If Fat Head had an official birthday, it would be November 14, 2008. That was the night we had the premiere party, which was the first public showing. We invited a bunch of friends and everyone who worked in production or post-production. Most of the people who appeared on camera in the film lived hundreds or even thousands of miles away, but Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades made the trip from Santa Barbara to Burbank to be at the premiere and show their support.
To add a touch of irony to the evening, the only nearby facility with a private-party room big enough and affordable enough for the premiere party was an Italian restaurant. Yes, we served pizza and pasta, along with a variety of meats and side dishes. I announced that after dinner, we would show everyone a film explaining why we should stop eating pizza and pasta.
Here we are with Dr. Eades. The cheesecake was a low-carb cheesecake. Chareva ordered it long before the party. The pasta and pizza were definitely not low-carb.
It was a sentimental evening for me. I of course had a great feeling of accomplishment. It also happened to be my 50th birthday, so it was a double celebration. But we had already decided to put our townhouse on the market and move to Tennessee, mostly because I couldn’t stomach California and the Hollywood culture anymore. We knew we’d be saying goodbye to the friends who were at the party.
Since the audience was comprised of people we knew or who worked on the film, the response of course was very positive. I was a ball of optimism at the time. I had dreams of the film replacing my income as a programmer and launching me into more projects.
I had no idea the DVD distributor would go bankrupt without paying us, or that the foreign distributor would claim zero profits (which was an obvious lie) and never pay us. Chareva has not-so-fond memories from 2010, when I was still writing large monthly checks to pay off the post-production costs, of me screaming at the top of my lungs, “I wish I’d never made this @#$%ing film!” I swore I’d never make another one.
Then we managed to get Fat Head placed with Gravitas Ventures, an actual honest distributor, and BOOM! I remember an executive from Gravitas calling to tell me that Fat Head had become the most-watched documentary on Hulu during the previous cycle.
“Hang on. It gets better. Fat Head was also the fifth-most watched film on Hulu, period, in all categories.”
Because of its popularity on Hulu, Gravitas was able to sell Fat Head to Netflix, then Amazon Prime, then a bunch of other networks and streaming services. The audience kept growing, and most importantly (at least to me at the time), the royalty checks finally began rolling in. No more debt load for the post-production costs. I’d bet the farm (before I actually owned a farm), and for two years, I thought I’d lost the bet. I thought I’d be stuck paying off the debt for years. Now I was free.
Hard to believe it’s been 10 years already. It seems fitting that Gravitas is re-releasing the original Fat Head on DVD in a few weeks, and equally fitting that I finally made another film.
If you’re capable of first-grade math, you may have already done a little calculation in your head:
Let’s see, the Fat Head premiere party was 10 years ago, and that was his 50th birthday, so …
Uh, yeah. I turn 60 today. It sounds weird to say that out loud, so I haven’t been saying it. I don’t feel 60. I’m pretty sure I don’t look 60. But there it is. I’m 60.
I’m not afraid of becoming old and tired anytime soon, but when I roll that number around in my head, it does have an effect. To use a football analogy, it’s the realization that if I’m not in the fourth quarter of life yet, I’m certainly well into the third. The game doesn’t last forever.
It’s also a wee bit unpredictable. There’s an old saying that Man makes plans and God laughs. If you’d told me 30 years ago that I’d end up on a farm with chickens (and occasional goats and hogs) and actually look forward to doing manual labor on the land, I would have explained that your psychic powers were seriously whacked.
On a farm? In Tennessee? No, no, no … I’m going to be producing my own show in Hollywood by then. Each episode covers a current topic, ya see. It’s going to open with me doing some standup comedy to introduce the topic, then we move on to comedy skits and funny songs, then a bit of standup to close each episode. Kind of a “Dave Allen at Large” type of thing, but with musical numbers.
That sound way off in the distance was God laughing.
At age 25, I was a writer for a small magazine and had no plans whatsoever to ever try standup comedy. At age 35, I had no plans whatsoever to become a software programmer. I had no idea that I wouldn’t get married until age 42. As you know if you’ve heard me interviewed on any of several podcasts, I didn’t set out to make Fat Head. It started as something else. I didn’t expect to buy a little farm and live out in the sticks. For a long time, I didn’t think I’d make another film.
Pretty much my entire adult life has been full of bends and turns I didn’t see coming. And that’s the beauty of it. There have been ups and downs and turnarounds, but one thing it’s never been is boring. Life seems to enjoy surprising me, and I enjoy it too … mostly.
I recently received an email from a guy who’d just seen Fat Head for the first time. He pointed out that the follow-up section in the film is nearly six years old. He asked if I’d explain in a post where I’m at now in terms of my diet, my weight, my plans, etc. I said sure, that’s a good idea, but I’ll probably wait until I turn 60 in November.
I think you can guess part of the current plan: sell a helluva lot of copies of the Fat Head Kids film and book. Chareva is working on a Kindle version the book, so that will be coming along soon.
At some point, I’d like to find time to do a video version of the blog. Same kinds of topics, but with graphics, animations and sound. I’d also like to take the songs I wrote for Fat Head and Fat Head Kids along with several others (some already recorded, some not) and release them as album. (Does the word “album” show my age?)
I’m still on a low-carb, whole-foods diet, but I have made one significant change. As you may recall, I ended up at 213 pounds after months of recovering from the shoulder and bicep surgery. I wasn’t pigging out, but I also wasn’t interested in trying to lose weight when my body needed to rebuild. Lifting weights at the gym was of course out of the question.
On the low-carb cruise in May, Dr. Ted Naiman gave a speech outlining the science behind his version of a low-carb diet. It’s not the high-fat/moderate-protein diet that most people use to get into ketosis. Naiman’s diet is much higher in protein. He believes (and presented several studies to back up the argument) that a high proportion of protein grams to non-protein grams is better for body composition. I’ve always felt better on higher-protein diets, so I paid attention.
Naiman defines “non-protein” grams as fat grams or carbohydrate-minus-fiber grams. To determine your protein grams per day, you figure out what your lean body mass is (or should be), and eat at least one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. To lose weight, you want the ratio of protein to non-protein grams to be above 1.0. In other words, if your intake of protein is 160 grams per day, the total of (fat grams + carbohydrate grams – fiber grams) would be no more than 160. (You can read more about his specific recommendations on his web site.)
Unless you plan to eat a lot of turkey breast the rest of the day, that means you’re not going to melt a stick of butter into your morning coffee. You’re not going to eat the fattiest meats every meal. If you choose to get all your non-protein grams from fat, that’s still 70% of the total calories at a ratio of one-to-one, but you can’t go crazy on fat and stay within Naiman’s fat-burning zone.
I don’t get all my non-protein grams from fat. I like my diet to include vegetables, small servings of squash and tubers, and even some gluten-free bread here and there. So I have to reduce the fat a bit to stay within the ratio. After scrolling through the Excel workbook where I log my meals, I’d say a typical day for me is something like 30-40% protein, 45-55% fat and whatever remains comes from carbohydrates. As you might guess, I eat a lot meat (but not the fattiest meats) to keep the protein ratio high.
I usually follow the protocol five days per week. On Fridays and Saturdays, I don’t measure and count everything, but I don’t go crazy either. We usually go out for dinner on Friday night, often to a Mexican restaurant near us. I usually order steak fajitas. I’ll eat some refried beans and perhaps a corn tortilla or two. I’ll have a beer or two. Sometimes I also enjoy some red wine on Saturday night.
Low carb, moderate fat, high in protein. That’s what seems to work best for me. When I started following Naiman’s program, the post-surgery weight began coming off. We don’t have a scale at home, but the scale at the gym put me at 198 pounds on Sunday.
I haven’t done this since I turned 55, so here’s a shot of me on my 60th birthday. (I’d like to deny the rumors that something is wrong with the top of my head. I didn’t raise the tripod quite enough.)
Not much different from age 55. Still carrying that bit of softness around the middle. It’s quite determined to stick around. I’m pretty sure my arms are a little smaller, since I don’t do curls at the gym anymore. With the severed bicep tendon now surgically inserted into my arm bone, I’m not going to risk snapping the thing by pushing the muscle to its limit.
So that’s it. Yeah, I’m 60, but I feel good. I’m looking forward to giving my speech at the Weston A. Price Foundation conference this weekend. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Fat Head Kids film does.
Happy birthday to Fat Head, and happy birthday to me.
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