High carb or low carb? Why not go back and forth between the two periodically? This oscillation between different balances of macronutrients is likely what our ancestors did, and this approach seems to be helping many people with stubborn body fat. Today we speak with Jason Seib, author of The AltShift Diet, which walks people through a unique dietary approach that oscillates your intake of carbs and calories.
In This Episode
Jason Seib Bio … 1:12
AltShift Diet Overview … 5:50
How Jason Developed AltShift … 15:26
Jason’s Exercise Recommendations … 18:52
The Shifts … 21:52
Gluten and Grains … 26:14
Weighing, Measuring, and Calories … 38:59
Jason’s Final Thoughts on Dieting, Psychology, and Body Image … 43:20
Jason’s Most Fun, Least Healthy Thing … 49:22
Episode Wrap Up … 53:15
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Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Dr. Ruscio Radio. This is Dr. Ruscio. And I’m here with Jason Seib who wrote a book I’ve heard good things about called The AltShift Diet. And looking forward to picking his brain and learning a little bit more about what I think is a cool, different application of I guess you could say maybe cycling macronutrients. But in any case, Jason, thanks for being here and welcome to the show.
Jason Seib: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Jason Seib Bio
DrMR: My pleasure. And I guess to start us off, and for me because I don’t know a lot about your background. I just know a few people who’ve read your book and gone through the protocol and liked it. So we reached out and set something up. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about your background. So for me and for everyone else, can you tell us what you’ve been doing, how you got into this, and all that good stuff?
JS: Yeah, absolutely. So the long term is—trying to make the long story short—got into fitness and exercise, mainly lifting, almost from that body building type perspective—even though I never even almost had the genetics for it—but way back about 21 years ago now and immediately turned into a geek.
I was not that typical gym rat. I was the guy that was out trying to find the studies even before there was really a lot of internet to do that on. And I didn’t really try to make—I got into personal training. But I didn’t really try to make it my primary source of income until I guess maybe about 11 years ago or a little longer now.
And constantly delving into the research and found Paleo really early on and then started writing a blog, ended up getting in contact with Sarah Fragoso. She and I hit it—she’s of Everyday Paleo fame. She and I hit it off really well. I wrote some blog posts that ended up actually bringing down her server because they got a bunch of hits on—it was a scale addiction series that I did. And Tim Ferriss picked them up and blasted them out all over the place. And we crashed the Everyday Paleo server.
DrMR: Nice, nice.
JS: And then Sarah and I started an online training community together, now called JassaFIT. Back then, it was called Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness, or EP Life Fit. And that has—well, I think we’re 500, 600 members or something now.
And I wrote a book called The Paleo Coach that was published back in 2013. And that did really well. And then I own a small gym in the Portland, Oregon, area. I know I’m leaving out 30 things. But overall, it’s been a lot of years of gathering and poring over lots of studies. And in the last few years, I started really focusing on the psychology aspect of it, too.
JS: But I was realizing that my typical clientele that was being drawn to me and that I was the most excited about training was the frustrated fat loss crowd. And the crowd that Robb Wolf, as mentor, told me that he—it was the brave route to be taking to go that way because it can be so frustrating on both sides. You’ve got a lot of metabolic damage and a lot of desperation. And it’s sort of the hard route.
But I also started realizing along that path that my job wasn’t entirely about bodies. It was also about heads and perspective and all that kind of stuff. And I guess I just kind of took it further than anybody else in my world. And now, my clientele is online and in real life, and our typical AltShifter out there is about 90% female and probably 80% of those between the ages of 30 and 60—your frustrated, yo-yo dieting mom. And that brings us up to present.
DrMR: Nice, nice. Well, it sounds like you definitely have a background consistent with what you’re doing, which is always nice to see. And it’s nice that you’re focusing on the weight loss piece in what sounds like an ethical way and not a let-me-prey-on-your-insecurities sort of way, which kind of seems to be the online supplement predatory practice around weight loss unfortunately.
JS: Yeah, it’s disgusting. The market is so broken that even when you’ve got something good, the world makes it really hard for you to even tell people about it just because there are so many scams out there—
JS: That as soon as you have a fat loss protocol—in the eyes of most industries and companies outside of our industry—say for example, you want to run Facebook ads. You just can’t say fat loss or show pictures or anything because our industry is so broken that the assumption has to be that you’re just another scammer.
JS: It is really, really sad.
DrMR: Yeah, totally. Totally agreed.
AltShift Diet Overview
Now, to maybe bridge into some of the concepts in the book, what I’ve heard. And again, I’ve only caught bits and pieces from friends. But it sounds to me like this is a cycling of macronutrients where you oscillate between a lower carb type of diet and then you oscillate over to a higher carb, maybe higher carb/lower fat type of diet. Is that correct for me to say?
JS: Yeah, well, that’s part of it. Yeah, the diet cycles carbs, fat, and calories. And the calories portion is also extremely important. But then it also, in large part, separates fat from starch. And the underlying theme as I wrote and came up with the protocol was sort of how to beat back adaptation because the general gist of all this stuff is that the questions—and it sort of came about—that AltShift came from was, why do all diets work for some short period of time?
They pretty much all do. Let’s say you and I are eating a perfect Paleo diet, just for example, or Mark Sisson’s Primal or something like that. And we go to vegan for two weeks. As long as we don’t do that long enough to suffer any deleterious effects from what we’re missing—the micro- and macronutrients that would be missing from that diet—not only would we probably lose fat, it might actually even be good for us, just the fact that we’d be running inefficiently for a little while because we’ve made such a massive change.
And since all diets seem to produce results temporarily but then all diets hit a wall and usually in relatively short order, then the other question is why do we adapt and then stop getting results? And then I also had a real problem with the fact that diets are almost always prescribed on a daily template.
And that’s ridiculous because if we look at indigenous hunter/gatherers—I used to have a joke I would make in my seminars when I was out speaking. And I’d say something about—we’re talking about how insulin and glucose were kept within a very tight range and how your body spends a lot of energy to keep that glucose baseline in your bloodstream. And talking about how in standard American diet we can spend so much time above that glucose baseline and then that sort of positive insulin state where we’ve got insulin in our bloodstream and how hard it is to access stored fat during that time. And going over that whole thing.
And I would say, “Let’s say this person here in the front row—we’re all a tribe—and this person here in the front row brings down a hippo. And we’re all Hadza in Tanzania. We pick up our camp and move to the hippo. And we’re all going to eat that hippo. We don’t walk up and go, ‘What’s the vegetable and wine pairing with hippo?’ We just eat the hippo until it’s gone.”
JS: And that could keep us in a state with zero carbohydrates for days on end. And then when that’s over, you look over and, hey, look. Here are a bunch of trees that happen to have ripe fruit on them.
And anytime there are available calories because we’re all basically operating under optimum foraging strategy, we don’t pass up calories to move on and expend more energy to get other calories with perfectly good calories in our face unless palette fatigue sets in, which is one of the things that omnivores do deal with.
But available food means vacation when everybody’s job is to go hunt and gather. So the variety wasn’t on a meal-to-meal or day-to-day type deal. It was oftentimes over multiple days and maybe even weeks. So we needed some sort of system, which I believe AltShift also provides, that breaks up macronutrient intake, not necessarily over weeks. We run on a five-day and a three-day cycle that we call shifts.
But we needed something when food is readily available at arms’ reach that sort of mimics how we might have taken in macronutrients rather than saying this is how many carbs, fats, and protein we need to eat daily, because that’s really kind of a ridiculous concept that we could only do in our modern world.
DrMR: And I think you make a lot of great points. And there are a couple things I think of as you’re saying that. I come from—or I came from, when I was younger—much more of a body building background. When I was in my teens, I think like a lot of teenage kids are you’re all obsessed with gaining muscle and leaning out and everything else.
DrMR: And so I was pretty regimented in the diet of everyday, everything is the same. You’re keeping things really dialed in. You’re minimizing insulin. That whole party line. And then eventually, I think the first time I heard the concept of having a swing in what we ate being kind of natural was—I think it was Jade and Keoni Teta, who are two naturopathic physicians who also do a lot with training. And they talked about how our hunter/gatherer ancestors would go through these different cycles like you were saying. And that really opened up my mind. And then, of course, now, I’m a big advocate of being very careful of anyone who has a really strong opinion on one dietary intervention—
DrMR: Because, as you said, all diets can work. And all diets tend to have pros and cons. And it’s not about, hey, this is a one-size-fits-all, everyone has to do this diet. But how can we figure out how to personalize these recommendations for someone or make it workable for someone? So I think a lot of the Paleo community was exclusively you-have-to-be-low-carb many years ago.
DrMR: And now there’s definitely this shift. And I think that just further encompasses why we shouldn’t be dogmatic on any view. And so I think there is definitely a lot of kind of like a groundswell forming for maybe a different dietary approach.
And I like the idea—or at least some of these ideas of oscillation at least to—or maybe I should I say, maybe also from a gut perspective is one of the things that I notice is that, in some cases, not in all cases, but for some people, being on a kind of higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet can get tough on the gut.
DrMR: Sometimes, it can be irritating for some people’s guts. And now for some, it can be super helpful. They cut out starches and carbohydrates. And they do great. But for other people, some of that high fiber, high fat type of diet tends to be irritating to the gut.
And these people actually do better when they start putting in some rice and some potatoes. And they’re eating a little bit less meat and fat. And so I can definitely see from a gut perspective the plausibility of this. And also, it’s my belief that to the degree to which we improve someone’s gut health, we can improve their weight. And I don’t say weight loss because some people need to gain weight. Some people are underweight because gut inflammation and malfunction. But other people will be overweight. And so to the degree to which we can improve someone’s gut health, I think we’ll see their body composition optimize. And so I’ve definitely seen some hints at this type of diet having some plausibility.
JS: Yeah, and I totally agree. Our reductionist nature as humans, it screws us in nutrition so badly. We vilify individual macronutrients like they were the only problem ever. And then now that we’ve figured out that carbohydrates are the cause of obesity, yank them out of the diet forever. And then everybody goes keto. And pretty soon, you’ve got people aren’t quite sleeping right. Or they’ve got issues with their sleep or their hormones—
JS: Or their gut health. And we’re trying to put our finger on something instead of trying to mimic how we might have actually taken these foods in. And my problem with Paleo became—and I’m a Paleo guy. Robb Wolf is one of my mentors. And I’m a published Paleo author.
But what I realized over time is that it isn’t inherently a fat-loss diet. It’s a make-you-healthier diet for certain. And a lot of people get healthier on it and get better gut health and brain health and hair or skin, migraines. All of this can be fixed. MS and all this stuff, like Terry Wahls was working with.
But it inherently doesn’t just automatically cause fat loss for everybody. And I heard Chris Kresser say one time that, did you not get the results that you read about in the Paleo brochure? Well, you’re not necessarily alone. And so just choosing the right foods wasn’t answering all the questions for me.
And so a lot of this came out of frustration because I’ve always been in the trenches. I won’t ever quit training clients even though I don’t really take any money out of my gym, and I haven’t in quite a long time. Just the other projects are obviously more lucrative.
But I don’t want to be that guy that’s just sitting at home coming up with theories and then reading the research and saying, “This should work,” and having a couple of people at a distance test it and toss it out. I need to see the look on these people’s faces when they come in and they’re frustrated. I need to see the desperation and the tears. And then I need to walk them to their goals.
How Jason Developed AltShift
And I got to a place where I felt like I could do virtually all of that as long as somebody was standing right in front of me. And it wasn’t duplicatable. And all of these questions came about around the same time that my wife, Sheryl, was finally able to get back into the gym after having—we had three girls in three years and seven months.
And so every woman listening knows what that does to a female body. And we finally got to a place where the girls were old enough that she could get into the gym. And we wouldn’t have to worry about the girls running out onto the workout floor. And I started experimenting on her.
And I remember this protocol sort of hitting me. I was halfway there with a bunch of clients. And this protocol sort of hit me all at once while I was driving. And I went home and started testing on Sheryl who had been eating Paleo for seven years at that point. And she was a size 18. And we took 5.5 inches off her waist in six weeks with AltShift.
JS: And that was post years of Paleo. And we have never been the Paleo treats people. We’ve never—I don’t think my wife has ever baked any Paleo treat ever, not even Paleo cupcakes for anybody’s birthday. My perspective was always just if you’re going to eat a cupcake, just eat a damn cupcake instead of trying to polish up the ingredients. Just don’t do it so often that it has deleterious effects on you. But don’t church it up.
And so she was on point. And the message that I had been preaching, that Sarah Fragoso and I had been preaching for a very long time was not one of what can I get away with. It was, this is what you’ll need to do to get healthy in all of the lifestyle factors.
She was not overtraining, not doing a bunch of cardio, not even doing a bunch of crazy CrossFit-type stuff. It was responsible lifting and sprinting. And even then, short duration and infrequently as far as what would cause stress. She was sleeping well. She was meditating—all of this. And then introduce AltShift on top of all of that. And instantly, fat loss started happening. And it was just crystal clear that there are so many questions that weren’t being answered by the question, what should we eat? There’s more to it than that.
DrMR: Totally. I love the point you make of never stopping working with clients. And I share that exact same opinion in the clinical realm, where I will never be the guy who’s not treating patients because so much of what I’m writing into the book that I’m currently writing comes from reflections on my patient experiences. Here are common reactions. Here is how we get past those common reactions. Here are common questions. Here are common concerns. Here are things that looked promising in the literature but really didn’t pan out in the real world.
So, yeah, I totally agree with you there that you need to maintain at least one foot in some sort of clinical setting so that you’re not, like you said, just someone theorizing and throwing a bunch of stuff out there. And it reminds me of—I think Brian Tracy said something along the lines of, “Never get your education from someone who makes a living selling education.”
JS: Right. There you go.
DrMR: I thought that was a great quote.
JS: I love it.
DrMR: Or a great thought.
Jason’s Exercise Recommendations
Now, you mentioned exercise. Are there exercise recommendations included in this? Or is it just focusing on the dietary aspects?
JS: The book is just the diet protocol. But yeah, I have little sections in there where I do make recommendations. It’s just there’s not a protocol. I’m not telling you what to go do. I’m just saying, “Look. The very first thing that everybody needs to be doing is walking.”
And that is absolutely everybody. I don’t care how you’re built. And I don’t care who you are, what you think your body’s capable of. We have this mentality in the Western world that we sit all day long. And then to make up for the fact that we sit all day long, we go to the gym, and we simulate emergencies.
JS: So it’s like I sit on my butt all day long. So what I’m actually missing is the long, slow movement that I would’ve had to have done all day in order to acquire food and stay alive. And so what I’m going to do is I’m going to go to the gym. And I’m going to train in a fashion that simulates me barely saving my life. And it’s kind of like taking a shower because your breath stinks. It’s a useful thing to be doing.
JS: But it’s not answering the question that’s being asked here. And so first, I get people walking. And if they’re not walking, then that’s where they start. You stop everything else until walking is in place. And when you’re walking like a human being, then lifting comes next. And then after that, it’s sprinting or very short duration interval training, something like that.
When I say “very short,” I mean like super sets or high-intensity interval training where you’re talking like two to six minutes before there are breaks taken—so very, very high intensity. And then beyond that, if there’s a sport or activity or something that they want to also put in, something to do with their fitness, that’s fine.
But we really have that sort of minimalist approach. But the book itself is all about diet. And everything else is just kind of a—we brush over the other aspects of the lifestyle and basically say, “Look. This is what you should be doing. This is definitely what you should not be doing.” But it goes beyond the scope of the book to tell you exactly how to do it.
DrMR: Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah, and I would agree that you need to get your diet right before you’re going to see a whole lot of change from exercise anyway.
JS: Right, yeah.
DrMR: So if you’re going to focus on one thing, focus on the diet first. And I love your point about walking. It’s funny. I think the last two or three people we had on who were speaking to exercise made the remark that walking is really the foundation of fitness.
And I’ve always said in response to that I’ve recently had an epiphany with how important walking is just by incorporating it more into my daily routine. It’s probably my favorite thing to do on any—just get outside and walk.
DrMR: Yeah, so totally agreed with you there.
DrMR: So this is a cycling of higher carb to lower carb and lower calories. Are these three phases that people go through? Or is the—
JS: No, it’s two. It’s two shifts. And the way they’re organized, all three of those things cycle. And oftentimes, one of the difficulties that a lot of the women have that are—AltShift has so, so outgrown me now. It was like 20 minutes after we released, we were already outside of my entire following and pulling in the—we sold our first 1,000 books in like 13 hours and launched a podcast.
And the podcast isn’t way up there now. But it held the number one spot on iTunes for 30 hours. And then the second 2,000 books were sold in the next week—or second 1,000, so we were at 2,000 in about eight days. And we’ve got this huge Facebook group. And the testimonials pour in every single day.
Any of your listeners that just want to know what kind of results AltShift is producing can just go join the AltShift Facebook group. And we’ll let anybody in, but it is a closed group because we want to be able to toss out the trolls.
JS: So the results just come in constantly in there. A person could just say, “Hey, who’s getting good results on this diet?” And then sit down and be prepared to watch the results. But you can also click on the photos and just check them all out. But it had outgrown me so very quickly that one of the hardest parts for a lot of the people coming in was not the stuff that I was typically dealing with on a day-to-day basis. It was like actually, okay, we’re going to need to get your calories up in this particular shift.
And the women were really struggling with that because we look at calorie averages and things like that. We don’t let them go too low. There’s no place in AltShift where AltShift becomes caloric restriction. There are places where calories drop low. But the average is never, ever anywhere near what even the average person on—it is hundreds of calories higher than what the average person on Weight Watchers is eating.
And so these women coming from these starvation diets were just really having a hard time getting their heads around it. And then there were also the people who literally were into the low-fat crowd. And they’re going, “You want me to eat more—bacon, is that okay?” And I’m like, “Wow, I haven’t had to link these studies in five years.”
DrMR: Yeah, right.
JS: I kept going back and looking up the meta-analysis and stuff on fat intake and cardiovascular disease. And suddenly, I’m digging up old science I haven’t even glanced at in a long time. But we’re really not—we’re still pulling people from the Paleo world. And I went to Paleo f(x) last week and saw a whole bunch of people. But it’s interesting that it’s way beyond me now.
So the cycling of the macronutrients has been interesting because every time somebody comes to the table, no matter where they come from, one of the things we’re telling them to do has just got them aghast. You know what I mean?
You take the keto people, and you’re like, “Hey, I’m going to need you to eat a bunch of starch in this period of time here. I want you to go ahead and eat some of those foods like white rice and white potatoes.” And you can see them freaking out. But they’re looking around, and there are these testimonials everywhere. They’re going, “I really have been told this whole time and swallowed this pill that this stuff is bad. And it is the devil. And it’s going to harm me. And how am I going to get good glucose control and metabolic flexibility and all that.”
And then the post above them and the post below them are before and after pictures of somebody doing unbelievable things. And they’re like, “I guess I’ve got to do this.” But it doesn’t matter where they come from. They’re going to have trouble with some part of it if they’ve got opinions on diet.
DrMR: Yeah. And I think as we were alluding to earlier, that is an exercise that a lot of people need to go through—
DrMR: Just abandoning this, here’s what I’ve been told to do, and I can’t do anything else and be paralyzed by fear at the idea of doing anything else.
Gluten and Grains
And this reminds me of a post we recently put out through my website where I reviewed a study on non-celiac gluten sensitivity. And essentially, a certain study—there was a randomized control trial showing that gluten sensitivity may have had more to do with FODMAPs.
JS: I saw it, yeah.
DrMR: I believe that was the issue. And I go through the whole narrative of the majority of the evidence still is supporting that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a legitimate issue.
DrMR: And many people can derive benefit from it. But there’s also this subset that it may not actually be the gluten-free for them. It may be the low-FODMAP.
DrMR: And so we just want to be cognizant of both of these things. And I closed with a recommendation that not everyone has to be gluten-free. And certainly not everyone has to adhere to a celiac level of gluten avoidance.
DrMR: And some people can get away with some, not necessarily recommending we make it a dietary staple, but not fear someone into this orthorexia where they can’t do anything outside of eating Paleo, which is unfounded for them.
JS: So how much hate mail did you get?
DrMR: So that’s exactly it! Some people just lost their minds.
DrMR: And a few people said gluten causes leaky gut in everyone. And they link to a study where they take intestinal cells, put them in a Petri dish—
DrMR: And essentially inject gluten into the Petri dish. And they’re saying, “See. Leaky gut formed.”
DrMR: I just want to smash my face into a brick wall because that is not the level of science that should substantiate any kind of recommendation. We should be looking at the studies where there have been some very high number, like tens of thousands of people to hundreds of thousands of people in observational studies where we’ve shown that people that eat higher whole grain consumption diets in some cases have improved health.
DrMR: Now, that higher whole grain consumption may just be a shift away from a kind of standard American diet, yes. But if gluten was this universal poison, we wouldn’t see people getting healthier if they were incorporating more of that into their diet.
JS: Right. At this point also I do keep AltShift, my recommendations to be limit grains or get rid of grains and limit the grains that are gluten free because there are still so many variables that we don’t know yet. And like you’re talking about, we can do these in vitro studies. And of course, you can name 40 confounding variables or possible confounding variables off the top of your head. But nonetheless, most people aren’t really great at N=1 experimentation.
JS: And so you go, “Here, completely eliminate this stuff, and then slowly put it back in, maybe in the least offensive forms first.” And that’s just not how it’s going to go down at home in their kitchen. And so I’m in full agreement with you though. If we could just follow the science and throw all the dogma out, it would just be so great.
JS: It would be such a wonderful world we would live in. But it’s not what the human mind does.
JS: And people want to glom onto things and then blame them. So I knew you were going to tell me you got hate mail from that stuff.
DrMR: Yeah, sure. And I agree with your position of having people minimize gluten. And that’s usually what I do in the clinic. And it’s another one of the things I just mentioned in the comments moderation section of this post, which was I’m not saying, again, to make gluten a staple. But what I want people to be able to walk away with is, you don’t have to be afraid of a little bit of gluten here or there.
JS: Right. Yeah.
DrMR: And some people do. But they know it. They really know it.
JS: Oh, yeah, they’re quite aware.
DrMR: If they have any. Yeah.
DrMR: But for a lot of other people, they’ve probably had some. And they haven’t noticed any reaction. But they’re still so afraid because of everything they read on the internet. And those are the people that I’m trying to just help so that they don’t have to have the social discomfort and the fear associated with something that they probably don’t need to follow.
JS: Yeah, and I think that my desire to have people avoid grains and avoid gluten is less about the gluten and the fact that, yeah, you might damage some microvillae and hurt some zonulin and widen out tight junctions. And, oh, then there could be autoimmune. And the percentage of who that’s happening to, we don’t really have that data right now. But for the fat loss perspective, a good reason to avoid that stuff is because almost every time you consume it, you’re going to consume it in a processed food.
JS: And when we’re talking about processing, for my money, we’re talking usually about palatability. And it was something that I wrote about way back in The Paleo Coach and just kind of touched on it. And Mark Schatzker hit it hard in The Dorito Effect. Have you read that book?
DrMR: I have not, no.
JS: Oh, my God, you’ve got to get it. It’s fantastic. Robb Wolf had him on his podcast. So it talks about flavor. And he doesn’t get everything right when it comes to fat loss and health and obesity and all that. But his stuff on flavor is dead on.
And how we’re basically hardwired to—something I put in a post awhile back was if you’re standing there holding cheesecake in your hand, looking at it, getting ready to eat, thinking about whether or not you should eat it, what we have to understand is only our little tiny prefrontal cortex is saying, “That’s a bad idea. You shouldn’t eat that. It’s not good for you.”
Every other biochemical, biological, physiological response of your body is saying, “Absolutely the right answer is to eat that right now.” And the reason why is because it tastes good. And if it tastes good, it has to be good for you because that’s why we evolved taste buds.
We didn’t evolve taste buds to hear a choir of angels when we eat food. We evolved taste buds to find adequate nutrition in the world. And so now, that’s been broken. Now, there’s such a thing as cheesecake, which does taste very, very good, much more so than probably anything we could have ever found in nature.
And yet, it has almost no nutritional value at all other than just caloric density. And in that situation, it’s really high caloric density. Everything else basically being bad for you, in the end even inflammatory and taking metabolic health and all that stuff from you. But we’re not geared for this. We are made to be living in a world that isn’t broken like this.
And so, I’m not trying to tell my clients that they need to go out—or my followers—that they need to go out and eat food that is bland and tasteless. But I am trying to get them to constantly think. When you eat, is it just this drive and this hardcore pursuit of hyper palatability where you’re like—we have people in the Western world that are like, “I can’t eat pizza. I had that yesterday.” I mean, pizza, this hyper palatable—it’s horrible for you.
But it’s super flavorful. And it’s hard to find people—except people like us that have been doing this a long time—that wouldn’t eat it on a regular basis. And yet, in the Western world, we are so wrapped up in palatability and flavor that even those hyper palatable foods have to be mixed up on a daily basis because we’re that spoiled by the availability of these things that can just light up our dopamine sensors.
And we forget that dopamine is a wanting hormone, not a liking hormone. So it’s a hormone that makes us go repeat things, not a hormone that makes us love the things that we’re doing at the time. So food becomes a very real psychological problem, a very real thing that looks a lot like addiction where if it isn’t this fireworks going off in my brain as I eat it, it’s just not worthwhile.
And that’s one of the reasons why I try to get people to avoid processed foods and then going back to the gluten and the grains. They are ubiquitous in processed foods. So if I can get people to start thinking in whole foods like, “You know what? It’s okay for you to eat a slab of meat and some vegetables that were just steamed and maybe have a bunch of butter on them or something or even spices or whatever. But it still looks like broccoli.” You know what I mean?
Instead of having—I can get my kids to eat broccoli if I have this cream sauce and these cheeses and these 17 spices. And you know what? You’ve got kids that you’ve taught that hyper palatability is absolutely essential in their diet. You’ve got kids that are probably going to have problems, some sort of metabolic problem, down the road. And you’ve done this all over flavor.
JS: Is it worth it? I know this is—because we’re talking about dopamine that this is sort of a facetious statement. But I asked in The Paleo Coach way back when, I said, “Would you be willing to gain 10 pounds of fat in order to look at more beautiful sunrises? Or would you be willing to die ten years earlier in order to touch more crushed velvet or listen to more of your favorite music?” Why are we willing to sacrifice so much for only one of our senses—flavor.
JS: But we’re not willing to make those same sacrifices for any of our other senses.
DrMR: Well said.
JS: It’s kind of silly.
DrMR: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, well, you make a lot of great points. One thing, before I forget, I just want to ask. You’re allowing some grains, though. You’re allowing rice and some others? What does that look like more so?
JS: Yeah, well, I’ve always loved white rice. It’s been a very long time. I was a very early adopter on that. I had a really hard time with the dogma, even back when I was a pretty hardcore Paleo guy just because rice, when we look at it closely, it’s nearly a pure starch. And it’s like, go for it.
And then if you tolerate them well, I don’t have a problem with things like oats or even some of the sort of pseudo-grains like amaranth and buckwheat and things like that. And what do you tolerate? But I’m with you. I don’t think traces of gluten here and there are that big of a deal. I think that corn, especially just sweet corn, just eating it like we would eat a vegetable, is totally fine.
And if you handle corn chips and corn tortillas and things like that once in a while when you go out and eat Mexican food, fine. Rock on. It’s all going to come down to what you can take. In those cases, there is also going to be some vegetable oil exposure. How does your body handle that? If you’re constantly on the edge of massive inflammation, maybe that’s not a good idea for you. But it becomes sort of a more personal issue at that point.
JS: Sitting down and having a bunch of bread—probably not the greatest idea. If you’re going to do that once in awhile, again, like you would do it almost like a treat, that would be a case where I could get behind a little bit better decision—like a good artisan sourdough bread so that the fermentation process has killed off some of those lectins for you, things like that.
JS: But these are personal decisions. But there are some that just need to be made across the board. And any client or anybody that works with me, if you drink soft drinks like soda or pop or whatever they call it wherever you’re from, you’re not really going to be a client for long. These are the types of things that are like—there’s no reason at all except to say, “Yum.”
Nobody crawls out of a dessert and drinks a Coke. You drink water in those situations, when you’re thirsty. So if you can’t get around that stuff, well then, there’s not a lot I can do for you. But if it comes down to things like—or when people tell me things like, “I have to have sweetener in my coffee.” I’m like, “What? Really? You have to?”
I remember hearing somebody say that one time. And then they quit having sweetener in their coffee. And it was like I was just waiting to hear the story about how the government came and took their kids away. Or they went to work and got fired. The boss is like, “You know what? I heard you quit sweetening your coffee. You are fired.” Or all their friends—what do you mean you can’t?
DrMR: Yeah. Yeah.
JS: What are the consequences of not? What happens when you don’t put something sweet in your coffee tomorrow? Does somebody bust in your house and shoot you? These “I need this” or “I can’t have that” statements are sort of ridiculous. But they’re just a level of want that a person hasn’t psychologically dealt with yet. But I think that there’s plenty of gray area in the world of diet. And that’s where the dogma kind of has to go away.
DrMR: Yeah, totally, totally agreed.
Weighing, Measuring, and Calories
What about the calorie counting part? Because some people may be wondering this because calorie counting can be quite tedious if you’re being very strict about it. So is this—
JS: It’s tough, yeah.
DrMR: Yeah, so is this like a scale? Or is it more, “Here are some dietary guidelines to get your calories into this kind of ballpark range?” What does that look like?
JS: Yeah, that’s what it looks like. So basically in the beginning, we tell everybody right away, “Look—” and believe it or not, I took some heat from this too from the professional dieters, the people that have been just dieting their entire adult life. I said, “Look, you’re going to need to weigh and measure stuff for a little while. And you can ballpark it. Like, look, that was about eight ounces of steak. Or this is about a cup of green beans or something.
“But you’re going to have to add and count for a couple of weeks while you establish some new habits. And then you’ll be able to slip into food choices. And the food choices will handle all of this for you. But while you’re getting used to it, yes, you’re going to have to log a little bit.” And then I do recommend that you absolutely stop that at some point.
And then, like my wife who has now been on AltShift because she was AltShifter zero—she’s on 14 months of AltShift. I actually just showed her pictures yesterday on my Facebook page. It’s getting all kinds of press for how great she still looks and how she’s still getting results.
But we come back around. And we look at all of her numbers—oh, I don’t know. Maybe every five or six weeks, we look at a couple of days—one in five shift and one in three shift or maybe a couple days of five shift, couple days of three shift. And we kind of take a glance and make sure she hasn’t veered off course too much. And then it’s back to the things that really matter in life.
Nobody wants to have to think—well, nobody should have to think about food all the time. We don’t think about every breath we take, every shower we take—
JS: Every time we brush our teeth. We just set up habits and then move on. And so I don’t want people to become food hobbyists or even AltShift hobbyists. When the excitement and the newness wears off, you have to be able to keep going. And that kills a lot of people on a lot of diets. So when the excitement is gone and you need to be able to keep moving, you’re not going to want to weigh and measure anymore. You’re not going to want to count anything anymore. But yeah, in the beginning, you’re going to have to—you need to at least look to see where you’re coming in.
And that’s just because—for all the years that I’ve been training, the average woman comes into my gym eating between 1,200 and 1,400 calories. And they’ve basically taught their bodies that life sucks here on earth, that fat is gold that should be stored around the midsection, that there’s not enough calories to go around.
And if they’re doing any kind of exercise, it’s usually cardio. So the body is basically going, “Well, we hardly have enough to eat, and something is constantly chasing us. Or our food is really good at getting away from us. And so screw that muscle mass. Let that stuff go. We need to hold onto this body fat right around that midsection as much as we possibly can. And as soon as something blows by out there in the bloodstream that we can shove in these fat cells, get it in there as fast as we can.”
So you’re upregulating lipoprotein, lipase, and all that kind of stuff. And so when we tell them that they need to be eating plenty but they don’t have to count, they’ll tell us every time that they eat so much. “I eat all day. I am stuffed to the gills.” And you add it up, and it’s like 1,100 calories.
And the look of desperation on their face. They’re going, “Oh, my God, I can’t eat more.” Okay, well, we’ve got to get rid of some of these salads in favor of some more butter and things like that. And so some counting is absolutely essential on the front side because there are things going on. I guarantee you there are things going on that are the opposite of what you think they are. And a closer look will be necessary.
DrMR: Well, I think that’s a really reasonable approach to count to kind of calibrate yourself. And then go on autopilot from there. It’s the same thing I would recommend when we have someone go on a carbohydrate restriction—use a counting tool to get you into the ballpark. And then once you kind of are oriented, then just kind of go there from autopilot. Yeah, something like that.
JS: Yeah, calibrate, I like that. That’s a good word for that. Calibrate yourself.
DrMR: Thank you.
JS: Can I steal that? I’ll credit you.
DrMR: Sure. Thanks.
JS: Cool. Cool.
Jason’s Final Thoughts on Dieting, Psychology, and Body Image
DrMR: So to kind of, I guess, bring us to a close, is there anything that you’d like to leave people with? Anything that you think is really important or you’d like to reiterate?
JS: I’d like to leave people with what our marketing person calls—what does she call it—brutal transparency? No, that’s not. I always get this wrong. But the gist that we need a level of honesty in this industry that we’ve never seen. And I don’t think we’re ever going to get it. And so I don’t really care if there are only a few of us, guys like you and me, that are being bastions of it. I’m still going to stick to this.
But people need to understand that if there was such a thing as a perfect protocol out there—let’s say, I was that typical diet creator. And I came out and said that AltShift will work for everybody and it actually did if you follow the protocol it would be complete crap. AltShift is not a perfect protocol. It will not work 100% for every single person out there. There will always be outliers.
And anybody that says that is a lying sack of crap. But even if it was a perfect protocol, I honestly believe that 80% would still fail because this stuff isn’t about the protocols. People are running around with so much desperation over this stuff because of what they think or what they imagine is happening outside their bodies in the world when people are looking at them and judging them.
And people have these beliefs about what’s going to happen. If I get into a size 6 jeans, they’re going to kick in my door and throw money at me and drag me out on dates with supermodels. And in reality, the only thing that happens is a couple people pass you in the hallway at work and tell you that you look great, that you look like you’ve lost some weight. And then they never say that ever again.
And that’s literally the massive changes that you’re beating yourself up for in the mirror every morning and doing things like walking down the street and glancing in your reflection in a building and having it ruin two or three hours of your day. And the psychology behind this stuff is going to make you fail even if there was such a thing as a perfect protocol. It’s so easy to just be that sleazy diet guy and go, “Well, if it didn’t work out for you, then you did it wrong.” And most people will blame themselves anyway. And you can just perpetuate that.
But I disagree. I think that your perspective is really important. Your ability to stay on the wagon is determined by how much you actually care for and respect yourself. Your willpower is determined by your mindfulness and your ability to be in this moment and not freaking out and constantly plagued by anxiety. All of this stuff counts. And to ignore it is ridiculous and silly. But the first thing that you’ve got to demand is that the people that you listen to in this industry are honest with you. So there’s my rant.
DrMR: I love it. No, I love it. I couldn’t agree more. And I am assuming that that resonates with our audience because I think that’s a lot of what I’ve been trying to do within the field of functional medicine, which is just kind of call BS where there’s clearly been BS because ultimately that BS makes money for the person propagating the BS at the expense of the person following the advice.
JS: Yeah, yeah.
DrMR: And I totally agree. That needs to stop.
JS: You and I in the next ten minutes could write three protocols that would take weight off people for something like two to six weeks. We could put them on the bookstore shelves. And people would do them. They would get temporary results. They would slam into a wall and gain all the weight back. But while they were getting the results, they would tell all their friends. And by the time they failed, we’d be three or four generations into their friends’ money.
JS: And we would be huge successes while we sold BS, just a complete pile of steaming crap.
JS: And that is your bookstore right now and most of the internet.
JS: So if you’re not getting healthier, you are not sustainably changing the way your body looks. End of discussion.
DrMR: Totally agree. And I also think—hopefully, fortunately, for guys like us, the pendulum is swinging where people are looking for more genuine, trustworthy information. I think the extremist position is starting to be less alluring to people in the public. And they’re looking for people that seem a little bit more tempered and reasonable in their views because usually those people are not the BS pushers.
JS: Yeah, and I hope you’re right.
DrMR: Me too.
JS: Some days I feel like that. And then other days, I feel like, “God, we’re still swimming in this garbage.”
DrMR: Yeah, yeah.
JS: It just depends on the day and what I’ve seen that day. But all I know is that I sleep well at night. And I don’t know. Maybe AltShift will be—the way it’s growing, it astonishes me every day what we’ve created here. And I can’t be more happy. I’m literally living my dream right now.
JS: But I might not ever sleep on the pile of money that some of the biggest diet creators ever created. But I won’t bend in any of the ways that would take my ethics with me. I have to look at my little girls and tell them that Daddy does good work and he’s proud of what he does. And so I just can’t screw people over. And I think that anybody that’s listening to that that’s never heard of me can go to our Facebook group and ask those things of other people when I’m not sitting there moderating it. And they’ll hear that—or ask them in private messages. And you’ll hear that I’m always the same guy and that I tell people on a regular basis, “Hey, this might not be for you. Have you considered that?”
JS: “You seem to be doing everything right. And it isn’t quite working for you the way—I can’t dig in and really find out if you’re doing everything right. But it’s not working for you the way some of the other people are getting results. Maybe your body just doesn’t like AltShift.”
DrMR: Yeah, yeah. Well said. Well said. And I resonate with that approach in my same clinical practice.
Jason’s Most Fun, Least Healthy Thing
Last question. The short background is people can read too much on the internet and become absolute health fanatics and never do anything that might be “unhealthy” but may be really fun. So what is the maybe least healthy thing that you’ve done lately but that’s also been the most fun?
JS: The least healthy thing that I’ve personally done?
DrMR: Yeah, if you’re willing to share. Not that I’ve put you on the spot or anything. But yeah.
JS: I, on occasion—it’s like every three to four weeks now maybe. I do have a pension for top shelf Ila scotch.
JS: And so I’m a guy that likes a scotch that you get 2 ounces of and sip it for an hour while you smell it as much as you drink it. So I’m not Mr. Sold-My-Soul-to-the-Fitness-Nutrition-Gods. And I don’t ask anybody to be that way. But I don’t have a big adventure gene.
So I’m not out there doing a bunch of crazy stuff physically that’s going to hurt me or over-train me. And I don’t really have a big sweet tooth. But yeah, I am not above sitting down and having that spiritual experience with a really good scotch.
JS: That’s my thing. But I do it rarely enough that it stays holy for me.
JS: I really, really will really enjoy it because I didn’t do it last night.
DrMR: Sure, sure. Well, I guess I’ll share one of mine since I ask this question every week. And I hardly ever give mine. So maybe to keep us balanced and because it ties in with me being in your town of Portland. I was in Portland last weekend for the SIBO symposium. And Saturday night after the symposium, they had a speaker dinner, presenter dinner.
And I ended up being with a bunch of great people, some of whom ended up being up until about 3 in the morning, probably having too many drinks and needing to wake up at 6:30 in the morning. So felt pretty crappy the next morning, but it was just great to have that experience of connecting with people that you hardly ever see.
And you have that shared interest. And you’re able just to get caught up in all that and have some fun. And also getting to know the person beyond the scientist that maybe you collaborate with. It’s nice to kind of get to know the person behind the science and all that.
DrMR: And when you see someone once a year, you—being in bed at 11 would be nice. But if you only get one chance a year to interface, sometimes you just bend the rules a little bit. So being up really late and maybe having a few too many drinks in Portland was mine. And I wouldn’t change anything in the world for it. So yeah.
JS: Yeah, and I like that you ask that question because it allows the listeners to hear that we’re human. But we’re making conscious decisions instead of going through our lives just being a victim of the things that are happening to us as if we don’t have any control. We own the things that we do that we know aren’t healthy for us. And we limit them to a reduced amount, so much so that they don’t take anything from us.
DrMR: Exactly. And I just think it is important for people to hear that because sometimes I think they build up authors and researchers and doctors to live these perfect, nun-like existences. And as I’ve gotten to know many of these people, that’s not the case at all. And so I just think it’s another thing important to share with people so that they don’t fall into kind of like this dietary and lifestyle fanaticism.
JS: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that fanaticism also is something that needs to go away. We need to think about this stuff way less. We need to think about it really hard while we fix it.
JS: And then stop thinking about it altogether.
Episode Wrap Up
DrMR: Totally agreed. Well, Jason, this has been an awesome call, my man. Thanks for taking the time. And I love what you’re doing. I love the general perspective you bring of not being dogmatic, being honest, open, transparent. So keep up the good work. And if anything new and exciting pops up on your end and you want to share it, feel free to reach out. And we’ll have you back on the show.
JS: Yeah, that’d be great. I’ll come back around anytime. Your people can find more of me at AltShiftDiet.com, if you don’t mind me throwing that in there.
DrMR: Oh, I’m sorry. Yeah, anywhere else you want to mention? AltShift.com. Anything else?
JS: AltShiftDiet.com. And then they can go to—if they’d like, they can go and check out the Facebook group. That’s just going to be the best place to get information. You can email me and ask me stuff. But of course, I’m biased. I created it. Go ask people that are doing it.
JS: And say, “Is there anybody struggling?” and hear from them. Don’t take my word for it.
DrMR: Sure. No, I love it. Cool.
JS: Yeah, thanks so much.
DrMR: Absolutely, Jason. Thanks again. Take care.
JS: All right. Have a good day.