Abel James: Fat, Food Labeling, & His Wild Diet – #197
By: Dave Asprey
February 20, 2015
My friend, Abel James, the Fat Burning Man, has been off the grid working on his new book, The Wild Diet. Abel has been on Bulletproof Radio before, and we have done a number of video series and interviews together. It’s always great to get him back on the show!
Why you should listen –
Abel comes on Bulletproof Radio to discuss why food is more than just fuel, the ideal body fat percentage, why it’s so important to reconnect with nature, and some dirty little secrets about food labeling – is the food industry really putting beaver butts in our food?! Enjoy the show!
What You’ll Hear
- 0:15 – Cool Fact of the Day!
- 1:05 – Welcome Abel James, the Fat-Burning Man
- 2:52 – The Wild Diet
- 7:15 – Finding what you can get away with
- 11:30 – Why healthy fats are so important
- 14:05 – The ideal body fat percentage
- 18:15 – Why food is more than fuel
- 23:20 – The dirty little secrets of food labeling
- 29:19 – Changing behavior and assumptions
- 32:35 – Why you can eat pumpkin pie every day
- 36:32 – Abusing health food marketing terms
- 41:00 – Reconnecting with nature
- 46:09 – Utilizing technology to avoid bad technology
- 49:08 – Jamming with Tim McGraw
- 54:30 – Top three recommendations for kicking more ass and being Bulletproof!
Dave: Hey everyone, It’s Dave Asprey with Bulletproof Radio. Today’s cool fact of the day is that we’ve evolved as humans to have larger skulls and larger brains and we think, probably, smarter brains. Some people excluded, of course.
This seems like a really good idea except that the way the skull makes room for your larger brain is by using less bone here in the jaw. That means it’s a little bit harder for us to eat tough food, which is okay because we have this amazing technology that’s evolved or conversion 4.0 of it. It’s called cooking.
Our teeth have stayed the same size even in a much smaller jaw and that’s one of the reasons you get impacted wisdom teeth because our brains are too big. You also get impacted wisdom teeth for another teeth for another little reason and that little reason has to do with what your grandmother ate and what your mother ate. That’s genetics. Here we’re just talking about big teeth, small jaw, big brain. Kind of cool.
Today’s guest on Bulletproof Radio is a guy you’ve probably heard from before. If you’re a long time listener of Bulletproof Radio you’ve definitely met him before. He’s a friend. He’s a bestselling author, a musician, a speaker, an entrepreneur. Kind of a weird dude, actually. In a good way.
We’re talking about the number one rated health podcast, except for Bulletproof Radio because we’re competing pretty much, number one, number two quite often. I’m happy when Abel’s number one because the guest is, of course, Abel James.
Abel, you run Fat-Burning Man. You’ve helped millions of people on their health in a way that’s very in alignment with the things that I talk about. We always hang out at conferences and you’re a good cook so that’s why you’re on the show, man. Welcome.
Abel: Thank you so much, Dave. It’s always a pleasure.
Dave: You also wrote a book. Amazing. We tend to write books when we’re in this kind of space helping a lot of people.
Abel: I got to say Dave, writing a book is the worst possible thing for your health.
Dave: It’s absolutely true. I agree. I stayed six days straight when I was in the final editing and I just cranked through tens of thousands of words. I slept two hours a night and maybe that’s not good for you. Did wreck yourself on your book?
Abel: It was pretty fun while I was writing it. Then when we got to the whole back and forth of the publisher thing, not quite as fun. Yeah, I actually wrote a lot of internationally from Bali and Thailand and mostly in the middle of the woods.
I think a lot of people who have been listening me they’ve been like, “Where’s Abel?” Because I haven’t recorded an interview on anyone else’s show or even my show since last summer when we unplugged and I wanted to do that to finish my book, but mostly we’ve been living off the grid in the woods and it’s awesome.
Dave: We’ve had a couple of chances to connect while you’re doing that and you’ve definitely been out there and doing the things that you actually talk about because your new book, which is called The Wild Diet – and by the way, if you guys haven’t guessed, I’m endorsing The Wild Diet and this is a book that you should definitely check out. It does have Abel’s family recipes modified to be lower in bad carbohydrates and amazingly gluten-free and stuff like that that makes you look and feel good.
Along the way, Abel, I think you and I hung out like five times since you unplugged. It’s awesome to have you back on the air. I’ve been digging through the early release version of your book and you’ve got some good recipes in there.
You wrote a kind of a funky name for it, The Wild Diet. You’ve been living wild. You guys really have been out in the forest. As you’re writing this book out in the forest, what did you bring into it? Why is it The Wild Diet?
Abel: I came up with that name actually a while back. I come from the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire and I think it’s something that a lot of people in my generation and yours as well were getting more and more divorced from what it felt like to be a pioneer back in the day, which is like survivalist stuff wasn’t something that you saw in conservative forums.
It was something that was just a part of life for everyone as was common sense. As common sense relates to a lot of dietary things, it’s interesting to see an environmentalist approach to eating or like my brother’s approach, he’s an organic farmer, my grandfather was as well, some family in dairy farming, maple sugar and all sorts of things in between.
Basically, like you said, it’s a lot of family recipes. This book, it’s like a cook book disguised as a diet book. It’s basically a cook book that’s encapsulated by a bunch of memoirs from my life. It’s less about being super specific about what you eat and more about giving you the tools to navigate your own family recipes to see if you have any gems in there.
Dave: It’s awesome because most things that you want to create you can create. When I was a raw vegan I definitely had some health declines. First I felt great but my health declined, but I went through it. You can make almost everything that you like out of uncooked vegetables.
That’s one end of the craziness and then there’s other end where you’re going to eat it just made out of chemically processed stuff that sort of looks like food or a 3D printed banana instead of just eating a damn banana. That’s bizarre.
In the middle where I would place sanity, you have recipes that look and taste like real food, they’re made of real food but they don’t have the anti-nutrients and the things that probably are not to be there for just having your brain work. You’ve basically hacked your family recipes.
Abel: Yeah. I wanted this to be super inclusive. I took our family recipes but also combined that with the family recipes of the people who have been working with me for a while and also my community submitted a bunch of their family recipes. Then Alison, she comes from a … that’s actually where we are right now. If you hear any weird sounds, there are horses behind me and goats and chickens. It’s awesome.
Dave: Abel, it’s not nice to eat the horses, all right.
Abel: It’s The Wild Diet, Dave. Anyway, she comes from a huge Mormon race family out here in Arizona and they have a bunch family recipes too. We tried to combine all those together and really make something that can hit all sorts of different pallets and personality types as it relates to eating and also people from different cultural backgrounds are used to eating different things so it’s nice to put some spice into some and then go almost 100% raw vegan on some others because we have a lot of people.
We basically want to make good eating something that’s not. It doesn’t have to be one particular dogmatic diet. It’s something that everyone can do.
Dave: Yeah. Different people feel better on different foods. There are some general rules like if you’re doing lines of MSG off a mirror with a razor blade, you’re probably not going to be optimized. It’s a pretty good rule for everyone, but at the other end of it there are some people who need less protein or less fat than others. The general like hey, let’s all point this direction. You and I have always had an eye on that.
Abel: Right. You just want to find what you can get away with. I found those things. You’ve eaten with me or hung out with me, you know that I get away with it.
Dave: Yeah. You’re definitely one of those guys who can handle his wine. Let me put it that way.
Abel: I can handle my wine. That comes with the territory of being a musician, I think, because that was my currency for a while there.
Dave: There you go. It was sort of like a built-up tolerance. I still think though that wine and just generally drinking a lot does have a biological cost. Even one drink every night that’s not going to lead for optimal health for a long term. But like you said, can you get away with it? Can you do it and feel good and do it consciously? Yeah, you can.
Abel: It’s a totally good point. One of the things that I do is I love to, just like you do, guinea pig yourself and put yourself into different scenarios. I may have even brought this up last time or one of the times I was on your show, but when I was running marathons … I’ve always been a runner, I love to do it, and so I was getting a little bit more serious about my own performance and so I wanted to see what would happen if I drink wine or didn’t drink it.
I could tell, in terms of perceived effort, from one glass of wine it would also make me about 10 seconds slower per mile running a 10K. If I kept perceived effort the same, it would bring me down 10 seconds. If I had 2 it was 20 seconds and that would last for a few days.
There’s something to be said for enjoying a good old glass of Cabernet every once in a while, but for people who’ve heard the advice that you should be drinking every night to maintain health, that’s something that’s too easy to abuse, I think.
There’s a huge difference between having one or two drinks once or twice a week like two to four drinks or having one to two drinks every night which could be 14 drinks. Monumental difference.
Dave: It is. Explaining this in a book is monumentally difficult. Your book has tons of recipes in it which is really helpful. When I was doing the Bulletproof Diet it was about how do I boil down this huge body of science to make it accessible. I kind of beat myself up doing it but at the end of the day, like you’re saying, how do you explain the nuance that you just said about okay fine, you had a couple of glasses of wine Friday night and you aren’t going to run a marathon Saturday morning. You probably, like you said, got away with it. What are some of the other things that you encourage people to get away with in The Wild Diet?
Abel: I think it’s more the taking control of your own time as it relates to eating. I know you’re a fan of this, too. If it works well for you doing Bulletproof coffee or something similar in the morning, a lot of times I’ll start with fish oil, a round of supplements. Sometimes …
Dave: Fish oil in your coffee? Dude, that’s disgusting.
Abel: I’ve actually tried all sorts of different animal fats in the coffee, we can work that out, but that’s not too good.
Dave: Do you like that?
Abel: It depends on how you doctor it up. If you turn it into a special kind of recipe, then it’s awesome. If you just try it straight, not so good. You got to play with it a little.
Dave: I put a teaspoon of carefully cooked bacon fat in Bulletproof coffee a few times. I’ve tried probably all the same oils you have, lard. Oh man, I don’t know. None of them have ever turned out epically good, but if you have a secret recipe for bacon Bulletproof coffee, let me know. We’ll post it on the show notes.
Abel: Totally. We’ll have a contest. I like that.
Dave: Oh my god. This is going to create some of the most ungodly concoctions ever.
Abel: I like where this is going.
Dave: I do too. Let’s talk about animal fats. You’re a fan of eating more fat. You do talk about Fat-Burning Man and all that. So, let’s talk about that. What are the reasons that you have in your book and just in your system of science about why more healthy fats are important? Long-time listeners know I have a bunch of reasons, we got a bunch of others on, what do you say that’s different or in line with what the prevailing high fat wisdom is?
Abel: I would say the biggest high level thing is that it tastes awesome, it makes everything else taste awesome and it makes you feel really good too and it doesn’t really make you fat.
Dave: Did you say fat tastes good? Abel, holy crap! But you’re right. You might actually enjoy your food. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons to eat fat.
Abel: I’ve tried dieting so many different ways to cut down. I was into bodybuilding type stuff and athletics. Cutting fat is something that you hear all sorts of things about, but I can tell you that yeah, you can lose fat and cut down by cutting out fat itself in your diet but it sucks. It’s the worst.
Also recently, one of my buddies I helped him through his first all-fat experience as a body builder and he actually placed in the competition going ketogenic for the first time ever. Then once you get down to 7, 6% body fat and then again down to 3, you can cycle the carbs and go up and down. It’s more precise at that point. He got down I think it was all the way to 6% body fat from 14 on an almost 100% fat diet. He was still eating plenty of fiber and veggies, but it was pretty much fat and veggies.
Dave: It’s remarkable what happens when you limit protein and people say, the prevailing bodybuilding wisdom is, “You got to have 18 scoops away protein everyday, every 2 hours. You just rub it on your skin and you’ll get more in.”
Abel: I tried that.
Dave: I did, too. You see this in a lot of the low carb high fat anything goes as long as there’s not sugar and they’ll lose half their weight and they’re stuck with this extra, excessive protein and excessive toxin weight.
Abel: Yeah. It’s weird-looking, too.
Dave: It is. I certainly had that. It was all in my butt because it’s wringing around your waist. That isn’t necessarily an insulin response. Maybe it’s from weight causing insulin. I’ve certainly had a few Bulletproof ambassadors who placed in bodybuilding competitions on Keto.
I have this concern with bodybuilding in general and it’s awesome because this is someone controlling their biology. I used to lift all the time and really wanted to get that way. You can spend a lot of time doing it but you might not necessarily be doing things that make you feel best or make you live longest or make you most vibrant. What’s the lowest percentage of body fat that you consider to be healthy and sustainable?
Abel: That definitely depends on the person, but I can tell you once my buddy crossed the 8 to 7% range, he was miserable. He might have looked great but he was just miserable. He could never go out, had to sleep every night. Wherever he went he had a tub of veggies that he could snack on miserably.
If you want to do it like a bodybuilder, that’s how they do it. It’s not something where you’re partying all the time and living the jersey shore lifestyle. You know what I mean? It’s really, really specific and it’s hard.
What works for me is around 10% body fat. That’s where my body seems to do pretty well. If I overeat for a while, like we just got from Powder Mountain in Utah and we ate like royalty there. It was awesome.
Sometimes I do that especially when I’m exercising a lot. Then when I go back home I clean it up, do essentially a cleanse. Lots of raw veggies and not too much food. Basically, to get yourself back in the balance. No matter what I do in the past few years that’s pretty much where I’ve been, around 10%. If I put on muscle or even if I lose it it’s still around 10%.
Dave: It’s a good place to be. A lot of it depends on your genetics. It depends on how you grew up.
Abel: How you train too is huge.
Abel: Like what sports do you do.
Dave: Yeah. Do you lift or do you just go for a long jog everyday? Because you’re going to look different based on that.
I’ve talked to a bunch of anti-aging guys about this and there are different people with different perspectives, but around 10, 12% when you’re under that your resilience and your vibrancy and your margin for error goes down.
Abel: The skinniest people die in a famine, right? That’s just the way that it works or the way it used to work. It’s not necessarily and advantage in the way that everyone seems to see it in our society. It’s something that’s just variability that’s built in to a population so that we could survive certain conditions, but it’s not the best for survival.
If I’m going out on the woods and long hike, we’re going out for three weeks, I’m not going to be low body fat. I want body fat to keep you warm, to make sure that you’re comfortable, to make sure that you’re not hungry all the time.
Dave: Yeah. It’s surprising. There’s no doubt that people look good when they’re lean and chiseled, but to look that way all the time and to try and hang out around that 9% body fat, or a little bit more of women because of breasts, but I find that for guys, depending on who you talk to and what research you read, but if you’re under about 18% you’re probably within the healthy range and you probably look pretty good.
You can get lower and lower but also then, like you said, around that under 10, under 9 or maybe only under 7, you get the hungry feeling. You’re pissed off all the time. You’re like, “I’ll have a little bit of protein and then I’ll …”
Abel: Because your brain is starving.
Dave: It’s true. You don’t want to feel like you’re mean all the time because you’re just pumped. I spent a lot of time that way.
Abel: I see you when you don’t eat. It’s nasty.
Dave: Yeah. I get all hyper, bitchy. It’s an interesting thing and it’s something I don’t think we talk about enough is that what you are doing when you take control of your biology, and not what’s the difference how you look but what’s the difference how you feel. In The Wild Diet you have all these recipes. How should people feel when they’re eating the kind of things you recommend? Explain it. Use words, if you can, to explain this feeling.
Abel: Yeah. I even dedicate a whole section of my book to how to taste your food because a lot of people don’t go through the exercises. It’s really tempting to … you know, we’re all busy and you have to run off to something to shove something in your mouth and go off, but when you actually pay attention to your food and try to taste whatever passes your lips, that’s something that can really improve your whole experience of not just eating but your entire life.
First and foremost, I tried to make my book experience based. It’s certainly backed by science as you all know because a lot of it is similar science, but it’s more about the experience of getting back to like … You know, growing up when it’s really cold in New Hampshire, my dad was one of five and my grandmother was this Boston gal who married my grandfather and became a farmer. Family dinners when we got together after a hard day’s work or playing, especially when it was cold, dinner really meant something.
She took either my mom or my dad was also a line cook, whoever prepared it, it came with a story and it came with all these smells that were going throughout the kitchen and the whole house and then you come and you spend pretty much the whole time eating.
If you’ve ever been to Italy and eaten there you know that’s culturally built in, or Spain or a lot of these other countries that have longer history than us, you see that eating is something that is so much more than most people give a credit for. It’s something that can totally be the highlight of your life. The biggest reason I put out a diet book is because I’m a foodie.
Abel: I love diets or whatever. It’s like I love food and so I’ve hacked my way into eating the best tasting food that makes you feel the best that I possibly can to share that with other people because it’s really, really awesome.
Dave: There’s a lot of passion in your book and just in the way you live. You have passion for food. You don’t have to give up being a foodie in order to do this health thing. I used to think, “Screw the flavor.” I’ll eat soylent. It’s not that I think that the compositions are , but the general …
Abel: Yeah, we did a video about that.
Dave: I remember. Yeah, we put that thing up. It was actually a lot of fun to talk about. I really did have this perspective like it’s fuel for the body and sometimes I still talk that way. Here’s the thing about fuel for the body: the body has this amazing filtration system and I’m not talking about your liver and kidneys and skin and stuff here.
I’m talking about your taste buds. If you have to blend it up with fruit to make it taste good, you probably aren’t supposed to be putting it in your mouth. That’s bypassing your taste buds. Just because it tastes good doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. If it doesn’t taste good, there’s probably a reason for that and it’s okay to listen to that.
Abel: Yeah. Once you learn to appreciate that honestly with yourself and you get away from the processed type flavors, then you can appreciate that fresh kale tastes good as do carrots and peas and legumes and basically anything …
Dave: Legumes? Are you some kind of a wuss? Did you say you eat legumes?
Abel: Every once in a while. One of the things that I think is super important is to give yourself permission to whatever it is that you long of. Have a little bit of it but know exactly what it is and what it’s doing for you and what it’s doing to you.
If there’s something that you appreciate or love, have a little bit of it and enjoy every second of it. If there’s something that you taste and you’re just like, “I don’t really taste anything. Maybe it’s not fresh,” then don’t get it next time. Everything can taste amazing as long as it’s fresh.
Dave: I’m with you there. It’s one of the reasons that my hierarchy of is it likely to be kryptonite or not, legumes are higher than beans. They have less lecithins and they’re better tolerated than pinto beans are for most people.
If you can eat lentils and you’re not sitting crooked and bloated the next day, good. It’s that whole individualized thing. I’m pretty sure that if you ate six cups of lentils that you wouldn’t like how you felt after that either. There’s a volume limit and then there’s an individual tolerance limit and then there’s do they taste good to me. It’s that triangle for everyone for every food.
It doesn’t matter if you go to McDonald’s. Are you getting there chemical latent salad or are you getting the Big Mac? One of them is probably better than the other. I’m not sure which one though.
Abel: That’s bad.
Dave: I know. Bad. There we go. I like that. You and I both used to work in more high-tech, big business kind of environments and I think both of us are a little bit happier now that we spend more time focusing on helping other people and just doing things we love and exploring some new territories that maybe weren’t what we were exploring before. You used to work for Fortune 500 food marketing companies, right?
Abel: I did. That’s the interesting about Fat-Burning Man and where I came from is that before that I was blogging anonymously as Honest Abe. A lot of people don’t know this. My website was called honestabestips.com and it was like a little picture of Abraham Lincoln peeking out from the side of the keyboard.
I had been doing this for a while but Fat-Burning Man was basically me on my best behavior interviewing other people to get their opinions so that I didn’t have to basically tell people dogmatically what was going on because legally I couldn’t either.
When you work with some of these big companies, there are a lot of rooms that you just can’t walk out of. There are trade secrets, there are proprietary marketing things and even though I even do it in food for very long because it was so gross to me, I still had a lot of things in my head, and still do, that I can’t really just say to the end-consumer because it’s a part of something that is so high level that they won’t really let it out.
Dave: There’s also a bunch of legal restrictions when you’re a food company as to what you’re allowed to say, right? Can you go into a little bit of that? Are you familiar with some of the regulatory things food companies can or can’t say even if they want to?
Abel: You know, I think what’s going on right now, the biggest problem is that in America especially you don’t know what you’re getting at all. You don’t know where it comes from. Even on the ingredients, which is something that I recommend everyone read on everything they buy, the ingredients themselves are broken down into subcategories of things that could be what they say they are or something not at all what they say they are.
Natural flavors is one example I bring up in the book which can actually be made of the anal secretions of beavers.
Dave: I knew you were going to the beaver anus. You always bring up the beaver anus …
Abel: Always go to the beaver butt because it’s funny but then you think about it and you’re like, “God. That is not funny at all.” Beaver anus, think of all the other … I mean, I know a lot of them. You know a lot of them.
Dave: Where do you find the beaver and how do get to its … ?
Abel: I don’t know. You’re the one who lives in the Canada.
Dave: There’s actually one in the backyard. My food tastes great. I don’t even understand the animal cruelty that has to be involved in killing an animal for that in order to put it in your candy bar. It’s just uncool.
Abel: It’s preposterous and that’s where we’re at with food in America. We don’t know if it’s genetically modified. I think there are things like that where by that time they are required to label it, things like genetic modification. But then, maybe good signs will be behind it and then actually will be a semi-good or bad thing and then we still don’t know if it’s good or bad then. I can tell you right now, the stuff that is not labeled for a reason is bad.
Dave: I have a relative, who shall remain nameless, who works from Monsanto and it’s actually been a shame for the whole family. The project is how do you modify common seed oil so that they make more of the types of fatty acid you want. That’s actually potentially a useful form of genetic manipulation.
It’s also possible to do some cool stuff where you might genetically modify something and see what happens and go, “Okay, that’s what that gene does. I’m not going to let that into the wild because that could cause all sorts of havoc, but now I know I can selectively breath in that direction.”
There’s huge knowledge in genetics and I think you and I are both in favor of understanding it. Here’s the thing that scares the heck out of me: you can take that knowledge and you can breed plants that make less saturated fat because you have this old 1970s belief that saturated fat is bad for you.
If we have the science right and we looked at clinical data and we did real studies, like hopefully what Gary Taubes and NuSI are doing, maybe then we could take those genetic engineering tools and those breeding tools, the hybridization, the way we used to do it, and we could then make plans that are even more healthy for us and we can do it in a way that’s coherent with our soil or biome, with our pollution levels and with everything else. Right now, not only are they doing it wrong, they’re going in the wrong direction.
Abel: Right. They’re not doing it for us. That’s the biggest thing that I think people need to be aware of is yeah, there’s tinkering that we don’t understand and there’s a lot of it in our food. You don’t need to understand it but you should understand that it’s not being done for you.
It’s being done to improve profits, to increase yields, all these things that these billion dollar corporations are doing to make more and more billions of dollars from cheap food that isn’t serving you as it relates to your health.
That’s something that I wish everyone just could accept that right now because it’s the biggest road block, I think politically, for a lot of good science being done which needs to be done. Not sloppy science that’s biased and looking at something that’s not related to human health at all, but opening it up so that we can all be helped by the science but from the smart people who are working in that field.
Dave: Yeah. There are lots of people who are working to do good. At a neuromarketing conference I sat next to the chief marketing officer from Monsanto. Number one, it was scary that Monsanto was at the neuromarketing conference.
Abel: Right. I’d love to be a fly on the wall.
Dave: It was a good conference. There was no talk of dark manipulation of people. It was more like our advertising has an effect on people. This is Stanford and it was an academic conference. I hang out at the weirdest places but it was awesome. I talked to him for a while.
Abel: Yes you do. I know that because I’m there too.
Dave: That’s a fair point. We’re probably the guys in the back laughing. The cool thing though was this guy, and I apologize I don’t remember his name, but he was not a bad guy. He didn’t have warrants, although I think he was genetically trying to grow some.
Honestly, he was just a guy who really believed in his mission, which was that we’re going to feed all these people. He was just talking the talk. You can tell when someone is a corporate shill.
Sometimes what you and I perceive as insane behavior is actually bad assumptions. I’ll go back 20 years at Santa. Barbara, I was at Goucher there. I took this class called Religion and Violence. We listened to Jim Jones and we listened to all these horribly … like where religion had turn into violence.
I took it because being young, arrogant, guy who’s like, “Religion probably is bad. I’ll just learn more about why it causes people to kill each other.” It was interesting. It was taught by a rabbinical scholar and this is a very learned man. In order to be a rabbinical scholar you have to be pretty much a bad ass intellectually and from an academic perspective.
He said, “Why would people do this?” I raised my hand and I’m like, “Because they’re all nuts.” That was my perspective. He looked at me and said, “That would be a profound mistake to make, young man.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He said, “The problem is that their assumptions and their worldview are so different from yours that their behavior looks different but their behavior is actually rational.”
So the fight that you and I are fighting, or less than a fight, just the life that you and I are living is much more about shifting our knowledge and our assumptions so that behavior will align because just changing behavior, if you still believe the wrong things – when I say believe, I mean science, principles – if you believe that it’s okay to use soil to prop up crops instead of soil to support the growth of crops and that there are different animals, then you’re going to behave in a certain way that leads more environmental destruction and a worse situation for everyone.
I think what we do is really important and The Wild Diet is very important because you are teaching people ways to look at the world that then leads to behavior that self-reinforces our humanity, our ability to perform and feel good. Thank you for doing the same stuff that you’re doing because it’s really important and that’s why it’s important. It’s the underlying stuff not just, “Hey, you eat this meal or cake with this many calories.” That’s not the point.
Tell me about pumpkin pie though. That was my segway to pumpkin pie, anyway.
Abel: The pumpkin pie recipe that we have in there is cool because it started with … I love pumpkin pie, especially when I was running a lot. I’d come back and sometimes eat a whole pumpkin pie.
It was always one of my favorites around the holidays and so I did my best to come up with the best pumpkin pie that I could still eat and would be okay. Then Alison went to work on it, made it a little bit better and we combined it with my mom’s recipe from way back in the dairy farmer generation and we made a pretty epic apple pie.
Alison also went on to make a bacon bourbon apple pie. I mean, it’s foodie pure bliss. We eat it everyday too.
Dave: There’s a bacon crust, yea?
Abel: Well, you can kind of put a bacon crust on anything and it’ll usually taste better. The cool thing is obviously, we’re not eating pumpkin pie everyday but we might be eating something a little bit like it everyday.
Dave: My kids have it for breakfast sometimes. It’s okay to eat pumpkin pie everyday if it’s made with real food and it’s not full of sugar.
Abel: That’s the thing.
Dave: It’s like pumpkins are vegetables, right?
Abel: Totally, yeah. That’s what we want to do. My mom made this red velvet cupcake when I went back there a few years ago and she made it with beans. That was the thing that used to make it reddish. It’s not red like the crushed up beetles in most food coloring that’s out today.
Dave: Mixed with beaver’s.
Abel: Right. Yeah, totally. Food used to be made with real food and you can still do that. Using sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash and things like that, beans, to put into your baked goods or to put into foods that you might not expect as a flavoring agent and is a texture really, really works.
That way you can eat things that super indulgent, like pumpkin pie for breakfast or my mom will have a little bit of a coffee cake that we make or something like that with her coffee in the morning and it’s not something that’s going to ruin you the way that coffee cake from anywhere else will.
It didn’t used to be like that. People used to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes and eat pie everyday and whatever at diners and they didn’t have the same problems that we do today. It’s not like we’re completely broken and bankrupt of any strength. Your body can still put up with a lot and eat pretty good food as long as you’re conscious about what you’re doing and you know what’s good, you know what’s not so good.
Dave: Yup. Teaching people how to sense that versus how to just read it in the table is pretty important.
Abel: Yeah. I didn’t want to write a 3,000-page book.
Dave: I know. It’s hard.
Abel: Most people don’t want to read that. The reason that we understand, Dave, what’s going on is because we’ve been doing this for years and interviewing the smartest people about this. We have a huge head start. To get that sort of education from books would be impossible or would take the rest of your life in a lot of ways.
I totally appreciate your struggle because it’s mine too. Trying to distill it down to a smallish book is really, really tough. I did my best to give people the tools that would allow them to think for themselves because we really used to.
The world that we live in today were barraged by so much misinformation in marketing and media that we need that slap on the wrist from our collective grandmothers saying, “Sugar is bad. Don’t eat junk.” Most of these health food that we say today is junk that’s in disguise.
Dave: Yeah. I’m worried about gluten-free. I go to the store …
Abel: And paleo.
Dave: That’s a fair point. You see a gluten-free paleo thing and you’re like … paleo isn’t protected. You can take a Snickers bar and put a paleo sticker around it. There’s nothing stopping that from happening other public scorn. The line of what’s paleo …
Abel: Yeah, but there are so many things out there that might as well be a Snickers bar. It’s unbelievable and I saw that happening even at that first paleo conference that actually where we met the first time.
Dave: Yeah. Paleo FX. That’s a long time ago. Right.
Dave: Are you going this year? Are you going to be there?
Abel: I don’t know because I’m releasing an album and doing a whole tour thing too so I’m shifting gears, but we’ll see. I would like to see a lot of people there. The first time I met Dave he was caring a bunch of his coffee and we’re like, “Who is this guy?” He’s got a grinder in the back and getting out ready to go. Then we recorded a video about bacon. I wonder if we could dig that up. Remember that thing?
Dave: It might be somewhere. We did a bacon video.
Abel: It will be really embarrassing.
Dave: It was super embarrassing because I think we’re both getting our way in social media. I remember, I never released it because I didn’t have all the video editing stuff I needed back then. There was a campaign, basically some very thin women saying, “Are you vegan sexual? I would only have sex with a vegan. I would never kiss a man who ate flesh.”
What I did is I was like, “I need to find young, attractive, paleo people who generally look vibrantly healthy and ask them to say, ‘Oh my god, I’m paleosexual and I can’t imagine having sex with someone who isn’t fertile because they haven’t eaten any saturated fat in five years.'”
You’re with your now wife, but at the time that guys have just met, not so recently, you guys are clearly in love and Alison is there and so each of you is like, “I’m paleosexual and it was the best video ever and I wish I knew where I put it.”
Abel: We got to find that thing. Anyway, to get back to that point, one of the reasons I didn’t use paleo too much as a name wasn’t just because one of the paleo guys tried to trademark and sue me for selling his own supplements or whatever, but also because paleo is so easy to abuse as a very reductionist framework. Would a cavemen have eaten this or not? It’s a really cool tool. It’s a good lens to look through.
But when you start slapping it on the label of something that has 22 grams of sugar in it and it’s made with grains even though they’re like pseudo grains or whatever and of these other stuff that the caveman clearly wouldn’t eat, then it falls apart.
The problem is when people hear about paleo and all the good things about it, they go and buy the things that other manufacturers are slapping labels on that are not paleo in that sense at all.
Dave: That’s one of the reasons that when I started I protected Bulletproof. It’s a registered trademark and it has been since the very, very early days because there are lines you don’t cross. For something to be Bulletproof it has to actually be Bulletproof or it’s not. You can say it’s healthy, you can say it’s high fat or whatever, but there’s a meaning to that.
There’s a problem on Amazon, and you’ll probably see this with The Wild Diet, two days after it comes out there’ll be a dozen people selling The Wild Diet Knock Off books. Shame on you Amazon for allowing that.
This is essentially when Napster used to allow Metallica’s album to be downloaded, but it’s even worse because it’s not Metallica’s music. It just says Metallica on the cover.
Abel: Yeah. That happened with our apps within days too. Even if you trademark it, it really doesn’t even make a difference because there are scammers to begin with.
Dave: They’re hard to find. My legal people are finding them. We have a SWAT team. We actually go to their houses and we throw vegan food at them. They’re covered in tomatoes and stuff. There are some, by the way these people are genuine fans who are working and they’re like, “We can have a conversation. We can make sure it’s Bulletproof.” You know what it’s like and it’s funny because you’ve been down the app thing and you’ve seen this before.
Let’s shift gears a bit because we’re coming up towards the end of the time we got. You’ve done some stuff that has nothing to do with The Wild Diet and some stuff that has nothing to do really with Fat-Burning Man.
One of them is, I think I stayed with you at South by Southwest in Austin, you’ve picked up routes, you’ve been living in an RV, cruising around and literally living the wild life and you’re just out in the forest and you’re reconnecting with nature and you’ve impossible to reach via email and all those things.
Abel: Or phone.
Dave: Or phone, right. You’ve been basically like a nomadic dweller in the U.S. You guys don’t have kids. You got a relatively flexible job. The vast majority of people who are listening to this would probably love to do the same thing. Heck, I’d love to do the same thing. It’s a little bit of work when you have two young kids in school because the schools like them to show up and like that.
Is there a way that mere mortals can do some semblance of what you’ve done to reconnect with nature over the past few months?
Abel: Totally. All you got to do …
Dave: Lets here it.
Abel: To your point, it is a lot easier before you have kids and before you’re saddled down with some other responsibility and that’s why we’re doing our best to do it right now because we finally have the financial resources, the lifestyle hammered down and the time without kids because we’re going to try in the next year or two.
Dave: You guys are going to make epic parents just so it’s clear.
Abel: Thank you. We’re just trying to get our wiggles out now because we know we still can. We want to be sick of traveling by then. Basically, I want this to be testament too. If we can do this while traveling all over the world and in a lot of places that don’t have Bulletproof foods certainly, it’s really hard to do it on the road, but that should just be more fodder that says if you’re at home you have things that are predictable, restaurants that you know have good food, places to go shopping to get good food.
If you have that around you make sure do not make excuses about getting that stuff because you can just go built it right into your routine in a way that people who are travelling all the time can. It’s not always good to be traveling. In fact, sometimes it’s a huge challenge.
In terms of the nature thing, it’s amazing. Whenever I go visit, or with Alison as well, we go visit people all over the country, all over the world and one of the first things we do is find a park nearby so that we can just get outside.
Having gone through a bunch of conferences with you Dave, you know very well that I can’t stand to be in a room with fluorescent lights or that’s enclosed in any way. I love being outside. I love going for a walk. The first thing we do is always find a bit water or a bit of land where we can just chill out and relax.
A lot of people would be surprised like even I was with Pedram a couple of weeks ago and he had never been to this place that was just …
Dave: For people listening, Pedram, I think he’s been in both of our shows. He’s a friend who runs Well.org and just released Origins the movie. Abel, you’re in Origins, right?
Dave: Yeah. We’re both in the movie. Anyway, that’s who Pedram is. You’ve heard him on the show before. Go ahead.
Abel: Yeah and he’s a great dude. We were at his house and he has two labs and we have one. He had never been to this place before, it’s 21 minutes away and it’s this vast wilderness area. We get out there and he’s like, “Oh my god. This is awesome.” I’m like, “How long have you been living here, man?”
Basically, we were the excuse to get out there and go, so let me be that excuse to you even if I’m not at your house. Go find a place that’s drivable or even walkable distance to just go, be outside, listen to birds, listen to animals.
As a musician, I want to spend a lot of attention on this, the soundscapes that you hear are really important to your brain function. They do things to you that you don’t even realize. Don’t fall into the wrong trip. The New York soundscape of blaring sirens and alarms and all sorts of sounds that heighten your arousal too much.
Go and listen to a babbling brook or some birds tweeting at you or something like that. Even if you just plug in your headphones and do it from your house, that can be a huge help in trying to get a little bit more wild. You want your body to be closer to the world that it’s adapted to be in which is so far divorced from the one that we’re living in now. Even in the past 10 years it’s completely changed.
Dave: So you’re advocating not that we all put on loincloths and live in caves but that we just take little step closer to nature and that is probably a good choice?
Abel: Right. The more little steps that you take, you’ll always see a next one. You’ll take one, you’ll feel a little better and then you’ll get an idea, “Well, maybe I’ll try this or go outside a little bit more.”
One thing that Americans don’t do is take their own vacations. Take your vacation and go somewhere that is basically the opposite of Las Vegas. Go somewhere like the Grand Canyon instead of Las Vegas. It’s tempting to go on stressful vacations or fancy ones, but sometimes the opposite is just what the doctor ordered.
Dave: Abel, the last time I saw you was at the Peter Diamandis event and you were wearing a fancy new watch. It wasn’t an iWatch. Was it the Samsung? What was that watch?
Abel: Samsung Gear S. It’s right over there, actually.
Dave: What this is, if you haven’t seen this thing, I had not seen one before, it makes the iWatch look like a kid’s toy. What’s going on with this thing is .. There Abel is getting it. If you’re watching on video you can actually see it.
Abel: You can see Dave’s awesome shirt.
Dave: Yeah, check this out. It’s got an astronaut on there. The cool thing is you’re talking about being wild but you’re not disconnected from technology. If you’re a caveman, you’re loincloth would have a little iPhone pocket.
Abel: Totally. It’s just the nerd that I came here with. I’m a mountain man but I also love tech and we’re living in Star Trek whether we realize it or not. The things that we have are absurd. I have it right here if you’re watching the video version. Basically, what this watch is, is a smartphone that goes on your wrist.
It also does cool things like it measures UV light to see if you’re going to get a sunburn. It is its own phone so it has its own sum card. You don’t need your phone with it. This is one of the reasons that I have it, Dave, is because I don’t like having my phone but if I’m mountain biking for three hours or running or hiking or something like that, it’s a pretty good idea to have a phone with you.
This also measures a pedometer or if you go biking, it measures a lot of your activity, tracks it and combines that with a GPS. It does a lot of things to basically make your phone irrelevant. For someone like me, keeping up with tech actually gets tech out of the way of my life a lot of the time and it’s pretty cool.
Dave: The idea here is you’re wild but you’re not a luddite.
Abel: Right. Yeah. I think that it’s important to accept that it can be both ways. You can use technology in a way that your body likes. I would much rather have a phone on my wrist and of one of my extremities than blasting it right next to my brain. Whatever the heck it’s spitting at you we know some things that are bad, I can almost guarantee that we don’t know most of them that are really messing with us. Use tech to get away from what is clearly bad tech.
Dave: That is a great quote there because we’re doing a lot of harm that we haven’t acknowledge. This whole thing about our assumption is not matching our behavior or our behavior matching our assumptions but the assumptions are wrong. I am fully convinced that we could make mobile phones and Wi-Fi antennas that enhance human resilience and didn’t take away.
Abel: We talked about this. Totally. They should be doing that right now.
Dave: There’s only like a $500 billion market opportunity. It’s probably worth the trouble. One more question here aside from the final question that I’ve already asked you a couple of times but I always like to pick your brain one more time.
Being a typical crazy guy you are, you just recorded an album in Nashville with members of the Tim McGraw band. What’s up with that? We just talked about The Wild Diet book that’s coming out and I’m recording with a complete musician legend.
People don’t know this, you’ve spoken twice at the Bulletproof conference about neuroscience and music and you are a musician. How did you hook up with Tim McGraw and what are you guys doing that you can talk about?
Abel: It’s just a crazy story because basically, and I know you can relate to this Dave, you get a lot of comments and emails and thank you notes and stuff like that from people but every once in a while there’s one that stands out.
I got one, a little more than a year ago now, maybe coming up on two years, that was just the best, most meaningful thank you note I had received that I can remember receiving from a musician named Danny. I read down the bottom. It turns out he’s the band leader for the Tim McGraw band.
I had him on the show, we talked and totally hit it off. The man is like a saint. He lost 46 pounds on The Wild Diet. He was a huge fan of the show and the rest of the band, all of the other guys, got into it. I brought them Bulletproof coffee when they came to Austin and yeah, it was super fun. It was crazy.
I start the book with this, but I walked on the tour bus with Alison when they come through Austin. The fiddle player was just like, “Oh my god, Fat-Burning Man, I can’t believe you’re here.” I’m just like, “You guys are really listening. This is awesome.”
They brought out a big bag of Brazil nuts to show me and all these fresh vegetables. They showed me Immu oil. They were totally like standbys of our stuff, the podcasting world because that’s where they go to get their health information. I was just so floored by that.
Then we went back and jammed at my place and we ate a whole bunch of delicious food. Then he had me out to Nashville to play with a bunch of his crazy cats who toured with Elton John, Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Still, Nash and Young. It’s incredible people.
Fat-Burning Man, while I was really focusing on that, it wasn’t just like the content, it was also proof of concept of how to get media out there direct from creator to someone who is a fan or following. I was actually taking time off of music to do that and it connected me back up with it. The name of the album that we all recorded in Nashville is called Swamped Thing.
Dave: I love it.
Abel: It’s one of those things that came out of nowhere. You might see a saxophone behind me. I’m about to lay down some sax tracks on that. I’m just super stoked because this wouldn’t have been possible 5, 10 years ago but now, the gatekeepers don’t matter as much in book publishing, in getting your message out there on the internet. People who are listening to this right now are proof of that. We’re just super stoke because now we can jam and just let the music speak for itself.
Dave: I’m excited to hear it and it’s hilarious that you chose Swamp Thing. If people haven’t seen that movie from the late ’70s, early ’80s, it’s like genetic engineering get mad and a man gets accidentally genetically mixed up with some swamp algae and becomes the protector of the swamp. I think it’s hilarious that picked that as the name.
Abel: Thank you. It’s a super fun one. We just got into the studio and tried out a bunch of songs and wound up that weekend with 12 of them. We recorded 12. They were pretty much all one take. It was unbelievable but super fun. I’m excited. We’re going to be releasing that after the book The Wild Diet which comes out April 7th.
Also I’ll just mention, this watch we’re giving one away on our website. We might give away a few but you can go to wilddietbook.com for all the giveaways and fun stuff.
Dave: Awesome. I was actually going to ask you for that in the end. We’ll make sure to put it in the show notes. Just say it again one more time. Here’s where to go for his book.
Abel: We’re giving away a watch, we’re giving away drones and all sorts of fun stuff as well as my favorite skillet. You can go to wilddietbook.com. If you’d like my podcast, it’s Fat-Burning Man. You can find that in podcast store as well as my website fatburningman.com. Sign up for the email list and you can just hear about all this stuff, I guess.
Dave: You’re always doing something new and fun.
Abel: Always a little crazy.
Dave: For sure. We’re coming up on the end of the show and I ask this question every time. I don’t know what to do when someone has been on the show a couple of times, but I always ask the same question so I’ll just repeat myself.
What I found is that a few times I interview someone more than once their answer sometimes change because this is, your top three things for people who want to perform better at whatever they do in life. Top three most important recommendations from anything you’ve ever done.
Abel: Okay, listen to my other top three on the other two interviews.
Dave: Oh come on.
Abel: That’s the bonus right there.
Dave: That’s like asking for more wishes. You can’t do that.
Abel: I would say if you want to improve your life right now, do what we talked about that exercise of enjoying your food. Every time you eat it it’s something that you have to repeat and tell yourself everyday it’s tempting to lose sight of it. Control your attention while you’re eating and you’ll enjoy everything more. Number two …
Dave: Did you say attention or intention?
Abel: I said attention but intention also works.
Dave: Okay, cool.
Abel: Number two, get outside even if it’s the winter time. It’s good for you to experience the seasons whether they be hot or cold. Get some sun. Go find that park that is probably somewhere nearby. Number three, try a recipe from my book.
Dave: Nice, no one caught that..
Abel: If you can’t get the book we have so many free recipes that our there from myself at fatburningman.com with Alison who is just such an amazing cook and we’re going to be putting a lot of food stuff out there. I guess a secret food that you love, like ours would be pumpkin pie that might seem like a junk food, try to see if you can find a recipe like that anywhere. It doesn’t have to be from me, obviously. They’re easy enough to find now.
Find something, like a healthy mac and cheese that’s made with cauliflower instead of disgusting grains. Find something that is one of your favorite comfort foods that you haven’t eaten in a little while and make a healthy version of it for you and the people you love.
Dave: That is something no one has ever said in about 200 episodes. What a great piece of advice that last one is. You don’t have to deny yourself to be feeling amazing.
Dave: Abel, throw down your book’s URL one more time in case people didn’t get it. If you’re driving in your car right now, legally you’re supposed to pull over, but if you’re like most people you put your cellphone down right under the edge of the dash so won’t get a ticket. You could just write wilddietbook.com. Just remember it even if you’re not driving. Check it out because Abel’s got a good book. There’s amazing recipes in there. My strongest recommendation. Abel, thanks for coming on the show.
Abel: Absolutely. Thanks, Dave. Always a pleasure.
Dave: Hey everyone, if you enjoyed today’s episode, I certainly did, Abel is a good friend and it’s always a pleasure to have him on the show, I do this to share important knowledge to you guys connected with new ideas, new things happening.
If this is helpful to you, I’d love it if you could do one of two things or maybe both: swing on by bulletproof.com and pick up your latest round of Bulletproof coffee or some of the other new stuff.
I’m making all kinds of new stuff all the time that changes how you feel, or borrow that and this is free, head on over to iTunes and click, “I really like this.” Put in your comment. Just let people know that this show is useful, that it’s helpful, that it’s not just entertaining, that it had some value in it besides just having a good time because that’s baseline. Of course, we want to have a good time but there’s got to be more.
Abel: I second that. Say something.
Dave: Say something. There you go.
Abel: It really matters. It’s awesome.
Dave: It does. While you’re at it, it’s just as simple to go to Fat-Burning Man and click like and put a comment for Abel because he’s cool too. Thanks, Abel.
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