Just six weeks ago, Chareva’s spring project looked like this:

Plans and a truckload of supplies. Now the project looks like this:

Quite a transformation of that back pasture, eh? When we first bought the land, we didn’t venture into that pasture at all. It was too scary. No telling what varmints and bugs were in those chest-high weeds.

It was quite a push there at the end.  When we finished the first chicken-yard, I raised the net with three poles. That helped, but there are still areas where I have to duck. So before we tied down the net over the second chicken yard, I decided to raise the net in a few places around the perimeter as well.

There wasn’t enough slack in the net to use 10-foot pipes, but I found I could use seven-foot pipes and still have enough net hanging down to tie to the fence.  With seven-footers raising the net at the edges, I don’t have to duck anywhere in the chicken yard.

The pipes are galvanized electrical pipes.  They’re only $3 each.  Trouble is, Home Depot sells 10-foot pipes and five-foot pipes. I’m well over five feet tall, so I bought 10-foot pipes and added an angle grinder to my collection of Dangerous Tools For Guys. I secured each pole to my workbench with Quick-Grip clamps, then cut away a three-foot section. I stood well to the side of where I was cutting so I wouldn’t grind my kneecap if I lost control, and of course I wore goggles because of the sparks.

I spent most of my adult life living in apartments. My entire tool collection fit in a drawer: Philips screwdriver, flat-head screwdriver, hammer and pliers. Now I own two chainsaws, a Weed-Whacker with blade and saw attachments, a bush-hogging mower, two power drills, a miter saw and a circular saw. In other words, I’ve acquired many possibilities for seriously injuring myself.

So I’m careful. I don’t cut so much as a small branch with my chainsaw unless I’m wearing my helmet and protective chaps. I wear goggles when I use any kind of powered saw. I even wear the helmet with facemask when I’m using the Weed-Whacker – a precaution I adopted after a friend told me about a co-worker who lost a front tooth when a Weed-Whacker shot a pebble into his mouth.

If I’d had the sense to be equally cautious while using non-powered tools, I could have saved myself a world of hurt on Sunday.

See the gazebo in the picture below? We decided to put that in the middle of the fenced-in areas so we can sit in the shade and enjoy the view. It’s one of those pop-up models with a light aluminum frame.

After setting it up, we had two thoughts: 1) a stiff wind will blow this thing away, and 2) it tilts too much because of the slope of the hill. The downhill tilt cut off the view when we sat under the awning.

The solution to both problems was to strap the aluminum legs to t-posts. To raise the legs on the downhill side, we’d use bricks:

I pounded in the first t-post with no problems. To pound in the second post, I had to stand downhill of it, since the gazebo leg was on the uphill side to set the distance. The post wasn’t taking well to our rocky soil, so I raised the t-post hammer high to get good, powerful blows.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

Yup.  As I was pounding, I was looking down at the ground to check my progress. Raise up … WHAM! Raise up … WHAM! Raise up … CRACK! FUUUUUUUUUUU@#$%!!!!

Chareva didn’t see exactly what happened, but apparently I raised the t-post hammer higher than the post itself before slamming down. Instead of sliding over the post, the bottom edge of the hammer caught the top of the post, turned in my hands, and continued down onto my skull.

I don’t know about you, but when I suffer serious pain, I momentarily divide into two distinct beings. One is the wounded, bellowing animal self who’s feeling all the pain. The other is a detached, rational fellow who observes and occasionally comments.

When the hammer slammed onto my head, I staggered for a moment, then dropped to my hands and knees, then saw the world around me going dark, as if someone was closing the aperture on a camera. The detached self calmly observed, “We’re about to go unconscious. That’s interesting. We haven’t been knocked unconscious in, what, 46 years?”

Then the aperture slowly opened and the light came back. “Ohhh,” the detached self remarked, “so we haven’t been knocked unconscious. Well, that’s good, I guess.”

I heard Chareva tell me to lie down as she ran to the house. I didn’t lie down because I didn’t want my head anywhere near the rocky ground. I sat up instead. I don’t remember taking my hat off, but it was off. Perhaps the hammer knocked it off. I also don’t remember grabbing the top of my head, but I know I did, because there was blood on both of my gloves.

While Chareva was in the house retrieving an ice pack and some towels, I did my best to check myself for a concussion. I held out a finger and moved it side to side, making sure my eyes were tracking. They were. Nausea? Nope. Slurred speech? Let’s see …

“That hurt like a mother@#$%*&! How the @#$% did I do that?”

Nope, all spoken clear as a bell.

When Chareva came back, she blotted the blood from my head, then applied the icepack. I’m happy to say she was calm under pressure. Frightened for me, but calm.

We sat there for a good while, and I explained that if a comedian is going to die an untimely death, it may as well look like something from a Three Stooges scene. I hit myself with a steel t-post hammer while she twists my nose with pliers. I go cross-eyed and fall backwards.

The top of my head hurt like hell, and I could feel a tiny chip in one of my bottom teeth – no doubt from my mouth slamming shut when the hammer collided with my skull. My neck also hurt, and there was a pinched-nerve sensation between my neck and left shoulder.

But all things considered, I felt okay. More than anything, I felt grateful. Slamming a 16-pound steel hammer onto your head can end with far worse than a headache.  If my tongue had been anywhere between my teeth, I could have ended up screaming, “Thith really @#$%ing thuckth!”

I reminded Chareva about a conversation I had with a dentist who removed two of my wisdom teeth 20 years ago.

“You know, you don’t have thick bones,” he told me. “But they’re surprisingly hard and dense. So take it from me, you are officially hard-headed.”

Hard-headed is probably the reason I was talking to my worried wife instead of riding in an ambulance.

After a half-hour or so, the icepack had done the trick and I felt okay to stand up and move around. My head was still trickling a bit of blood, so I put a paper towel inside my hat. We finished anchoring the gazebo – Chareva pounded in the last post – and went inside.

Chareva covered the wound with bandages. I accused her of indulging a secret fantasy to see me wearing a yarmulke.

I took this selfie three days after the collision. It’s still not pretty up there, but the wound is healing.

Accident notwithstanding, we got Chareva’s spring project done in time for our visit from Pete Evans on Monday. I explained to him that I’d best wear a hat for the filming, since my head a was a bit of a mess. I’m just glad I didn’t knock myself into a hospital and end up having to cancel on him.

On Tuesday, Chareva and I spent some time just sitting on the bench under the gazebo, admiring the view from up on the hill, watching the chickens scratch and peck bugs from the grass, and remembering what that pasture looked like a year ago.

Man, was it a satisfying feeling.

Here are more pictures from Tuesday.

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Some months ago, fans from Down Under left comments saying I should meet Australian chef Pete Evans someday.  The name sounded familiar, but my brain didn’t provide details.  So I went online and learned that he’s a hugely popular chef in Australia, with best-selling books and top-rated TV shows.  He’s also an enthusiastic promoter of real food/paleo diets.  Yes, I thought to myself, I suppose it would be nice to meet him someday.

Mere weeks later, he emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in sitting down for an interview during his next trip to the U.S.  When I mentioned in my reply that we live on a hobby farm now and raise chickens, hogs and vegetables, he wrote back to say let’s still do the interview, but I’ll come to you and we’ll film a cooking episode as well.  I replied that I’d be fine with that if he promised not to kill my girls by feeding them bone broth.

I’m sure you Australians get the joke.  For Americans and others who may not … remember when a group of dieticians in North Carolina went after Steve Cooksey for offering advice to diabetics that goes against ADA guidelines (i.e., advice that actually works)?  Cooksey is a blogger.  Imagine how ferociously dieticians would attack a celebrity author and chef with a huge following if his advice was contrary to theirs. That’s what Pete Evans is dealing with now in Australia.  He’s recently been accused (loudly and publicly) of endangering the lives of babies and children by including bone broth and liver in recipes for the wee ones.

And so, as he told me today, it’s a good time to be away in the U.S.  He’s here on a whirlwind tour, shooting interviews and/or cooking shows with Mark Sisson, Nora Gedgaudas, Dr. William Davis, Jimmy Moore and Dr. Terry Wahls, to name just a few.  Tomorrow he’ll be shooting an interview with Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms.

He and the crew showed up at 9:30 this morning.  Despite the exhausting travel schedule (and despite being called everything short of a baby-killer in the press), Pete was energetic, enthusiastic and cheerful all day.  He’s intelligent, optimistic, quick-witted, and understands that becoming a target is part of the deal when you go against the grain-pushing nutrition establishment.  In other words, he’s exactly the type of person I tend to like immediately.  And so I did.  Within minutes, we were chatting like old mates.  (Hope I’m using the Australian term properly.)  We even played a short round of disc golf before he and the crew left.

Chareva and I let Sara and Alana skip school today so they could watch the filming. They hung around, watched the setting-up process, asked questions and generally charmed Pete.  His two daughters are around the same age, so it’s probably no surprise he ended up including our girls in the shooting – much to their delight, of course.  As we walked around the farm filming, the girls got to serve as occasional tour guides and collect eggs for the cooking segment.

For the interview segment, Pete and I talked about Fat Head, the Wisdom of Crowds, the health benefits of real food, and why people like us (including him) are electing to move to farms and raise more of our own food.

The cooking segment will, of course, end up in one of Pete’s cooking shows.  The interview may go in a TV show or it may be included in a documentary about food as medicine.  Or both.  It will likely be autumn before the TV segments air, but I’ll be sure to announce if and when they’re available online.

As I mentioned in previous posts, Pete’s upcoming visit was our motivation to wrap up Chareva’s spring project before today.  We didn’t want to take him on a video tour of half-finished chicken coops and fences.

We got it all done, but I feel lucky to be alive and well after my first farm-work accident.  I’ll cover that in my next post.  Meanwhile, here are more pictures from today.

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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?

Dear Tom,

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.

Sincerely,
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,
Christina

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.

Jihyun

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.

Mr. Naughton:

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.

Kris

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.

Mr. Naughton,

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.

Tim
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.

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We interrupt our normally scheduled blogging to bring you this commercial announcement.

Mother’s Day is May 10th.  We have about 20 of these left:

No, not 20 Charevas … she’s one of a kind.  We have about 20 of the Cool Moms Cook With Butter aprons left.  They’re available in the Fat Head store.

Or you could just send your mom a nice card.

 

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In a psychology class I took in college (during my brief stint as a psych major), there was a lecture on what determines our personalities.  One of the factors was what the professor called energy endowment.  Some people are born to be energetic and some aren’t.  Your energy level would certainly affect your personality.

I recall thinking at the time, Well, that explains a lot.  I’m not blessed with much of an energy endowment.  I wasn’t especially lazy or anything, you understand.  I went to my classes, I was diligent about my homework, and I worked as a waiter on weekends to make a few bucks.  But I didn’t crave physical activity.  I liked reading, playing in a band, and talking about every subject under the sun with my friends.  I was never the guy who said, “Hey, let’s go play football in park!”  Sometimes I did go play football in the park if other guys invited me, but I was kind of relieved when it was over and we all went to sit down in a pub.

Fast-forward 35 years …

The forecast for Saturday was rain all day.  Just as well … I knew Chareva and I wouldn’t be doing farm work together because she took Sara to a seminar for girls on math and science careers.  So I figured I’d spend the day indoors, working on my speech for the upcoming cruise.

As I was sitting at my desk and going over the speech, I noticed a ray of sunshine peeking through the window blinds.  Then I felt mild tension in my right calf.  I looked down to see my right foot inching towards the door.

“Excuse me, foot.  What do you think you’re doing?”

“It hasn’t rained all day.  I want to go out.”

“And do what, exactly?”

“Well, I’m a foot, so it would probably be something that involves walking, genius.”

Not wanting an angry foot on my hands, I gave in and played 18 holes of disc golf in the front pastures.  Then Alana and I took food and water to the chickens in the front pasture and collected the eggs.  Then we took food and water to both flocks of chickens in the back pasture.  Then we took food and water to the hogs.

Feeling I’d done right by the foot, I sat at my desk to go over the speech.

“You know, it’s still not raining.”

“Yes, I know.  The forecast was wrong.  Big surprise.”

“Well, I want to go back out.”

“But I have to—”

“You can always write later if it rains.”

Can’t argue with that logic.  So I went out and played another 18 holes of disc golf.  When I tried to take my shoes off to go inside, the right foot refused to let go of the leather.

“What now?  That’s 36 holes already!”

“I’m just negotiating on behalf of your arms.  They don’t talk much.”

“Well, what do they want?”

“Work.  I mean, real work.  Tossing those little discs around isn’t work.”

“Tell them Chareva is gone, and the next farm chore is stringing more fencing.  That’s a two-person job.”

“Hang on … They say the driveway could use more patching.”

“Well, yeah, now that you mention it …”

“You need to fill in the holes with rocks.  They like that idea.  Rocks are heavy.”

Chareva’s garden cart was full of tools, tarps, gloves, zip-ties and other items dumped in there in no apparent order, which means she planned it that way.   I decided not to mess with her system, even though the garden cart is good for hauling rocks.

So I took a big bucket down to the creek, which serves as my quarry when I need rocks.  For the next couple of hours, I scooped rocks and gravel from the creek into the bucket.  Then I hand-carried the loaded bucket from the creek, across the front pasture, and to the top of our driveway, making sure to switch arms so neither would feel left out.  Then I filled canyons and craters in the driveway with rocks and gravel.  When we get a few days with no rain in the forecast, I’ll mix up some Quikrete and pour it between and on top of the rocks.

The rain that had been forecast all day finally came.  My muscles were tired by then, so the foot and his silent companions didn’t complain when I went inside.

In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes wrote about what he calls the compulsion to move.  We see lean people who move around a lot and fat people who don’t, so we assume the lean people are lean because they’re active.

Taubes says that’s getting the causality backwards.  Lean people are lean because their bodies aren’t hormonally geared to store a disproportionate share of calories as fat.  When they eat, their bodies would rather burn the calories than store them – so they feel a compulsion to move.  Longitudinal studies have shown that despite what most people think, kids don’t sit around and then get fat.  They start getting fat first, then sit around more – because they’ve lost the compulsion to move.

I believe there is such a thing as an energy endowment and that it’s partly genetic.  Some people are born bouncy and stay bouncy.  Others, not so much.  But diet has to figure into it as well.  When I was college, hardly a day went by when I didn’t eat wheat.  Toast or cereal in the morning, a sandwich for lunch, noodles or a roll with dinner – heck, that’s just normal food, right?

Now I rarely touch wheat.  But when I do – like, say, for my very rare pizza indulgence – I can feel the difference the next day.  I lose my enthusiasm for physical activity.  I feel like I did back in the days when I believed I was born with a low energy endowment.

I don’t have that low energy endowment anymore.  I’m not the bouncy type and never will be.  But when the weekend rolls around, I feel a compulsion to move.

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I admit it:  I eat a high-protein diet.  Not just low-carb, and not just high-fat.  It’s high protein.

I thought I should make a public confession because every time some dunce in the media opines that the “high-protein Atkins diet” will kill you, low-carbers around the world jump up and down and yell, “It’s not high protein!  It’s high fat!”

Speak for yourself.

It’s true that when most of us switch to a low-carb diet, we don’t replace 300 grams of carbohydrate with 300 grams of protein.  We swap a lot of the carb calories for fat calories, and that’s good.  But a lot of us also swap a chunk of carb calories for protein calories, and that’s also good.   I used to eat pasta with low-fat marinara sauce for dinner.  Now I eat meats and vegetables.  More fat, more protein.  I almost certainly eat more protein — quite a bit more — than people on the standard Western diet.   I suspect a lot of people on paleo and/or low-carb diets do as well.

People who aim for a constant state of ketosis are, of course, an exception.  Many find they have to restrict protein.  Fine, if that’s working for you, keep it up.  But as I stated in this post and others, I see “nutritional ketosis” as an intervention that’s useful and perhaps even necessary for some, but not the ideal state all health-conscious people must seek.  It’s likely less-than-ideal for a large share of the population.

When ketogenic diets were all the rage, I tried getting into ketosis and staying there, but found it difficult.  Restricting carbs to almost zero and eating plenty of fat wasn’t enough.  I also had to restrict my protein intake to somewhere around 50 grams per day.  Even that barely got me past 1.0 on the keto-meter.

After mulling it over, I concluded that if maintaining chronic ketosis requires that much effort, it can’t possibly be the natural metabolic state of our paleo ancestors – at least not my Irish paleo ancestors.  They wouldn’t have restricted protein, and they certainly weren’t importing avocados year-round to keep their fat intake at 80 percent.

Yes, I’m sure they, like other paleo people, prized fat.  But that doesn’t mean they were able to live on mostly fat.  People prize gold too — because it’s difficult to obtain. There just aren’t that many fatty foods available in the wild, at least not in Northern Europe.  Even if you’re a successful hunter of Paleolithic beasts and eating them nose-to-tail, I doubt you end up at 80 percent fat and only 50 grams of protein per day.  The Inuits — our poster-boys for a VLC diet — consumed 240 grams of protein per day, according to one study.  That doesn’t sound ketogenic to me.

I went back to eating high protein because I listen to my body.  I gave myself several weeks to adjust to ketosis, but never felt quite as strong, energetic or alert as when I eat a higher-protein diet.  Wondering why that was the case, I looked to simple math for an answer.

Our brains, mucous membranes and red blood cells require glucose.  Ketones can substitute for some of the glucose, but not all of it.  The bottom line is that our bodies must have glucose – nowhere near as much as the USDA dingbats tell us, but some.

The answer in low-carb circles has always been Yes, but your body can produce glucose by converting protein.  It’s called gluconeogenesis.  Yup, I’m totally on board with that, and I’m pretty sure I rely on gluconeogensis for at least some of my glucose needs.  But we also need protein to maintain muscle mass.  Different gurus have different opinions on exactly how much, but the typical figure for a guy my size would be a minimum of 60 grams per day.

See the basic math problem here?  If I’m only eating 50 grams of protein per day, that might just cover what I need to maintain muscle mass, or it might just cover my body’s requirement for glucose via gluconeogenesis, but it sure as shootin’ won’t cover both.  So if I can only stay in ketosis by going zero-carb and low-protein, I’m either going to run short of biologically necessary glucose or lose muscle mass.  (If I’m missing something in the equation, somebody can enlighten me.)

When I’ve mentioned that I don’t aim for ketosis and don’t believe it’s the natural human metabolic state (at least not as a constant state), I’ve had well-meaning people assure me that if I’m not in “nutritional ketosis,” it means I’m still primarily a glucose-burner.  Let’s see how that holds up to simple math.

Suppose I consume 150 grams of protein in a day, plus 50 grams of carbohydrate.  That would be a typical daily intake for me, and definitely prevent me from going into ketosis.  My body will likely use 50 or more grams of protein to maintain lean tissue, but what the heck, let’s say all that protein ended up as glucose for energy.  In that case, we’re talking about 800 calories of protein and carbohydrate combined.  At my size and activity level, I probably burn at least 2400 calories per day.  That means the other 1600 calories come from fat … otherwise known as 67% of the total.

So no, I’m not primarily a glucose-burner.  I’m primarily a fat-burner, even at a high protein intake.  I don’t know why that doesn’t translate into higher readings on the keto-meter, nor do I care.  What I do care about is feeling alert, energetic and strong – which I do on a higher protein diet.

Once we let go of the “but I won’t be in ketosis!” fear, the question is whether going high-protein provides metabolic advantages.  For most of us (meaning those who don’t over-produce insulin in response to protein), I believe it does.

This study, for example, found that increasing protein to 30 percent of calories (which is what our friend Jonathan Bailor recommends) produced a spontaneous decrease of 440 calories per day and a reduction in fat mass.  As you know, I don’t believe restricting calories is the key to weight loss all by itself.  Your body has to be satisfied with fewer calories, or the elephant will panic and run away.  (That’s a reference to a post about The Rider and the Elephant, in case you missed it.)  When people eat less despite not being instructed to do so, it means their bodies are satisfied.

This study (as well as others) demonstrated that while losing weight, people on a high-protein diet were more likely to maintain their muscle mass.  If you’re trying to lose weight (and I’m sure many of you out there are), you don’t want it to come from your muscles.  That sets you up for a lower metabolism and a less-appealing body composition.  So restricting protein as part of a weight-loss diet could backfire in the long term.  A high-protein diet, on the other hand, has been show to raise metabolism.

I don’t feel the need to make major changes in my diet.  Going low-carb in 2008 was a major change that provided a slew of  benefits, so most of what I do now is tinker.  Last year I tinkered by re-introducing a bit of safe starch and adding some resistant starch.  This year I’ve been tinkering by reducing my fat intake a bit and increasing protein.  It’s still a high-fat diet, but not as high.

Most days I aim for somewhere around 150 grams of protein.  Since I don’t want to slog down 75 grams for lunch and another 75 for dinner, that means I’ve started eating breakfast again – well, most days.  Some days I just don’t feel like it.  I also still pick two days per week for intermittent fasting, meaning I don’t eat until dinner – usually around 7:00 PM.  I accept that I won’t get as much protein on those days.

On the non-fasting days, I’ve upped the protein partly by adding eggs whites to my meals.  Don’t scream.  I know we all think of eggs whites as those icky things the anti-fat hysterics want us to eat instead of whole eggs, but I still eat whole eggs – usually three per day.  However, I don’t want to choke down six whole eggs in the morning for the sake of consuming a high-protein breakfast.  I like eggs yolks, but not that much.  So I’ll eat three eggs with a cup of eggs whites added to the pan.  I’ve also been adding lean cuts of meat to my lunches and dinners – which already contain plenty of fat, so the point isn’t to create a low-fat meal.  The point is to create a high-protein meal.

After extolling the benefits of a higher-protein diet, I’m probably supposed to tell you how much weight I’ve lost.  Trouble is, I don’t know.  I’ve mentioned before that we don’t have a scale at home so I only weigh myself at the gym.  Turns out even that was useless, or at least it is now.

I realized as much when I stepped on the gym scale a few weeks ago.  It’s one of those “medical” scales you see in doctors’ offices, with the sliding weights and the balance mechanism.  It all feels so very precise, sliding that top weight over … and a little more … and a little more until the balance is dead center.

But I knew the gym’s scale wasn’t precise when it told me I weighed 206 pounds.  That’s not an impossible figure – I weighed more than that 10 years ago – but just a week earlier, the same scale told me I weighed 194 pounds.  All I’ve done since then is follow my usual diet and exercise program, which isn’t likely to induce a gain of 12 pounds in seven days.

So I turned to a nearby staff member and said, “This scale has me weighing 12 pounds more than a week ago.”

“Oh, yeah, don’t pay any attention to that thing.  It’s all messed up.”

Makes me wonder why it’s still in the gym instead of being fixed or sent to the scrap heap, but that’s not my concern.

Anyway, I don’t know how much I weigh.  But I can say I’ve had to cinch my belt a notch tighter since tinkering with a high-protein diet.

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