Want to eliminate elimination diets? Guest Eric Edmeades dives deep into food psychology and evolutionary biology of how humans as a whole should be eating.
2:36 - Defining the terms Food Psychology and Selfcare
8:21 - Biochemistry behind the psychology of cravings and evolutionary biology
13:49 - What food is essential, what is not, and what is an essential diet for humans? What's a typical meal?
22:21 - What doesn't work when it comes to diets
24:26 - Why willpower alone doesn't work, how to find the zero point and get freedom from food.
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Hi, I'm Dr. Carrie Lam, and welcome to The Dr. Lam Show where we try to talk about integrative or preventive medicine, but also just trying to change the future of medicine. I have Eric Edmeades here today with me, the founder of Wild Fit. He's helped over 50,000 people in 130 countries change their relationship with food, we know that food is so important to health. So I welcome you, Eric, to our podcast show today.Eric Edmeades:
Thanks for having me.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
So tell me about your journey and how you got to where you are doing what you love to do.Eric Edmeades:
Yeah, you know, I like a lot of things, I was solving a problem for myself. I had spent a lot of years sick on various medications and visiting doctors and specialists for a variety of ailments and never really getting anywhere. And, then, some friends inspired me to think about food a little bit more. So I decided to take up a challenge and change things a little bit. And 30 days later, I'd lost 35 pounds, and I, basically every ailment that I had was gone. And I became really curious. Then separately, I went off and got involved in business, and I was doing my thing, but under the surface of it all the time was this fascination with health. Everyone noticed that I lost all this weight and would ask me how I did it, and I'd say I only eat more of this, less of that, do a little of this, little of that. And then they wouldn't do it, which really surprised me. I got talking to a lot of doctors that were saying the same thing like if you keep carrying on like this, you risk prediabetes, and then it's gonna be diabetic, and you know, and but if you do this, and this, but then they wouldn't do it. That's when I decided to get into this pioneering work around what drives eating, decision eating, eating behaviors, eating decisions, and so forth. It gave birth to creating wild fit. I knew that I had some really solid nutritional principles to teach. But I also knew that people fundamentally aren't good at following diets, and I had to figure out a better way to do that.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
You're so right, it's very hard for people to change and create new habits. So can you kind of define the terms like food psychology, self care, evolution, or evolutionary biology? These are big words.Eric Edmeades:
For me, self care, I'll start there. Self Care is the ultimate healthcare, It means that you prioritize your existence, your physical existence, that you floss your teeth, eat the right food, move your body, that you recognize that this is the only vehicle you get, and you can't train it in. At least not until Elon Musk figures out how to help us do all that in Mars. But self care is the idea that, I think right now we have an idea in medicine, that you just basically live your life and then when you get sick, you go to a doctor and try to fix that for you. And self care basically says, I'm gonna do everything I can, to never have to go see my doctor. That's self care. Food psychology is understanding the driving force behind people's non functional eating decisions. So you know, we all know that we have to eat the right kind of food and we get that right but the majority of people are not making majority of their food decisions based on the nutritional needs of the body. They're choosing various forms of pleasure, what tastes good for them, what their cravings are answering for them. They're eating largely for say, memory purposes, nostalgia or emotional reasons. And so when you get into understanding how those things came up for people, you begin to understand the psychology of why somebody feels like they have to have a pizza when they've had a bad day. When you can unlock those things, you can move them toward a level of consciousness that allows them to make good conscious food decisions without having to rely on willpower. Willpower is not designed to live a certain way for a very long time.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
Right, you can't change by always using your will. It has to become second nature. So what does it mean to unlock someone's psychology? You're saying that there's a reason why they're eating this type of food whether it's easy to get or they're addicted to it or are there some like neural pathways that rewards them when they eat that food?Eric Edmeades:
There are so many examples. Simple things like a child falls down, skins their knee, crying. The parents want you to do everything they can to distract them from the pain, so goes over give them a hug and a kiss and a cookie. The kid links those, all those things up and the cookie now means love and the cookie also means pain relief. And because it did, it distracted from the pain and so children make those linkages when they're very young and then we wonder why we're kind of stuck with those things later. There's many other things that the food industries have played with our acquired emotional states. For example, people will say they cannot enjoy Christmas or Easter if they don't have chocolate, and that becomes the tradition! I've read that book and I don't recall chocolate being mentioned anywhere. Somebody came along and sponsored the holiday and it's important to recognize that. Then I'll give you a personal example of my friend. She had done our core 90 day program that's around reframing the psychology and establishing a new lifestyle and did very well on it. And then I saw her in another class and you know, a lot of times our clients will come and do it again, at a deeper level or a recap. I asked her what drove you to come back and she goes, I'm on track in every way. She was grateful that for the first time since she was a teenager, she was happy to go to the beach in a two piece swimsuit and the whole experience was life changing. But I said, what brought you back and she said, recently she's been craving for icing all the time, which surprised me. So I asked, tell me about your history of icing, and she said, my mom used to bake at home and immediately I thought okay so, your mom made homemade icing? And she goes, no, my mom used premade icing in the can. When I'd hear the can opener, I'd run down the stairs, and sneak under the counter, reach up and feel for a spoon to scoop out one spoon. I take it and then and she'd usually let me get like the second one. And then she'd catch me and I'd fake trouble. And we'd laugh and we'd hug and then we bake together. And I said I see. I said how's your relationship with your mother right now. And she says with tears bringing her eyes she says she's in early stage dementia, she's slipping away. Her eyes go wide and she sees something that she couldn't see on our own and that the craving for icing is coming up right now as her connection with her mother. So she's eating the icing to try to reclaim the connection that she established for their mom as a child. By shining a light on this connection, it allowed her to address it and create a conscious relationship with it. It was important to understand it and realize that this will not work so you may as well stop.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
Yeah, that really has a big lightbulb when you can figure out.Eric Edmeades:
You mentioned the neuro pathways, also there's the biochemistry behind psychology. For example, some children are playing hockey and they lose the game and they're all depressed. The coach tries to cheer them up by getting pizzas and cokes and ice cream. What he doesn't realize is that he's showing them that losing is the path to tremendous calorific reward, artificial fats and sugars and that emotionally you can distract from your pain of losing by just eating junk. So even though the intention of the coach was right, the kids are going to be left with that anchor or trigger. The mention of pizza, and cokes and ice cream induces the children to produce serotonin, and dopamine, before they've even eaten the food. So they now feel addicted, looking at the logo, getting the smell all triggers this feel good feeling. Now they link this feel good experience to that particular food and they wonder why at 45 years old they order a pizza when they had a bad day.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
That's true or when you have a breakup, you go for the ice cream, right?Eric Edmeades:
Exactly right. You know because ice cream is the path to connection.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
And I mean sugar has a lot to do with it too right? How does sugar affect that pathway?Eric Edmeades:
There's something fascinating about language. The language gets lazy sometimes. Let's start with this question is sugar good or bad? Yes Good. Sugar can be good or bad. Is fat good or bad? Yes. And you know, we use the word fat and inside that one word fat, there's trans fats, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats and so many of these are essential to our existence and some are massively detrimental. The same is true with sugar, although I'd argue against any sugars being essential. However, sugar was essential for our ancestors because it was predominantly delivered in the way of fruit and honey or vegetables. These were high in starch and most of them were seasonal. The reason that we really needed those things at that point is they were the indicator that winter was coming and the drought was going to begin and so when you're eating those foods, your body is preparing for winter. It also fires the insulin system and you're taking in the sugars and putting some in the blood for immediate energy and store some as glycogen. When glycogen is full, then you start storing fat and that's great for winter. So the trouble is that today our system still rewards us for that only the vast majority of the sugar we eat is toxic rubbish. Even for the good stuff we have way too ready access to it and so we eat it too often. Because there's no instinct in us to recognize when we should say I've had enough sugar and should stop.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
Yeah, they're crashed they go running around the block, and then they crash right after. It's good to know about the food psychology and self care. And what exactly is evolutionary biology? And how does it affect how we look at food.Eric Edmeades:
Evolutionary biology is a science looking into the history of our evolution as a species. This is important because any present day science, research statistics, fads concepts, anything that violates the principles of evolutionary biology must be considered suspect and must be looked at more than once. Let me give you an example. If somebody were to come along and try to convince us that dairy products were essential, we would then be able to look at our history as a species. And we would see more than 99% of our ancestors survived just fine without dairy products, so it's unlikely that they're essential. Now we can get into further debates about whether they're good or bad, but we can definitely draw a line under the essential thing and it seems very unlikely. I would argue the same thing with avocados, as I agree they're healthy fats. But as avocados originated in South America, and we have probably eaten something from that continent for the first time not more than 300 years ago, I wouldn't put avocado as essential. So that's evolutionary biology.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
So what would you say is an essential diet based on our evolution? Is it culturally dependent?Eric Edmeades:
I don't think it is culture dependent.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
There's just one because we're all human.Eric Edmeades:
I believe everyone on this Earth has the same essential nutritional requirements. You and I come from very different evolutionary backgrounds, but only splitting very recently. One might come along and say well, you should be eating this from your part of the world and I should be eating this, but here's the truth. We both need vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin C, and saturated fats. We both need a variety of healthy fats, and all the amino acids. So our dietary requirements are the same, and the only difference that might exist a little bit between us has to do with our activity and our genders. I suspect that there are some differences between men and women, with bodies built for manufacturing or not manufacturing human beings. But at the end of the day, I believe that we all effectively have the same nutritional requirements. And the degree to which we meet those correctly is the degree to which we experience optimal health.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
So different types of foods provide different amino acids, essential, non essential and vitamins because our bodies can't make vitamin C. So would we have to get it mostly just through different foods that we were eating,Eric Edmeades:
I would suggest that the way we would look at this is to say that the longer a food has been in consumption, the more likely it is both digestible, good for us, and essential. This is a kind of a complicated idea that I think about speaking of evolutionary biology. 100,000 years ago, if you and I were starving, and there's a drought. At some point we're going to get so hungry that we'll become flexible about what we eat, right? Different from what we eat normally but I'm hungry enough to give it a go. Have you ever eaten it? Do you know anybody who's eaten it? Did anybody get sick, there's gonna come a point where we're gonna want to eat that thing. And the minute we're eating something that is not known to be edible, the first thing we have to know is can can we bypass the defenses of that plant, like thorns or something biochemical. And so are we ready for that? Secondly, do we have the capacity to extract any of the nutrients that are in there? Look, the nutrients are there. But that doesn't mean we can have them. My desk is made out of wood, it's probably full of all kinds of interesting nutrients that termites and beavers can have, but not me. So that's the second hurdle is whether it is bioavailable to us? And then the third hurdle is have we potentially stopped producing a particular nutrient for ourselves that we're now getting from this food, which has now become staple. So the timeframes for all those things to happen are phenomenally long. The longer we've been consuming any particular food product, the better it is that we're overcoming it the defense's, the more likely it is that we're able to extract good nutrition from it. And of course, the more likely it is that it might even be an essential thing, because we've been eating it for so long.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
So can you give some examples? Like what would a breakfast, lunch and dinner look like? Someone back in the day, that would be coming here to our grocery store or something like that?Eric Edmeades:
Okay, there's a very important principle for us to understand that is that our ancestors evolved in an environment that had seasonal fluctuation. And what that meant is that the environment changed dramatically. And they didn't have houses and technology so they had to figure out how to survive these changes. And, so not only that, our ancestors go through that, but also survive those seasonal fluctuations, and utilize them. So each of the seasons puts our bodies in a different mode. And that mode is actually important to our health. So for example, winter would have been the toughest time because of drought and lack of plant food, and lack of hunting. So that seems like a tough season describe well luckily in fall we ate a lot of carbohydrates we fattened up, we stored some hydration, energy and so we're going to make it through the winter. But what if the winter gets really long? So then the body goes alright, we've evolved the ability to pack on the extra fat to prepare for this but now that we're in winter, what can we do with this. We have a function called autophagy as you know, and in autophagy, the body starts saying we don't have any sugar to burn, and we don't want to burn all our fat. So we're gonna burn some of the protein that we have. Fitness Trainers will say it's not right to burn your proteins. So imagine that we're trapped in a big manor in the north of Europe, and it's minus 40, outside and then the furnace stops, and we run out of firewood. What are we going to do? Well, we're going to start burning furniture, but instead of grabbing Granny's grand piano first, we're gonna go grab the broken picnic table, and then other damaged furniture first. It's the same with our bodies, in winter it uses up the old proteins first, which is incredibly cleansing and important. Unfortunately, in the developed world, we don't experience such winter because there's such an abundance of food. So there isn't a typical meal. It should depend on the season you're in. In spring, which is a season of abundance, my meals will be made up of, green leafy vegetables and low starch vegetables and, meat, fish and eggs, that kind of stuff. In summer, there will be summer berries, root vegetables, and a few more carbs. In fall, it is carbs, lots of fruits and sweet potatoes, honey, things like that. In winter, I would practice some form of fasting from time to time. So there's not really one particular like meal, there's more recognizing that there's these metabolomic modes that we need to get into and seasons control that.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
Yeah, that's very interesting. So you practice this way of eating. And so the evolution way of eating is basically just seeing how your ancestors would have eaten based on the seasons and trying to emulate that, rather than having abundance of food all the time. That's great to great to learn about. What else would you like to talk to us about about your people with their relationship with food?Eric Edmeades:
Well, I think that one of the key things to consider is that, creating rules for people doesn't work, change everything, follow these and give up the food you love, give up all your memories and your habits. The diet industry doesn't work. It doesn't work for a lot of reasons. One is that when you give somebody rules, it inspires their inner rebel, which is crazy because now you said don't eat chocolate and then when they go eat chocolate, they get an extra serotonin and dopamine rush because they broke the rules. So they actually get rewarded chemically for breaking the rules. Diets are flawed in a million ways. Another way that diets are flawed is that the average person living in what we might refer to as the developed world is overfed energy and stimulants and underfed non energy nutrition. So they're quite literally starving to death while being overstimulated which is one of the reasons we see the kind of aggression around us and it's quite challenging. So if you tell them to go on a diet, which usually involves some kind of food restriction or calorie restriction, but we forget that they were already nutritionally starving. This is why they were overeating in the first place, even though that what they were eating wasn't solving the nutritional problem. Now we take them and put them on a calorie restriction diet, they struggle and then they will relapse and eat the entire fridge. I think what we really have to do is, to look at the psychology and see why it is that we choose to eat the things we do. What is the food that loneliness triggers - is it chocolate? Understanding that psychology around food is how we make a change, Going back to willpower, here's my favorite way to describe willpower for people. They really got it because a lot of you like it. Willpower just doesn't work even though we know it does. You need to understand what it is though. And here's what willpower is not. Somebody who is an alcoholic who wants to quit drinking is not going to use willpower to stop drinking. They might use willpower to not drink for an hour or even a day or even a week. But at some point in time that willpower is going to release, It's something that you cannot hold. And the best metaphor I have for it is that willpower is what you use to hold your breath. So if you want to dive under the water, you can use willpower to hold your breath. But there's going to come a moment where your body is going to mutiny against the willpower and force you to take an inward breath, even if you are underwater. That's how willpower works. And I think that's why when, a lot of times people look at, when they see somebody healthier, they want to know what they're eating. What t ey say is that rules don't ork. They need to solve the co e why. We really want them t have a sense that they can ea whatever they want and feel g od about it. But that they c n also not eat what they wish t ey wouldn't eat and feel good a out it.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
So yeah, I deal with a lot of patients thatEric Edmeades:
I was having a very interesting conversation with Jeffrey, one of the founders of Zumba and the fitness brand. And he was working on a branding workshop with me. He asked me what was the feeling that he felt I was delivering to my clients and what my coaches were delivering to their clients around the world. And he was dismissive about it. Then the next morning, we were having breakfast, and we saw a guy walked out the buffet. And he recognized me and says I just want to thank you, for my freedom. And Jeffrey immediately turned to him and said, what do you mean by freedom? He said I just walked out the buffet. I got all this healthy food on my plate and I just realized it's the first time I've been through a buffet like that and didn't see the cookies, croissants and doughnuts and muffins. It's just because I don't care about it anymore. That's what we call the zero point. Willpower is the flapping of your wings. And you do have to flap your wings to get lift off. But if you do it the right way, you can eventually get to the place where you're like, oh, I don't need to flap my wings anymore. I've passed the zero point I am free.Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
That's awesome. Well, thanks, Eric. If have eliminated a lot of foods which is sad because they eliminate it because the functional medicine says this people wanted to get a hold of you and where can they find you?Eric Edmeades:
I manage my own Instagram account. They can food is bad. I think finding the Why is definitely way more certainly come and find me there if anybody's got follow p questions. I do my best o answer the DMs when people se important than just setting up rules. And like you said the d them to me. Anybody who wants o examine food freedom, and real y the relationship with fo d should go to getwildfit.com willpower because ultimately you can't just stop restricting your where we have a 14 day reset program they can try right there. whole life, because then you're missing out on good nutrients,Dr. Carrie Lam, MD:
And then your socials is @EricEdmeades. I too. Right? So that's a very good point. m very grateful to have you on T e Dr. Lam Show. I hope e eryone who's watched this has r ally enjoyed what we've talked a out today. you've liked it, m ke sure you subscribe and s are and we'll see you at the n xt episode.Unknown:
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