Fat Head Is Ten Years Old. I’m Somewhat Older.

If Fat Head had an official birthday, it would be November 14, 2008. That was the night we had the premiere party, which was the first public showing. We invited a bunch of friends and everyone who worked in production or post-production. Most of the people who appeared on camera in the film lived hundreds or even thousands of miles away, but Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades made the trip from Santa Barbara to Burbank to be at the premiere and show their support.

To add a touch of irony to the evening, the only nearby facility with a private-party room big enough and affordable enough for the premiere party was an Italian restaurant. Yes, we served pizza and pasta, along with a variety of meats and side dishes. I announced that after dinner, we would show everyone a film explaining why we should stop eating pizza and pasta.

Here we are with Dr. Eades.  The cheesecake was a low-carb cheesecake.  Chareva ordered it long before the party.  The pasta and pizza were definitely not low-carb.

It was a sentimental evening for me. I of course had a great feeling of accomplishment. It also happened to be my 50th birthday, so it was a double celebration. But we had already decided to put our townhouse on the market and move to Tennessee, mostly because I couldn’t stomach California and the Hollywood culture anymore.  We knew we’d be saying goodbye to the friends who were at the party.

Since the audience was comprised of people we knew or who worked on the film, the response of course was very positive. I was a ball of optimism at the time. I had dreams of the film replacing my income as a programmer and launching me into more projects.

I had no idea the DVD distributor would go bankrupt without paying us, or that the foreign distributor would claim zero profits (which was an obvious lie) and never pay us. Chareva has not-so-fond memories from 2010, when I was still writing large monthly checks to pay off the post-production costs, of me screaming at the top of my lungs, “I wish I’d never made this @#$%ing film!” I swore I’d never make another one.

Then we managed to get Fat Head placed with Gravitas Ventures, an actual honest distributor, and BOOM! I remember an executive from Gravitas calling to tell me that Fat Head had become the most-watched documentary on Hulu during the previous cycle.

“That’s great!”

“Hang on. It gets better. Fat Head was also the fifth-most watched film on Hulu, period, in all categories.”

Because of its popularity on Hulu, Gravitas was able to sell Fat Head to Netflix, then Amazon Prime, then a bunch of other networks and streaming services. The audience kept growing, and most importantly (at least to me at the time), the royalty checks finally began rolling in. No more debt load for the post-production costs. I’d bet the farm (before I actually owned a farm), and for two years, I thought I’d lost the bet. I thought I’d be stuck paying off the debt for years. Now I was free.

Hard to believe it’s been 10 years already. It seems fitting that Gravitas is re-releasing the original Fat Head on DVD in a few weeks, and equally fitting that I finally made another film.

If you’re capable of first-grade math, you may have already done a little calculation in your head:

Let’s see, the Fat Head premiere party was 10 years ago, and that was his 50th birthday, so …

Uh, yeah. I turn 60 today. It sounds weird to say that out loud, so I haven’t been saying it. I don’t feel 60. I’m pretty sure I don’t look 60. But there it is. I’m 60.

I’m not afraid of becoming old and tired anytime soon, but when I roll that number around in my head, it does have an effect. To use a football analogy, it’s the realization that if I’m not in the fourth quarter of life yet, I’m certainly well into the third. The game doesn’t last forever.

It’s also a wee bit unpredictable. There’s an old saying that Man makes plans and God laughs. If you’d told me 30 years ago that I’d end up on a farm with chickens (and occasional goats and hogs) and actually look forward to doing manual labor on the land, I would have explained that your psychic powers were seriously whacked.

On a farm? In Tennessee? No, no, no … I’m going to be producing my own show in Hollywood by then. Each episode covers a current topic, ya see. It’s going to open with me doing some standup comedy to introduce the topic, then we move on to comedy skits and funny songs, then a bit of standup to close each episode. Kind of a “Dave Allen at Large” type of thing, but with musical numbers.

That sound way off in the distance was God laughing.

At age 25, I was a writer for a small magazine and had no plans whatsoever to ever try standup comedy. At age 35, I had no plans whatsoever to become a software programmer. I had no idea that I wouldn’t get married until age 42. As you know if you’ve heard me interviewed on any of several podcasts, I didn’t set out to make Fat Head. It started as something else. I didn’t expect to buy a little farm and live out in the sticks. For a long time, I didn’t think I’d make another film.

Pretty much my entire adult life has been full of bends and turns I didn’t see coming. And that’s the beauty of it. There have been ups and downs and turnarounds, but one thing it’s never been is boring.  Life seems to enjoy surprising me, and I enjoy it too … mostly.

I recently received an email from a guy who’d just seen Fat Head for the first time. He pointed out that the follow-up section in the film is nearly six years old. He asked if I’d explain in a post where I’m at now in terms of my diet, my weight, my plans, etc. I said sure, that’s a good idea, but I’ll probably wait until I turn 60 in November.

I think you can guess part of the current plan: sell a helluva lot of copies of the Fat Head Kids film and book. Chareva is working on a Kindle version the book, so that will be coming along soon.

At some point, I’d like to find time to do a video version of the blog. Same kinds of topics, but with graphics, animations and sound. I’d also like to take the songs I wrote for Fat Head and Fat Head Kids along with several others (some already recorded, some not) and release them as album. (Does the word “album” show my age?)

I’m still on a low-carb, whole-foods diet, but I have made one significant change. As you may recall, I ended up at 213 pounds after months of recovering from the shoulder and bicep surgery. I wasn’t pigging out, but I also wasn’t interested in trying to lose weight when my body needed to rebuild. Lifting weights at the gym was of course out of the question.

On the low-carb cruise in May, Dr. Ted Naiman gave a speech outlining the science behind his version of a low-carb diet. It’s not the high-fat/moderate-protein diet that most people use to get into ketosis. Naiman’s diet is much higher in protein. He believes (and presented several studies to back up the argument) that a high proportion of protein grams to non-protein grams is better for body composition. I’ve always felt better on higher-protein diets, so I paid attention.

Naiman defines “non-protein” grams as fat grams or carbohydrate-minus-fiber grams. To determine your protein grams per day, you figure out what your lean body mass is (or should be), and eat at least one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. To lose weight, you want the ratio of protein to non-protein grams to be above 1.0. In other words, if your intake of protein is 160 grams per day, the total of (fat grams + carbohydrate grams – fiber grams) would be no more than 160. (You can read more about his specific recommendations on his web site.)

Unless you plan to eat a lot of turkey breast the rest of the day, that means you’re not going to melt a stick of butter into your morning coffee. You’re not going to eat the fattiest meats every meal. If you choose to get all your non-protein grams from fat, that’s still 70% of the total calories at a ratio of one-to-one, but you can’t go crazy on fat and stay within Naiman’s fat-burning zone.

I don’t get all my non-protein grams from fat. I like my diet to include vegetables, small servings of squash and tubers, and even some gluten-free bread here and there. So I have to reduce the fat a bit to stay within the ratio. After scrolling through the Excel workbook where I log my meals, I’d say a typical day for me is something like 30-40% protein, 45-55% fat and whatever remains comes from carbohydrates. As you might guess, I eat a lot meat (but not the fattiest meats) to keep the protein ratio high.

I usually follow the protocol five days per week. On Fridays and Saturdays, I don’t measure and count everything, but I don’t go crazy either. We usually go out for dinner on Friday night, often to a Mexican restaurant near us. I usually order steak fajitas. I’ll eat some refried beans and perhaps a corn tortilla or two. I’ll have a beer or two. Sometimes I also enjoy some red wine on Saturday night.

Low carb, moderate fat, high in protein. That’s what seems to work best for me. When I started following Naiman’s program, the post-surgery weight began coming off.  We don’t have a scale at home, but the scale at the gym put me at 198 pounds on Sunday.

I haven’t done this since I turned 55, so here’s a shot of me on my 60th birthday. (I’d like to deny the rumors that something is wrong with the top of my head.  I didn’t raise the tripod quite enough.)

Not much different from age 55. Still carrying that bit of softness around the middle.  It’s quite determined to stick around.  I’m pretty sure my arms are a little smaller, since I don’t do curls at the gym anymore. With the severed bicep tendon now surgically inserted into my arm bone, I’m not going to risk snapping the thing by pushing the muscle to its limit.

So that’s it. Yeah, I’m 60, but I feel good. I’m looking forward to giving my speech at the Weston A. Price Foundation conference this weekend. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Fat Head Kids film does.

Happy birthday to Fat Head, and happy birthday to me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fat Head Kids Is Available For Pre-Order

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I’m not dead or sick or anything. Just busy with work and preparing my speech for the Weston A. Price Foundation conference. At this point, that mostly means creating slides and begging Chareva for new graphics to put on them. (I don’t have to beg very hard, for the record.)

Meanwhile, I got a couple of bits of good news – one expected, one not. The good news I expected is that the Fat Head Kids animated film is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Just in time for holiday gift-giving.  We don’t run GoFundMe or IndieGoGo campaigns to cover expenses, so I’m hoping fan support is all it takes. That’s the best way to contribute to the blog and my filmmaking efforts. The Amazon widget is below.  If you don’t see it, click here.

The unexpected good news is that Gravitas Ventures, our distributor, is also releasing the original Fat Head on DVD. Well, not entirely unexpected. When Gravitas agreed to pick up Fat Head Kids, the acquisitions manager floated the idea of releasing Fat Head at the same time.

As you may or may not recall, the original DVD distributor went bankrupt and never paid us. Meanwhile, a foreign distributor placed Fat Head with TV markets in France, New Zealand, Israel, Turkey, South Africa, Poland and a couple of other countries I can’t recall, then claimed there were no profits. I had paid all the production and post-production costs myself, I was getting fan email from around the world, and not getting paid a dime. It was beyond frustrating.

Gravitas picked up the film for the streaming markets two years after the original release – and shock of shocks, they actually sent royalty checks. I stared at the first royalty check that arrived in the mail, wondering what kind of strange document it was.

Oh, I see! It’s royalty check to pay me for my work! Heck, I didn’t know that could happen …

Gravitas wasn’t a DVD distributor at the time, so we ended up authoring a Fat Head DVD ourselves, getting copies produced at a plant in Pennsylvania, and selling them through the blog and on Amazon.

Between then and now, Gravitas has become a much bigger operation, which includes distributing DVDs. So when the acquisitions manager suggested perhaps they’d like to pick up DVD distribution for Fat Head, I said sure, I’m up for it, let me know what you decide.

I didn’t know they’d decided anything until a couple of weeks ago, when someone at the company sent me an email asking for some artwork for the DVD.  I was pleasantly surprised, because I thought they’d ask for all the usual materials and legal paperwork once they decided to produce a DVD.  I guess the paperwork for the streaming version covered all that.

Anyway, this means I’ll be out of the Fat Head DVD shipping business, and I’m happy to let it go. The DVD is also available for pre-order on Amazon … you know, just in case you’ve never seen the film.  If you don’t see the widget below, click here.

Here’s to hoping the Fat Head business grows enough for me to retire from the programming job …

 

 

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Be Careful With Supplements

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Whew. I believe I finally have my speech for the Weston A. Price annual conference written. I gave a speech on Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds at a college almost five years ago, but I thought it was due for an update. Something like a third to a half of this one will be different.

While I was busy working on the speech, this BBC article about a guy who damaged his liver with a common supplement landed in my inbox. Let’s take a look:

It should have been one of the happiest days of his life. But Jim McCants looks back on his youngest son’s high school graduation with mixed emotions. As he sat down next to his wife Cathleen in the university auditorium, just outside Dallas, Texas, she turned to look at him.

“She said ‘Do you feel OK?'” Jim recalls. “I said, ‘Yeah I feel fine, why?’ ‘Your face is yellow, your eyes are yellow, you look terrible.’ When I looked in the mirror it was shocking.”

It was shocking partly because Jim, then 50, had been working on improving his lifestyle and losing weight, focusing on eating more healthily and taking regular exercise.

But soon after his son’s graduation, Jim was admitted to hospital with a suspected liver injury.

Trying to identify the cause of Jim’s liver injury, those treating him ruled out alcohol.

“For the last 30 years I drank maybe a six-pack of beer a year, no wine. So alcohol was not a big part of my life,” Jim says.

They also ruled out prescription drugs – he wasn’t taking any at the time – and smoking, something he had never done.

“Then my hepatologist drilled in to, ‘What about any over-the-counter supplements?'” says Jim.

As part of his mid-life health kick, Jim had started taking a green tea supplement because he had heard it might have cardiac benefits. These supplements have grown in popularity in recent years, often breathlessly promoted online for their antioxidant benefits, and their supposed ability to aid weight loss and prevent cancer.

The article doesn’t say how many green-tea pills Mr. McCants was swallowing per day. I assume he was taking rather large doses. Other people have apparently done likewise:

While millions of people take green tea supplements safely, at least 80 cases of liver injury linked to green tea supplements have been reported around the world, ranging from lassitude and jaundice to cases requiring liver transplants. Those harmed after taking green tea pills have included teenagers, like 17-year-old Madeline Papineau from Ontario, Canada who developed liver and kidney injury, and an 81-year-old woman diagnosed with toxic acute hepatitis.

A total of 80 reported cases around the world isn’t what I’d call crisis proportions, but the article is a reminder to be cautious with supplements. Just because a supplement is extracted from a plant that won’t hurt you, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to start slamming down pills.

[Addition on October 30: a reader provided a link to this video in comments.  It’s worth adding to the post.]

More than 30 years ago, I was hired as a freelancer to write a brief biography of Dr. Wallace Abbott, who founded what eventually became Abbott Laboratories. Dr. Abbott first developed drugs by learning to take plants with medicinal properties and concentrate them. That’s how most drugs were created back in the day. So when you’re taking that plant-extract pill, keep in mind it’s a drug of sorts.

Or put it this way: if you’re taking a supplement to change your body chemistry in a positive way, too much can change your body chemistry in a negative way.

One of the mistakes people make with both supplements and foods is thinking that if some is good, more is better. Or conversely, if less is good, zero is better.

Paul Jaminet covered that topic quite nicely in the Perfect Health Diet book. He pointed out that for every nutrient – vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, and yes, even glucose – there’s an optimal intake. If you don’t get enough, you aren’t as healthy as you could be. If you ingest too much, it causes damage. Even water will kill you if you drink too much of it.

So what’s the ideal intake? That of course depends on the individual. A body-builder’s ideal intake of protein isn’t the same as a sedentary grandmother’s.  A diabetic’s ideal intake of carbohydrates isn’t the same as a competitive sprinter’s.

Back in a 2015 post, I wrote about Jordan Ellenberg’s book How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. Although he wasn’t writing about nutrients, Dr. Ellenberg makes the same point as Paul Jaminet: when we only focus on the upside or the downside of something, we see a line. Something like this:

But the answer to many “is it good or is it bad?” questions actually looks like a curve. Something like this:

More is good up to a point.  But then even more causes damage.

That’s why I don’t melt sticks of butter in my morning coffee. Yes, it was a great relief to learn that saturated fats and cholesterol won’t kill me and are, in fact, beneficial as part of a whole-foods diet. But that doesn’t mean the more saturated fat I manage to swallow each day, the healthier I’ll be. Your body needs what it needs. It doesn’t need more than it needs and may not know what to do with the excess.

Getting back to supplements, yes, I take some. I take a multivitamin, vitamin D3, CoQ10, magnesium and Carlson’s cod liver oil. What I’m attempting to do with those supplements is replace some of the nutrients I’d be getting naturally if I lived in the wild, hunted and gathered my own food, and ran around half-naked in warm weather.

But before taking any of them, I did quite a bit of reading on what the proper dose should be for my age, size and health status.

I hope you’re doing the same if you take supplements.

 

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On The Wise Traditions Podcast

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I may have to watch Multiplicity again to see if I should clone myself … although I remember something about never making a copy of a copy.

Anyway … yeah, it’s that crazy-busy time of year again.  I love autumn, but the occasions come at us so quickly … Chareva’s birthday, fall break from school for the girls, Halloween, Sara’s birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas.  Now toss in working full time.  Now toss in being responsible for the girls, the dogs and chickens for a few days while Chareva was out of town at a Peace Corps reunion.  Now toss in writing a new and improved version of my Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds speech, which I’ll be delivering at the Weston A. Price annual conference in Baltimore in just over three weeks.

So I haven’t had much time for posting.  However, I was a guest recently on the Wise Traditions podcast, which was hosted by Hilda Labrada Gore, otherwise known as Holistic Hilda.  It was kind of a preview talk about my upcoming speech.  You can listen to the episode here.

 

 

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From The News …

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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Why people hate vegans, part something or other.

I understand (sort of) when vegan militants protest outside a steakhouse. But I didn’t expect them to choose this target, as reported in the U.K. Guardian:

For a full week, a big black banner was posted from a sidewalk in Berkeley, California. “OCCUPY WHOLE FOODS”, it declared in large, white block letters.

Yup, they’re going after Whole Foods — a store that was founded by a vegan and carries a wide variety of vegan products. But of course, radical vegans aren’t satisfied with a store selling what they want. The store also has to STOP selling what the rest of us want. Fortunately, the occupation didn’t last long.

Just days before a weeklong protest scheduled for late September, in which the activists had planned to call attention to alleged animal welfare violations by suppliers to Whole Foods’ parent company, Amazon, the Berkeley store filed a restraining order.

“We are not allowed to even step foot in the parking lot right now,” said Cassie King, a DxE organizer. “We can’t go inside the store and ask our questions.”

Why, that’s an outrage! They can’t go into the store to ask questions?! How are they supposed to satisfy their curiosity? What if they want to know who won the Crimean War, and a passing customer happens to have the answer?  Although I suspect before being banned, they did more than just stand around and ask questions.

DxE’s in-store tactics range from chanting and singing about animal rights to more extreme tactics: splattering eggs with fake blood, acting out scenes of animal slaughter (with members representing the animals) and displaying graphic photos and videos in meat and dairy aisles.

Dear nut-jobs: you have a right to protest. You don’t have a right to protest on other people’s property and damage merchandise.

Whole Foods’ website describes rigorous welfare standards for all of its animal products, and the company has implemented a rating system to inform customers’ purchasing decisions.

But the DxE co-founder, Wayne Hsiung, claims his organization is being silenced for exposing violations of the company’s standards.

Dear nut-jobs: you have a right to protest. But if companies demand you protest somewhere other than on their property, you are not being “silenced.” Your right to free speech does not require other people to provide you with an audience or a forum. If people want to hear your message, they’ll find you. If they’re not interested, they won’t. That, of course, is why the vegans are upset.

When asked, a few different groups of people eating lunch outside the store didn’t seem to notice – or care – about what was happening beyond their parked cars. Without access to the inside of the store, it was harder for the demonstrators to get attention.

In other words, people were choosing to ignore them. Zealots can’t stand being ignored.

Why people hate vegans, part— no, wait. We like these people.

Here’s a nice case of vegans changing their minds, as reported in Forbes:

But, where certain choices work for some they may not work for others and could possibly even result in serious health complications. Katie Forrest and her husband Taylor Collins experienced the latter outcome firsthand.

After suffering a variety of unidentifiable health issues that baffled their doctors, this former vegan couple known for competing in endurance cycling races and triathlons, had a complete 360-degree revelation where they embarked on a high-protein paleo diet that miraculously resolved their health issues.

I wouldn’t call it a miracle. I’d call it biology at work. But anyway …

“Katie and I have always done things ‘all or nothing’ on our journey to optimal wellness. In college you learn that meat isn’t great for the environment and that was the public discourse at the moment. We opted into a vegetarian diet and Katie began getting very ill. Her body was disintegrating and she suffered from serious knee inflammation. She had exploratory knee surgery in her 20’s and all of the doctors were telling her she would need a knee replacement and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the rest of her life. Can you imagine? We then decided to go raw vegan and things got worse. We had nothing to lose making the pivot to meat”.

So what happened after they starting eat meat again?

“We went in fully committed and our bodies recovered. We went through a lot of trial and error with finding what we liked. We boiled a steak and that wasn’t any good. Then we found bacon. Ultimately, the paleo diet was the prescription for healing my body. Within four days my stomach issues went away and in fourteen days my knee was healed”.

But wait, it gets even better.

Their collective epiphany and new found vitality led them to launch EPIC Provisions, an Austin-based meat snack company that specializes in making nutrient-dense whole food protein snacks from farmers that engage in regenerative farming practices, in 2013.

From vegans to owners of a company that sells meat snacks. There’s hope for the world.

Now that’s a dumb criminal, part one.

For reasons only he can explain, a man engaged in perhaps the most ridiculous heist ever, as reported in the New York Post:

A Georgia man is accused of stealing 150 pounds of waffle mix from a former employer and flipping it to a syrupy stream of buyers.

Peachtree City police spokeswoman Lt. Odilia Bergh told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday that 33-year-old Brandon Lee Nelson is charged with burglary.

I think they should slap on a charge of “malicious intent to induce diabetes.”

Police say Nelson drove to his former employer’s storage facility in August and stole five boxes of Golden Malted waffle batter. Bergh says Nelson then covertly sold it to buyers who contacted him about the stolen dough.

Dialog you’ll never hear on a TV detective show:  “Psst!  Are you the guy who can hook me up with the waffle dough?  How much?  Okay, but we need to test the purity first.  I got a waffle iron in the truck.”

Bergh says Nelson later was identified on surveillance video of the theft and arrested this month.

If you’re stupid enough to 1) steal waffle mix and 2) not ask yourself if perhaps there’s a surveillance camera nearby, you deserve to go to The Big House. Or better yet, The Waffle House.

Now that’s a dumb criminal, part two.

WJLA News recently reported a crime that should make people re-think the health benefits of the Holy Plant-Based Diet:

A man accused of rubbing produce on his buttocks at a grocery store in Northern Virginia was arrested Saturday.

I’ve had some hard-to-reach itches in my day, but there are limits to what I consider acceptable scratching.

The Manassas City Police Department said the suspect pulled his pants down, grabbed a nearby item and rubbed his buttocks with the produce at the Giant grocery store at 10100 Dumfries Road. A loss prevention employee relayed what they had seen to authorities and subsequently destroyed multiple pallets of produce.

The store had to destroy multiple pallets of produce? I hope the vegan zealots don’t read this story. Next thing you know, they’ll be invading Whole Foods and rubbing pork chops on their butts.  Then they’ll ask questions.

Michael Dwayne Johnson, 27, of Manassas, told WJLA’s Tim Barber in an exclusive interview that he never actually rubbed any produce on his bottom. He also says he never pulled down his pants. Johnson claims it was just a practical joke for a YouTube video.

This guy needs to be punished … not so much for the crime, but for being stupid enough to think posting it on YouTube would be a good idea. It’s one level of stupid to be caught on a surveillance camera. It’s quite another to provide the footage yourself.

I know we don’t allow corporal punishment in this country, but I think he should be ordered to drop his pants and endure a hard spanking with a bunch of celery. And the punishment should be posted on YouTube.

Scientists are freakin’ liars.

I’ve had a few people accuse me of going over the top when I said “Scientists are freakin’ liars” in my Science For Smart People speech. An article in the New York Post suggests I wasn’t exaggerating:

A prominent Cornell University food researcher resigned after an investigation found he committed academic misconduct, including misreporting data, the school announced Thursday.

Brian Wansink has been removed from all teaching and research positions and will retire at the end of the school year next June, Cornell said in a statement.

Misrepresenting data? With that kind of cavalier attitude towards science, perhaps he should work on the U.S. Dietary guidelines.

Wansink had previously helped update the US dietary guidelines and is known for his research on consumer behavior, which has been widely cited including in articles by The Associated Press.

Oops. Too late.

Thursday’s announcement comes a day after six more of Wansink’s papers were retracted. The most recent retractions included a 2005 paper that said people eat more when served in large bowls and a 2013 article that said grocery shoppers buy food with more calories when they’re hungry.

Ahh, yes, the “people will eat less if they use smaller plates and bowls” idea. I remember that one. I also remember thinking it sounded like b.s.

Ivan Oransky, a co-founder of Retraction Watch who teaches medical journalism at New York University, says Wansink appears to have engaged in a practice in which researchers cherry-pick data points to get their work published.

In other words, scientists are freakin’ liars.

Scientists are freakin’ liars, and it’s hilarious when they do it on purpose to expose bad science.

Back in April, I wrote a post comparing the drivel produced in academic (ahem) “disciplines” such as feminist and gender studies to the universe of Dr. Who:

I follow @RealPeerReview on Twitter. Whoever he or she is (if he and she aren’t offensive labels), he or she has access to a gazillion academic papers and regularly posts abstracts to demonstrate what passes for scholarship in today’s universities. The most amusing examples are produced by (ahem) “scholars ” in sort-of-science departments like gender studies.

… The Dr. Who universe, despite all its richness, complexity, and internal logic, is fiction. It’s all been made up.

Same goes for the universe produced in the imaginations of gender-studies scholars. It’s a rich and complex universe with lots of terms and rules, but it’s all been made up. It’s fiction. Let’s call it the Dr. Hooey universe. The main difference is that when fans of Dr. Who write about the Dr. Who universe, they don’t usually come across like morons attempting to sound intelligent.

Turns out some scholars were also concerned about the nonsense that passes for scholarship in these fields … so they highlighted their concerns by getting some ridiculous (and completely fictional) papers published in peer-reviewed journals. You can read the long article here, but this YouTube video sums up the story nicely:

Here are few choice quotes from the article:

Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities. Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous.

While our papers are all outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways, it is important to recognize that they blend in almost perfectly with others in the disciplines under our consideration.

No kidding. Gobbledygook tends to look very much like similar gobbledygook.

What we just described is not knowledge production; it’s sophistry. That is, it’s a forgery of knowledge that should not be mistaken for the real thing. The biggest difference between us and the scholarship we are studying by emulation is that we know we made things up.

In case you didn’t watch the video, here’s a description of the kinds of “research” the pranksters managed to slip past those oh-so-scientific peer reviewers:

Many papers advocated highly dubious ethics including training men like dogs (“Dog Park”), punishing white male college students for historical slavery by asking them to sit in silence in the floor in chains during class and to be expected to learn from the discomfort (“Progressive Stack”), celebrating morbid obesity as a healthy life-choice (“Fat Bodybuilding”), treating privately conducted masturbation as a form of sexual violence against women (“Masturbation”), and programming superintelligent AI with irrational and ideological nonsense before letting it rule the world (“Feminist AI”).

There was also considerable silliness including claiming to have tactfully inspected the genitals of slightly fewer than 10,000 dogs whilst interrogating owners as to their sexuality (“Dog Park”), becoming seemingly mystified about why heterosexual men are attracted to women (“Hooters”), insisting there is something to be learned about feminism by having four guys watch thousands of hours of hardcore pornography over the course of a year while repeatedly taking the Gender and Science Implicit Associations Test (“Porn”), expressing confusion over why people are more concerned about the genitalia others have when considering having sex with them (“CisNorm”), and recommending men anally self-penetrate in order to become less transphobic, more feminist, and more concerned about the horrors of rape culture (“Dildos”). None of this, except that Helen Wilson recorded one “dog rape per hour” at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon, raised so much as a single reviewer eyebrow, so far as their reports show.

None of the silly papers they got published have anything to do with nutrition, so I’ll explain why I wanted to highlight what these brilliant pranksters pulled off: supposed scientists in universities shouldn’t be allowed to just make up what science means. But that’s exactly what many of them are doing:

For grievance studies scholars, science itself and the scientific method are deeply problematic, if not outright racist and sexist, and need to be remade to forward grievance-based identitarian politics over the impartial pursuit of truth. These same issues are also extended to the “Western” philosophical tradition which they find problematic because it favors reason to emotion, rigor to solipsism, and logic to revelation.

As a result, radical constructivists tend to believe science and reason must be dismantled to let “other ways of knowing” have equal validation as knowledge-producing enterprises.

If I’ve said once, I’ve said it at least twice. An objectivist thinks like this: if it’s true, I’ll believe it. A subjectivist thinks like this: if I believe it, it’s true. The “scholars” these pranksters set out to bust are the worst kinds of subjectivists. If they want 5 + 5 to equal 11 and you point out that math says otherwise, they’ll just decide that math is a white-male-colonial-privileged-part-of-the-patriarchy-social-construct or whatever and go on with their “other ways of knowing.”

In other words, they don’t the rules of science applied to their supposed sciences. If we allow that kind of loony-tunes thinking to go unchecked in universities, good luck producing college graduates who can actually think critically.

I mentioned before that I follow @RealPeerReview on Twitter because he or she highlights nonsense that passes for scholarly work. Unfortunately, not knowing it was all a prank intended to highlight shoddy scholarship, @RealPeerReview busted the pranksters on one of their papers. That cut the prank short. They had intended to try to publish 20 ridiculous papers, but had to stop at seven.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.

 

 

 

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Dr. Fettke Cleared … Oh No, Is Common Sense Breaking Out?

The persecution of Dr. Tim Noakes drew worldwide attention, as it should have. I’m not sure quite as many people followed the similar persecution of Dr. Gary Fettke in Australia. Dr. Fettke is an orthopaedic surgeon who began recommending a low-carb diet because he was appalled by the number of amputations he had to perform on diabetics. I’ve written about his case before, but let’s quickly recap with some quotes from an article published by ABC Australia nearly two years ago:

Doctor Fettke started pushing for changes to the food in the Launceston General Hospital where he worked and then criticised the hospital for a lack of action.

If you’ve seen what dietitian-approved menus look like in hospitals, you know why Dr. Fettke was pushing for changes. As I demonstrated in a post, the “heart-healthy” menus and even the menus for diabetics include awesomely healthy foods like pancakes with syrup (but no butter!), bagels, Honey-Nut Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Captain Crunch and Frosted Mini-Wheats. Your highly trained, professional dietitians at work, ladies and gentlemen. Anyway …

According to Dr Fettke, an anonymous complaint from a dietician at the hospital sparked an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Of course the complaint came from a dietitian.

Two and a half years later the watchdog found he was working outside his scope of practise and was not qualified to give specific nutritional advice, and he was ordered to stop speaking about the low carbohydrate, high fat diet.

“The committee does not accept that your medicine studies of themselves provide sufficient education or training to justify you providing specific advice or recommendations to patients or the public about nutrition and diet, such as the LCHF lifestyle concept,” it read.

So that’s where we were two years ago. The news this week was better. Here are some quotes from an article in The Examiner:

Launceston orthopedic surgeon Gary Fettke’s name has been cleared, two years after Australia’s medical watchdog cautioned him against providing nutritional information to patients.

On Friday, Dr Fettke announced that the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency had dropped all charges and formally apologised for errors made in dealing with claims against him.

An advocate for a low carbohydrate diet, Dr Fettke was officially cautioned by the AHPRA in 2016 after an anonymous notifier reported him for recommending patients to reduce their sugar intake.

I’m happy for Dr. Fettke, who never should have been put through this nonsense. And yet, as I read the article, I was troubled by the realization that I ought to be happier. I should be delighted, in fact.

Dude, what’s wrong with you? I asked myself. Besides referring to yourself as ‘Dude,’ I mean.

I re-read the article and found the source of my hesitation to be totally happy. It’s this quote from Dr. Fettke:

Dr Fettke said the “common sense” outcome from AHPRA was what he had always hoped for.

There it is. The AHPRA finally exhibited common sense. When Tim Noakes was exonerated, the HPCSA in South Africa finally exhibited common sense. That’s great …seriously … uh … yeah, I mean it, it’s great.

But what if this is just the beginning? What if common sense starts breaking out all over the place? What will I do with myself?

That’s the thought preventing me from totally enjoying the moment.

For those of you who have never heard me tell the story, Fat Head didn’t start out as a documentary. I’d been doing standup comedy for years and loved being on stage.  But when my girls came along, I knew it was time to say goodbye to a career that required so much travel. Being gone for weeks at a time wasn’t good for them or me. I had to put my creative energy into a project that would allow me to stay home.

After kicking around some ideas, I decided I’d like to pitch a series titled In Defense of Common Sense. Regular guy with a sense of humor looks at issues of the day and applies some common sense. You may recall that common sense is a frequently heard term in Fat Head, which began as what I thought would be a demo episode. Then the thing grew into a documentary as I kept researching diets and health and realized much of what we’ve been told is a load of baloney.

So I never developed or pitched the series. But I still like writing humor, and I depend on people who have no common sense to provide material. I especially depend on academic types and officials in governments and regulatory agencies. Granted, they’re not the only people who lack common sense. But as Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Thomas Sowell have both pointed out, people with meaningful jobs who show a lack of common sense tend to get fired. Among university intellectuals and government regulators, a lack of common sense is often interpreted as “is full of bold new ideas.”

But now it appears that common sense may be spreading among the academic/regulatory class. Sure, we’re talking about a mere two examples so far, but I’m seeing a trend. As a humorist, I’m a bit worried. I’m imagining decisions that would normally lead to great comedic material taking a turn for the worse:

“Moving on, this part of the pamphlet describes the diet we recommend for diabetics. Any comments from the committee?”

“Excuse me, Dr. Higginbotham, but you’re saying our dietary guidelines recommend six to ten servings of starch per day?”

“That’s right.”

“To diabetics?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, Doctor, remember that section earlier in the pamphlet where we explain that carbohydrates raise blood sugar, and the more carbohydrates you consume, the higher your blood sugar will be?”

“Of course.”

“So we tell diabetics that carbohydrates will raise their blood sugar. Then we tell them to get most of their calories from carbohydrates. That makes no freakin’ sense.”

“Well, uh … goodness, now that you mention it… Hello, Jenkins? Higginbotham here. Call the printer and halt production on that pamphlet.”

Or imagine this conversation at the USDA:

“Wait … we’re telling people to avoid which foods, exactly?”

“Red meat, butter and eggs.”

“And we’re telling them to eat what instead?”

“Soy protein, margarine and cholesterol-free egg substitutes.”

“Because …?”

“We want them to avoid heart disease, cancer and diabetes.”

“In other words, we’re telling them that ancient foods cause the diseases of modern civilization, while foods that only exist because of industrial processing are the cure.”

“Correct. Oh … well, when you put it that way …”

Yup, an outbreak of common sense would make it tougher to keep the blog going.  But I’ll deal with it if I must.

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