Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

A reader sent an email to let me know Fat Head is now available on Amazon Prime.  So if you’re a Prime member (I am and enjoy the huge library of free movies and TV shows) and haven’t seen the film, time to grab that remote.

You may be wondering who Peter Paddon is and why he’s listed as a star.  Apparently the metadata picked up his name from the cast list I submitted to our distributor.  Peter was a co-worker back when I worked for Disney.  I needed someone for that “guy recognizes himself in a newscast about obesity” scene, so I kind of apologetically explained it to Peter.

He laughed and said (in his classy British accent), “Don’t worry about offending me.  I know I’m fat.”  He volunteered to come to work the next day wearing a very recognizable shirt.  We went outside and I videotaped him walking down the street.  Then we found an empty office with a sofa and a TV for the “Holy @#$%, that’s me on the news!” scene.  He made me laugh out loud with the first take, so that’s what ended up in the film.

Cheers, Peter, wherever you are.

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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

McDonald’s going more McNatural

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice:  people who blame the country’s health problems on evil corporations who sell us processed foods (Morgan Spurlock comes to mind) have the economic equation backwards.  We don’t buy what corporations produce.  They produce what we’re willing to buy.  Unlike governments, corporations can’t force you to buy a product or service you don’t want (unless they bribe government to apply the force).  The key to getting big producers to sell higher quality food is to 1) demand it, and 2) refuse to buy processed junk.

In earlier posts, I noted that grocery stores like Kroger are selling more local and minimally-processed foods.  Now McDonald’s is responding to slumping sales by going more McNatural, according to an article in The New York Times:

At an event Monday at its headquarters here, McDonald’s announced several changes to its ingredients, including eliminating artificial preservatives from some breakfast foods and Chicken McNuggets, its most popular food item, and removing high-fructose corn syrup from its buns.

Such changes, together with its decision in 2015 to buy only chicken raised without antibiotics used to treat humans, affect almost half of the food on McDonald’s menu, the company said.

The moves are the latest in a series by the company to address changing demands by consumers, who have pushed food companies and restaurants to provide more healthy options and fewer artificial ingredients. It is also an effort to play defense against numerous competitors who promote the quality and freshness of their foods.

Mike Andres, president of McDonald’s U.S.A., said that over the last few years, the company took a hard look at its foods and how they were prepared. The ingredients it was using, like artificial preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup, had good reasoning behind them — but consumers disliked them.

“Why take a position to defend them if consumers are saying they don’t want them?” Mr. Andres said on Monday.

Bingo.  Despite what economic nincompoops think, corporations don’t control the market.  Consumers do.  Doesn’t matter how cleverly McDonald’s advertises foods full of preservatives if consumers don’t want preservatives in their food.

Jessica Foust, director of culinary innovation at McDonald’s, hosted a group of reporters in a test kitchen to show how some of the changes will work in practice.

On the table in front of her were the five ingredients that go into an Egg McMuffin: an English muffin, a large egg, a slice of Canadian bacon, McDonald’s proprietary American cheese and butter — no longer liquid margarine.

Real butter.  In an Egg McMuffin.  The Guy From CSPI is no doubt preparing his “heart attack on a muffin!” routine, but I think most people have wised up to his nonsense.  They want butter, so they’re getting it.

By the way, I bought grass-fed burger patties at Costco this week.  Here’s the ingredients list:

Grass-fed beef, organic onions, sea salt, organic garlic.

Notice that none of these positive developments required new laws or regulations from our overlords in the federal government … who are, of course, busy subsidizing corn to make sure corn-fed beef is still artificially cheap.

Why real food costs more

During my programming marathon, I attended an IT-department event at a local farm.  This is a real farm, you understand, not a mini-farm like ours.  These people have 350 acres and grow everything without pesticides or other chemicals.  They also have a store and event venue on the premises.

I took the farm tour (one of several optional activities for the day) to get a sense of the operation.  After showing us some of what they grow, the co-owner explained why farm-fresh produce tastes so much better:  the produce you buy in grocery stores isn’t bred for flavor.  It’s bred for color and resistance to bruising during shipping.  Grocery-store tomatoes, for example, have skin that’s three times as thick as what these people grow on their farm.  Real food often has blemishes.  Their customers understand that and don’t care if a tomato is uniformly red and pristine.

Here are some shots from the store.

Some of the farm’s best customers are restaurants who cater to the real-food crowd, she explained.  But the feds are making that more difficult.  To protect the public, doncha know, the USDA is requiring producers to keep paperwork that can trace, say, a single tomato served in a restaurant to a single field on a single farm.  If someone gets sick from that tomato, ya see, the USDA needs to run out and inspect that specific field.

All that record-keeping requires staff time, which costs money, which means higher prices.  If you think this regulation is anything other than a behind-the-scenes move by large producers to place a huge financial burden on their smaller, real-food competitors, you have no idea how our political system works.

Here’s the co-owner of the farm showing one of the charts they keep to track what’s grown where.  But that’s just the chart.  The USDA-mandated paperwork itself runs to about 700 pages.  Just how we want our local farmers to spend their time and resources: filling out government forms.

Yes, wheat sensitivity is real

As part of what I call the Save The Grains Campaign, we’ve seen several media articles claiming that negative reactions to wheat are all in people’s heads.  It’s the nocebo effect from books like Wheat Belly, ya see.  People expect to feel bad after eating wheat and so they do, celiac disease is actually rare, blah-blah-blah.

I first gave up bread and other wheat foods because I was cutting carbs to lose weight. That was before Wheat Belly, and I didn’t expect my gastric reflux, psoriasis, arthritis and mild asthma to go away, so there was no placebo effect.  And yet they did go away.  When re-introduced wheat as an N=1 experiment, the ailments came back.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  The connection was clear in my case.  I had a celiac test, which came back negative.  I later read in Wheat Belly that it’s not necessary to have full-blown celiac disease to experience negative reactions to modern wheat.

A study published in the journal Gut says likewise. Here’s part of the abstract:

Wheat gluten and related proteins can trigger an autoimmune enteropathy, known as coeliac disease, in people with genetic susceptibility. However, some individuals experience a range of symptoms in response to wheat ingestion, without the characteristic serological or histological evidence of coeliac disease. The aetiology and mechanism of these symptoms are unknown, and no biomarkers have been identified. We aimed to determine if sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease is associated with systemic immune activation that may be linked to an enteropathy.

The researchers gathered people without celiac disease or a known wheat allergy, but who nonetheless said wheat gives them problems, as well as people with celiac and people with no complaints about wheat.  Then the researchers ran various diagnostic tests.  The results and conclusions are described in a Medline article online:

Gluten sensitivity appears to be a real medical problem, and not a figment of the popular imagination conjured up by the gluten-free craze, a new study contends.

Some people suffer changes within their bodies after eating gluten that are separate and distinct from those that accompany either celiac disease or wheat allergy, researchers report.

“We don’t know what is triggering this response, but this study is the first to show that there are clear biological changes in these individuals,” said senior researcher Armin Alaedini. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University in New York City.

Not a figment of your gluten-free imagination.  The effects are real.

The analysis of 80 patients with non-celiac wheat sensitivity found that these people experience an immune response to gluten that’s less focused and more wide-ranging than that found in celiac disease, Alaedini said. These patients were studied alongside 40 people with celiac disease and 40 healthy people in a “control” group.

People with non-celiac wheat sensitivity did not experience an autoimmune reaction. And, they didn’t have T-cells — a specific form of white blood cell — attacking living cells in the body, as occurs in celiac disease, Alaedini explained.

But people with non-celiac wheat sensitivity did show evidence of an acute and systemic immune activation that did not occur in celiac disease, accompanied by signs of cellular intestinal damage.

The results suggest that people with non-celiac wheat sensitivity suffer from a severe immune reaction because microbes and food particles can seep through their weakened intestinal barrier and into their bloodstream, the researchers explained.

Which is why I’ll still toss the muffin from my Egg McMuffin, even if the muffin is slathered with real butter.  My issues with wheat are not in my head.  They’re in my gut.

Former top doc in England stops taking statins … can we call it “stexit”?

Here are some quotes from an article in the U.K. Daily Mail:

The former head of NHS England has revealed he no longer takes statins over concerns about their ‘debilitating’ side effects.

Sir David Nicholson, who retired from his £210,000 a year role two years ago said he had stopped taking the anti-cholesterol drugs because of muscle pain.

Around 7 million Britons take the drugs – and around 7,000 lives a year are thought to be saved by the drugs.

And around a billion colorful eggs are thought to be delivered every spring by a magical bunny.  I have more faith in the bunny at this point.

Sir David, who also has type 2 diabetes, said: ‘I was getting muscle and joint pain. It was getting worse and worse. It was mild to begin with and I kind of thought it was because I was getting old. I stopped taking them for a week and I got better.’

There has, however, been a fierce controversy over the side effects, with some doctors believing they have been under-reported.

Gee, do ya think?  According to studies conducted by statin-makers, side effects are rare.  Meanwhile, nearly everyone I know who’s tried statins has experienced muscle and joint pain.  As I recounted in a 2011 post, most professional athletes prescribed statins quit taking them – because they notice right away if their muscles are affected.  They depend on those muscles for a living.

Instead of dishing out pills, Sir David said GPs should perhaps attempt to change a patient’s lifestyle – particularly diet and exercise.

Dern tootin’ they should.  Now if only we could get doctors and government health agencies to stop thinking a healthy lifestyle means giving up meat and eggs and eating more hearthealthywholegrains!

Keto diet  vs. cancer

Here are some quotes from another article in the U.K. Daily Mail:

A cancer patient told he had just months to live claims giving up carbohydrates has given him nearly two extra years of life.

Pablo Kelly, 27, was told the tumour in his brain was inoperable and chemotherapy was his only chance at survival.

But he decided to reject traditional treatments in favour of a specialist fat-heavy, carb-free diet.

Mr Kelly says he restricts his calories and fasts regularly – while his only source of carbohydrates comes from green vegetables. He does not eat processed foods, refined sugars, root vegetables, starch, breads, or grains. Two years later, he claims this is the reason he has outlived expectations.

Well, I don’t know if it’s necessary to give up root vegetables, but dumping processed foods, sugars and refined grains is the prescription I’d recommend for anyone, cancer or no cancer.  After reading Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Code, I’m also on board with the fasting.

Now look at how the Wisdom of Crowds effect helped:

Mr Kelly, whose symptoms started with migraines which he chalked down to the summer heat, was eventually diagnosed with cancer in August 2014 at the age of 25. Due to the tumour’s position in Mr Kelly’s brain, he was told it is inoperable.

When doctors offered him radiotherapy and chemotherapy, he decided he didn’t like the idea of a diminished quality of life and opted for the ketogenic diet – which is not recommended by the NHS.

Of course not.  A diet isn’t a drug.

‘The doctors said the only option they could give me was chemotherapy,’ he said.  ‘I did research and I knew there were other options for me that could help.  I was awake til 4am every night trying to find something that could cure it.’

He says it makes ‘total sense’ to him to cut the source of fuel to his brain tumour. ‘It works for epilepsy and diabetes so why should it not work with cancer,’ he said.

And that’s why I’m happy to be living in an age where we can do our own research on the internet and benefit from the Wisdom of Crowds instead of relying solely on what the doctor tells us.

Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down …

Remember that song from Mary Poppins?  Apparently, our FDA considers it sound medical advice.  Here are some quotes from an article in Natural News:

The serious issue of overmedicating kids could be about to take on a whole new dimension with the emergence of a new medication known as Adzenys. While kids are generally averse to taking medications, few will turn their noses up at a piece of candy. That is exactly what Adzenys is banking on with its underhanded and potentially dangerous new fruit-flavored amphetamine.

As you can see from the picture atop the article, the new drug looks like gummy bears.  Well, why not?  We’re now selling gummy-bear vitamins to adults.  Because if there’s one message we need to get across to all Americans, it’s this:  everything good for you should taste like candy!

Not that I’m saying ADHD drugs are good for you, of course.  After reading the book Anatomy of an Epidemic a couple of years ago, I’d say the opposite is true of most psychiatric drugs.

The drug recently hit the market, and psychiatrists are voicing concerns that it could serve as another gateway to ADHD drug abuse. Perhaps not surprisingly, the extended-release amphetamine gained FDA approval in January for patients as young as six years old.

University of California San Diego Psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Papp is horrified by the concept, saying that prescribing the drug sanctions “an orally disintegrating amphetamine for kids by the morally disintegrating FDA.”

Oh, come on now.  The FDA morally disintegrated a long time ago.  So did the USDA.  And the NIH.  And the National Cholesterol Education Program.

But man, I’m looking forward to the day we put the feds in charge of our entire health system.  Then they’ll suddenly all become altruists who only want to keep us healthy, and everything will be wunnerful, wunnerful.  I can hear the press conferences already:  “If you like your food, you can keep your food.”

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I was the guest awhile back on Bruno da Gama’s podcast show The Brazilian Health Nut.  You can listen to the episode here.

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I recently wrote a couple of posts explaining that over the years, I’ve revised my explanation of “the alternative hypothesis” from this:

More Carbohydrates => Higher Insulin => Fat Storage

to this:

Damaging Diet => Hormonal Disruption => Fat Storage

It’s not the biologically beneficial rise in insulin after a meal that makes people obese, I said in those posts. It’s chronically high insulin (along with other hormonal disruptions) resulting from a bad diet.

In comments, a few of you suggested I read Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Code because it expresses similar ideas. Good suggestion. It’s an enlightening and very readable book – meaning it passes my “Aunt Martha” test. Your Aunt Martha could read this book without giving up because she doesn’t want to keep a medical dictionary on her desk.

As I expected, insulin is still front and center in Fung’s explanation of why we get fat. In fact, the book’s cover includes the subhead Why your body’s own insulin is the key to controlling your weight. After citing plenty of research to effectively dismiss the “it’s all about consuming too many calories” explanation of obesity in the early chapters, Fung begins chapter seven like this:

I can make you fat. Actually I can make anyone fat. How? By prescribing insulin. It won’t matter that you have willpower, or that you exercise. It won’t matter what you choose to eat. It’s simply a matter of enough insulin and enough time.

Wait … hasn’t Dr. Fung read on the internet that we mustn’t blame insulin because it’s actually a wunnerful, wunnerful appetite suppressant? Well, perhaps he has … but if so, I’m sure he laughed. He has years of clinical experience with the stuff, as he explains in the book’s introduction:

I’ve often watched patients start insulin treatment for their diabetes, knowing that most will gain weight. “Doctor,” they say, “you’ve always told me to lose weight. But the insulin you gave me makes me gain so much weight. How is this helpful?”

… Like many doctors, I believed that weight gain was caloric imbalance – eating too much and moving too little. But if that were so, why did the medication I prescribed – insulin – cause such relentless weight gain?

Fung answers his own question in chapter seven:

Everything about human metabolism, including the body set weight, is hormonally regulated. A critical physiological variable such as body fatness is not left up the vagaries of daily caloric intake and exercise. Instead, hormones precisely and tightly regulate body fat. We don’t consciously control our body weight any more than we control our heart rates, our basal metabolic rates, our body temperatures or our breathing.

But it isn’t just about insulin. Fung includes chapters on cortisol (which triggers weight gain partly by raising insulin) and other hormones, such as leptin, that are involved in weight regulation.

And insulin isn’t just about how many grams of carbohydrate we consume. As Fung writes in chapter nine:

The carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis, the idea that carbohydrates cause weight gain because of insulin secretion, was not exactly wrong. Carbohydrate-rich foods certainly do increase insulin levels to a greater extent than the other macronutrients. High insulin certainly does lead to obesity.

However, the hypothesis stands incomplete. There are many problems, with the paradox of the Asian rice eater being the most obvious.

… Indeed, many primitive societies that ate mostly carbohydrates have low obesity rates. In 1989, Dr. Staffan Lindeberg studied the residents of Kitava, one of the Trobriand Isands in Papua New Guinea’s archipelago – one of the last places on Earth where people ate a largely traditional diet. Starchy vegetables, including yam, sweet potato, taro and cassava, made up the basis of their diet.

It isn’t foods that raise insulin that make us fat, Fung explains in the following chapters. It’s foods that lead to insulin resistance. Once we become insulin resistant, the entire hormonal system goes out of whack. Fung spends the next few chapters describing the foods that likely make us insulin resistant (sugar being a primary culprit) and how insulin resistance makes us fat.

Insulin resistance is largely about what we eat. But rolling back the effects – and perhaps preventing insulin resistance in the first place – is also about when we eat. That was the most useful message in the book for me, since I’ve already read rather a lot about the effects of foods.

As Fung explains, insulin is supposed to rise after meals. But then it’s supposed to drop and stay low for several hours. Back when few Americans were overweight, that’s what happened — because we ate three meals per day, period. Now we add constant snacking into the mix. When I was shooting interviews for Fat Head, Dr. Eric Oliver, author of Fat Politics, said that while people like Morgan Spurlock want to blame obesity on restaurants for serving larger meals, the real problem seems to be how often we eat between meals. Fung explains why that’s such a problem:

The balance between the fed state (insulin dominant) and the fasted state (insulin deficient) has been completely destroyed. We are now spending most of our time in the fed state.

… We are taught to eat the moment we roll out of bed. We are taught to eat throughout the day and again just before we sleep. We spend up to 18 hours in the insulin-dominant state, with only six hours insulin-deficient.

A lousy diet, of course, makes snacking irresistible. Refined carbs jack up your blood sugar, and your body responds by flooding your bloodstream with enough insulin to give you low blood sugar. If you work in an office, I’m sure you’ve seen exactly what Fung is describing. I see people eat their white-bread sandwiches at noon, and by 3:30 they’re back in the cafeteria, trying to decide if they should raise blood sugar with a candy bar, a bag of chips, or some microwaved popcorn.

Fung describes this as the vicious cycle that leads to insulin resistance. When insulin is too high, too often, cells down-regulate their insulin receptors. Then the body cranks out more insulin to try to lower high blood sugar. Then we get fatter. And hungrier. And snack more often.

Part of the cure is real food, and Fung devotes a good chunk of the book to the topic. But another part of the cure is to dial back insulin resistance through intermittent fasting. As you know, I’m a fan of the Wisdom of Crowds. Fung reminds the reader that in nearly all ancient cultures, periodic fasting was considered a boon to good health. It was part of their wisdom.

In the final chapter, Fung lays out the why and the how of intermittent fasting. Here’s part of the why:

To break the insulin-resistance cycle, we must have recurrent periods of very low insulin levels. But how can we induce our body into a temporary state of very low insulin levels?

We know that eating the proper foods prevents high levels, but it won’t do much to lower them. Some foods are better than others; nonetheless, all foods increase insulin production. If all foods raise insulin, then the only way for us to lower it is to completely abstain from food. The answer we are looking for is, in a word, fasting.

In the rest of chapter, Fung describes the hormonal effects of fasting and dispels the many myths about going without food … such as “it will depress your metabolism.” Interestingly, the research he cites here and in other chapters shows that while living on a low-calorie, low-fat diet will indeed slow down your metabolism, periodic fasting doesn’t. Apparently we’re built for it. Given that paleo man’s hunts weren’t always successful, that makes sense.

Jimmy Moore and Dr. Fung are co-authoring a book titled Fasting Clarity that’s scheduled to be published later this year. I’m looking forward to reading the expanded version of this topic.

In the meantime, The Obesity Code is definitely worth adding to your library of diet and health books.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these posts, so here some letters from viewers.  Actually these are follow-up letters from people who’ve written to me before.  Their letters are most of the post, so I’m not going to use quotes.  The letters appear in regular text.  My comments are in italics.

Down 40 pounds in mere months

Hello, Tom —

I wanted to follow up with you. I originally emailed in February, then again in April. June is here and I am now down 40 pounds! I started out at 245 lbs and I’m at 205. I feel great. My wife has lost about 20 lbs. Again for her to have lost this much weight is truly amazing — she’s never been able to lose it and keep it off because of PCOS and other factors. She’s seeing consistent loss, but in her case the measurements are really amazing. She’s lost 4 inches from her waist and several inches in other areas!

We don’t really count carbs, but generally get anywhere from 25-100 carbs a day. The carbs come from homemade sourdough bread (using natural yeast rather than quick rise stuff — no more than 1 slice a day), berries, and some veggies (above ground varieties). Once a month we might go each a small pizza or something not strict low carb, but for the most part we are avoiding a lot of the processed stuff we used to survive on.

Our typical breakfast is eggs with either bacon, sausage or made into an omelet with veggies. I add 2-3 tablespoons of cream to the eggs and whisk them up in a bowl. I also add 1-2 tablespoons of butter to the pan to help the eggs fry. Lunch is usually a big salad (homemade ranch dressing using ranch dressing mix, full fat greek yogurt and heavy cream) and some type of fatty meat – burger patties, 1/2 of a rib eye, or leftover beef stew (with real bone broth).

Dinner is usually veggies with cheese and/or butter on them and a meat – rib eye, ground beef, bone in skin on fried chicken, etc. For dessert we’ve stuck with berries and cream (thank you for introducing me to that!) and we have 1 piece of dark chocolate with each meal (>75% dark, each piece has 1g sugar). Let me tell ya, starting the day off with a piece of dark chocolate and having no guilt over doing it- – totally awesome.

Doing everything the modern American medical system tells me should make me fat, yet I’ve lost 40 lbs in 6 months and 0 exercise. My wife and I do go on maybe 1-2 walks a week and we’re active around the house, but I dont count that stuff as exercise. I do understand the importance of exercise, especially being behind a computer all day, but not solely for weight loss!

It is amazing to go through this journey. Friends and co-workers have noticed the weight loss and I have shared your movie, facebook groups and website with them, since it all started with Fat Head. Some friends of ours switched to a lower carb lifestyle a few days ago and have already seen results.

A good friend of mine and I were having a discussion and he asked me what I was doing. This guy is a skinny guy who runs 6 miles 2 or 3 times a week and has competed in Tough Mudder several times. He’s recently put on some weight and wanted to know what I was doing. I shared my story and what I’d learned about cholesterol. His cholesterol is at 250 and his doctor wants to put him on statins. I told him to never go to that doctor again and sent him several links, including some videos on YouTube from Fat Head the Movie. I couldn’t believe a doctor actually wanted to put this guy on statins!

Look forward to your book — thanks for everything you do.

Matt

Thank you, Matt.  I’m looking forward to seeing the book too.  Chareva is still drawing some of the characters, and I’m lovin’ what she’s doing with them.

Folks, notice Matt and his wife have kept losing weight, but haven’t been at 20 carbs for months on end.  Some days it’s 25, other days they go up to 100.  Exactly the point I was making in my previous couple of posts. It’s not necessary to aim for never-ending ketosis to lose weight and become healthy.

A five-year follow up on the whole family

Hi Tom,

My name is Lorraine and I wrote to you once in September 2011. It has been almost 5 years and I feel obligated to thank you again for the changes you have instilled in my life and also the people I love.

A few months after writing you, I did achieve my goal weight.  I have been able to maintain my weight (between 125-130 pounds) effortlessly.  Re-reading that post has reminded me of how dire my life was at 25.  I was so very depressed and unhealthy, and I’ve nearly forgotten that dark time.  I am now 30 years old and things have changed.

After my depression, I started to enjoy all the old things I used to love, like reading, video games, and social events.  I also found new hobbies including biking, sprinting, weight training, and hiking. I started living again.  I have completed graduate school.  I am a physician assistant practicing for almost two years in an emergency department in a busy city hospital.  I am also engaged to be married this coming fall.  However, this e-mail isn’t really about me.  It is more about those around me you have changed after I wrote that e-mail.

My father at the time was over 50 pounds overweight.  He was pre-diabetic and had an awful lipid profile.  Deep down, I knew he was teetering on the edge of full-blown heart disease.  The odds were against him.  After my success, he wanted to know what he was doing wrong.  He was constantly dieting and failing.  I had him watch your documentary.  He found you amusing, but he was very doubtful.

He felt hopeless so he gave it a shot.  In his 50s, he lost all the weight in only a few months.  He began weight training, and as a 59-year-old man continues to weight train 3-4 times a week.  He is no longer pre-diabetic and his lipid profile is as his doctor described “that of a 20 year old.”  He too has been able to maintain his weight with ease.  Because of your documentary, he was able to see the birth of his granddaughter (my niece) and he will be able to see my upcoming wedding.  I honestly can say that I don’t know if that would have been possible at the rate he was going.

I met my fiance, a nurse, a little over 2 years ago.  He is a type 1 diabetic.  He had a hard time controlling his blood sugars so his A1C was never ideal.  On his own accord, he started following a low-carb lifestyle.  Moving downstate to be closer to me, he found a new endocrinologist.  When he told his endocrinologist what he had changed, she gleamed.  She and her husband (another doctor) follow a paleo lifestyle.  A huge proponent of low-carb lifestyles, she recommends it to everyone, including all her diabetic patients.  His A1C is now in an ideal range and his sugars remain controlled throughout the day.  He no longer has bad highs, or even worse, bad lows.  Also, the amount of insulin he administers daily has dramatically decreased by nearly 25-50%.

My sister was a few pounds overweight when she became pregnant.  She was terrified of possibly gaining too much weight during pregnancy as many of her friends have done.  She was fearful of conditions like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.  She decided to start following a low-carb lifestyle as well.  I gave her recipes, meal plans, and healthy snacking ideas.  She was able to maintain a healthy weight throughout her pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy, 7-pound baby girl.

There are others you also helped including my mother, my mother-in-law, many coworkers, many friends, and even my future family.  Proponents of the low-carb lifestyle, like you, are a catalyst to creating future healthier generations.  Keep up the amazing work.

A million thanks,

Lorraine

A million thanks you to, Lorraine, for letting me know how much you and your loved ones have improved your health.  I wish you and your fiance a lovely wedding and a wonderful life together.

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Two items to get out of the way before moving on to the cruise report:

First, a big thanks to The Older Brother for taking over the Fat Head chair while I was gone. Today happens to be his 59th birthday, so wish him a good one and 50 more.

I recall a conversation we had a few years ago as our dad was fading from Alzheimer’s. The Older Brother pointed out that our great-grandfather (who lived to be 101) was sharp until around age 98. Our grandmother began fading mentally in her 80s, and in retrospect it was clear Dad began fading in his 60s. Noting the pattern, The Older Brother said (to paraphrase in polite terms), “We’re screwed.”

I disagreed and pointed out that researchers were beginning to describe Alzheimer’s as type III diabetes. The reason each succeeding generation in our family succumbed at an earlier age was that each generation began eating a crap diet at an earlier age — thanks to arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria and hearthealthywholegrains! nonsense. This isn’t some biological destiny we can’t escape, I said. We just have to ditch the processed carbs and industrial oils and get back to eating real food. Then we’ll be the next generation to be full of lucid and smart-ass comments well into our 90s.

The Older Brother is now a year away from age 60 and isn’t showing any signs of losing his memory. (When he does, I’ll tell him he owes me money.) I like to think our conversation about Alzheimer’s is part of what turned him into the dedicated real-foodie he is now. After all, I owe him for turning me into a libertarian by shredding me in an impromptu economics debate back when I was a wishy-washy “moderate” about such things.

Second, I apologize for the delay in crawling back into the Fat Head chair myself. I came home from the cruise happy but exhausted. As usual, I stayed up waaaay too late the last couple of nights, getting in those last conversations with cruise buddies I won’t see again for a year.

To add insult to injury, whenever I have to catch a flight or leave a cruise ship early in the morning, my brain likes to pop awake at a ridiculously early hour.  So I flew home on Sunday after sleeping maybe two hours. Perhaps because of the exhaustion, I came down with some kind of head cold/ear infection annoyance a couple of days later. When Thursday rolled around, I was running a fever and didn’t much feel like writing a post.

Here’s the difference a good diet makes: ear infections used to knock me flat for a week.  Thursday I felt lousy and had a high fever.  By Sunday I felt well enough to spend four hours pushing the mower up and down the big hill in our back pasture … then go play 18 holes of disc golf.

Anyway, on to the cruise report …

I’ll start with the most surprising news of the week: Jimmy Moore and I won the cruise-ship karaoke contest with our rendition of “Elvira.” We didn’t set out to enter the competition, but when we wandered into the karaoke club on Wednesday night, we learned it was the first of two qualifying competitions. Well, what the heck, since we wanted to sing anyway, we signed up. Applause from the crowd was the major factor in the qualifying rounds, which gave us an advantage … although some of our fellow low-carb cruisers were ticked off by the loud cheers that greeted two Brazilian girls in tight dresses.

I can’t believe you two are going to get beat out of the finals by a couple of dresses!

Uh, look, I replied, you’re taking this way more seriously than I am. It’s just for fun. The winners don’t move on to American Idol or anything.

But the low-carb crowd managed to out-whoop and out-clap the fans of tight Brazilian dresses, so Jimmy and I made it into the Saturday night finals. The emcee announced that applause would only count as 20% of the score for the finals. I have my doubts. Truth is, everyone in the finals could sing. An objective listener could have voted for any of us. So I think applause figured for more than 20%.

Two of the singers (Brazilians, but not in tight dresses) had large groups of partisans in attendance, but I’d say at least of the third of the crowd consisted of low-carb cruisers. When it was time for vote-by-applause and the emcee held his hand over Jimmy and me, the noise was deafening. I told Jimmy I felt like we’d just won an election in Chicago, complete with ballot-box stuffing. But of course, I happily wore the shiny first-place medallion afterwards. It was a great way to end a great week.

There were three seminar days for our group, with so many good presentations, I won’t bother trying to describe them all. That would require a book-length post. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt posted the seminar schedule on his blog awhile back, so I’ll just link to it rather than type the lineup again.

On last year’s cruise, Dr. Eric Westman announced that he would soon be opening his first HEAL Clinic – a center dedicated to treating diabetics with diet instead of drugs as much as possible.  (Imagine that.)  This year he was able to announce that the center is up and running.  His long-term goal is to open them all over the country.

Low-carb author Dana Carpender wrote the official cookbook for the HEAL Clinic diet. After all, once people leave the clinic, they have to put what they’ve learned into practice in their own kitchens. The recipes – hundreds of them – are mostly of the quick-and-easy variety. If you like low-carb cookbooks, this is another good one to have.  If you’re not on a ketogenic or VLC diet, do what I do: cook up one the recipes and add a potato as a side dish.

In Dr. Ted Naiman’s presentation about hyperinsulinemia, we learned why Dr. Westman’s approach is so necessary. Going through a series of studies at breakneck speed (the guy is a fast talker), Dr. Naiman made the case that high doses of insulin are as damaging as high blood sugar. If you’re a type I diabetic and need to squirt a normal dose of insulin into your bloodstream to absorb nutrients, fine. You have no choice. But doctors are treating type II diabetics with ever-higher doses of insulin – several times the dose produced by a person with a healthy metabolism.

The sky-high load of insulin thickens arteries, encourages the growth of tumors, triggers weight gain, and pretty much makes a mess of the whole body. So when I hear diabetes (ahem) “experts” insisting that type II diabetics should eat their carbs and then “cover” with insulin, I want to scream. Or punch somebody really, really hard.

One of the memorable presentations came from one of our own – Ailsa Marshall, a member of the team that organizes the cruise every year. She apologized a couple of times for not being a professional speaker (after, say, pushing the wrong button on the PowerPoint remote), but not being a professional was part of her charm. She was up there as just another person battling both diabetes and the effects of bad medical advice.

As she explained, she had tried following her own doctor’s advice, but her blood sugar kept spinning out of control, despite the insulin and other drugs. It was on last year’s cruise, in fact, that she finally asked Dr. Westman if he could help. (A bit tricky logistically, since Ailsa lives in the U.K. and Westman is at Duke in North Carolina.) Dr. Westman said he could indeed help, but under one condition: she had to be 100% on board. No half-measures, no cheating. She agreed.

A year later, she’s off the insulin and her blood sugar is finally under control. Oh, and she’s also lost 40 pounds. I almost didn’t recognize her at the pre-cruise dinner, even though I’ve known her for a few years now.

As I put it in the title of a long-ago post, This Is Why We Do What We Do. Ailsa’s story needs to become the common story for type II diabetics, not the story of one woman lucky enough to be treated by Dr. Westman instead of some drug-pushing doctor.

As if anyone needed more convincing, Jackie Eberstein (the long-time nurse for Dr. Atkins) gave an interesting/frightening presentation on the side effects of the most commonly prescribed drugs. Nearly all of them create vitamin or mineral deficiencies, yet  few doctors know enough to tell patients which supplements to take. Then, of course, the drugs prescribed by different specialists treating the same patient start producing negative interactions. Then another doctor may prescribe more drugs to treat the problems caused by the drug interactions.

Geez, it’s enough to make you want to stay healthy by eating real food.

Real food was, in fact, one of the most common themes throughout the presentations. In his amusing talk about what low-carbers and paleo types think of each other, Jimmy Moore said many paleo adherents see low-carbers as a bunch of fat people swilling Diet Cokes and other treats full of artificial sweeteners. (Low-carbers, meanwhile, see paleo types as born jocks who gobble down treats made with honey and maple syrup and get away with it because they’re born jocks.)

Some years ago, that stereotype of low-carbers may have been true. It certainly isn’t now, at least not from what I’ve seen. Thanks largely to the paleo movement (which Jimmy acknowledged), the low-carb movement has become a real-food movement. Every doctor and researcher who gave a presentation on the advantages of a low-carb diet emphasized that the diet has to be based on real foods.

In a speech about the supposed dangers of ketogenic diets, Dr. Adam Nally pointed out that when people wave around studies of, say, kids who experienced health problems after going on a ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy, they don’t mention that the kids were largely living on ketogenic shakes, not real food. The health problems were caused by nutrient deficiencies nearly everyone who tries living on meal-replacement shakes will experience.

Anyone who thinks a low-carb diet is all about bacon and cheeseburgers without buns should join us for our leisurely cruise dinners. Yes, we ate steaks and lobsters and racks of lamb. We also ate a ton of vegetables. The waiters for our area (who were excellent) figured out our habits right away and took it upon themselves to bring huge serving trays of extra steamed vegetables to the tables – with butter, of course.

I took a camera on board, but as often happens when I’m not with Chareva and the girls, I forgot to use it much. But here are some of my dinner companions for the week.  (There were more people at our table, but not when I was snapping pictures.)

Steve and Mariane Cunningham from Alberta.

Jeane Kelly (left) from New Jersey and Lisa Colclasure from Colorado.

Yours truly and Gerd Birgit Hay from Norway.

I sure hope I said something funny just before the picture was snapped.  If not, Gerd may have been laughing at me for undisclosed reasons.

The seminars took place on sea-travel days. On port days, most people leave the ship for excursions. I chose not to go on any excursions. Back in my standup days, I was on Caribbean cruises more times than I care to remember. Beaches, beach bars, and souvenir shops have kind of lost their appeal. So I did some reading, watched tutorials on software I want to learn, and walked around the ship while sipping coffee. Here’s what the fifth-deck promenade looks like:

The eighth deck is called Central Park. There are shops, restaurants and an outdoor tavern along the walking paths. I thought for the sake of realism, the crew should stage an occasional mugging late at night, but no, it’s safe even at 1:00 AM.  Nobody tried to steal my wallet as I sat there one night drinking red wine and staring at the stars.

I also took some time to re-work the blog a bit, in case you hadn’t noticed. I removed dead links, reduced the blogroll to people who are still blogging, dumped the No-Bologna Facts and Meet The Experts pages, and added a page for articles and studies. I plan to keep updating that one.

This year’s cruise took place during finals week for the girls, which is why they and Chareva stayed home. I missed them. It’s not the same being on a cruise without them. I borrowed Jimmy’s iPhone a couple of times so I could talk to them via Facetime and see their faces.  (And when I got home, I finally caved and bought an iPhone.)

But next year … ohhhh, yeah! In case you didn’t already know:

I booked the four of us for next year before leaving the ship. No way I’m letting my wife and girls miss a week in Alaska. I did two weeks in Alaska during my standup days. In fact, I wrote the script for Fat Head during that cruise. (My standup workweek consisted of two shows, so I had plenty of downtime.)

For my presentation this year, I read portions of the book for kids, with Chareva’s cartoons on the screens.  I already told Jimmy I’m going to have the film version ready to show in Alaska, no matter what it takes. Perhaps it will be the premiere.

Meanwhile, I saw in the cruise Facebook group that more than 150 people have already signed up. So if you’re planning to join the group in Alaska, best get on it sooner rather than later.

Hope to meet many of you there — or see you again, as the case may be.

Thanks for putting together another terrific cruise and seminar lineup, Big Guy … and for singing “Elvira” with me, of course.

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