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Episode 195:
Show Notes 


In the episode, Dr Mary and Dr Lucy discuss the pitfalls of extremist dietary approaches, such as strict veganism or carnivory, which may not be suitable for everyone. They share anecdotes highlighting the negative impacts of rigid dietary ideologies on individuals' mental and physical well-being. The hosts stress the importance of recognising and respecting individual differences in metabolism and health needs.

Caution Against Aesthetic Standards: Dr Lucy discusses the pressure to conform to certain aesthetic standards propagated by the weight loss industry, emphasising the need to reject extreme transformations and focus on overall health and well-being.

Critique of Before-and-After Photos: The hosts critique the use of before-and-after photos in the weight loss industry, highlighting their limited portrayal of success and the potential negative impact on individuals' self-esteem and body image.

Discussion on Personal Development: Dr Lucy compares weight loss to a personal development journey, emphasising the importance of developing skills, mindset, and self-compassion to support long-term success.

Explanation of Their Food Philosophy: Dr Mary and Dr Lucy outline their moderate food philosophy, which focuses on whole, real foods and balanced meals. They emphasize the importance of individualized approaches to nutrition and lifestyle.

Addressing Societal Pressures: The hosts discuss societal pressures and stigma associated with weight, encouraging listeners to reject harmful diet culture messages and prioritise their health and well-being above external standards.

Emphasis on Holistic Health: Dr Mary and Dr Lucy advocate for a holistic approach to health that considers physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They stress the importance of self-awareness, self-compassion, and seeking support from healthcare professionals.

Overall, the episode delves into the complexities of weight management, offering practical advice, and empowering listeners to embrace a balanced and sustainable approach to health and well-being.

For more information about Real Life Medicine and our programs and special offers:

Episode 195: 


 Dr Mary Barson (0:04) Hello, my lovely friends. I'm Dr Mary Barson.

Dr Lucy Burns (0:09) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. We are doctors and weight management and metabolic health experts.

Both (0:16) And this is the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast!

Dr Mary Barson (0:23) Good morning, lovely friend. How are you this morning? I'm so happy to have a chat with you today and introduce you and welcome, of course, our gorgeous, the one and only Dr Mary. Hello, beautiful woman. How are you?

Dr Mary Barson  (0:35)  Hello one and only Dr Lucy. I'm good and much cooler. Today we had an extreme heat issue here in southern Victoria was over 40 degrees for the last three days and the long weekend. It was very extreme and extremely uncomfortable. But today is quite cool. So I'm very grateful.

Dr Lucy Burns (0:57)  Which is a wonderful segue, actually, into our topic today of extremes.

Dr Mary Barson  (1:05)  Beware the extremes. Yes. 

Dr Lucy Burns (1:07)  Yes. And in fact, I think that is we come with a warning - beware the fanatic. It's interesting in the world of nutrition and particularly in the world of weight loss, there are fanatics, there are extremes, and they're enticing. We thought today we'd unpick a bit of this and give you our version of what we think is helpful and possibly not. You know, in some ways we're shooting ourselves in the foot because it is far more commercial to be an extremist but we're not interested in that. So Miss, let's talk a little bit about fanaticism

Dr Mary Barson  (1:46)  Well, it's everywhere and we're humans, we're drawn to stories, we love a good story and, you know, a story of extreme transformation it's very enticing. We also quite love rules and we like things to be simple, and that is another drawer of the extreme. So time was when being on a diet that was lower in carbohydrates was considered extreme. I don't think it is anymore. I think it's largely accepted as a very healthy way to go for most people. But now within our low-carb world, there is you know, an extreme which is gaining great momentum, which is to go carnivore, like to go essentially zero carbs and eat no plant foods and only eat animal foods and it's certainly very alluring and now almost the low carb world like within the low carb doctors, it's an interesting little community. It's lovely, lots of fabulous people but there is this strong emergence now where it's like it's become cool and fashionable, to be a carnivore doctor, to be in that extreme. And it's easy, I can see it's so simple to donate plants. It's simple, it's extreme, and there are a lot of really good-looking people out there, advertising and promoting this, we humans have a natural bias towards good-looking people something that we need to be mindful of. But not the only extreme out there. Certainly, for a long time there has been a well-established extremism to veganism and only eating plants like that. So you have to eat plants, any animal foods at all is extremely unhealthy. So you have to be vegan, but you also have to be a carnivore. This other extremism in this world at least it's fascinating that there is, I think, an understandable backlash against the stigmatisation of people who are in heavier bodies, against the emphasis that the medical community puts on patients that you have to lose weight. Women feel like, go to the doctor, every single problem, you know, they've got an infected toenail. And it's because they're overweight, that feel blamed. Then there is this movement of you know, Health at Every Size and accepting yourself as you are so many things about that absolutely beautiful. But it can even go the other way that if people want to lose weight, then they can be victimised and demonised for buying into this whole toxic diet culture. So there’s extremes pulling us in all these different directions. And I think that they're all dangerous. I'll be at alluringly sorry. 

Dr Lucy Burns (4:30)  Ah, absolutely. I think you know, beware the extreme. And look, weight loss has been, you know, it's an industry that's been going on forever. So it's certainly not a new industry. One of the premises of weight loss is that you particularly will have aesthetically thin people selling a program, a protocol, a product or a supplement and the message is either overtly do what I do, and you'll look like me, or sometimes more subtly, but it's still there. It's do what I do and you'll look like me, ate what I ate, and you'll look like me. So, in many ways, it's worth recognising just. And again, it doesn't mean that you can't follow people like that like you're the boss of you can do whatever you like, as you know. But it's worth noting that if somebody is giving you a message, and there's persistent, you know, maybe images of them not wearing a shirt, if they're a bloke or in a tiny, teeny tiny bikini, if they're female, that maybe there's some reasoning behind that and the reasoning is, do what I do, and you'll look like me, but that's not actually true. 

Dr Mary Barson  (5:54)  No. It's a red flag. People need to have, yet must big muscles and or a G string to promote their program. It's a red flag and it's saying that there are people out there who've got great programs and also take photos and sales and G strings. But it is, it's a warning sign. Yeah.

Dr Lucy Burns (6:10)  And look, it's interesting. I mean, we don't do before and after shots for two reasons. One, as upper-regulated doctors, there are some very strict rules around before and afters and they have to be and look in general, they're done, they're cosmetic surgeons, plastic surgeons that would do before and afters and they have to be done under very strict conditions. Because it's extremely easy to manipulate a before and after shot, I could take two photos of me standing in front of a mirror and make one where I look much bigger than the other one, and then go– ha taken three weeks apart because I did my program. So they're not necessarily true for a start but more importantly, they tell like a sliver of the story. And the story, again, when you have, if you need before and after shots to sell your program, then you're basically buying into that underlying belief system, that the smaller you are, the more worthy you are, the more valuable you are.

Dr Mary Barson  (7:20)  Yes. And this is a fanaticism that has had us in the grip for a long time.

Dr Lucy Burns (7:30)  Don't get me wrong, I used to love before and after shots, I used to, you know, again, back in the day, when I buy my Weight Watchers magazine, I'd be scouring through to look for transformation stories. And I thought that they were helpful, because, you know, they seemed to show promise, and I was excited and they would keep me motivated and so I'd love to hear them, watch them and particularly look at them, which I think is why the Biggest Loser was such a compelling show because people would see these incredible transformations, and potentially insert themselves into that story, but here's the thing, 40 years of watching television shows, and by weight loss magazines never allowed me to maintain my weight loss. So when you look at the evidence, the evidence against how you can manipulate evidence, the evidence would suggest that the more weight loss magazines you buy, the less likely you are to maintain your weight loss.

Dr Mary Barson  (8:33)  Yes, yes. And there are important reasons for that. Because so much of that weight loss advice was wrapped up in another dogma, which is still prevalent today, which is weight loss is all about calories, all about reducing your calories, all about being strict with yourself, sucking up the fact that you're hungry and just getting on with it and if you can't do that, well, obviously you're a gluttonous loss.

Dr Lucy Burns (9:02)  Oh, yes, because nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. And honestly, I cannot tell you how much I internalised that how many times I just denied my hunger, my physiology, all of the things until it became too much and then I just go on a bender, and then I think stuff it and I'd stopped buying Weight Watchers magazines and, you know, just crawl into my hole and eat 10 doughnuts to unhealthy extreme fear, Lucy. I know and that's it, that all or nothing and it's really interesting. So we're pretty open about the fact that as doctors, we're really good at medicine and we were still learning business and I've been reading a couple of business books and marketing and all that stuff. And one of them was suggesting that in order to sell more stuff, you have to create an extreme like, because that will then attract people to your extreme and that selling, you know, middle of the road is boring that nobody does that.

Dr Mary Barson  (10:06)  We need to create an awesome them. Except that's not what we're going to do. 

Dr Lucy Burns (10:10)  No, no. And that's, and we don't do that, because we don't believe in extremes, which is different to saying everything in moderation. 

Dr Mary Barson  (10:21)  Yes, yes, they are different messages that pack a little bit more about why humans why we're drawn to extremes. And why we don't think that extreme versions of any particular dietary philosophy, or weight loss philosophy is helpful. Why is it that finding your own specific sort of nuanced balance that works for you while that might not be as sexy or is easy to sell in inverted commas, why is it better?

Dr Lucy Burns (11:00)  So I think I mean, again, health and weight loss, they are separate, but they can, there's an overlap. And we love the overlap, the overlap is what we're all about. People have extremes or shortcuts because they're looking for a solution that makes it easy for them, where they don't have to think. And so if somebody says to you, I've got the secret, this is the reason you haven't been able to do what you wanted to do before it's because of my secret, then it brings hope, You go– Oh, goody, I'll try this since Yeah. The tricky thing is that sometimes within these movements, and again, this can be anything, it's not just carnivore, it's not just vegan, can be any movement. If it doesn't work for you, the message is that you're not trying hard enough. Because this extreme thing works for everybody and so if it's not working for you, it's because you're not doing it enough, you're not strong enough, you're not doing it properly, you're not right. And so then you kind of just crawl away feeling hopeless, again.

Dr Mary Barson  (12:05)  This fundamental point of human physiology is that we are different and that we are diverse. There are people out there who thrive on, you know, the standard dietary guidelines of lower fat, higher carb diet. They eat heaps of whole grains, they have heaps of legumes that have their bread, and they're great, they're healthy, they're fine. Those people are out there. Absolutely. There are people who've got all kinds of issues, like autoimmune issues and significant issues, and they go on a carnivore diet, either for a little while or even forever and it works for them, and they do well. There are people out there living their best life on a plant-based diet. Absolutely. There are. The thing is that what works for you won't work for me. I mean, Lucy, you and I, we know we've got quite different metabolisms we know that we do, even though we know we share a similar dietary philosophy, you know, whole food, real food, first, reduce your sugars and starches. If you've got metabolic issues, there is no one size fits all and it's not a case of by this supplement, and you'll look great in a G string like I do. One size does not fit all. It never does one size fits one sometimes. Yeah, I love that. I love that once, one size fits one sometimes. 

Dr Lucy Burns (13:29)  Perfect, perfect. It's interesting, isn't it? Because it is it really is about allowing people to, I mean, I love your expression to that you need to be your own compassionate scientist. So you need to experiment with what does work for you and if you try something, and it doesn't work for you, well, that's okay. You're not the failure. It's the protocol, or the process, or the diet or the food you know, whatever. It's like our brain. So we all have different ways our brains work out operating systems, so people will go to you– oh, I've got the perfect scheduling tool, I've got the amazing way to keep all your notes in one place, or I've got an incredible calendar system, you need to use his calendar system because it'll be so easy for you. And I look at the calendar systems and I think I can't understand this. I don't know how it works. Even then they show me and I still think and I'll give it a crack. I'm gonna, It's just we need to work with our bodies with our brains and that requires finding your way through, what is, and I know that the word, minefield is used all the time, but it literally is a minefield of weight loss advice.

Dr Mary Barson  (14:48)  Example comes to mind I had a beautiful young woman who had type one diabetes, and as frequently happens to people who have type one diabetes she was also developing insulin resistance and that has the not-very-appealing name of double diabetes, I just don't really like that name, but that is what it's called. And so she wanted to lose weight but had a whole lot of weight loss trauma, a whole lot of health trauma, as well as you could understand this poor woman. And she decided that the Health at Every Size movement hayes had to be for her. That was what she needed and she bought books. And she did. She went to some seminars, and she's like, this is it, this is it for me. I remember seeing her in my GP clinic several years ago. And she's really defeated and really sad and she felt like a failure because Health at Every Size wasn't working for her, for a whole lot of reasons, just metabolically, the Health at Every Size movement is one big component of that is that you eat whatever you want and that you do it mindfully. And to know she could mindfully eat, you know, a chocolate Oreo, but it would raise her blood sugar and cause all these sorts of problems. But rather than being able to reject, okay, well, Health at Every Size isn't for me, she actually sort of felt that she had failed Health at Every Size. And this, so she'd stepped on one of these minds that you've talked about Lucy, is you've got to be really careful of falling into that ideology, that if something doesn't work for you, that doesn't mean that you are the failure, it just means that it's not quite the right strategy for you. And that, you know, you need to step around that one and find something else. 

Dr Lucy Burns (16:28)  Yeah, absolutely. And this is a minute and this is the world that we navigate in and there are people out there who will tell people, you know, your weight is not the problem. It's pretty hard yakka if you can't do up your shoelaces because you know your tummies in the way to say to somebody or your weights, not the problem. Or if they can't, you know, fit through the aeroplane toilet because they're their bodies too big. For some people, their way causes them problems. Now, again, we can rephrase that in into a, rather than making it part of their identity so their weight, it could be you know, we can rephrase it as a person who's living with obesity, that becomes the obesity becomes a problem for them, the obesity is causing them discomfort, it's hurting their knees, and it's giving them inflammation. It's causing them problems and so they may want to treat their obesity with weight loss and yet, they may have people going– Oh, no, no, your weight is not the problem, you need to just walk more and, and that's, that can be unhelpful.

Dr Mary Barson  (17:50)  Yeah, you're allowed to want to lose weight if you're allowed to want that and that doesn't mean that you know, you're failing in any way if weight loss is one of your goals.

Dr Lucy Burns (17:59)  Now, and in fact, this came up in one of our Facebook groups where a lady was going off to have a surgical procedure and she wanted to lose some more weight before her surgery. And again, she popped in the group that she'd lost that she was on a weight loss stall, and she'd lost 38 kilos already, and so I calculated that she had already lost 25% of her body weight. In her mind, she's still overweight and again, I don't know, she might be technically according to you know, the very outdated BMI but what you and I will know, if you've lost 38 kilos, particularly doing it and again, she's done our program, so she will have done it through low carb real food, so a healthful way to do so not extreme shakes and whatnot, then she's highly likely to be very healthy on the inside. 

Dr Mary Barson  (19:00)  She is healthy on the inside. Yeah.

Dr Lucy Burns (19:04)  And if you just take a snapshot of someone, and you make a judgment on their body size, you've got an idea like it's a snapshot in time and this is where, again, the fanatics that that's what drives me mad is when people are then promoting programs based on on an aesthetic that is meaningless essentially in relation to health. So you know, if someone wants to lose three kilos to go from a size eight to a size six then for them I would say yeah, your weight’s not a problem like it's not. You want to lose weight to fulfil something else and that's, again, you're the boss of you can do whatever you want, but that might need some exploring. But if you're finding that you have trouble drying your toes and you want to lose weight, your body allowed to

Dr Mary Barson  (19:55)  You are allowed to. Yes, yep, reject the extreme that makes you feel bad for wanting that. Absolutely. 

Dr Lucy Burns (20:03)  Yeah. And what we would say to you, though, is that beware the charlatans out there peddling snake oil and promising the world because as much as you know, as much as we all want to go to bed one night and wake up in the morning with all you know, weight loss problems solved, we have a little phrase for that which we call weight loss Tattslotto and the reason we call it that is that studies will indicate that many people who win Tattslotto, within three years, have lost all their money, and the reason they've done that is that they never really learned money skills, they never really learned about saving, you know, budgeting investing, they just became good at spending. And after three years, they ran out of money, and the same thing can happen with weight loss, slight weight loss is not just a destination, it's actually a developmental skill and so we will often call it a personal development journey and it can actually be really, really fun, which I know sounds a bit wonky, but true. It can be when you have your tribe, have your people. And you know, you learn to celebrate things other than purely scale victories. 

Dr Mary Barson  (21:23)  When you learn to love the process, the process of nourishing and nurturing yourself well, and finding the plan that works for you to nurture and nourish yourself, well without, you know, stepping on those bombs of those minefields, and sort of have it all blow up in your face when you learn to figure out what works for you and you explore it, you develop it, and you can see yourself getting healthier, getting more energy, becoming more healthy on the inside, we just like to call hottie H O ti, as you become a hottie with your tribe of hotties, then it is it's beautiful and it's fun.

Dr Lucy Burns (22:02)  And I think, you know, again, just to reiterate for our beautiful friends out there that if someone's an extremist, if someone says this is the only way to do it, run, because there's not, you know, in Australia, we have a fairly, fairly McCobb saying there's more than one way to skin a cat. There absolutely is and as for us as doctors and coaches, we support people to make choices that work for them and it's not do what we say, and you'll reach Nirvana, it's what are we going to do that will work for you and how are we going to help you do that. And how are we going to help you work out a way that this is going to work long term because nobody wants to lose five kilos, I'm gonna put 10 on.

Dr Mary Barson  (22:56)  Yes, it's not quite as sexy, as, you know, a more sort of fanatical extremist end, but it works and the important thing is that you get empowered with the tools, the frameworks, the knowledge to make it work for you.

Dr Lucy Burns (23:15)  Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think that it's so interesting because for so long, people have been told that they can't lose weight because they're weak-willed and disciplined, undisciplined, or lazy and slothful, or gluttonous, and, you know, for many people that it's not about discipline, they're very disciplined. Sometimes what they're missing is skills. Okay, so skill sets, particularly around mind management, and quite often, they've just been given the wrong advice around, you know, best ways to nourish your body. And so yeah, again, that's our favourite thing. We'd love chatting about them. 

Dr Mary Barson  (23:50)  So we consider ourselves fairly moderate. Should we just, you know, outline maybe for new listeners, what is our general like food philosophy, we're not just about food, but food is important. What is our general sort of food philosophy that we empower people to find the right kind of nourishment for them? 

Dr Lucy Burns (24:09)  Yeah, so I think you need to get you know the basics first. So the basics for us we have a very basic framework, and it is picking your protein, and that protein is eggs, meat, fish, dairy, can be tofu, tempeh, and again, they're low carbohydrate protein options. If you're metabolically flexible, then you know if you want to add in legumes, that's that's up to you. It's not what Mary and I ate, but again, if that's what you want to do, we will support you in that. We then choose vegetables that are low in starches so for the majority of those above-ground vegetables not entirely and are found that radishes, not that long ago, very low carbohydrate, but that's just a rule of thumb. Add some healthy fats if the protein is lean, and by healthy, we mean non-processed, so not industrial, industrialised. So for us, it's avoiding seed oil, soy, canola, us, sunflower, safflower, or any of those things that are labelled vegetable oils, we avoid and focus on healthy fats through again, whole foods, butter, olive oil can be fat on the side of your chop can be, you know, add the fat in the eggs, nuts, all of those things have yummy and then you add some flavour because honestly, we don't want boring food. So we add the flavour with herbs and spices. That's how you get your flavour. It's perfect.

Dr Mary Barson  (25:38)  And it’s so many different foods you can eat and you get to yet develop your skill set and decide what you like. You can have low carb baking, if it works for you. There's an enormous variety of healthy whole real foods out there that you can learn to make work for you in a way that's yummy, delicious, fun, don't need to be perfect. You just need to be consistent and then you can avoid those bombs exploding in your face.

Dr Lucy Burns (26:05)  Absolutely and that is my favourite saying, you don't need to be perfect but you do need to be consistent. It's a bit like going to the gym if you miss one day no big deal. If you miss two days no big deal. If you miss three, you'll probably never go back. There we go. Alright, lovely one sets us for the week, we will catch you all next week. Bye for now. Bye. 

Dr Lucy Burns: (26:30) The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.

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