Today I got to Interview Abel James from Fat Burning Man. I hope you enjoy it!
Ari: Thank you for joining us today; let’s get right into it. First of all, tell everybody how did you become the fat burning man?
Abel: Basically, I got sick because I was following my doctor’s advice and many devices, pretty much every diet book out there that you're supposed to eat less and exercise more and eat super low fat, zero cholesterol; that sort of thing. That led me down a path of basically breaking my thyroid, getting kidney stones, having high blood pressure and being overweight. So, I fired my doctor and started experimenting on myself; my background’s in psychology and brain research. I stuck my nose in the books and tried to figure out my own body as best I could from medical journals and everything on that side of the spectrum all the way to bodybuilding forums and a bunch of bro-heads [0:57] and everything in between. Basically, once I did that I completely turned my health around like everything changed. All these things that I thought were just a problem of who I was like not being able to sleep at night and being kind of overweight and bummed out and low energy, being hungry all the time; these are things that just like disappeared. I lost 20 pounds in 40 days and I'm like everyone deserves to know this. This wasn’t hard, this was just a matter of following the right advice. So, I want to help other people come to their own independent conclusions of what the right advice is and get around all the noise. So, I started my podcast, Fat Burning Man, and blog as well and wrote some books and it’s been pretty nice since then. People are listening which is awesome.
Ari: Yeah, you built quite the following. Your shows have been number 1 on iTunes and the books are doing great. I think the content you put out is just really cool. So, is the Fat Burning Man is really catchy but does that have some sort of suggestion as to maybe to ketosis or what kind of diet do you really follow?
Abel: Yeah, totally. You know, Fat Burning Man, the way that I meant originally – aside from being descriptive of something in health and fitness, is when you burn sugar you're not a fat burner. When you burn fat you are. So, Fat Burning Man almost means like mankind.
Abel: Means when you're eating the right way, you should be burning fat. You're running on fat, you're a fat burning machine. So, that’s kind of like the double entendre there. Because my show isn’t really about fat burning, it’s about leading a healthy lifestyle. It doesn't necessarily mean ketosis or anything, but it just means not being afraid of fat anymore. It means eating real food.
Ari: So, that’s great. that speaks to me very personally because as someone who has a digestive disorder, anytime you have like a flair up or if for any reason – I'm sure you’ve had this experience, too. When you have a stomach issue the doctors immediately say like stay away from fatty foods. Stay away from greasy or… they don’t say greasy but stay away from fatty foods. Obviously, you know, you shouldn’t – if you're having a stomach issue – you shouldn’t be going out eating funnel cakes but fat itself is like so anti-inflammatory and butter and all these things. I think that people get scared and I can tell you personally, my doctor told me that I had a problem with iceberg lettuce and as a result I was like afraid of greens for almost a year, which probably caused all sorts of vitamin deficiencies. I interviewed Jimmy Moore a couple of weeks ago, who I know has been on your show and I've talked to Dave Asprey and I don’t understand where the fear of fat came from.
Abel: Yeah, it’s a long, ridiculous story but I think we all can agree that it’s unfounded. [laughs]
Ari: Yeah and it’s so funny. It’s like no matter who you talk to you get that same result. It’s like, you know, you're going to have that much fat? And if you have somebody who’s a little bit educated but will usually be like, well, what about all that saturated fat?
Ari: So, what is your like 15 second response to that kind of person?
Abel: I don’t worry about it. We did just fine never worrying one bit about whether something was fat or protein or had any calories in it or anything else for the vast majority of human existence and we thrived. And now, we’re not thriving and we’re paying attention to calories and fat and carbs and proteins more than any other time. So, I think that’s just demonstrative of the fact that it doesn’t really matter.
Ari: That’s a great way of looking at it and a really good point. So, your diet is essentially paleo, right?
Ari: Ish, okay.
Abel: When I was guinea pigging on myself, it was before paleo was really a thing like it is today. There was the book from Loren Cordain which is low fat. It talked about canola oil and like very low salt, no caffeine, no fun, no alcohol and I was like, that’s not for me. So, the way I eat today is occasionally there will be grains in there like gluten free oats and quinoa or rice but generally speaking it’s very heavy on fibrous veggies and lots of veggies rounded out with mostly eggs and fatty things like I'm a big fan of high fat dairy, myself. I tolerate it really well. Butter is pretty much put on everything as well as bacon fat, and then wild meats. But I'm not completely dismissive of some things in technology that could help us out. You know, I don’t really believe in super foods but I do believe that there are certain things that we’re finding work really well with our bodies that are a product of technology as opposed to being told straight from the earth. But I think if you use that template, pulling something straight from the earth, would a human have eaten this 10,000 years ago or not, is a great framework to guide most of your decisions.
Ari: I agree. So what is an example of the technological improvement that you are cool with?
Abel: Sure. Right now, based upon the research that I've seen but mostly based upon my own anecdotal experience, medium chain triglycerides, which are a fraction of palm oil or coconut oil tend to do really well with my own body. I haven’t eaten today and it’s coming up on 2 o’clock and this is pretty typical for me; I’ll just have fat. And what MCT’s do is allow you to basically manufacture ketones more readily than you would from straight coconut oil or butter or some other fat. But they're burned kind of like carbs so you get a lot of energy out of them, but that’s certainly – no one can argue – that that’s a natural thing. It’s an extract; it’s a fraction of something else that is natural but paleo people would say, oh, you can’t have that or …
Ari: Oh, is that right? I didn’t know that MTC wasn’t cool with paleo people.
Abel: Well, here's the thing. Like paleo, if you're strict about it, that means no alcohol, no coffee, no dairy, no cheese, no anything that’s not like animal food or vegetables. So, paleo people – a lot of the leaders as well – just kind of like brush over a lot of those things and they're just like, oh, yeah, well it’s totally cool to have MTC’s or coffee or whatever. And actually I was with a bunch of the paleo cooks when we went out for ice cream. These people are not zealous about it but I think in order to be completely hypocritical, we’re being looked at by the mainstream or the media, which we are and often mocked. It’s really important that we get our story straight and that’s like I don’t think 100% paleo is the answer for everyone. I'm, as it turns out, am allergic to a lot of things that are paleo. So, paleo doesn’t necessarily jive with me 100%, but as a framework, it’s brilliant; it’s the best we got.
Ari: Okay, that’s really interesting. So, I'm not paleo, either. I'm not paleo-ish either. My side potentially is high fat, lowish carbs. With all the blood [8:21] that I use, still with all the self-tracking, I know that I have a pretty good carb tolerance so there's no reason for me to cut out those things because I don’t want to create an intolerance or one that didn’t exist before.
Ari: But my big criticism when I talk to people about paleo… it’s like if you're really going to be strict paleo or what you think is really strict paleo and you’re going to eat all this meat and all this stuff, it’s like well then you should probably like sleep during the day and hunt for your food at night, too.
Abel: Yeah, true.
Ari: It’s fine if you want to eat like a caveman but then don’t sit in front of a computer 8 hours a day.
Abel: Exactly. It’s really easy for them just to be really dogmatic and hypocritical at the same time; I try not to do that. [laughs]
Abel: You know, I embrace the paleo community because there are so many cool people in it; it’s subsumed a lot of the other movements like slow food, farm to table and I embrace that community. I embrace the people but in terms of what we’re talking about here, 100% paleo is not really like that. Actually, I have a shirt that I wear all the time that says, I'm 83% paleo, the rest is for cigars and scotch. That’s kind of how it works out.
Ari: Nice. Everything in moderation including moderation, right?
Abel: Even paleo.
Ari: Yeah, even paleo. Sort of a segway there; I mentioned sitting in front of a computer. But, I know that you're very into natural [9:46] and stuff but what’s your kind of fitness regime like?
Abel: Yeah. So, today, I try to switch it up but in general it’s lifting and heavy compound movements – squat, bench-press in my shed like once a week. Then I do pull-ups; pretty much every day just like a quick set in the morning and then sprints occasionally, once a week. But if I'm doing krav maga, which I'm doing now, that’s kind of my sprint workout. So once a week, sometimes. Sometimes four times a week and that’s just for people who don’t know like martial arts type training and learning how to move your body not just like lift stuff. So, that’s what it looks like. Then, in terms of the times that I'm not exercising, I really focus on being on my feet most of the day. Like, I'm standing right now at my desk and I'm walking around when I'm making phone calls. I take my dog on several walks a day so I'm pretty active.
Ari: Right. So, it’s funny. So, I have twin 5 month olds or almost 5 month olds and we also have a 21 month old. So, I just got back to what I would consider structured working out about a week ago but in the last four months before that I was probably doing this stuff, 50 or 60 squats a day picking up babies
Ari: Walking around. So, I was like I saw that and I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. My body compass wasn’t changing and I was not sleeping as well as I would like to but generally, I felt pretty good. It’s kind of amazing how that active lifestyle versus structured exercise and a combination of the two can really effect everything.
Abel: That is so true. I actually just had a stomach bug which I get like once a year; I get like this horrific stomach bug. I wasn’t able to do anything for like a week but nothing really changed with my body. I probably lost a little muscle mass, I may have put on a little fat – probably not; it doesn’t seem like I did, and I feel great now. So, when you lead this lifestyle you really don’t have to worry about any of that stuff or even not working out for a week or two isn’t that big of a deal because it’s so easy to go back to your lifestyle once you can.
Ari: I love that you use the word lifestyle and I try to pound that into peoples head. Like, it’s not about a diet, it’s not about I do crosswork or I do this. It’s about how you integrate it into your lifestyle on a daily basis.
Abel: Yeah, that’s right.
Ari: Also, I can’t just schmaltz over this; you're the first person I've been able to talk to about krav maga. So I'm kind of obsessed with krav maga and I never did martial arts growing up and I never had the patience for the kata and all the sort of artistic movement that goes along with the martial art. So, krav maga – for those that don’t know – is really marital arts used by the ability to use force, very aggressive and very kind of to the point and very situational, also. What I like about it and you'll [12:57] it puts your nervous system kind of into overload really quick because the training is pretty hard core.
Ari: So, what drew you to it?
Abel: Well, I felt that I had kind of... I got a good feel for body composition. I knew how to get super shredded and muscular and that sort of thing by doing very little work, actually. I just felt like a creampuff. Like, what's the point of having all these muscles and looking great if your barista can wipe the floor with ya?
Abel: So, I'm just like, I need to. I was bored; I needed to do something else. I needed to learn and I always wanted to be a ninja turtle growing up. I did karate and all of that but hadn’t since I was a little kid. I'm just like, alright, let’s do this. So I went in for a class to try it out. I'm like, alright, this is something I can do. So, I've been doing it for about the past year and I'm a level 2 as well and I just love it. It’s a great thing to do. I was just talking, on an interview I had on my own podcast right before this. I was talking to a parkour guy and we we’re talking about fear. That’s something that we never really experience today. People’s teeth are chattering because they're going into a job interview not because they're about to be punched in the face or having a sword fight or being chased by a tiger – which are things you should be afraid of. We’re afraid of stupid little things. I think we need that just to recalibrate the way that we think about the world. We need to put ourselves into uncomfortable situations and krav maga definitely does that.
Ari: Yeah, I like that. It’s sort of like it puts you in situations that you hopefully will never be in and probably have never been in but there's also that idea of working on something that is a new skill and the neurological effects that come from that and how you sort of create new neurons where there weren’t neurons before. I think it’s a really excellent thing and it works. For those listening, it’s the kind of thing that no matter what your fitness level really is or your age or your strength, you really can learn a lot of some various effective methods of defense and protecting those you love. I want to skip to just a little bit to productivity because I have to assume that you are just a very, very productive person because you're doing a lot. You’ve got your podcast, you’ve got your books, you’ve got the caveman piece app (for those who have not, check that out). It’s the most beautiful recipe app for paleo-ish stuff, right. I’ll go with –ish; it’s really gorgeous. But you're producing an enormous amount of content and you're coaching, too, right?
Abel: Yeah, a bunch of stuff.
Ari: So, I don’t know if you have like a productivity sort of methodology but like what's a week look like for you?
Abel: Yeah, totally. Actually, I have in front of me right now, what it looks like is every morning I have a routine; about an hour that I block off to get my mind in order. What that usually consist of is waking up and the first thing I do is say I love you to my girlfriend; start the day on a high note. Then, I get out of bed and I do 30 or 60 seconds of exercise. It could be pull-ups, pushups, squats; something just to get the blood flowing and then a little bit of yoga to kind of get the muscles a little more limber. Then, I take the dog on a walk. I go outside; I meditate for about 10 minutes. And all of these things are priming me to crush it for the rest of the day.
Ari: You haven’t checked your email at that point?
Abel: No, I haven’t [laughs]. Actually, a lot of my friends hate me because I don’t carry my phone around, I don’t check email that often – I especially don’t check it in the mornings. I'm not really responsive to technology because I'm trying to produce stuff. I'm trying to create things and if you want to be in that creative state then you can’t be constantly responding to all of these distractions. I found that it’s really important for me to fill up my day, after that morning routine, with really meaningful work of some kind. So, today, which I usually have at least one of these days a week, it’s literally after my morning routine. I have meetings or interviews, usually interviews, from 9 to 5, straight, with like a couple of 15 minute tea breaks. Not even enough time to eat.
Abel: So, that’s how I crush out so many podcasts and I'm on so many other people’s podcast and that sort of thing because I'm very selective with the amount of time that I dedicate to it. The time that I dedicate to it is like 100%. The rest of the week, I fill it up with meaningful work. So that could mean writing something or brainstorming business ideas. A lot of my time, my free time I guess, I try to block off to do work; like fun work. Work is fun to me, it doesn’t look like staring at the screen just kind of like punching out numbers all day like my job in strategy consultant. It’s not like that. I think I put myself in a creative mode a lot of the time and I'm able to run 6 businesses because I'm spending my time guiding the ship and focused more on outsourcing the mechanical tasks to people who are better suited to do that sort of thing.
Ari: Great, that’s certainly jives with all sorts of principles that I like to profess with Less Doing. I think that having that clear mind is one of the most difficult things for people and also the most important because you start to have ideas. Especially when it comes to like content creation, there's so many things that can distract you from that. It’s really good when you have that sort method at your disposal to be able to be free. One of the things, the question that I like to ask everybody at the end of these podcasts to sort of wrap up is, what are the top three things that’s your sort of personal productivity tips, the top three things that make you the most effective every day. It could be anything from a piece of software to meditation; whatever it might be.
Abel: Yeah. Having that morning routine; it doesn’t have to be like mine. It can be whatever it is that you like to do to get your head in order to crush it for the rest of the day. So, having that one thing that finds you to really achieve; I can’t overstate how important that is. that’s number one; number two would be see yourself and your time as a way to create something as opposed to I have 60 free seconds, I need to be entertained, I need some stimulus. Like checking in on your phone or Facebook or whatever or waiting for a text message or checking your email because you need some stimulus from the external world. Try to get out of that mindset and get into what can I create for the rest of the world with this time; what can I do. Number three, the tool that I use for that is – it costs about 99 cents and it’s just a notebook and pen. It’s sitting down and sketching out your ideas. I probably write about 6 pages a day of just random notes. It could be about life philosophy, business, diagrams, show ideas, to do lists…. It doesn't really matter. But if you're putting your ideas down then you're creating something, you're doing something. So get into the habit of doing something like that instead of responding to something will change your life.
Ari: I love all three of those. The last one, I use Evernote, but I have to because my handwriting is kind of illegible so.
Abel: [laughs] Oh, really?
Ari: Everyone always said I should have been a doctor because of that.
Abel: That’s hilarious.
Ari: But I love those and thing they're really great. so, we’re here at the end of time so thank you for taking the time to tell us a little bit about what you're working on but where can people go to find out everything about you?
Abel: The best place to find me is FatBurningMan.com and if you sign up for my email list, you get a free eBook and a bunch of free bonuses. That’s the best way to get in touch.
Ari: Yeah, I can second that. You put out a ton of free stuff just for signing up for email which I think is very cool. Abel, thank you very much and we look forward to more great content from you in the future.
Abel: Awesome. Thanks so much Ari, I appreciate it man.