[01:31] About Abel James
[07:26] Fat Fasting
[11:28] “Break a sweat everyday doing something you love.”
[19:24] On Rice
[23:15] The Curious Case of Pottenger's Cats
[27:29] Wild Diet For Pets
[32:12] Losing a Load of Weight in a Month
[36:06] On Beverages
[38:57] Chicken Noodle Soup Made Right
[41:57] Abel's Adventure Pack
[50:47.5] End of the Podcast
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast:
“When you go outside of America, you meet these people who eat and live in a completely different way. They kind of have a lot of things figured out that America don't or have forgotten.” “One thing that I saw when I was coming into the health field is that there was so much misery instilled in. You have to be torturing yourself if you want to be lean and healthy. You need to be super restrictive, you need to exercise yourself more than you've ever wanted to, and that's a drag.” “Basically, the idea behind this is you wake up in the morning, and before you even have time to think about dreading it, do that thing, get out of the way, and you use it getting done as momentum into the rest of the day.” “In ninety percent plus of beef that we get in the US is from factory farms which is straight out of a horror movie. These animals don't even get to move their legs, and so that's starting to happen to us.”
Ben: Hey folks, it's Ben Greenfield, and I'm here today with my friend Abel James, and I actually haven't talked to Abel in a while. Abel kind of dropped off the face of the map, and occasionally I'd see him pop up on Facebook in some remote area of the world, Thailand or Peru or anywhere else on the globe. It was kind of like Where's Waldo, and I know Abel was off doing some writing and some personal adventures, and I know that he had some pretty major occurrences happening in his life that I know he'll love to share with you on this episode, but one of the things we're going to be talking about is why Abel disappeared for a while, what he was working on and some of the very cool things that he discovered about diet, fat loss, performance and all sorts of little things that we're going to delve into today as we talk about something called “The Wild Diet”. So James, Abel James, thanks for coming on the show man.
Abel: Thanks for having me, Ben, and thanks for listening, listeners out there.
Ben: So tell me why did you drop off the face of the map, or go all over the map?
Abel: Yeah, it's always been something that I kinda do from time to time, and it goes back to growing up in the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire where we would be forced to go without phone for a while because of ice storms or something like that. We'd be snowed in, and getting a hold of my family has always been something that I don't take for granted, and in today's modern world it’s like tweets coming out, you Facebook, text messages, e-mails. It's really easy to fall out of that peaceful easy feeling that you get when you have a little bit of your own time to hang out in nature or do things that you love, and so one thing that I promised myself and my now-wife, Alison, is that whenever things got a little bit to crazy, 'cause they have to especially when you're building a business or when you're building a following or writing books, all that sort of things, it does get crazy and you have to work hard. It's really important though to honor the other side of that where you collect your thoughts, you revisit who you are and what you're up to, and it's neat 'cause after living in the woods for eight months, you come back and realize that the world we're living now is practically Star Trek. We're going to Mars, there are spaceships all over.
Ben: Yeah, Star Trek-slash- the space deck in the cartoon Wall-E with all that fat people in the wheelchairs with their smoothies.
Abel: Exactly, somewhere in between that.
Ben: Yeah, interesting. So you traveled, but as you were travelling, you were writing, right?
Abel: Yeah, so I come at all of this from the musician angle, and it was just easy to start a health show because I'm already recording who'd been performing for a long time, and talking about health is really just an excuse to talk about cool things with anybody. It's just the start of a conversation, so for me I've always done my best work in the woods or while I'm traveling and it was a really cool experience in writing a book about food in particular in foreign countries. I know that you've been to Thailand and a few other places. I remember that story of you accidentally getting the pedicure and then getting rid of your calluses.
Ben: Oh yeah, that was in Vietnam when I decided. I decided a luxury pedicure was in order and realized that all of the hard work I'd put into building up the calluses on my feet disappeared within ten minutes of pedicurage.
Abel: And the same thing happens to your gut when you go to certain places, right? You eat whatever they serve you in Thailand, whatever the heck is in that sauce or whatever in some cases. So you have to be especially conscious of how to source your food in very bizarre situations. So we've tried eating bugs when we were at Thailand, and we were just in Peru as you said, and the way that people live in these different places, you can see what it does to their culture, what it does to their physique, what it does to their energy, and I think one of the most promising things is when you go outside of America and especially the West, in to places like Bali or Indonesia, and you meet these people who eat and live in a completely different way, they kind of have a lot of things figured out that Americans don't or have forgotten for some reason, but you meet a lot of people in different countries who are just naturally fit and healthy and have good color, and they live for a long time, and you're just like it can be like this. This is what we're after.
So yeah. I wrote a lot of the book when we were in the East or in the Southern Hemisphere, and I try to bring that perspective to the book that this isn't hard. It's just you have to unlearn some of the stuff that has been indoctrinated into our own minds just as a result of growing up where we did.
Ben: Actually related to the travel item, this is one of the questions I don't want to ask you. Maybe I'll save it for the end to keep folk of the edge of their seat. You have an adventure pack that you put together when you traveled. You talked about Abel's Adventure Pack in the book.
Abel: The survival gear, yeah.
Ben: You put together a healthy travel, so I actually want to ask you about some of the contents of that pack, but let's push that forward for now, and I actually have a bunch of pages folded over in your book. So for those of you listening in, the name of Abel's new book is “The Wild Diet: Get Back to Your Roots, Burn Fat, and Drop Up to 20 Pounds in 40 Days”, and Abel's actually been on this show before. I'll put a link to our previous episode. He's got his own podcast, he's known as the Fat Burning Man on iTunes, and we've talked before about some other issues related to fat burning, but in this book, Abel gets into some stuff that I haven't heard him talk about before or discuss with him. And so, Abel, I think this is the perfect opportunity for me to put you on the spot and find out more about this stuff. So what do you think, you ready to jump in?
Abel: Yeah, let's do it.
Ben: Okay, cool. So you talk about Fat Fasting in the book, this concept of fat fasting and typical foods you'd eat when you're doing something like a fat fast. Can you go into fat fasting, what that actually is?
Abel: Yeah, and some of your listeners are probably familiar with the idea since you're, I think, one of the people who's really spear-headed the fat-based approach to athletics which is a totally different anemones, and I'll be honest, a lot more hard than doing it if you're just a normal person, you know?
Ben: Because power bars are so easy to find.
Abel: For me I was fascinated by, when I started tinkering around with under-eating during certain times of the day or fasting, it's kind of a generous addition of fasting. What it means is that in the mornings, I'll generally have some heavy whipping cream in my coffee or tea which is basically pure fat without much of the lactose to worry about or the carbs that come with regular milk, and I'll also take something like fish oil or have coconut oil or coconut fat and kind of under-eat during the day, almost like raw vegan during the day, during daylight hours while I'm doing most of my work which might be playing music, recording, writing, doing interviews like this, and I found that I didn't get hungry until I started eating actual food. And so, it got to the point where all of a sudden it's three o' clock, six p.m., and I'm like yeah, I guess I could eat now, but if I start morning like I used to with a huge breakfast even if it is mostly fat and protein of solid food, I find that I do have the kind of hormonal counter attack a few minutes or hours later where I'm hungry again, I'm a little bit lethargic.
So, I found that actually withholding solid food and maybe just sampling from a little bit of fats or raw greens gives me great energy throughout the day, and it gives your body this cyclical approach that looking at time is something that you can use to improve your own health is something that I really try to instill into this book and into my own practices where you have these times where you're digesting after you eat, which for me and my wife and most people who do it this way, is in the evening after the sun goes down, you eat your big meal, and you happily fall a sleep with that energy crash that you actually want at the end of the day to kinda optimize those hormones that help put you down, and then in the morning, you're running on that big meal that you had the day before, and you don't really need to be focusing on when you're eating, how much you're eating, or whatever. You're just doing your thing and looking forward to a big hearty feast at the end of the night.
Ben: Right, so it's a cyclic ketogenic approach, but you're putting a spin on it where you're actually purposefully keeping yourself in a hypocaloric state and simply using doses of fat to give you a slow fatty acid bleed as you're in that state?
Abel: Yeah. That's exactly right.
Ben: Okay, that's interesting about heavy cream to. A lot of people will avoid dairy products period, when they're doing something like ketosis or when they're trying to avoid sugar because of that lactose content that you brought up. But when you use something like heavy cream, you're avoiding a lot of the milk sugars that you'd get in other milk sources like whole milk or something like that.
Abel: Yeah, exactly, and I've tried it with other things like MCTs and coconut oil, but they just don't taste as good. A big part of what I do is try to make it awesome and fun and taste great, so for us we just really enjoy finding the best quality food that we can find, and occasionally combining it with some scientific-type things like MCTs or whatever. Mostly it’s almost like a compliance move. You take a couple of hits for things that might not be totally 100% optimal for you all the time just because it makes living this way so much easier and more awesome.
Ben: Yeah, now you go back and forth between diet and fitness in the book, and so during this interview, I'm also going to go back and forth between that a little bit. But on page 86, you have what you say is one of the best pieces of fitness advice that you ever got. What is that fitness advice?
Abel: Page 86, I don't remember.
Ben: Yeah, I know it. Trust me, I've written books before, and I've gotten questions like that. It's like oh crap, what did I say in that page? One moment, you say “break a sweat everyday doing something you love”, and I think a lot of people here break a sweat everyday part of things but don't necessarily pay too much attention to the last part of that quote. Can you go into what you mean by that and how you've implemented it?
Abel: Yeah, well that goes along with the heavy cream thing, right? I come from a family of dairy farmers, and I've always learned to love certain things, and one thing that I saw when I was coming into the health field with my podcast and blogs is that there was so much misery instilled in. You have to be torturing yourself if you want to be lean and healthy. You need to be super restrictive, you need to exercise yourself more than you've ever wanted to, and that's a drag. When I figured out that it really didn't have to be that way, to an extreme, we've had many conversations, Ben, back in the past of how much I can actually can get away with, how much all of us can get away with if we're doing the right things. Focusing on intensity as opposed to long misery, endurance-type exercises. If you like endurance exercises, I ran marathons during a period of my life, I really enjoyed it actually. I come from a family where a few of us are pretty good runners, and I was never nearly as good as the best ones, so I was doing it more as mental practice, as something that you can use as an excuse to go outside and meditate for a while. Because there's a big difference between running a marathon and just going outside and running for three hours, right? Just going out for a nice jog in the sun on a Sunday when you have time, and so I try with everything that I do in my own life to bring that happiness to it.
I don't know why, but for about ten years, I didn't ride my mountain bike, but that was my favorite thing to do when I was a kid. I raced competitively on mountain bikes, and then for whatever reason, move to DC then move to Austin and just didn't have a great bike. Then while we were off the grid, we were in Moab, Utah, one of my favorite places, and I saw this really rad [14:17] ______. It's basically, you remember those Rambo trikes that are all black with a red lettering? It's like if Batman had a mountain bike. That's what this thing is, and so I got it and I've been pure bliss ever since. It just made me think why’d we withhold this stuff from us that makes us so happy. It's easy to have a bike and go out for a bike ride, but you really need to make that extra effort to find those things that you love ‘ cause I don't love tennis or golf or some of the other stuff that my friends might, but finding those things that you really love and then focusing on doing that every day is something that becomes easier and easier over time. You really thank yourself for it.
Ben: Yeah, and I think that part of that two for people, there's two things I think about when you talk about this. Number one is sports specificity. So many people exercise for the sake of exercising, but I find that when you actually have a sport on the radar, an event that you're getting ready for whether it be I want to get better at riding a mountain bike or back country skiing or bouldering or whatever, even doing something like cranking up pull-ups which normally would not seem like that much fun can almost become sweating as part of something that you love because you're doing it to get ready to rock climb or to boulder.
Abel: Yeah, you need that reason, and most people don't. If their reason is to get ready for swimsuit season, that's one that is pretty easy to trip over and ignore or give up on because it's not that compelling, right? But if you were getting ready to go on a horseback riding adventure in the wilderness with your niece or something like that that's coming up in the next month, then you better get ready, you better get in shape. You can look forward to that thing, and I think for someone like you, Ben, with the amount of events that you participated in and rock, it's something that makes it easier for you to exercise hours a day because you have this compelling reason you want to. If you find yourself exercising for hours a day and you don't want to, that's not a good thing. It's not sustainable.
Ben: Yeah, part of it too, and I don't know what your thoughts are on this. Sometimes something I don't want to do becomes something I do want to do once I associate a pleasurable activity with it. Like for example, I love audio books and I will do things like, do you know Crossfit Murph, for example? It’s like if you run a mile, and you do a hundred pull-ups and two hundred push-ups and three hundred squats, and then you run a mile. And it's horrible, it’s a torture fest. But if I have a good audio book chapter to listen to, I know this sounds completely stupid to be doing some intense workout like Murph while listening to an audiobook, but all of a sudden, I'll like the workout because I'm listening to something and I'm being productive while at the same time making my body better. So for me, the reason I love this quote dude is just because I think a lot of people just associate movement and exercise with the part of the day that they dread when in fact it can and should be one of your favorite parts of the day.
Abel: Totally, and there's an awesome book that I'm sure you've read, Ben, called “Eat That Frog”.
Ben: No, I haven't read that.
Abel: You haven't? Oh my god, you have to check it out. Brian Tracy, it's a short little read. I encourage anyone to check it out, but basically the principle is every day, you have at least one thing that's big and kinda sucks. So that might be a workout. So basically the idea behind this is wake up in the morning, and before you even have time to think about dreading it, do that thing, get out of the way, and you use it getting done as momentum into the rest of the day. So I woke up this morning, we got back from Peru not too long ago. I'm still a little bit jet-lagged and being cramped into trains and planes and taxi cabs that are tethering off of the Andes Mountains. Not usually that pleasurable, and not that good for your body, so I wasn't feeling that awesome, but I knew that I wanted to do a high intensity workout.
One of my favorite ones to do is Tabatas. I call it my seven-minute workout. I'm doing burpees for twenty seconds, resting for ten, I repeat that ten times, and I have a quick little warm-up and a quick little cool down then it's done, and while you're in it, you're like oh my god, it hurts so good. But when you know that it's just five minutes, then you can totally do it and then you feel so much better. Even if you start the day feeling crappy, one of the best things you can do is get your blood flowing. You're like oh, I feel awesome again. Let's make a point to put that in our calendar. So I make a point to put that in my calendar, that particular workout at least once a week, and it's life changing. It's allowed me to continue to be Fat Burning Man while not working out like fat burning man.
Ben: Nice, “Eat That Frog”, and by the way if you're listening in. If Abel mentions stuff like this during the show, I'll write it down, I'm keeping notes, and you can check them all out over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/wilddiet. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/wilddiet.
Okay, so another thing you've got in here is about rice, and a lot of people, especially like the Paleo, healthy-eating, ancestral community, they consider rice to be a relatively safe starch, but you have some thoughts on rice that you talk about in terms of different types of rice the way that they're cooked, wild rice or black, forbidden rice, things like that, and you have a few opinions on rice and whether or not it’s good or bad. Can you go into what you've learned about rice?
Abel: I'd say the biggest mistake that a lot of people make when they're getting into Paleo or getting into diet generally speaking is that something like rice is rice, and they'll ask the question is rice good or bad? It's a difficult question because that's like saying are eggs good or bad. There's a huge difference, we're coming up with a big blog post right now about the difference between ninety-nine cent a dozen eggs that you get at Walmart compared to those with the hard shells full of nutrients that you get from backyard chickens. It's a similar thing with rice. It's like the rice we're used to eating in America comes out of an ice cream scoop with your school lunch, right? But when you go to other part of the world or even when you go to the Southwest where you can find wild rice or forbidden rice, you find that's a completely different food. It shouldn't even be called the same thing.
So there are so many different types of rice, and a lot of them are more like a lagoon than a grain, or more like a bean-type in texture, almost nutty in some cases. I love forbidden rice or black rice which is this long grain, nutty-flavored, almost purplish grain that doesn't really feel like a grain when you eat it and certainly doesn't taste like one. It's very substantial, and there are other things like quinoa actually down in Peru, it's so cool because we got to drive through the Andes Mountains, and you can just see these vast fields of quinoa, and when you go down there and you eat it, they eat it in a completely different way. It's always sprouted, and it's almost always in a soup as opposed to the exports where people grind it up, turn it into flour. They turn it into something else that's more processed. The biggest takeaway from this is that rice isn't rice, and no food is what it says it is. You need to look at how it's made, where it comes from, how processed it is, and really explore all the different varieties that there are. I never knew that I loved red rice because I've never tried it until I went to Indonesia, but it reminds me of the huge, fluffy oats that my grandmother used to make back in the day. It's really a pleasure that a lot of people are missing out on.
Ben: Now that you're home, have you found a place that you can get rice like that?
Abel: The internet is amazing for a lot of weird stuff like that, but I think wherever you can go, locally, is generally pretty good. If it's a small man-pop health foods store, they can usually order stuff pretty easily, whatever you want, and then even whole foods. You go into the rice aisle and most people don't really spend much time thinking about it, but if you look, there's rice from all parts from the East and West and different kinds. We've gone to Native American chaps, we're in Arizona right now and found wild rice next to the Navajo ghost medicine smoke stuff, so sometimes you have to look in weird places, but it's amazing.
Ben: Yeah, your description of rice was pretty amazing compared to the tiny grains of white or brown rice we're so used to eating here. You go into big machines and cheap oil and pesticides and things like that too, so of course there's all those considerations. Now another thing that you talk about is Pottenger's Cats. On page 109, you talk about The Curious Case of Pottenger's Cats. I think a lot of people don't know this story. Can you explain?
Abel: Yeah so back in the day, there was this lab where they were experimenting on cats, and they would take some of the organs out of the cat. You know, one of these horrible experiments from back then, and the diet of the cat themselves was kind of an afterthought as it is in many labs, but they found that these cats were over the course of time getting sicker and sicker. When they removed one particular gland from these cats, especially and combined it with the fact that they weren't eating their natural diet. They were eating foods that were slightly cooked or slightly processed or highly heated in some cases. When they were on this diet, those cats in the first generation were okay. They had some degenerative stuff, they might have problems with carrying a little bit of extra weight or just not living this long.
By the second generation, it got worse. Third generation almost none of them could reproduce, and by fourth generation, they were basically Jabba the Hut, just blobs barely resembling a cat, and what they found, they linked that back to an essential nutrient for cats called taurine which is also great for humans. But this is all illustrative of the fact that when you process food, there is a very distinct effect that it has on the body of the animal, and nutrient deficiency is nothing to mess around with, but I think the thing I barely mention in the book is that if you look at that illustration of what happens to those cat as a direct result of food processing, and then you look at what's happened over the course of generations since the 50s or 60s. You look at pictures, even your own family pictures back then.
Most people, they might carry twenty extra pounds or something like that, but for the most part, they have clear skin. They have the bodies that they were supposed to have. It's not carrying extra weight, they're mostly fit if you look at war time pictures. But then over the course of time, with each generation, we've gotten fatter and sicker, more and more blob looking, less vital, and food processing has been the thing that's really taken over. Like I was saying about the eggs and rice, it' really taking over our entire food system. In ninety percent plus of beef that we get in the US is from factory farms which is straight out of a horror movie. These animals don't even get to move their legs, and so that's starting to happen to us. And so that's why I think the story's like Pottenger's cats are so important because it's just happening to cats is something you might say to yourself, but when you think about it, you're like oh man, it happened to my whole family.
Ben: Yeah, I think the other interesting thing here is this whole concept of epigenetics. I know that Pottenger’s was feeding this crappy diet to generation after generation, but there's this concept that if you eat crappy even if your kids start to eat healthy, they're still going to be affected by your crappy eating.
Abel: Right, and that's the terrifying piece of it.
Ben: I got this question at a conference a couple of weeks ago where I was speaking, and someone said why do you do this? What's your motivation? We talked about looking, feeling and performing really good and being able to get the human machine to do what you want it to do whenever you want it to do that, but I mentioned a big part of it for me to is the Greenfield name, the fact that I want the Greenfield generations that come after me to be symmetrical and beautiful with good skin, and to have optimized height and good genetics, and a big part of that for me is knowing that when I choose whatever the carrot versus the macaroon that maybe I'm making a decision that'll affect future generations too, so I love this Pottenger's cat story.
Related to that, you also talk about diets for pets. An actual, what you call the wild diet for pets. Is this the way that your animals eat at your house?
Abel: Yeah, we have a seventy-five-pound yellow Lab whose just pure energy, and we take her also when we're travelling around North America, not the South America, but ‘we're travelling around like we've been doing for the past year. We take her too, so we know how important eating well is. Not just for ourselves but for our pets too, and a lot of people, it's so interesting. When they meet someone and they hear you're a health guy, you're a diet guy. Whatever, they don't want to talk about diet or what they're eating because it's way too personal. There's a lot of stuff that's caught up in it, and I totally understand that, but sometimes you can get to people by saying, what is your dog eating? Wow, I give him the best food ever, and let's look. Oh it starts with corn gluten, interesting. Then it goes downhill from there.
So when you get them to revisit, what would a wild dog eat in its natural environment? Well, I guess it would eat other little rodents and animals and meats and maybe the contents of the stomach a kale or a rotting carcass or maybe some apples that were fermenting on the ground or something like that, and one of the coolest things is as we've been doing this for quite a while, we got her as a puppy a little more than three years ago, and we've been feeding it raw pretty much ever since. Which means taking half a chicken and throwing it in the backyard and having that be her exercise, getting raw meaty bones which help clean her teeth and give her nutrients that are almost impossible to get from a can or from kibble. You know we'll make some sacrifices of course, but a lot of people have gotten this impression that you can't feed animals food scraps from your own kitchen table because it'll make them fat, and I think of anything, that's really more commentary about what we're eating than what they can or cannot do.
Ben: Yeah, well we've got our dog on the BARF diet right now which looks like you're using things like bones with the muscle meat and raw bones, organ meats, raw eggs, vegetables, fruits to a limited extent, and that's similar to what you're doing. BARF diet is I think it stands for Bones and Raw Food, something like that.
Abel: I remember coming across that years ago. It's very helpful. They have a few guides that are fantastic.
Ben: Yeah, especially when you list of the list of ingredients that are on the label of pet food and what they really mean, you talk in here about how meat products can include slaughterhouse fecal waste, poultry feather meal, connective tissue, leather meal and horse and cattle hair as just part of the meat in the dog food that you're buying. It's crazy, so I love your idea of this wild diet for pets, and to me it just makes complete sense to look at the ancestry of your pet and I guess maybe a wolf would be a little bit different than say a chihuahua. It's a little bit sharper to look at the ancestral diet of a chihuahua, but I guess it's still a wolf at heart, right?
Abel: Yeah, it's not nearly as different as people make it out to be, and why would a chihuahua eat out of cans? Any more than anything else that's living would eat highly processed food. The thing about pets is that unfortunately, it's from a regulator's perspective, it's so much easier to sneak non-food products into the feed of animals. I mean even when you go to an agricultural store, they sell feed for animals. They don't sell food, and I think there's an interesting distinction there where they might be feeding them cement kiln dust to make sure that they fatten thirty percent faster which is something that is done and still is done by the cattle industry because they found out that it fattens their animals. It's not food though, and it's certainly not nutrition, and the reason that these animals are getting fat is because their sick. So I think we need to get away from saying oh, I'm going to read the marketing on the front and feel comfortable about what's in it. We need to really turn it around, look at the back and if the first ingredient or second or third or any ingredient is something you can't pronounce or you don't know, then maybe it's not food.
Ben: Yeah, makes sense. Okay, so let's go into, I'm sure part of this was related to of course the marketing of the book. The part on the front where you say drop up to 20 pounds in forty days, and then you've got another story. I think it's on page 310 where you're talking about dropping 25 pounds in a month. Obviously if you look at a lot of the research out there on fat loss and weight loss, that's a really large amount of weight loss in a short period of time. How is it that you're able to achieve that, or what were you able to find in researching the book that was allowing people to actually lose that much weight within 30 to 40 days?
Abel: So I spent a lot of time in a lab doing science that way, and I really much prefer guinea pigging on myself where there are no rules and seeing what I'm capable of, and what I wanted to do is demystify the experience. I'm not ever going to say that losing that amount of fat in that amount of time is healthy necessarily, but it can be in some cases and it's certainly not impossible. I mean if you can lose 20 pounds in a month or even in 40 days, then I assure you you can do that in six months or a year, but mostly this is something that in specialized circles that you're aware of, I'm sure, Ben, in a lot of your listeners as well, for crew teams, losing 20 pounds in a month is something that's kind of normal in a lot of ways, or if you're a wrestler or a professional athlete.
Ben: When I was bodybuilding, it was about three or four days that I did my final ten pounds and cut from heavy weight down to middle heavy.
Abel: Yeah, and one of my buddies did a bodybuilding show in Austin, and I coached him through the ketogenic part of that, and he went from 211 down to 179. Maybe it was even more than that, 215 down to 179 in just a few weeks, and watching that happen was a spectacular feat. He was miserable, he was absolutely miserable, and the weight came right back on, but it's possible. And so the whole point of saying all this is not because this is something that you should aim toward necessarily, but if you think that it's not possible for you to lose weight if you're carrying extra weight, then know that it is, and you want to do it in a healthy way, in a way that's right for you. But I think just that getting rid of the limiting beliefs that you do need to starve yourself, or you do need to do these extreme things to get those results is what I want to take away from that because you don’t need to be that extreme as you think.
For me, it was interesting because I never really knew that I could get fat until I was in my twenties, working a desk job, gigging nights and weekends, moonlighting as a computer programmer, and all of a sudden my lifestyle really caught up with me, and I was working this low-fat diet that my doctor was recommending, and all of a sudden, I'm 20, 30 pounds overweight. And so I went from that, to doing the complete opposite, kind of a cyclical ketogenic-style diet with a high-fat focus and losing 20 pounds in forty days. So that's where that experience comes from. I really wasn't trying hard, but I was a young bucking my early twenties. I was already exercising, doing a lot of things right, and that's just something that happened. It took me back to normal, and that's what I want people to take away from this is that by adopting these positive lifestyle practices and eating the right way. You can go back to your normal which is different for Oprah than it is for a lot of other people. You know what I mean? You have to look at body type.
Ben: Yeah, one of your tips in the book I love, and it's basically to take any beverage that you're drinking, right? You talk about fruit juice, soda, diet soda, coffee, beer, sports drinks, and energy drinks, anything. I know it sound boring to folks, but you do recommend you can put citrus or mint in it, and it just due water. I know a lot of people are thinking what about kombucha or what if I drink Zevia or whatever. I think, this is a good point because number one, even when you're drinking the stevia-infused beverages that are probably safer that acesulfame potassium and sucralose and stuff like that. You still do get a little bit of a release in insulin. You still do if you're not careful to get that propensity or that urge to still consume calories within 30 to 60 minutes after you had that sweetened item.
And then the other thing is it's like even if you do something as simple give up coffee and maybe a couple of other beverages like tea, there are a lot of people out there putting things into their coffee and tea that add up long term, right? It's a hundred calories there, it's a little boost in insulin here, and by the time you look at it over a course of a month, you can see how just replacing your liquids, it not making any other dietary changes and just replacing your liquids with water could actually result in some pretty profound weight loss.
Abel: And really easy, I got that from actually a guy who was on the crew team in college, and he needed to drop weight fast and all he did was give up any beverage that wasn't water and he didn't change the way that he ate or exercised, and he dropped 25 pounds in a month. That was his example, and I was like woah! I guess if you think about giving up all of your drinks, then that's hard. But if you think of basically that's the only thing you do when you get those results. That's pretty freaking awesome, and if we want to be honest, most people are not drinking enough water. So that's such an easy win because even if you just do that, most people will lose weight from drinking more water 'cause you're detoxifying. Your body is getting the hydration it needs, and this is probably the most boring way aside from sleeping more that you can get awesome energy is just by drinking more water.
Ben: Yeah, well nobody's going to sell many supplement either from the water diet. Although you probably could potentially have a pretty big market for making regular water taste different, and then you start to head down the same road that we were starting down the first place. Drink something that tastes sweet, my body release all these hormones that makes it want real food, and so where's the food? Bring it on.
Okay, so you talk about the worst thing to do when you're sick in here, and specifically, you start to get into chicken noodle soup and the beefs you have with chicken noodle soup. Can you go into that?
Abel: Oh man, it's rough when you come to this realization because it's an emotional one. When you're sick and someone makes you soup, you're like thank you, you know? And then you realize that soup is poison. Same thing with rice and eggs like I talked about before. Our chicken noodle soup didn't used to be the way that it is now. In the book itself, I go through the ingredients, and there are three different types of things that may or may not be MSG which is an excitotoxin, very bad for you in so many different ways, but they actually use it to literally induce obesity in lab rats. And then super, low-quality chicken, industrial-processed salt, all this junk in this broth that's not actually made from things that have nutrients in it. But essentially like bouillon cubes, just salt and artificial flavorings.
If you contrast that to the thing that actually makes you healthy like chicken noodle soup, you take a chicken or a poultry or bones and you make it into a stock, and you put a little bit of an acid in there like vinegar to leech the minerals and the magnesium, the sulfur, all these other thing that help break down the connective tissue and open up your own body to being nourished with something that's completely easy to digest like a soup or a broth. Maybe throw some veggies in there, and some fresh herbs. That is nothing like what you get in a can from the grocery store, and unfortunately they're still using this marketing. It's a junk food, but it's sold as health food or as food that you're supposed to have when you're sick, and that's appalling.
Ben: That's what baffles me is when I talk about bone broth on my show, and I'll recommend bone broth to my clients. I will get photos, and people will be like what do you think about this bone broth? What do you think about that? And it's just bone broth that they bought from the grocery store. I mean even if you look at some of the stuff from Whole Foods or Nuggets or wherever, it' still got a lot of these things in it like yeast extract and soy protein isolate, and dehydrated garlic, and a lot of compounds that are far different than you throwing an organic chicken carcass in to a crockpot at home and making it yourself, but yeah, it's a good point. When you're sick, eating chicken noodle soup might not, no matter what your mother used to tell you, be the best thing for you.
Abel: Eating Campbell's anyway. Eating bone broth, I think I put that in the book. There's a proverb that says a good broth can raise the dead, and I have experienced that firsthand. (laughs)
Ben: Yup, exactly. Okay cool. So the moment that people have been waiting for, Abel's adventure pack. I know that you've been doing a lot of travelling so some of the stuff is likely very fresh on your mind. What is Abel's adventure pack? Why does it exist, and what's in it?
Abel: So I got this Camelbak backpack years ago, and I've tried all sorts of other ones. But for whatever reason, this one is still my favorite. The way it feels, what it's got in it, the pockets and all the right spots. I don't even use the Camelbak part for that, but it carries my laptop so I can work, and more importantly, it carries all of the things that I need to basically make sure that I'm cool no matter where I am, if I have food. What food is put in front of me, I don't have to eat it necessarily, or I can make it more palatable by spicing it up with something. So I found this one thing a little more than a year ago called the Spice Missile. It was nine bucks at some adventure store, and basically, super simply, all it is is this little thing with three capsules that are divided in half with little shaker taps on them. And so in it, I have this rotating array of spices, but sea salt with minerals in it, usually some sort of spiced pepper.
I really like cayenne peppers are hot peppers or red pepper flakes, so I'll put that in there. And then also for the more delicious things are my coffee. I'll have my cinnamon which also helps with blood sugar if you're going to eat something a little bit sweet or I'll put it on some apple with some mineral salt if I'm out for a hike or something like that and then some coco as well, and all of this fits into something that's just a little bit bigger than a chapstick, maybe three chapsticks or something like that, but that's just one of the little things. Also I carry around coconut manna which I think you're a big fan of too.
Ben: Yeah, well it's basically coconut butter infused with coconut flesh. No, what it's called is, I believe coconut manna is synonymous with coconut butter, but what it is is the flesh mixed with the oil, I think is what it comes out to.
Abel: So it’s got a nice sweetness with not too much sugar, and it's basically pure fat and it's the right kind of shortened, medium-chained fats which give you great energy without really risking fat storage. I carry those around and little fresh nuts if I can or nuts that I roast myself or little packets of nut butter, and also I carry around things like a water bottle that has a little charcoal packet in it. I don't like to waste bottled waters. I worked with energy companies for too long to realize how bad that is, just the sheer amount of waste. So a lot of times, I'll use something that can filter my water to make sure that I'm always drinking plenty of it. I carry around lots of tea.
Ben: What kind of water filter do you use?
Abel: It depends. I'm like you, I like to test a bunch of different ones, but I found this really cool thing. I can't remember who makes is, but I think I put it in the book actually. It's like a teabag that’s filled with activated charcoal that doesn't leech out. It just absorbs the impurities of whatever water you have. So if you're drinking something that's highly chlorinated, which I don't really recommend but sometimes is necessary that really helps a lot.
Ben: Okay, got it. I've used a Lifestraw before, but I haven't used this thing.
Abel: Yeah, Lifestraws are cool.
Ben: Okay, cool. Anything else that are must haves for you?
Abel: There are a bunch, and I recommend people.
Ben: I know, it's like four pages long in the book.
Abel: Well this is also for me, something that I've been working on for my whole life. You know I was an outdoors guy, and dark it lead to a bunch of trips. Not just for myself, but for carrying things that will really improve the experience for a lot of other people who haven't really been in the woods that much. And also as a touring musician, I have stuff. Usually when I travel, I make this little tonic. I'm a big fan of tonic-type drinks and wild mushrooms and things like that. Deer antler in some cases and echinacea and the whole herbal side of things, I'll take the thirty things that I think I'll need for those two weeks in my cabinet, put them into one little bottle and then have that every day as part of my supplement routine, so I always have supplements, tinctures, tonics, teas, water and a lot of backup foods. Maybe sardines or smoked mussels or oysters or something like that, maybe even sneak in a little pate in there, and then also having weird foods like cucumbers which are totally awesome as a non-sugary apple type thing. But if you're in the desert, it's also a source of water, and so going to these other countries has really taught us to think about food in a very different, survival-oriented way.
Ben: Yeah, it's interesting because a lot of people I've found are resistant to the idea of carrying all this stuff with them when they travel, but number one, you'd be surprised. You've got four pages of Abel's Adventure Pack in the back of this book. You would be surprised because your pack looks somewhat similar to mine at how small. I don't check luggage when I travel. I travel with one large backpack and then a book bag, it's got my laptop and stuff in it. Everything in my personal travel essentials kit fits in that backpack, along with my clothes. Granted I do often take a shower with my clothes and then stomp on them with the towel after the shower, so I don't travel with tons of clothes, but still. It all fits.
But then the other thing is I travel a lot, and I simply have the mud room, a little shelf in the mud room where most of this stuff is where when I'm packing for the airplane, I'm not rushing around the house trying to find all these items were like my water filter or the little sleep packing stuff or the specific supplement I only take when I travel. It's all there in one place, so I just grab it and go, and it's not as hard, and a lot of people, they don't step back and look at how much of a dent travel makes in their nutrition and their fitness progress and these business people who are travelling ten days out of the month. They're like sure, you're working out and eating out of your twenty days, and then your life goes to crap for ten days because you're not planning, and I love this pack that you put together.
Abel: Thanks, man. I was a consultant for years and lived that lifestyle, and you realize at some point that it's not good for you. And so you need to fight fire with fire sometimes. Just be prepared, have sardine so that you don't have to eat some grease sub that they try to make you eat at this conference or whatever. Get ready for being disappointed with the food that shows up or doesn't show up in you life when you're travelling.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. Sardines is a good breath freshener.
Abel: Oh absolutely, especially when you have it with coffee.
Ben: That's right, cool. Okay so this book, if you guys are listening and you want to get it, I've got our Amazon link to the book if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/wilddiet along with some of the other resources that Abel and I talked about on this episode. It's an easy read, but it's got a lot of gems in it as you probably have guessed by listening to Abel and I talk. So definitely one to check out, and add to your library.
So again, you can go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/wilddiet, and check that out. Abel, thanks for coming on the show today, man.
Abel: Thanks, Ben. This was fun.
Ben: Alright folks, this is Ben Greenfield and Abel James signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
Abel James, AKA “The Fat Burning Man”, joins me today to share some juicy gems from his new book “The Wild Diet: Get Back to Your Roots, Burn Fat, and Drop Up to 20 Pounds in 40 Days“.
Abel is a speaker, entertainer, and consultant, and he has presented keynotes for the Federal Government, lectured at Ivy League universities, and advised Fortune 500 companies including Microsoft, Danaher, and Lockheed Martin. Also a musician and songwriter, Abel studied at the Royal College of Music and has toured internationally, jammed with country superstars, and won several awards for vocal performance.
As you can probably guess by the title, we go all over the place on this one, and you'll discover:
-How “fat-fasting” works…
-The best piece of fitness advice Abel has ever gotten…
-Most people think rice is a pretty safe starch, but Abel disagrees and explains why…
-What you can learn from Pottenger’s cats…
-One trick to drop 25lbs in a month…
-How the wild diet for pets work (and the shocking ingredients in “healthy” pet food)…
-The absolute worst thing to do when you get sick…
-The mysterious contents of Abel’s Adventure Pack…
Resources we discuss in this episode: