I finally finished Jimmy Moore’s newest book this week. I say “finally” because it’s 500 pages long and I made a Thanksgiving trip to Illinois in the middle of reading it. (I always take a book with me on trips home, but rarely get a chance to read more than a few pages.)

As you probably know already, Jimmy’s book is titled 21 LIFE LESSONS FROM LIVIN’ LA VIDA LOW-CARB. The easiest way to describe it is that it’s a lot like reading Jimmy’s blog (which you should, if you don’t already). The book is a mix of his personal experiences, correspondence with readers as well as the many authors and researchers he’s befriended, and (of course) summaries of scientific research on health and nutrition, all neatly packaged into 21 topics.

Since I only delved into the science of health and weight loss a few years ago, when I started researching Fat Head, I enjoyed those chapters the most — and I believe Jimmy did as well, since they make up the bulk of the book. In several chapters, he takes the usual warnings about low-carb, high-fat diets (“You’ll die from a heart attack! You’ll ruin your kidneys! You’ll turn stupid!”), sets them up like bowling pins, then knocks them down with my favorite bowling ball — facts. Yes, I enjoy hearing about his personal experiences — that’s partly why I read his blog — but it’s easy for the anti-fat hysterics to write those off as anecdotal evidence. It’s a bit tougher to dismiss controlled clinical research.

In fact, while reading the book I began to fully appreciate just how many studies Jimmy has read over the years, and how scientifically literate he is. (I wish more media reporters could be described that way.)  He not only quotes a lot of excellent research; he knows how to recognize and shred the bad research and bad reporting on research as well. One of the chapters, LESSON #19: You can’t always trust or believe the negative studies on low-carb, should be required reading for health reporters. For example, he mentions a study that was reported in the media as evidence that sweets are good for your mood. After picking apart those conclusions on his blog, he received this email:

I am writing in response to your blog concerning the press reports on our work on sugar and stress. I am the principal investigator on the project. I want to note that, as is often the case, the press reports missed the point of our study. Our work indicates that eating sweets may be a form of ‘self-medication’ against stress; we feel that this is a physiologically maladaptive response to stress that is a likely contributor to our current ‘obesity epidemic’… In no way do we advocate carbs, sweets, etc. as a therapy for stress. I hope this clarifies the issue you raised.

I guess you’re doing something right when the principal investigator on a study feels compelled to reply.

Another chapter, however, recounts an episode in which Jimmy freely admits to being fooled: the Kimkins affair. As you may recall “Kimkins” was a woman who claimed she’d achieved astounding weight loss with her own modification of the Atkins diet — which she would teach others to follow for a membership fee. Believing her story and her before and after pictures, Jimmy helped introduce Kimkins to the world. Several major media outlets — with far more investigative resources at their disposal — bought her story as well. Later, she was revealed to be a fraud. The “after” picture was of a Russian model; the real Kimkins was an obese woman.

Other chapters describe the hate mail and love mail Jimmy has received since putting himself and his work out there for public consumption. Believe me, I relate. If you want to receive some serious hate mail, try telling the world Morgan Spurlock is a fraud whose math doesn’t add up. But of course, the letters of gratitude more than make up for the potshots. Jimmy has received more “thank you for changing my life” emails than he can count. The first time I received one of those — from a woman who was able to give up some nasty prescription drugs after Fat Head inspired her to drop her grain-based, lowfat diet — I knew the effort was worth it.

The most personal chapter is the last, LESSON #21: The early death of a brother or loved one may not be prevented. As you probably know, Jimmy’s brother Kevin died of heart disease at age 41, after years of being sick and morbidly obese, despite Jimmy’s efforts to encourage him to change his diet. What you may not know is that Jimmy and Kevin had a terrible childhood. Their mother and father were married and divorced three times each. Jimmy was dumped on his father at age 14, during what he thought was a visit. Over the next few years, he was often beaten and told he was worthless.

I didn’t know any of this either, until Jimmy and Christine spent a weekend with us a couple of months ago. Jimmy told me the stories as we watched a football game. I was stunned … not because I’m unaware awful parents exist, but because being around Jimmy, seeing him laugh and play and interact with kids, you’d never suspect his own childhood was traumatic. He’s an affable, caring, optimistic guy.

He’s also a guy who has educated and inspired thousands of people with his daily blog posts, his YouTube series, and his podcasts. I hope they all order a copy of his book … partly to enjoy reading it, and partly to say thanks for all the effort.

NOTE:  I’m heading back up to Illinois this week for a standup gig.  I’ll be performing in front of family, friends of family, high-school classmates, and even a few people who knew me in sixth grade.  I’ll check comments, but I won’t have time for another post this week.

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17 Responses to “Jimmy Moore’s Life Lessons”
  1. Kate says:

    Here’s another letter of gratitude to make up for the potshots!
    I started the low-carb way about five years ago and managed finally to ‘convert’ my husband when he read Gary Taubes.
    People like you, the Eades’, Jimmy Moore, Gary Taubes and others have provided the information and motivation to change the way my family and I eat. We have all lost some weight – I have lost 40kg, my husband 8kg, the others varying amounts – and the health, happiness and wellbeing of all of us has improved dramatically.
    My youngest, diagnosed at the age of six as autistic, is a totally different child. Until five years ago she was unable to cope with school, and her school, which had a specialist teacher for the autistic, couldn’t cope with her. The therapists couldn’t help. She was quite literally spending her time there screaming and hysterical.
    Then I pulled her out of school and homeschooled her for several years. At the same time I put her on low-carb food, fish oil supplements and vitamin D3. Within a month we had a child who chattered, who wanted to read, and who wanted to do just about everything other kids do.
    She is now 13 1/2. A year ago we put her back into school. She has just finished year 8 (this is Australia) in the top stream, she has friends, she has received school awards for math and art, and won distinction in a national competition for math for her year. This is a child of whom I was told by her school just five years ago, had no real future.
    Yes, there are several factors involved, and she was obviously wrongly diagnosed by the therapists, however without “living la vida low carb” this wouldn’t have happened.
    So thankyou, all of you who have blogs, write books, make movies, and spend time patiently teaching, my family is grateful.

    I’m very pleased to hear it. That’s terrific news about your daughter.

  2. I read Jimmy’s new book and agree wholeheartedly it’s a good one. After you finish, you feel like he’s a friend.

    -Steve

    He’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get person. When I finally met him in person, I already felt as if we’d known each other a long time.

  3. Mal says:

    he would be a MUCH better low carb advocate if he wasnt obnoxiously addicted to artificial sweetner… all his research should have drawn him to that conclusion that all his diet coke, diet bars, splenda whatever are not low carb and cause very real blood glucose responses

    He addresses those complaints in his book … he’s heard them often enough.

  4. Dave, RN says:

    I know a vegetarian (who eats fish, which is not a vegetable, but that’s one of the parts of vegetarianism that I don’t get) who worships the ground that Morgan Spurlock walks on. Is there something, somewhere in written form that shows that his math doesn’t add up and that he’s a fraud?

    It’s covered in the film, of course. The Spurlockian Bologna clip on the About The Film page shows the math. I also went into it in this post:

    http://fathead-movie.com/index.php/2009/04/26/spurlocks-boozler-fans/

  5. Ellen says:

    I have Jimmy’s book and had not gotten around to reading it yet. Nice post, Tom, I’ll be starting it tonight.

    Enjoy.

  6. John says:

    I can’t wait to get this book. I first heard about Jimmy through your site. He seems like such a nice honest person. I’ve never seen anyone more positive then him.

    As far as Mal said, i have done my own experiments with a glucose meter and diet soda. It did not effect my blood sugar. Later i found out in an email that Jimmy had tried that too with no change to his blood sugar. Maybe some people are different but for at least Jimmie and myself we are safe.

    Hope someday you can do your stand up act in Kansas City (or St Louis) Would love to see your act live. I have watched your stand up on youtube and it is very funny!

    Jimmy is a nice, honest person. I enjoyed meeting him in person and I’m looking forward to seeing him on the cruise as well.

    I checked my blood sugar after some diet soda awhile back. No effect that I could see. But my digestion has been better since I gave it up. My naturopathic doctor was pretty adamant about that.

    After a bit of retooling, I plan to get out and do more standup. I’ll keep everyone posted when I’ve got traveling gigs.

  7. Angel says:

    Regarding Kate’s post above about autism: I recently finished reading “Animals in Translation” by Temple Grandin (who is autistic). She talks quite a bit about the neurological aspect of autism – basically, it appears to occur when the lower brain’s connection with the neocortex doesn’t fully develop (or the neocortex doesn’t fully develop – something like that). That sounded to me like a developmental delay that could be caused by serious nutritional deficiencies.

    There is some research being done that shows vitamin/mineral deficiencies in autistic children, but no one in mainstream medicine seems willing to make the connection between poor diet and poor brain development.

    Sorry to go off-topic … to get it back on topic, I haven’t read Jimmy’s book, but I can certainly related to having learned a great deal in a number of different areas after going low-carb a couple years ago. It’s been an interesting trip! Hopefully I’ll get a chance to read his book soon.

    From what I understand, the rate of autism is way up, too. Probably the result of people being scared away from real food.

  8. Trish says:

    I have no doubt that Jimmy started his site out of a genuine motivation to help people but once it became a moneymaking entity he changed, and not for the better. If he had kept the site a hobby site I think that people would be a lot more forgiving of the frankenfood ads and the Kimkins situation. However, it’s his sole source of income and he did so much flip-flopping on Kimkins and other things that a lot of people got turned off and his credibility took a pretty major hit. He’s a good information compiler, I’ll give him that much.

    He knows the Kimkins affair hurt him. He got burned — but so did Woman’s Day and others. I avoid low-carb breads and pastas and desserts, since I’m trying to go nearly primal, but Jimmy likes them. In the Eades’ first book, they write about different levels of adherence, such as purist and hedonist. Jimmy likes his desserts and he’s honest about it; that’s why he publishes his daily menus. Compared to where he started, he’s way ahead of the game. And for those who can’t imagine life without sweets and wouldn’t go low carb without them, they as may as well be aware of the alternatives.

  9. Graybull says:

    Hopefully…..Jimmy’s book will sell well. The same for all that you (Tom) are doing……..along with The Eades, Gary Taubes, Loren Cordain, Charles Hunt and all the rest…….none of these brave individuals can ever make too much money, doing this kind of work. More money just allows them to do more……in getting the message out………………..in the challenge of combating the “conventional wisdom” about health…..that we hear multiple times, every day.

    “A person’s good health is their most important asset. There is no greater aspiration or a goal more nobel than helping people achieve optimum health.”

    Considering how much money has been made by people and companies hawking lowfat garbage, I couldn’t agree more.

  10. Ailu says:

    I always enjoyed Jimmy’s blog, but sometimes I got the impression he was just a wee bit thin skinned from some of his posts. But now that I understand his background, wow, you’ve come a long way Jimmy! So thanks for the insight, Tom. Honestly, your blog is my favorite, love your writing style, warmth, and humor. And believe me, that’s a compliment, cause I must subscribe to over 50 blogs on various issues…never counted them, but now maybe I might… lol

    I appreciate that very much.

  11. Ailu says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I am definitely gonna buy his book now. :-)

    Enjoy.

  12. Cathryn says:

    Another hit on autism…I know of a family who had 5 children with varying degrees of autism. One of the things they changed was to cut off all grain, especially wheat, corn, and soy products. They now eat grass-fed buffalo because beef is too saturated with corn, wheat, and soy products (not to mention other ingredients the food industry like to promote as FOOD). They also suspect a link to GMO products and try to avoid them as well.

    Lo and behold, their children improved on the new diet and are outdoing other children at school.

    Makes you think about other lies the food industry has fed to us over the decades.

    That’s outstanding. Think of all the parents who have lived through that nightmare without knowing a change in diet might help.

    I’ll still order a burger or steak at a restaurant when I’m out for meals, but we get most of our meats from a local farm now, as well as raw-milk cheese. The chickens in particular taste far better than the factory product.

  13. Holly says:

    I’ve read your blog and Jimmy’s blog – and now it’s helping me pass (get a B so far) in my statistics class! These blogs are teaching people more than health.

    It’s interesting everyone is talking about Autism. My research paper is about autism and poor dietary nutrition (both prenatal and post natal). I’ve seen some really interesting research…

    Here’s a site I like. The author explains statistical concepts very well:

    http://www.sportsci.org/resource/stats/index.html

  14. Kate says:

    Hi Holly, Just to reply and clarify re the post about diet and autism:
    What my family ate prior to going low-carb (with fish oil and vit D3 supplements) was the kind of diet recommended, and still recommended, by nutrititionists and government agencies. We never ever ate under the golden arches or anything else we thought was junk food. I only gave my kids candies or high sugar foods as special treats.
    I followed the dietary guidelines faithfully – the food pyramid, low-fat, high-carb with lots of bread and cereals. Despite all this I was grossly over-weight and all of us had health issues of one sort or another. That all changed when I turned to low-carb to lose weight and the rest followed as in my previous post.
    I distinguished then, and still do, between people who believe that they’re eating a healthy diet by following recommended guidlines, and people who don’t, and really do subsist on fried chips and chocolate.

  15. Cathryn says:

    I’m finding out that corn or soy is not good for animals either. We manage feral cats and have a lot of problems with gastro-intestinal issues with them. We look to our catfood ingredients and saw a lot of corn and soy products. We’ve tried to find foods that aren’t high in either but it’s hard because the common pet food is corn or soy first.

    But this is what we’ve seen:
    One cat had chronic kidney infections and the vet said we may have to euthanize him. We pulled him off dry cat food and he’s healthy at 12 years of age and hasn’t had a kidney infection in 4 years.
    One cat couldn’t digest his food and was literally starving to death. Pulled him off corn and soy foods; added B12 to his regime and he’s healthy now.
    One cat threw up corn and soy dry foods. Pulled her off those and she quit vomiting.

    I believe that a change in diet is necessary to be healthier. I’ve changed my diet over the past 3 years and am alive because of it. I’ve lost weight, my blood pressure is down, and my kidneys are stabilized. The first thing I quit doing were any foods that were preserved and going out to eat in restaurants. Now I’m exploring low carbs and I see improvement already.

    Indeed. As Dr. Sears told me, dogs and cats don’t develop cancer or heart disease unless we feed them grains and soy. It’s not even close to their natural diet.

  16. Dave, RN says:

    Exactly. If you leave a dog or cat to their own devices, they don’t throw down a ear of corn on your doorstep, they bring home a bird or a mouse. I’ve seen my (dearly departed now) Bichone Frise tear up a big rat in a second. I also found a rabbit ripped in half in my backyard. Canines and felines are carnivores. That’s why they have those big pointy teeth. Unfortunately, if grain that’s flavored like meat is in their bowl, they’ll eat it.

    My son has two dogs he loves, and I’ve already warned him about feeding them grains and soy. I think he got the message.

  17. Angel says:

    I switched my cat over to a no-carb diet a couple of years ago (not long after I went low-carb). He wouldn’t have been considered unhealthy at the time, except for a little extra weight, but he still had some significant improvements. He lost weight, his coat developed a healthier sheen, and his personality became calmer. He is still quite healthy and has no unnecessary fat.

    Our dog is fed regular dog food but she also gets a lot of meat and bone scraps, and she always has. She’s staying healthy too. Most dogs apparently have a greater tolerance for carbs than cats do.

    Could be. My sister’s dog eats dry dog food, and he’s pretty tubby. I wish she’d give him more meat.

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