Burn Fat, Support Your Metabolism, and Live Long

Which foods are natural fat burners, and how exactly does that work in our bodies? Dr. William Li is back with the book that I have been waiting for. We’ll discuss which foods you should choose for health and fat loss, how you may damage your metabolism, and how he came up with the Mediterrasian diet.

William W. Li, MD, is an internationally renowned physician, scientist and author of the New York Times bestseller, Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. His groundbreaking work has led to the development of more than 30 new medical treatments and impacts care for more than 70 diseases including cancer, diabetes, blindness, heart disease and obesity.

In this interview, Dr. Li dives into what emerging research teaches us about human metabolism, and how the quality of your food makes all the difference in terms of what that fuel is able to do for you. He walks us through the grocery store to help us choose the foods that stoke our metabolic fire. Ingredients that are good for our metabolism have been core ingredients in the recipes from the Mediterranean and Asia—two of the oldest, most delicious, and healthiest cuisine food traditions in the world.

Stay tuned at the end to learn about the bonus meal plan that Dr. Li is sharing with listeners of this podcast!

Freebies From Today’s Episode
Get Dr. Li’s FREE Eat to Beat Disease Mediterranean Meal Plan


00:01:06 – Introducing Dr. William Li and his new book
00:05:09 – Dr. Li’s background with food traditions for health and healing
00:08:35 – The realization that eating more of the right foods causes weight loss
00:10:28 – What new science is teaching us about metabolism
00:15:29 – New study that upends how we understand metabolism
00:20:08 – How body size has misled us and our health assumptions
00:23:23 – The biomarkers that can help us understand health
00:26:12 – Measurable strategies to help you burn fat
00:30:40 – What to buy at the grocery store for metabolism and fat burn
00:37:45 – Why Mediterranean and Asian foods are good for the metabolism
00:45:38 – Examples of the Mediterranean meal plan

Mentioned in this episode:

Learn more about Dr. William Li

Listen to my previous interview with Dr. Li

Eat to Beat Your Diet: Burn Fat, Heal Your Metabolism and Live Longer, by William W. Li, MD

Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself, by William W. Li, MD

Study: human metabolism

The Lumen breathalyzer helps you understand your metabolism

The Kooru cold plunge activates brown fat and boosts metabolism (use code JJVIP500 for $500 off)

Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 539_Dr. William Li
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin. Welcome and thanks so much for joining me. This is Ask the Health Expert here. I put the Power of Health in your hands and give you access to the top people in health and wellness. In each episode, I share safe ways to get healthy, lose weight, heal your gut detox and lots more. So if you wanna get healthy and get off the dieting for life merry-go-round, I’ll give you strategies that will help you look and feel better fast.
So I get this book in the mail. From my buddy Dr. Will Lee eat to beat your diet, burn fat, heal your metabolism, and live longer. Oh my gosh. So I immediately pinged him and said, you must come back on the podcast. So he came on before, and I’ll link to it in the show notes. And with his eat to beat disease [00:01:00] New York Times bestseller, the science of how, the new science of how your body can Heal itself.
And he said, you know, I was really not wanting to do anything around diet, but so many people reached out to me after the fact saying, as I was eating the way that you talked about eat to beat disease, I was losing weight. So he started digging into the research and it’s really interesting. You know when you look at this, because he came from a background, let me tell you a little bit about it.
The background he came from gives him such a different way of looking at food. So he has developed more than 30 medical treatments and that impact over 70 diseases including cancer, diabetes, blindness, heart disease, and obesity. He has a TED talk. Can we Eat to Start Cancer that has had over. Million views.
He’s the president, medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation. And he, so he just, he approached looking at food the way he created drugs. Like what is the mechanism of action? How can this work? So [00:02:00] imagine looking at food going, all right, how can this food help heal your metabolism? How can this food help you burn fat?
And by the way, in this interview, yes, you are going to hear about. That will help you burn fat and how it happens. How it works. Super exciting. So this is the book that I have been waiting for. I’m excited to share it with you. We go through a lot of really interesting stuff in this interview. On which foods you should choose, how we damage our metabolism, et cetera, and how he came to this Mediterrasian diet.
And he’s also giving you a great meal plan too. His Mediterrasian meal plan, which you’re gonna be able to get at jjvirgin.com/beatDiet. I know that’s a little weird, but that was the easiest place to put it, so be sure to grab. And enjoy the interview. I will be right back with Dr. Will Lee.
[00:03:00] Dr. Will Lee, you’re back and you are back with like the book. I’m more excited than ever about eat to beat your diet. Oh
Dr. William Li: my gosh. . Yay. Well, I’m, I’m, I’m really happy to be here and I, and I know we always have great conversations. Really the topic about health and, and, and I’m newbie, I would say talking about, you know, diet and weight, but I wanted to come at this really from a unique perspective, which is really what is the science, the new science of the metabolism, telling us about how we can actually control body fat.
Yeah, and I’ll give
JJ Virgin: you something because it, it will make it all tie it together with a bow if you think about it that, okay, so what now we, 43% of the population is obese and 70% overweight or obese, and now it’s something like only 6% have, you know, no metabolic risk factors. I believe that we have to get metabolically healthy to lose weight.
That, that, that we have it wrong. We think we have to lose weight to get healthy, and it’s the opposite. And [00:04:00] so really all of the work that you do, and I’d love you to start first with going back to eat, to beat disease, just how you look at food so differently because now you’re gonna be able to apply it, like to apply it to this topic, especially in a time when everyone’s going for the, you know, semaglutide and all these drugs.
Right. Right. We need you. So tell us, tell, tell the audience, and I’m gonna also put in the show notes in the interview we did about Eat to Beat Disease, which is another book you definitely wanna have in your, in your success library. But how did you, you know, how did you come to start really studying food and how do you look at this so differently than like the average nutritionist
Dr. William Li: out there?
Yeah. Well listen, I started out. Being very interested in food because my family my mom cooked great food. I was, I grew up in the part of the world in western Pennsylvania where there were lots of ethnic communities that really had pride over their food traditions. And so I was exposed to a lot of different things more than white [00:05:00] food when I was a kid.
And I never forgot that. And in fact, I became more curious about that when I was in college because I began to study history. And the history of, of, of humans, of society is intertwined with the history of food. So when I finished college, I did a gap year and in my gap year I actually went to Italy and I lived in Italy and Greece specifically to.
Try to learn more about how food and culture and health all kind of bound itself together to, to create the, the, the kind of the zeitgeist of just living in the Mediterranean. This is long before people were talking about the Mediterranean diet, sort of an on a broad level, went up to medical school.
I learned drugs and bugs and surgery and chemo and all the stuff that we had to memorize and and I did it. But one of the things that I realized is that there’s two things that were gigantic deficits in medical school. Number one, we learned a lot about disease, but we never learned about health.
Number two we learned how to treat disease, but we [00:06:00] never learned how to prevent disease. And actually there’s a third deficit. And that third deficit is that, you know, there’s no doubt that medicines can be life-saving. You know, people used to live only 40 years old a hundred years ago because we didn’t have any medical technology.
But yet, you know, one thing that we lost somewhere in the last a hundred years in healthcare is this thousand year. Where food was, of course a tool in the toolbox for health and healing. And somewhere in, in my education as a doctor like that just poof, disappeared. And so I. Was involved with and excited by, and still involved with developing new treatments, new biotech treatments for cancer and blindness and diet complications of diabetes.
And, you know, I I, I happen to be pretty productive on it. Like we’ve had 43 new F d A approved drugs. So to me, I’ve had this this long view that. Man, we are missing this opportunity. We’re missing the opportunity to prevent disease number one. We’re also, we’re also missing the opportunity to we’re also missing the opportunity to [00:07:00] use food while we’re undergoing treatment.
And we’re also using missing the opportunities for use for use food for healing. Which is, you know, like people just kinda assume people are gonna get better by themselves, right? Well, it’s not that simple, and we can use food to elevate that. So my first book was really about how the body protects itself and its health, and how we can use food to you know, to strengthen our body’s health defenses.
And one of the things that led my, to my my current book, you could beat your diet. Something surprising. I got thousands of emails and letters and feedback from people and I, and I would survey my, my community, my readers to find out what they learned and how they were doing and, and I was really surprised, you know, people were saying, you know, I feel more empowered, I feel.
I feel stronger. I feel healthier. I’ve come off my medications, you know, things that I knew was gonna happen. But the surprise for me was some people were telling me that in addition, they were starting to lose weight that they couldn’t lose [00:08:00] before. And I heard this over and over again, and the first time I just kind of blew it off.
But I, when I got, you know, like by the 20th one, I’m like, wait a minute. How can you be eating more food and losing more weight? Counterintuitive, you eat more food, you should be gaining more weight. That was, in fact, by the way, one of the concerns I actually had when I wrote my first book is, you know, I’m telling people to enjoy their food and eat, like, how can you be losing weight?
So that actually dovetailed my own research to say, you know what? What is actually happening? What’s the science? The new science of the metabolism? And is there some surprises? Are there things. Our myths, our legends or urban legends that we, that the new science is helping us have a overturn and have a, a better idea of what the truth is.
And that’s what this book is all about. So
JJ Virgin: I was working with a client probably 20 years ago who couldn’t lose weight and she came to me and she said, my doctor told me that [00:09:00] I just needed to count my calories and it didn’t matter if I was eating Snickers bars Pop Tarts, as long as I just counted my calories, right?
And so I have a feeling one of your urban legends , the big misconceptions hopefully is gonna be that, you know, all calories are not. Equal because, you know, it’s like, just logically, you know, that couldn’t possibly be true. And you just said people were eating, eating more, and I am guessing there’s something very different between the salmon broccoli dish and the ultra processed foods that are, you know, hunger
Dr. William Li: drivers.
Right, right. Well, no, I mean, you know, there’s a lot to unpack in what you were just setting up. And, and you know, for me, let me just tell you. I, I have now found myself having these conversations with all kinds of people about metabolism. It’s a subject that most people think that they know something about.
And, you know, because I’m a scientist, I approach subjects like, what do I know? But [00:10:00] what, what’s really interesting to me is what do I not know? , that’s what scientists really spend most of their time thinking. Like, what are the unanswered questions? And the more I dug into this, the more I realized that, you know, metabolism is a still pretty new field and counting calories, you know, that’s very, very old school.
It’s almost a a t-shirt slogan, you know a licensed bumper sticker. And it almost means nothing except that we do know that, you know, empty calories, are, you know, like I honestly, I didn’t even. Understand where, where did that whole concept, how do you even come up with a term to coin a term, an empty calorie?
You know? So I had to reconceptualize my own understanding as a doctor about metabolism, which I thought I knew a lot about from medical school, but here’s how I’ve sort of come to see it, and it sets up for my book. Which is that you know that the human body is like an automobile. It’s got an engine. The engine needs fuel to be able to run.
And in a car, you know you’ve got your engine running and you’ve got a fuel gauge. And when your fuel gauge gets towards empty, it shows you the driver. You [00:11:00] gotta pull over to the filling station. You pull out the pump and you stick it in a nozzle and you crank the, you push the button, the nozzle, and you fill up the tank and you know when the tank is full, it clicks and you stop.
And then you kind of go on your way. Right. Well, in the. , it’s kind of similar. Our body runs like an engine and it needs fuel just like the. and our fuel is actually comes from food. The food that we eat, the energy comes from our food. We happen to call that energy calories, okay? But the quality of your fuel makes all the difference of the world in terms of what that fuel is able to do for you more, much more than just run your engine.
It actually helps to really set up the, the entire exact of your entire vehicle, and that’s your entire body, you know, head to toe. Every single function is, is wonderful Now. A gas station pump where when your tank is full, your the, the nozzle will click and now it’ll stop filling.
Unfortunately when it comes to food, our bodies don’t have that clicker, right? I mean, we wish we’d sometimes had that clicker. And by the way, everyone has that [00:12:00] clicker. Everyone senses that clicker when it’s too late, right? Right. So what happens is when you don’t have that clicker, you just keep eating and at some point, like you realize like, oh man, like I just ate too much.
Classic situation, Thanksgiving meal, or one of these holiday meals, and you’re like eating and talking. You know, you’re going back for seconds or thirds and before you know it, like you just had one more bite and you knew you, you just know you crossed that line. Like you, you don’t feel good anymore, . And so the, so that’s basically like the, like there’s no clicker at the gas station.
The fuel comes out of the tank, down the side of the car, around the tires, pools around your feet. And you are now standing in this toxic, flammable, dangerous, mix right with having too much fuel now in your body. The, you know, what happens is that that extra fuel that we can stuff into our body has to be loaded safely into body fat.
Our, our fat is actually fuel tank and it stores the fat. So a small fat cell gets bigger and bigger. The more fuel you put it into it, the bigger the tank has to stretch to accommodate that. [00:13:00] And so, you know, this is really the beginnings of metabolism are calories. The energy from the food we eat is fuel.
But if you overload your tanks, your tanks are gonna, Big and the bigger they get, the more dearranged the, the, the, the entire ecosystem of your fuel tanks are, and that sets off inflammation. And then that’s it. Like once you actually start knocking down that domino, one after another starts following the domino starts following.
And then your entire your entire system, your metabolism, your biochemistry is a derail. And that’s what leads to these chronic diseases.
JJ Virgin: Yeah, and I love, I love the way you explained it because you know, it’s like you start out with a healthy metabolism and gosh, if we could like ask however we got here, our creator, like, why didn’t you do a good appetite switch?
You know? Yeah. Why? Why did you mess that thing up? And the thirst switch, we could have gotten a lot better, like these could have solved a lot of problems, you know, maybe. 10,000 years ago, we were supposed to gorge so we could survive famines. [00:14:00] I don’t know, but it, it certainly could have made a lot easier.
But you just talked about really how you damage your metabolism and kind of this, this bad snowball effect that then you have to crawl out of in order to be able to lose weight. Because in your book you talk about, okay, you have to heal your metabolism. Right,
Dr. William Li: right. Right. Well, you know, so the, so to heal a Metabolism, a, a great starting point is to really understand what the New Science teaches is about human metabolism.
So most people think, you know, I, I got the metabolism thing down. You know, I’m a biohacker. I kind of got it down actually. Amazingly, just 24 months ago, there was a brand new study published that that, that completely upended everything we know about human metabolism. It was done by a guy named Herman Panzer and a group of 90 other researchers, and they published this in the journal, the Prestigious Journal Science, which is one of the top scientific journals, and it’s the first major.
Research study, published research study on human [00:15:00] metabolism to give us a full understanding of what human metabolism is over our entire lifespan. Here’s what they did. They studied 6,000 people from 20 countries that ranged from two days old to 92 years old, okay? And they studied them all in exact same way.
They studied their metabolism. Here’s what they did. They actually gave them a drink of. H20 okay. H is hydrogen. O is oxygen except their hydrogen and oxygen, their water had a little label onto the hydrogen in the oxygen. So you can measure their metabolism through their breath, through their urine, and in their blood.
And when they measured 6,000 people from two days old to 92 years old. And measure metabolism, as you know, from, from the, from these labeled water labeled drink of water. What do you think they found? They found the metabolisms all over the map. Okay. Just like you’d think. Right. However, this is the age of artificial intelligence and high power computing.[00:16:00]
So what this group did that was absolutely ingenious that we’ve never done before, it’s developed an algorithm to look at every individual who participated in the study and develop in the algorithm a way to correct what their metabolism should be if they didn’t have excess body. Let me repeat that.
They were able to put into an algorithm a correction factor. So if you removed excess body fat, what would the metabolism look like? So when they did that in this gigantic chaotic sea of data, the conclusion’s like, oh my God. No wonder people are all over the place. Turns out, once you remove the effect of excess body fat, all humans only go through four phases of metabolism in their entire life.
All right. Phase one is when you are. You’re, you’re synced up with your mom like a menstrual cycle. And then in the first year of life, your metabolism skyrockets much higher than in adults. Phase two from one year old, 12 months old, all the way to 20 years old. Your metabolism’s [00:17:00] going down, down, down, down, down.
This is teenage years. This is when the, when the kids are eating two dinners mm-hmm. , and they’re bouncing off the walls and they’re sprouting up like a beanstalk, and you’re like, yeah, that guy’s metabolism’s clearly getting, getting bigger or, or, or shooting up. Not the case. Now we see that it’s actually going down, down, down, down.
Now from age, that’s second phase. Third phase is from age 20 to age 60. Our hardwired metabolism is designed without fat to be rock stable from 20 years old, 30, 40, 50, 60. It’s, it’s rock stable, all right? That’s how we’re, that’s how we’re wired. And what that means is incredibly 60 can be the new. If you allow your metabolism to actually be that way and after 60, your fourth phase, there’s a little decrease until by the time you’re 90, your metabolism declines about 17%.
You add the fat back in there and you start to crush your metabolism. So that’s what’s
JJ Virgin: interesting. So couple things there. [00:18:00] Of course, I’m just, you don’t know this. I’m turning 60 in like two months and my belief is we can offset all of this with the right type of exercise with, you know, maintaining muscle.
So that is what I’m focused on. And, but when they were pulling, when they were looking at this and normalizing for normal body fat, cuz here’s what I’m seeing with all the body fat measurements when I was in doctoral school, what they. For the norms of body fat and what the norms are now are totally.
What happened, , it’s like we got, we’re starting to accept that people could have like 10% higher body fat and it’s supposedly healthy. So what did they consider to be healthy norms for body
Dr. William Li: fat? Well, you know, one of the things that, that you have to take into account is not just the subcutaneous fat, which is the stuff you can see in the mirror.
It’s the visceral adipose tissue. The, the gut fat, visceral means gut. So it’s like the baseball glove of fat [00:19:00] that’s choking your organs inside. Were they discerning? Were they doing both? Yes. So they were, so they were able to actually incorporate that. Wow. Which is which which is part of the algorithm.
Right. You need to be able to calculate how much, cuz look, somebody who’s got a big body, and this is a point that make in my book, is that body. Is an assumption that has misled us often.
JJ Virgin: Amen. Makes me
Dr. William Li: nuts. Yep. So, so think about it. If you look at the fittest people on the planet every four years at the Olympians, and you’ve got the tiny little gymnasts, and you’ve got the gigantic shot putters, and you’ve got the.
Tall, skinny javelin throwers, you know, they’re all in great shape, but they’ve got different body sizes and the amount of body fat and lean muscle mass and you know, their metabolism, their inner metabolism, you know, and how that’s affected. It’s different, everyone, when we talk about personalized nutrition, think about that.
Like you can be really fit and have a different body size. And then I also talk about another great sport to think about, which is boxing. There’s [00:20:00] 14 weight classes. You know, everything from like ultra feather weight to heavy weight, and everybody’s got a different body size, and yet there is a world champion at every, in every category.
And so I think that this idea that, you know, we should all be a single, the same shape and we should all aim towards this idea, is just a, it’s a misleading idea. And what we need to do is really try to personalize it to ourselves. So
JJ Virgin: in that study, were they doing a DEXA to, to figure
Dr. William Li: everything out? They, yeah, so I think they used calculations adapted from DEXA of all kinds of people.
Like we’ve now actually characterized. And, and this is something that I thought was fascinating. When does fat, you know, when does the natural history of fat, when does fat first form? Right, like in the womb, actually, fat, fat forms in a womb. First your blood vessels form, then your nerves form, and the third tissue that forms as body fat.
Now, you, you had body fat before you even had a face. You could stuff with food while you were in the womb. All right? And that’s something that like, and, and by the way, when you’re born as a baby, [00:21:00] Healthy babies. Cute, lovable, adorable. Babies are chubby. They got the double chin, they’ve got, you know, the, the fat arms and legs that look like you know, circus balloons that you twist.
All right? And the thing is that if you saw a lean, chiseled baby, like it looked like a fashion model with skinny legs. Oh, that’d be weird. , that’d be weird. Sick baby. Like you’d be really concerned. Right. So body fat actually has a very important physiological healthy role. Where fat goes wrong for us is actually when we have too much of it.
And so really it’s about taming fat and extra body fat in balance with your body size. And in concert with lean muscle mass, of course, especially as we get older.
JJ Virgin: I, I love that you’re bringing up this body size thing because it is, it is unbelievable to me, Will, that we still go to the doctor’s office and get on a scale, like we stopped looking at total cholesterol as some kind of a marker and started looking at [00:22:00] all of the different particle size and number and all, but yet we still get on a.
Instead of looking at skeletal muscle, looking at body fat, looking at vat fat, like, it just, it’s just bizarre. It has to
Dr. William Li: change. Yeah. Well, and by the way, the crazy thing is that if you, when you go to your doctor and you get your blood drawn, there’s only like a dozen. Markers that are reported as healthy or unhealthy, and think about how much more information we have.
I, you know, I, I have been exploring different biomarkers of metabolism. You know, how can you tell if you’re burning fat or you’re burning mostly carbs? Like, I’m exploring all these things because it’s, it’s high time that we start to use the technology that’s available to be able to, and to get that information, the numerical information, and know how we’re actually doing.
On a day-to-day level. Some people wanna know minute to minute. I, I’m good with day-to-day. And, and that can be really powerful in guiding our decisions if you know what’s at, you know, your incentive to actually do better. So what
JJ Virgin: are you [00:23:00] looking at using? Are you using things like Lumen or what are you
Dr. William Li: looking at to be able to Yeah, so I’m just starting to play with Lumen right now.
And and you know, and I think. For those of you who don’t know this, I mean, lumen is a, is a breathalyzer. You know, in that, in, in, instead of having a state trooper give it to you on the side of the road, you can do it yourself in the morning or in the evening. And what it actually does is that measures it’s a carbon dioxide flow meter, and it’s not just a carbon dioxide, the, the carbon of the carbon dioxide, but it’s also the flow, the, the rapidity that you’re blowing out.
And it’s, it’s able to calculate all this stuff goes. The, your phone and a cloud and it gives you back a number. It’s a, you know, very convenient. And again, I’m just starting to play with it right now. But you know, it’s, it’s actually a fascinating guide that shows you that if you allow your body to do its thing over the course of an evening, you know, when you’re not eating, some people call that fasting and when you’re not eating, some people call that intermittent fasting.
You know, there’s a lot of. [00:24:00] Verbiage that kind of gets labels that get tagged to things that are natural.
JJ Virgin: Yeah. Like just, you shouldn’t be eating at night. You should be sleeping. Don’t eat. It’s not fasting. Right. It’s , it’s, it’s
Dr. William Li: sleeping. It’s sleeping. It’s intermittent.
JJ Virgin: Fasting’s gotten, so I heard a podcast the other day and it was like, okay, you stop eating three to three hours for a bed.
You wait a little bit when you wake up in the morning. That’s normal. Yeah. That’s not intermittent
Dr. William Li: fasting, you know? Right, right. Well, you know, and the, and the, and the, and the, and to flip that around is, I, I tell people who ask me about intermittent fasting, I say, you know, Think about what that term means. If you’re intermittently fasting, which means you’re not eating, then you’re intermittently eating too.
Yeah. . So it’s really which side of the equation you wanna look at and, and we’re always intermittently eating or fasting. The key is actually how do you give your body, how do we give our body the greatest advantage to do what it’s designed to do? And that actually then plays into the choices that we make.[00:25:00]
And not, and not only what we eat, but how we eat.
JJ Virgin: So what were some of the things that you discovered, like as you were going through this in terms of. What things could help with our metabolism and healing, our metabolism, what things can help with weight loss? Or we could actually
Dr. William Li: halt it. Right. Well, so look, let me, let me kind of come at this and explain it in a way that coming from a guy who’s been involved with developing cancer treatments, okay.
And you know, so you have to have mechanisms. You have to understand how it works. You need to understand dose. , you know, how much do you give over what period of time? And you have to be able to have some kind of measurement to know if you’re actually, if you’re actually making progress or not. Right? I mean, that’s true for heart disease or anything else in, in medicine.
So that’s how I come at this, because that’s my background. And one of the things that I realize is by understanding our basic metabolism, you know, when we eat food our insulin goes up so that the insulin is the hormone that actually helps our body draw energy into the cell. [00:26:00] So, you know, the fuel tank, you put the fuel in the tank now that, now that fuel needs to be put to use and that’s what insulin does.
And what’s interesting about insulin, people talk about insulin spikes. You know, they’re, it’s real, it’s important, but when, when the, the key that I wanna emphasize when insulin is. Your body’s hardwired. So the insulin’s up means that you’re absorbing fuel, so you can’t burn fuel. You’re trying to store it.
And then when you’re not eating, like when you’re sleeping, okay, your insulin is down and it actually turns upside down, reverses the switch. Okay? And now your body can actually draw into the fuel and start to burn. Burn fuel, burn extra fuel, and that extra fuel you might have eaten during a day, it might have been from yesterday, it might have been from the holidays, doesn’t really matter.
It gives you that opportunity to burn. And so first I thought, okay, when you are eating your fueling up, when you’re not eating, you’re actually able to burn. And that’s kind of a basic principle. So don’t eat too much, don’t eat too late, all that kind of stuff. All right? Don’t eat too early, give yourself more time, however, It gets much better than [00:27:00] that.
What I learned, that was a surprise to me, that helped me make sense of why my readers from my first book were telling me they were losing weight while they were eating food, is that there are some foods that contain natural molecules called bioactives, that actually while you’re eating them, will trigger processes in your cells that will actually allow you to.
Energy burn fat while you’re eating. So there are foods that actually fight fat. To me, that was a, that was a big surprise, like I mean a really, really interesting one. And so what I did in my book is do all the homework to figure out which foods that you would find in a grocery store or in a, or in a village market that you might encounter that has human.
That has been studied in people to show that a, something you can measure metabolism and not just b m I, but like actual weight loss waist circumference you know, metabolic syndrome parameters, high blood pressure, cholesterol count, all those things that matter. . Okay. And of course, you [00:28:00] know, most people don’t have access to a DEXA, but that would’ve been great to actually look at that.
But I do mention some of the studies where that that is there as well. But, you know, I take people on a tour as if you are, this is in the middle of my book, as if you are sitting inside my grocery cart and I’m wheeling you through the grocery store and just show you, talk with you, narrate what I’m actually seeing and what the evidence is in the produce section.
In the seafood section. In the beverage section. And then one of the things that I thought was, you know, long needed, Was, you know, that old adish shot the perimeter stay outta the middle aisles. I decided that I would take people right into the middle aisles and there’s a chapter I call Treasure Hunt.
And in the treasure hunt you wanna look for the treasure, you wanna look for the real gold, while there’s a lot of fools gold around there. And so, yeah, don’t get the crappy ultra crosses foods and the snacks and the stuff that’s. Destroy your metabolism and hurt your health defenses. But I wanted to show people, here’s what you pick here, here’s what you pick here.
Everything from, you know, apple cider vinegar to capers, to dried mushrooms, to chili peppers, the list of [00:29:00] dried prunes. I mean, the list was going on and on and on, and I thought, you know, this is what people need to hear. It’s a, it’s a message of empowerment. You can go into the grocery store, you can go into almost every section of the grocery store.
And if you were. What you should choose that is supported by human evidence that can help your metabolism. Feel free to add it to your cart. That gives you power. So give
JJ Virgin: us a couple highlights
Dr. William Li: of the tour. All right. Okay. So what happens when you go to the grocery store? First thing you see are you, you actually see produce Right now.
One of my there’s all kinds of, there’s so, so much produce is good. Dietary fiber. It’s got lots of bioactives and polyphenols of course, but there are foods that actually have evidence that they can actually shrink waist size, waist circumference and help you decrease body weight. And one of them is that I was so delighted by and to, to write about it, are pears.
I love pears. Pears. Pears. Yes. I can’t
JJ Virgin: believe, first of all, I hate [00:30:00] pairs. That’s the only pairs I like. Are those Japanese? When I lived in Japan, I got hooked on those Japanese. Are the only ones I like the the Japanese, the, the
Dr. William Li: fuji pears. It tastes like
JJ Virgin: an apple. It’s the, they’re, they’re called a nashi in Japan.
I don’t know. They’re, they’re Japanese pear apple. They’re round. It’s not an apple. It’s a pear, but it’s a
Dr. William Li: pear apple, right? Well, so pears like apples, so both of them can be looked at together. Both have a lot of a good amount of dietary. Okay. And that dietary fiber helps your gut health, meaning that it actually feeds your gut microbiome.
And because the gut microbiome controls your metabolism, helps your blood lipids, helps your insulin sensitivity, anything that feeds your gut actually is actually improving. But there’s something more in both pears and apple. You actually have something called chlorogenic acid. Okay. Chlorogenic acid.
Which is, by the way, you know, a lot of these natural chemicals that can help us [00:31:00] are not found in a single food, which is why I always kind of. I always got a shutter when somebody says, here’s the superfood, the one superfood you need eat. Like there’s chlorogenic acid, by the way, is found in apples and pears.
It’s found in coffee. It’s in a lot of different foods, right? Yeah. I, I got, I got a cup of coffee with me right now, . And, and the, the thing is that chlorogenic acid, Actually prevents your fat from growing. It actually slows down the growth of fat. And then the other thing it does, that’s really interesting, and we didn’t have a chance yet to talk too much about this, but it act, it stimulates your brown fat.
Oh, so brown fat is something. Okay, so let’s talk about the different kinds of fat, three main kinds of fat jiggly. Subcutaneous fat, meaning under the skin, near the skin. You can see it in a mirror, under your arm, under your chin. It’s the muffin top. It’s on your thighs and your butt. All right, may not be the most attractive thing, but it’s not the most dangerous thing.
The most dangerous thing is actually that visceral fat, the vat as you call it. And, and that’s that’s [00:32:00] that that can be stuffed inside your body frame, whether you’ve got a big frame or a small frame. And always people tell people like, well, are you talking about skinny? I’m, yeah, I am. But I want to tell you what skinny fat looks like.
Imagine you went to the FedEx station and you’re gonna ship a long fluorescent light bulb. Okay? And, and you don’t want to break. So you buy a thin box and now you’ve gotta actually cushion it so you add peanuts to it and you could just pour some light peanuts in. But let’s say you really stuff that thing full of peanuts.
Now it’s like bursting at the seams. You close it, you tape it shut. At an arms length. It’s still a skinny box, but it is like, it’s actually being crushed on the inside. That’s what that visceral adipose tissue this visceral fat actually does. And it’s highly inflammatory. It’s very destructive. So those are the two main kind of fats that we battle with usually.
But a lot of people don’t realize that there’s a third kind of fat, and it’s called brown fat and it’s called brown fat cause it actually looks. It’s packed with mitochondria. Mitochondria [00:33:00] is, and people might have heard about this term are the kind of like the fuel cells of our body. And in brown fat, the mitochondria are so dense and they contain little iron particles.
All right? They, they need iron. It’s kinda like having a flint in your lighter and the striker. So they’re brown and that’s what they call brown fat. But brown fat actually is, Jiggly. It’s not lumpy. Bumpy. Brown fat is paper thin, wafer thin, and it’s not close to the surface, so you can’t see it. It’s close to the bone.
And where is it? It’s around your neck. It’s behind your breast bone. It’s a little bit under your arms, like the girdle, like a, like a girdle of a bra. Little bit in your back, a little bit in your belly, and it’s hidden. It’s silent unless you’re in really cold temperatures in which it fires up in order to warm you up without shiverring.
Okay. It’s, it’s another way of protecting the body, or if you eat certain foods. What are some of those foods that light up brown fat? Well, foods that contain chlorogenic acid that we talk, but also chili peppers. Not just the dried ones, but [00:34:00] also, you know, the poblano peppers. The serrano peppers, those Thai peppers that you see.
I, Tim
JJ Virgin: loves Tim Eats so many of these peppers. I, I personally can’t stand ’em. However, I cold plunge every day, but I was like going, I don’t know, I think I could trade that cold plunge for those peppers , you know? Well,
Dr. William Li: and, and you know, but the, but the interesting thing is we bet you figured out how these, these, the chili mechanism works, which is that when the capsaicin in Chile lights up the, gives you the heat on your.
That’s like a switch, like an on switch in your tongue. When that happens, your tongue sends a text message to your brain and it tells your brain to release. Hormone and a hormone’s, norepinephrine. And you can actually feel this if you actually eat something spicy. Take some sriracha sauce or take some chili, chili flakes and you, and you nibble on it.
You will feel your brain will start sending this little, you’ll feel tingling going right down. Yes. I feel like wasabi
JJ Virgin: when I do. Yes. I love, I love wasabi. Me too. I love wasabi because [00:35:00] I love that brain rush. I love it. .
Dr. William Li: Yeah. That rush is the signal you are feeling. The wave. Okay. That’s going to activate your brown fat.
Wow. And when that brown fat is, and when you brown fat is turned on that wave. I’m telling you, I have this demo in front of me. Cause I,
JJ Virgin: I’m having sashimi tonight. That’s it. .
Dr. William Li: Well, when you, when you have that brown fat, it turned on, it starts turning on the, the, the space heating. Properties of brown fat and then now you show this is like a torch, right?
So it goes like this. Boom. Once you get a flame going and that fuel that flame, this is the brown fat has to draw that fuel from someplace and it draws it from other fat stores. So this is good fat that can burn down bad fat and burn extra energy while you are eating. That’s like the really cool thing.
And so when I show in my book and I take people around the store, mushrooms will do this, onions will do this, scallions will do this, garlic will do this. Broccoli will do this. bok choy broccoli raab you know, like when you start going around the thing, [00:36:00] it’s kind of like if you’re shopping to cook you know, a Mediterranean or an Asian meal, like it’s the same ingredients that are actually used.
And so that’s really how I really. Realizing that, you know what these ingredients that are good for our metabolism have been core ingredients in the recipes from the Mediterranean and from Asia. Two of the oldest most delicious cuisine food traditions in the world, but also recognize at least the traditional versions as two of the healthiest cuisines in the world.
And now we have an explanation. Good for the metabolism. I, I
JJ Virgin: gotta share something I heard the other day. Cause I love your take on it. Cause I, I was so perplexed as to how someone would’ve drawn this conclusion. because as I’m hearing this, it’s just such a shout out for traditional foods. Right? And you know, and if you look at the diet industry of the last 50 years, it’s like all these diet foods and [00:37:00] low calorie butter buds and air pop popcorn and you know, snack well, like all this garbage.
And I was listening to that 60 minutes interview about semaglutide. Did you happen to hear. Yeah, yeah. Oh, I was so upset about this, so I didn’t even know about it. Someone dmd me on Instagram said, did you listen to it? So I found it and hear this doctor say that 50 to 85% of our obesity is genetic, when in the 19 hundreds, half percent of the population was.
Obese and now it’s 43%. So clearly we didn’t have a massive gene shift in 123 years . Right. We had a massive food shift in the last 20. Right. So, I mean, it, it, you know, everything you’re saying just, just, just gives, shows. You just eat real
Dr. William Li: food. In ways that have been time honored over generations. You know?
And I think that’s the key thing, because if you were to go to a a real [00:38:00] authentic Italian restaurant or a real authentic Chinese or Japanese restaurant and have them cook some of the original dishes, I mean, they’re delicious. They, and, and they’re actually quite healthy. And, and I think that, by the way, I wanna, I wanna just comment on the semaglutide thing for a second.
It’s a drug, it’s a proof for obesity. It, it actually works. Okay. And why, which is why there’s like a rush now for everyone to be on it, you know? And, and I, I sort of, when I hear some of semaglutide, I, I kind of think of fentanyl, you know, like, it’s kinda like, wait a minute, that’s not something you wanna be rushing towards.
This thing is, it’s a real pharmaceutical and it has real side effects and it’s costly and it shouldn’t be used for everyone. So there are people for whom morbid obesity is indeed a life-threatening situation where, oh, and it’s,
JJ Virgin: thank God we have these things for that. Thank God we have them. Right?
Absolutely. No question.
Dr. William Li: Right? So let’s acknowledge that first then to say that how these drugs work is by blocking the appetite center in your brain so you don’t [00:39:00] enjoy. so you don’t feel hunger for food. You don’t crave something delicious. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I lost all interest in looking forward to something that was tasty, I’m not talking about volume.
I’m talking about taste the sensation. Mm-hmm. , you know, the, the sensuality of food. That’d be a big bummer for me. Yeah. That’d be like a, a sense that you’re, you’re missing. Right. And that’s what these drugs. , they, they, they work because you lose interest actually in food and, and it’s really completely contrary to what I believe.
How food should play a role in our lives in modern society, which is we should not fear our food. We should embrace our food. We should love to taste our food. We should savor our food, and we should use our food to help our health not to take it down. And so it really is sort of, You know there are people who are real foodies who will, will be able to sit down at a restaurant and, you know, I always admire these people.
Like they [00:40:00] just happen to know, I have friends like this who are just know exactly just what the right thing is to eat, what kind of put things to put together. And when the, when the order comes, it’s like, wow, that’s, that, that’s really a great combination. It’s kind of like somebody who just has a natural fashion sense.
Whatever they do in the closet always comes out looking great. And I think everyone should, should really aspire to become more in. With this natural whole foods done in traditional ways that are gonna allow us to let’s say take a leap, move forward into the future by, in a way, leaping backwards.
Over the era of process foods and media and marketing and brainwashing, you know all those crazy artificial colors and preservatives and flavors. Back to those, you know, really it’s our dowry. It’s our inheritance that we’ve had from humans that came before us. That’s what I think we should be focusing on.
And I
JJ Virgin: just hear this when I hear, hear how that works. I wonder, did we have to create a [00:41:00] drug to counteract the fact that we created foods that were hyper palatable and not satiating?
Dr. William Li: Right. Well, you know, the other interesting thing that’s that’s remarkable about our metabolism is how interconnected everything in, it’s a, it’s a, you know, there’s a systems-based approach to helping to heal your metabolism from inside.
So not only do you want to choose the right foods, but you also, and any of them at the right, right times. But you also sort of wanna be able to savor your food and enjoy the flavor. Right. So, busy people, you know, in a, in a frenetic society, you know, and I’ve been through this. You go there, you eat in order to live as opposed to live to eat.
You wolf sound something and you keep on going to your next thing or you’re eating on the move, right? Like no wonder we overeat because it, you know that, that we trick, you know, we eat, we put more fuel on our body than the fuel gauge can actually measure. But if you take the time to chill out and really sort of start to experience the.
in [00:42:00] ways to tell you if you really enjoy it or not. Like take your favorite food. You know, you can, you can shovel spoonfuls or forkfuls. Yeah, okay. You’ll fill up your belly, but you know, you would actually get the same and probably more enjoyment if you took your time to eat it, which is why in a lot of traditional Mediterranean and Asian cultures, you know, and that’s why I call this mediterrasian.
It’s sort of like the way that I actually eat along the traditions of all this is you sit with people. You you talk about the food, you enjoy the food, and you take the time to get to know your food and, and, and savor your food. It’s more satisfying. And it’s not about just shoving stuff into your face and keeping on going, like it is a important part of your day.
And so I, I don’t think that, you know, people should consider healthy eating, avoiding food, quite the opposite. I think we should actually bake it in to our life. Mindfully and, and really try to find ways to enjoy it. And that’s really why I take people through the grocery store. So, so I [00:43:00] hopefully showing them things that, you know, they might not have thought about that actually could be really good for their health and for unfamiliar ingredients, what I tell people is, you know what?
We are so lucky we live in sort of this Google world where you could take something, you might not know what to do. Capers, for example. It’s not something everyone knows what to do with type in capers and Google recipe and then, and then click video. And then all of a sudden you’ll see videos popping of, of people that really love it, that really know what they’re doing, showing you how to do it and describing it at the same time.
And also
JJ Virgin: looking through your book and seeing some of these different ingredients, like, you know, my husband hates capers and I love them, so I, whenever we’re at a restaurant, if there’s a dish with capers, I’m getting the dish, you know, so you can start testing some of these things out at some of the different restaurants too, right?
Yeah. That you never think of. Plus they’ll be able to test ’em because you are giving everyone a meal plan. Your medi, I’m gonna say it correctly, your Mediterrasian meal plan. Exactly. Like gimme a, gimme an example of a dish or
Dr. William Li: two in. Well, okay, [00:44:00] so I always get asked this question. I mean, I know that when we’ve been together at, at Mindshare, like I I, I get frequently asked this question, Dr.
Lee, you study food as medicine. Tell me what is your diet and what do you eat? And you know, I always tell people, first of all, I, I don’t have a diet. I don’t have a fixed plan that I have to robotically follow. I have a way. An approach to, to eating. And my approach is really, and I, and this is what I publish in my book, I, I, I just spelled it out.
I eat Mediterranean style mediterrasian style cause I, I’m Asian, I grew up with Asian background. I love Asian food and I also love Mediterranean food cause I lived in a Mediterranean before in Italy and Greece. And I like to cook both. And when I am trying to decide what to eat, whether it’s at a restaurant or whether I’m shopping or planning a dinner party, I naturally gravitate toward.
The sensibilities from both cultures to figure out what I should choose from. And by the way, what I write about my book is, The Mediterranean, go ahead and take a look at a map of the Mediterranean. It’s not just Italy and Greece and Spain, it’s like 27 different countries [00:45:00] and Asia. It’s not just Chinese and Japan, Chinese food and Japanese food, and Thai food and Vietnamese food.
You know, there are 40 some countries in Asia, and so we’re really talking about a, you know, a blockbuster, a number of different types of recipes and cuisines you can choose from. And I love them. I love to explore all of them. I’m, I’m really a believer. Finding your new favorite foods by actually by, by trying different things that appeal to you.
So something that would be typical for me, mediterrasian doesn’t necessarily fuse the foods together. That’s fusion cuisine. I, I, I like fusion cuisine, but as an example, like I will I wanted to cook a little gnocci the other day, but I got least mini ones. And what did I do? I used some tomato paste like I have here.
I used a little extra virgin olive oil. I used some chopped up. Black olives. I used some capers. I just mix ’em all together. Two seconds. These are classic Mediterranean ingredients. Put ’em in a pan, heated it up, and man, it was such. [00:46:00] Bomb. Like it was so tasty. And, and you know, like the thing is to eat it slowly and mindfully.
So that would be something like I ate for lunch. But, you know, another time that I’ve actually done something on the Asian side, but I actually added some Mediterranean ingredients. I actually will sometimes stir fry, bok choy, baby bok choy with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, right? So they, they, they tell you, oh, olive oil isn’t for high.
Also a myth. Olive oil, actually in canola oil, which is usually used for frying, they roughly have the same smoke point. You can actually use olive oil. I wanted to get a little bit of extra Mediterranean style flavor in the bok choy. Now you don’t wanna use too much oil, but you wanna use it lightly and then you flavor it with garlic, for example.
And there’s all kinds of ways that you can kind of blend things together. And so, by the way, the other thing that I always tell people about mediterrasian. Although it is how I eat. And it’s very authentically how I eat. I’ve, I’ve done, I’ve, I’ve eaten this way for like 30 years more. The, the reality is, is that it sounds new, but in fact, it’s very [00:47:00] old.
In fact, it’s so old. It’s about 2000 years old because Asia and the Mediterranean, 2000 years ago was connected by the Silk Road. Mm-hmm. the greatest trading route in human history. You know, this was a caravan road of different paths camels walked around that that people traded silk and other things on the silk road between these lands.
But they also traded recipes, they traded ingredients, and they traded actual food. And so in a way, again, back to this whole idea about just revering the past and respecting the past and thinking about is there something we’ve learned from the past that we can actually bring forward Again? Something valuable new again is really this idea of blending ingredients and blending cultures.
It’s not necessarily fusing, but can we share in a course of a day, a little of this from this country, a little bit that from that country, and make it up yourself too. Adapt. Adapt to what you actually can have. And, and anyway, that’s my basic approach to Mediterrasian food. Cool. And
JJ Virgin: [00:48:00] everyone’s gonna get some your meal plan too.
So I, I’m gonna put that I’m not gonna make people try to spell Mediterrasian. I can hardly say it. So I’m gonna put it at jjvirgin.com/BeatDiet because I think I already have a Dr. Will Lee in there. So jjvirgin.com/BeatDiet and that is for eat to beat your diet, burn fat, heal your metabolism, and live longer.
Like who doesn’t want all of those things, and it’s just by changing what’s at the end of your fork. I love it so much. Thank you so much for being with me and for writing this awesome book and for all the work that
Dr. William Li: you do. Thanks, JJ. It’s always a pleasure. Speak with you.
JJ Virgin: For more info on this and other health topics I cover or to rate and review, find me on Instagram, Facebook, and my website jjvirgin.com. And don’t forget to subscribe to my show so you won’t miss a single episode. Go to subscribetojj.com. Thanks again for being [00:49:00] with me this week.


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