Fat Head, Fat Sick, and The Paleo Diet

Well here’s a post I’ve put off for over a week. It started with watching the documentary Fat Head, which is a fantastic counter-point to Super Size Me. From there? Well…

At this point I need to stress that I am not a nutritionist, physician, or personal trainer. Most of my medical knowledge comes from watching House, M.D. I’m just a guy that has experimented with his diet and discovered what works for me. If I actually do it. My blog = my opinions.

So, if you haven’t seen Super Size Me, let me just say that it is worth seeing. I question Morgan Spurlock a little bit because at the end he goes back to eating meals made by his “vegan chef” girlfriend and I fail to see how somebody can arrange lawn trimmings in enough variety of ways to earn the title “chef”, but whatever… Having seen Food, Inc. before hand wouldn’t be bad either, but neither movie are really pre-requisites for getting good info out of Fat Head.

See, what makes Fat Head so good is that it approaches the fast food topic with a far more realistic approach than Spurlock did, is far more transparent, actually explains how our body processes different foods and things like insulin response, gives historical and educational information, and it’s entertaining. That’s five reasons it’s a good flick, and only two of them relate to Super Size Me. I really do recommend it pretty highly. And this gist of it is this: at the end of 30 days of eating only fast food, Tom Naughton actually lost weight and he didn’t have to order a bunch of salads to do it. He did it by limiting his sugar and carbohydrate intake, and going on walks.

Let me repeat: his exercise was as simple as walking. You know, that thing we all started doing around a year old but gave up on once we got our driver’s license.

Initially I was just going to post up a review of this and call it good, but I enjoyed it so much I went on to watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. (Both of these are available for streaming on Netflix as I write this.) I’ll sum this one up a little bit better, since it’s not quite as worth watching. The filmmaker begins as overweight, but also sick enough that he’s on constant medication. Steroids and stuff, due to autoimmune issues. So he begins a juice fast, and sticks with it for 60 days. Nothing but fresh fruits and veggies, and he juices them because trying to eat the sheer amount of produce he consumes through juice would very likely be impossible otherwise. (All the fruit and veggies cure his malady, by the way.)

I have to critique Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead a little bit though. It’s not a bad movie, so much as… well… After the educational material presented in Fat Head, Joe Cross’s attempt here is a bit simplistic. He only talks about “micronutrients” vs. “macronutrients” (defines them incorrectly while he’s at it), and it strikes me as a bit silly to think that the only we can get real nutrition is by juicing produce. Don’t misunderstand, I think its a fantastic practice and I’ve ordered a Vitamix for myself. But he glossed over some important aspects of his diet/experiment.

Joe Cross should absolutely be commended for upping his fresh fruit/veggie intake, and it’s something I think is sorely lacking from most American diets. The reason I want to buy land and a homestead is so I can grow fresh produce myself, and the health benefits are irrefutable. But Joe missed two things in his flick. First, I don’t believe his diet provided enough protein and that’s why the other fella in the movie that starts juicing loses 200 pounds but never really begins to look very fit. I think the modified food pyramid graph they show is still unbalanced. But second, what they never mention is that juicing also cut out cereal grains. He was so focused on eating whole foods that weren’t processed (which is ideal), that they never talked about how heavily processed “healthy” grains are.

Which leads me (almost) finally to The Paleo Diet. I bought the book and I’ll tell you right now not to bother. It’s good information, and it absolutely works for me and is an easy diet to adopt for life. I am 100% a believer, but you can just Google the info you want rather than spend ten bucks on a book that is repetitive, not fun to read, and all the info is available for free online. Better to buy a Paleo cookbook, if you want.

The evolutionary perspective of what mankind as an organism is suited/designed to eat will likely be a source of consternation to Creationists, as I’ve outlined I am, but the science behind the book and the effect modern agriculture and cereal grains have on us today is pretty compelling. Especially in light of how much more processed our foods are these days and how sedentary Americans have become at “work”. It’s like a trifecta for diabetes, obesity, and any other number of physical ailments.

Side note- you know why red meat is so “bad” for you? Because we’ve altered the cows’ feeding to make ’em fattier for marbling, and started shoving cereal grains (most notably corn, which I avoid like the plague) into ’em, which in turn has altered their fat balance to Omega-6 away from Omega-3 found in free range cows allowed to graze naturally. The same stuff that makes us fat (carbs and insulin response weirdness) makes the cows fat, and their fat stores all the lectins and becomes “bad fat” as opposed to “good fat”.

I hate to jump on a hippie bandwagon about whole and organic foods, but what we’re eating (combined with a lack of exercise) is killing us.

Now, I refuse to believe God gave me incisors so I could rend the flesh of artichokes from their leaves (although that is an awful handy use for ’em). And soy ain’t as great as vegans wish it was (there’s good reason your average male vegan usually seems kind of feminine)… It’s a legume anyway, which Paleo rules out. But I’m getting distracted and digressing.

So here are my two real points and/or conclusions:

  1. In the absence of physical exercise, cereal grains, starches and similar carbohydrates are actually quite harmful and should be avoided.
  2. Physical exercise improves insulin response, so if we’re not cutting carbs we’d better be working out.

I’ll be the first to admit that Paleo is a little more strict than I’d care to be, and I don’t follow it with religious devotion. But the Primal Diet is pretty close and even easier to stick with (dairy is still allowed, for example). Plus, if you follow that link to Mark’s Daily Apple you’ll find lots of exercise ideas (no gym needed) and recipes that actually taste good.

For all that reading, viewing and educating myself I’ve done, in the end I’m going Primal. There’s a great big world out there, and I plan on living long and healthy enough for Caveman Eric to conquer a whole lot more of it.

11 thoughts on “Fat Head, Fat Sick, and The Paleo Diet

  1. Eric, you are 100% on the mark here. I have been doing Mark’s Daily Apple for about six months and I have lost 30 lbs and 10% body fat, most of it visceral. I have increase my workout to be more Crossfit and less traditional gym wights and long cardio sessions. The hardest thing was to give up beer, which I did until this week. (I am in Prague, just saying) I feel more energetic and my attitude is just better. Thanks for the post. Keith

    • You may be surprised, if you give it an honest shot. Fruits are good (and a better alternative than candy bars) and most people don’t even realize what a wide variety of vegetables there are. They don’t ALL have to be frozen and/or cooked until they’re disgusting mush. LOL. Beside, herbs and spices can do a lot!

  2. My wife just bought Hunter/Farmer diet book and put me smack into the Hunter side. From what I’ve read it’s very close in diet to the Paleo and Primal diets.

    My question is,what are you allowed to drink? Sport drinks? Soda? Juices? Milk? Coffee? Tea? What’s allowed and what isn’t.

    • I stick with water, coffee, tea, the occasional Scotch or glass of red wine (antioxidants), and lots of spicy V8 ’cause I like it. Oh, and I’m not scared of milk. Treat high fructose corn syrup like the devil, and I steer clear of soda entirely (with a rare exception if it’s made from real cane sugar like Pepsi’s “throwback”).

      • That’s hard for me. I grew up on the stuff. I have cut back and drink more gatorade and water now. Bit by bit I guess.

      • I thought it would be hard for me, too. I used to LOVE soda as a kid and I thought the family down the street that never bought it was really weird. Imagine my own surprise when I have a place of my own and simply never buy the stuff. Once you’re weened of it, and it’s a treat rather than an everyday thing, it becomes much easier.

  3. I love my Pepsi throwback but haven’t had any since I started doing my Primal Diet. I have lost 22 pounds and pretty easily. I have not 100% primal any more, but it is extremely effective and I eat that way 90% of the time. When I lose another 3 pounds I might allow myself 1 Pepsi Throwback a week, but I think there is nothing redeeming about any soda, it si all pretty much terrible for you (sugar for that matter as well.)

  4. The Paleo Diet really helped me to lose weight and made me very skinny with toned muscles. I always combine Paleo diet with the right kind of strength training or cardio exercise to maximize its full benefits on my body. ;:,`. Regards vitamins & minerals information

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