AUT professor on how to be like Steve Jobs

Grant Schofield: AUT professor of public health and head of the Human Potential Centre at AUT Millennium

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A renewed fasting craze is sweeping Silicon Valley.

Tech execs are "bio-hacking" their bodies, skipping meals to provoke chemical responses that will sharpen their minds, raise their immunity and lengthen their lives. 

Elon Musk is reportedly the latest to get in on the craze, first made famous by the late Steve Jobs.

Me, I'm a simple white-collar desk jockey, looking to get rid of an increasingly substantial gut (if NBR publisher Todd Scott and I were Winston Peters and Shane Jones, in weight terms I would be the Shane Jones).

And so it was that I picked up AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield's new book, What the Fast, co-authored with dietitian Caryn Zinn and chef Craig Rodger and, a couple of weeks later, invited him into the NBR View studio – knowing it would inevitably lead to a public weight loss challenge.

Todd is also on board. The NBR owner has recently spoken out about using alcohol and cannabis to self-medicate for ADHD. He's now given up his vices in favour of healthy treatment only but a side effect is that he's found it harder to get up at 4am and go for his usual three half-marathons a week without a puff on his pipe first. Result: He's added 6kg to tip the scales at 81kg.

As for my current weight, that's enthusiastically discussed by Prof Scofield and Todd in the video below (spoiler: 120kg).

From low-carb to no-carb
You might remember the prof from his 2015 book, What the Fat? (also co-authored with Zinn and Rodger) that recommended a low-carb, healthy fat (LCHF) diet to put your body into fat-burning mode. Carbs and sugar were out but treats like bacon, eggs, meat, chilli mince, cream, avocado and butter were in, with no restrictions on calories.

The title provoked a vitriolic response from some quarters, but LCHF has since moved into the mainstream.

With What the Fast, Schofield doubles-down. Fasting two days a week, by skipping breakfast and lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, will amplify the effect of an LCHF diet, the professor says.

This goes against the received wisdom that skipping meals is counter-productive, because it slows down your metabolism. 

Prof Scofield says there's "no science whatsoever" behind that theory, at least for those who have prepared for fasting with an LCHF diet on other days (people attempting to diet by restricting calories will feel a slowdown).

In fact, he says it's the opposite with an LCHF diet and fasting diet boosting the number of ketones in your bloodstream, fuelling your brain. If you're also into the mindfulness craze, it will help, not hinder.

"You're cognitively sharper; you're in a privileged state," Prof Schofield says.

Mark Mattson, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told the Johns Hopkins Health Review. “From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense your brain should be functioning well when you haven’t been able to obtain food for a while.” If your ancestors hadn't been able to hunt-smart on an empty stomach, you wouldn't be here.

Hurt ahead
My current diet isn't hard to assess. ("Let me guess: Your wife cooks healthy meals and you eat trash in between," a doctor says). 

Things can only improve on the nutrition front. But how hard will it be?

Prof Schofield tells Todd it will probably be relatively easy for him. The publisher has gone low-carb before, and is relatively close to a healthy weight.

"For you," he says, turning to me, "It's going to f**king hurt."

But only at times, and I can ease the pain by having a good run-up of a couple of weeks of LCHF eating before my first fast.

Beer!
I'm also heartened by the fact Prof Schofield, while a faster and LCHF eater himself, doesn't live like a monk.

A week in his life is recorded in What the Fast; my eyes quickly zero in on his two beers on Friday and three on Saturday. Coffee and tea are fine throughout the week. When you're eating, there's no restriction on portion size.

The odd treat meal that breaks all the rules is okay, too.

"It's how we live 80% of the time that matters," the prof says.

Kale!
And some of the recipes by chef Carl Rodger(who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe), including creamy chicken (with actual cream) and bangers and mash (the mash is cauliflower), actually look pretty mouth-watering.

Though I have to admit that other pictures in the book, including mountains of kale and a huge bag of carrots, don't quite get my juices flowing.

There's a good variety of recipes in What the Fast but Prof Schofield also says if you want to zero in on a handful of favourites, that's good too.

Which brings us to Steve Jobs.

Use routine to your advantage
Although Jobs was famous for his fasting (which he pushed to multi-day levels and ultimately a self-destructive level), the Apple co-founder is name-checked in What the Fast for a different reason: his love of routine.

"Steve famously wore the same Levi's, black turtleneck and sneaker no matter what. His idea was that this freed his mind from (clothing) decisions and gave him more mental energy to concentrate on what was really important, like inventing the iPod, iPad and smartphone," Schofield says.

"He was operating under the principle that humans have limited willpower and cognitive effort. That is to say that, on a daily basis, we humans have a limited capacity for willpower and other cognitively-draining tasks like being creative and solving problems. 

"So be like Steve Jobs, and set yourself up to succeed."

Okay. I'm on it.

NBR's ever-helpful publisher has booked Schofield for a return visit in a month, so you'll all see how it's going.


17 · Got a question about this story? Leave it in Comments & Questions below.


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17 Comments & Questions

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Go for it Todd. = I shall be watching the profile !

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Haven’t eaten since 6pm last night, looking forward to my Super-meal tonight at 6pm. People who know me, know I am all or nothing. I’m going to fast every day for 1 month. Coarse sea salt helps distract the taste buds. 

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Here's a DM I got from someone on Twitter (name redacted). A reminder never to go overboard on anything, and that medical advice is always a good idea.

Chris, a word of warning, I lost over 30kg about 18 months ago on a similar diet, but after an emergency hospital appointment and a TV camera where no camera should ever go was told to drop it immediately or face possible organ failure. My eye specialist also thinks it could be partly responsible for problems in that department You can do it and good luck, but it requires medical supervision or at least advice. In my case I probably went too hard out.

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That does not sound like an LCHF diet.
The point of this diet is health. A slight weight loss, say 4-5 kilograms in an 80-90 kilo person is a side- effect.

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Yes, it sounds like you gave yourself vitamin deficiencies as well as an energy deficit. The point of the supermeals in the superfasting diet is that you don't miss any essential nutrients, and lose weight if you need to in the least stressful way.

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Love it. Very interesting and entertaining interview

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Not sure that trying to be like Steve Jobs is such a good idea. Reality always has a rather brutal way of dealing with fads....

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The "fasting" seems to happen naturally after about a year on the LCHF plan : no need to even consider it in my view.
It was no problem to drop out bread, pasta, rice and potatoes.That is life- changing for many folk.
The mental difficulty to be overcome is that eating fat makes you eat less because it induces satiety which persists.

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Bacon, eggs, meat, mince, cream, and butter? Yes, you will get to be like Steve Jobs - dead before your time. Stick to the financial reporting please NBR.

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Jobs was well known to be a fruititarian, he wouldn't have been seen dead eating any of those foods

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I don't know the cause of Steve Jobs' cancer, but Walter Isaacson's official biography records that jobs went on several extreme vegetarian diets besides extreme fasting. One saw him "eating only one or two foods, such as apples and carrots, for weeks on end."

Additionally, despite friends like Andy Grove pleading with him to seek more conventional treatment, Jobs also sought to cure his cancer through hydrotherapy and other naturopathic means (referred to by Grove as "horseshit"). It was only towards the end that Jobs agreed to surgery, but by then it was too late.

As detailed above, Grant Schofield says people should follow Steve Jobs in terms of "making routine their friend."

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Have been doing 16:8 intermittent fasting combined with LCHF and the weight is melting off! I have never felt so fantastic.

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Didn't Steve jobs die of cancer at a relatively young age? So his lifestyle/diet helped him live longer and healthier how? Seems like Steve Jobs is a bad example...

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I don't know the cause of Steve Jobs' cancer, but Walter Isaacson's official biography records that jobs went on several extreme vegetarian diets besides extreme fasting. One saw him "eating only one or two foods, such as apples and carrots, for weeks on end."

Additionally, despite friends like Andy Grove pleading with him to seek more conventional treatment, Jobs also sought to cure his cancer through hydrotherapy and other naturopathic means (referred to by Grove as "horseshit"). It was only towards the end that Jobs agreed to surgery, but by then it was too late.

As detailed above, Grant Schofield says people should follow Steve Jobs in terms of "making routine their friend."

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Chris, I highly recommend getting some smart scales that use wifi to upload your weight to an app. I got the Fitbit aria but I’m sure any would do. I started similar fasting 18 months ago, only eating dinner during the week, and quickly lost over 15kg to get to a healthy BMI. The scales were a real motivator. They fluctuate by several kgs depending on time of day etc, but you soon learn how to reduce the noise and the trend quickly emerges. I occasionally wake out of a trance at a children’s birthday party to discover I’ve subconsciously downed a plate of sausage rolls, but the scales keep me addicted to using the app to set goals and reach them.
The hunger is hard in the first week but goes quickly. I found the biggest problem to be social pressure to eat. Wife and Mother thinking I was going to die by skipping the odd meal. Food continuously thrust in my face while flying for work. I quickly learned to go to bed straight after takeoff to avoid the harassment, with the added benefit of getting a full night’s sleep and arriving ready to work.
I even found myself wanting to do a bit of exercise once I had lost weight. I literally never exercised before. I’m definitely more alert while fasting.
It has changed my life, and I have several friends who have done it now with clearly noticeable results.
Good luck.

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