25 Comments on Thanksgiving

We managed to finish off the turkey yesterday, mostly because I made myself a big lunch consisting of turkey meat, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, a hard-boiled egg and some hot sauce, all stirred up in a bowl. My wife has threatened to boil the scraps and bones to begin a soup, but I’m hoping she changes her mind.

I used to wake up on the Monday following Thanksgiving feeling very un-thankful about the size of my waistline. After four days of indulging in mashed white potatoes, sweet corn, white-bread stuffing and pumpkin pie, I’d look in the mirror and make one of two promises:

  • I’m going to go on a diet until Christmas.
  • I’m going to accept that this is what happens during the holiday season and go on a diet after New Year’s.

We don’t have a scale in the house, but my clothes tell me I survived Thanksgiving this year without getting any fatter. That’s because Thanksgiving weekend isn’t the sugar-and-starch fest it used to be. My wife roasted a turkey, of course, but the side dishes were green beans, whipped cauliflower, and mashed sweet potatoes. She also made stuffing with Ezekiel bread, and I ate some with my meals, but not much. For dessert, she made her famous (in our house, anyway) squash pie: squash, cream, eggs, pumpkin spice and some Splenda or Truvia, all blended together and then baked. Top it with some whipped cream, and you don’t miss sugar-laden pumpkin pie one bit.

The food was excellent, and so was the company: My friend Tom Monahan flew in from Albuquerque and stayed with us for a few days. If you recognize the name, it’s because he composed the music for Fat Head and sang most of the songs.

In the working versions of the film, I used pop songs for music. As a programmer, I’d produced a musician-payments system for Disney, so I had some idea of the musician royalties for songs that are picked up for TV shows and films. I was willing to pay those royalties. What I didn’t know is that the real cost is in licensing the songs, not paying the musicians. So imagine my reaction when I learned that licensing the music I’d selected would cost well over $300,000.

After the smelling salts were administered, I remembered that during my years in Chicago, I had a good friend who composed music for a CBS children’s show called the Magic Door — Tom Monahan. Tom and I hung around together in Chicago and recorded some songs together. I always liked his music and his singing voice.

I’d long since moved to Los Angeles and he’d long since moved to Albuquerque, but I dug around in my Outlook files and found what I hoped was his current contact information. Just one little problem: The last time I’d seen Tom, several years earlier, he was a vegetarian who ate mostly low-fat, macrobiotic meals. I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about working on a documentary demonstrating how I lost weight eating cheeseburgers and sausage patties.

So I called him up, chit-chatted a bit, and then (as he reminded me this week) finally got around to, “So, Tom … are you still a vegetarian?”

Call it luck, fate, kismet, or whatever, but no, Tom was no longer a vegetarian. After years of living on a mostly macrobiotic diet, Tom had found himself exhausted, heavier than he’d ever been, and with a lousy lipid profile. He’d gone on a mission to discover the truth about good and bad diets, and had since become fan of the Weston A. Price Foundation. It was Tom, in fact, who suggested I should get in touch with Sally Fallon and ask for an interview.

I sent Tom a rough cut of the film, and he started sending me compositions almost immediately. Eventually he flew to Los Angeles and we worked with Martin Blasick, a talented music producer recommended by someone I knew at Disney. By the time we finished the recordings (complete with Martin’s guitar and trombone licks and professional mixes), I considered it a stroke of luck that the licensing fees prevented me from using pop songs. I liked Tom’s music better. His compositions fit the tone of the film.

During Tom’s visit last week, we spent many hours talking about nutrition and health. Like me, Tom is in his fifties but healthier than when he was in his thirties. We compared notes on the ailments we both had back in our grain-eating, vegetarian days: arthritis, fatigue, skin rashes, frequent infections, etc.

We both have acquaintances who are falling apart, but still insist their meatless, low-fat diets must be good for them. They chalk up their ailments to bad luck or bad genes. One of Tom’s friends in Albuquerque is in constant pain and walks with a cane, but refuses to believe his diet of grains and soy has anything to do with it.

Tom and I are both grateful we figured out the connection between diet and disease before it was too late. And of course, that’s what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about: giving thanks. So I gave thanks to Mike and Mary Dan Eades, Uffe Ravnskov, Gary Taubes, Sally Fallon, Mary Enig, Malcolm Kendrick, Mark Sisson, Jimmy Moore, Robert Lustig, William Davis, and Al Sears.

The turkey is finally gone, but the gratitude remains.


25 thoughts on “Thanksgiving

  1. Dan

    Hey Tom,

    I did some programming for Disney on their OAP, Marketing and Media Share apps not too long ago. It’s a small world after all.

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Indeed. Six degrees of separation and all that.

    (That reminds me, I once played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and found that we’re only four connections apart.)

  2. Elenor

    And I am thankful for you and your film!! (I actually even took it on our cruise and managed to get (only one) friend (Type 2 DM now…) to watch the whole thing,. (hey, it was a cruise…. he was the only one who took up my inivitation! {wink}

    Considering all the desserts available on a cruise, I’m surprised you got one. Who wants to listen to me go off about sugar when the chocolate buffet is beckoning?

  3. Tammy

    Tom – Glad to hear you and your family had a great Thanksgiving !! We always have plenty of meat and veggies to choose from and this year too, I nixed the white potatoes as well for a mixture of sweet potatoes and beets. The thing I find easiest however is totally skipping dessert. I realized a long time ago that I was in the habit of just eating dessert because it was there, not because I actually liked it. I’m not a pie person, never have been. As a kid I wouldn’t touch it. So I have no problem skipping the Thanksgiving pies at our house. Now Christmas and cookies are a different story !

  4. Jan

    I made many traditional dishes for Thanksgiving – cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, pie – and my husband and I ate some, but not nearly as much as we thought we would. It just didn’t seem to taste right any more. We were back on track the day after, too, and have survived this part of the holiday season without any weight gain.

    And like Elenor, I’m grateful for you and your film. We recently sent a copy to the farmer we get our pastured beef and pork from.

    Funny how sugar and refined starch lose their appeal once you get away from them for awhile, isn’t it?

  5. Tammy

    Tom – I realize this is unrealated to the article but I had to post this – I thought you might get a kick out of today’s headlines:

    Wall Street Journal:

    “Panel: Triple the Vitamin D”

    New Your Times:

    “Extra Vitamin D and Calcium Aren’t Needed, Report Says”

    How can we expect any sane nutrition advice if they can’t even make up their mids about something like Vitamin D?

    Doesn’t surprise me. No wonder people are confused.

  6. Judy B

    We also came through just great. Our menu: Caesar salad, turkey (bien sur) and asparagus wrapped with prosciutto and lightly grilled. Skipped the dessert. Hey and don’t bad mouth turkey soup. If you make up the broth and freeze it, you can have a lovely soup in Jan. (after you add the requisite veggies and seasonings)!

    I hope it’s going to become soup stock for later, not turkey soup tonight.

  7. Bullinachinashop

    I actually lost weight on my last cruise, it was a side-effect of deciding to have an active vacation instead of a relaxing vacation. You just don’t eat as much while you’re trying to have fun.

    You’re in the minority. A cruise director once told me the average passenger gains nearly a pound per day.

  8. Scott Merritt

    Hey Tom,
    Glad you had a great Thanksgiving. Any chance you could get the recipe for the squash pie and post it?

    FYI it looks like Netflix has gotten more copies of Fat-Head because several of my friends who’ve put in on their queues have received it within a couple of weeks whereas I had to wait almost 5 months last year.

    If you get to Albuquerque have Tom take you to Tucanos (the best Brazilian churascaria I’ve ever been to at a fraction of the price of the big boys).

    Happy Holidays.

    It still shows up with the SAVE option for me, and that’s it. Our distributor was looking into it; maybe they got something resolved.

  9. Lori

    Is your friend Tom the one who wrote and sang “Fat head, fat head, I’m gonna start thinkin’ smarter”? That stayed in my head for days both times I watched the movie. Not that that’s bad–I like the idea of thinking smarter. It’s more better!

    Yup, that’s one of his songs. My girls sang it for days after hearing it, too. Catchy tune.

  10. Paul Eilers

    After my father died of cancer a few years ago, I began to read and study about health and nutrition. It was not until this past summer that I became fully convinced that a grainless, starchless, primal diet was the way to go.

    And for that, I am thankful.

    P.S. You do a wonderful job of writing on your blog. I appreciate being able to read and learn from you.

    Sorry to hear about your father. Seeing mine go downhill with cancer and Alzheimer’s likewise inspired me to avoid that fate. He was fading fast by age 70. When I’m that age, my older daughter will only be 25, her sister 23. I refuse to be gone when they’re still so young.

  11. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener

    We kept the carbs in our Thanksgiving but ended the day with not only a overfull stomach but a crazy headache (never get headaches) from the sugar rush made it pretty clear that humans are build to metabolise that much sugar, strange I didn’t have that reaction a year ago when I was consuming my USDA recommended carb allowance…

    No doubt you’ve lost your tolerance for high carb loads. That is, of course, a good thing.

  12. Debbie

    Sounds like a great Thanksgiving menu. Mine was tasty and low-carb also, and I left the table feeling pleasantly full and not ready to pop. Plus I was still alert and ready to go – not logy and needing a nap from the carbfest.

    I made lots of stock from the turkey carcase and scraps, but it’s all in the freezer. Can’t face using it yet. I still have some turkey I have to eat! Maybe a turkey salad with my homemade macadamia oil mayo and the homemade cranberry relish sweetened with Truvia (with which I have a new love affair).

    Macadamia oil mayo … you must share that recipe!

  13. Rebecca Latham

    Ah room zoom zoom
    Ah room zoom zoom
    Gilly gilly gilly gilly, gilly ah sa sa
    Come through the magic door with me
    Come through this door and magic things you’ll see.

    What would Sunday morning before Mass have been without “The Magic Door”? As a child, I did not understand that it was Jewish. I didn’t know what Jewish was…

    I’m glad you had a great Thanksgiving. Mine was good, too, except for the fact that I gained 9.6 pounds and 2 inches around my waist in 3 days!

    I take it your meals were a little more traditional than ours.

  14. Rebecca Latham

    “I take it your meals were a little more traditional than ours.”

    Oh, yeah! I decided ahead of time to eat sensibly, but the more time that went by, the weaker my resolve grew. Oh, well, back on the horse! In the past three days, I have lost 6 of the 9.6 pounds I gained.

    That’s what sugar and starch do: they make you hungry for more.

  15. Zachary

    I’ve always been a bit iffy about Ezekiel bread, because it is after all whole grain. I try to stay away from “low glycemic” grains because I just don’t trust them. I would imagine it’s loads better than Multi grain whole grain wonderbread though

    BTW I thought the song playing while you showed the obese people at the very beginning of the film was absolutely perfect.

    Tom’s an excellent composer. I just told him I was looking for music that says “Here come the fat people,” and by gosh, he delivered.

  16. R Dunn

    I mentioned before that i really like that song at the end of the movie. I even extracted the audio and put it in my iTunes loop of favorite songs.

    So when is “Fat Head: The Musical” going to debut? Surely, for 65 million dollars or less, you could come up with something better than “Spider-Man: The Musical.”

    I would even pre-order the soundtrack.

    And, I bet the concession stand would be awesome.

    Well, it won’t be a musical film, but Tom Monahan and I are working on putting together a CD/iTunes release that would include that song, the Fat Head theme song, and several others.

  17. Chris

    For the second year in a row, my wife and I went to The Palm in Chicago and enjoyed steak and lobster, which was the same price as a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Seemed like a no brainer to me. Don’t believe in travelling during peak travel days that may involve snow at O’Hare. All major family holidays should fall between Memorial Day and Columbus Day.

    Not surpising that today’s “Good Eating” section in Tribune featured the award winning Christmas cookie recipes. Now well-meaning Midwestern moms can treat their families to more sugary treats. Didn’t Tom Monahan sing about “Sugar . . . Sugar” in Fat Head? That’s what’s playing in my head right now.

    Enjoyed reading about your tracking down Monahan. His music was perfect for the film.

    Yup, Tom wrote and sang the Sugar song as well. I’ve been encouraging him to expand it into a full song, and I believe he will. I was quite fortunate to have a good friend who’s also a talented composer. Don’t know what I would’ve done without him.

  18. Jason Sandeman

    Well Tom, Thanksgiving has long past for me, but I give thanks for you too, as you introduced all those scientist and people to me. In fact, I had doubts about the low carb lifestyle, then you even introduced me to the book that radically changed/saved my life. (The Diabetes Solution by Dr Bernstein.)
    Kudos to you, and keep it up. (BTW: Tell your wife to make that turkey stock, it is interchangeable with chicken stock, has a tonne of nutrients in the fats, and can be stored away in the freezer for those times that you will need it!)

    I was hoping Dr. Bernstein’s book would have that effect for you. My wife made stock and froze it. It’ll be part of a delicious soup, no doubt.

  19. Val

    I’m still a long ways from practicing Robb Wolf’s “80/20” rule, but I bounced back much faster than usual from our family-oriented Thanksgiving gluttony…
    A 2-lb gain (which I’m certain was mostly sodium/water retention) came off effortlessly after a single day of “clean living” & several cups of green tea.
    I’m thrilled to death bcz my body seems to be increasingly resistant to most of my self-improvement strategies.

    Hey, I cheated like a madman on my birthday — pizza and full-throttle beer. But now I know how to shave off those pounds afterwards.

  20. Amberly

    I have to say many thanks for this post also. Over 10 years ago, I lost 90 pounds doing low carb. But then I was convinced that it would ruin my health and slowly over a few years, put it back on.

    Last year, I saw the light again when I watched your film and read GCBC and then found out I was pregnant. So I’ve been waiting to start again, but reading your blog faithfully. I know that this time it will have to be a lifestyle and have been dreading it, already missing the carby and sugary things I love. But this post and others like them help me to realize that eating this way really can be healthy AND satisfying.

    Trust me, your cravings for sugar and starch will fade over time. Congratulations … boy or girl?

  21. Amy Dungan

    I’m glad to hear you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a great one too, and I also woke up the next morning without any weight gain. I’m thankful for my family and this wonderful way of life that has changed my life for the better. And thankful for all the great friends, such as you, that I’ve made along the way. I’m extremely blessed! Thanks for all you do!

    Thank you, Amy. I’m also grateful to know you and Jo — uh, Willie.

  22. Gerard Oneil

    Strange and pleasant coincidence both you and your friend decided to embrace the low carb life. I have been lowcarbing (fairly strictly) for over twelve years. Lost a lot of weight, kept it off, and really….and I mean really improved blood lipid levels. (HDL was around 130 several times) Other than my wife, who also lowcarbs, I have not been able to convince one member of my large family to seriously try the low carb life. Not brothers, sisters, mother, nieces, nephews, nothing. Go figure. Anyway, I enjoy your blog and one of these days, I’ll pick up a copy of your movie.

    It took my extended family awhile, but most of them have come around. That means I’ll get to enjoy them for many more years.

  23. Jen M.

    I am surprised you are okay with eating Splenda since it is an artifical sweetner. Wouldn’t maple sugar or date sugar or unrefined cane sugar be more along the lines of real food??

    We don’t use it often and generally lead towards Truvia if we use sweeteners. But I don’t think everything that’s natural is necessarily good for us, either. Wheat is natural, hemlock is natural. I mostly avoid sweet foods, but I’ll take Truvia over natural sweeteners that spike my blood sugar.


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