Strap in, it’s going to be a full ride.
On Thursday morning, I will be a guest on the On The Mark program that airs on WKOK in Sunbury PA. The host is someone I cross paths with from time to time, and I have called the show many times on many issues. I’d call Mark a friend, but he’s in a public position where everyone makes that claim, so I won’t speak for him. Mark has asked me about coming in to the studio for a long time. I am the kind of guy who rarely shies from a microphone, but I told him I’d come in when I had something specific to talk about. As this is National Nutrition Month, I finally thought it was time. I plan to promote our 5k in Richfield as well as the Bike Ride. I also want to encourage people to write in to the FDA on the Aspartame in Dairy Petition.
We’ll be talking about my own weight loss and self-discovery, and I billed myself as an alternative-health citizen activist. I hope to clue people in to other resources, writers and organizations. So in that hour, I plan to drop a ton of information, something of a digest of what this blog is about. In that spirit, I want to provide a top 10 list of what I hope to discuss, as well as a bibliography. I’m not an expert, I’m a guy who reads and thinks about what I’ve read. I encourage others to do the same.
I called in to the show two weeks ago and tried to ask too many questions of the dietitian on air, which led to confusion and honestly, me sounding like an idiot. Then last week I called in with a much more well-formed thought for the cardiologist on air, who received my counter-inquisition very well. You can hear the exchange at this archived mp3 file. I call in around 47:05.
So here is a Reader’s Digest Version of what this blog is about.
First, if you want to skip all the scientific stuff I will link to, as well as the political, just use this graph.
For a more involved but still usable guide, I recommend the book Rich Food Poor Food, which is a holistic approach to a format you may be familiar with in the Eat This Not That! series. That one still relies on heavy processed stuff, and may make some better choices, but to me it’s like the choice between murder one and manslaughter. Rich Food Poor Food is from a much more natural, paleo, organic,ancestral point of view.
1. The Body is More Complicated than We Treat It
I would encourage anyone interested in finding the truth about the conventional wisdom that everyone repeats, yet cannot cite actual evidence for, start with Gary Taubes’ book Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. The most basic takeaway is summed up like this: the 1st law of thermodynamics is insufficient to explain obesity. In other words, calories in calories out is a mantra that everyone knows, but it’s not that simple. The body is a complex system, and much more attention needs to be paid to the chemistry and biology of the endocrine system than just a simple physics-oriented reduction.
OK even that sounded way too scientific. His book is very very readable and gets at it in a way I can’t explain nearly as well.
2. Sugar is straight up evil.
Get to know the name Dr. Robert Lustig. His book, Fat Chance was just published, and will be an amazing eye opener. If you prefer to watch your informaiton, he has an amazing video on youtube. It’s 90 minutes long. But give it 5 minutes, and you won’t turn it off until you’ve watched the whole thing at least once. I can’t recall if he says it in this video or elsewhere, but the great line is this: “the high fructose corn syrup makers want to say it’s no worse than table sugar. And I agree. They’re both poison.”
3. Grains aren’t far behind.
Heart-healthy whole grains is the absolute number one fiction of current dietary advice. There is nothing in a grain that you need dietarily. Bread and pasta are cultural foods, not health foods. The best things you can say about grains, the fiber, is still a fiction. You get way more fiber from vegetables. This is a big hurdle for a lot of people and a reason that paleo or low carb proponents are painted as fringe. Grains are deep in our psyche. But the truth is that even the 100% whole wheat bread is treated just like sugar by your body. Start with Dr. Willam Davis’ book Wheat Belly.
Grains are at the center of our processed food problem and yes, bread and pasta are processed foods. Bread was once a dense chewy substance that filled you up with just a bit. There are places in Europe where bread is still made like this. In the US it is very hard to find a bread that is anything but an immense carbohydrate bomb. And we eat without being satisfied and continue to eat and eat and eat. It’s not just what we all know to be junk food. It’s every single thing in a box in the cereal aisle, every granola bar.
We all know processed foods are bad right? Well along with high fructose corn syrup and other modern inventions, the bulk of processed foods are absolutely stuffed with wheat.
And even if you remain convinced that grains just have to be part of our diet because, well, we keep being told that, then take a look at the money behind the world grain market. The commodification of wheat futures decades ago was the beginning of the centralization of power through food. Excellent article in Utne Reader.
4. Money ruins everything.
So yeah, I talk a lot on this blog about following the money. I am not an anti-capitalist. I am however, someone who has become convinced after years of clear evidence, that when it comes to food, there is no such thing as a free market. There are countless books and documentaries about this. Just off the top of my head, read Fast Food Nation, Food Politics, Omnivore’s Dilemma. On Netflix you can find King Corn, Farmageddon, Food Inc., Fresh, and Broken Limbs, for starters. HBO’s Weight of a Nation profiled real vegetables farmers in episode 15.
I know, I know: But healthy food is so much more expensive. This is only because of the fact that we already literally give away the farm to mega producers of grain based byproducts like Cargill, ADM and Monsanto. The deck is stacked against real food farmers in every way. Grassfed meat is only more expensive because corn feed is artificially kept low in price. I can’t go any further without mentioning the best prophet of real food, a man who should be president, a guy whose writings and presentations bring together far left foodie vegans and right wing anti-government folks. Joel Salatin. His latest book is called Folks This Ain’t Normal. Anyone who has an inking of how modernity has stripped our relationship with food of all naturalness or sacredness, will love to read Joel and get fired up.
Check out one of his TED Talks here. Breastfeeding advocates especially will like this one. Then see the one he does on the sacredness of raising chickens.
And for those who just like a little sarcastic, ironic humor, here’s a parody that is spot on. Remember the super bowl ad from Chrysler idolizing the American farmer? Yeah, we all hear Paul Harvey’s voice and get all weepy. Yet we continue to support a food culture and economy that gets cheaper and cheaper, putting real farmers out of work.
Here’s the true ad Chrysler wouldn’t make. I can’t get it embed. This pops over to Funny or Die.
The FDA is spending its resources raiding raw milk dairies, while considering a proposal to allow big companies to put asparatame in milk and not label it. Just google FDA corruption and spend a day.
Organizations that purport to be helping us take money from the very things that are killing us. I profiled a major problem with the American Heart Association already.
All the while, we have a medical establishment with bills spiraling out of control, yet our focus is on how to get prescriptions for statin drugs and diabetes control drugs. There is just so much to say about this, I won’t even begin to do it justice here. Go watch Fathead on netflix, Statin Nation online.
5. The Advice Has Been Flawed For Decades
Ever notice that since the dawn of low-fat dogma, Americans have skyrocketed our rates of obesity, type two diabetes and heart disease? Isn’t it odd that once we gave up butter and picked up more carbs we are sicker and fatter? Where did this conventional wisdom come from?
I don’t want to have to type another 1000 words just on this. So here’s my google results page for Ancel Keys debunked. The movie Fathead goes into this very well, but the short of it is, his science was terrible, and then a US Senator decided to push this dogma against the recommendation of 50 other experts called to testify before congress.
This led to the pushing of transfats, and the killing of millions.
And I am getting weary of all this negativity, so I won’t spend much time on it, but I get pretty angry when I see diabetes educators promoting high carbohydrate diets for diabetics. Why? To sell more meds? Are they convinced we can’t give up sweets and and bread? To see the cover of any grocery store diabetic magazine, that seems to be the case. It’s a twisted world of food porn, covered in cakes and cookies. Yet somehow, back in the day when it was a very rare condition, the advice to avoid all of it was commonly known.
Not that I take much wisdom from Dr. Phil, but he has an approach I use a lot. How’s that working for you? Apply that to the current dietary advice, the food pyramid, even the new half-grain “my plate” and the same tired advice you get from the medical establishment.
6. Modern Food is A Giant Lie
a. All you need to know about transfats, and seed oils can be found in this excellent book by David Gillespie of Australia, Toxic Oil. IT’s only available via kindle in the US right now, as it was just released. Just google the phrase industrial seed oils and get an education.
b. GRAS – Generally regarded as safe. This is the status that food makers seek from the FDA. Artificial sweeteners get this label, and are never questioned again. Yet they trick the body’s endocrine system, and keep us in a sweet-seeking never-satisfied state. They may actually be worse in the long run than actual sugar.
c. Processed food and vitamins – breakfast cereals with all the vitamins listed as such a ridiculous sham. They process the life out of an already suspect ingredient base, then add in cheap, low quality versions of vitamins and sell it to us as health food.
d. Really, any food that makes a health claim on the label is probably something to avoid. Anyone remember my picture of marshmallows? A fat-free food. Yeah, OK. It’s not all that bad, that one’s obvious. It’s the insidiousness of implying that feeding yourself and your kids these boxed modern inventions, you’re doing something healthy.
JUST EAT REAL FOOD. For reference on what is indeed real food, see flow chart above.
7. Moderation is The Most Misunderstood Concept Ever
I can write all day about this, but I plan to mention on the show the idea that moderation in all things is fatally flawed. Why? Well, it’s one of those things that we say, but can’t really define. How about moderate genocide or racism? Good ideas? How about moderate house fires? Obviously I’m being over the top here, but the point stands. Some things are just not needed, no matter how moderately.
People who actually practice moderation rarely have to name it as such. But this is America baby, and we don’t moderate anything! We live in a culture of coarseness and “reality” tv that highlights the most extreme of every negative human behavior or attitude, so that we can always feel normal. When I was over 360 pounds, there were times I did not feel so fat because there are still 700 pound people. Even at about 250 now, I am seriously overweight, but the culture around me tries to tell me I’m average. Craziness. Get out of the US for once, and most everyone reading this will suddenly feel enormous. This is not to promote eating disorders or bad body image. But let’s be really honest about this folks, we live in a land that prides itself on immoderation. The biggest, loudest, most extreme, fattest, nastiest of EVERYTHING, or you’re un-American.
Sell moderation to someone still listening. There is no moderate amount of oreos that makes sense for a human being that cares about their body. And if you are one of those people who isn’t affected by the more -needs-more cycle of addictive processed foods, then congratulations on being the 10%. For most of us, moderation is a buzzword we throw around when we don’t want to admit how non-moderate we really are with the drug that is processed food.
8. Exercise is Awesome, but Not For Weight Loss
Crazy talk right? I mean, the conventional wisdom is all around us. Eat less, move more. And again, I have to ask “how’s that working for you?” I may be an extreme example, but I’m hardly alone. I could finish a long swimming session and be so hungry I drove right to Wendy’s and downed a double with cheese combo and a frosty. Maybe you’re saying “oh well, I’m never THAT extreme!” But ask yourself, how often do you or others around you justify a slab of cake or a stack of cookies because they moved a couple miles or spent a half hour in the gym? Even if we’re going to simply things to the woefully insufficient CACI dogma, the math never adds up. If the average person burns 100 calories running a mile, then what reason is there to carbo load for a 5k? I’m looking in your direction, official Girls on the Run curriculum lesson five. Or watch people pound several hundred calories of bagels and sports drinks after a race. The endurance sports world is a wonderful place, and I am glad to have found my way there. But the dysfunction around food is strong there too. Anyone who has done any reading about running likely knows the name Dean Karnazes. And it’s likely they know the stories from his first book about ordering and eating whole pizzas on all-night runs. What they fail to take into account is that he was running 100 miles, not five. And, Dean is a big proponent of paleo eating now.
The point is, there are many reasons to get up and move. So, so many. I’m currently in a self-debate over how much to shift out of the endurance mode and into weight training But either is better than sitting on the couch. Exercise absolutely rocks. But if we run and run and run and pay no attention to our fuel, weight loss is a pipe dream.
For anyone new to this blog, understand that this is coming from a guy who is proud of his half-ironman finish, many running event finishes, swimming a 5k, and planning to do a full 140.6 mile ironman. I love this stuff. But I don’t lose weight from it.
9. Just Break Up With Sweet
All the evidence on diet sodas and other fake sweeteners shows that it’s a metabolic nightmare, screws up our hormones, and actually leads to weight gain. All of this sugar substituting is just like methodone for a heroin addict. I used to describe my Coke Zero just that way. Kick it. Seriously. Eat paleo, high fat and enjoy real food from the ground. I’m eating lots of eggs, bacon and spinach every morning. Get off sweetness, and re-discover the flavor of buttered asparagus. It’s absolutely amazing. Paleo and ancestral eating is not for suffering dieters, it’s for real food lovers. But there is no room for this constant flow of sugar that we’re all determined to kill ourselves with.
10. Natural Food is Sustainable
One of the biggest arguments around food policy is this assumption that grain must be central to our diet, that meat is an environmental disaster, that only through modern factory farming and petro-chemical based fertilizers, GMOs and all that is gloriously modern, only with all this will be feed the world.
The sustainability of grass-fed livestock over grain-fed is a hot topic. I am no expert. This video I’m embedding is controversial. But to be honest, the opposition I have read comes from a dogma of vegetarianism, which may be a laudable principle, but must be called out as a dogma when we’re doing science.
This is only one angle. And I don’t purport to suddenly have a magic answer, but the way we’ve been going is insane. Back to the prophet Joel (Salatin), the research is there for sustainability of methods that predate modern mono-culture driven, ag-business centered food production.
There is so much more to discuss here and on air, but this was as nutrient-dense a post as I could manage today. However you’ve found your way here, welcome. I hope we can have a conversation about nourishment over nutritionism, of food over food-like products, of health and wellness over being fixed with technology.
In conclusion, I think this sums it up best.