If you care about your health, your weight, and the future of the human race, you absolutely must get acquainted with the work of Herman Pontzer, PhD. He's just written a book, Burn, that will challenge everything you think you know about what it means to be a living organism.
Pontzer argues – and provides ample evidence for his claims – that the archaic engineering model of “body as machine” fails to account for how we behave in the real world. We are not products of engineering, but evolution.
And our evolutionary heritage is doing a shitty job of helping us cope with our modern environments.
We've evolved, for example, to burn about 3000 kcalories per day, regardless of how physically active we are.
Which means that amping up our exercise will not lead to weight loss. And that eating a lot less than 3000 kcalories per day puts us into starvation mode, in which our metabolism slows and our brains become fixated on finding calories.
We've evolved to share our food with our tribe, an innovation that allowed us to mitigate risk and spend huge amounts of energy on cognition and childrearing.
Which means we also have a strong “be suspicious of anyone not in our tribe” mentality.
In our rollicking conversation, we talk about his work with the hunter/gatherer Hadza tribe of northern Tanzania, his lab work, and the effort of dispelling all the myths and misinformation that abound in the world of diet and nutrition.
We also talk about energy more broadly – as he reminds us in Burn, calories and kilowatt hours and miles per gallon all refer to the same thing.
Our overuse and misuse of energy external to our bodies (from fire to fossil fuels) is leading us to fry our planet and causing a catastrophic obesity and metabolic disorder epidemic. And the two phenomena are related, as we spend 8 calories in energy for every calorie we harvest to consume. Essentially, our entire civilization is a Ponzi scheme, and the bill is now coming due.
We discuss the lessons of the Hadza, why gorillas don't get fat in zoos (except where they're given cake and donuts), and why both plant-based and high-protein diets are useful for weight loss.
To me, the conversation is a lesson in true scientific integrity and humility. Several times, Pontzer answered, “I don't know,” and pointed to the need to experiment and test and measure to discover the truth.
Burn, by Herman Pontzer, PhD
Pontzer on Rangan Chatterjee, MD's podcast (great, wide-ranging conversation)
Pontzer interviewed by Alan Alda (what a sweetie!)
You CAN Change Other People!
Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative new book of that title.
What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.
Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.
Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by . Click the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.
The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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