Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bowden: 'Low-Carb' Has Become Like A Religion

Dr. Jonny Bowden answers my questions about livin' la vida low-carb

One of the first of the low-carb leaders I met within weeks of starting my blog in April 2005 was none other than Dr. Jonny Bowden. He introduced himself to me in an e-mail to congratulate me on my low-carb weight loss success and encouraged me to keep up what I was doing with my blog. I was honored to later have him write a quote for the back of my book "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb."

Not long after my meeting him for the first time, I blogged about Jonny to introduce him to my readers and even wrote a glowing review of his fantastic low-carb book entitled "Living The Low-Carb Life." Because of his enormous contribution to the low-carb community and the continued leadership he provided for people who were livin' la vida low-carb, I named Jonny one of my top 10 low-carb movers & shakers of 2005.

But then something happened when 2006 rolled around.

It all started during a teleseminar call for Connie Bennett's KickSugar program in January when Jonny openly stated at that time that he wished he had never written his "low-carb" book, which then started an internal debate about where the "low-carb" movement was headed now that such prominent leaders as Jonny Bowden have seemed to jump ship.

To help clear up any confusion about what Jonny believes about livin' la vida low-carb, I have been trying for months to interview him about it. We were finally able to get connected and make that interview a reality. Jonny really wanted the readers of the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog to hear him out on this and not jump to any conclusions regarding his position on the term "low-carb."

Prepare to be enlightened as this incredible man who is helping to educate, encourage and inspire others to not only lose weight, but also change their lives in so many other ways also attempts to do the same for you today.

Here's my interview with Jonny Bowden:

1. Thank you Dr. Jonny Bowden for joining me today to share with my readers your thoughts on diet, health, fitness and nutrition. This is what you do for a living each and every day and I am honored to know there are people like you out there working on the frontlines helping people. Tell us a little bit about what you do and share a typical day in the life of Jonny Bowden.

Thanks, Jimmy! Well, a lot of my time these days is devoted to improving my tennis game! But seriously--I spend most of my day writing, recording CDs, writing new e-books that are going to be available on my site in the Fall, answering questions on and on my i-Village message board, and preparing for my weekly radio show. I'm also speaking around the country.

I'm lucky in that I get to write about all the things I'm passionate about, plus as a writer and talk show host I get to interview everyone I admire and pick their brains--and I get paid for it! Besides work, there's hiking in the mountains, spending time with my beloved life-mate, Anja Christy, and my dogs, and of course--tennis!

2. How has your experience working directly with people in a physical crisis such as obesity, diabetes, and other such conditions changed you? Does dealing with people on a one-on-one basis give you a sense of accomplishment when you see them change their lives forever?

Always. I'm humbled by the fact that I still get "fan" letters from people who say that my books, or lectures, or CDs have changed their lives and it never fails to make me feel great. What I feel most inspired by is the courage and commitment of the folks who were willing to undertake the journey of healing and to take their health into their own hands. That kind of empowerment is always inspiring.

3. You wrote an outstanding book entitled "Living the Low-Carb Life: From Atkins to the Zone Choosing the Diet That's Right for You" about helping people find what weight loss method can work for them. While I agree that the low-carb lifestyle is not necessarily the right diet for everyone, what are the benefits of livin' la vida low-carb that people should be aware of?

Well, first of all you have to go back to basics: You're absolutely 100 percent right that no diet--not low-carb, not high-carb, nothing--is right for everyone. So in designing a healthy diet, where do we start? I think we start by looking at what the basic "fuel mix" for the human body has been since time began. You've got to match the "fuel" with the engine--so let's ask this question: What was the "diet"--or fuel mix--the human genus was "designed" to run best on?

The human genus has been on the planet for 2.4 million years, and modern man has been here for at least 50,000 years. The fuel mix we run best on is food we could hunt, fish, gather or pluck. Though hunter gatherer societies have thrived on high-carb, low-carb, high-protein, high-fat and every combination thereof, what they have not thrived on is high intakes of processed food and sugar. The natural human diet is a lot lower in carbs than the typical American diet, and completely lacking in processed foods and sugar.

The result is a body that maintains its weight, has higher levels of energy, and achieves optimal well-being. That's true whether you are genetically adapted to the Inuit diet of walrus blubber, seal meat and fat, or whether you are genetically adapted to an East Indian vegetarian based diet. High-carb or low-carb, there's nothing in either of those eating styles that has a barcode or 10 grams of high fructose corn syrup per serving!

4. Do you believe low-carb will ever be accepted by the mainstream medical and media establishment as a viable way to lose weight and get healthy as a lifestyle change over the long-term? Why or why not?

I think the "low carb" label has some serious PR problems from which it may not be able to recover, but this has a lot more to do with marketing and economics than it does with health. So what you're probably going to see is a lot less "low-carb diets" and "low carb products" and instead, a general acceptance by the mainstream that all carbs are not created equal and that we do a heck of a lot better with less junk carbs in our diet--and that includes processed pastas, cereals, breads, grains, and all the others, including foods like cereal and pasta--that have been sold to us as "healthy". Slowly but surely we're coming to accept the idea that junk food is junk food whether it has carbs in it or not. However, that said, most of our junk food does happen to be heavy on the processed carbs.

5. With new studies coming out in support of livin' la vida low-carb in droves over the past year with even more expected in the coming months and years, how do you as a nutritionist translate this information into practical advice for the people you counsel? Are people surprised to hear how much low-carb can help them?

Some are, some aren't. Depends on how much they've been influenced by mainstream sources like the American Dietetic Association whose "party line" tends to run about 50 years behind the times. The problem, Jimmy, is that "low carb" is too big an "umbrella"--it can mean a very badly designed all-protein diet, it can mean a diet that is lacking in fruits and vegetables, it can mean a diet that's high in junk fats--we've got to be more specific about what we mean by low carb.

To me, the benefits of "low carb" are the same as the benefits of "low junk food": less blood sugar swings, less cravings, more energy and reduced risk for a host of chronic, degenerative diseases that are associated with high blood sugar and high levels of insulin.

6. What do you think about using the term "low-carb?" Many are moving away from using that terminology to describe the lifestyle change they are on because of the perceived negative connotation it conjures up in people's minds. Is there some other way to describe what "low-carb" is without explicitly using that term?

Well that's exactly my point. I'm not a fan of the term "low-carb," for all the reasons I mentioned. I wish we could come up with something better. "Low-carb" has become like a religion and we've become way too partisan about our diet programs. The "low-carb" movement also fostered a sensibility in which people thought that if they just reduced carbs everything would be fine. That led to the development of about 1800 horrible junk food products that were indeed "low-carb" but tasted terrible, were high in calories, and didn't accomplish anything for people trying to lose weight on them.

The "low-carb" movement also inadvertently pushed the incorrect belief that calories don't count. Folks believed that they could eat two whole chickens, a couple of burgers, ten slices of cheese and still lose weight cause it's all "low-carb." That's just a crock. Calories are not the whole story, true. But they do count. And if you eat 10,000 calories a day of high-fat, high-protein food, you will gain weight and anyone who says differently is selling you the Brooklyn Bridge.

And even though I'm NOT in the "all saturated fat is bad" camp, I also don't believe that unlimited amounts of saturated fat is the best thing in the world because it can be inflammatory. We don't need to be afraid of fat--even saturated fat--but we do need to be conscious of keeping our fat intake balanced among omega-3's, some 6's, omega 9's and some saturates.

7. You have several brand new projects that are sure to help so many people as they try to lose weight and get fit. Tell my readers more about your 3 impressive new audio CDs and what your purpose is for each of them.

Thank you so much! I spent a year developing these programs and I'm very happy with how they turned out. I continue to get letters every day telling me how much these programs have helped people, and how having it on audio is like having a private seminar with me. There are three programs of mine on CD.

The most basic is "9 Essential Steps To Weight Loss." On that program I tell you the 9 steps I found that are common to all the best diet programs and that, if you follow them, will almost certainly produce success in a weight loss program no matter what diet program you're following.

The second program "23 Ways to Improve Your Life" was created because so many people wanted to know what ELSE they could do--besides diet and exercise--that could improve the quality of their life. I took a look and realized that there were a few superfoods you could add to your diet--no matter what else you were eating--a few super supplements that could extend your life and protect your brain and a bunch of simple processes designed to improve your relationships, your inner well being, your serenity and produce meaningful, measurable results in all areas of your life.

The third program, "Change Your Body Change Your Life: The Diet Boot Camp program" is the most comprehensive program for creating results in your life that I know of. You know Jimmy--because you've written about it extensively--that weight loss is like a three legged stool: everyone knows about two of the legs--diet and exercise--but the third leg is the one that stops most people from achieving their goals and that leg is the emotional and psychological component of change.

In Diet Boot Camp I talk about what it means to achieve results in your life, not just in your weight, but in all areas of your life. We talk about why you don't need "motivation" and how to set your program up so that you can get past the common obstacles of not feeling motivated, being discouraged, reaching plateaus and all the other emotional factors that sabatogue success. And then I show you how your weight loss program is exactly like your life and how using the tools of the program will help you not only achieve weight loss but achieve results in every area of your life--relationships, well-being, prosperity, serenity and overall health.

8. I'm so excited about your brand new book coming out in December called "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why." What was your motivation behind writing what is sure to be a hot-selling book this Christmas and for New Year's resolutions and what do you hope people will do with the information you share in your book?

Thank you! At first I thought the book was going to be a ho-hum project, just an encyclopedia of foods. But as I got into it it turned into the most edgy, fun, "politically incorrect" book I've ever done. It's going to upset a lot of people--there are almost no soy products, very, very little dairy, almost no grains (one or two), and some detailed essays on making sense of terms like "grass-fed, organic, free-range" and the like. I'll tell you why farmed salmon and wild salmon are NOT the same food and why grass-fed meat is completely different from regular supermarket meat.

I did a TON of research on all the compounds in foods that are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-aging. Plus there are fun stories to go with the science. And I even got 16 of the top experts in the field of nutritional medicine to "donate" their own personal "top ten" list of healthy foods. I'm really pleased with this book--PLUS it comes with a FREE bonus CD so people can sample my latest CD programs as well.

9. I get thousands of visitors at my "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog each month, many of them who quite literally pour their heart and soul out to me in e-mails and comments that make me hurt for them. As a former 410-pounder, I understand their battle and the pain associated with being stuck in the body of an obese man. Are there any words of encouragement that you would like to share with people who desperately need and want to lose weight?

There sure are. Number one, understand that weight loss (and obesity) is one of the most complex areas we know of and that anyone who says they've figured it all out is on another planet. Just today (Sunday, August 13, 2006) the NY Times had a cover magazine story on the new research on viruses and microbes and their connection to obesity.

Obesity is very, very complicated and difficult. It's what scientists call "over-determined"--that means there are a million factors that contribute to it--from lifestyle to genes--and the mix is different for different people. But that doesn't mean you give up. It means you take the cards you were dealt, and you learn how to play them to win the game. It's EXACTLY like life.

The stuff that gets me up in the morning and gets me excited about my work is the notion that people can reclaim personal power and learn to tap into their own internal brilliance to make choices that can improve their lives, no matter what their genes. And that the skills used in losing weight--for example, how to overcome obstacles and how to deal with frustration-- are skills that can serve you not only in the weight loss game but in the rest of your life as well. I think when you look at weight loss as just a matter of calories and exercise you are seeing a technicolor enterprise in black and white. And you're missing some major opportunities to take your life to the next level.

10. THANK YOU again for spending just a little time with me and my readers today, Jonny. We are thrilled to know people like Jonny Bowden are out there helping people get back their lives by making the necessary changes to make it happen. Do you have any parting comments you'd like to share?

The number one piece of advice I have for anyone--the piece of advice I'd like on my tombstone is this: Stay in the game. Don't give up. The solution may be difficult and it may take perserverence, good detective work and a hell of a lot of patience. But the solution can be found, as long as you're willing to keep playing the game. Do that, and the rewards--both in terms of weight loss and in terms of the quality of your life--will be well worth the effort.

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Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

Great interview Jimmy!

Wow, I'm inspired by Johnny!
He seems to be really smart, but also open minded and willing to buck the party line!
Now I know why you admire him so much!
I might have to but some of his books.

P.S. That post on Active Lowcarber Forums is going to haunt me forever right?

8/14/2006 6:24 AM  
Blogger Kevin Dill said...

Wow! I am so glad to hear some of the things he said here, as these are things I have thought, but are very much against the "party line" of Low Carbing. Great Interview.

8/14/2006 9:27 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

I don't see how he's bucking the party line. Seems pretty status quo to me. What am I missing?

8/14/2006 1:24 PM  
Blogger Hike2Health said...

I have the Change Your Body Change Your Life CDs because that third leg of the stool is exactly what I needed. I have read dozens of diet books and hundreds of articles about health and dieting. But yet I would eat foods I know are bad for me. Or I would just give up and restart my diet on Monday. I like the 'coaching paradigm' in the CDs where Jonny gives us tools to help our thoughts and actions. It has been working for me so far! Thanks Jonny!

Rob: I think he's bucking the party line by saying that grains, dairy and soy are not that healthy.

8/14/2006 2:04 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

"Calories are not the whole story, true. But they do count. And if you eat 10,000 calories a day of high-fat, high-protein food, you will gain weight and anyone who says differently is selling you the Brooklyn Bridge."

Calories Don't Count: The Bellvue Experiment

8/15/2006 8:57 AM  
Blogger Jonny Bowden said...

Thank you for all the kind comments!

Just a little point of information- The Stefanson experiment you linked to above ("Calories don't count: the bellvue experiment") was discussed in great detail in my book, "Living the Low Carb Life". But despite the headline, it doesn't show that calories "don't count" at all... what it shows is that they are NOT the whole story.

These guys ate about 2500 calories a day and didn't gain, even though if it was all about calories they would have gained a little. But notice that they did not eat 10,000 calories. I have always said that with low-carb you have some wriggle room with calories, and I'm always pointing to the studies that show that that wriggle room is anywhere from a few hundred to even up to 700 calories a day (in the Sondike experiment). But it is NOT unlimited.

That's the point.

The proportion of food from carbs protein and fat counts way more than the dietary establishment believes (as in the Stefanson experiment). But that does not mean that calories don't matter at all. They do.

8/15/2006 9:43 AM  
Blogger LCforevah said...

As a person who is 5'2", if I were to eat 2500 calories daily as in the Bellevue experiment, I would certainly stop losing weight! The point is,that I achieve satiety long before reaching a high calorie count. Eating a high fat, high protein diet does that--it makes me feel satisfied without tricks, supplements, mind games, etc.

I estimate that I eat about 1500 daily, without having to worry about it--sometimes even less on days that I'm not hungry--something that never happened on a high carb, lowfat diet! To have been able to feel a loss of hunger when I was eating grains, whole or otherwise, is something I know now to be impossible. When I eat carbs, I'm hungry about an hour later, no matter what the carb is.

So I find that calories don't count because of the satiety factor, not because I consciously have to exercise limits.

8/15/2006 12:08 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

First, 10,000 calories is a totally unrealistic hypothetical. That's what, close to 8 pounds of meat? I know someone who was on an all-meat diet and was a professional ballet dancer and he was consuming 5000 cals due to the strenous nature of the activity, but were not talking that here.

Karsten Andersen was smaller than Stef, and was eating roughly 67% OVER what was needed, or roughly 1000 calories extra per day, and they had him be fairly sendentary.

Let me guess...that "wiggle room" just got expanded to 1000 ;P So then what is the "limit"? Anything that doesn't fall within the context in the calories count theory?

I have no argument that the ratio of fat to protein matters, but that has nothing to do with caloric intake. I think you would find it pretty rough to really eat more than 3000 on a moderate meat diet. I eat anywhere from 2000-2500 on any given day.

There is no "wiggle room" on an all meat diet because dietary fat can't be stored as fat in adipose tissue. Carbs on the other hand, even at moderate to low levels, creates body fat and impeded the fat burning process because of the constant exposure to excessive glucose. Stef and Karsten were subject to the same laws of physiology as we are. Without carbs in the diet there's nothing to put on the weight, even when you're consuming excess fat above what your body can use.

True, there's more satiaty in a high fat/protein diet (it's not high protein), but that's not the reason you lose weight on a low to zero carb diet.

8/15/2006 12:30 PM  
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8/29/2006 4:59 AM  

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