Low-Carb Cruisin’

      26 Comments on Low-Carb Cruisin’

I intended to write about the low-carb cruise on Monday, but the cowardly attack on Lierre Keith was something I just couldn’t let go.  So now, back to the fun stuff …

Jimmy Moore invited me to fill a speaker’s slot on this year’s low-carb cruise after one of the doctors had to cancel … James Carlson, I think, or perhaps it was Mike and Mary Dan Eades.  To whichever doctor it was, a sincere thanks.  I had a blast. 

A big part of the fun was finally meeting people whose books or blogs I’ve admired for a long time — Dr. Mary Vernon, Dr. William Davis and Fred Hahn, to name a few.  Even more satisfying was meeting so many people who supported Fat Head when it came out, and even bought extra copies later for their friends and family members.  I finally got to say thank-you to real, live people.  Here are a couple of them, Lynn Machemer Setliffe and Kim Workman Palmer, longtime friends who now live in separate states but met up on the cruise:

Our group took up several tables in one corner of the dining room, and both Jimmy Moore and Becky Gandy (the organizer) reminded us on the first night to forget about our specific table assignments and mix it up every night.  Great idea.  By the end of the cruise, everybody had met and talked to pretty much everyone else.  And since the dinners were leisurely, two-hour affairs featuring multiple courses, there was plenty of time for conversation.  Good wine, lots of well-prepared fatty food, a relaxed pace … if I’d had a mistress along, I would’ve felt positively French.

I’ve been on many cruises, but other than my honeymoon nearly ten years ago, always as a solo performer with rather a lot of free time on my hands between shows.  (I wrote the first draft of Fat Head while cruising around Alaska during a gig.)  It’s a whole ‘nuther experience being part of a large group.  On the sea-travel days, we had presentations.  On shore-trip days, we didn’t, but we still got together for lunches and other activities.  Dinner every night, of course, and afterwards different groups headed up to the lounges or show rooms for entertainment.

Quite a few us ended up in the karaoke lounge every night.  In case you didn’t already know, Jimmy Moore loves to sing.  I haven’t sung in public in decades (I was a in band in my 20s), but I joined Jimmy a few times for a rendition of “Elvira.”  I’m a bass-baritone, so I did the “Oom-papa-oom-papa” part.

I also managed to talk Amy Dungan’s husband John into joining me for “Luchenbach, Texas.”  I was Waylon, he was Willie … as you can probably tell.  We sang that song twice, on two separate nights, and both times a young lady who appeared to be in college (it was spring break) felt inspired to run up onto the stage and dance with us.  I  believe she was more than a little inebriated.  John told me later this week he was humming that song at home and she showed up at his door.

Jimmy, his wife Christine, and cruise organizer Becky Gandy also performed in the talent show for the week.  They were great.  Enjoy.


Late at night, a few of us raided the 24-hour pizza bar — but of course we only ate the toppings. We got some strange looks, thanks to conversations like this:

“Can I help you, sir?”
“Pepperoni, please.”
“Okay, how many slices?”
“How many are in a whole pizza?”
“I’ll take four.”

If you read Jimmy’s blog, you know he even suspended his teetotaling ways one night and drank an adult beverage.  I think this may have been the night:

It wasn’t all fun and games, of course.  The presentations were merely fascinating.  As someone who reads a lot of blogs and books about nutrition and health, I didn’t expect to learn much new.  I’m glad to say I was wrong.

Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt came over from Sweden to talk about the low-carb, high-fat revolution going on there.  A couple of years ago, two idiot dieticians decided to sue Swedish doctor Annika Dahlqvist for treating her diabetic patients with a low-carb diet — they wanted the Swedish government to take away her license.  She fought back with actual scientific evidence and proved that she was helping her patients.  The result is that Sweden is now having the national conversation about fat, carbohydrates and cholesterol that I wish we could ignite here.

Dr. Eenfeldt, by the way, is approximately eleven feet tall.  He’s also handsome, well-built, highly intelligent, funny, a nice guy, speaks perfect English, has a lovely girlfriend (she was also on the cruise), runs a successful medical practice, and has one of the most popular blogs in Sweden.  Other than that, he doesn’t have much going for him.

Told you he’s tall … 6’7″ to be exact.  (You’re looking at Fred Hahn, Dr. William Davis, Jackie Eberstein, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt and Dana Carpender.)

Dr. William Davis is also a popular doctor-blogger, and since his blog is in English, I recommend you read it.  He spoke at length about heart disease and emphasized how important it is to check your blood sugar an hour or so after meals to see what kind of reactions different foods produce.  So now I own a blood-glucose meter.  I’ve poked my finger so many times this week, I can water the houseplants by drinking a glass of water while holding my hand over them.  I don’t want to try to explain Dr. Davis’ blood-sugar guidelines in this post, so check out his blog here. 

The bad news for me:  even a small potato spikes my blood sugar much higher than Dr. Davis recommends.  I had one last night for St. Patty’s Day, along with some carrots, cabbage and corned beef.  An hour later, the meter still showed 162.  No more potatoes.  My Irish ancestors will have to forgive me.  By contrast, a meat-and-vegetables meal barely pushes me over 100.

Fred Hahn from Serious Strength spoke about the benefits of strength training, and also explained why most other forms of exercise won’t make you thin.  He was mobbed with questions afterwards.  That’s one of those strong beliefs that are hard to jettison — no, jogging won’t do much to help you lose weight.  But I saw a few light bulbs go on as Fred answered the questions … one woman even realized her weight loss had stalled around the time she began pushing herself to run several miles per week.  She was over-training.

Dr. Mary Vernon spoke about a condition she calls “normal-weight obese” … having the symptoms of metabolic syndrome without becoming fat.  As she explained, she’s not all that concerned with how fat people are.  She’s far more concerned with what kind of fuel they’re burning.  She walked us through charts like this, but fortunately there were no quizzes afterwards.

As a parent, I especially took note when she spoke about an experiment in which kids were fed eggs, steel-cut oatmeal, or instant oatmeal for breakfast.  As you’d expect, the instant oatmeal produced a blood-sugar spike, followed by an insulin spike, followed by a drop in blood sugar to below where it started.  Later, blood sugar returned to normal.  But the surprise to me was how the blood sugar returned to normal:  the little tykes were pumping out high levels of epinephrine — otherwise known as the fight-or-flight hormone. 

Yes, epinephrine will raise your blood sugar.  That’s what it’s supposed to do, so you can fight or flee.  But does anyone think it’s conducive to, say, sitting still and studying in school?  I thought back to what my wife and I noticed on our cross-country trip:  if we let the girls eat sugary snacks, they’d fight with each other or have a meltdown.  No kidding … their bodies were telling them to fight or flee, and they couldn’t flee because they were strapped into their car seats.

I can’t cover all the presentations, or this post would go on forever.  Low-carb cookbook authors Judy Barnes Baker and Dana Carpender both spoke, as did Jackie Eberstein, a nurse who worked with Dr. Atkins for 30 years.  It was all great stuff.

Fat Head was the last presentation — always fun to finish up with a movie — and I gave a brief introduction.  It’s tough for me to talk in public without turning the topic into a bit of a standup routine, so I did.  If anyone on the cruise recorded it, I’ll post it.  But the real thrill for me was hearing the reaction from a room full of people (and a partisan crowd at that).  For all the times I had to watch the film in production, I’ve only had the privilege of watching it with a big audience twice:  during the premiere party more than a year ago, and on the cruise.  That alone made the whole trip worth it.

Overall the cruise was way big fun, and very informative.  I hope to meet many more of you there next year.

Thanks to Amy Dungan, Debbie Cusick, and Kim Workman Palmer for snapping the pictures and putting them on Facebook.


26 thoughts on “Low-Carb Cruisin’

  1. Chris

    The other day at my university, there was a guest lecturer from the UK speaking about “How the environment causes obesity.” Of course, as you can imagine, it was filled with all the usual garbage, starting with the calories in calories out balance (including comments like “if you eat too many calories, they will get stored as fast, and if you eat too little, you will starve”). 5 minutes in and I was already wanting to point out that surely your metabolic rate would compensate for a deficit or surplus.

    His whole lecture was based upon the opinion that if you exercise, you will lose weight because of a calorie deficit. And so he went through the recent history after the wars, attributing the rise in obesity to the sudden drop in physical activity (completely ignoring the diet side of the argument).

    But as always, it was a case of good science, being badly interpreted. For example, he quoted a study that showed a positive relationship between the rise in obesity and a lower consumption of fats and oils.
    The study was over a period of many years, and somehow, head-bangingly, he attributed the rise in obesity to an extreme drop in physical activity over that period, which counteracted the supposed “weight losses” as a result of the low-fat trend.

    Interestingly enough, the guy works at the same building in the UK that had all those climate change issues recently, with the leaked emails.

    But anyway, right at the end, the slide was one about how if you eat an extra 15 kcal a day over a period of 8 years, then you will gain approximately 10 pounds or so. Which I remember you bringing up in one of you previous posts here. When I questioned about how wrong that must surely be, his response was all about how incredible the body must be to be that precise. Though he did say that if you gained weight by having an extra 15 kcal a day, then your weight gain would look like a logarithmic curve, indicating that your metabolic rate had compensated for the excess calories.
    I realised as I walked away afterwards that I should have then linked that back to the calories in calories out balance. Because he said that about 60% of the calories you use, are used in the running of the body & metabolism and only 10-15% in exercise. That balance relies on the metabolic rate staying constant over time, and clearly this is not the case, meaning that exercise plays a far smaller role if the metabolic rate changes. And as further proof, I could have brought up an Ancel Keys (yeah, I know) study that I read about somewhere which showed how the metabolism changes with respect to food intake.
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Maybe next time.

    There is more, but I’ll stop there. this is pretty long as is.

    You’d think after seeing weight loss programs based on calories-in/calories-out fail 98 percent of the time, they’d get a clue. Just shows how difficult it is to shake off a bad theory after it’s become widely accepted.

  2. Lisa L Crawford

    Wow! Becky, Christine, and Jimmy sure can sing! That was beautiful!

    I wish I could have afforded the cruise this year, but perhaps next year will be more feasible for me. I’ve never had the desire to be on a cruise ship (the feeling of being “stuck” on a ship has never appealed to me), but it would be well worth it to hear the wonderful speakers. Glad you all had a blast and were able to share in your fields of expertise and enlightenment. =)

    Hope we see you there next year. With the shore-leave days, I doubt you’ll feel stuck.

  3. Debbie

    Great post Tom. The cruise *was* awesome. A shame about the potatoes but I had the same reaction when I had my annual corned beef and cabbage dinner and ate a small potato too. Bummer, but luckily just the corned beef and cabbage alone should be fine. My Irish ancestors left Ireland during the potato famine era, I guess potatoes are just not meant to be for me. 🙂

    Potatoes are about the only starchy food I miss — giving up bread and pasta was no big deal for me. But it’s a small price to pay to feel stronger and more energetic at age 51 than I felt at age 31.

  4. Kim Eidson

    Tom, great synopsis! The speakers are always amazing, and you were no exception! I was the woman with the “aha” moment re jogging and I’ve never been so happy to give something up in my life! Not to mention I’m already down nearly 5 lbs since I did! Keep up the great work!

    I thought it was you, Kim, but I couldn’t remember for sure. That was quite a moment, wasn’t it? I believe there an exchange between you and Fred something like

    You: “If I don’t jog, what should I do instead?”
    Fred: “Take a nap.”

    Congratulations on the five-pound loss. Fred’s talk was a real eye-opener.

  5. Travis


    I’m a huge fan of the site and have been following it for a couple of months now. I’ve been trying to follow the low carb lifestyle for about a month now, but am having a really hard time with it. I get to the point where I get dizzy, weak, and begin to shake. I’m a pretty active guy (sometimes 2 workouts a day) and my workouts have all been lacking since switching over. It has gotten a little better since I’ve started eating a small handful of raisins and almonds after a workout but I’m still not the same. I’ve heard that carbs (especially the refined ones) can become addicting, and was wondering what your thoughts were on that as well as if there is anywhere you can direct me online for some more information / help on this. I remember reading an article on Dr. Eades site about the carb addiction and cancer patients but it really didn’t provide any help or direction around the issues I’m having converting to the low carb lifestye. Thanks for the help and for all the information on the blogs.


    Withdrawal from the carbs can be tough, and yes, that’s what it is. Dr. Eric Westman says a little beef boullion can help, and Julia Ross mentions specific amino acids that reduce or eliminate the carb cravings. Check out these books:


  6. Amy Dungan

    We all had such a great time. I came home with lots of great information and renewed motivation. I can’t wait until next year!

    And I got to meet you in person, finally. Tell John I sang “Luchenbach Texas” all day yesterday, but that young lady never showed up.

  7. Brad

    Hi Tom,

    I too am a follower of many health and nutrition blogs, including all of the major paleo/primal stops such as Mark Sisson, The Dr.’s Eades, Richard Nikoley, and Dr. William Davis as well as others.

    In his 3/18/10 post, http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/atkins-diet-common-errors.html, Dr. Davis admonishes high intakes of animal products and pushes for increases in “vegetables and other plant-sourced foods.” For me, this directly contradicts the evolutionary logic I’ve become accustomed to using to guide my dietary choices. While I respect the Blood Sugar/Insulin recommendations he touts, I can’t help but feel this spurning of animal products diminishes his standing in my eyes.

    Long story short, I would love to hear your opinion about this association between red meat intake and colon/gastrointestinal cancers.

    Thanks for everything! Any chance we can get some regular people on that low-carb cruise next year?


    All the regular people are invited. I suggested to the organizers that we allow other people who happen to be on the cruise to attend the presentations as well. I talked to a few passengers who weren’t part of the low-carb group about what we were doing, why we were all on the ship, and they were very interested, said they would’ve enjoyed seeing those presentations.

    The red meat/cancer studies I’ve read about are assocation studies in which they define foods like pizza and hot dogs as “red meat.” Dr. Davis may have a point there; if being on Atkins means filling up on hot dogs and other highly processed foods, that might increase your cancer risk. But for me, red meat means steaks, preferably from grass-fed cows. I doubt those cause cancer.

  8. Ellen

    Tom, great recap. I so wanted to go this year, but work pressures nixed it. It sounds like it was great fun, and I hope to be there next year. Hopefully, you also be there, and we can say hi in person! 🙂

    I’ll be there, unless someone’s offering me a LOT of money to do something else that week. Hoping I can bring the wife along too.

  9. Jimmy Moore

    Tom, having you on the cruise this year was one of the highlights…so thank you so much for coming. Would love to have the Mrs. come in 2011. 🙂

    And you can be my “oom-bah-bah” back-up singer anytime. 😀

    If we can work out something with grandma to watch the girls, Chareva will be there. And she’s a much better singer than I am.

  10. Christine

    Tom… thanks so much for posting this. You did an awesome job at conveying the atmosphere of the cruise!!! We had a blast!!! We hope you will be able to come next year and bring Chareva with you!!!

    I’ll be there. If we can work out something with grandma, Chareva will be there as well.

  11. Rebecca Machemer

    Hey Tom, Loved the re-cap. It was such a fun cruise and yep I sure learned a lot also. You are a riot and sorry I missed the pizza cheese top eating binge nights. I am bringing my Hubby next year and as many friends as I can muster up.
    See Ya There Becky Lynn’s Mom

    Love your movie it is in my Library, also have a pic of you and me on my facebook page.

    It was great to meet you, Becky. I saw that picture … very nice, and thanks to all for posting so many, since I barely made use of my camera. See you next year.

  12. Ramona Denton

    Nice recap, Tom!!
    I have to agree with you that cruising with a group is a completely different deal than cruising alone. I have been on several cruises and have never had as much FUN as I had on this cruise. Add to that that I got to learn something, and make a lot of new friends… and you guys were a lot of fun to sing with!!

    It was one of the most enjoyable weeks of my adult life. I hope next year we occupy half the ship.

  13. Sarah

    I’m glad you had a good time. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a low carb cruise… But cool!

    I’m just really pissed off right now because this morning my Mom called me telling me her doctor wanted her to lay off red meat, fried foods, and lower her cholesterol. Because y’know that worked for HER Mom, who died of a heart attack at around 60 even though she was taking statins but she still smoked.

    I’ve been throwing around racist slurs and expletives around the house all day. I need to say some hail marys later…. LATER. (f***ing idiot…*grunt*)

    Racist slurs? I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that’s a lousy idea …

  14. Fred Hahn

    Great post Tom. sorry I missed the Karaoke. Well actually…

    I’m giving Fat Head to the fat head who is teaching my 10 year old daughter about nutrition. Hopefully he’ll show it to the class and we’ll have 23 new smart people on the earth.

    Can’t wait for Fat Head Part Deaux.

    If we could get ’em while they’re young, we’d save a whole lot of misery down the road. I know you’re doing your part.

  15. Becky

    .. and of course there was this FANTASTIC movie! I have shared “Fat Head” with a few of my friends. They LOVED it and want to buy their own copies.

    YOU, dear sir, did a GREAT job! Thank you so much for giving your time to us!

    Delighted to be a part of it, Becky.

  16. Ellen


    You are experiencing what is called reactive hypoglycemia. Simply stated, your body is used to a certain amount of carbohydrate and has a matching amount of insulin ready to dump whenever you eat.. but now you are eating a lower amount of carb, but your body hasn’t adjusted your insulin dump yet. I wrote about here (http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/reactive-hypoglycemia.html) on my website because I think it is one of the scarier temporary side effects of a low carb diet that none of the books seem to mention much. I had to figure mine out for myself.. my doctor was no help. It’s a temporary condition, and will go away as your body adjusts to the lower amount of carbohydrate. Hope this helps.

  17. Jimmy Moore

    Actually Tom, we open our low-carb cruise meetings to the people on the cruise to just pop in to listen to the lectures, too. Since we don’t charge for the conference itself, the more the merrier. We picked up a few like that in 2009 and will certainly encourage it to anyone who wants to learn the truth. 🙂

    Ah, didn’t know that. Next year, I’m going to suggest to people I meet that they join us for the lectures.

  18. Sarah

    Oh I’m just looking for stupid things to call the doctor, mumbling to myself as I walk around my house. I don’t hold anything against the man for his race obviously. It’s just my Mom is such a mess already that a low-fat plant-based diet and a lowering in cholesterol, which is what the doctor wants, is the last thing she needs for her health. And yet the doctors we trust to help us get well are only making us worse. It simply grinds me. She’s already going through menopause, feed her like a rabbit and I think the house is going to fall down.

    I’m with you on the anger. I had some choice words for my dad’s cardiologist, who kept trying to talk my mom into putting him back on Lipitor, even as his muscles weakened and his memory went south.

  19. Joseph

    Fred, you wrote:

    ”I’m giving Fat Head to the fat head who is teaching my 10 year old daughter about nutrition. Hopefully he’ll show it to the class and we’ll have 23 new smart people on the earth.”

    You didn’t get into this to change the world, why start now?

  20. Dave, RN

    Wish I could have gone! Maybe next year… I just spent the week in California visiting a collage my daughter wants to go to (Biola). We did some sightseeing too. One thing I noticed is that when I ordered a hamburger there wrapped in lettuce, they all said “oh, protein style”. Here in Texas they’ve still to learn what that is. But, whenever I tried to get coffee with full fat cream, nobody ha it. Even the fancy coffee houses. In fact, they did not even have full fat milk!

    Yup, “protein style” was pretty common when we lived in California.

  21. Tracee

    Do keep us informed on your adventures with the blood glucose meter. I was almost tempted to get one myself after reading blood sugar 101. I’m going to put that off for another year and go strict with Specific Carb Diet (grain-free tater free)for a year and then add back the gf grains and see how I do (for other health issues). In the meantime it would be cool to see someone else’s experience with it.

    Dr. Davis recommends the meter as way of discovering hidden carbs in the foods we eat. His shot up after a salad with balsamic vinegar, for example. I was stunned when I checked my BG after eating a gyros salad at a fast-food Greek place: 152. I can only figure there must be some kind of starch in the gyros, or perhaps the cucumber sauce had a lot of sweetener in it. I won’t be having that meal again anytime soon.

  22. Sarah

    Sometimes I want to move to Australia because of how hard it is to actually get good food. Raw milk, grass-fed meat, organic eggs, it’s all out of my reach in this desert casino Nevada town I’m in. My parents ignore me when I tell them to order these things because of how expensive it is, (which it probably wouldn’t be if the grass was subsidized instead of the corn) and the mere fact that it’s illegal to get raw milk in my state is downright punch-worthy to whoever thought raw milk was more dangerous then pasteurized homogenized mutant milk. or to whoever thought we should give grain to the cows and chickens, or whoever thought “Hey, the cows are sick because of the feed, let’s give them drugs instead of grass.” Or whoever thought “hey, this high fructose corn syrup is cheap, let’s put it in bread, spaghetti sauce, and BABY FORMULA.”

    It just drives me to the point of a headache with all the horribly stupid ideas that have been put into law, into the food, and into us. I feel like just upping and leaving (if that’s the right way to put that) instead of even trying to deal with this country that thinks the key to health is getting rid of raw milk, red meat, and butter, raw, fed with grass, the way nature intended, and replacing it with cheap, artificial, diseased food. But from what I’ve heard countries all over the world are giving grain to the cows. Too bad we can’t colonize Mars yet.

    I have my eyes on New Zealand, land of the grass-fed cows. And if my government keeps saddling my kids with trillions of dollars in debts, I’ll have two reasons to go somewhere else.

  23. Chris

    It’s great to hear that Sweden is having the whole fat carbs and cholesterol debate.
    Out of boredom and interest I decided to read what diabetes NZ had to say about sugar and carbs, and I found it’s extremely contradictory.
    Things such as:

    “Diabetes is caused by having too much glucose (sugar) in the blood.”
    But then on another page,
    “‘Blood sugar’ and sugar in food are not the same and this is what creates the confusion. It is important to note that sugar does not cause diabetes.”

    And apparently this was written by a registered dietician. Tragic.
    (then she goes on to talk about including sugar in your diet)

    And related to your newest post, I searched Uffe Ravnskov in my university database, and found this interesting collaboration

    I believe that was an open letter from the doctors listed to the medical community at large, trying to convince them they need to rethink diabetes treatment.

  24. John Hunter

    I love the picture of you and Jimmie on stage. It looks like Jimmie is about ready to go out and whoop some heckler’s ass.

    We were too busy heckling each other to worry about hecklers we didn’t know.

  25. Jesusa Dowding

    This website has been incredibly helpful for my family. Please continue up the effort and the info. My son has diabetes and it has given additional details that we needed.


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