Arguing With Idiots

      167 Comments on Arguing With Idiots

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is after all a specialized discipline and one that most people consider a dismal science. But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance. — Murray Rothbard, economist

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about economics. It’s a post about the strange combination of ignorance and arrogance. As I’ve told my wife more times than she’d probably prefer, it doesn’t bother me much when people are arrogant but well-informed, and it doesn’t bother me much when people are ignorant but humble. But when ignorant people are arrogant, that gets me riled.

Long before I became fascinated by nutrition science, I became fascinated by history and economics. I’m not sure exactly how many books I’ve read on economics, but it’s easily more than 20. I certainly don’t know everything about the subject, but I know more than most people by a long shot.

I saved the quote from Murray Rothbard because over the years, I’ve been amazed at how many people I’ve encountered who are exactly like he described: never took a class in economics, never read a book on economics, but are nonetheless full of loud and vociferous opinions on everything from the economic effects of tax rates to the cause of high oil prices. They know what they know, and by gosh, they don’t need to bother with any research to keep knowing what they know, because they already know it — and anyone who disagrees must be an idiot. (This attitude was rampant in Hollywood.)

Since creating this blog and putting my YouTube clips online, I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in discussions about health and nutrition: once some people form an opinion, they are incapable of changing their minds. I can more or less understand why researchers whose reputations or grants are tethered to a particular theory will cling so tightly to it. As described brilliantly in the book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), they engage in mental cherry-picking of the evidence to convince themselves they are Doing the Right Thing. It’s not good for science, but at least their opinions are based on research, even if the research if flawed or incomplete.

What I don’t understand are laymen who have nothing at stake professionally, yet form strong opinions about diet and health without looking at any research whatsoever, then go ballistic if those opinions are challenged by someone who, heaven forbid, might actually know something they don’t. One of the Fat Head clips I uploaded to YouTube is titled Why You Got Fat and explains how insulin drives fat storage. That clip recently drew this comment:

you know what would really make your body stop storing fat??? if you got off your lazy f@#$% asses and did something!!

Ignorance and arrogance combined … my favorite combination. For some reason, challenging the simple “eat less, move more” advice for losing weight seems to bring these goofs out of the woodwork. Some people just know it’s all about counting calories — in my experience, they’re usually people who’ve never had to lose weight, and therefore consider themselves experts in how it all works. Since they’re thin, that proves they know how to be thin … MeMe Roth comes to mind.

I kept my reply to the arrogant ignoramus short:

Glad to see you’ve done so much research on the biochemistry of weight loss. If only I’d spoken to someone with your deep understanding of metabolism and endocrinology before shooting the film, I might have gotten it right.

Agreeing with arrogant ignoramuses is my preferred method for dealing with them, and has been for well over 24 hours.

The way I see it, anyone who challenges your current beliefs with logic or evidence is an opportunity, not a threat. When I sent the first cut of Fat Head to Dr. Mike Eades, he replied with a long email telling me which parts he liked, but also informed me some parts were scientifically incorrect. It never would’ve occurred to me to dig in my heels and tell him I already know what I know, so that’s it, and he must be wrong. I asked him to explain why those parts were wrong and point me to the evidence. He did. I learned valuable new information precisely because he disagreed with me.

But arrogant ignoramuses don’t see it that way. They believe changing an opinion, no matter how uninformed that opinion might be, can cause paralysis below the neck, or erectile dysfunction at the very least, and must be avoided at all costs.

I’ve tried replying to their comments with logic or evidence, but they have this amazing ability to shrug it off and go on repeating themselves. So I’ve ended up engaging in what my wife calls (by way of encouraging me to stop) Arguing With Idiots. It’s pointless, as last night’s online debate eventually convinced me. Here are some highlights, with the opponent’s comments in italic, mine in plain text:

If carbs and so evil than why are so many chinese and japanese and indians, who eat white rice on a daily basis, thinner and healthier than americansky?

Their thinness is partly hereditary; Asians have higher levels of osteoporosis because their bones are thinner. Thin-boned people also tend to be more resistant to becoming obese. As for the carbs, they actually consume fewer of them than a typical American. They eat rice, yes. We consume rice, pasta, french fries, donuts, sodas, frappucinos, bagels, breakfast cereals, deli sandwiches, Snickers bars, Little Debbie Snack Cakes and ice cream.

they consume fewer? Hmmm, eating LESS seems to be the determining factor, hein?

If only it were as simple as that. By eating fewer carbs and (especially) a lot less fructose, they are less likely to become insulin resistant and therefore less likely to go into fat-accumulation mode. It’s not just about how much you eat; it’s about the hormonal changes produced by what you eat. If hormones signal your body to store more fat, yes, you will likely eat more because you’re storing more calories and therefore running short of fuel for your cells.

how about the nutrition professor who lost 27 pounds eating mainly junk food?

He averaged 173 carbohydrates per day, which is less than half of what a typical American consumes. By his own estimation, he reduced his carb intake by over 100 grams per day on the “junk” diet. His food log is online, so I ran the numbers. “Mainly junk food” was media hype. He ate many meals consisting of steak, chicken, protein shakes, etc., then tossed in some donuts and twinkies. It wasn’t a junk food diet, it was a diet that included some junk food.

So on one hand you say sugar and carbs are evil, but when I point out about this nutrition professor you counter by saying that he simply was not eating too many carbs, which is exactly what I have been saying. You can eat anything: as long as you less calories than you need, you will lose weight!

No, I’m saying if you restrict calories AND keep your insulin low enough to allow your body to burn fat, you’ll lose weight. Professor Haub ate twinkies and donuts but still consumed a LOW number of carbohydrates while restricting calories, same as I did in my documentary. That means his insulin likely dropped. If insulin stays high, your body reacts to calorie restriction by slowing your metabolism, eliminating or reducing the calorie deficit. That’s why so many diets fail.

Right, he restricted CALORIES. If i eat 100% sugar everyday, but only eat 500 calories I will lose weight.

Duh, do you think? First off, that’s 125 carbohydrates, second, your body would suck up every calorie so there’d be no need for insulin to convert carbohydrates to fat and store them, which is what happens on high-carb diets, and third, you’d also become sick and lose muscle mass.

So you admit that to lose weight, you need to eat less calories?

Go to YouTube, search ‘Taubes science weightloss,’ watch the lecture on the actual science, pay close attention to the sections about populations where food intake was low, malnutrition was rampant, yet a high proportion of adults were obese. Then see if you still believe it’s all about simply counting calories.

then why do all scientists disagree with taubes, who is a journalist?

Really, all the scientists disagree? That must be news to the many scientists whose articles I’ve read, whom I’ve interviewed or corresponded with, who agree very much with Taubes. As for him being “just a journalist,” he’s a journalist with a degree in physics from Harvard and a master’s in engineering from Stanford. He’s won the science writer of the year award twice. Try coming up with something besides a weak appeal to authority to prove your point.

many of them do. the majority. sugar is bad for you, no doubt, but taube’s takes his reasoning too far. and he doesn’t have a masters in engineering.

This is like talking to a child. Yes, he has a master’s in aerospace engineering and another in journalism. Look it up. If you’re more psychologically comfortable deciding you already know how metabolism and fat accumulation work than with looking into the actual science, be my guest. I really don’t care if you choose to stick with your current beliefs.

not just my beliefs, but the beliefs of the majority of nutrition scientists.

Well, that explains the fabulous success rate of the diets they’ve designed. Nearly 2% lose weight and keep it off — can’t argue with those credentials! Like I said, if you want to simply declare that already know how metabolism works and avoid looking into the science for yourself, I don’t really care.

[Yes, this is the point where I should’ve stopped replying to the ignoramus. Took me a while longer to wise up.]

you thesis is completely wrong. plenty of people eat carbs and sugar and are thin. it’s because they simply don’t eat more than they need. you even admitted it, so i am not even sure what point you are trying to make

Yes, because plenty of people are what they call “metabolically gifted,” which means they don’t become insulin resistant. Most people don’t fall into that category. Plenty of people smoke two packs per day and never develop lung cancer, so I guess to your way of thinking, that proves smoking isn’t a cause of lung cancer.

No, you are wrong. There may be mulitple ways to lsoe weight, but eating less calories will result in weight loss. I didn’t see any fat people in the concentration camps.

You didn’t see any healthy people in concentration camps either. If you starve people, duh, they’ll lose weight. They’ll lose muscle mass and eventually digest their own organs, too. That isn’t the point. The question is whether you can burn body fat without sacrificing your muscles and wrecking your metabolism simply by restricting calories without changing your hormonal balance, and the answer is no. That’s why people who starve themselves on diets usually end up fatter.

you don’t have to starve yourself; you can just eat less. instead of eating and 8 inch grinder and bag of chips for lunch, you can eat a 6 in grinder and an apple.

[At this point, I began to realize I was talking to wall and decided perhaps the smart move would be to just agree with him.]

Thank you for sharing your superior biological knowledge with me. I appreciate it. You’re right and I’m wrong. Weight loss is purely about counting calories, hormones have nothing to do with it, diabetics don’t become emaciated and die without insulin, and there’s never been a poor population that became obese despite living on less than 2000 calories per day. None of that ever happened. You’re clearly correct, and I thank you.

So how do devout hindus who don’t eat meat and eat rice and lentils and such be healthy? or are they really unhealthy?

If you consider having one of the highest rates of heart disease and diabetes in the world, “healthy,” okay, yeah. You might want to do some research on this stuff before popping off.

[Oops, my mistake… I backslid and actually replied.]

Indians have a high rate of heart disease and diabetes?? Where is your source? Remember, I am stalking about people from India, not Native Americans. Also, what group of peolple were obese despite eating less than 2000 calories a day?

[I was trying to figure out how he decided I believe Native Americans are Hindus, then reminded myself to just agree with him.]

You’re correct, I simply made up the statement that people in India have high rates of heart disease and diabetes. I admit it here and now. Same for the obese populations who live on little food. As you’ve surmised, I don’t actually put any research into my documentaries, speeches, or blog posts. I thank you for sharing your superior knowledge of biology, endocrinology, metabolism, and Gary Taubes’ resume. Your beliefs are 100% correct and I urge you to keep them.

So you can’t provide one source to back up the claim about heart disease in India?

Like I said, I don’t actually do any research. I just make stuff up, as you’ve surmised. Do a little Googling and I’m sure you’ll instantly confirm your belief that heart disease, obesity and diabetes are low in India.

Oh yes, the good old “Google it for yourself and find out!” You made a claim that Indians suffer high rates of diabetes and heart disease. It is up to you, the claimant, to provide proof. All I am asking for is one link to a study that support your claim. You made the claim. So provide support for your claim.

Like I said, the claim was pure drivel, all made up. I do no research whatsoever. So instead of troubling yourself with spending, say, 20 seconds doing Google research, I urge you to cease your relentless open-mindedness and try very hard to simply accept that you already know everything. I know it’ll be difficult, but try, man, try.

You made the claim. I am waiting for evidence for you claim. If it only takes 20 seconds to retreive, then it should be no trouble for you.

You’re right. I suddenly feel an overwhelming need and obligation to convince you. Please sit there staring at your screen, and I’ll provide you with sources as soon as I can. Do not leave your chair until you hear back from me.

[At that point, I went to the kitchen for a small dish of almonds and then watched Sunday Night Football. I enjoy a good debate with people who’ve actually done a bit of research and can back up their beliefs, but no more arguing with idiots. That’s my rule.]


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167 thoughts on “Arguing With Idiots

  1. Chris

    I had to stop reading halfway through. That was painful! I’m impressed by your fortitude, though I agree with your new rule.

    “Painful” is the reason I’m adopting the new rule.

    Reply
  2. Jason Sandeman

    Unfortunately, I have found over the years that stupid people actually think that they are being smart, as they are too stupid to realize otherwise. A viscous cylce indeed!
    I can see how it is hard to buy into the low carb argument, because it seems so counter intuitive.
    I also love the argument about Japanese and Chinese people. I just spent 2 1/2 years professionally working in a Pan-Asian restaurant as the chef. My studies and research show something the typical American just doesn’t understand; yes Asian people eat rice as a main staple in their diet, but they also DON’T eat even a 1/3 as much as Americans do. They simply could not afford to do so.
    In fact, there really is no such thing as a “Chinese” cuisine because the name is a misnomer – there are over 56 different ethnic backgrounds in China. If you look at their main cuisines – (A great book is Beyond the Great Wall) you will see that the traditional diet of many of the ethnics are steeped in foods cooked in saturated fats. There goes the whole “Well Chinese people eat a lot of rice” argument!
    No, some people just won’t get a clue, no matter how hard you beat them with the truth stick. Some people just beg for it!

    That’s what an Asian researcher told Gary Taubes: the Asian populations were poor and could barely afford to live at sustenance levels. I also just came across a 20-year-old study showing that Okinawans — the longest-lived — ate the most fat and protein.

    Reply
  3. Auntie M

    Wow. I love the internet, but it really shows how ignorant people can be. I currently have a 12-year-old student who rivals that conversation with her “knowledge”, which she obviously hears from her parents. I want to shoot myself every day after one of her bizarre statements or questions where I spend too much time trying to reason with her and use facts. Maybe I should just start agreeing with her, but the other students in the class are likely to take me seriously. What to do…

    It’s pointless to try to reason with people who have no sense of logic. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve walked into my own version of Monty Python’s sketch about the Argument Clinic.

    Reply
  4. Frank Hagan

    There’s a politically incorrect joke that arguing on the Internet is a bit like being in the Special Olympics; even if you win, you’re still a gimp (I warned you it was politically incorrect!)

    One way I stop the argumentum ad absurdum is to ask them something like “If I provide the link for my claim that the Indians have high rates of heart disease, will you concede the point and admit I am right?”

    Those that argue incessantly keep moving the goal posts; as soon as you deal with their “main objection”, they come up with another.

    That’s what this ignoramus was doing. He actually posted a comment shortly after stating that he’d done a Google search and found that heart disease and diabetes are low in India — total hogwash, since both are at record levels there, with heart disease now at double the rate in the western world — but I ignored it.

    Reply
  5. Auntie M

    Jason, it’s called the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”. Stupid…er…”not smart” people don’t realize they’re “not smart” because they aren’t smart enough to realize it. I mutter it under my breath often, and it makes me feel better. At least I KNOW I’m clueless and in need of research and reading to bring myself up to speed on many, many things.

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/the-anosognosics-dilemma-1/

    Can’t remember where I saw it, but I liked this sentence: The larger the island of knowledge, the larger the shoreline of wonder. People who actually know a lot are aware of how much they still don’t know.

    Reply
  6. Elenor

    Well done Tom!! I was laughing and applauding all the way through!

    I run a ‘dating/mating/marrying’ advice list and there are times when I just want to reach through the monitor to strangle an airhea…. er.. a list member who is just not getting something. I keep reminding myself that I am doing this for the AUDIENCE! I can keep my temper and keep typing calm messages, repeating (and repeating) myself; trying other metaphors, other ways of explaining; and using other examples because I know the rest of the list members are watching and learning: they’re paying attention (cause it’s fun to watch!) so I am giving them information that the airhe…. er… the recalcitrant list member may never perceive!

    So, very well done — you’ve probably reached a lot of people you didn’t know were watching! (Or maybe you did, bein’ so smart as yah are! {wink})

    If they just don’t grasp a concept, I can deal with that. It’s when they refuse to believe they don’t already know it all that I want to strangle them.

    Reply
  7. Richard Tamesis, M.D.

    It behooves us all to remember Mark Twain’s words of wisdom: “Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”

    I think he may have been describing my situation. That’s why I’ve adopted the new rule. I just agreed with another arrogant ignoramus who commented on YouTube. I believe he’s totally confused.

    Reply
  8. xtrocious

    Hi Tom

    Thoroughly enjoyed your movie and your blog…

    On this “debate”, for all you know, you could be arguing with a 800-pound gorilla…hahah

    Anyway, I am Asian and Asians are largely slim because we do not eat a lot of processed food…

    But that’s in the past…

    These days, obesity is fast becoming a serious health issue in Asia, as more people adopt the “modern western lifestyle” including the highly processed food and snacks

    I’d like to know what they actually eat in Asia now. Diabetes is becoming a huge problem, and the immediate reaction is to blame western foods. But I’ve also read that Asians still eat mostly Asian foods, but more of it, plus some western foods.

    Reply
  9. Aaron Blaisdell

    Oh my, you have fortitude! I’ve learned long ago to how to separate the wheat from the chaff (I prefer the latter now that I’m gluten-free primal). I’m married to a Chinese woman and I can attest the the large amount of meat and vegetables they eat; always accompanied by white rice of course. Our Chinese nanny used to make the most wonderful ox-tail soup. Lovely fat floating on the surface. It made the rice taste very yummy.

    Yup, just like lean Americans used to eat meat and potatoes. It’s when we went carb-crazy that we got in trouble.

    Reply
  10. Lori

    Why don’t people get a clue? Because they’d have to admit that when they see someone who is diabetic, overweight and ill, “There but for the grace of God go I.” If you believe it’s all about your own effort and self-discipline instead of great metabolism, it’s easy to pat yourself on the back.

    In other cases, people would have to change their habits to regain their health if they looked the facts in the face. As long as they kid themselves, they can eat all the junk they want.

    Frankly, I get WAY annoyed at people who’ve been lean their entire lives and assume it’s because of their superior will and discipline. I had a friend in Chicago who was maybe 10% bodyfat, and when we went out for dinners together, he ate just as much and drank just as much beer. Discipline had nothing to do with it. He just had a lean build.

    Reply
  11. js290

    Dunning Kruger Effect.

    Very interesting and, in my experience, very true. I just heard an interview with Gary Taubes in which he said he corrected a few errors in the simplied version of Good Calories, Bad Calories coming out soon … so here’s a brilliant guy willing to just say “I made some mistakes.” He doesn’t think he knows more than he knows. Meanwhile, there are barely-literate imbeciles walking around who can’t admit they don’t have all the answers.

    Reply
  12. Chris

    I had to stop reading halfway through. That was painful! I’m impressed by your fortitude, though I agree with your new rule.

    “Painful” is the reason I’m adopting the new rule.

    Reply
  13. Jason Sandeman

    Unfortunately, I have found over the years that stupid people actually think that they are being smart, as they are too stupid to realize otherwise. A viscous cylce indeed!
    I can see how it is hard to buy into the low carb argument, because it seems so counter intuitive.
    I also love the argument about Japanese and Chinese people. I just spent 2 1/2 years professionally working in a Pan-Asian restaurant as the chef. My studies and research show something the typical American just doesn’t understand; yes Asian people eat rice as a main staple in their diet, but they also DON’T eat even a 1/3 as much as Americans do. They simply could not afford to do so.
    In fact, there really is no such thing as a “Chinese” cuisine because the name is a misnomer – there are over 56 different ethnic backgrounds in China. If you look at their main cuisines – (A great book is Beyond the Great Wall) you will see that the traditional diet of many of the ethnics are steeped in foods cooked in saturated fats. There goes the whole “Well Chinese people eat a lot of rice” argument!
    No, some people just won’t get a clue, no matter how hard you beat them with the truth stick. Some people just beg for it!

    That’s what an Asian researcher told Gary Taubes: the Asian populations were poor and could barely afford to live at sustenance levels. I also just came across a 20-year-old study showing that Okinawans — the longest-lived — ate the most fat and protein.

    Reply
  14. Andre Chimene

    Tom, I see you on stage. These guys are just Health Hecklers. Its easy to shout out crap from the dark with no spotlight on you. If he wants to perform, get a mike, a blog and get on stage. Treat em like a heckler, trash em, ignore em or have the bouncer throw em out! We came to see your show, not them. I am in India, working for the last 3 years with Diabetics and Obese. India is #1 in Heart Disease (60& of Heart Patients are in India) and Diabetes (WHO stats). China #2, US#3. If this clown wants to help, I will put him up in Mumbai, free. He can come and work with me…I’m waiting…waiting…waiting…

    The ignoramus tried to egg me into continuing by commenting that he’d done some Googling and found that diabetes and heart disease in India are low. Since that’s pure b.s., as you know, I decided to just ignore the goof.

    Reply
  15. Auntie M

    Wow. I love the internet, but it really shows how ignorant people can be. I currently have a 12-year-old student who rivals that conversation with her “knowledge”, which she obviously hears from her parents. I want to shoot myself every day after one of her bizarre statements or questions where I spend too much time trying to reason with her and use facts. Maybe I should just start agreeing with her, but the other students in the class are likely to take me seriously. What to do…

    It’s pointless to try to reason with people who have no sense of logic. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve walked into my own version of Monty Python’s sketch about the Argument Clinic.

    Reply
  16. Frank Hagan

    There’s a politically incorrect joke that arguing on the Internet is a bit like being in the Special Olympics; even if you win, you’re still a gimp (I warned you it was politically incorrect!)

    One way I stop the argumentum ad absurdum is to ask them something like “If I provide the link for my claim that the Indians have high rates of heart disease, will you concede the point and admit I am right?”

    Those that argue incessantly keep moving the goal posts; as soon as you deal with their “main objection”, they come up with another.

    That’s what this ignoramus was doing. He actually posted a comment shortly after stating that he’d done a Google search and found that heart disease and diabetes are low in India — total hogwash, since both are at record levels there, with heart disease now at double the rate in the western world — but I ignored it.

    Reply
  17. Auntie M

    Jason, it’s called the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”. Stupid…er…”not smart” people don’t realize they’re “not smart” because they aren’t smart enough to realize it. I mutter it under my breath often, and it makes me feel better. At least I KNOW I’m clueless and in need of research and reading to bring myself up to speed on many, many things.

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/the-anosognosics-dilemma-1/

    Can’t remember where I saw it, but I liked this sentence: The larger the island of knowledge, the larger the shoreline of wonder. People who actually know a lot are aware of how much they still don’t know.

    Reply
  18. Elenor

    Well done Tom!! I was laughing and applauding all the way through!

    I run a ‘dating/mating/marrying’ advice list and there are times when I just want to reach through the monitor to strangle an airhea…. er.. a list member who is just not getting something. I keep reminding myself that I am doing this for the AUDIENCE! I can keep my temper and keep typing calm messages, repeating (and repeating) myself; trying other metaphors, other ways of explaining; and using other examples because I know the rest of the list members are watching and learning: they’re paying attention (cause it’s fun to watch!) so I am giving them information that the airhe…. er… the recalcitrant list member may never perceive!

    So, very well done — you’ve probably reached a lot of people you didn’t know were watching! (Or maybe you did, bein’ so smart as yah are! {wink})

    If they just don’t grasp a concept, I can deal with that. It’s when they refuse to believe they don’t already know it all that I want to strangle them.

    Reply
  19. Richard Tamesis, M.D.

    It behooves us all to remember Mark Twain’s words of wisdom: “Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”

    I think he may have been describing my situation. That’s why I’ve adopted the new rule. I just agreed with another arrogant ignoramus who commented on YouTube. I believe he’s totally confused.

    Reply
  20. xtrocious

    Hi Tom

    Thoroughly enjoyed your movie and your blog…

    On this “debate”, for all you know, you could be arguing with a 800-pound gorilla…hahah

    Anyway, I am Asian and Asians are largely slim because we do not eat a lot of processed food…

    But that’s in the past…

    These days, obesity is fast becoming a serious health issue in Asia, as more people adopt the “modern western lifestyle” including the highly processed food and snacks

    I’d like to know what they actually eat in Asia now. Diabetes is becoming a huge problem, and the immediate reaction is to blame western foods. But I’ve also read that Asians still eat mostly Asian foods, but more of it, plus some western foods.

    Reply
  21. Aaron Blaisdell

    Oh my, you have fortitude! I’ve learned long ago to how to separate the wheat from the chaff (I prefer the latter now that I’m gluten-free primal). I’m married to a Chinese woman and I can attest the the large amount of meat and vegetables they eat; always accompanied by white rice of course. Our Chinese nanny used to make the most wonderful ox-tail soup. Lovely fat floating on the surface. It made the rice taste very yummy.

    Yup, just like lean Americans used to eat meat and potatoes. It’s when we went carb-crazy that we got in trouble.

    Reply
  22. Lori

    Why don’t people get a clue? Because they’d have to admit that when they see someone who is diabetic, overweight and ill, “There but for the grace of God go I.” If you believe it’s all about your own effort and self-discipline instead of great metabolism, it’s easy to pat yourself on the back.

    In other cases, people would have to change their habits to regain their health if they looked the facts in the face. As long as they kid themselves, they can eat all the junk they want.

    Frankly, I get WAY annoyed at people who’ve been lean their entire lives and assume it’s because of their superior will and discipline. I had a friend in Chicago who was maybe 10% bodyfat, and when we went out for dinners together, he ate just as much and drank just as much beer. Discipline had nothing to do with it. He just had a lean build.

    Reply
  23. Jan

    I recently opined that sex, religion and politics are the Three Things To Avoid In Polite Discussion, and my husband said, “You should add ‘diet’ to that.”

    It didn’t take us long to learn that some people just don’t want to change their minds. My 15-year-old son, who no longer buys school lunches and no longer takes things like potato chips or cookies or candy in the lunch he brings from home gets an incredible amount of flack about his diet, especially from one of his friends who continually tells him he’s going to starve without carbohydrates. It does NO good for my (naturally thin) son to point out that the whole wheat bread (I found a brand made without soy, trans fats or HFCS, believe it or not), carrot sticks, celery with natural peanut butter, and fruit in his daily lunch are all sources of carbohydrates, or to ask his friend – who regularly consumes sodas and junk food at lunch – how cutting out all the processed carbs and sugar could possibly be a bad thing. The friend simply refuses to understand, or agree that my son may actually have a point.

    What’s really sad is that my husband and I know plenty of adults who have their heads shoved just as far up their behinds buried just as deeply in the sand.

    We don’t want to be “those people” either, so we remind the girls not to preach to their friends about all the refined carbs they eat.

    Reply
  24. js290

    Dunning Kruger Effect.

    Very interesting and, in my experience, very true. I just heard an interview with Gary Taubes in which he said he corrected a few errors in the simplied version of Good Calories, Bad Calories coming out soon … so here’s a brilliant guy willing to just say “I made some mistakes.” He doesn’t think he knows more than he knows. Meanwhile, there are barely-literate imbeciles walking around who can’t admit they don’t have all the answers.

    Reply
  25. Tammy

    Tom – I have to hand it to you for sticking it out for that long, but you may want to rethink your new strategy of agreeing. As you know nothing on the internet ever goes away so some day someone will probably twist what you’ve written. I say just be careful how you respond as there are a lot of folks out there who are not smart enough to figure out sarcasm.

    My own argument stopper is that I keep an extra copy of both FatHead and Food Inc on my shelf at work, plus I have a stack of books at home. If someone tries to argue with me I just say, here watch this or read this. That always shuts them up because no one actually does want to take the time to read or watch something informative. Luckily I have people like you and Gary Taubes to thank for easy reference material !!

    That’s one real danger here, having a sarcastic agreement quoted out of context later.

    Reply
  26. Soul

    I call it internet drunkeness! Years ago I had a lunch with a friend named Deke on the University campus town I live in. Deke was in charge of hiring most of the people that worked in his department. For some reason the topic came up about who he likes and dislikes to hire. With a booming voice, for all the hear, he let me know, he disliked hiring kids out of college the most – they think they know everything!

    It is surprising and for me can be humorous to see how worked up some can be at what is posted onto the net. Debate boards are terrible this way. By and large I avoid the back and forth hammering that guys do to each other. Never understood the enjoyment of that, but some view it as sport I believe. The hammering has little to do with truth, just the sport of trying to embarrass the other guy.

    I think though we live in a cynical age. It’s hard to blame others for having little faith in expert information these days. And it is easy to dig up data supporting one view or another in this electronic age. If you love to argue, and many do, you live at the right time in history.

    The nice part about low carb/ paleo diet information is that it sells its self. From what I’ve seen it works, and works well. It’s a tough sell though convincing others why they should avoid certain foods and eat others. Can’t blame them there. With all the conflicting diet information that is has been presented through time people are highly critical of weight loss/ health tips. And the benefit doesn’t occur right away, it takes time. The water is muddy as the saying might go. It will always be a fight. I’m just glad the information is out there for those interested to see.

    As for economics, I chuckle at those that have been paying attention to my postings of late. It is an honor though. Never quite understood why I have the honor, but for what ever reason, I try to be honest and precent a decent belief in this cynical age. I hope the current government actions to spur the economy work. Everyone is watching with a cynical eye to see if they do or do not. Experts have been giving their solid opinions for the last 2 years of what will happen. Many predictions have been made with little success.

    As for history, the 1930s are talked about often of late of what was done then. That was a generation newly exposed to the idea of massive government involvement to solve problems. Later, the next generation, worked to improve on those ideas. Now the latest generation, the tea party generation I suppose, are re-examining what was done in the past. Many don’t have the same faith in government to lead us out of this economic mess. They are cynical. Will it lead to a new political party? Success is what matters. The dice have been rolled.

    Reply
  27. Bruce

    I had got into a heated argument with my boss one time. She was bound and determined to show that I was wrong on a point (an expensive one), and would not listen to the build up of problems that she (my boss) had ignored that made the end result so costly. I finally said, “You’re right. It’s all my fault.” She sat stunned for a while, and finally admitted that the other problems resulted in the end result.

    Amazing how simply agreeing shuts them up sometimes. I just had that experience last night, after writing the post, with another angry commenter.

    Reply
  28. Andre Chimene

    Tom, I see you on stage. These guys are just Health Hecklers. Its easy to shout out crap from the dark with no spotlight on you. If he wants to perform, get a mike, a blog and get on stage. Treat em like a heckler, trash em, ignore em or have the bouncer throw em out! We came to see your show, not them. I am in India, working for the last 3 years with Diabetics and Obese. India is #1 in Heart Disease (60& of Heart Patients are in India) and Diabetes (WHO stats). China #2, US#3. If this clown wants to help, I will put him up in Mumbai, free. He can come and work with me…I’m waiting…waiting…waiting…

    The ignoramus tried to egg me into continuing by commenting that he’d done some Googling and found that diabetes and heart disease in India are low. Since that’s pure b.s., as you know, I decided to just ignore the goof.

    Reply
  29. Sean

    A few years ago reading The Economist pocket World in Figures, I was surprised that the Middle East, the birthplace of the neolithic revolution, led the world in diabetes. Although I suspect this has more to do with sugar consumption (sweetened tea) rather than wheat consumption. Here’s what they listed for 2007:

    1) UAE 19.5% !!!!!!!!
    2) Saudi Arabia 16.7%
    3) Kuwait 14.4%
    4) Oman 13.1%

    When 1 out of 4 people have diabetes you know something is really messed up.

    Wow. I guess they’re trading oil dollars for sugar.

    Reply
  30. Paul Eilers

    I think the guy you were arguing with is my younger brother. He loves to debate and argue, just for the sake of arguing. Even when he KNOWS he’s incorrect. He just gets a cheap thrill watching others get riled up over nothing.

    By the way, I love me some Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, and have read several of their books on economics.

    Their books are great. You’d probably enjoy Thomas Woods as well.

    Reply
  31. Lori

    On the subject of being aware of what you don’t know, a friend of mine in the dance scene likes to say he doesn’t KNOW lindy–the dance he won a national championship in.

    Some of the worst dancers I see are those who try to teach dancing on the floor (that is, not in a class). Some of the people they try to teach are competent instructors who charge for the services. Even after they see the person dancing circles around them with another partner (one who can actually lead or follow), they persist in trying to teach. It’s not only stupid, but bad manners.

    All the great dancers I’ve ever known were aware that there was always room for improvement–and they all seemed to have an IQ far into the triple digits. I’ve never met a great dancer who was an airhead.

    One of the coaches of the Baltimore Ravens said of Ray Lewis, who is quite possibly the best linebacker in the NFL, “He watches game films like a coach, but he still listens like a rookie.” There’s a man who’s smart enough to know he doesn’t already know it all.

    Reply
  32. Jan

    I recently opined that sex, religion and politics are the Three Things To Avoid In Polite Discussion, and my husband said, “You should add ‘diet’ to that.”

    It didn’t take us long to learn that some people just don’t want to change their minds. My 15-year-old son, who no longer buys school lunches and no longer takes things like potato chips or cookies or candy in the lunch he brings from home gets an incredible amount of flack about his diet, especially from one of his friends who continually tells him he’s going to starve without carbohydrates. It does NO good for my (naturally thin) son to point out that the whole wheat bread (I found a brand made without soy, trans fats or HFCS, believe it or not), carrot sticks, celery with natural peanut butter, and fruit in his daily lunch are all sources of carbohydrates, or to ask his friend – who regularly consumes sodas and junk food at lunch – how cutting out all the processed carbs and sugar could possibly be a bad thing. The friend simply refuses to understand, or agree that my son may actually have a point.

    What’s really sad is that my husband and I know plenty of adults who have their heads shoved just as far up their behinds buried just as deeply in the sand.

    We don’t want to be “those people” either, so we remind the girls not to preach to their friends about all the refined carbs they eat.

    Reply
  33. Rabbi Hirsch Meisels

    Thanks G-D you lost your mind and did answer his comments, this way we got a nikce blog post with some short and sweet answers to some common questions. (Asian, Indians, etc.).
    if you ever run out of topics to blog about (doesn’t seem likely, but just in case) you can make a FAQ list, of commonly asked questions, and short answers.

    Rabbi Hirsch Meisels

    I’m not in any danger of running out of topics, but that wouldn’t be a bad post anyway. Nice thing about YouTube debates is that all comments and replies have to be short. There’s a character limit.

    Reply
  34. Brian Mallard

    So in keeping with your new position of not arguing with idiots, I will not hold my breath waiting for you comments on the Child Nutrition Bill because, as her highness, Michelle avec Le Grande Derriere said, “we just can’t leave it up to the parents.”

    Well, the advantage there is that people in government feel no need to listen to us little people, so there’s no possibility of an endless debate.

    Reply
  35. Galina L.

    Hello, Tom,

    I am a Russian who lives in America for last 15 years. I could tell you the main difference between American food and Russian one. On streets of Moscow it is difficult to see so many obese people as here. Majority of teens are really thin.People are not a picture of health, of course, rate of CVD is high enough,a lot of people drink(o, yes!) and smoke.

    Main difference is that Russians don’t snack that often, don’t believe in a low-fat food and diet drinks, consider late heavy dinner as a very unhealthy one.Potatoes and bread are stable, of course. Fish is more affordable and very popular. Cabbage soup is eaten almost daily as a part of substantial lunch.

    When my son’s friends come to visit him and ask for some snack, very often I am at loss, because I rarely have a food ready to be consumed without cooking. I try to improvise, of course, using bread,cheese and deli items as a raw material for snack preparation. When it comes to drinks, it is even worse. In order not to keep sodas for local children consumption, I bought some syrup and keep it in a fridge for special occasions.

    When our girls have friends over and they want snacks, they get deli slices, cheeses, nuts, fruit, olives. We’ll see if that affects our popularity rating among the neighborhood kids.

    Reply
  36. Debbie

    Sheesh, I can see the urge to bat your head against the wall. But people *can* learn! I confess that back in the 80s, early 90s, I was a rabid low-fatter, never quite a vegetarian, but trying to trend in that direction. When my sister got pregnant with her son in 1987 her obstetrician gave her a diet sheet that included things like eating bacon and eggs for breakfast and steak for dinner (a man ahead of his time!), and I, to my shame, railed against the diet and how dreadfully unhealthy it was, and how she would be so much better off having oatmeal and skim milk for breakfast and lean fish for dinner. I had read Atkins but his prose read, to me, like a snake-oil salesman, and turned me even further into the low fat camp. I figured anything that had Atkins as a proselytizer just had to be wrong.

    But I began to come around in the late 90s when I read a copy of “Protein Power”. The Eades’s science-based explanation of why low carb worked reached me in a way that Atkins never could, and ended up changing my whole life. So people *can* learn, even old set-in-their-ways dogs. You just have to find the right way to reach them.

    Alas I don’t have the technique it seems. I have never been able to convince one single person that eating this way is better for their health. No one actually tells me I’m *wrong* but all my friends and family treat my way of eating as mostly an amusing eccentricity.

    The first time I saw an informercial featuring Atkins, I was very turned off by him. Like you, I “knew” lowfat was the way to go, so I assumed he was a quack. Thank heavens most of us are capable of changing our minds.

    Reply
  37. Tammy

    Tom – I have to hand it to you for sticking it out for that long, but you may want to rethink your new strategy of agreeing. As you know nothing on the internet ever goes away so some day someone will probably twist what you’ve written. I say just be careful how you respond as there are a lot of folks out there who are not smart enough to figure out sarcasm.

    My own argument stopper is that I keep an extra copy of both FatHead and Food Inc on my shelf at work, plus I have a stack of books at home. If someone tries to argue with me I just say, here watch this or read this. That always shuts them up because no one actually does want to take the time to read or watch something informative. Luckily I have people like you and Gary Taubes to thank for easy reference material !!

    That’s one real danger here, having a sarcastic agreement quoted out of context later.

    Reply
  38. Soul

    I call it internet drunkeness! Years ago I had a lunch with a friend named Deke on the University campus town I live in. Deke was in charge of hiring most of the people that worked in his department. For some reason the topic came up about who he likes and dislikes to hire. With a booming voice, for all the hear, he let me know, he disliked hiring kids out of college the most – they think they know everything!

    It is surprising and for me can be humorous to see how worked up some can be at what is posted onto the net. Debate boards are terrible this way. By and large I avoid the back and forth hammering that guys do to each other. Never understood the enjoyment of that, but some view it as sport I believe. The hammering has little to do with truth, just the sport of trying to embarrass the other guy.

    I think though we live in a cynical age. It’s hard to blame others for having little faith in expert information these days. And it is easy to dig up data supporting one view or another in this electronic age. If you love to argue, and many do, you live at the right time in history.

    The nice part about low carb/ paleo diet information is that it sells its self. From what I’ve seen it works, and works well. It’s a tough sell though convincing others why they should avoid certain foods and eat others. Can’t blame them there. With all the conflicting diet information that is has been presented through time people are highly critical of weight loss/ health tips. And the benefit doesn’t occur right away, it takes time. The water is muddy as the saying might go. It will always be a fight. I’m just glad the information is out there for those interested to see.

    As for economics, I chuckle at those that have been paying attention to my postings of late. It is an honor though. Never quite understood why I have the honor, but for what ever reason, I try to be honest and precent a decent belief in this cynical age. I hope the current government actions to spur the economy work. Everyone is watching with a cynical eye to see if they do or do not. Experts have been giving their solid opinions for the last 2 years of what will happen. Many predictions have been made with little success.

    As for history, the 1930s are talked about often of late of what was done then. That was a generation newly exposed to the idea of massive government involvement to solve problems. Later, the next generation, worked to improve on those ideas. Now the latest generation, the tea party generation I suppose, are re-examining what was done in the past. Many don’t have the same faith in government to lead us out of this economic mess. They are cynical. Will it lead to a new political party? Success is what matters. The dice have been rolled.

    Reply
  39. Labby

    You are stronger than I. That person was someone who was never going to stop. If you provide proof to one question, he would simply move on to something else.

    I just want to say that I loved the movie Fathead. I have been doing a lot of research into the nutritional and health benefits are carbohydrate restriction and increasing protein and fat in the diet. In the past, I read numerous books and took college level courses in nutrition. These all pushed the low fat/high carb approach that is endorsed by the government. Until recently, I strongly believed in this method. However, the evidence is much more compelling in favor of lowered carbs and increased protein and fat when one reads about the published research.

    Because of this, I have recently moved from a low fat/high carb diet (to lose weight) to a carb-restricted diet that includes plenty of low carb vegetables, fresh meats, cheese and eggs and does not eliminate or restrict saturated fats. Not only do I feel better, but I’ve lost weight faster and more easily on MORE Calories (about 1800 per day) than when I was losing weight on a low fat/high carb diet (about 1550 Calories per day.)

    You’re right, he never would’ve stopped. They’re like a little dog who bites down on your pant leg and won’t let go.

    Reply
  40. Galina L.

    Sorry, my first comment was not about the content of your post. It is amazing how much animosity in all discussions about nutrition, diets and weight loss. Garry’s blog is not the worst place because there are a lot of people there who are less ignorant than people reading CNN health news. And I am trying to understand what makes that particular issue so dividing. May be it is that somebody who is naturally thin (not insulin resistant) just unable to comprehend how anybody leading healthy lifestyle may have a weight problem. We say- “nutritional composition matters more that calorie consumption”. They hear – “calories don’t matter and I am going to pig out on whole pig”. We say “exercise more, eat less approach doesn’t work”, they hear – “since exercise and calories restriction don’t work , I will lay on my coach eating because me being fat is not my fault”. It sounds for them like some new theory created in order to excuse gluttony.They hear not what we are saying, plus some religiously devoted vegetarians comprehend our message as a direct threat to their cult.

    The only way to deal with it is to try to turn emotions out of discussion. If they are unable to comprehend what Garry is saying , they are doomed.

    I think you’ve got it right. People who are naturally thin or lose weight easily often assume it must work the same for everyone else.

    Reply
  41. Jo

    “People who actually know a lot are aware of how much they still don’t know.”

    LOL, maybe I’m cleverer than I thought!

    Great post – I work with someone like those posters. They suck the very life out of you.

    I only communicate my ideas when I think people will listen. Drop an idea here and there rather than try a full on conversion (I’m not very good at confrontation!!). Often our ideas take flight even if we don’t see it happening.

    It’s weird, though, how some of them show up out of nowhere to post comments. If I’d never studied the topic and then saw an animated clip explaining how insulin drives fat storage, I would assume whoever produced it might know something.

    Reply
  42. Milton

    Hey Tom, great stuff.

    OT: I was just watching Fat-Head on hulu (yeah, I know, I should really purchase it sorry :)) and was wondering 2 things. 1) is that you in the clips where someone says “follow the money” and 2) is that from an actual movie?

    That’s me in a dark garage, doing a line from “All The President’s Men.”

    Reply
  43. Rocky

    Seeing you interact with these arrogant geniuses, I’m reminded of a quip that a friend of mine once offered:

    “I simply don’t have a shovel large enough to fill the world’s intellectual void.”

    LOL.

    Reply
  44. Bruce

    I had got into a heated argument with my boss one time. She was bound and determined to show that I was wrong on a point (an expensive one), and would not listen to the build up of problems that she (my boss) had ignored that made the end result so costly. I finally said, “You’re right. It’s all my fault.” She sat stunned for a while, and finally admitted that the other problems resulted in the end result.

    Amazing how simply agreeing shuts them up sometimes. I just had that experience last night, after writing the post, with another angry commenter.

    Reply
  45. Dave

    The secret to always being right: admit when you’re wrong.

    You’ll appreciate this as a fellow programmer: a client once asked me if their system’s code could be modified to do XYZ. I replied that I didn’t know — since I didn’t know, and would have to do some research first.

    Her response: “Oh, my gosh, thank you! What a pleasant change that is!”

    Huh?

    She went on to explain that her previous programmer was apparently incapable of ever admitting he didn’t already know everything, so if she requested some complex function and he wasn’t sure how to do it, he would just tell her it wasn’t possible.

    Reply

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