First things first: I’m not a doctor. Nor am I a scientist or dietitian and I have no interest in playing one on the Internet. So if you’re one of those people who needs to see a long list of degrees and fancy job titles to be convinced of my qualifications, then read a different blog. There’s no shortage of MDs and PhDs and other smart-sounding people out there dispensing dietary and lifestyle advice. In fact, we’re oversaturated. Somehow, despite all the hours of formal classroom education, America is a fat, sick nation in 2017. The experts are everywhere and we’re often forced to listen to them even if we don’t want to. We’ve heard what they’ve had to say for years, we’ve listened and we’ve suffered the consequences of the conventional medicine approach, shaped by BigAgra and BigPharma:
- In the last 30 years, obesity rates have doubled in adults, tripled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents.
- Over two-thirds (67.5%) of American adults are overweight or obese.
- Type 2 diabetes in America has tripled since the 1980s
- One in three Americans will have diabetes by mid-century
These conditions are also 100% preventable and reversible!
Then there’s the economic impact: The Centers for Disease Control says that 75 percent of healthcare spending goes to treating preventable chronic diseases, most of which are diet-related.
Now consider this: When surveyed, an overwhelming majority of respondents ranked their diets as good, very good, or excellent. So what gives? Maybe, just maybe, the things we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness aren’t so. What if the prevailing wisdom has caused unintended consequences? What if relying on prescription drugs and Western medicine has compromised our long-term health?
Before I got started down this path, I had a real job. I spent 12 years as a finance guy in a research lab at the top pediatric hospital in the world. I worked with doctors – lots of them. (You’d be shocked at how poorly Harvard-educated doctors eat!) I recall many of them coming to me with questions about healthy eating, even though I didn’t have a bunch of letters after my name and I didn’t wear a white coat. But they knew I would read voraciously – nutrition journals, medical studies, health research publications. I did this – and still do – voluntarily, not as preparation for an exam but to improve my quality of life and that of those around me. The docs I worked with knew I could (and often do) talk about diet and nutrition all day long. They knew I’m a weirdo because, when I see a head of kale at the grocery store, I immediately think of its 47 identified phytochemicals and how some of them cause cancer cells to commit suicide and I say to myself, “Cool, I want that happening in my body.”
An admitted hypochondriac by the ripe old age of 7, the focus didn’t shift to diet until my college years when the goal was, almost exclusively, to get jacked, ripped, diesel, swole or whatever the adjective-du-jour might be. This would involve doing anything the bodybuilding magazines said I needed to do: protein shakes every two hours, 500 grams of carbohydrates a day, a variety of supplements and frequent “cheat” days. It worked, I got bigger. And for the first time I saw that what you put in your body can have an impact on your physique. I also soon discovered first-hand how your dietary choices impact what’s happening on the inside.
As much as I wanted to believe that the size I had put on was pure muscle, the reality was that much was in the form of body fat. A routine physical and blood work-up would soon confirm elevated blood pressure, glucose, triglyceride and LDL values, in response to which my doctor insisted that a cocktail of pharmaceuticals – to commence tout suite– was the only sensible course of action. But I knew that wasn’t true. After all, diet had gotten me into this mess so diet would get me out. There was no way I was going to surrender to a life of statins and ACE inhibitors at the age of 25.
It was around this time that I began wondering why society puts doctors on a pedestal. Clearly, they’re smart people. You have to have brains to make it through medical school. I could never do that. But is being smart enough, especially when the consequences can be so serious? And should we judge doctors based on their intelligence alone? The way I see it, there’s smarts and then there’s talent. To me, talent is solving a problem and you don’t solve a problem by throwing drugs at it. You solve a problem by addressing the underlying cause.
My doctor quickly drafted a letter to document my refusal and to cover his butt in the event that I dropped dead on the way out the door. Harkening back to the days when a hang nail almost assuredly meant gangrene and all headaches were the result of brain tumors, I resolved to channel that hypochondria into something more productive. And so began my journey to confront, rather than fear, the potential for illness. I had found my motivation.
Over the next year or two, I followed wholeheartedly the generic, overly-simplistic, one-size-fits-all recommendations that the “experts” had been dishing out for years: a low-fat, calorie controlled diet with lots of whole grains and daily bouts of aerobic exercise (sound familiar?). It seemed to make sense, came from smart people and it was just easier than having to come up with my own way of doing things. In practice this meant a lot of egg whites, cereal and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, whatever that is (I still don’t know). It meant tracking every calorie with one of those online diet journals. And it meant long, exhaustive (sometimes two hours a day!) sessions on a variety of fitness machines, alongside my brethren in the chronic cardio crowd.
The five or so pounds I lost (some of that being muscle) didn’t put a dent in my blood markers, at least not as defined by antiquated formulas. As most frustrated dieters discover, the weight came back and then some. The diet resulted in some weight loss initially, as all diets do, but I felt like crap and I knew what I was doing couldn’t be good for my body (I know they’re fat-free but can Snackwells really be part of a healthy eating plan?)
Clearly, this wasn’t the right strategy, but I was determined. I immersed myself in what I soon came to realize was a very confusing and contradictory world of dietary and nutritional wisdom. An overarching theme quickly emerged. When I started digging, I realized that much of what we know, or think we know, about healthy eating is based on incomplete and questionable science. Alternative explanations are dismissed, history is ignored, special interests exert influence and common sense disappears. There are many deeply rooted causes for this and much has been written on it. As it turns out, many of the most pervasive ideas about nutrition have been repeatedly debunked and refuted with actual facts. For a variety of reasons, however, that information is often buried, goes unreported, and is hard to find unless you’re looking for it, as I was.
I knew that my health issues were my own problem and nobody else’s and I realized that I’d have to make my own determinations about the way I should be eating. I felt sort of like a food detective. I weighed the evidence and implemented the plan that I thought would help me reach my goals. To make a long story short, going against my doctor’s advice and against the advice of the mainstream nutrition authorities was the best decision I could have made. By eating closer to the way humans have for most of our existence, I was able to drop 60 pounds and my blood markers improved dramatically. But beyond the numbers, I felt better than I had in a long time and the benefits kept coming:
Eczema – gone. Along with the steroid creams.
Headaches – gone. Along with the daily Advil regimen.
Seasonal allergies – gone. Along with the prescription nasal sprays.
Bloat and gastrointestinal distress – gone. Along with the antacids.
Anxiety – gone. Along with the SSRIs.
Afternoon naps – no more. And no more need for all that caffeine.
And all this by bucking the conventional wisdom and, in many cases, doing the exact opposite of what the experts instruct us to do. Similar stories are being shared by millions of others who have decided to take their health into their own hands. The results don’t lie.
Now when I see that same physician who had insisted on all the drugs without even asking about my diet, he instead picks my brain about possible nutrition interventions for himself and some of his patients. And, ironically, the bodybuilder’s physique that I had coveted when I began this process was finally attainable, just not by doing any of the things that we’re told will give us lean muscle. I discovered that the same dietary strategies that improve health and prevent disease also make us look better. This evolved into a way of life and a dedication to help others who also wanted to chart a new course, to investigate, share, discuss, and reassess everything we’ve ever been told about health and wellness.
Eventually, I got certified as a personal trainer, strength coach, and sports nutritionist. I opened my own fitness studio, and have made it my life’s work to inspire others to become passionate and enthusiastic about pursuing a healthy, fit, balanced, and active lifestyle, while minimizing pain, suffering, and sacrifice.
I try to keep my dietary philosophy pretty simple, avoiding the dogma, preachiness, and pontificating. But I do strongly urge others to own the decisions they make with regard to their health and to take responsibility for the consequences. Informed eating involves viewing each choice we make throughout the day as one that either promotes or compromises our long-term health.
This blog combines two of my passions – writing and all things health. It was borne out of a growing frustration for what passes as nutrition advice in this country, the almost non-existent focus on prevention, and an over-reliance on dangerous, mass-marketed pharmaceuticals and ridiculous myths about what constitutes a healthy diet. A belief that humans deserve better and should demand it. At first I was hesitant about doing this. After all, there are so many others out there, what could I possibly add? But the more I thought about it, the more excited I got about being a part of a new generation of health nut, one that follows the evidence wherever it leads. We need more voices like ours, drowning out those who – either through ignorance or bias- continue to make us sicker, despite their best intentions. So much damage has been inflicted and for so long that we need as many of us as possible to spread the message, the motivation and the enthusiasm.
This site is mostly about sharing information. I believe the majority of us want to know what’s really in the food we eat and how it affects our health – beyond just the weight management issues that seem to get most of the attention. Unfortunately, the right information isn’t getting to the right people. Doctors don’t have the time, food manufacturers don’t care and the government…well, it’s the government. As a nutrition nerd, I actually enjoy sifting through the studies and the research journals- to the extent that I can understand them- comparing what I read to what’s been written elsewhere and determining what the consensus may be among those who study this stuff for a living and have some credibility on the subject. I pass along to friends and family the information that I think might be of interest and they decide for themselves what, if anything, to do with it. Through this process, I’ve seen over and over how exciting it can be when we discover that we are in the driver’s seat when it comes to much of our own health.
I’m not an expert and you should apply the same skepticism to everything you read on my site as you should when government agencies and industry leaders tell you what to eat. Think critically about the ideas presented here and how they might impact your health and dig deeper if a topic is of interest. I try to include links to sources and supporting evidence when I make a case for or against putting something in our bodies. I continue to walk the walk, trying to learn something new each day, attending health conferences, visiting farmer’s markets, sharing new and interesting recipes. I have water and air purifiers in my home, use only non-toxic personal care and household cleaning products, and I exercise daily.
I do some venting on this website but I think that’s cathartic. I get excited about the prospect of making you excited about the prospect of using food to look and feel better. Admittedly, this blog is a work-in-progress and will evolve. I hope you’ll stop by frequently and let me know how I’m doing. The way I see it, we’re all in this together.