right. I mean, you do have Hadzas folks that leave and don’t come back. More often we see the men who are late teens, early twenties, and they go and get a job with a Safari company or something like that for awhile. Or sometimes they work with the military there. You know, they’ll go enlist for the army for a tour or whatever. And, you know, I imagine I used to be at a teenage teenage guy, Brad (57m 11s): Teenager with Dr. Pontzer (57m 12s): Feet. Yeah. I can imagine that you look around and go, huh? I wonder what is over, you know, what life would be like, but what’s interesting is they always come back and my experience, I’m not, you know, I’m sure you can find examples of folks who decide to not come back, but by and large, they, they come back. And I think it’s because when you grow up in that lifestyle and that close knit, you know, it’s a close knit community. It’s a, it’s a low stress life in a lot of ways, you know. They’re not all people telling you what to do. Nobody tells any of people what to do. There’s no hierarchy or anything like that. I think it’s, I think that’s pretty attractive when you dip your toe into the industrial agriculture, you go, wait a second, I’ve got a boss and an alarm clock and the heck with this man, you know? Dr. Pontzer (57m 56s): So I think they go back for that reason. Brad (58m 1s): Tell me what Azoy means Dr. Pontzer (58m 3s): Azov means to give. Yeah. I mean, that’s the fundamental piece of it, right? Hunting and gathering. And it’s the, and the part that matters, right? What other species has half the group does this? Now, if the group does that and at the end of the day, they all share. I mean, I, no other group, no other species does that. It’s like first in the history of the world. And that’s the human, that’s the human strategy. And that’s why we’re having this conversation over a satellite driven internet radio, because we put our heads together and we do phenomenal things. And it’s that togetherness that works right? That’s, that’s both the kind of blessing and the curse of being human. When we put our minds together and put our, our efforts together, we can literally do anything. Dr. Pontzer (58m 46s): When, you know, when we get suspicious of each other and push groups apart, we can all kinds of horrible stuff happening. But at the core of that togetherness at the core of this sort of socialism that binds humans together, the, you know, the beginning of that was hunting and gathering and hunting and gathering is inherently. This communal way of life and sharing is at the very base of that. And so the Hazda word Azoy which means to give is just the sort of thing you hear, again and again, in the Hadza camp. And it’s because they give to each other without question all the time, and it’s just how you live your life. Brad (59m 23s): Right. And I love reading how They, they don’t even need to say thank you or the pleasantries that, because it’s so expected, it’s all, it’s all part of the, it’s all part of the culture. It’s not like a, an unusual thing to give where the person’s waiting for the thank you note or whatever. Dr. Pontzer (59m 38s): Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. You only say please, and thank you. If there’s any kind of expectations that you might say no. Right? Brad (59m 47s): The only reason. Yeah. Dr. Pontzer (59m 49s): If you can’t say no, you know, because you’re bound by this tight social contract, then please, and thank you or kind of, you know, at best kind of unnecessary and at worst kind of like, well, what do you mean, thank you. But of course I was going to give it to you. Of course, I had like, what are you implying that maybe I wouldn’t honor the contract? You know, everybody gives, that’s what we do. Wow. Brad (1h 0m 10s): That must be so wild to go and study them and then return to real life. And I wonder if you have some, you know, profound takeaways that have affected you personally in, in, in your daily life, from, from being able to, you know, go back in time, essentially. Dr. Pontzer (1h 0m 28s): Yeah. I think the big thing for me is, you know, when you first go in and hang out with a group, like the hots that are so different, and this would happen traveling anywhere, you know, you traveled to Europe or Japan or Australia, and you pick your place. You get out of your own culture, you see a different culture. You’re first knocked over by the differences. Oh, they eat this way, Oh, they say things that way. And when you go to a cultural, like the Hadza is so different in a lot of ways that you’re like, it really takes a while to sort of talk going, wow. Because you’re just amazed by the whole thing the whole time. But then if you get to spend a lot of time there as I’ve had a chance to do, you begin to see the similarities and that’s what really comes out for you. Dr. Pontzer (1h 1m 12s): And then when you see the similarities and you begin to see the sort of common humanity there, and for me, it was the kids. At first, I was see kids running around, I’ve got little kids, myself, a nine and a six year old is going to be seven. And when I go there and I see Hadza kids running around and you know, it just puts me in mind of my own kids running around in the backyard. And I think, yeah, Man, it’s just, we’re just all the same. You know, kids are kids. And then you realize that, you know, men and women are having the same discussions that we have at home about what, what do you want to do now or tomorrow? Or should we do this? Yeah, it’s always, it’s the same thing. And that common humanity, just bubbles up to me. Dr. Pontzer (1h 1m 54s): And it does two things. One of first thing, I go, Oh, well, that’s just that reminder that I needed. Everybody needs. That we’re all the same. We’re all the same species. We’re all the same group here. Everybody’s a human. But the other thing is that when you can see that common humanity in there and you can really identify with it, I think it makes it easier to take some of these principles home. And you begin to wonder, why do I do things this way? Why do I do things that way? Why do I have to follow a clock? Why do I think that I have to raise my kids that way or work with a colleague this way? You know, there’s all these, there’s, there’s actually a lot of breadth there to how I work my life that is open to me if I want to be open to it. Brad (1h 2m 37s): Wow. What a beautiful, heavy ending. I love it. Dr. Herman Pontzer. That is something for all of us to reflect upon, even if we’re not going to head out there tomorrow, just to, just to imagine. And then, and then taking that back, right. Just to just keeping that open mind, what a, what a great interview. I really urge people to go get the new book Burn. Tell us how else we can connect with you and learn more about your work. Dr. Pontzer (1h 2m 59s): Yeah. So, you know, I’m online to check us out on the online at Duke here and check out what we’re doing at the Pontyzer for lab, for research. I’d also encourage people. If you want to learn more about the Hadza, maybe if you want to help give back to this community, that’s we’ve learned so much from about diet and exercise and everything else. You can go to Hadza fund.org, H A D Z A F U N D.org. I run that with Brian Wood and Dave Lakeland, and a couple of other folks who want to give back to the Hadza. And so you can learn about their culture there, some about our work and also ways you can help out Brad (1h 3m 33s): Great stuff. Thank you so much, Herman Pontzer thanks everyone for listening. That’s a wrap. Thank you for listening to the show. 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