Today, I’d like to introduce you to a YouTube channel I’ve recently discovered. The Internet is a minefield of fluff and rubbish, but once in a while, you’ll come across a gem that shows you what you can learn when the Internet is done right. Introducing a channel called What I’ve Learned, which has tons of videos that are not only fascinating, but very educational. Think of common myths and misconceptions being debunked. It’s one of those channels that change the way you think, and make you re-examine a couple of ideas that you might have thought of as truths.
My favourite video is one called ‘Longevity and Why I Now Eat One Meal A Day’. This video is intriguing because it completely breaks down the idea that humans NEED to eat three times a day. Would it surprise you to believe that you could sustain yourself with only a meal a day, while staying healthier than someone who eats thrice a day?
The more I watched of this channel, the more curious I became. The videos were obviously well researched, articulate and yet, relatable and easy to understand. Who was person behind them?
Meet Joseph! At this point, he has over 167k subscribers and his videos frequently hit hundreds of thousands of views. The ‘Longevity and Why I Now Eat One Meal A Day’ video hit over 2.3 million views. Currently residing in Japan, Joseph agreed to meet for a coffee for me to uncover a little slice of his life!
We met at a Starbucks in Yotsuya. When I slid into my seat, I noticed he was drinking a coffee, and predictably, was not eating a bagel or any snack.
It was the first time I was meeting him, and he was really friendly and had a fun sense of humor . While he was clearly very intelligent, he was very down to earth and easy to talk to.
My first question was how he ended up in Japan, making YouTube videos.
“I’m from a really small town in South Texas, but I went to a more diverse high school. It was a magnet school, so it was a mixture of all these different kids who were interested in science and math. I kind of got more exposed to different cultures there, because there was a lot greater diversity than when I had gone to public school.
I was in college studying physics, and I thought, yeah, that was really interesting, but it wouldn’t give me that cool of a job! So I went up to my counselor and asked him if I could change my major, and I asked him for a list of all the majors. He gave me a huge list with all the majors on it, and on there was Japanese language. I was like, whoah, you can major in a language? And he said, yeah, you can do that! I thought about it for a week, and I came back and picked Japanese.”
A physics major to a Japanese major is a pretty big leap. What made him decide to go there?
“Honestly, I should give credit to a quarter Japanese friend of mine in high school who exposed me to the culture. While I wasn’t super invested in it in high school, I had thought Japanese culture was interesting in that it’s so different from life in Texas. I studied abroad in 2010, and I really liked it. I was supposed to be here for a year, but Tokyo’s pretty great!”
Joseph’s been living in Japan ever since. After completing his studies, he worked as a recruiter. In Tokyo, a lot of my friends are recruiters, but I’ve certainly never heard of anyone switching careers and turning YouTube into a livelihood! What made him quit and start making YouTube videos?
“I think a lot of people take a sales job or an entry-level job and think, okay, I’m going to make a lot of money here, or I’m going to build x skill or make x amount of money, then I’m going to do something else. It’s always like money and skills here, fulfillment elsewhere. I was thinking that well, I’m going to build up skills and money, then I’ll do something fulfilling and more creative. I got to this point where I kind of had a reasonable amount of money saved up from bonuses. I didn’t feel like I was learning anymore. At least, I felt like I’d reached the skill potential of the place. I did learn a lot there, it was just that it got to the end of that. I figured then, okay, at this point, I’m just stalling. If I’m being real to myself, I’m stalling on the fulfillment thing. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough money, but I figured if I was doing something with value, then the money would come anyway. At the same time, there were a lot of changes happening in the company. And at that point, the quarter had finished, and I was thinking all these things, so I just went for it and quit.”
I think it takes aeons of courage to quit when you don’t have a brand new gig all lined up. Did he already have a set idea that he was going to work on YouTube then?
“Actually, I didn’t know. It was ‘quit and figure out what to do quickly so I’m not screwed.’ For two months, I was searching around what to do, but I really didn’t know yet. The way I got into YouTube was that, at the time, I was looking for what to do and watching all these inspiring videos about business and reading lots of books. I watched a crapton of TED talks. I don’t know how many TED talks I watched a day, but it was something ridiculous. I got to a point where I was like, okay, there are one or two concepts in the videos, but they’re 15 minutes long. I mean, they’re not bad at all, they have good anecdotes and show off personal triumphs that make a point, and it was interesting, but I started getting really impatient. I just wanted the concepts! So I started watching videos on 2X speed.”
I had no idea you could actually do it.
“On YouTube, if you’re watching a video, you can click the gear and change the playback speed. They’ll still be speaking, but it’s just twice as fast. It’s clear, it just takes some time to get used to it. After doing that, I got this idea. What if I took all these TED talks, and took out the stuff that didn’t contribute to the key points, and upload them on YouTube? I had this channel, Quick Talks, which was like condensed TED talks. I cut out all the fluff and anecdotes, and people liked it, and I thought it was pretty cool, but then I realized that this wasn’t original and this wasn’t new. These talks, all that information was already out there.
I realized I wanted to be original. I didn’t really think anything out of it, I just wanted to write a blog post about the things I think about. I wrote this blog post on how the Internet limits your ability to be productive. I showed it to some friends, and they said, ‘yeah, that’s pretty cool and insightful,’ but I didn’t know how to spread it. I didn’t think it was that unique, in terms of there are plenty of other types of interesting and insightful blogs like Mark Manson.
After spending a lot of time on YouTube, I realized there was a bunch of non-fiction, good information channels on YouTube, but usually it was just 5 tips to lose body fat or 10 ways to sleep better. The blog post was what I’ve been wanting to see on YouTube. So I thought, let’s just make this post into a video!”
If you watch any of his videos, you’ll realize the insane amount of research that goes in to any of those videos. What was the process of making a video like?
“It’s kind of a process, but it kind of isn’t. What happens is I’ll be reading about a bunch of stuff I’m interested in throughout the day, and I’ll get to the point where all this stuff is just sitting in my head, and I think, hey, maybe I can make a video about this. So before I come up with a topic, I kind of have forty or fifty percent of the research done.”
I wanted to know if putting up YouTube videos were frightening for him. Even though his videos don’t refer to his personal life, wasn’t the idea of putting his work out there to the world scary?
“Yeah, totally. At the start, I was really afraid. The first video would have come out a lot sooner if I had said, screw it, stop worrying about this. I was thinking that my voice sounded stupid, or that my microphone wasn’t good enough, and oh, this little joke that I’m making, it’s got a weird sense of humor. I’d be worried about people picking up all these things. And that feeling is still there. When I make a video now, I’m like, oh shit, someone’s going to say this analogy sucks or someone’s going to say he or she’s already heard all of this. I try to stop myself and make it into a useful fear. If I’m scared of someone pointing out that a part isn’t accurate, then that’s a good sign that I need to research it a little bit more and be really sure before I proceed. But for the little things like my voice sounds dumb here, or this joke might not be funny, I try not to let that get in the way. As long as I’m speaking clearly, it’s okay. And if the joke slides, I’ve only invested 3 seconds into the joke, so big whoop. The fear is still there, but I just choose to focus on the things worth being afraid of”
I love the idea of utilizing your fear to enable you to do better work, instead of being paralyzed by it.
I had a burning question of asking him if he still ate only once a day. At the time of the interview, the video was a few months old. He also looked very healthy and energetic, not like the frail twig I had envisioned. He also looked pretty happy. I mean, if you gave me only one meal a day, I don’t think I would be looking too pleased about it.
“Yeah, I’m still doing it! I’m kind of flexible with it, but six days out of seven I’m eating once a day.”
What time does he normally eat? Does he have a set time?
“It’s kind of set. I’ll usually start eating sometime between noon and 2pm. It depends on what I’m doing, and if I’m feeling really hungry. It’s at the point where I don’t even think about it.”
What did he normally eat?
“I feel like I could be eating a lot more variety. I should be! But usually it’s fish, normally salmon. I try to go for wild cod, the package usually says whether it’s farmed or fresh. I eat eggs, cage-free, of course. I have a lot of grass-fed butter from America- I mean, I don’t just eat that with a spoon or something… I use it to cook vegetables and stuff. I eat kimchi and macadamia nuts too, though I avoid eating too many nuts. It’s a good snack, but you don’t want to eat too many of them. And, some mix of vegetables. Recently I’ve been eating a lot of broccoli and gobo (burdock root). So yeah, it’s pretty simple, nothing too out of the ordinary. I don’t have much dairy. I think it sits better with other people, and it doesn’t make my stomach hurt or anything, but it makes me sleepy. I don’t eat that much meat. It’d be nice to say I do it for ethical reasons, but it’s just so easy to eat too much meat and then feel shitty. Even if you’re eating really good meat, even the really high quality stuff, if I eat too much, I find myself in this cloud of feeling kind of shitty and sleepy.”
So while he ate once a meal, he ate only really healthy things. Was this by design, a conscious choice, or was it something that he did because he enjoyed feeling so good and energy?
“I can’t remember my motivation for starting different diets. You have to reach a certain point where you’ve read enough and learnt enough about nutrition to where you think, okay, I’m going to make a radical shift in my diet.
I think it was around 2013, where for one of the few times in my life, I felt like I was heavier than everyone. You know, I was an American in Japan. I was like, wait a minute, am I fat? Maybe I should do something. I started exercising more, and reading a lot. I read The 4-Hour-Body by Tim Ferris, where I was introduced to how the low carb diet works. I was just like, whoa, what’s this low carb thing? I didn’t know much about it, other than my friend’s mom was doing it in high school and I was worried about her because I heard a lot of buzz saying low carb was a dangerous diet fad. After reading the 4-Hour-Body, I started to think that maybe the low carb diet wasn’t just a fad. It had a concrete basis, and Tim Ferris explained the concepts behind it and demonstrated them via his self-experimentation. At the time it was all these new, interesting, mysterious ideas, coupled with the fact that I wanted to lose some weight that made me want to experiment and try all these stuff. Halfway throughout, I think I did lose some weight, but I wasn’t particularly overweight so it was hard to notice. What did make me stick to it was I just felt really good. So I didn’t have a ‘From now on, I’m going to be healthy’ moment, but when I started experimenting with my diet I had a moment of ‘oh hey, I’m feeling good eating like this, so I should probably keep doing this.”
I’ve started getting really interested in living a healthier lifestyle, but I never enjoyed being on an any type of restrictive diet. For example, the low carb diet is ever popular, but I really, really, really love rice. Also, how do I know if certain things are really healthy, or if they’re just fads?
“It’s gotten to a point where you have to do an annoying amount of research to make sure you’re doing the actual healthy thing. You have a lot of people pushing certain foods or diets. Freelee the Banana Girl, for example. There’s this video of her, making 7 bananas into a smoothie or something, and she’s saying, “Oh yes, sweet sweet fructose.” And I’m like, yes, that’s a lot of fructose, but you don’t really want to celebrate that. It’s due to her vegan diet being filled with a bunch of micronutrients and having a crapton of fibre to help handle that fructose that she’s quite lean and healthy. She also bikes a lot. So she’s healthy, but in spite of the fructose, and not because of it.
She had this before and after picture and story about how she lost so much weight, which seems to be enough for most people to say, hey, she used to look like this and this is what she looks like now, so I’m going to do the same diet and get similar results. It’s not bad logic at all, but things get confusing because you have the USDA saying one thing, and other YouTubers saying another, and then you have another set of information on carbs and how ketogenic diets work. Each of them seem intuitive in their own way. They all seem to make sense, but wait, which of it works? So really, it’s a big pain in the ass for a whole lot of people.”
I joke about how I’m looking for a high-carb diet, not believing it exists, but Joseph replies in all seriousness.
“If you do a high carb, vegetable based diet, as in most of your carbs are coming with a whole bunch of fiber because you’re eating leafy vegetables, it’s not going to matter if you eat sweet potatoes, because you’re getting so much fiber and micronutrients. It works out, and vegan people can be very healthy. But, if you have a high carb processed diet, that’s a highly different situation.
Here’s the thing. I was reading a book by Dr Robert Lustig, called ‘Fat Chance’, and what I really liked about the book was that it seemed so objective. His motivations were, “Here’s what I honestly think is important in a healthy diet, based on how the body works” rather than “Everyone knows killing animals is bad, so be vegetarian.” He has a big section where he explains high carb vs. low carb. He pointed out that several thousand years ago before agriculture, you would have different groups of people eating different diets. In the Arctic, you would have the Inuit, who are eating a bunch of animal fat, because that’s the only source of food they have. They can be really healthy on that! Then you have diets that include a lot of things like the cassava root, full of carbohydrates, and those people could be really healthy too. But the thing is, you wouldn’t often see a high fat, high carb diet back then. It’s kind of, pick one or the other. In general It should be low carb, high fat, medium protein, or high carb, high fibre and medium protein. If you get plenty of fiber with the carbohydrate, you’re going to be okay. But even if you get plenty of fiber, it can be hard for your body to handle high fat and high carb at the same time. Dr. Robert Lustig shows how it’s like your body is getting two different types of fuel, and it has to process both at the same time. If you have to metabolize both in high quantities, you can kind of overload the system. In the book, he explains the biological mechanism so clearly and it made so much sense.”
Joseph has tons of videos with exactly this sort of simple, easy to grasp concepts broken down, so do yourself a favor and get on over to his channel or blog now! As for me? I’m off for a bowl of rice and veggies.
In the meantime, come swing by on Facebook and say hi if you enjoyed this!