For this post, I’m going to set aside my usual smart-aleck persona in order to introduce you to someone whose work I admire and whose web site is, in my opinion, a public service: Jimmy Moore.
If you don’t already know about Jimmy and his Livin’ La Vida Low Carb blog, you should. Jimmy is a prolific writer who manages to put up new and interesting posts on diet and health topics on an almost daily basis, as well as releasing bi-weekly podcast interviews with some of the top researchers and writers in the nutrition field. I’m talking about people like Gary Taubes, Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades, Dr. Richard Feinman and Dr. Jeff Volek, to name just a few. No wonder his podcast is one of the highest-ranked health shows on iTunes.
And as if that weren’t enough, he also produces a Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb show that he uploads to YouTube. In short, he’s a machine.
I download Jimmy’s podcasts and listen to them while I’m walking or driving. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from them. My only regret is that I didn’t discover Jimmy’s site until I was pretty much finished shooting Fat Head, or I would’ve asked some of the people he’s interviewed to appear in the film. Maybe I would’ve flown to South Carolina to get Jimmy on camera as well.
Jimmy’s blog is about to celebrate its fourth anniversary. Think about how much work that is: four years of almost-daily writing, bi-weekly podcasting, and video production. Now think about all the people who’ve benefitted. Just recently, the composer for Fat Head emailed me that a Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb podcast show helped him realize he was suffering from vitamin D deficiency. He added some vitamin D to his daily supplements, and now the aches and pains that were bothering him so much are gone.
I’m not going to write about Jimmy’s amazing journey from being a morbidly obese man to a happy, healthy blogger who has inspired so many others to follow his lead, because I’d rather you hear it from Jimmy himself. I asked a lot of questions for the interview, so I’m going to post it in two parts. Today, most of the questions are about Jimmy’s battles trying to lose weight — and how he finally succeeded. Tomorrow, we’ll focus more on career as a top blogger.
Just over five years ago, you weighed more than 400 pounds. What was your quality of life back in those days? How did you feel in your day-to-day activities?
Thanks, Tom! Those are questions I’ve been asked about often since my Atkins low-carb weight loss success in 2004, and I shudder when I think about what my life was like before I started livin’ la vida low-carb. Quality of life? Survival. And it was LITERALLY trying to make it from day to day without ripping another pair of overpriced Big & Tall store pants, wheezing from breathing problems, worrying about my high cholesterol and high blood pressure making me keel over with a heart attack any day now, feeling like everybody was staring at me because I’m “the fat guy,” and genuinely wondering why I ever got to be in this situation that seemed to be so permanent.
I’m sure many people who are or have been morbidly obese in their lifetime can relate to the helpless, hopeless feeling of being trapped inside of your own body with no way out. It was miserable — although I always tried to keep a happy face to conceal the deep-seated pain I was feeling.
I don’t know any fat people who haven’t tried to lose weight, and I’m sure you did too. What kind of diets did you try, and what kind of results did you get?
Do you have all day, Tom? You name it and I’ve pretty much done it. Rabbit food, 1000-calorie, Weight Down, TOPS, yadda yadda yadda, the list goes on. However, Slim-Fast was one of the diets I did most often because I could — sorry to be so graphic — poop my fat away. But in addition to all that fiber they put in it, there was also a boatload of sugar in it, too.
Of course, I didn’t mind eating sugar because it was “fat-free” after all. And growing up in our fat-phobic society, I just naturally gravitated to any diet that would cut the fat as low as possible. In 1999, I actually lost 170 pounds in nine months on a very high-carb, very low-fat diet probably on sheer determination. But the weight loss didn’t last very long.
Why didn’t you become an advocate for low-fat diets? You didn’t start the Livin’ La Vida Low-Fat site. Why not?
Well, blogs weren’t really in vogue in the late 1990s yet, but I was boasting about my success to everyone I knew. They all thought I had done the Atkins diet, and I remember responding angrily at these people assuming I ate that unhealthy high-protein diet. Yes, I was a dope back then and would one day learn the truth about low-carb living for myself.
But I had a secret regarding low-fat living that I didn’t want anyone to know about: I was so constantly hunger, feeling deprived of the foods I wanted to eat, and actually getting angrier and angrier in my demeanor (my wife Christine often reminds me what a royal you-know-what I was on my low-fat diet) that I couldn’t sustain that way of eating for long.
A fateful trip to McDonald’s just weeks after losing all that weight to get Christine a Big Mac meal that she wanted was the beginning of my rebellion against low-fat eating and I binged my way within four months back up to where I started and then some. Although I felt bad about gaining back the weight, there was no way in the world I wanted to live like that for the rest of my life!
You started on the Atkins diet in January of 2004. After gaining and losing and regaining in the past, what made you decide to try yet another diet?
Actually, I have my in-laws to thank for this. They purchased me a copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution for Christmas 2003. I remember reading that book cover-to-cover and thinking how bassackwards everything was in it from what I had heard and been taught about healthy living. The whole time I was reading it, I kept saying to myself, “There’s no way possible you could ever lose weight and make these kind of positive changes in your health by eating all that fat!”
Fat-phobia had been hammered into me hard my entire life! But even before I started, something told me this time was gonna be different. Yes, I was beginning a New Year’s resolution on January 1, 2004 to lose weight, but in all actuality this was gonna be a New LIFE resolution that would have to sustain me forever and ever. That is one of the things that attracted me to low-carb, that it allowed me to enjoy delicious and satisfying meals that kept me from ever being hungry or feeling deprived. Could I possibly eat this way and lose weight? Well, the proof was in the results.
How is the experience with a low-carb diet different from your previous attempts at dieting?
Night and day. In the first few days of Atkins, I had a tough time adjusting to the sugar and carbohydrate withdrawals during the crucial Induction period the first two weeks. Being a severe sugar addict, I had to basically detox from all that. People who eat low-fat don’t experience this bodily response, but I imagine it is somewhat similar to what a cocaine addict goes through coming off of the drugs for the first time.
But, unlike low-fat diets that left me feeling so empty the longer I did them, something truly miraculous happened. Not only did I feel better after a short period of time, I felt like for the first time in my life I had found the hidden key to a door that had never been opened. I was beginning to see freedom from the bondage that morbid obesity had put me under for three decades of my life and there was a glimmer of hope. By the end of that first month, I had lost 30 pounds and by the end of February 2004, I lost another 40 pounds.
The weight was pouring off of me so fast that I couldn’t believe what was happening on the scale and in my clothes. Despite a 10-week stall in the midst of my 180-pound weight loss that year, I stuck with it. Why wouldn’t I when it was working so amazingly well? What’s a stall supposed to do to discourage someone who’s already lost 100 pounds? It was at that point I knew I’d never eat any other way ever again.
What was it about losing weight on the Atkins diet that inspired you to become such an advocate for low-carb diets?
You know, Tom, I think it was the realization that I had been lied to about what constituted a healthy lifestyle. I grew up as a child of the 1980s and watched my mom go to Weight Watchers, eat rice cakes, use margarine, cut the fat almost completely out of her diet and more, all in pursuit of getting thinner and protecting her health. And what did it get her? She’d lose some, gain some, lose some more, gain a lot more — the cycle never ended.
Was it my mom’s fault she couldn’t keep the weight off, or were the nutritional mandates by those so-called health “experts” setting her up for failure even before she started? The adage was that she just didn’t try hard enough, didn’t exercise enough willpower to control her desires, didn’t get enough exercise on a daily basis, and on and on the excuses go. This guilt-tripping of Americans who simply are not equipped to succeed on a low-fat diet is what I believe is the primary reason obesity and diabetes are running so rampant these days.
People need to know that there are viable alternatives to low-fat eating that are just as effective, if not more, for weight loss and health improvements. And no matter what the anti-meat, vegetarian zealots would have you believe, diets like Atkins are absolutely safe and preferred for people dealing with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome — which is most of the population. Where are people going to get this information if our government, media, and doctors won’t tell them about it?
That’s why the new media in the form of blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter, and the like are all VITAL to this open communication with the public about what the facts are about healthy living. By no means do I have all the answers regarding the questions people have about livin’ la vida low-carb. But what I do have is experience, success, and a Rolodex full of people who are voraciously researching and treating patients with a carbohydrate-restricted diet and changing their lives forever. In the absence of the late, great Dr. Robert C. Atkins, I am happy to carry on his legacy for future generations.
You’ve been very open and honest about the loss of your brother, Kevin, who died from heart disease at age 41 some months back. If you hadn’t decided to change your diet permanently, you probably would be on your way to the same fate. Why wasn’t Kevin inspired by your example? Did the two of you talk about health issues?
Like many overweight and obese people walking around today, Kevin made choices for himself that were about feeling good at the time. He actually did try the low-carb lifestyle and lost about 60 pounds or so a couple of years ago following my diet. But then he started feeling better, coming off some medications, and quit the diet, thinking he was all better now. And when the predictable weight gain happened, he was right back in the same mess he was in before.
I often asked Kevin how I could help him and even had some of my podcast guest experts offer to fly down to Florida to counsel him — but he just shrugged his shoulders and didn’t take it very seriously. Of course, he had three heart attacks in the span of a week back in 1999 that the doctors said should have killed him at the age of 32. So we feel fortunate that he lived nearly a decade longer than he should have. His death in late 2008 has stirred me to be even more passionate about sharing the low-carb message with as many people as I can. If we can prevent another “Kevin” out there from falling prey to morbid obesity and heart disease, then all my efforts will have been worth it!
Check back tomorrow to learn how Jimmy became a professional blogger whose site draws hundreds of thousands of readers every month.
A note: As part of celebrating his four years as a blogger, Jimmy is sponsoring a “blogiversary” contest for his readers. He’ll be giving away over 100 prizes, including autographed copies of books by authors such as Gary Taubes, Dr. Jeff Volek, Dr. Keith Berkowitz, Judy Barnes Baker, Dr. Loren Cordain, Nina Planck, Fred Hahn, Jackie Eberstein, and many more. He will also be giving away five autographed DVD copies of “Fat Head.”
I apologize ahead of time for my lousy penmanship.
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I personally know 4 diabetic people who went on Atkins and said it improved their quality of life immensely.
Considering how Atkins was savaged by the AMA, it’s amazing his diet caught on and remained popular.
riveting interview. what a dramatic story. thank you!
I wonder if the difference between Jimmy and Kevin could be that Jimmy has an optimistic explanatory style and Kevin had a pessimistic explanatory style (see Dr. Martin E P Seligman’s book “Learned Optimism”). Could explanatory style be that crucial?
I didn’t know Kevin, but I can tell you from my many exchanges with Jimmy that he is indeed an optimist.
I definitely believe it’s important how we interpret our experiences. According to Thomas Edison, he discovered 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb. He never referred to those experiments as failures.
I have saved my health and control my diabetes by living the low carb life. The propaganda is very strong about fat. Don’t believe it! Fat is good for you! We have been so brain washed for so many years I know how hard it is for people to believe this. Our medical community is pushing this propaganda crap and drugs. I believe they want people to be sick to make money. I know of no other logical explanation. I have spent a lifetime looking for a doctor that I can trust and have not found one. I have given up.
People think doctors are educated and smart. Maybe they are but they chose to dispense poison and bad advice to their patients to make money. This is my life story. I was on all the medications; for diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol. I was spending $600 per month on prescription drugs. The real kicker is; They don’t work! If they work at all they do very little and then there are the side effects. One drug prescribed to me was Avandia. It was finally removed because a couple of its side effects were death and blindness. Another major problem with prescription drugs is people use them as a crutch; I can eat this jelly donut, I will just take another pill or inject some more insulin.
“I believe they want people to be sick to make money.” – Carl
The first person to add sugar to chewing gum was a dentist. Talk about ensuring repeat customers.
Not all doctors are created equal. People can know this. Word of mouth is a powerful thing. There are a couple of doctors I know that I would trust with my life. The sad thing is, you should be able to trust all doctors with your life, yet there’s some I wouldn’t trust with my lunch.
The sad thing about drugs causing weight loss is that many drug studies don’t look at everything. What else causes weight loss? Cancer? AIDS? Malaria? I personally once got down to a BMI of 16 from a viral illness. That the people in the drug trials lose weight is fact, the fact of how the weight is being lost is seldom investigated satisfactorily.
I believe most doctors are repeating what they were taught, not trying to make us sick.
I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more articles from you in the future.
I appreciate the compliment. Welcome aboard.