It’s been a long time since I’ve posted letters from viewers. Here are a few from the files. Their letters are in regular text; my replies are in red italic.
Mr. Naughton —
I don’t have a big long e-mail like some other people, but I figured I’d send you a short note. Today marks two years exactly since I took my “before” picture the day after watching Fat Head for the first (and certainly not the last) time. So of course I had to take an “after” picture, even though I’m still losing.
In addition to losing weight, the terrible acne I had for years vanished within the first few months and almost immediately the nauseating heartburn I got whenever I went more than a few hours without eating stopped. It’s been two years and sometimes I forget I used to be fat. I just feel … normal. I can go on the amusement park rides I love without worrying about not fitting in the seat. I can take up Judo without feeling guilty every time my partner has to pick me up. I can eat my occasional junk binge with my friends without being paranoid people are judging the fat girl with the double chocolate peanut butter banana split (although I know I’ll be sick the next morning…). I can just be… me.
So, without further ado, here’s my “before and after” exactly two years later (those are the same shorts, btw):
(From a reader who chose to remain anonymous)
That’s quite a transformation, Anon. Isn’t it great to feel normal?
I know you’ve probably gotten a truckload of these letters (you know…if e-mails were physical things that could go in a truck. I’m regretting this metaphor. Pretend this never happened), but I’m adding mine anyway. It turned out to be way longer than I intended — sorry about that. Feel free to give me the e-mail equivalent of a polite smile and nod.
I’ve been obese (not just the bogus BMI definition, but my own “I-feel-crappy-and-way-too-large” definition) for most of my adult life. My friends and I are confirmed smartasses, so at first we would joke about our growing waistlines (“Don’t get between us fat chicks and the buffet!”). It stopped being a joke when I started getting shaky between meals. It got even less funny when I stopped being able to walk up a flight of stairs without huffing like a steam engine.
I tried Weight Watchers a couple of times, but never stuck to their plan. Sorry, but counting points is no less confusing or frustrating than counting calories. Of course, I blamed myself and my lack of willpower/laziness for falling off the wagon. I never blamed the fact that I just felt crappier on that diet — because that’s how you’re supposed to feel on diets, right? Right??
I did some farm work for a few years (if anyone ever needs a reason not to eat factory-farmed pork, I can give them an earful), and that at least kept me somewhat physically active. Nowhere near “in shape,” but I was at least doing a lot of walking.
Then I started freelance writing full-time, about four years ago. (Yes, I realize it’s an odd shift — farm hand to freelance writer. My work history has been … colorful.)
Anyway, that meant sitting at a desk all day. I was already, as I mentioned, too big before the desk work. Freelancing put even more inches around my middle, made me even more sedentary, and pretty soon I found myself so exhausted all the time that I couldn’t function without an hour-long (or two-hour-long) afternoon nap.
A couple of months ago, I was cruising the documentary section of Amazon’s streaming videos (I’m a docu-geek), and I ran across Fat Head. When the description said it was a response to “Super Size Me,” I was sold — that film had always rubbed me the wrong way, though I couldn’t put my finger on why.
To make an already-too-long story a tiny bit shorter, the points you made about how the body actually processes carbs made a lot of sense. I watched it again, and then started buying ALL THE BOOKS I could find related to low carb.
After convincing myself that the science was as sound as it…er, sounded in Fat Head, I passed the movie on to my mom (I get my “fluffy” body type from her), and started throwing away every bit of bread, cereal, and other junk in my house.
I started out with just restricting carbs to less than 100 per day, but I apparently have one of those metabolisms that can’t handle carbs at all, so I went on Atkins induction a week and a half ago. The first three days, I’m not gonna lie, were torture — I’ve always loved veggies and fruit in mass quantities. Cutting fruit for two weeks turned out to be harder than cutting the bread and sweets I thought I’d miss. And Easter Sunday wound up being the day after I started induction (planning is apparently not my greatest skill) — so I had to resist an absolutely gorgeous fruit salad and chocolate cake. I managed, but I think the fingernail marks will never leave my palms.
On Day 4, though, it was like a fog lifted. I woke up not feeling exhausted for the first time in … well, I can’t even say. I don’t remember a time when I ever woke up feeling refreshed and not like I needed to go right back to bed. And my mind felt sharper; it was easier to focus on work.
The cravings also seemed to just switch off. I know some people won’t believe me (but I’ve never cared much for what “some people” think anyway), but I haven’t craved anything sweet or starchy since those first few days.
And today, I felt compelled to write all this out and send it to you, because for the past two days I’ve felt downright wired. I’ve never had this much energy to burn — I have to go for a walk, or I’m going to climb the walls. For the past few years, I’ve barely been able to drag myself out of bed — “exercise” was a four-letter-word — and now I feel compelled to exercise.
I don’t have any impressive numbers to give; my body’s carb-sensitive metabolism has kept my weight loss fairly slow even on induction, and I didn’t bother getting a doctor’s approval before starting this so-called “fad diet.” I just know what my body is telling me: “This is how you should have been eating all along, you fool.”
So thanks for setting me off on this journey. It sounds hyperbolic, but you very likely added a lot of years to my life, and helped improve my mental clarity — so I’ll be a smartass well into old age. I hope you’re happy.
Angie (Slowly Shrinking Fat Chick )
Welcome to the journey, Angie. If you’re already feeling that compulsion to move, I predict the weight loss will continue. And even if it doesn’t, this is about feeling good and being healthy more anything.
And yes, of course I’m happy to know the world won’t run out of smartasses anytime soon.
Dear Mr. Naughton,
I wanted to thank you for your documentary and lectures bringing light to the lipid hypothesis fallacy. There is so much misinformation, and frankly I get sick of hearing the same nonsense from physicians and colleagues who do nothing but spout off “handed down information” (because clearly they didn’t do the research themselves!).
My story was sad, but is now more uplifting since I’ve discovered you. I have a Master’s Degree in Medical Biochemistry, so I have an intricate understanding of the human body at the biochemical level. Four years ago I was accepted to medical school. Within the first month we were being taught principles of the lipid hypothesis, but it didn’t add up with what I had learned in my 2 years of intensive graduate courses in biochemistry. After class one day I went to the professor and asked him a few questions to get clarification, and he became angry and frustrated with me.
The next day I was called to the Dean’s office for a meeting between the Dean and the professor due to my “lack of professional respect” and because the professor felt I was “questioning the authority” of his education. I apologized and kept my mouth shut after that, but later in the year when doing dissections in the anatomy lab I noticed some anomalies. The patient we had in our pod was an older woman who had died of CVD. We had limited information on the patient, but what we did know is that she was a life-long vegetarian (this info was given to us to explain her “small, fit frame”) with no previous cholesterol problems (no HDL, LDL, or vLDL out of range). Yet when we started cutting into her aorta and other cardiac arteries, they were all caked with massive plaque crystals! It was disgusting! I remember vividly cutting with my scalpel and hearing the *crunch* of the plaque as we tried to unclog her vascular system.
Again, it wasn’t adding up: life-long vegetarian, no abnormal cholesterol count, and yet she had massive plaque in her major vessels? No wonder she died from CVD!!! I went to the anatomy professor with my findings, and again was told that I needed to keep my academic professionalism in check. From there, my confidence in our medical education system went downhill, and when I became pregnant I used it as my excuse to give up my seat and exit medical school. It was quite tragic…I had worked so hard to become a doctor, and now I wasn’t going to become one. To add insult to injury, I had accumulated $100,000 in student loan debt between undergrad, grad school, and my one year of med school.
My personal experience with the lipid hypothesis is even more compelling. I have always been “thick”. At 5’8″ tall, my “normal” weight was always around 150 or so. After med school and being pregnant with our son, I ballooned up 215 lbs and acquired gestational diabetes. Six months after having our son, I went down to 200, and a size 14/16. I was miserable and felt ugly, and my blood work looked dismal (triglycerides: 189, A1C: 7.5 — still diabetic). Even my husband, Steve, gained weight (he went from 225 to 270 lbs).
So we did the conventional thing: joined a gym and started working out 3x per week. We also cut back on calories. My limit was 1500 kcals per day. After four months I had barely lost 10 lbs. Steve lost just 3 lbs more than me. I became frustrated and wondered what we were doing wrong. Then I remembered — oh, yeah … I’m a scientist! So I stopped listening to the “experts” and went back to the basics of my graduate studies in metabolic biochemistry. Two weeks later I had a plan of action. I would limit my carb intake to 30g per day, and do moderate exercise (like walking or biking) instead of killing myself at the gym.
Long story short, in just 7 months I went from 200 lbs to 128, and from a size 14/16 to a size 2! Similarly, Steve went from 270 lbs to 195, and from a size 44 to a size 36 in the same time frame! My triglycerides are now under 40, and my A1C is at 5.0 (not diabetic anymore!). And in case anyone is wondering, my cholesterol count is also perfect! I have redefined what my “normal” is.
After leaving medical school, I got a job working for an allergy company where I am still employed today. But after watching your media offerings, I find myself compelled to go back into research to disprove the lipid hypothesis. It seems like a fruitless effort, though. After doing some searching, I have found dozens of studies conducted all over the world (USA included) which disprove the lipid hypothesis. And yet our government — and worse, our doctors and medical schools — still promote it and teach it as truth. Why is that?!? Why, if the evidence is so plainly black and white, do doctors still promote this bunk? It boggles my mind. No one can convince me that the Food Pyramid is good for anyone, or that “eating fat makes you fat”.
It feels good to write all of this down. I’m sure you get a ton of fan mai”, but hopefully you can see how positively this lifestyle affects people so you keep going and spreading the word. Just keep using scientific fact, and you’ll have GOOD scientists like me backing you up all the way!
Thank you for everything you do,
Thank you, Christina. You learned the hard way that many doctors think they already know it all and don’t like being questioned. But as you found out, sometimes we have to ignore them to get good results – and your results are great.
Dear Tom Naughton,
I hesitated to send this email to you for a long time but I thought the good news must be shared with you. I sent you an email in July. At that time, I had serious diabetic and heart issues. My weight was 240 pounds at 5’11” tall. I’d tried everything that people said was good for my health for a long time, such as brown rice or a vegetarian diet but the result was really bad. My blood sugar rate kept going up, from 140 to 200. My doctor told me I had to take 2000 mg of diabetic pills everyday.
Nothing got better at that time. I had to quit my primary job because I couldn’t work. I was hopeless.
After watched your video, I thought, hey, I’ve tried everything already, why not this? So, I told my family I am going to do this. Although all my family said I was crazy and some of them even cried, I started your diet plan.
First, I decided to cut carbs. People say we Asians can’t stop eating rice everyday but I quit it. In the morning, I ate 2 eggs and some vegetables and 2 sausages. I went to Wendy’s and ordered double cheeseburgers without buns for lunch. I always added extra lettuce, tomato and onions. At night, I ate a kind of vegetable soup from Korea that has a lot of fiber and very little protein. I never felt hungry at all so I didn’t have to eat a lot at night. Total calories in a day was under 1500.
I tried this diet right after I watched your video. 14 days later, my weight went down to 220. My blood sugar went down from 200 to 120. A month later, my weight went down to 200. My blood sugar was between 80-100. I reduced my diabetic pills to 500mg/day. As of today, although I eat ice cream or cookies sometime, my blood sugar rate always fixed at 100.
My wife was shocked. Even my parents in Korea were shocked, because no one in Korea ever thought eating a hamburger everyday would make a miracle like this. Now, I have my life back. I work every day without any problem and I feel pretty good. In fact, couldn’t be better!
Mr. Naughton, I have no idea what led you created the video Fat Head but I want you know what you have done actually saves a person’s life. I deeply thank you for your efforts. Only thing that I regret is, I can’t properly give thanks to you because of my poor English.
No worries, Jihyun. As you requested, I cleaned up your English a little before posting. But believe me, I understood your message. I thank you in return for letting me know.
I do not normally do this, but I wanted to thank you for your film. It had a huge impact on my life. Just over a year ago I started a diet and came across your film on Amazon. It changed the way I ate. I watched the film over and over and even bought copies for friends and had a few get together where we viewed the movie.
In total, I lost over 40 pounds and I am down in the 190s on my 6 ft frame. I lost the weight quickly and I have been able to keep most of it off. My original goal was only 20 pounds lost but I just kept going following the guidelines in your film.
I was reminded today when I wanted to review the movie again and found it off of the instant video. I will have to buy another as I have given away all my copies. I still struggle with wanting the sugar (Reese Pumpkins are back out) but by eating in moderation and trying to avoid carbs whenever I can, the weight has not come back.
Thank you again. Keep up the good work.
Thank you, Kris. I’m always happy to sell copies of the DVD, of course, but Fat Head is also still available on Hulu, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.
Thanks for making your documentary. I never bothered to watch Spurlock’s movie since I’m a pretty natural skeptic, and I’ve virtually ignored government “nutrition” standards for my whole life—at least I thought I did. I never considered watching Fat Head either since I lumped it in with all the other “documentaries” that are really only pushing political agendas.
I grew up pretty fit and healthy. At 5’-10” I was 150 lbs. when I graduated high school and only about 155 six months later when I enlisted in the US Air Force. That began a decade-long imposition of government nutrition standards via military chow halls and various public-university dining plans. In the first six months of my enlistment I gained 30 pounds, and I’d estimate that maybe half of them were good, lean muscle mass. By the end of college I was pushing 200 lbs. I’ll stipulate that I had a very cavalier attitude toward nutrition and ate almost entirely for pleasure, frequently chasing multi-cheeseburgers with lots and lots of soda and midnight runs to the truck stop for enchiladas with rice and beans. I was incredibly active and really not that interested in my physical appearance so I continued to eat whatever I wanted from the (frankly, daunting) wide selection of approved foods on offer.
Shortly after graduation I married my college sweetie—an event followed closely by a desk job, three kids, a graduate degree, an even-better desk job, and another kid. For the first time in my life I started thinking about my health. I tried at times to kick sodas, cut calories, increase the amounts of whole grains, reduce fast food, get more exercise, and all the other conventional advice you sort-of gain by osmosis with this crazy society. I’d get bored, or frustrated, or depressed; and in a blink I’d be back to my old eating habits. Sure I was getting ever so-slowly fatter, but at least I was mostly happy.
I only need to mention that I’m adopted to clarify that I had no idea about my family health history. Through the course of time I managed to partially reconnect with my paternal biological family, and I learned that we’re prone to all sorts of metabolic problems—one uncle was even no-kidding diagnosed with a food addiction, another recently received a Type-II diabetes sentence, and my grandfather died before 70 due to the complications of diabetes plus obesity. Learning these things set off alarm bells, but I continued to struggle in my own way without really caring.
Then I turned 35, and seemingly overnight my health became an issue. Energy levels were just gone. Walking up a short set of stairs left me winded. My blood pressure was high and my body was achy all the time. The mirror wasn’t showing me any signs of “real” obesity, so I hadn’t bothered with the scale either. Under the constant pressure of life events, I false-started at several more of the same attempts to improve my health. I made no progress, and still the worry was growing. I was loathe to start working with a doctor because my wife was having such a terrible experience with hers—all they want to do is put her on meds—and because I was afraid of what I might find out (and what it would cost to “treat” it).
Finally this year at the age of 37 I got serious. I had tipped the post-holiday scales at a whopping 245 lbs.; and according to the government standards I wasn’t just obese, I was a class-II fatty. Even though I knew it was an arbitrary standard, it was still an objective number and I drew my line in the sand. I wasn’t just going to improve my health, I was going to improve my overall fitness—but how?
I made a few small changes to my life to accommodate my new motivation, but I still needed a plan lest I fall right back in to my old ways. I started researching not just weight-loss but actual nutrition and fitness, and that’s when I discovered a clip on YouTube titled “Why You Got Fat”. The skeptic in me tried to dismiss it, but my ignorance demanded I look in to it further. I read the book by Mr. Taubes, watched a few of his lectures and interviews, and then stumbled almost by accident across Fat Head. Talk about clarifying the issue. Suddenly it all made sense. And I knew what I was going to do.
That was 13 weeks and almost 34 pounds ago.
I’m halfway to my goal, and in addition to getting leaner I’m also stronger, faster, and much happier with how my body is performing than I’ve been in over a decade. My BP is down to almost normal and a lot of the worries I’d been having are gone. Now I only worry about getting enough protein so I can go for that 200-lb bench press I’m working toward. And as excited as I am for my own success, nothing makes me happier than the improvement my wife has made. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she’s completely off meds by the end of the year (thank God that she refused to go on statins right from the outset). I have every confidence in reaching my goals, and I’ve implemented what I’ve learned (in no small part due to your movie) throughout my household. We haven’t become carb zealots, but we’ve been able to make much smarter choices now that we have the information that’s been critically lacking in our society.
All that is a really long winded way to say thanks. Thanks for helping to spread the truth. Thanks for your YouTube channel and the clip that finally got me launched in the right direction.
Bettendorf, IA (not far from the map of your childhood neighborhood in the movie)
If my dad hadn’t been transferred to Illinois, we might have been neighbors, Tim. Congratulations on the impressive weight loss, and I wish you and your wife continued good (and ever-improving) health. Wave to the old neighborhood for me.