Author Archive

I wrote a couple of posts back in the day titled This Is Why We Do What We Do. (Here and here if you want to check them out.)


Okay, this is a case of perfect timing, so I need to interrupt myself. I literally just now pasted in the link for the second “This Is Why We Do What We Do” post. That post opened like this:

I received one of those hate mails this week, full of the usual brilliant observations:

Your film was obviously paid for by McDonald’s … Super Size Me was awesome and a really important film because it alerted people to the dangers of fast food … your on-camera experts must be beef-industry hacks if they say saturated fat isn’t bad for you … you think you’re funny but you’re not, you’re just really annoying … your film sucked so bad, I stopped watching before the end … etc., etc., etc.

Later in that post, I quoted from one of the many “thank you for changing my life” emails I’ve received to explain why these goofs who think they’re going to hurt my feelings with a nasty email are dreaming.

About five seconds after pasting in the link, my email program dinged at me. So I checked the email and read this:

I just wanted to tell you I saw FatHead.
Or, should I say, CrapHead.
Because I just saw a full load of bologna. Literally, the worst movie ever.
You sir, Tom Naughton, can go to hell, or better yet, one of the places you defend in CrapHead, and die.
No one will miss you.
And no one will remember CrapHead in 10 years.
Have a nice day.

Another angry little pissant who thinks he’s going to hurt my feelings. You can’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, back to the original topic.

While taking time off to finish the draft of the book, I received a couple more reminders of why we do what we do. One came in the form of a conversation with a co-worker who has type 2 diabetes. His A1C has been climbing, and he’s concerned that he’ll die young, or lose his vision, or suffer some other calamity. I asked him about his diet.

He’s been told almost nothing by his doctor, and the little advice he’s gotten has been lousy. I asked what he eats. Breakfast is usually an apple and a banana, but sometimes he has oatmeal. He was told that’s good for him.

And your other meals?

Well, for lunch he usually has a sandwich. But he uses stone-ground wheat bread, because he was told that’s good for him too.

I explained that he needs to stop filling up on sugars and starches in the morning and try eating bacon and eggs instead. He didn’t disagree, but asked, “So … eggs are okay?”

You can understand his suspicion, of course. We were all told for decades that eggs will clog our arteries because of the cholesterol. The USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee has finally backed off that warning (a mere 35 years too late), but I don’t think most people got the memo.

So here’s a guy worried that his type 2 diabetes will kill him, and he’s been told eggs are bad, but oatmeal and wheat bread are good. No wonder his A1C is climbing.

The other reminder of why we do what we do arrived in an email. Here’s part of it:

Hi, Tom-

I’m a long time reader of your blog and have emailed you a few times in the past. I just needed to send you a message for a quick rant on some extreme frustration I recently had. I work in mental health as an outpatient clinic therapist and recently had a patient who couldn’t come to our last appointment because she went to the ER for chest pain. Turns out she had a heart attack. She’s only 36 years old, but is overweight, smokes, not a good diet, no exercise, and has a strong family history.

She came in after being released from the hospital. The real kicker is this: she’s been told to eliminate saturated fat from her diet to the point of it only being 7% of her diet. She was told no butter, no fatty meats, blah blah blah. They also put her on a statin even though her cholesterol was ok.

The hospital staff apparently was quoting directly from the USDA guidelines. As for the statin … don’t get me started.

Then….she followed up with this comment, “But what’s great is I saw that Graham Crackers have no saturated fat, so I can eat the s#%*@ out of those.” My internal response? NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

NOOOOO, indeed. Out of curiosity, I looked up the ingredients and macronutrients from a (ahem) “nutrition” label for graham crackers online. The ingredients:

Enriched flour, sugar, graham flour, vegetable oil (cottonseed and partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or canola oil), molasses, corn syrup.

Refined wheat, sugar and hydrogenated oils.  Nope, no threats to cardiovascular health there.

Here are the calories, carbs, etc:

Hmmm, there’s a gram of saturated fat in there, so perhaps those crackers will kill her after all.  The email continues:

How can doctors still believe this jargon? How can one honestly believe a Graham Cracker is better than an Egg?

Good question. We’re living in a profoundly silly age where food-like products made from refined grains are considered health foods, while real foods humans have been eating forever are considered killers — because they contain fat.

But that’s why we do what we do. That’s why I’m determined to finish this book project, and then jump straight into the film/DVD version.

————– Update ——————

More laughs. The pissant whose email I quoted above sent another one on Friday:

Angry loser? Me? You sound like a whiner or a kid that just lost his favorite toy or a bad football player like Adrian Peterson when the NFL suspends him for beating up his child.
You don’t know me pal. I’m a powerful citizen of the US of A, the greatest country in the world.
I have powerful friends that can f@#$ you up, just like they did with Kobe or Armstrong.
Remember good, and write it down Mr.Nutjob, I’m Mr. Hands, I have power, I have influences, and I can beat you up anytime soon.
You f@#$%ing moron.
At least you had the time to answer mi e-mail.
Have a nice day a-hole.

Well, I believe him, of course.  That’s what powerful and influential people with powerful friends do:  they send angry emails to film directors whose films they don’t like.  Then they return to their video games until Mom calls them for dinner.

Figuring perhaps a reply will cause his pissant head to explode, I sent one:

Sure, send your powerful friends on over to f@#$ me up.  I’ll introduce them to my rottweilers and my Mossbergs.

You can’t make this stuff up.


Comments 98 Comments »

Whew! It’s nearly 4:00 PM, and I made my deadline an hour ago. Then I celebrated with a round of disc golf. I don’t know what my final score was, because my brain was too busy saying “The book is done! The book is done!” to bother remembering strokes.

Actually, “done” would be stretching the truth. The first draft is done. That’s huge, because it means I’ve said everything I want to say. Now I’ll do what I always do with a long piece of work: let it cool for several days, then give it a full read-through, then say everything again, only better. Second and third drafts are usually where I come up with a lot of ideas for adding humor into the mix.

My primary tool for writing isn’t a computer. It’s a recorder, for a couple of reasons. The recorder allows me to “write” while commuting to Nashville. Most writing time is actually thinking time, and I find it easy to think in a car. Back in the day, I wrote most of my new standup material by dictating during long road trips.

I use the recorder first even when I’m at home and could type on the computer. As I learned the hard way when I first tried doing standup, written English and spoken English are related, but not the same. If you’ve ever heard someone give a speech that sounded like a term paper read aloud, you know what I mean. Natural speech has a different rhythm. When I was a journalism major, the broadcast news professor insisted we learn to write TV copy by using what he called the “Hey, Joe, Didja Know” method. Turn to an imaginary person and tell him the story. Then write that down. Otherwise, you’ll probably write copy that looks fine on paper but sounds clunky spoken aloud.

This is a book, which of course means people will be reading it. But it’s a book for kids, so I want the text to read almost like someone talking. We also plan to produce a companion DVD, so I figured I may as well put the language in a to-be-heard format from the beginning.

We’ve got a loooong way to go to finish the entire project. Chareva has a ton of cartoons and graphics to draw, plus she’s learning InDesign so she can design the book. I haven’t used After Effects or other animation software in years, so I need to seriously upgrade my skillset and learn the latest version.

But the first draft is done. That’s the best birthday present I’ve given myself since the Fat Head premiere party on my 50th.

And now it’s time for my annual indulgence in pizza-with-everything and a few craft beers.  I’m pretty sure I deserve it.


Comments 21 Comments »

Almost there on the book.  I’ve got to finish the last full chapter, then I’ll be writing a wrap-up chapter — the title of which will be something like “It’s perfectly good to be good instead of perfect.”

So I may just make that self-imposed deadline, which comes around on Saturday … along with my 57th birthday.

Back to it …


Comments 10 Comments »

I had a couple of interesting items land in my inbox recently. One was an article about an analysis of statin trials. Specifically, the investigators (who reported their findings in the British Medical Journal) looked at the statistics on all-cause mortality.

That, of course, is the figure that matters – or should matter – more than any other. It’s also a figure the makers of statins don’t like to announce. They’d much rather talk about those tiny reductions in heart-attack rates. But if people on statins don’t live any longer on average despite having fewer heart attacks, you ought to be very suspicious. Here’s why:

Suppose I develop a new drug that’s basically rat poison in pill form. Then I conduct a trial in which one group takes the drug and another group takes the placebo. In which group will fewer people die of heart attacks?

The rat-poison group, of course. The poison will kill them before a heart attack can.  But if I want to sell my drug, I’d trumpet the reduction in heart-attack deaths.

Anyway, let’s see what the BMJ analysis says about all-cause mortality in statin trials:

6 studies for primary prevention and 5 for secondary prevention with a follow-up between 2.0 and 6.1 years were identified. Death was postponed between −5 and 19 days in primary prevention trials …

I haven’t taken a math class in quite some time, but I’m pretty sure if death is postponed by -5 days, that means the statin-takers died five days sooner. On a positive note, statin-takers lived an average of 19 days longer in one trial.

Well, the statin enthusiasts like to tell us that while statins may not be all that with a side of fries for primary prevention (that is, preventing a first heart attack), they’re just awesome for preventing a second heart attack. So let’s continue.

… and between −10 and 27 days in secondary prevention trials. The median postponement of death for primary and secondary prevention trials were 3.2 and 4.1 days, respectively.

The statin enthusiasts are clearly correct. The results are better for secondary prevention.  Compared to primary prevention, death was postponed by nine-tenths of an extra day! That certainly justifies taking a powerful prescription drug with a low incidence of side effects, as the statin-makers assure us.

Which brings us to the second item to land in my inbox. The subject line of the email was New Boob Statins Toxic Side Effects.

Holy crap, I thought, you mean statins cause toxic boobs now too?

Turns out I was confused by a typo. The email was from author and science junkie David Evans, letting me know his new book (not boob) Statins Toxic Side Effects is available.

I told him about my confusion in a reply, and he responded with some links to studies showing that statins probably contribute to man-boobs. That might not be a toxic effect, but it’s not a pretty one, either. (Well, I suppose somewhere in the world there’s a female impersonator who looks better with the statin-induced boobs, but you get my point.)

Anyway, on to the book.

The subtitle is Evidence From 500 Scientific Papers. Yes, 500. On the off chance that you have any lingering doubts whether statins produce nasty side-effects, this book will convince you.

The format is the same as in Evans’ other two books, Low Cholesterol Leads To An Early Death and Cholesterol And Saturated Fat Prevent Heart Disease. (He also has an outstanding blog called Healthy Diets And Science, with a gazillion studies organized by topic.)

The studies are organized into chapters with titles such as The common association between statin use and muscle damage and Statins exacerbate asthma and inhibit lung function and exercise. For each of the 500 studies, there’s a consumer-friendly title written by Evans, a citation so you can look up the study yourself, and a summary of the study’s findings, with occasional commentary by Evans.

Thumbing through this thick book and reading some study summaries, I kept shaking my head, thinking of all the people I know who are on statins because the doctor said so.  When my doctor suggested thinking about a statin because of my “elevated” (read: normal) cholesterol, I replied, “I wouldn’t take a statin unless you had a gun to my head and I was convinced you’d pull the trigger.”  He didn’t argue.

Chapter 20 provides citations and summaries of articles written by health professionals who dare to question the statins-for-everyone trend. There are titles (again, the consumer-friendly versions by Evans) like UK doctors virtually compelled to write prescriptions for statins against their better judgment and Doctors’ low awareness of statin side-effects.

Chapter 21 is a bullet-point summary of the negative side-effects attributed to statins in studies. It runs on for two-and-half pages. That should tell you everything you need to know about a drug that by gosh might just extend your life for up to four days.

This isn’t, of course, a book you’ll sit down and read for pleasure while nursing a glass of red wine and a side of bacon. It’s a reference that will save you lord-only-know-how-many hours of research on the internet. I’ll be glad it’s on my bookshelf the next time some statin-pushing doctor sends me an email telling me I’ve just GOT to stop scaring people away from those wunnerful, wunnerful life-saving drugs.

You should be scared.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.


Comments 70 Comments »

Yes, I know … I’ve been a bit of an absent landlord lately when it comes to the blog. As someone who’s written a film, speeches, roasts, a few stage shows back in the day, etc., I know that you have to commit to a deadline at some point, or the project will never be finished.

So I set a deadline for a complete first draft of the book project: my birthday, which is a mere 16 days away. We’d like to have this thing available by May, and Chareva needs plenty of lead time to produce a ton of drawings and lay out the pages. The way holiday seasons seem to zip past, I also know that if I don’t have a draft finished by my birthday, it won’t be finished until the new year.

Trying to explain how diet affects health in a fun and kid-friendly way turned out to be a bigger challenge than I expected – and I expected it to be challenge. I rewrote the toughest chapter (on why the calories-in/calories-out theory is true but also useless) a dozen times last winter.  I finally came up with an analogy that worked, and presented that chapter as a speech on the cruise last May.

But when I began writing subsequent chapters, I decided I didn’t like that analogy so much after all. It worked well as a solo act, but when I moved on to related subjects, I found myself jumping from one analogy to another to explain the concepts. Yee-uck.  I like casseroles as food, but not as a writing style.

I shared my writer’s woes with Chareva, and she offered an idea. That took my brain to a another idea and BANG! – I had the AHA! moment writers live for.  We spent an hour or so kicking it around, talking about she could illustrate it, how we could use it to explain every topic we want to cover. It all made sense.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that I had to re-imagine everything I’d already written and start again. A whole shootload of Chareva’s drawings will go out the window as well. Totally worth it, mind you. Once we knew this was it, the big idea, the right way to tell the story, the words started flowing. But it’s a lot of words, and I have plenty more to write.

So that’s what I’ve been doing instead of blogging.

I’ve been reading comments, of course, and answering emails. A few days ago, I let myself get dragged into an email debate with an ignoramus who thinks I don’t understand calories, then realized I was violating my rule about not arguing with idiots – especially illogical idiots who seem to love endless arguments. So I invited him to go away and blocked his email address.

Several of you have written to ask if I read Denise Minger’s book-length post on high-carb, very-low-fat diets that successfully treated obesity and diabetes. Yes, I did, and it’s fascinating. If you haven’t read her outstanding book Death by Food Pyramid, she floated some similar ideas there. Ancel Keys insisted fat does the damage, John Yudkin insisted sugar does the damage, they sniped at each other for years. But as Minger wrote in the book, it could be that they were both right and both wrong … perhaps it’s the combination of fat and sugar that does the real damage. Cut either to an extreme, and the damage doesn’t occur. A 15-year-old book I recently read about diet and hormones makes similar points.

Anyway, I’ll probably write more about her post soon … if after my birthday qualifies as “soon.”

Several people also wrote to ask for a reaction to the World Health Organization’s announcement that meat causes cancer. So here’s my reaction:

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

Actually, we shouldn’t be surprised. This wasn’t a scientific decision. It was a political decision. WHO is an idiot step-child of the U.N. – a political organization run by political hacks for the purpose of promoting political agendas. The (ahem) “climate experts” at the U.N. have also declared that raising livestock contributes to global warming – er, “climate change,” now that record-cold winters have put the kibosh on “warming.” They don’t want us to eat meat, period. I certainly don’t put it past the political hacks to cherry-pick observational studies that link meat to cancer as a scare tactic.

As part of the scare campaign, one of the WHO hacks apparently declared that when it comes to cancer risk, sausage is in the same category as plutonium. The always-brilliant Dr. Malcolm Kendrick replied, “OK, I’ll eat the sausages, you eat the plutonium, let’s see who lives longest.”

Zoe Harcombe wrote a nice post about the WHO announcement, complete with analysis of the numbers.

I don’t plan to write a full post about it, because it’s the same old garbage based on the same crappy observational studies, and I’ve already written about those studies here, here, here and here.

I will, however, quote from one study. Remember that in good science, we don’t accept a hypothesis unless the evidence supporting it is consistent. WHO says red meat and processed meats cause bowel cancer. So we’d certainly expect vegetarians to have the lowest rates of bowel cancer, wouldn’t we?

Take a look at the conclusion from this observational study, which I’ve quoted before:

The overall cancer incidence rates of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study are low compared with national rates. Within the study, the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

No consistency, no scientific validity. If meat causes bowel cancer, vegetarians would have lower rates of bowel cancer, period, no glaring exceptions. WHO doesn’t get to pick and choose. Well, they do, but we get to use our brains and refuse be swayed by cherry-picked garbage.

Another analysis of data from the same study included this conclusion:

Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters

“All causes” would include cancer.

Go enjoy your sausage (hold the plutonium), and I’ll get back to working on the book.


Comments 107 Comments »

If you’re trying to eat right, then following the diet of a nutritionist is probably a good start.

That may be the scariest first sentence I’ve ever read in a health and fitness article. It ranks up there with we’re from the government, and we’re here to help.

After seeing countless nutritionists quoted in online health articles over the years, I’ve reached the conclusion that every time a nutritionist leaves a room, the average IQ goes up by several points. (To be fair to nutritionists, that’s not always true. Sometimes the room is full of stupid people.  Or government officials who are there to help.)

Anyway, that scary first sentence is from a Business Insider online article titled A nutritionist shares pictures of everything she eats in a day.  I suppose the pictures would be useful for people who want to follow the nutritionist’s advice but are intimidated by reading. For those who don’t mind reading, the nutritionist provided commentary to go along with the pictures. Let’s take a look at what she has to say.

I am thirsty when I wake up, so I start the day with a combo juice of calcium-fortified orange juice and 100% cranberry juice.

I’ve found water helps with that thirst problem.

I dilute it with water, otherwise it’s too sweet. I love the sweet/sour taste, besides all the vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, calcium, and diuretic benefits from the cranberry juice.

Personally, I’ve never had problems peeing in the morning, so the diuretic benefit doesn’t appeal to me. The sweet portion of that sweet/sour taste, of course, comes from the sugar in the orange juice.

On the way to work, around 8:30 a.m., almost every day I eat oatmeal with unsalted peanuts and cinnamon in the car.

Um … uh …. you eat your oatmeal in the car? Almost every day?

Well, that’s just a fabulous idea. The world needs more distracted drivers. While you’re eating your oatmeal (and feeling like you have to pee from those diuretic benefits), perhaps you could send a few texts and apply some eyeliner.

When I get to the office, I make a big mug of decaf mocha-latte coffee and go over my emails. I love them! I use instant decaffeinated coffee with a teaspoon of 100% cacao (natural unsweetened cocoa) topped with a generous amount of 1% milk. The non-alkalized cocoa powder provides heart-healthy flavanols, which may be otherwise processed out in dark chocolate. I drink three to four of these big mugs throughout the day and night to stay hydrated and get a source of calcium.

Again, I’m reasonably sure water would help with the hydration.

I need a mid-morning snack, so around 11 a.m. I eat one-third to one-half of a bar of my favorite chocolate-chip cookie-dough Quest bar.

You need a mid-morning snack? After that power breakfast of orange juice, cranberry juice, oatmeal, a few peanuts and some 1% milk? Well, I am shocked.

I get hungry between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. and eat lunch consisting of plain Greek yogurt with fruit, nuts, and Fiber One cereal for added fiber.

You get hungry again an hour after your mid-morning snack? I must be doing something wrong. I ate breakfast around 8:30 this morning and wasn’t hungry again until dinner.

I was hungry again at 2 p.m. and made my own microwave popcorn with olive oil.

You were hungry again two hours after lunch?!  Let’s see … fruit, cereal, non-fat yogurt … aren’t those the kinds of foods promoted by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act? I’m starting to think these (ahem) healthy foods aren’t so effective at quelling hunger.

I love popcorn and have to measure it out or I eat too much.

Yeah, that’s why I have to measure out my bacon in the morning. You know how it is: you start eating bacon, next thing you know you’ve finished the whole package.  Then you go see a therapist to ask why.

Around 4 p.m. I was feeling stressed but not hungry, so I chewed my favorite peppermint gum. The more stressed I am, the more pieces of gum I chew at a time. Up to four pieces!

Geez, I don’t know how anyone could feel stressed after fueling up on orange juice, cranberry juice, oatmeal, a few peanuts, half a protein bar, non-fat yogurt, fruit and Fiber One cereal. Those sound like perfect brain-calming foods to me. Congratulations on going two hours without feeling hungry, though.

I got home early around 5 p.m. and was tired and hungry, so I ate a handful of peanut M&Ms for a chocolate, sugar energy boost. Since I am sensitive to caffeine, chocolate is the only caffeine I need and is usually included in my daily diet.

I don’t know how anyone could feel tired and hungry after fueling up on orange juice, cranberry juice, oatmeal, a few peanuts, half a protein bar, non-fat yogurt, fruit, Fiber One cereal, and some carefully-measured microwave popcorn. Must be something genetic. Good thing chocolate is included in your daily diet. That sugar energy boost sounds like a godsend.

My husband wasn’t around, so I had leftover Indian food for dinner around 6:30 p.m. I love Indian food and created this dish the night before: curry chicken, onions, apples, raisins, and coconut with garlic naan.

Careful there, lady. If you accidentally skip the raisins and garlic flat-bread, you’ll end up eating something resembling a decent meal.

On the way to my 8:30 p.m. yoga class, I bring a big bottle of iced water. When I get home, I like to drink flavored sparkling water around 9:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. while watching TV.

I drink sparkling water at night too … although I pee it out in the morning without the diuretic benefits of cranberry juice.

The nutritionist didn’t list her portion sizes, but I can make a pretty good guess from the pictures. So entered her day’s dietary choices into Excel and added calories, carbs, protein, etc., by looking them up in online databases. If I’m in the ballpark (and I’m pretty sure I am), the nutritionist consumed right around 2,000 calories, including 100 grams of protein and 250 carbohydrates. Half the carbs – 125 – were from sugar.

As a point of reference, if you drank three 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola, you’d ingest 117 grams of sugar.

If you’re trying to eat right, then following the diet of a nutritionist is probably a good start.

I may yell that at any trick-or-treaters who show up on my doorstep. If they’re smart, they’ll scream and run away.


Comments 162 Comments »