The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #144 - Bill Tancer (Signos)
Bill co-founded Signos to apply data analysis to help solve the obesity epidemic and fulfill his personal passion to be healthier. Bill is an expert in consumer behavior. He is a New York Times best-selling author and former columnist for TIME Magazine. Bill most recently served as GM and SVP for Data and Research at Experian. Bill has appeared as a featured guest on ABC’s 20/20 and Good Morning America, as well as CNBC, CNN, Fox Business News, Bloomberg TV. He has been a frequent commentator on the application of big data to understand consumer trends. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Quantitative Management from the University of Florida and a Juris Doctorate from the Walter F. George School of Law, Mercer University. Bill accidentally had a brief role on HBO’s Silicon Valley.
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10:35 - Bill's Background
13:40 - Data Collection
15:50 - what we're Searching on the internet
19:45 - what people search vs what we admit to searching
22:20 - DRY FARM WINES: Low Sugar, Low Alcohol, Toxin-Free, Mold-Free, Pesticide-Free, Hang-Over Free Natural Wine! Use The Link dryfarmwines.com/melanieavalon To Get A Bottle For A Penny!
24:00 - how to interpret data correctly
28:15 - confirmation bias in algorithms
29:00 - how does the internet change our trends
31:20 - imperfect information
32:05 - perfect information
33:00 - perfect information in interpersonal relationships
32:30 - takeaways from "everyone's a Critic"
38:40 - chef's and bad reviews
39:50 - asking for reviews and earning good reviews
43:30 - reviews on amazon
47:20 - influencers
48:30 - honesty in influencing
50:25 - false hope syndrome
56:25 - extreme diets
58:00 - lifestyle changes and intuitive eating
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1:01:15 - creating signos
1:05:00 - diet heart hypothesis and Cholesterol
1:06:10 - Bill's first CGM
1:07:45 - data analysis in signos
1:09:45 - predictions in glycemic Response
1:15:45 - intuition about what will spike glucose
1:16:50 - Bio-individuality in sucrose, glucose and fructose digestion
1:18:10 - enzymes, cravings & metabolic syndrome
1:19:45 - is there healthy user bias in signos data
Melanie Avalon: Hi, friends, welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited about the conversation that I am about to have. It is with a really super awesome person, who has become a good friend of mine. We've talked on the phone, and through email, and I've been on his podcast, and this man is doing really, really incredible things in the world of continuous glucose monitors, which I know a lot of my audience is pretty familiar with. But something super cool is his background is just very cool. It's in all things, data and interpreting, consumer behavior. He has two books. He has a New York Times bestseller. The first one in 2008 was called Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters and then his second book in 2014 was Everyone's a Critic: Winning Customers in a Review-Driven World. I will say that second book was really helpful for me personally, because I, sometimes, struggle with reading reviews, and interpreting them, and knowing how to best use them for my health and sanity. So, that book was really helpful.
But what's really cool about Bill is, he has such a cool background and I'll let him introduce himself a little bit more, especially after talking to him and being on his show. I feel we interpret the world in a very similar way. I just have so many questions to talk about on today's show. But he has been featured as a guest on ABC's 2020, he's been on Good Morning, America, CNN, Fox Business News, all the things. So, yes, Bill, thank you so much for being here.
Bill Tancer: Thanks so much for having me. I am so excited for today's show.
Melanie Avalon: To start things off, could you tell listeners a little bit about your personal story and what led you to what you're doing today? Have you always been super fascinated with data? Because I don't think a 10-year-old is like, "My passion is consumer behavior." Well, maybe it is.
Bill Tancer: You might be surprised. I don't know the fascination was consumer behavior, but as far as I can remember back, I've had a fascination with finding pattern. Finding pattern in numbers. It's an embarrassing admission. This is going to be a little bit of a confessional today, just to give you an idea of how obsessed I was with numbers. Going all the way back to when I was in high school, I went to science camp. That's embarrassing. I won the talent show at science camp by reciting pi to 200 digits.
Melanie Avalon: No, you didn't.
Bill Tancer: I did.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, my goodness, that makes me so happy.
Bill Tancer: Everyone was like, "Why are you doing this?" In terms of like, yep, these kids, other kids were singing. They're doing normal talent things. But I'm like, "No, there's something beautiful to pi." While it's an irrational number and there is supposedly no pattern to all of those numbers, I felt there was and I devoted a few weeks leading up to the talent show just memorizing those 200 digits.
Melanie Avalon: Can I ask you two questions about that?
Bill Tancer: Yes.
Melanie Avalon: One, do you still remember?
Bill Tancer: No.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. Two, how do we know pi doesn't end eventually?
Bill Tancer: I don't know that we really know that. There are theories. As far as we know, it's an irrational number and by definition, they don't end, but I'm always open minded. I never say never and I never say always. So, you never know.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. These are the things I think about.
Bill Tancer: Yes. These are the things that keep me up at night, too. But this is my goal. Starting from childhood, I was just so obsessed with finding patterns and things. My career did start off a little bit strangely for a consumer behavior expert. I started off as a prosecutor in the United States Navy. That was an interesting beginning. Yeah, I did that for a few years and then was transferred to a Naval Medical Center in California, where I was told I was a hospital attorney, and I did that for a little while, and then got out of the Navy, and while looking for a job as a prosecutor, I took a job just to make some money to pay rent with an ISP, and this was pre-web. So, 1994 and was selling Telnet and Gopher access to the internet. That's where the fascination with wow, there's so much data that's going to be available to people like myself to analyze, to see what we can tell about people when they go online and they use the internet.
Melanie Avalon: Actually, I was reading another book yesterday and it was talking about how the internet, but people were skeptical that it would actually take off, because the idea of a huge data collection thing just didn't make sense, which is so shocking, because we can't envision our lives without the internet right now. So, did you see that, like, leading up to the internet, did you predict that it would be what it is today?
Bill Tancer: No. I'm going to be very honest with you about all of the predictions I've gotten wrong. I did get a lot right, but I got a lot wrong. I remember using the internet, actually, I think I started using it when I was in the Navy. At the time, it was a version of the Internet called MILNET. I was one of the only ones that would use it on my base. To get an email message to Washington, DC, I had to type my message, download it to a floppy disk, call the communication center, they would send a jeep to my office, drive it to the comm center, send it via MILNET to DC. And then the round trip was the exact opposite. It was like a week, almost as long as it takes to send a letter across the country. [laughs] I thought to myself, "There's no way this is catching on. This is crazy." There's nothing really groundbreaking about this. But then as I started to get into Telnet and Gopher access, and I remember showing people, I think it was recipes for German chocolate cake that you get on Gopher. I would just go around to random people and say, "Look what you can get on this computer. You can actually--" [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: Do you know what's crazy? I was googling German chocolate cake last night. [giggles] That's a true statement. I was googling the difference between German chocolate cake and there's another one that's like chocolate with cherry.
Bill Tancer: Oh, that's the Black Forest cake. Let me guess. It's coconut, right?
Melanie Avalon: Black Forest is cherry and then German chocolate is [unintelligible [00:06:44] I should remember. I think you had like caramel and yeah. But it's so interesting that the internet is just such a part of our life and in your book, Click, appropriately enough, you analyze what people are actually searching for? I was wondering, because that book was written in 2008. Do you still revisit that topic of what people are searching for on the internet and what that means?
Bill Tancer: I do. Now, unfortunately, the data set that I had access to then no longer exists. Yeah, they couldn't maintain it. That data set, I was monitoring about 10 million internet users US and 25 million worldwide through a company that I was a part of. All that data was anonymized and it was all anonymous as well. That set was sold and then whatever, I don't know what happened, but I think that dataset was closed down at one point. We got all of our data through agreements with ISPs and using their proxy servers to aggregate and anonymize the data. That being said, there is still a way that not only and I can, but anyone who's listening can dive into internet searches a little bit and that's by using a tool that Google has called Google Trends.
Melanie Avalon: I haven’t used that actually.
Bill Tancer: Oh. There should be a surgeon's general warning message with this, because once you start, you can go down the rabbit hole and this is exactly what happened to me right before I decided to right click is, I had access to all this data, and my job at the time was to just use this data strategically, and help companies market their goods by looking at how people searched on things. One night, I just decided that first dive into the data, I looked at diets and how people searched on diets. About eight hours later, I realized I hadn't slept and it was time to start the day, again, and I just became obsessed with all of the things that people type into search engines, and Google specifically, and what that can tell us about who we are, what we think about, what's important to us. It's really just fascinating.
Melanie Avalon: What were some of those things that you learned about who we are?
Bill Tancer: Well, it's another embarrassing confession. I became famous for my obsession over prom dresses in the very early days. When I say that, what I found in the data, I think at the time, we had a client. I can't remember the fashion label that was the client, but they marketed their prom dresses from March to May. I just happened to be looking at the data and preparing for a presentation that I was going to give to them the next day, and I just used our tool to look at the time series of searches on prom dresses, and I found it actually spiked in January. This particular label was missing out when girls were actually searching for their prom dresses. I remember going in to present to them and they looked at me like I was crazy. They said, "No, no, anyone who markets prom dresses, no it's March to May." That's when you buy your search terms, that's when you do your ad campaigns. I showed my charts. It turns out that no one in terms of advertisers was getting traffic on these terms during that period of time. But yet, the internet had changed consumer behavior. Girls, just at the beginning of the New Year were actually trying to figure out what they were going to wear in May and marketers had no idea. There was this real inefficiency in the market, I found. It wasn't just prom dresses, but then I expanded to engagement rings. When people search for cars and you name it, I could find an inefficiency in the way that we as marketers thought people searched and how they actually searched.
Melanie Avalon: I was really, actually interested by you were searching when people search for porn, and the implications of that, and how it relates to-- Wait, Sundays was Sunday's the most?
Bill Tancer: Sunday was the least. Yeah, actually at the time, I don't know if this is still true, but Sunday, maybe we just still have some--
Melanie Avalon: Friday was busiest than Saturday. Thanksgiving was the least and Sunday the least.
Bill Tancer: Yeah. To me, the whole porn thing was fascinating, because I had access to this data other than search terms, I could actually look at traffic to sites and I knew what was happening in terms of traffic to adult sites and I could tell those patterns. But then, at the same time, it's crazy to me that the federal government actually fielded the survey, but they fielded a telephone survey, where they're calling up people at home and asking them, "Do you go to adult websites?" [laughs] Based on that research, I think they concluded that it was just a fraction of a percent of Americans, because I think it was the US survey, were going to adult websites. Yet, my data was showing that it was a fair chunk of the internet day was devoted to adult website searches. I think we could see there's just people didn't want to say on a survey, and this is one of the challenges with surveys, and here I found another fascinating opportunity is that a lot of market research up to that point was based on calling people and asking them what they did. What people say they do and what they actually do can be different, especially in cases like this. No one wants to admit that they're going on an adult website. I remember, I spoke at a keynote at a conference. I started [unintelligible [00:12:40] when the book came out and I asked the entire audience by show of hands, how many people go to adult websites?
Melanie Avalon: Does anybody raise their hand?
Bill Tancer: Well, I asked that question over about 10 different keynotes and they're pretty large keynotes. I would say, we're talking somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000. I only had one guy raise his hand, it was the sound guy, at one of the big conferences. Yeah.
Melanie Avalon: And nobody could see him, because he'd be up in the sound booth?
Bill Tancer: He is in the back of the room. Yeah. But that was it, that was it. And then I had asked that question and then I'd show the chart showing not only the volume, but the trends, the fact that Sunday was the least, and these days had the highest traffic, and Thanksgiving was the lowest, and you could tell they were just so amused by this little window into how we truly behave versus how we say we behave.
Melanie Avalon: Do you know if it was just a yes or no question or was it a more elaborate survey like what days and--?
Bill Tancer: It didn't go into days. I believe it was pretty basic and it was just a yes or no.
Melanie Avalon: I was just thinking that, let's say, it was slightly more elaborate. People, who actually say that they do and tell you which days would presumably be more, they would have some character trait probably, an honesty character trait. I'm just thinking about when you have a set of data and you talk about this in your book about how you can have correct data, but that doesn't mean that you interpret it correctly. I'm just overwhelmed. My brain right now is overwhelmed thinking about having a set of data, and how do you know what factors to consider, and what to take into account, and how do you find truth and interpreting data?
Bill Tancer: It's such a great question and I would have to admit, I stumbled in the beginning and here's a problem with massive datasets that you can come up with a hypothesis. If you've got a massive data set like I had, you can find data to confirm your hypothesis. Your hypothesis may not actually be true. I fell into the trap very early on of just falling into the trap of a confirmation bias. I had this wild theory, I fell in love with it, I got into the dataset, pulled some charts, found the charts that confirmed my hypothesis, and called it a day only to realize later that I was so, so wrong. I remember, this goes back to I was writing a column for Time Magazine after my book came out. This was back in 2008 and there was a recession going on back then. There was this theory that in tough economic times, women were more likely to buy lipstick, because it was an affordable luxury. This theory actually went back to World War II, that when times were tough during the war, cosmetic manufacturers saw a spike or surge in lipstick sales. All I did was go and look in search terms and say, "Okay, if that's true, I will chart lipstick over time."
Sure enough, there was a chart that showed just such a strong correlation between what was happening with the economy is actually a negative correlation, and the sale of lipsticks, and I thought proven. I had typed up my column, was about to send it when I thought, "You know what? Let me just check this one more time." I looked at the search term and the variations in the search term, and at the time, there was a debate happening and it was between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. At one point, the term "lipstick on a pig," was used and that caused this massive search, not on lipsticks, but on the phrase "lipstick on a pig," causing this false positive for my hypothesis. And that was really a turning point for my analysis, because at that point amongst my team, I instituted internal peer review, which is, I'm going to come up with a theory, I'm going to pull the data that I believe confirms my theory, but I'm going to give this out to all of you. Whoever on my team that could find something that actually refuted my hypothesis, that person was incented to do that. It was a nerve-wracking thing to do, but I was so happy that we decided to do that, because it really brought some rigor to this. So, I guess, the short answer to your question is that, when you're dealing with really big datasets, you just have to step back at times when you think you've found something that confirms what your beliefs are and see if there's any way of refuting it. If you can get other eyes on it, because confirmation bias is so strong. It really can blind you.
Melanie Avalon: And I guess that's really the spirit of the scientific method trying to disprove your own theory or hypothesis rather than prove it. So, when we're creating computer algorithms or AI to predict things, do computers run into that issue?
Bill Tancer: Well, computers probably don't have a confirmation bias, but it's still possible in the engineering of that algorithm to produce something that's maybe not the most efficient way of accomplishing the objective that you have. So, I would say, not the algorithm itself, but the way it was designed is probably just as open to confirmation bias as the traps that I fell into.
Melanie Avalon: Speaking about the prom dresses and the trends and you said that basically, the internet was affecting consumer behavior. What is the role of people, and their trends, and their behavior, and their searches independently happening organically in the world? And then when it comes together on the internet, how much does the internet change us as well? Is it a give and take, just one effect more than the other, is now the internet the driving factor for trends? What are your thoughts on that?
Bill Tancer: The answer is yes. There's this concept that actually crossed over both of my books and it's an economic concept, and also, a game theory concept of perfect information. I would have to give credit to Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in their book, Freakonomics first introduced me to this idea. It was in that book, they talked about how the internet had changed some industries. I think real estate is one example that with the advent of the internet, consumers, they had more information and that information, when it got to the point that was near perfect information, their argument went, "What was the really need for a real estate agent?" There was, because there's a lot of complexity that goes into actually all the paperwork. People can still buy and sell homes by themselves. But the industry did change a lot. I think a better example would be travel agencies, which have almost disappeared. That having all this information at our fingertips gives us the ability to get to near perfect information. For example, on price of airline tickets. If you're thinking of flying, maybe a trip to London, with just a few keystrokes compare airfares across multiple airlines, you can do all things in terms of adjusting days and times, and get the best price. You needed a travel agent before the internet existed to do that. There's no way you're going to be able to do that yourself.
The cool thing is the advent of the Internet has allowed us to do things like that. Now, just like the irrational number and pi, and whether or not that number ever ends, I don't believe that I could be wrong. I believe that we'll ever get to truly perfect information. The working title of my second book, before we decided to call Everyone's a Critic was imperfect information. Because as this information builds, you find biases that just start to express themselves and information, especially when you talk about reviews. In the early days, this is so amazing. I can find out everything I want to know about this particular product or service before making a decision. But then I started to realize there's things like fake reviews, there's differences in perception, there's misinformation, there's inaccuracy, there's all sorts of things that I believe almost always I just said, I would never say, always, we almost always are battling to get to that perfect information. I think we'll get close, but there will be challenges for us to be together.
Melanie Avalon: And so just to define perfect information, that's basically where you know everything you need to know in order to make a decision?
Bill Tancer: The economic principle, perfect information against so many things like rational human beings is that, sometimes, to make an economic argument, you would make an assumption. Let's say both parties have perfect information, they both know everything. There possibly is to know about a transaction. Then we can figure out what the appropriate decision should be given that information.
Melanie Avalon: I was reading your book while watching The Queen's Gambit and I was like, "Oh, perfect information." [laughs]
Bill Tancer: I was also a member of the chess club, while, of course. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: I loved chess growing up. I had one of those boards that you could play-- It was a computer and you could play yourself like a physical board.
Bill Tancer: Yes.
Melanie Avalon: It's so fun. So, we could never have perfect information in interpersonal relationships, right?
Bill Tancer: Interesting. Yeah, I don't think-- Again, I would never say never always, but I think it would be difficult to get there just because how complex people are.
Melanie Avalon: Because you can never know what the other person is thinking.
Bill Tancer: Right. Even if people are putting out all the information, you possibly think that they could. There's other schools of economic thought and behavioral economics has really grown in the last couple of decades and that whole school of thought is fascinating to me. I'm a big fan of Dan Ariely and especially his book, Predictably Irrational is that, people do behave irrationally. Even if you have perfect information, you might think you would be able to predict how people behave. But that's assuming that people act rationally and oftentimes, we find they don't. Because of that irrationality, even if you had all the information, you possibly could, it's still hard to predict how someone's going to behave.
Melanie Avalon: I will say, though, for listeners, if you at all have any business, or activity, or passion, or anything that involves engaging with reviews, definitely get Everyone's a Critic, because you will feel so much better and it's so fascinating. Some of the things you talked about and this is things that I think if I hadn't read your book and you would ask me to guess, I think I probably if I thought about long enough, probably would have guessed some of these things. It's things like a positive review, but with bad grammar does not help compared to a potentially negative review, but with really good grammar in some situations can help. And then you talk about certain words, what were some of your favorite takeaways that you learned writing that book?
Bill Tancer: Well, I think the favorite takeaway and hopefully, you got this out of that book to back up a little bit in the preparation for Everyone's a Critic, I interviewed a couple hundred different business owners. A similarity across most of those business owners is the moment I mentioned reviews like Yelp, or Amazon review, or TripAdvisor, the immediate response was, "I hate reviews." I hate them because they're so inaccurate. People don't know what they're talking about. I just don't read them. And then almost without fail, that the person would quote back to me their negative review, a negative review like verbatim. It was clear to me that, yes, they did dislike reviews, but they also did read them. In some cases, paralyzed by some of their negative reviews. To me, it was just fascinating how much of an effect it had on individuals. I would say, especially chefs. Chefs and authors are probably the most affected of anyone. The behind-the-scenes story of why I wrote Everyone's a Critic is, I got a lot of great reviews on Click, but I had two or three two-star reviews. I can even remember someone said, "This book is an exercise in navel-gazing on Amazon."
There's a couple of other mean reviews. Even though, that book did well and it made the New York Times bestseller list, and I was traveling the world on a speaking tour, I was so upset about that one two-star review. I have no idea who this person was, but it stopped me from writing for two, two and a half years. Finally, when I decided to write another book, I was talking with my agent, and I told her the story, and we both discussed it, and we thought, "You know, maybe I should write a book about why I stopped writing books after my first successful book." Yeah, I think that's one of my favorite takeaways is that, people are just so upset and so affected as I was as I think you were, even though your book is awesome, it's almost given that someone's going to get negative reviews. To make you feel even better about negative reviews, the better a book does, I found the more negative reviews it should get. As a book surges in popularity, people want to be contrarians on sites like Amazon, when they write a review. There're all different reasons that people bring to the table when they write a review. Hopefully, I've helped a lot of business owners by helping them embrace the negative reviews.
One of the fascinating things also a great takeaway for me that I love, there's a study done at NYU, where they studied the effect of negative reviews on people's perception of a couple of digital cameras. I won't go through all the methodology, but in the end, what it found was that if there are some negative reviews combined with positive reviews, people were more likely to buy that camera than a camera that had only positive reviews. Here's why I think that is. I think people are smart. When they're reading reviews, if they see all positive reviews, they start to become a little suspicious. "Are these reviews real? Did this product or service find a way to get some fake reviews?" If I can find some negative reviews that seem somewhat real to me, I'm going to believe the positive reviews more. I've done the speech so much I feel I'm almost a therapist for chefs. When they talk to me about their book, I go through the stories and I tell them about how you should really embrace.
Chefs are the toughest. No one wants to hear their baby is ugly. [laughs] I don't know if that's an old southern phrase or I know where I got that from, but yeah, it's a tough thing. No one wants to hear that criticism, especially about something that you've put so much effort into. Writing a book, it just takes so much and to have somebody just within a few keystrokes, burst your bubble is tough. But as best I can, I will continue to preach that message that embrace those negative reviews, because they're probably doing you a favor and making your positive reviews more believable.
Melanie Avalon: It definitely made me feel better. For my two shows, so, this show Biohacking Podcast and then the Intermittent Fasting Podcast, so this show, well, knock on wood tends to get very wonderful, supportive, amazing reviews. The community is just so amazing. But there's just a few reviews, where I don't know why, I just do not resonate with that person. So, this has been a really helpful reframe for that. And then you also do address, this is what I always struggle with, like, if you should ask for reviews or not. What are your thoughts on that?
Bill Tancer: No. You can make it known that your business thrives off of reviews. That's an effective strategy. Whether it's on a website or in a store, putting up stickers, or just something that lets people know that reviews are important to you. That's okay. But going out and asking for the review, I find it doesn't really work that well. What I do find another thing that works well and one of my favorite stories, I had the opportunity to interview this locksmith in New York. He had the strategy of doing something extra for his clients, for his customers. His little extras were just so impressive, people couldn't help themselves but wanting to review. One of the stories he told me is like, I get these calls to come out if somebody locks themselves out of their apartment and always bring [unintelligible [00:30:20] up with me to the apartment. As soon as I get them into their place, I say, "I hope you don't mind, but I'd love to go with you through your apartment and just oil the hinges on your door, so they don't squeak. This is no charge. I just love to do this for my clients." He does that simple thing. It takes them maybe two or three minutes in a New York apartment. People, who want to oil their hinges forever, but just never got around to it and had squeaky doors everywhere. They are so impressed. They had to give him a positive review. It is no coincidence that his girlfriend was a concierge at the four seasons.
I think she gave him this idea to do this and he was like, "You know what, I'm going to be the four seasons of locksmiths. That's how he approached every job that he did. He told us really touching story that he went out on a call, and this woman had locked herself out of her apartment, and her grocery bag, she had gone shopping, and came back, and couldn't get back in. But her grocery bag had broken and this really expensive tea that she bought has in a little glass jar had fallen out and broken. He got her back into the apartment, took note of what the tea was, after he finished the job, he went to the store, found the tea, brought it back, which cost him 10 bucks. It's expensive for tea, but it's 10 bucks. He handed the tea and he's like, "Here, I just wanted to make your day a little bit better" and left. Of course, she couldn't do anything, but write a positive review. It's little things like that. It's like the amuse bouche that you get in a five-star restaurant before a prefix dinner. Think about those little things you can do. Even authors can do things like that. Like providing channels, where people can ask questions and find ways to interact with your audience and help. There's a way to do it in almost any business or any type of service.
Melanie Avalon: I haven't thought about that before it, but with amuse bouche, when that happens at a restaurant, I'm like, "Oh, they're giving me something special for me for free."
Bill Tancer: Yeah. Some of the businesses that I talked to, I provided them free copies of the book. Even, they're almost fast casual restaurants. They were deciding to do amuse bouche for their customers. Just come out and say, "Hey, we're testing out this new thing. We just want to give you a free sample." People just lit up and their positive reviews soared just by doing funny little something to do for somebody.
Melanie Avalon: It was pretty cool, because you wrote that book in 2014, because Instagram, when did Instagram really take off? Your analysis of the Amazon reviewers felt foreshadowing of today's influencers in a way. You're talking about how people review, and the motivations, and I feel the influencer trend wasn't quite what it was then.
Bill Tancer: There was not, no.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. But I was like, "Oh, this, he's onto something." [laughs]
Bill Tancer: That was so fascinating to me. Not just the influencer part. We'll talk about that. Let's talk about that. First, as I found the guy, who was the number one reviewer for Amazon at the time. I interviewed him. I think he at the time was living up in Seattle. What I found was that is according to him, there was this competition amongst the top 10 that they were just trying to get more likes of their reviews. All sorts of gamification, they're actually downvoting their other top 10s reviews when they saw them to try and knock those people out of the number one position. It was like a game to them. But this one guy, he became a market mover. If he gave a negative review to a new kitchen appliance that was on Amazon, the CEO of that company would call him up and say, "Please, reconsider your review. You're killing our business." It's amazing to me to have that much power. This guy was a sound engineer, and he just fell into this, and it became an obsession of his.
I think I followed up with him after the book came out and he had gotten divorced, because his wife couldn't take all of these free goods that were being shipped to the house or boxes everywhere you couldn't even move, and he lost himself in the obsession over reviewing and being number one, which it to me it was just fascinating. I never thought at the time of some of the motivations behind why people write reviews and that was a real eye opener for me. I continued and I actually came up with different personas as I interviewed more and more reviewers, I found the Elite Yelpers that did it for status. There was a woman that I interviewed, also, in the Northwest and she wrote reviews almost like a literary exercise. It was an outlet for her to write very poetic things. Not what you'd expect at all. The guy in the Bay Area, who just wanted to review everything, he posted reviews of his lawn. He gave his lawn like two stars, because there's brown patches. Crazy stuff.
I think the takeaway for me was that, everyone comes to review both the reader, but more importantly, the people writing reviews that come with their own agenda. That's one of the things that gets lost when we as the business owner or the author look at our views and we can't understand why that person had that perspective or wrote what they wrote. It's because people are imperfect, people behave irrationally, people have different perspectives and different goals, and you just have to realize that.
Melanie Avalon: I remember, because I remember where I lived and so, it probably was around that time of 2014. I remember seeing the Amazon reviews and I remember a moment, where I was looking at the reviews and I was like, "This could be a thing." I was like, "If I actually put in time and did reviews every single day--" Because I would see how they would have top reviewers and I was like, "Oh, I want to be a top reviewer." But I was like, "It's not worth it. The time investment." But I saw it as something that could be, I guess, a source of power and then now, the way it's manifested I think today is with the influencer world.
Bill Tancer: Yes. But I think that worlds evolving. I think it took off and influencers are initially having a lot of power. Some of them still have a lot of power. But now, I think the populace is starting to recognize that a lot of influencers come to the table with an agenda, be it to push a product, because they're getting paid to do so or they have their own perspective on something that may not match theirs. I think there's probably going to be another evolution of the influencer category that will make some influencers either change their game, or they'll probably wane in their popularity and others that might be more transparent about their perspective, or provide more value add that we're getting from current influencers. I think it's going to involve and it's going to be different in a few years from now.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, that is interesting. Because I identify as an influencer and for me, it's been so, so important to what you're speaking to about, I guess, trust. I really [giggles] can only put my name behind things that I personally use and obsessed with, and that's just been the main thing for me, and I think that's why everything has resonated so well with my audience. The trend that you're predicting, what are you predicting that it will look like?
Bill Tancer: I think there's going to be a reckoning in terms of people not willing to follow those that are very motivated by just making a buck in terms of pushing product versus the individuals that provide a perspective or more true to giving airtime to things that they truly support and use themselves. I think that's going to be the change, and it's happening already, and it's funny. I never really thought of you as an influencer. I thought of you more as a super connector. But yeah, there are things that you do as an influencer, but as an author, I maybe put you in a different category, because you do have a clearly defined perspective, you've got a body of work, and just fascinating content at the same time. I think I would put you in a different category than someone who's just pushing goods without an agenda other than to just increase the bank account,
Melanie Avalon: I guess, that is the next, yeah, like you said, the next manifestation. But as far as the influencer goes, I'm approached by brands pretty much daily and so, then I'm making a decision of what to influence my audience, [giggles] but it's mostly all nos. It's normally things that I was using first and I'm obsessed with. But yeah, I will be very curious to see how it all goes. A topic that you touched on in, I think it was in Click and it's a topic that ties in where you and I are right now time wise, it's the New Year although, when this airs it will not be the new year anymore, but the New Year and then going to diet and fitness, because I'd love to talk about signals, but what is the concept of false hopes syndrome?
Bill Tancer: Oh, I love this syndrome. Let me give you the backstory behind why I decided to talk about it. One of the first trends that I noticed when I dove into this massive data set, I think I mentioned it earlier. The first thing I charted was people searching on diets. The pattern was just so amazing in terms of how it repeated that I could look back and now, I've even done this on Google Trends. I would suggest your audience, if you want to go down the rabbit hole, go to trends.google.com and type in diets and choose the maximum timeframe. I think you go all the way back to 2004 and look at the pattern on people searching for diets. The peak is always the same every single year and I think you might be able to guess what that is.
Melanie Avalon: Searching for diets?
Bill Tancer: Yeah. What day?
Melanie Avalon: Is it January 1st?
Bill Tancer: Always. It doesn't matter what day of the week, the New Year falls on, but that will be the peak and that peak only lasts five days. Every single year that peak will drop off by 30%, 40% by the 6th of January. And up until a small glitch, the low point was always the same every single year.
Melanie Avalon: Up until a glitch?
Bill Tancer: Yeah, a little glitch. But can you guess what day?
Melanie Avalon: Thanksgiving.
Bill Tancer: Yes. The glitch was when The Biggest Loser was airing the week, they aired their finale the week of Thanksgiving, which caused an increase in diet searches. Interestingly, not on exercise, just in diets. But then as I looked at the pattern, there's other little minor trends that happen. There's a little bump right before spring break, little bump right before summer in diets. And every single year, it repeated over, and over, and over again. Then when I looked at the search term variation, so I could look at the peak on January 1st. All the way people searched, I found in my searches that some of the diets, and the way people were searching and where they're going, the diets claims were getting more and more aggressive. Like, "You can lose 10 pounds in a month, you can lose 10 pounds in 14 days, lose 10 pounds in a week, you can lose 10 pounds tomorrow." I just thought to myself something to this, "Why these claims, why these diets getting more and more outrageous?" That's when I stumbled upon Janet Polivy in her studies around false hopes syndrome.
What she was trying to study was same thing. I was trying to get my head around, which is, why do people fall for these diets that have outrageous claims? She conducted the study up at the University of Toronto, divided women, I think she only studied women for this particular trial. Divided them into three groups. The study was two parts. The first part, these three different groups, each group was shown a different ad. It was, lose 12 pounds in a week, lose six pounds in a week, and lose two pounds in a week. All that was done with those [unintelligible [00:43:05] scripts, they're handed and asked to read it. You too can lose 12 pounds in a week. The next part of the study is, they brought these women into a room and there's a big plate of chocolate chip cookies. They were asked to do a taste test and review the cookies. What she did was after all the groups left, the plates of cookies were weighed from the group that was taught the most outrageous claim of lose 12 pounds in two weeks to six to two.
The one that was given the most outrageous claim, their plate weighed the most, meaning they ate all these cookies. The middle group was the middle and the group that was told they can only lose two pounds in a week ate the most. Her conclusion from this is that, diets that give us outrageous claims give us the sense of empowerment in the beginning that, "Wow, I feel like I'm in control." The women who were there in that first group ate the least, because they were empowered by this idea of losing that weight. But what she found was that, as that weight doesn't come off like promised in that period of time or if the diet was unsustainable, those people would fail on that diet. Even more interestingly, in subsequent studies, she found those people are more likely to repeat the pattern. The more they failed and that was the beginning of false hopes syndrome and something that I still think is really important today, especially after the New Year just thinking about what's happening in the diet industry. I think there's actually some positive changes that are happening now finally. There are still some outrageous claims, but I think the positive angle of what's happening is we're starting to move away from diets, which I think has been a long time coming.
Melanie Avalon: Just to play devil's advocate with that example. People who are presented with an extraordinary claim are more likely to, in the beginning, adhere to it. Would that argue for a stair step approach, where you make extraordinary claims that are only supposed to last a week, and then you plateau, and then you make another claim, and go a week, and then plateau? Is there a way to hack that where it would actually work?
Bill Tancer: Yeah. Can we keep these people going? That's a great question. I haven't considered that. I feel almost like Lex Luthor even thinking about the idea. I don't know that I want to do that. But yeah, maybe there is. Ah, fascinating. Someone should study that.
Melanie Avalon: The study I'm thinking of in context with this is and I'll have to find it, but it was on and it might actually be what you were talking about. It was on people following extreme diets and I think it was looking at long-term weight loss. The most effective trend was not moderation for this long period of time. It was actually really extreme in the beginning and then not extreme. That was more effective, because people were better at being really intense in the beginning rather than having to be moderate for a longer period of time. So, I'm just wondering if there's a way to hack this.
Bill Tancer: Yeah, as I try and switch to more positive viewpoint of that question, this is something that we should solve. I do have issue with being extreme in the beginning. But as one of our advisors, Dr. Suneil Koliwad said to me in one of the episodes on my podcast. He's an epidemiologist at UCSF and he said, "You look, I can get anyone to lose weight. I can actually get them to lose quite a bit of weight. The challenge is keeping that weight off." Because actually, the quicker that people lose the weight, the more likely are they are to gain it back and even gain back plus what they had lost. The challenge that's been facing the diet industry is, how do we provide some lifestyle changes to individuals that not only help them lose weight, but give them that long-term success, where they keep the weight off? That's why I've been so excited. This last year started to see this trend towards things like intuitive eating and there's that Wall Street Journal article that came out the first week of the year about the undiet or the non-diet that there does seem to be some skepticism now amongst at least in the popular press that, "Hey, these different diets we've been covering all these years, there's a chance you're going to lose the weight, but maybe we're not addressing the real issue, which is how do we help you lose the weight and keep it off?"
Melanie Avalon: Was that question what led you to found Signos, solving that issue.
Bill Tancer: That is. I'm a co-founder of Signos. My co-founders, Sharam and Pierre started a little bit before me actually coding up the idea. I met my co-founder, Sharam, who I know from previous venture. I met him up in San Francisco when I traveled up there back in the beginning of 2020 before the pandemic started. And ironically, we went out to this pizza restaurant, and had tons of pizza, and bread, and wine, dessert. It was a very carb heavy meal. And Sharam was telling me at the time, he said, "I'm going to find this new company and I have this idea about how we can use CGMs to help people lose weight." What was happening in my life just to give you some backstory, I had been trying to lose weight for a while. At the time I'd lost 20 pounds, but I was still 10 pounds overweight and I had seen a new doctor. She did a cholesterol test and she's like, "Your cholesterol is way out of whack." I just married a vegan. The question was, "Okay, I'm eating vegan and my cholesterol is really high." She sends me to get this cardiac calcium scan and it comes back off the charts.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, wow. Really?
Bill Tancer: Yeah, 440, I think. The good number is between zero and two.
Melanie Avalon: Wow.
Bill Tancer: Yeah, or zero and five. You want very low numbers. This was the wakeup call for me. I go into Cedars-Sinai to do a stress test, because I want to make sure I just don't drop dead at some point. I'm in there, it's a reclining bike, doing a stress test. I'm hooked up to an EKG, they've got an ultrasound machine ready to take a look at my heart. As the test starts, this attending physician comes in with about 20 residents of interns in tow. They're surrounding me in a circle as I do this stress test and the attending says to all the residents, he starts off his little speech by saying, "This is the guy we've been telling you about." I'm like, "Oh, that's never a good sign." [laughs] He then continues and says, "He looks really healthy, he engages in a lot of athletics, but look at this cardiac calcium score." They're all flipping through the pages that they have. You hear some gasps and a little bit of disbelief like, "Wow, I got to really fix this."
The stress test came out fine, but still, I met with my cardiologist. He was like, "Yeah, you're doing great. Just lose another 10 pounds." But for the life of me, I couldn't do it and I tried a lot of diets, and this idea of turning my eye towards data, which I loved was just so exciting. I was like, "I got to do this." I got to do this. I'll do this for myself, but I think there's something here that I can help just not myself, but anyone else who's trying to lose weight to become healthier, trying to maybe control their glycemic responses, maybe someone's prediabetic. There's, I think help out there by opening up this technology, which up until this time has really been only available to type 1 and now, type 2 diabetics, and slowly through the companies that are coming out now people that are prediabetic and want to use it for performance are now just getting access to CGMs. I thought then there's definitely a use case here to help those people up.
Melanie Avalon: Just hearing that, calcium artery score, because I've been recently, I don't know, the whole cholesterol, plaque, diet, heart hypothesis is so hotly debated. One of the things I've been listening to or learning about recently is how-- Because a lot of people who are on keto diets, but with high cholesterol numbers will say that they have a negative or a clean calcium artery score. And this is why I was so shocked by your numbers. I was hearing how most people, even if they are trending that way when they're in their 30s are going to have normal calcium artery scores. Whoever I was listening to was saying that, it's not really a good indicator, because it could be bad, but you just don't normally see it until way later. So, the fact that yours was that high and at your age, that's really intense. That must have been quite a moment.
Bill Tancer: Yeah, it was. I think there may be some reasons for it, where some people can eat a keto diet and not have a problem. I think there is that genetic component probably to this.
Melanie Avalon: I think so, too.
Bill Tancer: Yeah. But I urge people to just be cautious in terms of anything that involves eating a lot of saturated fats. You might be fine with it, but it's a conversation you should have with your doctor before you go too deep into something.
Melanie Avalon: How did you first get a CGM?
Bill Tancer: [chuckles] I don't know if I should be admitting this. But my first CGM, I actually got on the black market. [laughs] Yeah, like falling off the back of a truck kind of thing. I think it was on Amazon. It was a third-party seller, buried really deep, I found this guy, who was reconditioning old transmitters and then had some hack on how you could get the sensors, because I talked to my primary and she said, "You don't really need a CGM." I'm like, "Yeah, I kind of do. I really want one. I love data." She wasn't swayed by my "I love data" story. So, here I am getting this black market CGM that was reconditioned. It's scary to think about going back using this reconditioned CGM. But yeah, that's how I got the first one.
Melanie Avalon: How did you get the data from it or did he have a program?
Bill Tancer: Yeah, we had already been building the program. Sharam and Pierre, and at this time--
Melanie Avalon: Used it with your program.
Bill Tancer: With our program. Yeah, so, this was a Dexcom CGM. They did have their own, but it wasn't really built for the purpose that we had in mind. It was more built to help diabetics manage their glucose, and know when they needed a bolus of insulin, and when they needed to be concerned if their glucose was going too low. It was a very specific use case and our idea was to take this technology and use it in a way that we could help people lose weight.
Melanie Avalon: This is a big question I have, because I'd love to hear more about the actual programming and data analysis, and I'm assuming there's machine learning with Signos learning from data. Before you actually have users, how do you program the programs to-- Right at the beginning before there any users, do the programs have any thoughts or assumptions, or do you have to have users using it for next in a period of time before the artificial intelligence starts making conclusions? What does that timeline look like?
Bill Tancer: Yeah. We actually use ourselves as guinea pigs in the beginning. Myself along with Pierre our engineer. I'm not really an engineer. I'm not an engineer at all. But we worked on some ML algorithms and some artificial intelligence to look at our own individual responses. That's been one of the guides for us. I know you and I are both huge fans of the study that was in Cell back in 2015 from the Weizmann Institute about personalized and precision nutrition. It's this idea that everyone's different. Yes, there probably are some learnings we can make from the population. But where we probably needed to focus was an individual's response to foods. The way this algorithm worked in the beginning and the way we've continued to build it out is it looks at each individual and their responses to foods, and then based on those responses, tries to predict how they're going to respond to other foods. There'll be two years we've been working on this a little bit more, it's gotten surprisingly accurate, and how we can take just an individual's data, and how they respond to some foods, and see how well we can predict what the response is going to be to something else.
Melanie Avalon: So, to clarify, when a person uses it, what percent of the predictions are based all within this one person compared to taking into account other people?
Bill Tancer: It's almost exclusively the individual.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, wow.
Bill Tancer: Yeah. There is some that we feed from the population, especially in the early days. But as it builds, we recognize that people are different and they respond differently. That has to be taken into account when you predict their glycemic response. We decided also to build two different things. It wasn't just the response to food. The other idea was, okay, let's say that you have eaten something that's going to spike your glucose. We can-- By giving you an exercise test and monitoring how exercise impacts your glycemic response, we can write an algorithm that would give some type of prescription for what type of exercise you needed to do to mitigate a spike. So, that's the second half of-- Okay, I just ate this big piece of chocolate cake. If I got on my treadmill and did two workouts for 30, 40 minutes, I could completely negate that spike.
Melanie Avalon: You're mentioning that cell study, are you finding similarities and trends with the foods that people react to or is it pretty much just all over the place?
Bill Tancer: There are some very basic similarities, things like added sugar that we've found that for almost everyone. I had this great conversation with our mutual friend, Robb Wolf and he was pointing out to me in that study, there was actually somebody who had pure glucose that didn't spike as much. The glucose as a food that contained an equivalent amount of carbs. Even that, there are some exceptions and people are going to respond a little bit differently. But there are some basic things like there is a correlation in simple carbs, there's also a correlation with some processed foods with the quality of sleep. Those things are some commonalities. But there's still within that there are differences. This is actually where I thrive is in those differences, because what I want our members doing, and what I encourage them doing, and what we do already with our staff is to experiment with their CGM. We just finished an experiment that we did internally and this is very low end. So, it's not really scientifically or statistically significant, but its eye opening in and of itself is we decided to test apples amongst our group. I don't know if you know this, but there are 20,000 different varieties of apples.
Melanie Avalon: 20,000?
Bill Tancer: 20,000.
Melanie Avalon: So many.
Bill Tancer: So many. I had an apple very early on when I first put on a CGM and I spiked. I went from 90 to 150 and I thought, "That's it. I'm not eating apples anymore." And then I was having a conversation with one of our nutritionists and she had this idea of, "You know what, there's all these different apples out there. I wonder if we might react differently." I challenge everyone in the company to go out and buy as many apples as they can. I go to Whole Foods and just walking through produce, I noticed there's 14 different varieties just in this one store and I buy every one of them. Over the next couple of weeks, every morning, instead of having a breakfast or doing my one meal a day, I'm breaking my fast by doing an experiment, because it's the best time of day for me at least to do early morning right when I wake up, eat something, measure response. I'm measuring my response to an Opal apple to a Gala to Cosmic Crisp to an Envy. You name it, I'm testing it. The responses ranged wildly from an impact of +50 to the Arkansas black, which I couldn't even discern a spike for the first one that I ate.
Then as the results started coming in from the team, everyone on the team had different responses to the same variety. There was no correlation between us on the different apples. Even when we average the mean out, it was all different. It was like that Weizmann study and so everyone was responding differently to this apple. That was the eye opener. But you know what really got me excited and this also got me excited about just N = 1 experiments is that, I noticed with myself and the entire team. I didn't plan this, but we were becoming mindful eaters. The conversation on our internal message board was, I spike to this on this specific apple, but I found it a little bit grainy and I really liked the texture of this apple. And someone responded back, "No, no, you got to try this apple, because it's just the right amount of sweetness, it's got a little bit of tartness." The whole team was becoming really, really mindful about apples and it almost became like an obsession for us.
First of all, we didn't want to have like cookies or something in the afternoon. If we could get our glucose down and we wanted to do a second experiment the day, we were turning to apples to test them. But just the thought of becoming so thoughtful about a food versus I can remember back pre-Signos, I would just go to the market and throw any old apple in my cart and not really think about it. Now, I'm really, really thinking about food. I think that's something that happens when you go down this path of experimenting with food is that, hopefully, you're also becoming very mindful about your body, how your body reacts to foods, how your body reacts to other things. Through that path, that mindfulness is only going to help you become healthier.
Melanie Avalon: Did you find when you were trying different apples--? When you bit into an apple, did you have a sense that you thought it was going to spike more than another apple or was it a surprise?
Bill Tancer: In the beginning, I thought I did and it was actually the tarter apples for me spiked me more. I thought it would be the more modern bred apples that were bred to be sweet like Cosmic Crisp would spike me the most, but a Granny Smith would really spike me. For me and this wasn't true to the whole team. heirloom apples did really well on my system. Going to the farmers' market and getting that Arkansas black, which is an apple that dates back to the 1800s and really hasn't been bred to be sweet, that did really well with my system or finding other apples at the farmers market tend to do a lot better than what I was getting at the supermarket.
Melanie Avalon: I'm prepping right now to interview Dr. Rick Johnson. He's one of the go to experts on fructose and he has a book coming out called Nature Wants Us to Be Fat. But he talks all about the different enzymes for metabolizing fructose and the liver, because they're all over. There in the liver, they're in the intestines, and they have different effects, and I just wonder if it goes down-- I'm sure there're so many factors, but I wonder what role people's individual glucokinase or fructokinase enzymes is playing with their gut bacteria?
Bill Tancer: Yes, that is such a great question. I don't know if you've been talking to Robb since he and I talked, but we had this exact same conversation, because when you look at an apple, they're going to have different amounts of sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Fructose can fake you out a little bit, because it's metabolized almost exclusively in the liver or exclusively in the liver. It is probably not going to hit the bloodstream until the liver decides to convert what it has back in from glycogen into glucose at some point. That complicates things a little bit. But yes, I think that's one of the things that as we continue this and I get more data from the member base is looking at specific apples, their composition of different sugars, the way those sugars are metabolized, I think it's going to be really interesting to follow.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. One of the coolest takeaways from his book about fructose was, they figured out that-- Have you read his book or do you know him?
Bill Tancer: I have not. I know of him, but I have not read this book. I'm writing down notes, because I have to get him on my show.
Melanie Avalon: I will connect you to him. I was emailing him yesterday. One of the most fascinating experiments he talks about is, the enzyme that breaks up fructose in the liver, they think is the one that determines metabolic syndrome. If you're breaking down fructose in the liver, it's creating metabolic issues, but it doesn't affect actually cravings. That's the intestinal fructose enzyme. If they block your intestinal fructose enzyme, you lose your cravings, but you would still get metabolic syndrome. If they block the liver, you would still have cravings, but not get the metabolic syndrome. I might have said that backwards. Regardless, where the location is determines cravings versus metabolic issues. It's fascinating.
Bill Tancer: Yeah, I'm guessing, if that fructose gets stored in the liver, that's where you're going to run into a metabolic syndrome. Yeah. It was just so fascinating, because if you turn to the glycemic index, it will tell you that something like agave is a very low glycemic index sweetener.
Melanie Avalon: Because it's all fructose. [giggles]
Bill Tancer: Yeah. My mother-in-law, I hope she doesn't listen to this. She's Hungarian. She says, "Agave." She just overdoses on agave, because she saw somewhere that it was a very low glycemic index and she's trying to lose weight. She's puts agave on everything. I'm like, "Don't do that." It's almost pure fructose. All these foods are so fascinating the way our body reacts to them, even more fascinating.
Melanie Avalon: Your overall dataset and what you're learning with Signos, do you think there's not necessarily an issue, but does it self-select for healthy user bias? Does it self-select for certain type of people? Do you think that the overall data would be different if it was a population wide CGM experiment?
Bill Tancer: I don't think so. Again, going to our algorithm, it's really personalized. There should be no bias in the type of person. That being said, our first customers included a lot of biohackers and now, more and more, we're getting more members that are just coming to us for weight loss. They are different sets. As I look at the data though, across both those two different groups. I'm not seeing much of a difference in terms of how people are seeing different foods affecting their glucose. There, of course, is going to be some difference for someone who's more fit or more athletic, which is another fascination of mine, which is how different forms of exercise affect your circulating glucose, that's just fascinating. My latest obsession.
Melanie Avalon: Have you seen alcohol, too?
Bill Tancer: Yeah. Here's another great example of almost coming up with a faulty hypothesis. My niece was over. I think she's 10 now and I always make pizza for her. I make like a homemade pizza, roll out the dough, everything. She's got a lot of energy. I usually have a glass or two of wine when she's over making the pizza. The first time I did this, I was like, "Okay, I had two glasses of this Italian red and I didn't see any spike at all in my glucose." Wait, I've stumbled upon the cure for glucose spikes from carbs and I didn't put it together? Other people in the team were finding the same thing when they had some alcohol. They didn't see a spike. But when we looked at our data after doing a lot of repeats and it didn't take much to twist my arm and do a repeat on this. But what we found was that, the glucose still spiked. The spike was several hours after the meal versus what I usually have, which is a spike that starts about 40 minutes, 50 minutes depending on the food. I think this is an issue of oxidative priority. Your body has to metabolize the alcohol first. It can take a little bit of time. That delays the metabolism of some of the other macros that you've consumed, specifically, the carbs and that spike is delayed. It's been so interesting to follow that.
I think I still will have wine and especially after reading your book. I'll still be having my nightly glass of the wine, but I won't be fooled anymore to think, "Okay, this is my free pass to have as much pizza as I want," because now, I know to look to see that spike, which depending on the-- If you have two or three glasses, sometimes, that spike can happen in the middle of the night, which we don't want. We don't want to be experiencing glycemic spikes in the middle of the night, sleep disruptive, it's not a good thing.
Melanie Avalon: For users, signing up for Signos, the actual user experience, I'm assuming a two week-- Is it a two-week program based on the CGM or how does it work and--?
Bill Tancer: No, no. As long as you're getting results, this is where we differ from some of the other companies that are out there. There're so many learnings you can get from this device. I put my first CGM on in, I guess, it was February of 2020. I've worn one almost continuously to now and still I'm finding learnings. It's as long as you are getting results. We encourage you to continue to use it.
Melanie Avalon: To yourself, you've been wearing one?
Bill Tancer: For me, yeah. I'm sure people aren't may not go that long, but I've found ways of not just losing the weight. That 10 pounds that I wanted to lose to satisfy my cardiologist, I lost that in the first month, I think, mainly just for making a tweak to my oatmeal and taking out the bananas, adding a nut butter, flaxseed, and hemp hearts, and a couple other things. But yeah, I've engineered all of my meals. But now, I'm using it more in terms of athletic performance. During this pandemic, I started my adventure on my rowing machine. It's amazing what [unintelligible [01:11:07] me to do things, but I have this concept to rower. As soon as I got my machine, I saw on their website that you could get a free t-shirt if you rowed a million meters.
Melanie Avalon: This is the type of thing I do. They put something out there, I'm like, "I want it." It's so stupid. [laughs]
Bill Tancer: It's like, "What? A free t-shirt?" I rowed 10,000 meters for 100 days in a row to get my t-shirt. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: That's what I would do. [laughs] Oh, man, I love that. I love that. Oh, I'm just going to say, I think one of the most valuable things for me wearing a CGM, I'm not encouraging people to go crazy while wearing a CGM, but if you do wear CGM and you do have a moment, where you eat something that you probably thought was not good for you, seeing that crazy spike is so powerful, because even when you don't have the CGM in the future, you know. If you see those foods again, you're like, "Oh, no, I know what that does to me." Having that knowledge is something you can't really have otherwise, if you can't actually see. So, I just think the data is so powerful for user change.
Bill Tancer: That is so true. For me, go back to when I was trying to lose those last 10 pounds, the only feedback loop I really had was how my clothes are fitting and what the scale said. There're so many confounding factors to try and make a change to what I was doing. Based on those two feedback loops was nearly impossible. But to see within a few minutes after eating something, what my glycemic response was, it was amazing. I was like, "Wow, okay. So, here, I got this massive spike. Let me reverse engineer what was happening there. What can I do about that? Should I just eliminate that food, do I talk about food order, food combinations, food substitutions?" It's very empowering to have that kind of information, and then to see the next day when you eat that exact same food, and you do something either exercise immediately afterwards or you do what I did in reverse engineer your morning oatmeal to be more glycemicly friendly to see that and then to see that translate into what's happening on the scale and how well your clothes are fitting, I think that's the point.
When I first started Signos I told Sharam, I was going to be an advisor to his company like I was at his previous. And after seeing myself go from that massive spike from my oatmeal, and then reverse engineering at the next day, and not having any spike at all, I called him up and said, "I'm coming full time. I'm not going to even give you a decision in this. So, find a place for me. I need this and I need to keep doing this," because it's just so empowering.
Melanie Avalon: Well, that is absolutely incredible. I'm so grateful for what you're doing and this is perfect, because the last question that I ask every single guest on this show and it's just because I realize more and more each day how important mindset is. So, what is something that you're grateful for?
Bill Tancer: Wow. I actually have a gratitude practice. My morning meditation is gratitude. Surprisingly, when I started that I didn't think after a few days, I'd be able to find things to be grateful for, but every single day, I find new things to be grateful for. If you'd asked me and one thing, I would have to say my amazing, beautiful wife, to be in this pandemic, and to have to work from home, and do everything in this house, I'm so grateful to be partnered with her. But I'm also grateful for all of my friends, I'm grateful for my new friends, grateful for you, Melanie. The fact that we got introduced, and I can be on your show, and you could be on mine. So, I'm just overflowing with gratitude.
Melanie Avalon: I love it. Same here. I'm so grateful for your work, and what you're doing, and just everything. This is such an amazing resource that really gives agency to people and I cannot thank you enough. So, for listeners, if they would like to sign up and get their own CGM, where do they go for that?
Bill Tancer: They go to our website, which is signos.com. S-I-G-N-O-S dotcom. And if you want to follow us, you can do so @signoshealth and that's our handle for all of our social media. And also, please check out our podcast, Body Signals and specifically go check out the Melanie Avalon interview, which is awesome.
Melanie Avalon: Yes. Thank you for having me. I was so honored. It was so wonderful. Well, thank you. This has been absolutely amazing. I so, so appreciate becoming friends, and all the work that you're doing, and I'm sure there are many fabulous things in store, so we'll have to stay in touch and see where it all goes.
Bill Tancer: Awesome. Thanks, Melanie.
Melanie Avalon: Thanks, Bill. Bye.
Bill Tancer: Bye.