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Stories of the South Pole

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In 1911, two groups of explorers – one Scandinavian, the other British – squared off to see who could first reach the South Pole.

The Scandivavians were methodical. They committed to only six hours of trekking a day to achieve familiarity, consistency, and to store energy.

The British were driven. They would venture as far as they could each day to achieve speed, focus and motivation.

The entire true story and its dramatic ending are revealed by Dr. David Brown of Idaho BMI on Episode 10 of Brain Over Belly. The adventurous tale serves as a perfect metaphor for the episode’s topic of long-term weight loss; but it also applies to long-term success in most areas of life. Let’s see how.

More Than Just Weight Loss Surgery

Rick and Dr. Brown dive right into discussing how bariatric surgery is not some one-and-done quick fix that magically locks someone into a healthy weight. In fact, the vast majority of patients that don’t commit to the post-surgery habits and exercises won’t see their surgical weight loss last. This is what creates the two groups that divide all of Dr. Brown’s patients:

Group 1
Those that commit to the program and enjoy sustained weight loss due to total neurological rewiring, and

Group 2
Those that do not commit, feel like they’ve “got it handled” and start gaining back weight after surgery.

For group 2, it’s rarely about intentional avoidance or laziness; people are often just misinformed. These days, the amount of information on any topic is overwhelming, especially obesity given its increasing prevalence. This is why Dr. Brown makes patients’ knowledge a top priority. Helping them understand that obesity is much more about the brain and central nervous system than willpower and treadmills, is incredibly effective for long-term success.

So…how? What exactly makes the brain more responsible for weight than diet or exercise? The answer lies with our 1911 explorers.


The human brain loves automating. When you were a toddler, you had conscious thoughts when first trying to walk – left foot, right foot, left, right, left. Then what happens after many successful repetitions? You automate it, so you can walk without thinking and move your mind to other things.

So back to 1911. The methodical Scandinavians reached the South Pole first, and it wasn’t close. The driven Brits arrived three weeks later, and many of them actually died on the return trip.

Dr. Brown applies this tale to offer the secret to long-term success after weight loss surgery. He wants his patients to become methodical and consistent, because that is how the brain truly becomes reformatted. Do the small things, every day, and be rewarded for a lifetime.

Rick asks about doctor-patient discussions, trust and relationships. A sad trend among most bariatric surgeons is the lack of follow-up after weight loss surgery, something Dr. Brown prioritizes. He knows everyone encounters obstacles and needs fine-tuning to keep that long-term success going, so he’s happy to share much of what he reviews in post-op checkups:

  • Steering clear of hyper-palatable and processed foods.
  • Counting bites.
  • Eating once a day or only when hungry.
  • Breathing exercises or meditation.
  • Getting good sleep (Brain Over Belly actually devoted an entire episode to the magic of good sleep and how we sync with light.)
  • Water, water, water!

Did you know over 70% of Americans are chronically dehydrated? Fair to say, lack of water is certainly a huge cause of obesity’s rise. Dr. Brown explains that a minimum of two liters a day – every day – is his strong recommendation to patients. It’s a great bonus for long-term success too, because hydration typically means feeling less hungry.

Hysteresis Metabolic Flexibility

Dr. Brown refers to himself as a neurology nerd in this episode, and thankfully we all get to reap the benefits! Often referred to as “metabolic memory”, hysteresis metabolic flexibility highlights the crucial nature of sticking with good habits. Take for example someone with diabetes, but who’d been doing a terrific job sticking to the post-surgery program. Then maybe after a super productive day – or a really awful one – they have a couple pieces of pie. Well, sometimes the brain and body can remember their former state, wherein that pie (sugar and carbohydrates specifically) were a more common energy source. Months of hard work can be erased when the body re-enters that world of cravings and willpower battles. And it can happen fast, presenting a huge obstacle for long-term success.


The second subject Rick was eager to explore was the frequency of Dr. Brown’s patients buying into the long-term program, how they complied with it. Dr. Brown first explains how the consensus definition of “success” in bariatrics is losing and keeping off 50% of excess patient weight. At Idaho BMI, he has seen so much success with his program that he considers 50% a low bar. In fact 92% of his diabetic patients get off their medications as a result of his program. Bottom line, Dr. Brown has never seen a patient who committed to the small daily habits who did not achieve life-changing success that exceeded their expectations.

Long-Term Success One Small Step at a Time

Those Scandinavian explorers had something Dr. Brown sees in every single one of his patients – potential. And those explorers achieved theirs with a consistent methodology, the same thing Dr. Brown and his patients work together to build. The real bonus to all of this? It’s a double whammy of a payoff, because the consistency makes the whole darned thing easier over time. Many choices in life offer a great payoff, but at the expense of doing something grueling or annoying. With Dr Brown’s comprehensive weight loss program, there’s no trade-offs or suffering; just wild, gratifying success.

So here’s to not sweating the small stuff – but enjoying the heck out of it.

The Brain Over Belly podcast is available everywhere you listen to podcasts. Subscribe at Listen Boise now.

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