I enjoy giving speeches, but I hate making slides.  It’s so friggin’ tedious.  Putting slides together is pretty much all I’ve been doing the past few days, and I still have a long way to go before I’m ready to give my presentation in D.C. next week.

I’ve been grumbling a bit as I’ve been working, so it was good to receive a little reminder of why I’m dedicated to the cause.  I received this email from a woman I’ll call Linda, who recently saw Fat Head on Netflix:

——————————————————————————–

Dear Mr. Naughton,

I don’t enjoy talking about myself, especially not personal stuff. But I’m going to. At length. About things most people closest to me have no idea about. So please bear with me while I tell you my story, regarding my life-long struggle with food.

I am a 25-year-old woman who was raised as young as I can remember to feel guilty about food. My first food-related memory was just before I entered kindergarten and my mother, a chronic yo-yo dieter, was arguing with me to “Give that Oreo back, you could have 2 heads of lettuce for the number of calories in that cookie.” My parents were not only subscribed to a low fat, high carb diet, they were depressed alcoholics who both left work when I was 10 and went on disability, never to recover. They were drunk every night and attempted suicide about a dozen times each when I was between 7 and 14 years old.

Naturally, as an only child and loner, I found comfort in food – specifically the “bad” foods my mother told me I should not eat. However, after secretly binging in my closet and hiding the food wrappers under my bed, I always felt repulsed with myself, so I would restrict my food intake until the urge to eat became overwhelming, then I would binge again, etc. By the time I was 11 years old, I was a few inches above average height and about 170 pounds. That same year, I ate a trough-sized portion of potato salad at my grandmother’s house, contracted food poisoning from the rancid mayonnaise, and proceeded to vomit for about two hours straight (I know this because the drive from grandma’s house was 2 hours and I puked the whole car ride home).

Gross? Yes. But this is not gratuitous information, because that was the day my bulimia came to be. Something snapped in me that day. I went from 200 pounds at the age of 12 to 110 pounds the following year (I was about 5’7″ by the age of 13). It is also worthy to mention that as a small child who was in love with animals, I adopted a vegetarian lifestyle and decided to stop eating meat at 5 years old. My parents believed it to be a phase, but it stuck, and at 13 I went fully vegan. I was diagnosed with major depression and ADHD that year.

By 14, at 5’9″ and 90 pounds, I was hospitalized on medical bed rest constantly, for 2-3 months at a time. My heart was giving up. I did not care about myself and I did not fear death. I ceased to be a person; I was a walking eating disorder. Ironically, my bulimia had very little to do with counting calories or “being fat”, but instead the emotional association I had attached to those “bad” foods, the foods you should feel disgusting, gluttonous and ashamed for craving and eating.

It took me many years to function again, even on a basic level. I had to drop out of high school, despite a straight A average, because I was missing 2 months at a time for chronic hospitalizations. I have been at war with food for as long as I can remember. A decade later, despite the fact I have it under control, the feelings are still there. A few years ago, I attempted suicide. Seriously, not halfhearted. I would have been successful if a friend with my spare key hadn’t come by to check on me because I wasn’t returning her calls for a week.

After that scare, I began taking control of my life back. I stopped taking my antidepressants, pills that did nothing but make me feel like a doped up zombie, and substituted them for vitamins and St. John’s Wort. I was able to slowly bring my binging and purging down from a dozen times a day, keeping in no nutrition whatsoever, to once a day and keeping in about 1500 calories a day. I am now a healthy weight for my height, 5’10″ and 145 pounds, but thanks to everything I was told in eating disorder treatment by dieticians, in addition to advice from my doctor, my diet was mostly carbohydrates, a small amount of bogus protein (tofu, fake soy meat, yuck) and no fat.

Despite being in “better” health than ever, I was exhausted all the time. Despite being identified as a “gifted” child with a “genius” IQ at a young age, I could not concentrate on anything and had to leave university not once but twice. Last year, I had my gallbladder removed due to a large gallstone, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and had emergency surgery to repair an intestinal obstruction, which was so excruciatingly painful and debilitating. With my long history of bulimia and digestive problems, my doctor fears I am a high risk candidate for developing stomach or colon cancer.

I stumbled upon your documentary completely by accident a month ago. I cancelled my plans to go out that night (not that I had the energy to anyway) and instead watched it 4 more times in a row. It was not only groundbreaking, extraordinarily informative, brilliantly written and hilarious, it was an overwhelmingly emotional experience for me. I cried, for the first time in too long. I cried bitter, angry tears, tears of frustration, followed by hopeful tears of relief. I can’t believe I was blind to all of this for so long. I pride myself on being informed, on questioning everything, on being passionate about world issues, on opting out of the Western bubble of ignorance. Yet I had no idea about anything you described in your documentary. I blindly trusted “experts” like doctors and dieticians.

The morning after I watched your documentary, I went to the grocery store and bought three things: eggs, bacon and butter. I ate 3 sunny side up eggs, cooked in butter, with two slices of bacon. I did not feel guilt. I did not make myself sick. Then I cried yet again, because I never thought I would live to see a day when those shackles were broken.

Within an hour, I felt more energized than I have in years. I showered, got dressed, did my hair and makeup and did something I love but haven’t had the energy to do in years – I went for a hike and took nature photos. Before even realizing it or feeling tired, I had walked the entire 4 mile path. I stopped at a nearby restaurant and had a mushroom swiss burger and a salad for lunch. Again, no guilt, no shame. On my way home, I picked up a well-marbled steak and fresh cauliflower for dinner. I began reading up on the paleolithic diet that night and decided to adopt it.

Over the course of the month of February, my mood and energy level has improved at a shockingly rapid and consistent pace. The chronic, painful digestive problems I was experiencing have almost completely subsided. I went to my doctor this morning, who read me my blood work results from last week. She was baffled by the improvements and blatantly asked what the $%&# I did differently this past month.

My body fat has gone down, my muscle mass has gone up. My hair, which was previously falling out in clumps so badly that I chopped off 20 inches out of frustration, is thick and shiny. My skin went from sickly pale to glowing porcelain. I even applied to begin school again in September. Best of all, this has been the first month I can recall since my bulimia started – 14 long years ago – that I have lived completely (aside of 2 slip-ups) without it.

The precise version of this overly verbose, borderline incoherent rant is that you have completely changed my life; that is indisputable, and because there is no possible way I could have gone on living the way I was, nor did I want to, I don’t believe I’m guilty of hyperbole in saying you may have saved my life, and given me a second chance at it. For the first time, I feel like I am actually living instead of just barely existing.  And I truly have absolutely no idea how to begin thanking you for that.

I wish you, your beautiful wife and precious children all the health, happiness and success this world has to offer.

Yours very truly,
Linda

——————————————————————————–

Linda, you put a lump in my throat.  I wish you all the best on your path back to real health.  Thanks for reminding me that this is why we do what we do. (And no more slip-ups, okay?)

I’m going to busy making slides and otherwise preparing that presentation for the next several days, then flying off to D.C. to deliver it.  Fortunately, The Older Brother has agreed to take over the guest-host chair for a couple of posts next week.

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52 Responses to “This Is Why We Do What We Do (Part Three)”
  1. Karen P. says:

    Holy. Moly.

    Amazing. Linda, all the best to you. Thank you for the potent reminder that the real food fight is so totally worth it.

  2. Ellen says:

    I am twice Linda’s age and can echo a lot of Linda’s feelings of freedom, peace with food and elation at the recent changes in my health. Your movie – which I have watched 3 times, but not all in a row, has helped me claim what I am living and eating now as my reliable, repeatable, consistent truth. I have read a few other books about low carb and paleo and primal eating… and none were as fun, full of cool info and as sharp as your movie, Tom. Thank you!

    Thank you. I figured if I could put some fun in it, I’d get to people who don’t have the time or inclination to read a bunch of books.

  3. Chris Pine says:

    Way to go Linda!

    It really is such a relief when we find out that we can eat real food – good food – and become healthier than ever.

    I wish you luck on your continued journey back to health.

  4. Matt Eggleston says:

    Good job Linda!

    I thought my low carb story was compelling (dropping a third of my body weight in 8 months along with BP, blood lipids and A1c all normalizing) but I got nothing on that! Congratulations lady!

  5. julianne says:

    What a stunning personal story, so moving, thanks so much for sharing this.

  6. Jana says:

    I wish everyone could watch your films and come away so totally changed. You started me on a path of nutrition I thought I had little interest in. Fat Head was amazing. Big Fat Fiasco was awesome. And Science for Smart People was astounding. I prattle endlessly to my friends, husband, family about nutrition, even when they don’t want to hear. How brave Linda was to change her life. Thank-you Tom for your passion. You change us all each time you share what you love.

    Thank you, and I return the thanks to everyone who sends emails and leaves comments on the blog. That’s what keeps me inspired.

  7. TonyNZ says:

    Moving story, though I am wondering what the doctor’s reaction was…

    Dr: “What the #$%@ did you do differently this month?”

    Linda: “I’ve been eating a high fat paleo diet.”

    Dr: “That’s very dangerous, you should eat your grains and go on a statin.”

    I think the sad thing is she has found something that makes her happy and healthy, yet she is in a world where so many “experts” are going to tortuously lecture her that she is wrong.

    Indeed, that’s one of the points I’ll be making in my speech.

  8. Jean says:

    Great email to get! Linda’s post should certainly make you feel that you are doing a great job. Keep up the good work!

  9. DaiViet says:

    Way to go Linda. good for you and screw the experts.

  10. Dott. T says:

    Wow!

  11. Visitor says:

    You are a true hero, Tom. :)

    My heroes are people like Linda who have overcome so much.

  12. Andrés says:

    She should look into bile supplementation and coconut oil, just in case she needs any of it due to the gallbladder-less issue.

    Best regards.

  13. Paul says:

    Thank you, Linda. And thank you, Tom.

  14. eddie watts says:

    more proof that bacon+eggs cooked in butter=ambrosia
    (as in the food of the gods, not that rice pudding junk)

  15. Jeanne says:

    As someone who has also suffered from an eating disorder, I can say one of the best things about eating this way is that you can make peace with food, that you’re not hungry all the time and able to get on with your life.

    That’s what it’s all about. I’m quite a bit leaner than I was 20 years ago, but I have no idea how many calories I consume in a day. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full and satisfied.

  16. lisa says:

    Wow, that letter gave me chills! Thank you Linda for sharing it, and Tom, for passing it on. Keep fighting the good fight; you are changing lives!

  17. Lori says:

    In Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, Atkins said he advised his binge eaters to binge on protein and fat. He said they’d still lose weight even after a weekend of binge eating.

    You’ve probably read The Vegetarian Myth; if not, I recommend it. The author was a vegan for 20 years, then started studying agriculture, nutrition and health, and reached the conclusion that vegetarianism is based on a lot of misconceptions.

    The Vegetarian Myth is a terrific read. In addition to providing a wealth of information and logic, it’s beautifully written.

  18. Mike P says:

    Wow….what an emotional story, from the lows to the highs. Congratulations Linda on taking control!

    Tom – you are 1000% correct. This is why you do what you do, and why the rest of us continue to spread the word.

    Linda, don’t hesitate to look to social media outlets [Twitter, Facebook, etc] to connect with other Paleo/Primal people. The support from the community is incredible and indispensable. I look forward to tweeting and chatting with other Paleo/Primal people every day. Even though I have never met any of them, and may never, they ‘get’ how i live my life and can offer incredible support.

  19. Rocky says:

    Priceless.

  20. Firebird says:

    “Thank you. I figured if I could put some fun in it, I’d get to people who don’t have the time or inclination to read a bunch of books.”

    People often need to be educated without them knowing they’re being educated.

  21. Stingray says:

    Off Topic (my apologies) but I thought you would be heartened to see this:

    http://www.laleva.org/eng/2012/03/world_renown_heart_surgeon_speaks_out_on_what_really_causes_heart_disease-print.html

    I found the link to the article here:

    http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=203155

    The word is spreading, slowly, but spreading nonetheless. I can’t thank you enough for Fat Head as it is what began my family’s journey and we have been able to turn a few others on their way as well. You have done amazing work and I thank you for continuing against the stream as I am sure is in not always easy. Keep it up, please. You are changing lives.

    I won’t quit until the USDA recommends cutting grains from our diets and eating more fat. So I’ll be doing this forever.

  22. Judy B says:

    Question: Tom, I know that your wife moderates a FB page on low-carb. What is it called?

    It’s just called Fat Head:
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/57440891958/

  23. Dragonmamma/Naomi says:

    Holy guacamole, this is the best story yet!

    I work at a gym, and I have 4 people/web resources that I recommend to new members who want to know the “secrets” of weight loss and good health:

    1. Tom Naughton, Fathead
    2. William Davis, Wheatbelly
    3. Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple
    4. Rachel Cosgrove, “The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin”
    …and as an added bonus, I tell them to google “benefits of coconut oil”.

    Hope you’re pleased to be on this list.

    You bet.

  24. Peggy Holloway says:

    My daughter has a similar story (except her parents were only crazy from high-carb diets, not alcoholics) – perhaps not as dramatic, but she has also seen massive improvement in her bulimia, depression, insomnia, and weight management with low-carb, paleo diet.

    I have a favor to ask of all you experts out there. I have informed the head of the health ministries at my home church that a “health tip” she had printed in the church newsletter saying that colon cancer is linked to diets high in animal fat and low in fiber was inaccurate and not scientifically supported. I sent one link to an article stating that saturated fat consumption was not in any connected to colon cancer, but she is asking me for more information. Can you supply links to studies (good, scientific studies) that debunk the high animal fat/low fiber theory of “cause” for colon cancer?
    Thanks.

    These will get you started. They cite studies you can look up:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2000/04/20/MN79537.DTL

    http://junkscience.com/2001/02/02/the-tail-end-of-the-fiber-myth/

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/73040.php

    http://stats.org/stories/2007/harvard_data_diet_oct12_07.htm

  25. Kimji says:

    Wow! I’m so glad to hear such a beautiful story of healing and recovery. I am twice Linda’s age and did not suffer all of the loss and abandonment she did. When I first discovered the LCHF, Paleo way of eating I experieced almost immediate total remission from 33 years of Bulimia and so much grief that so much of my life had been spent in miserable self-hate because of lies I’d believed about dieting & weight. What I wouldn’t give to go back and do it over.
    But I’m so grateful for where I am now, and so grateful that others who are suffering from binge/purge disorders and compulsive eating are finding this freedom & healing.

  26. Nina says:

    Poetry.

    Only 25 and a whole life ahead. What a great time to discover solid information and things to test out in your own experience.

    Amazing to turn your life around watching a comedian. What a great story.

    Yay to Linda and Tom.

    Good luck with the presentation.

    That’s why my once-burning desire to do standup has faded. No one ever walked out of one of my shows knowing how to avoid becoming a diabetic.

  27. Robb says:

    Linda,
    God bless you in your new journey. My wifa and I continue to spread the “gospel” of the Fathead movie. Thanks.
    Also, thanks Tom for your excellent work and inspiration.

  28. Tony K says:

    Thanks for sharing this story Tom.

    I think we’re all on to something with this low-carb paleo thing…

    And congratulations to Linda.

  29. Rae says:

    Wow! After reading that, I just want to give this lady a hug. So happy for you, Linda!

  30. Peggy Cihocki says:

    Very Moving story! Congratulations, Linda, and please keep doing what you’re doing, Tom. I’m so excited that you are speaking in D.C.

  31. David Evans says:

    Peggy: Here are a few studies that show how higher fat or high red meat diets result in less incidence of colon cancer:

    http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/2012/01/analysis-of-13-studies-reveals-high-fat.html
    http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/2012/01/higher-fat-diet-reduces-colon-cancer-by.html
    http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/2012/02/red-meat-reduces-colon-cancer-by-34.html

    Thanks for the links. I appreciate all the studies you pull together for your site.

  32. Marilyn says:

    Linda, your story is astounding and beautifully written. I hope your gallbladder-less experience is as good as mine. I’ve been without a gallbladder for twenty years. I happily eat lots of fat. All the best to you.

  33. Cindy D says:

    Linda, what an amazing story! Thank you for sharing. For me, my depression almost completely disappears on a low-carb diet. When I eat carb-rich food, my brain “sinks” – that’s what I call it. I can literally feel my brain and emotions falling, and when they do, they are sunk for the whole day.

    On a low-carb diet, my brain is usually very happy. When a sinking does occur, it is rare and not as deep, and a short nap will completely take care of the issue.

    Doctors used to prescribe Wellbutrin and Zoloft for me, but I hated the side effects. All it took was a low-carb diet to cure me. And the side effects of the low-carb diet? Being thin and healthy!

  34. Scott D. says:

    Wow Linda, you go girl!! Welcome back to the life you were MEANT to have.

    Tom, all of us who are your fans (it is kind of sad to think you will never meet 98% of us, but we all feel like we know you,) are your fans because of stories like Linda’s. You are funny, and you write well, and that helps you explain sometimes complicated scientific theories and concepts so clearly. We all know you don’t honestly like to ‘toot’ your own horn, but it is so heartening to see the effect you are having on the lives of people who had given up. You are changing lives, letting people live free of the mental and emotional shackles that our beloved.. sorry, ‘beloved’ USDA and other agencies and their ilk have polluted our lives with.

    We are lucky you have appeared on the scene.

    All the best from another paleo-type family in Chicago.

    Thank you.

  35. TonyNZ says:

    What the flip?

    Unrelated, but this article makes my blood boil. Journalistic integrity is dead.

    Synopsis: Article about starting a research project into childhood obesity somehow morphs into recommendations that father’s laziness in food choices contribute to childhood obesity. It then looks at two examples of fathers with normal weight, healthy children to illustrate that feeding children full milk is wrong! It doesn’t say what the study is actually going to do (other than cost 2.3 million dollars), just that it is investigating methods to prevent weight gain in children, apparently splitting 805 children into 4 groups with different types of “counselling”.

    The author even states he has no idea what the results will be!

    Opinion presented as fact and continuing to skew the nations’ health.

    What kind of idiot could believe this:

    “That ability to self-regulate food intake stops at about 3, he said.
    At that age it becomes hard for children to turn down food placed in front of them.”

    I can’t think of a single parent I know who would agree with that. Kids are notoriously fussy eaters. They turn down food all the time.

  36. Kevind says:

    Stunning!!! This is like the movie “Groundhog Day”!!! Every day is the same old story, but what a great story and what a great service you are providing to humanity Tom. Please keep doing what your doing!!! My guess is your Karma bank is full beyond what the FDIC would insure. If I’ve learned anything about you, I doubt you would be comfortable with government assurances anyway.
    I’ll end with my favorite Dennis Miller quote: “If you can only help one person…..it’s not enough”. Thanks for doing your share!!!, and a few others too!!

    I’ll take the good karma and hope the government doesn’t try to tax me on it.

  37. TonyNZ says:

    “Kids are notoriously fussy eaters. They turn down food all the time.”

    My one ain’t that old yet, but my three year old nephew is a nightmare to get food into, except for:

    Cake
    Sweets
    Crisps
    Soft Drinks
    Bread
    Anything brightly coloured

    The last one is important. He WILL NOT eat silver-beet (you guys might call it Swiss chard there). When he came to stay here he was thrilled because he got to pick, cook and eat the multicoloured silver-beet we were growing.

    I think the problem is that children cannot turn down the types of food that are marketed for children. You know, the overly sweet, carb-laden ones.

    A lot of adults have that same problem.

  38. Becky says:

    That was beautiful.

  39. Erik says:

    Bring a vegetable tray to a child’s birthday party and you’ll notice a remarkable ability to self-regulate food intake.

    Indeed.

  40. Laurie D. says:

    Way to make me tear up on a Sunday morning, Tom and Linda! Seriously though, this is a wonderful story.

  41. Greta says:

    What an amazing story, Linda! Keep up the good work, and come join us in the Fathead group on Facebook. There are terrific folks there and they are very knowledgeable and willing to share.

    Fathead gave me the courage and hope that I should try again after I gave up in utter frustration 13 years ago. It opened lots of doors and windows for me, told me that there were reasons for what I had experienced trying to lose weight, and that I wasn’t just making it up. There is no way to repay that. Thank you, Tom.

    You’re repaying it by being here and in the Facebook group and spreading the word.

  42. hausfrau says:

    Very well-written story. Amazing how our emotional turmoil effects our relationship with food. On another issue entirely…. “That ability to self-regulate food intake stops at about 3, he said”. Interesting. I wonder how he explains all the people who aren’t over wieght. Do they take out a deck of cards to use as a template everytime they eat meat? Do they all chart their calories and nutrients for each day of the week? Is the rigorous application of food guilt and self disgust more sharply honed in the homes of thin families? Is the creation of food related neurosis simply the price of a svelt figure? This brings to mind the disturbing idea that Linda’s mother was on the right track in this guy’s mind.

  43. dlm says:

    Dr: “What the #$%@ did you do differently this month?”

    Linda: “I’ve been eating a high fat paleo diet.”

    Dr: “That’s very dangerous, you should eat your grains and go on a statin.”

    If Dr. hears patient often enough, won’t Dr. finally question Dr. bias against fat/meat?
    I make it a point to tell Drs. I do not need diabetes drugs because low carb diet controls blood sugar (and weight).

  44. Randie says:

    It is time that people take their own health into their own hands. It is 2012, there is so much information at our finger tips, we can no longer blame anyone but ourselves.
    Even past president Bill Clinton has gone Vegan !! Take note people!
    GROW YOUR OWN FOOD!!
    and remember that if it is MAN MADE it is probably not good for you !!! Take action and take control.
    We are a Vegan family and proud to say we are happy and healthy. It is not as hard as you would think.
    Take a Chance and Go For It! Take your life back now!!

  45. Kevin says:

    Ordering a calf today so I can grow it myself….feed it grass….then eat it. Not sure that is EXACTLY what Randie had in mind.

  46. Stingray says:

    I saw this on Drudge just now and I knew you would want to (well, not really) see this. More wonderful statistics:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9138230/Red-meat-is-blamed-for-one-in-10-early-deaths.html

    That prime rib looks amazing, though.

  47. damaged justice says:

    Man didn’t make meat.

  48. Thomas says:

    I don’t have quite the way with words that a lot of the people that write a sincere thank you to Tom but I share their sentiments all the same. This way of living has improved my life immeasurably. I was pushing 400 pounds and severely depressed when I was flipping through netflix and happened onto Tom’s outstanding movie. Now I am 70 pounds lighter, my lipid panel is back in the normal range and I am well… happy. Now if this weight would come off a little faster I would be even happier.

    A thousand thanks Tom.

    Give it time with the weight. This is about health. Weight loss is a side benefit.

  49. julianne says:

    This is why I do what I do:
    No more pain from osteoarthritis for a world class triathlete
    http://paleozonenutrition.com/2012/03/16/triathletes-paleo-diet-with-bone-broth-dramatically-reduces-osteoarthritis-pain/

    Great story. Is there a reason he seems to be avoiding saturated fat?

    – The Older Brother (sitting in for Tom)

  50. Rachel says:

    Another ex-vegan/veggie here, off Zoloft and 90lb down from my known highest weight (nearer 100lb down in reality, I think). In my case, first credit goes to Tom. Gary Taubes and Chris Gardner of the Stanford A to Z Study sealed the deal.

    But you can add more links to the chain, as I inspired my mother, who’s 20lb down, my sister, 14lb down, and 3 co-workers. My proudest moment was when a co-worker, who had been brought up to fear cholesterol and fat, decided to switch to butter. I had described to her how canola oil is made, from the video posted on this blog! :D

    These people in turn are influencing their family, friends and co-workers. So that’s just 1 person who saw Fat Head, but many lives improved!

    Outstanding!

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