Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm So Bored with the Paleo's - the Diet Wars

Berto's comment on my previous post got me thinking about my view that this latest Paleo dust-up is more than a couple of egos, that it is a fight between the fatties and the cross-fitters.

Who owns Paleo??

There seem to be two routes into paleo.  The first is through the "crossfit" guys, those who are young and lean, but want to get even more ripped.  This camp also includes young hip vegans who have recently become "meat-curious"

Then there are the "fatties".  It is this group I am going to focus on more now, because this is the path that I took.

Most fatties, as the crossfitters like to call them on the interwebs, start their diet wars by following some CW diet program.  It usually starts with them cutting out some soda and fast food, and that plan does seem to work pretty well for the men, and the younger people.

If reducing junk food doesn't work, they start to try other things.  This might involve skipping breakfast and adding in exercise, or going to a "healthy" low-fat diet containing lots of diet yogurt and Kashi bars.  Or, ordering a turkey burger instead of a beef burger.  If that doesn't work, they go to a cleaner low-fat diet, or mess with their meat intake.  They might add in even more exercise (even though the actual studies show that exercise is a poor way to lose weight, especially for women).  There's probably a stint involving some kind of diet shake or bar in the mix, too.

Lots of times, this plan results in some health improvement and the loss of some weight, probably around 15 pounds or so.  Eventually, if they need to lose more, they might join Weight Watchers, Dr. Oz's ShareCare or even [redacted]people dot com, and get really serious.  Some folks follow the recommendations of these CW organizations for years and never get anywhere.  These are the people you see week after week in WW meetings or racking up lots of "sparky" points.  Mostly fat old women, but there are also lots of younger women with diabetes and PCOS and depression. They usually try lots of things:  vegetarian, vegan, marathons, fasting, juice, etc.  They are eating stuff that Dr. Oz recommends.  Contrary to what the Crossfitters are saying, these fat old ladies aren't eating SAD.  They are failing in their weight loss attempts despite doing all the right things:  Blueberries.  Lean Proteins.  Olive Oil.  Soaked Walnuts.

Now, the crossfitters have NO IDEA what some of these fat old women have been doing to get into better shape all these years. The fat older ladies weigh and measure their food and themselves regularly, eat on small plates, count out each and every nut, count their steps on the pedometer, try just about every diet they can think of.  They recommit every few months or so, or every Monday morning.  One diet they rarely try is the paleo diet.  And that is because the CW diet experts hate paleo.  They don't even want the fat old women to know about it.  That's why people like me aren't allowed to post links to my blog on [redacted]people, and why Dr. Oz can be so nice to the hundreds of guests on his TV show and still be such a little brat to Mr. Taubes.

So, the next crazy thing these fat old ladies try is to cross over to the dark side, and go on a low carb diet.  Now, you have to be either pretty brave or pretty stupid to look into the low carb diet.  Once the fat old women have read GCBC, broken through that barrier, and have lost a bunch of weight, they want to find a way to incorporate healthy clean eating in with low-carb.  That's when they find diets like Protein Power and Paleo.  Again, most Crossfitters assume that they are all on Atkins, and that all those Atkin's people eat tons of bars and fake stuff.  Some do, most don't.

Now, the real problem is, they have just escaped the tyranny of CW, only to be hit with conventional crap talk by the paleo blogosphere. (Aravind and Dr. Harris come to mind here.)  For me, I really noticed it on Paleohacks in early summer, and then after the AHS11, all hell broke loose.  There were lots of comments about low-carbers having puffy red faces, and the "who does that Taubes guy think he is?" kind of stuff.  There was also a systemic disregard for the experiences, intelligence and viewpoints of fat people.  Earlier this year, I sent a ton of my hundreds of fat [redacted]peeps over to the Paleo blogs, but they had become such an embarassment, and downright hostile to fat people that I no longer recommend most of the sites anymore.

I came to think that not only was this much more than just science, as some penned, but that it was much more than mere battling egos.  It was about bashing fat old people, and in the most CW way.

I really noticed a shift at AHS11, right after Taubes made his comment.  The man next to me, who apparently heard about the paleo diet only yesterday and clearly (to me at least) was never fat, had an interesting response to the exchange.  Of course, he hadn't read anything about Guyenet's theories or had read any of Taubes' books.  He kept trying to lecture me about carbs.  He said, "You know, why do you talk about eliminating carbs, don't you know there are carbs in that food you're eating?"  (I was munching on a fairly unrewarding raw zucchini.)  Huh?  Duh?  Who knows more about the carb content of foods than a low-carber???  It was clear that he was not aware of low-carb talk and his belief that fat people are stupid was showing.  (Primer:  "carbs" are foods that contain lots of carbs, foods on the carby list, like potatoes, rice, wheat.  Zucchini is not on that list.  Yes, we know that zucchini contains carbs but it is not a "carb".)

During and immediately after the conference, there was a flurry of attacks against fat people by the paleo demi-gods.  And, I am not talking about the luminaries who spoke and who have the largest audience for their books and blogs, but more the commenters and hangers-on-ers, the people who think because they read some stuff or know someone really well, that they can define how it is for everyone else.  Just really nasty stuff, all just different versions of, "Fat people are fat because they are lazy and weak-willed."

So, do Guyenet and his buddies have anything better to offer to fat people?  They already get scoldings by CW dietitians and exercise coaches for eating saturated fat and not moving enough, get lectures on belly fat and portion control by their doctors, told it's calories in calories out, and then told they are stupid Dr.Oz-watchers who eat too much tasty food and cheat on their food diaries.  What's next, all your food through a straw (oh, we did that in the 70's, remember jaws wired shut?), or size 3X hair shirts with tight belts so they are even more uncomfortable?  Let's take their kids and health insurance away, fine them, discriminate against them in employment and take all their salt and pepper and their wok away until they behave themselves.

In the paleo world, carbs aren't the enemy anymore.  Fat people, people who have different body chemistries and reactions to dietary interventions are the enemy.  This is so much bigger than Taubes vs. Guyenet.  Stanton and Kruse have both commented that they don't have a horse in this race.  Well, maybe Taubes and Guyenet and Lustig and others are competing with each other.  But they are just messing around with theories.  The real fat people are messing around with their health.  Maybe Taubes and Guyenet have placed their bets, but it is the real fat people who are truly in the race.


  1. Reminds me of the joke about the pig and the chicken who want to open a restaurant. The fat people are the pigs, okay, that came out wrong. The point is, it's the pigs who are the ones really involved.

    I have experienced this sort of bias my whole life as I'm sure you have. In many ways it's been a source of strength to me, I like to prove people wrong and love to see the look on their face when I kick their a$$. However, can you point out some examples of this behavior particular in reference to the AHS? Some links to forum threads perhaps? It's not that I doubt you, I would just like to see it myself and I don't keep up with enough of the forums to have seen it myself.

  2. Brash,

    Thanks for discussing this. I still don't see how it's fatties v. crossfitters. But some of my cloudy vision could be because when I owned my facility, I lectured from the standpoint of the ex-fattie that I am, and so possibly attracted a much different crowd. But I'm not sure that I see the divide that you describe on the interwebs either - maybe we hang out in different sectors? Now being in govt and working with the Military I see much ignorance of this whole thing (except 5-fingers, why do those ugly things catch on so well?).

    I do agree about your assertions involving broken people and those who are using whole foods to increase performance (and were never broken). These two groups of souls are universes apart, and this is forgotten by many (some you mentioned) but always pointed out by some. I would like to state that Dr. Harris repeatedly says that if can't tolerate starch, don't eat it; if you do, have at it. Of course, never being a fattie himself, this message gets lost because he is a MD and does not explicitly say why (broken metabolisms) - but it's not his fault (I guess). The underlying idea is what we all want to believe that we can tolerate starches, and will sit in weight loss purgatory for years following erroneous thoughts and delusions (our own), as you are well aware.

    Guyenet can never own this - he's never been fat and does not work with fat people. Lustig at least works with obese kids. Kruse WAS fat. I was obese, by age 10 - in the 70's!! This all exposes a lot, if you have enough experience to actually "hear" it.

    Like you mentioned, the competing theories are interesting, and learning about the mechanisms involved are personally interesting, but in the end (at this time), the same prescription (with minor individual changes in degree) seems to remedy the cause, whether underlying mechanism is leptin, insulin, food reward, NADs, blah, blah, blah.

    Practicality is what fatties need, as you said, because were in this with our health on the line.


  3. Emu, it took me some time to finish this post, because when I would find a nasty comment here or there, I thought, hey, I should copy that and post it as an example. But, I haven't gotten around to it.
    If you check paleohacks, and search for the AHS11 messages, you might find some of those messages. Last time I checked, some of the stuff was scrubbed, both through self-editing and from complaints to the mods.
    Many of the nastiest comments were on Guyenet's blog, and either he has removed the entire post or started moderating comments. You might be able to see some of it still on Hyperlipid, when Aravind really goes after ItstheWoo2 in a particularly nasty way. IMO, ItstheWoo2 and Carbsane pretty much cancel each other out.
    It is here and there on Mark's daily apple, but I don't even really read much of that anymore. Just know that it was pretty annoying for awhile.

  4. Al, I truly don't think that people need to be or have been fat in order to figure it all out, but it is clear to me from some of the comments that these theorists and their ripped male homies absolutely do not understand what has or has not worked for most fat people.
    To me, they are so clearly in the calories-in-calories-out camp it isn't even funny. That's why Taubes went after the theory as he did.

  5. Here's some interesting Paleohacks threads:

  6. Brash,

    I might have implied that idea, but I too do not think that it takes a fattie to move science forward. I do, however, believe those researchers and MDs who have never experienced obesity, yo-yo dieting, and finally, a sustainable lifestyle (lower-carb paleo) tend to have their blinders on when coming to conclusions.

    And yes, the ripped male homies who had never even had to think about any of this will never understand what is and what should not be for fat people.

    Need to go check out those links at some point...


  7. BTW, by "Crossfitters" I mean relatively young, lean gym rats who want to get cut and then show off their abs. I don't mean the actual gym or technique or anything like that.
    I tend to find MD's more highly credible since they have access to just so much data. Not that they always do the right thing or have the best theories, but that on a day-to-day basis, data points just pile in.
    I didn't think you thought that way about a fat pre-requisite, but it sure came up alot with Dr. Harris and those who argue with him.

  8. But seriously, there has been a bit too much of a flurry of appeals to authority in all this mess. Guyenet has a PhD, his homies, wow they are smart. Taubes doesn't have a PhD, or a lab, for that matter. If that is the main point of your argument, man, you need something new. It's really lame. Just. So. Un. Scientific.

  9. Since you referencing my name in your post, let me take some excerpts from the PaleoHacks posts you listed with things I've written".

    1) "On this basis I cannot accepts Taubes' continued assertion since the writing of GCBC. This does not in any way diminish my gratitude for what Gary Taubes has done to demolish the bad science and politics underlying Diet-Heart/Lipid hypotheses and the incorrect vilification of saturated fat/cholesterol."

    2) "I think GCBC was a seminal text and this community should be very appreciative of his work irrespective of the conclusions and his causative carb theory (which I disagree with)"

    Yes there was some humor in the posts based on AHS11.

    I've written many other comments on PH praising Gary Taubes. This is not mutually exclusive with disagreeing with carbohydrates theory of obesity. Moreover, show me one post/comment I've written where I said Low Carb was not an effective therapeutic measure for obesity. I do not believe carbohydrates singularly caused the obesity epidemic. Causation and remediation are two different things.

    I'm not sure what conventional wisdom I am espousing. I am in agreement that calories in / calories out is a tautology and is not actionable absent a dietary change (Low Carb being one alternative). So what CW are you talking about? I am not a lipophobe, not a cholesterophobe. Perhaps you can help me understand what you are referring to.

    I am sincerely interested in understanding what led you to include me in this post.


  10. what aravind said.

    i'm an ex- fattie. i weighed 237 lbs at 13(that was the eighties). 350 by 17. i lost alot of weight using low carb only to have that crazy feeling of inevitability as the low carb magic wore off and the weight came storming back. i was initially a low carb paleo and felt great but after about 4 months in, i was feeling less than great. and i hit a minor plateau. i did two things simultaneously, i started eating tubers and IF'ing. never had a problem with plateaus or anything else weight-related since. martin berkhan's lean gains protocol doesn't make the same claims as the leptin rx but for me, and seemingly alot of other people who've tried it, it's had the same effect that it's had for them. cycling calories while intermittent fasting was my "leptin reset".

    as aravind said, i now know that my lifelong struggle with weight was a not because calories in/out is not true, it's because calories in/out means as much to practical living as knowing the compounds that make up air- because u know it doesn't mean that if the air is absent, you will be able to breathe. likewise, most people don't even know what their basal caloric intake should be considering that confounders such as NEAT and hormomal frak-ups can throw how many calories a particular person's body is burning. When you throw in the messed up hypothalamic signaling as it relates to hunger, then we have a situation where calories in/out doesn't mean a damn thing but just because it's not useful clinically, doesn't mean that it's not true. i think that point is carelessly overlooked.

  11. Aravind, I think you also said that Gary Taubes is going to be another Ancel Keys. And either I can't find them, or some of your other posts have been removed on Paleohacks. I think the whole incident at Guyenet's blog has been erased. but, I don't understand why you defend your boys Guyenet and Harris to the death, attacking anyone who has an alternate viewpoint against theirs. And I didn't get you dumping on Quilt because he didn't say hi to you at AHS11.

  12. Yes I did say that (Ancel Keys reference) and I did not erase any of those comments. I can show them to you if you would like because they are still on PH. The Ancel Keys comment was somewhat tongue in cheek, but also with an element of seriousness. As I wrote, I do not believe carbs are singularly responsible for the obesity epidemic anymore than I believe that saturated fat and cholesterol cause CVD. This was my point.

    I didn't dump on Quilt about AHS11. He made some comments about AHS11 and not meeting people to which I responded. I can show you those comments too if you would like. And if I ever dump on Quilt, it is not because he didn't give me a hug at AHS11. Irrespective of his viewpoint (and there are some things I do agree with), he lacks the ability to clearly communicate his thoughts. I'm not the only one that has written that.

    I defend "my boys" when others make ad hominem attacks. I do not defend against differing opinions. If you can show me one instance where I have done so, I will issue an apology.

    Please answer my original question - what CW am I preaching?


  13. Aravind, you defend your boys against all perceived attacks. You seem to see all comments against their theories as a personal attack and then you respond accordingly. Guyenet is a big boy. If his theory is correct, it will withstand anything that others can throw at it and he doesn't need for you to go all about the interwebs and launch counterattacks. It is not the exact CW wisdom I am discussing here, but the similar tactics that these folks use against their opponents. They are in fact the same tactics that Guyenet's supporters have used against people who have data and experiences that are not in alignment with his theories.

  14. Show me an example. If you are talking about comments I've made to ItsTheWooo2, then you clearly haven't read all the history leading up to those "attacks". Someone else?

    What "similar tactics" are you referring to? I am sincerely trying to understand what you are saying I have said/written, but absent a specific example, it is difficult for me to do so.


  15. Kurt Harris and Stephan Guyenet do not my support and I am not so arrogant as to think they do. AGAIN, when I see ad hominem attacks, I comment. I do not attack people because I do not agree with them and I challenge you to find an example to the contrary

  16. Aravind, I do not have the time to follow your posts for you. You need to go around, find the posts (if they haven't been dumped already), clean them up, and do your own apologizing.
    I don't have time to read all the history and decide if your attacks are valid because blah blah blah, you need to take that up with her, not me.
    You attacked posters on Paleohacks for saying things about the Taubes-Guyenet dustup that you didn't like. Several people called you on it. Several people e-mailed me about it which is why I no longer refer my friends to Paleohacks. They think the site is pretty creepy.
    In one of Guyenet's posts, I think, you really went after itsthewoo2, and even Harris told you to go get a life.
    I am seriously doubting your sincerity, convince me otherwise.

  17. The point I was trying to make in the original post is that I have seen lots of personal and nasty attacks by CW adherents against paleo fans in other places. But, I see the exact same pattern on the paleo sites, it's people on one kind of paleo diet fighting other paleos. On most of the diet boards, people are pretty supportive of each other as long as they follow the standard CW diet. In the paleo world, it is different. Not only is there a general lack of support except among a few members of an inner clique, there is outright hostility between bands.

  18. You make comments about things I allegedly wrote but then can't be bothered to back it up. I'm sorry you question my sincerity, but I have been respectful in posting on your blog asking for clarification. What more would you expect me to do? I didn't write a blog referencing your name, you did.

    Kurt Harris never told me to "get a life". I asked him a question about his hiatus from the Internet and he was talking about the benefits from disconnecting. Again, you are confusing posts.

    We can agree to disagree. I am not interested in debating any further as I'm sure you feel the same.

    Last point - the irony is that we are actually in agreement...I think Paleohacks has degraded significantly. Perhaps we feel this for different reasons, but the conclusion is the same.


  19. Exceptionally Brash,
    This is a great post. I believe the paleo lifestyle makes the most sense as it is based on evolution. The blogs make this WOE and exercise program as an absolute cure for everything and if you are still fat, well, you just aren't doing it right. "Everybody" is successful, that makes me a failure though I have worked very hard following the lifestyle the best I can. Some of the bloggers commented after AHS11 that people there looked like "humans should look". That makes me feel unwelcome to go there in the future since I won't fit their image even though I'm paleo. You are right, they don't want to tolerate us fatties! I follow Jack Kruse now. He at least seems to acknowledge that hormones are involved in obesity and health issues, unlike others who think I must just be a glutten and a sloth. I've lost over 120 lbs slowly over several years, but I have about 50 more to go, and they aren't budging. I'm started the Leptin Reset a couple weeks ago.

  20. Johannah, congrats on your success so far, and good luck on finding your own way forward. I know you can do it!!

  21. Exceptionally,
    Thanks for your encouragement and I'm enjoying your blog!

  22. Are You Having Trouble FOLLOWING with your Paleo Diet?

    Want to munch on healthy delicious recipes TONIGHT?

    Download your awesome Paleohacks Cookbook.