Back To The Future: A 1985 Article Praises Americans For Switching To ‘Healthier’ Diets

The movie Back to the Future came out in 1985. I had my own back to the future moment recently when I stumbled an across a New York Times Magazine article written the same year. Reading this article was a bit like going back in time and seeing the happy faces of people boarding the Titanic.  You know the disaster is coming, but there’s nothing you can do about it.

I wasn’t surprised to see the author was Jane Brody, who’s been on the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! and hearthealthywholegrains! bandwagon for decades. She was, unfortunately, one of the most influential food writers in the mass media. You can get a sense of her capacity for critical thinking by reading one of the first posts I wrote back in 2009, which was titled Jane Brody’s Cholesterol Headache.

Before we get to the 1985 article, it’s worth mentioning that yet another study exonerating saturated fat came out last week. Here are some quotes from an article in Newsweek:

Consuming dairy products such as milk and cheese could cut the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a study that challenged the commonly held belief that dairy is harmful.

Marcia Otto, lead author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health, said in a statement: “Our findings not only support, but also significantly strengthen, the growing body of evidence which suggests that dairy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults.”

One fatty acid present in dairy was actually found to potentially lower the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly stroke, she said.

When you see that the lead author is a professor of epidemiology, you might be tempted to write this one off as another lousy observational study that depended on food questionnaires. Nope, that’s not the case.

To arrive at their conclusion, the researchers evaluated 3,000 adults 65 years old and older. At the start of the study in 1992, the levels of three different fatty acids found in dairy products were measured in their blood, and again six and 13 years later.

No surveys or guesswork involved. The investigators measured the actual fatty acids in their blood to determine who consumed how much dairy fat.

The team found none of the fatty acids were linked to a higher risk of dying. And one was linked to a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. In addition, people with higher levels of fatty acids, which the researchers believe may have stemmed from their consumption of dairy products, had a 42 percent lower risk of dying from stroke.

A study conducted in 2011 that also measured biomarkers for dairy fat consumption found the same thing: no relationship between dairy fat consumption and heart disease. And of course, there have been several studies since then showing no relationship between saturated fat — whether from meat, eggs or milk — and heart disease.

So with that in mind, let’s go back to the future and look at some quotes from Jane Brody’s 1985 article titled America Leans To A Healthier Diet:

JIMMY JOHNSON USED to wake up to the smell of bacon in the pan and coffee in the pot. ”And,” his wife, Laura, recalls, ”I’d save the bacon grease to fry the eggs.”

Now, Mr. Johnson says just a bit ruefully: ”The smells are gone from breakfast, but we’re all a lot better off for it.”

You can imagine what they started eating to become better off. If you have tendency to bang your head on your desk, I’d suggest donning a helmet before continuing.

Only once every two or three weeks does the Johnson family – which includes 20-year-old Todd, a college student, and 14-year-old Maclaren – sit down to a breakfast of eggs. The bacon and sausage are even rarer and the saltshaker stands unused.

At 6:30 on a typical morning in their home in Marine on St. Croix, Minn., a picturesque country town overlooking the scenic St. Croix River, the Johnsons dined on orange juice, cantaloupe, blueberries and buckwheat pancakes, fried without grease on a nonstick griddle, and sweetened with a dab of pure maple syrup and lemon yogurt.

On busier mornings, the Johnsons breakfast on juice, fresh fruit and large bowls of a whole-grain cereal, such as shredded wheat, Grape Nuts or bran flakes, garnished with a sprinkle of granola.

Mmmm, sugar and processed grains! Industrial food saves the day.

Their lean, muscular physiques attest to their longstanding devotion to the human body as a physically active machine, and their recent switch to premium dietary fuel.

Let’s see, they’re lean and muscular, but only recently made the switch from bacon and eggs to Grape Nuts, shredded wheat and other “premium fuels”?  Helloooo! McFly!

Should the elder Johnsons slip from dietary grace, the younger ones pull them up short. ”We still eat more meat than we should,” Todd complains, and at the last family barbecue, his sister, Maclaren, fresh from a stint in wilderness camp, shunned the sausages and dined instead on bread and vegetables.

I wonder how much bread young Maclaren found out there in the wilderness?

The Johnsons are part of a movement that is changing the nature of food in America. With millions of Americans getting ”into nutrition,” the nation’s food producers and purveyors are undergoing the greatest upheaval since the advent of frozen and fast foods in the 1950’s and 60’s. Everyone – from farmers, food technologists and Government regulators to supermarket managers and restaurateurs – agrees that significant changes in diet and nutrition are here to stay, and increasingly become the norm.

I don’t know about you, but this article has me feeling wildly optimistic. With food technologists and government regulators leading the charge on significant changes in diet that are here to stay, I predict we’ll be a nation of virtual supermen by – oh, I don’t know – the year 2000.

No longer relegated to long-haired ascetics dining delightedly on brown rice and sunflower seeds, healthy eating has become fashionably chic as it has moved into the mainstream, transforming the word ”nutrition” from a consumer turnoff into a potent selling force.

Yeah, I tried living on brown rice and vegetables for a few years. I don’t think the term dining delightedly is how I would describe the experience.

For those who think the government’s advice was just hunky-dory and the problem is that Americans didn’t follow that advice, look at some of the statistics Ms. Brody quotes in her ain’t-it-all-so-swell article:

Perhaps the most telling change has been the declining consumption of red meats, the universal symbol of plenty and the nemesis of heart-healthy eaters. Beef took the sharpest cut, from a peak of 94.4 pounds per capita in 1976 to 78.8 pounds in 1983, and is still dropping.

Along with the drop in meat consumption, healthy changes in eating habits in the two decades ending in 1982 include a per capita decline in the consumption of eggs from 326 to 263 per year; in lard, from 7.1 to 2.4 pounds; in butter, from 7.3 to 4.5 pounds; in coffee, from 11.8 to 7.5 pounds; in whole milk, from 252.4 to 133.3 pounds, and in sugar, from 97.9 to 75.2 pounds. At the same time, Americans significantly increased their consumption of low-fat milk from 32 to 100.2 pounds; of canned apple juice, from 1.1 to 7.2 pounds; of broccoli, from 0.6 to 1.5 pounds; of chicken, from 29.8 to 52.9 pounds, and of rice, from 7.4 to 11.8 pounds. More fresh fruits, potatoes, pasta and slightly more fish than even a decade ago are also being consumed.

Red meat, eggs, lard, butter and whole milk all way down. Low-fat milk, apple juice, chicken, rice, pasta and potatoes all way up. Yessir, Americans must’ve gotten way healthier in the next few decades.

Changes are even apparent in America’s leading glossy cooking magazine, Gourmet. The emphasis in recent years has been gradually shifting from dishes based on eggs, butter and cream to those featuring grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.

The outlook for the future just keeps getting better and better. Let’s not forget to thank the people who made it happen:

THE NUTRITION movement was sparked in the late 1960’s, when a growing body of scientific evidence prompted public-health experts, starting with the American Heart Association, to launch an attack on the fat-and-cholesterol-rich American diet as a major cause of the nation’s epidemic of coronary heart disease. More recently, fat and cholesterol have been indicted in a third of the nation’s cancers as well.

The highly publicized Dietary Guidelines issued jointly in 1980 by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services in effect made nutritious eating Government policy by advising America to eat less fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt, eat more starches and fiber, and be moderate in the use of alcohol. With fitness the new national passion, many would come to see for themselves the incongruity of a bacon-and-eggs breakfast after a three-mile jog.

Even in 1985, the picture wasn’t quite as rosy as Ms. Brody wanted us to believe:

WHAT EFFECT, IF any, is this new concern for nutrition having on the health of Americans? Reports from the nation’s health statisticians thus far are mixed. Deaths from cardiovascular diseases dropped 30 percent from 1972 to 1983, due at least in part to the lowering of blood cholesterol through dietary changes.

Deaths from cardiovascular diseases dropped because smoking rates began plummeting in the 1960s.

But despite diet mania and reduced per capita caloric intake, average weights are up as machines continue to make human effort superfluous.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

Like the Johnsons, families that are eating better find the payoff in renewed energy and feelings of well-being. As Mr. Clausi of General Foods put it, ”The emphasis on nutrition is not a passing fancy. We’re into a generation of people who will continue to live on the basis of the belief that they are what they eat. Now that we’ve got their attention, we’ve got to be sure that they get the right message.”

Yup, you got our attention. Too bad the message was very, very wrong.


Your Ancestors Ate Plants, And Plants Won’t Kill You

Animal foods are bad for you. Humans aren’t designed to eat meat. It isn’t natural for humans to eat meat. Your ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago didn’t eat meat. Eating meat is a just a bad habit picked up my modern humans. If we all stopped eating meat, we’d all be healthier.

Yeah, that’s vegan thinking. Crazy stuff, right? Now try this:

Plant foods are bad for you. Humans aren’t designed to eat plants. It isn’t natural for humans to eat plants. Your ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago didn’t eat plants. Eating plants is a just a bad habit picked up my modern humans. If we all stopped eating plants, we’d all be healthier.

That’s what I call reverse-vegan thinking. I’ve written about it before, but decided to tackle the subject again because the video of Pete Evans cooking for us drew the ire of some reverse vegans online. That dang ol’ Pete ruined a perfectly good pan of eggs by adding harmful squash and kale. Humans shouldn’t be eating those harmful plant foods.

A reader also sent me a link to this video:

I’ve seen similar videos, and it doesn’t surprise me that many of the people making them are ex-vegans.

I’ve mentioned Eric Hoffer’s terrific little book The True Believer in other posts. It was written in the 1950s but is still relevant today, as is much of what Hoffer wrote. Hoffer explains that people with the true-believer personality type are attracted to extreme positions. They’re aren’t comfortable with ambiguity (such as some plant foods are good for you and some aren’t.) And surprisingly (or perhaps not) they’ll sometimes jump from one all-or-nothing belief system to another, even when the belief systems are polar opposites.

The switch often happens like this: some intolerable event or situation or outcome finally pierces the true believer’s resistance to evidence that the belief system is wrong – or simply isn’t 100% correct. At that point, the true believer’s all-or-nothing personality causes him to flip from fully embracing the belief system to fully rejecting it. What was 100% correct and good in the past is now 100% wrong and possibly evil.

Vegans believe eating animal foods is morally wrong, and also harmful to our health. Some of them develop nasty health problems as the result of the vegan diet. I’ve known vegans who absolutely, positively refuse to believe their bad health is the result of shunning all animal foods. That simply CAN’T be true. So they write it off as bad luck, genetics, whatever.

But for some, the bad health is the intolerable outcome that finally pierces the belief system. I suspect most respond by adding animal foods back into the diet and going on their merry way. But the true-believer types flip completely. That’s when we get this:

Plant foods are bad for you. Humans aren’t designed to eat plants. It isn’t natural for humans to eat plants. Your ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago didn’t eat plants. Eating plants is a just a bad habit picked up my modern humans. If we all stopped eating plants, we’d all be healthier.

If paleo humans didn’t eat plants, I wonder where the term hunter-gatherer came from. I recently had someone on Facebook insist that most Native Americans didn’t plants at all.

I dealt with some of those humans-didn’t-plants arguments in this post, so I won’t repeat the same replies. I will, however, re-use a slide from a speech given by Dr. Mike Eades:

That slide lists what Native Americans from a tribe in Kentucky ate. Were they hunters who ate a lot of meat? You betcha. But they also ate grapes, acorns, blackberries, sunflowers and hickory nuts. This was no surprise to me, because I read a ton of books on Native Americans as a kid, and I know damned good and well most of them ate both plants and animals.

This article describes what Native Americans all across the continent ate. Here are some quotes:

When Europeans arrived, the Native Americans had already developed new varieties of corn, beans, and squashes and had an abundant supply of nutritious food.

Maize (corn), beans and squash. That combination is known as The Three Sisters. The natives taught the Pilgrims how to grow that combination. Pretty strange lesson coming from people who (according to some internet experts) didn’t eat plants all.

Back to the article:

It is important to keep in mind that many Native Americans were largely hunter/gatherers until the Europeans arrived. Although many Native American tribes had well-developed agriculture, they did not have domesticated animals, and they still depended heavily on the wild plants and animals for food. Also, James Adair mentioned that the Indians did not use any kind of milk, he also stated that “None of the Indians however eat any kind of raw salads, they reckon such food is only fit for brutes.” Berries and fruits were eaten raw, but most other foods were cooked. James Adair was impressed with the culinary skills of the Native American women and said: “It is surprising to see the great variety of dishes they can make out of wild flesh, corn beans, peas potatoes, pumpkins, dried fruits, herbs and roots. They can diversify their courses, as much as the English, or perhaps French cooks: and either of the ways they dress their food, it is grateful to a wholesome stomach.”

Native Americans ate plants and animals, as did people in nearly all of the “primitive” societies discovered in modern times. Even Neanderthals ate some plants, according to this study:

Here we report direct evidence for Neanderthal consumption of a variety of plant foods, in the form of phytoliths and starch grains recovered from dental calculus of Neanderthal skeletons from Shanidar Cave, Iraq, and Spy Cave, Belgium. Some of the plants are typical of recent modern human diets, including date palms (Phoenix spp.), legumes, and grass seeds (Triticeae), whereas others are known to be edible but are not heavily used today.

Anyone who insists paleo humans didn’t eat plant foods is engaging willful ignorance. The overwhelming evidence says they did. The few paleo peoples who subsisted on all-animal diets were the exception, not the rule.

Of course, that fact that paleo humans ate plants doesn’t automatically negate the belief that plants foods are bad for us. Most of the don’t-eat-plants arguments I see online center around the toxins in plants. Beans contain lectins, ya see, so we shouldn’t eat them, etc.

When I read those arguments, I’m reminded of a speech I saw Matt Lalonde give at the Ancestral Health Symposium in 2011. In case you’re not familiar with him, Lalonde has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and does research at Harvard. He’s spent rather a lot of time studying the paleo diet and the nutrients in foods. He’s a fan of the paleo diet. But he’s definitely not a fan of weak science.

In his AHS speech, he said something along the lines of, If you walk into a room full of organic chemists and say people shouldn’t eat legumes because they contain lectins and lectins are bad for you, they’re going to look at like you’re an idiot and won’t listen to anything else you have to say.

That perked up my ears, because at the time I was telling people I don’t eat legumes because they contain lectins and lectins are bad for you. Not wanting organic chemists (or anyone else) to look at me like I’m an idiot, I paid attention to the rest of the speech.

Lalonde went on to explain that an organic chemist would ask a whole series of questions: Are the lectins neutralized by pre-cooking processes such as soaking? Are they destroyed by heat during cooking? Are they neutralized during the digestive process? Do they actually get into the bloodstream or pass on through?

In the case of most legumes, he said, the lectins are destroyed by cooking. Eat them raw or undercooked, yes, they’re harmful. Cook them properly, they’re harmless. The gluten protein in wheat and other grains, however, isn’t destroyed or neutralized by processing and cooking. So whether or not we can safely eat a plant depends on what it does to us once we cook it and ingest it, not the list of supposed toxins it contains.

Here are quotes from an article by Chris Kresser saying the same thing:

Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to cell membranes. Studies have shown that lectins can impair growth, damage the lining of the small intestine, destroy skeletal muscle, and interfere with the function of the pancreas. Sounds serious, right?

Not so fast. There are several reasons that these results cannot be extrapolated to humans. First, the animals consumed very large amounts of lectins—much larger than a human would get from a varied diet which includes legumes. Second, the lectins were from raw legumes. Why is this significant? Because humans eat primarily cooked legumes, and cooking neutralizes the lectins found in most legumes.

In fact, cooking legumes for as little as 15 minutes or pressure-cooking them for 7.5 minutes almost completely inactivates the lectins they contain, leaving no residual lectin activity in properly cooked legumes.

Phytic acid interferes with enzymes we need to digest our food, including pepsin, which is needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, and amylase, which is required for the breakdown of starch. Phytic acid also inhibits the enzyme trypsin, which is needed for protein digestion in the small intestine.

Sounds pretty bad, right? While it is true that diets high in phytic acid contribute to mineral deficiencies, it’s also true that humans can tolerate moderate amounts of it without harm (perhaps because our gut bacteria produce enzymes that break down phytate and extract the nutrients the body needs). In fact, there’s even evidence that phytic acid may have some beneficial effects. It prevents the formation of free radicals (making it an antioxidant), prevents the accumulation of heavy metals in the body, and plays a role in cellular communication.

So yes, plants contain anti-nutrients. But humans figured out how to neutralize or destroy many of those anti-nutrients a long, long time ago. Adding cooked plants to a meal doesn’t automatically make it toxic. That’s why I now eat the refried beans with my fajitas when we go out for a Mexican dinner. That’s why I’ll eat pasta made with lentil flour now and then. My diet is still mostly animal foods, but I’m not afraid to eat plants.

If you believe you’re healthier on an all meat-diet, great. If it’s working for you, by all means, continue.

But please don’t try to tell me ancient humans didn’t eat plants, or that all plants are dangerous, or that all humans would be healthier on a diet devoid of plants. There’s simply no reason we’d all be biologically geared to be at our best on a diet our ancestors didn’t eat.


The Farm Report, Then And Now

      43 Comments on The Farm Report, Then And Now

Pete Evans emailed to let me know the segment he and the crew filmed on the Fat Head farm when they visited waaaay back in 2015 is now online:

Very nice. My immediate thought when watching was Wow, the girls have really changed. They’re not even girls anymore. They’re young ladies.

Quite a bit has changed since that segment was filmed. The hogs went to the processor soon after and became 500 pounds of pork products. The gazebo where Pete and I were sitting during the interview blew away in a storm. Most significantly, all the chickens are gone.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Rocky Raccoon VII and Rocky Raccoon VIII managed to wipe out what remained of the flock before I trapped them and sent them to raccoon heaven. The last survivor was the rooster, who had clearly been in a fight. He was torn up, but alive. When he became listless and it was obvious he was dying, Chareva conducted a mercy killing.

Here’s a picture of one of the chicken yards, looking quite abandoned:

As I write, we have no chickens. This messes with my self-image a bit, because I’ve gotten used to thinking of myself as a guy who lives on a little farm with chickens. Twice in the past two weeks, I’ve gone downstairs to make myself breakfast and discovered to my horror that we were out of eggs. Out of eggs?! We’re never out of eggs! We have chickens!

Of course, I’m not the guy who takes care of the chickens, so when Chareva said she’d like to take a break, I had to agree.

In the meantime, her gardens are producing quite nicely. In the pictures below, you’ll see samples of her peppers, tomatoes, black-eyed peas and summer squash:

The tomatoes and summer squash were on tonight’s dinner menu, in fact.

This is interesting … Chareva swears she didn’t plant any cantaloupes, and yet we’ve got them growing in the garden. Her best guess is that the seeds were in a compost pile and decided to grow.

She’s also growing heritage corn in one of the old chicken yards. We may eat some of it, but the plan is to grind much of it into homemade chicken feed.

We lost another tree lately, too. Looks like I’ll be spending some weekends cutting up the free firewood, which is fine, but I’m worried that trees big enough to squash a human are snapping and landing in our yard.

Chareva’s break from chicken chores wasn’t long. She ordered 24 chicks a couple of days ago. They should arrive this week. Given what happened to the last flock, we need to reinforce the chicken yards again and replace one of the nets – we’re pretty sure Rocky Raccoon VIII got in by chewing through the old net, which was becoming brittle. I’ll be happy to have fresh eggs again, but I definitely don’t want to serve any more chicken dinners to the local predators.


Horrors! Aussies Are Ignoring The Anointed

As you know if you’re a long-time reader or have heard me as a guest on podcasts over the years, I’m often asked what we can do change government dietary advice. My answer is always some variation of My goal isn’t to change government dietary advice. My goal is to convince people to ignore the advice.

Here’s my reply to a comment from 2011:

That’s what I love about the internet age. We can educate ourselves and ignore the self-interested “experts.”

Here are three replies to comments from 2012:

I think we’re more likely to convince people to ignore the USDA.

We can’t out-bribe Monsanto, but we can ignore the USDA.

I think we’re getting there. The USDA will always be the USDA — essentially a government arm of the grain industry — but we can convince people to ignore them.

I’m not quite ready to declare victory and retire, but here’s more evidence that what I’ve been predicting for several years is actually happening, at least in Australia. A recent article in the U.K. Daily Mail is titled How fad diets could be doing more harm than good. We’ll start with the bullet points beneath the headline:

  • Australian’s are falling for fad diets in high numbers, new research reveals [It’s sad when people who work for newspapers can’t distinguish between a plural and a possessive – Tom]

  • A whopping 67 per cent of the population has opted to go gluten-free

  • Sixty five per cent ditched an entire food group, without advice from a doctor

  • Over fifty per cent of people indicated they don’t know what foods are healthy

Goodness. Aussies are falling for fad diets, ditching entire food groups (you can guess which groups) and going gluten-free – without advice from a doctor!

At the risk of repeating myself, it’s odd that anyone in Australia believes we should turn to doctors for dietary advice. After all, this is the country whose own Health Practitioner Regulation Agency actually prohibited Dr. Gary Fettke from giving dietary advice to diabetics. To quote the agency itself:

The committee does not accept that your medicine studies of themselves provide sufficient education or training to justify you providing specific advice or recommendations to patients or the public about nutrition and diet.

Dr. Fettke was, of course, advising diabetics to adopt a LCHF diet. As a surgeon, he appalled at the number of amputations he was performing on diabetic patients. Research combined with experience convinced him that a change in diet would help patients avoid that awful fate. But I’m sure Dr. Fettke would be first to tell you he learned most of what he knows about nutrition long after medical school.

Here are some quotes from a recent Washington Post article on how little medical students learn about nutrition:

When Americans hear about a health craze, they may turn to their physician for advice: Will that superfood really boost brain function? Is that supplement okay for me to take?

Or they may be interested in food choices because of obesity, malnutrition or the role of diet in chronic disease.

But a doctor may not be a reliable source. Experts say that while most physicians may recognize that diet is influential in health, they don’t learn enough about nutrition in medical school or the training programs that follow.

Nutrition is crucial to good health, as the article notes:

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer, are partly related to or affected by nutrition, according to Martin Kohlmeier, a research professor in nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

And yet nutrition is mere blip in most medical schools:

In a 2015 survey of 121 four-year medical schools, Kohlmeier and colleagues found that 71 percent did not require at least 25 hours of nutrition education and that fewer than 20 percent required a nutrition course — fewer even than 15 years before.

Just wrap your head around that one for a minute. Perhaps nothing has a more profound effect on our health than diet.  And yet most medical schools don’t require a nutrition course, and 71 percent don’t require at least 25 hours of nutrition education.

I read Good Calories, Bad Calories cover-to-cover twice and re-read some sections multiple times. I didn’t add up the time I spent reading it, but it was certainly more than 25 hours. More like 100 hours, easily.

But that’s just one book. When we moved to the farm, one of the movers looked at our bookshelves before packing up the books and asked, “Which one of you is a doctor?” Oh, the irony. Like many if not most people, he assumed doctors read a lot about nutrition.

Out of curiosity, I just counted the number of books about diet and health sitting on the bookshelf in my office – the ones I’ve actually read, anyway. There are 56 of them. I’m sure there are more elsewhere in the house. And that doesn’t include the lectures I’ve attended, the YouTube videos I’ve watched and the podcasts I’ve listened to, which would number in the hundreds. I’m sure many of you could cite similar numbers.

So I’ll say it again: asking the average doctor about nutrition is as useful as asking the average plumber. The only difference is that the doctor is more likely to have been indoctrinated about the evils of saturated fat and the wonders of whole grains during that one course in nutrition offered in medical school.

Anyway, back to the Daily Mail article about those pesky Australians who are changing their diets without consulting a doctor:

Whether it’s to drop a few kilograms or an effort to put health first, Australians are falling for fad diets in high numbers.

New survey results released indicate a whopping 67 per cent of the population has opted to go gluten-free despite not being instructed to by a doctor.

Somebody from Down Under tell me: can that 67 percent figure actually be true? Two-thirds of Aussies are gluten-free now? If so, why wasn’t that a plot line on Rake? Cleaver Greene goes gluten-free to suck up to a hot new paleo attorney or something like that.

Going gluten-free without being instructed to by a doctor is roughly as dangerous as going tobacco-free without being instructed to by a doctor. What’s the harm, exactly?

The alarming research also states 65 per cent have ditched an entire food group, without the caution or guidance from a health professional.

If the entire food group was red meat, most of the media would be cheering.  But since people are giving up grains, the research is “alarming.”  To whom?  Kellogg’s?

TV presenter and Sydney GP Dr Sam Hay believes the influx of people attempting fad diets was putting them at risk, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Issues could include problems with the kidney and liver as well as growth and development.

Hmmm … how exactly is giving up grains going to damage my kidneys or liver?

‘The number of people restricting gluten is nuts, by doing that you’re missing out on grain fibre and putting the nation’s gut health at risk,’ Dr Hay said.

I see. So before humans started eating grains somewhere around 12,000 years ago (and much later than that in most of the world), they had damaged livers and kidneys and bad gut health. It’s amazing that the millions of people who’ve adopted a paleo diet didn’t make the connection between the diet and their plummeting health. You’d think that would come up in social media now and then.

‘The eastern suburbs are all about avocado and kombucha and paleo. Australians are getting very caught up in influential media personalities who really push particular eating plans or fads and most don’t have any science behind them,’ Dr Hay said.

As opposed to the rock-solid science behind most government dietary guidelines.

This isn’t about people being caught up in fads, of course. It isn’t about influential media personalities (meaning Pete Evans) steering the poor saps in the wrong direction.  It’s about people who are tired of lousy results doing their own research and looking for something that works. It’s about people sharing their own positive results in social media. It’s about the Wisdom of Crowds.

It’s also about people rebelling against The Anointed, or what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls The Intellectual Yet Idiot. Taleb wrote quite a bit about the IYI in his recent book Skin in the Game, but as a reminder, here’s part of an essay on the subject:

What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

… their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Yes, given the lousy track record of dietary advice from The Anointed, people are perfectly entitled to listen to their grandmothers. Or their friends. Or well-informed strangers in a Facebook group.

I have an email buddy who lives in Australia but has done quite a bit of traveling for work, including some long stints in the States. He told me Americans and Aussies are much more alike than Aussies and Brits. We’re friendlier, less formal, less impressed by titles and authority, and generally more rebellious. Perhaps because we’re both nations settled by castoffs.

Anyway, if Aussies truly are rebelling against The Anointed and other nutritional “experts” in the large numbers cited in the article, that’s great. And let’s hope Americans continue to do the same.


Computer Troubles And A Mini-Vacation

Seriously, you need to just touch base with all the fans out here.  No explanation necessary, just “I’m still here, just crazy busy” will do. I couldn’t stand it another day.

I received that note in an email today. Yeah, I guess I’d best explain the absence. The brief story is that my Mac Pro finally died a couple of weeks ago, so I ordered a new Mac, then went on a little vacation in Chicago while waiting for it arrive. Now I’m back and crazy busy getting set up to work again.

The Mac Pro that died is the same one I used when I made Fat Head in 2008. Yup, it’s been around for 10 years. I also used it to produce Fat Head Kids … well, almost. We got the film rendered and sent off to the distributor, but there are lots of other files they need soon: dialog, sound effects and music on separate audio tracks, for example.

Almost two weeks ago, I walked into my home office one morning and noticed that while the Mac’s power light was on, the monitor was dark. I fussed around with connections and whatnot for an hour or so, then gave up and took the thing to a Mac repair shop. The repair guy called an hour later and told me the mother board was fried. Probably not worth replacing in a 10-year-old machine.

So I went through all the stages of grief for my deceased buddy … anger, denial, bargaining, etc. When I reached the acceptance stage a few minutes later, I brought it home and removed the hard drives. Truth is, I was planning to get a new Mac at the end of this year. Fat Head Kids is mostly animated, and the ol’ hoss was painfully slow when I was working in After Effects. I couldn’t watch many of the animations in real time until I rendered them. Often that meant going back to adjust the timing after viewing then rendering again. I knew I’d have to move up to a younger, sleeker model someday soon.

Soon turned out to be right now, since we’re almost but not quite done with the film. The next day, I went to our local Apple store to order an iMac Pro. I can’t just buy off the shelf – well, I could, but I wouldn’t get what I need. Film production is heavy-duty stuff, especially if there’s animation involved. When I buy a computer for production, I pretty much max it out. That’s why the old Mac Pro lasted 10 years.

The special-order model finally arrived yesterday. Now I’m busy reinstalling all my software. The next step will be to copy all my working files from backup drives, which will easily take 24 hours or more. Then I’ll finally be able to finish the film.

While waiting for the new Mac to arrive, I took a mini-vacation in Chicago. Specifically, I went here:

With these guys:

Those boys are my life-long best friends. I’ve known Bob (in the black hat) since sixth grade and Mike since the summer after high school. Back in the day, we were all in a band together. Some of my fondest memories are of being on stage with them. Some of my other fondest memories are of being offstage with them after our band days were over.  We’ve been threatening to have a reunion in Chicago for years and finally got around to it.

Anyone watching me over the weekend wouldn’t believe I just produced a film on diet and health. Friday night, we had stuffed pizza and beers at Giordano’s. It’s the best pizza in the world, in my humble opinion, and worth the carbs once in a blue moon. Stuffed isn’t the same as deep-dish, which has a thick crust. Stuffed means stuffed with meat and cheese and other ingredients. A slice looks like this:

On Saturday, went to Wrigley and drank more $10 beers than I care to count. I also ate an Italian beef sandwich and an Italian sausage for good measure. Amazingly, it was just 70 degrees in Chicago that day. The Cubs were down by five runs after three innings. Back in the day, they would have gone on to lose 10-0. But these guys ain’t your father’s Cubs. They stormed back and won 8-7, thanks to a four-run rally in the eighth inning. I’m still hoarse from all the yelling.

Here’s my bad attempt a selfie:

On Saturday night, we ate at a restaurant called Three Forks, which is near Mike’s office. It was quite expensive. It was also quite wonderful. I had the biggest and most flavorful filet I’ve ever eaten. And wine. And scotch. And some creamy dessert drink the waitress brought to us on the house, probably because were happily spending a small fortune.

After a weekend of eating foods I almost never eat and drinking more alcohol than I consume in a typical month, I flew home exhausted and fuzzy around the edges, but happy. Like I’ve said before, I’m okay with the occasional indulgence. It’s bad daily habits that screw up our health, not once-a-year blowouts.

I have a ton of loading and copying and resetting to do on the new Mac before I’m ready to resume normal work, but I hope to have it all wrapped up this weekend. Then I’ll get back to blogging. Promise.