Thursday, December 24, 2015

Chipotle E. coli Conspiracy Theory: Is Big Chemical Retaliating Against Burrito Bowl Chain?

Could corporate saboteurs be planting E. coli in your Sofritas burrito?

I do not believe the moon landing was a hoax filmed in a TV studio or that Pres. Barack Obama is a Muslim Manchurian candidate. But that doesn't mean I automatically reject all conspiracy theories, including the latest buzz about Chipotle Mexican Grill being targeted by biochemical companies like Monsanto for its advocacy of local, organic and non-GMO ingredients.

In fact, I had this suspicion several days before I saw the first articles suggesting this possibility because I know how Big Food/Soda/Agriculture/Chemical operate. In short, they accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being anti-science fearmongers while foisting industry-sponsored unscientific research on the public as fact and creating fear around not consuming their highly processed products and byproducts.
Chubby Chipotle website was
another Big Food stealth campaign
to discredit burrito bowl chain

In the case of Chipotle, the fast food chain that boasts about its use of natural ingredients, the likelihood Big Ag and Big Chemical would take the bashing of their products sitting down were slim.

My suspicion about a possible conspiracy grew when I read an article last night in Natural News about some of the strains of E. coli found in Chipotle being genetically rare, a fact (i.e., not opinion) that was corroborated by such government sources as the FDA and CDC websites.

Reports of at least two disparate E. coli contaminations and several Norovirus incidents occurring so closely together -- a total of six separate events since July -- could be just a random coincidence. Or not. It could also be an organized attempt by adversaries of the second fastest growing fast food chain in the U.S. to discredit the company's highly publicized stance against genetically modified and chemicalized ingredients.

from Natural News
It didn't take long before the Internets were awash with "I told you so's" about needing to chemically wash and genetically alter foods to protect against foodborne illnesses. What may have looked like a fortuitous opportunity for the artificial food industry to blow its own horn could have been part of the overall campaign to first ruin the reputation of Chipotle and then convince the public that local, organic and non-GMO foods are really bad for you.

Was Chipotle too busy avoiding the fake dangers of GMOs to focus on actual food safety?
-- headline from Vox

When Eating Clean Is Dirty: Chipotle, ‘Fresh’ Offerings and Food Safety

-- headline from US News

It would not be the first time the processed food industry has banded together to chip away at Chipotle's growing popularity. The website Chubby Chipotle is backed by Big Food money hiding behind an innocuous sounding front group called The Center for Consumer Freedom.

Funny, but last time I checked, no one was kidnapping me in their Prius, driving me to Chipotle and forcing me to eat its food.

When I tweeted a link to the Chipotle conspiracy theory article from Natural News,  I should have expected a backlash based on the source. The website is a major target of so-called pro-science people who consider the site's founder Mike Adams of being an anti-science fearmonger.

Not surprisingly, I received such responses as
(At least @DebunkedByHaiku displayed some wit and did not rely on a Donald Trumpian style attack.)

Bottom line:

As nutty as most conspiracy theories sound, it is naive to believe companies never practice criminal behavior to further their aims. Think Volkswagen and Enron as just two top-of-mind examples.

With GMO labeling a hot topic right now, it is neither lunacy nor irrationality to posit that shady forces could be behind Chipotle's recent spate of bad publicity.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Shills Vs.Fearmongers in Fierce Food War

Battle over public opinion pits Big Food puppets against populist health advocates

I had no idea I was a fearmonger until I became ensnared in a bizarre Twitter thread with some rabid registered dietitians.

This was my first virtual excursion into the Food War, a global contest in which Big Food and its foot soldiers fiercely battle anyone who disputes their dietary dogma. Both sides claim to wear the mantel of science, like two football teams each convinced they are favored by a Higher Power.

What surprised me the most about the Food War was how many so-called health professionals still cling tightly to outdated, poorly designed studies to defend their dietary advice. I found myself in a minefield of research propaganda and pseudoscience funded by corporations increasingly threatened by mounting evidence that sugar- and highly processed carbohydrate-filled products are linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic health conditions.

It all  began when I questioned the credibility of registered dietitians while following the Tim Noakes hearing witch hunt in South Africa. This led to a corporate supermarket RD named Leah McGrath sending me an unsolicited list of tweeters who she claimed had "integrity" -- although they all support serving high-sugar flavored skimmed milk to school children. I tweeted something about some RDs being mouthpieces for Big Food and received an excited response back from McGrath asking me if mouthpiece meant the same thing as shill. It turned out she and her RD pals take perverse pride in being called a shill and highlight the occasion with the hashtag #shilltastic every time they are labeled such.

Yes, #shilltastic is a thing.

Then McGrath thought I'd be interested in reading an article tweeted by a dietetic intern named David Weinman who proclaims himself to be pro-science. The piece was typical Salon click bait about so-called sancti-mommies, a new breed of millennial females who pass harsh judgement on the health and safety of the foods other mothers feed their children. Why I'd be interested in this article escaped me since the Salon piece focused mainly on anti-vaccine and GMO politics, topics on which I had not even opined. Weinman asked me in a tweet if I was implying scientists would commit fraud and jeopardize their careers to shill for Big Food -- as if that possibility were as absurd as ponies sprouting pig tails.

For the first time I had an upfront and personal view on how Big Food's army of registered dietitians and wannabes co-opt the word "science" to discredit anyone who disagrees with their perspective.

Suddenly all of the news stories I'd been following made more sense:

** Professional dietitians funded by Kellogg's and other Big Food companies persecuting Dr. Tim Noakes and dietitian Jennifer Elliott for not accepting their dietary dogma as fact. 

** "Scientists" ganging up against journalist and "Big Fat Surprise" author Nina Teicholz to discredit her editorial in the BMJ on the sketchy methodology of the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

** The feds wiping egg off their face after reversing themselves on avoiding eating egg yolks, shellfish and other foods that contain dietary cholesterol, a warning which turned out to have scant scientific merit.

** Corporations like Monsanto and Coca Cola bribing academics to perform research that will make their products seem harmless and labeling conflicting research findings as pseudoscience.

(The Coca Cola story reported by New York Times investigative journalist Anahad O'Connor outed the company for bribing researchers to convince the public that sugary drinks can be part of a healthy diet as long as you exercise. Coca Cola VP Rhona Applebaum resigned over the scandal after emails published by the Associated Press revealed the academics were paid puppets and the bogus research network -- Global Energy Balance Network -- quickly disbanded citing "resources limitations.")

Though I am neither a scientist nor health care professional, I have a huge stake in who wins the Food War. I am Jane Q. Public, a surrogate for those whose hearts and minds both sides are attempting to control. In a few months, I will have a new grandchild who will be fed biased nutritional information at school and supplied with milk that contains more added sugar than should be consumed in a whole day.

My meandering journey into the low-carb high-fat way of eating has serendipitously led me to the sidelines of the Food War, and I think I may just stick around for a spell.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tim Noakes Hearing: Dietitians Vs. #LCHF Doctor in South Africa

Dietitians accuse banting doctor Tim Noakes of being unethical, but is this a case of the porridge pot calling the kettle black?

One of the most fascinating face-offs of the century is happening right now in South Africa for people around the globe who follow the politics of low-carb high-fat diets vs. conventional medical dietary guidelines.

And it all started with a simple tweet.
Is this Photoshopped
parody of Gerber baby food
so far off the mark?

On one side we have the South African medical mafia sponsored by Big Food companies like Kellogg's.

On the other, Professor Tim Noakes -- athlete, medical doctor, professor, author and banting advocate (banting is South Africa's exotic name for a low-carb high-fat diet).

So getting back to the tweet, here's what happened: Professor Noakes replied to a Twitter query posted by a mother seeking weaning advice, “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high fat breast milk. Key is to ween baby onto LCHF [Low Carbohydrate, High Fat diet i.e Banting].”

Noakes' response struck a sour note with Claire Julsing-Strydom, former president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA). She alleged the doctor acted unethically by providing unconventional medical advice via social media, and the advice did not consider the specific health issues of the infant.

Aside from the fact that anyone who conflates a tweet with medical advice is unhinged, we suspect that if Noakes had told the mom to wean her baby on highly processed baby food cereal,  it would have been dandy. When a gaggle of dietitians decree something is correct, it just is -- regardless of whether their clients get fatter or sicker following their advice.

The unprofessional conduct charge against Noakes lodged by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) at the dietitian society's behest would be almost comical if so many people's wellness were not at stake.

Ironically, it is the dietitians -- not Professor Noakes -- whose ethics are questionable.

In recent years, companies like Kellogg's and Coca Cola have been outed for funneling money to medical "experts" to minimize their products' role in the rise of diabetes and other metabolic conditions. Even a pro-business magazine like Forbes was skeptical of a cardiologist who concluded sugar plays a much smaller role than exercise in causing obesity.

"Marked declines in physical activity . .  is by far the major cause of obesity, not sugar and fast foods.” --  Dr. Carl Lavie

Though Dr. Lavie denied his conclusion was influenced by money he received from Coca Cola, the Forbes article included data that research funded by soft drink companies is five times less likely to blame sugar for causing obesity than that which is industry neutral.

Which brings us back to a more critical medical ethics issue the Noakes HPCSA hearing does not address. Conventional health advice -- including most western countries' dietary guidelines -- is bought and paid for by Big Food, which sponsors studies on which the findings are biased based.

Until dietitians, doctors and disease organizations stop taking money from corporations like Coca Cola and Kellogg's, they have no business questioning the ethics of medical doctors and nutrition researchers who disagree with them.

You can keep up with the Noakes hearing daily by following journalist @MarikaSboros on Twitter and reading her recap articles on the hearing here.

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest

Monday, November 23, 2015

Can Low Carb Bars Help You Say 'No' to Cupcakes and Candy?

So recently at work one of my new students offered me a tangerine because word on the floor was I'm a "health nut."

Given the word "health" in this decade has more definitions than Imelda Marcos has shoes, most mainstream nutritionists would not call me a health nut at all since I eat lots of butter and eschew whole grains. I politely declined the offer because I follow a low-carb high-fat diet and typically don't snack on fruit other than berries.

What amused me was that I had been labeled a "health nut" because I have a rep for not habitually accepting whatever food is offered to me (though rarely is that offer a fruit). Ironically, I work as a trainer for a major health care organization.

One of my secrets for being able to turn down most of the sweet treats that magically appear in my workplace during the six-month "holiday season" between Halloween and Easter is that I eat a GNC Advanced Protein Bar every day. These bars are very similar macro-wise to the better known Quest bars, which are also sold at GNC; but I prefer the GNC bars because they do not contain corn fiber and taste less sweet. My preferred flavor GNC bar is the chocolate chip cookie dough, which reminds me a little of the Middle Eastern treat, halvah.

About two years ago I lost 35 pounds on the Medifast Take Shape for Life (TSFL) program and serendipitously discovered that eating meal replacement bars made it less tempting for me to eat sugary treats. Though I no longer eat Medifast products, the GNC protein bars now serve the same purpose as a treat sublimation strategy.

Fast forward to this morning . . .  while researching the controversy over the Quest bar formula change to corn fiber and other cheap fillers, I was led to an interesting blog post on a website called Breakfast Criminals in which various "health" minded professionals weighed in on why Quest Bars are essentially no better than candy corn.

One argument I found intriguing was from a registered dietitian named Willow Jarosh, who is affiliated with SELF Magazine, Bumble Bee Foods, and Bob Greene’s Best Life program.

“If you’re eating a Quest bar to avoid eating something that you really want (i.e., a piece of dark chocolate, a brownie, a cookie, etc.)," writes Jarosh, "then this can lead to a feeling of being deprived which can then lead to overeating the original food you craved. Or eating a couple Quest bars at a time to try to satisfy the craving (and therefore eating more food total than if you’d just had a small portion of the food you were craving)."

For me, just the opposite is true. Knowing I can have a GNC bar, I don't feel the urge to eat all the junk food that is offered to me. My sweet tooth has been weakened to the point where a square of dark chocolate tastes plenty sweet and most baked goods taste like they contain sugar on steroids. In other words, I actually prefer my GNC bar to most goodies and do not feel the least bit deprived.

Sometimes expert dietary theories sound good, but from my admittedly n=1 perspective, they're not always true. In my case, eating a healthier version of a processed food makes me crave the sweeter version less, and I do not need to eat two GNC bars at a time for this to happen.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Low Carb Blogs with Cool Names

I confess! Not only have I judged books by their covers, I have also judged blogs by their names -- although scant correlation exists between quality web content and cool name quotient.

My inner linguaphile can't help but be drawn to cleverly named blogs, especially those which deal with one of my favorite topics -- low-carb high-fat recipes and health research. So while I faithfully follow a blog called Authority Nutrition because it contains evidence based nutrition information, my heart skips a beat when I discover a new #LCHF blog with a quirky title.

Here are a few of the creatively named low-carb blogs I enjoy visiting, with a brief description of each:

All Day I Dream About Food: Recipe site with mostly low-carb gluten-free recipes. Founded by mom blogger Carolyn Ketchum who turned to the LC way of eating after experiencing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Butter Makes Your Pants Fall Off: Blog founded by a guy nicknamed "Butter Bob" Briggs, who lost 145 pounds following LCHF diet combined with intermittent fasting. Started as a You Tube video with the same name, which Briggs almost called "Sugar made me so fat I couldn't sit in a folding chair."

Peace Love and Low Carb: Low-carb recipe site with a primal spin. Self-proclaimed foodie Kyndra Holley also dabbles in cross fit and essential oils, and her blog is just as fun as its name. "Watching someone eat something I created is pure joy," writes Holley. "If I were to eat bacon while watching someone eat something that I made, I just might explode."

My Big Fat Low Carb Life: Technically not a blog, this Facebook community page is a treasure trove of LCHF resources, with links to recipes, research articles and videos.

Low Carbe Diem: This blog's mission is to make the low-carb way of eating more doable. "One morning, as you approach the breakfast table, you think to yourself, 'If I have to eat another egg, I will throw myself down a flight of stairs.' And you almost mean it," writes Ann Moore in her blog's About section.

Honorable Mentions:

Ditch the Carbs

Butter is Not a Carb

Sugar Free Sheila

I Breathe I'm Hungry

No Bun Please

Hold the Toast

Low Carb Confidential

Carb Wars

The Loquacious Lowcarbivore (shameless plug)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why 'Never Skip Breakfast' Is Just Another Diet Myth

How US Dietary Guidelines Got It Wrong on 'Most Important Meal of the Day'

The widely accepted "fact" that skipping breakfast may cause people to pack on pounds turns out to be just another myth promoted by the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. This is the same panel of people paid off by the food industry alleged experts that pushes sugar-filled low-fat chocolate milk on school children and has for years warned Americans to avoid egg yolks because they contain cholesterol.* 
Don't like breakfast? Don't feel bad.
It's okay to eat your first meal
later in the day.

Instead of using randomized controlled trials, the USDA relies heavily on observational studies in which participants unreliably self report their behavior and it can appear one thing causes another because the two are associated.

In the case of the breakfast hypothesis, for instance, other associations that could explain weight gain for breakfast skippers could be less sleep, higher stress levels or other confounding factors.

A Stanford University Departments of Medicine, Health Research and Policy abstract cited an alarming statistic about health research published in highly respected journals: "Of 52 major claims made by observational studies, none was validated when tested in RCTs."

Which is pretty bad because even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Keep in mind, randomized controlled trials -- or RCTs -- are considered the gold standard of science and are far more rigorous and reliable than the observational studies on which so much dubious dietary policy is based.

The good news is at least one rogue nutritionist is refuting the USDA guidance on eating breakfast. In his ObesityWeek presentation this month -- "Myths, truths, skepticism and curiosity on null findings: striking a balance" -- Dr. David B. Allison of the University of Alabama presented data from six RCTs that yielded no evidence people who eat breakfast are more successful at losing weight.

Ironically, the opposite was true: breakfast skippers were more successful at losing weight in some cases. (See Slide 11 of Dr. Allison's presentation.)

As my previous blog post on the link between herd theory and lack of medical doctors who recommend low-carb high-fat diets suggests, the more a myth is repeated by respected opinion leaders, the more likely people are to believe it -- regardless of the scientific data or dearth thereof.

With more evidence accumulating that intermittent fasting combined with a low-carb high-fat diet could be metabolically advantageous, people who prefer to skip breakfast should feel free to experiment with what works best for their body and stop feeling guilty for postponing their first meal until later in the day.

*(Concerning the USDA flip flop on egg yolks, what the dietary guidelines panel failed to consider is the liver will produce cholesterol to compensate for the amount one does not get from food. Few people consume more dietary cholesterol from food than their body needs to function.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

As much as I credit Medifast for helping me melt off 35 pounds a couple of years ago, I never envisioned eating space food forever. Nor did I wish to follow the Medifast maintenance plan, which is way too high in carbohydrates and low in fats to be satiating, healthy or sustaining.

So once I reached my ideal weight, I parted ways with Medifast and started a new adventure to discover a healthy diet I could adhere to on a permanent basis.

Which ultimately led me to chia seeds.
This chia pudding recipe from
the Food Network blog uses
almond milk, lemon and cinnamon.

If I had to name just one food that has helped me keep my weight off, it is this low-carb superfood loaded with fiber, protein, antioxidants, Omega 3 and a cornucopia of crucial minerals like iron, calcium and selenium.

Because chia seeds contain a ton of soluble fiber, they are a great prebiotic, which is necessary for probiotics to thrive.

Chia seeds can absorb 12 times their weight in water; so they slow down the process of digestive enzymes converting carbohydrates into blood sugar. They are credited with helping to prevent diabetes, cardiovascular and other metabolic diseases.

About two months ago I started consuming chia seeds daily for health reasons and was happily surprised at an unexpected side effect.

I lost five pounds without changing anything else I was doing.

(And to think that for decades Americans thought the best use of chia seeds was to sprout them as hair for Chia Pets instead of, uh, eating them as, you know, food?)

If you see chia seeds in the grocery store, they look a lot like gravel. Fortunately, they are relatively tasteless and can be sneakily hidden into most any food or drink without affecting the flavor. Here are the two main ways I consume chia seeds.

Chia Fresca

Add a spoonful of chia seeds to a mixture of lemon juice and water. The chia seeds soak up the liquid and turn into gel balls, transforming my refreshing lemon water into the texture of Japanese bubble tea.

Chia Pudding 

Mix about one cup of unsweetened almond milk with two cups of canned full-fat coconut milk and then add a splash of vanilla extract, Lacanto Golden Monkfruit Sweetener to taste and 3/4 cup of chia seeds. This makes several servings of lunch, which I either eat plain or top with blueberries, pomegranate seeds and/or walnuts. You could omit the Lacanto or use a different sweetener, but monkfruit/erythritol is currently my favorite not-sugar and works well in this recipe.

This morning I started researching other ways to use chia seeds in recipes and found out you can "bread" foods without breadcrumbs if you combine chia seeds with almond flour and Parmesan cheese. You can also sprinkle chia seeds on salads or any other food to add a slightly nutty texture and tons of health benefits.

Don't pay any heed to people who say you have to grind chia seeds to make them bioavailable; they're conflating chia with flax seeds. Chia seeds have much thinner shells that dissolve quickly; so the nutrients are easily absorbed.

However, the one way you should NOT consume chia seeds is to eat them plain and chase them with water. Apparently one man who tried this ended up with a glob of chia gel stuck to his esophagus, and this stubbornly sticky mass had to be surgically removed.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Dr. Sarah Hallberg TED Talk Highlights

Why Dr. Sarah Hallberg is My New #LCHF Heroine

She may look like the woman next door, but don't let Sarah Hallberg's Rice Crispy Treats toting soccer mom facade fool you. The petite physician is poised to prove that a ketogenic low-carb high-fat diet is the ticket to health for most Americans -- especially those suffering from obesity, diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

I have been hooked by everything Hallberg says and does since viewing her TED Talk a while back, an 18-minute mind blowing lecture called

Reversing Type 2 diabetes starts with ignoring the guidelines

Dr. Sarah doesn't play.
Dr. Sarah Hallberg delivering
her TED Talk on
reversing Type 2 Diabetes

In folksy English spiced with clinical data and compelling anecdotes, the self-described obesity doctor challenges conventional medical advice for treating Type 2 Diabetes.

If you don't have 18 minutes right now to watch Dr. Sarah Hallberg's TED Talk on You Tube, I have highlighted they key points below. However, before reading them you must pinky swear to watch the actual video when you have more time.

Obese people are not to blame for their situation; nor do they have weak character.
The culprit is the nutritional advice provided by the medical communit.

Obesity is a hormonal disease caused by insulin resistance.

Insulin resistant people can't drive blood sugar into their cells. This causes a rise in insulin levels.

Almost 50 percent of all American --
about 120 million people -- now have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Insulin makes us hungry and causes us to store fat.

Everything we eat is a carb, protein or fat -- or combination thereof.

When we eat carbs, our insulin and glucose levels spike quickly. When we eat protein, insulin levels spike less than with carbs When we eat fat, insulin levels do not spike at all.

Diabetes is a state of carbohydrate toxicity in which the cells become resistant to insulin. This prevents blood glucose from entering our cells, causing blood sugar levels to rise in the blood and the body to produce even more insulin.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) tells p
eople with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) to eat 40-65 carbs per meal and additional carbs for snacks. That is recommending they eat what caused their problem.

The ADA states there is insufficient evidence to recommend limiting carbohydrates.

ADA guidelines say if you take certain diabetes medications you have to eat carbs or your blood sugar will drop too low. This is a vicious cycle: take diabetes medication so you must eat the same carbs that  caused your problem in the first place.

The ADA does not tell patients there is a method to reverse T2D through diet.

Human bodies do not need carbs. The minimum daily requirement for carbs is zero
. A nutrient is essential if you need it to function AND you can't make it from something else. The body can make its own glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis.

Overconsumption of carbs is making us very sick; yet we continue to recommend that people get about half of their total energy intake every day from carbs.

Patients at Hallberg's obesity clinic dramatically decrease daily carbs, and their blood glucose goes

Dr. Sarah Hallberg:
Medical revolutionary
disguised as soccer mom
down -- decreasing or eliminating their need for insulin.

The single biggest risk factor for cardio vascular disease is insulin resistance -- 42 percent of heart attacks are caused by this.

Low-carb interventions work so quickly Dr. Hallberg has pulled patients off hundreds of units of insulin within days or weeks.
One patient with a 20-year history of out-of-control diabetes was on multiple meds -- including 300 units of insulin being injected by pump continuously. She lost weight via low-carb dietary intervention and now her blood sugar levels are normal all the time -- without taking diabetes medication.

T2D can be controlled, but not cured. If patients start eating excessive carbs, their problem will come back.

Dr. Hallberg's recommended diet is low carb. Not zero carb. Not high protein. Carbs are mainly replaced with fat.

Fat tastes great and is incredibly satisfying. It is the only macronutrient that keeps glucose blood sugar and insulin levels low.

Dr. Hallberg's five simple rules for eating:

  1. If it says light, low-fat or fat-free, it stays in the grocery store
  2. Eat real food
  3. Don't eat anything you don't like
  4. Eat when you're hungry; don't eat when you're not hungry -- no matter what the clock says
  5. Do not eat GPS foods: Grains, Potatoes or Sugar.
People who are not insulin resistant can eat pure whole grains but most so-called whole grain foods have some refined carbs in them. If you are insulin resistant, do not eat any grains. You can still enjoy baking and eating home-baked treats on a low-carb diet using ingredients like coconut and almond flour.

Dozens of randomized control trials looking at low-carb interventions for diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and inflammation have shown improvement in these conditions.

Dr. Hallberg did a study at her medical clinic in which 50 patients followed a low-carb diet and 50 followed ADA Guidelines. Her low-carb patients had a significant metabolic advantage over the ADA group.

Diabetes is a progressive disease that requires more medicine over time.

It is difficult to change conventional diet guidelines because many hidden agendas are involved. A recent study showed there is no randomized control evidence to remove fat from the diet, which is how carbohydrates became such a large part of the typical American diet. When you reduce fat, you typically add more carbs. The low-fat movement was a huge experiment on millions of people that failed miserably.

There is a lot of money to be made on keeping people sick. Nutritional guidelines panels are typically stacked with people who have a conflict of interest.

Stop using medicine to treat diseases whose root cause is carbohydrate intolerance.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Medifast Achieve 4&2&1 Plan Permits Pasta, Baked Potatoes and Fruit!

Adios Ketosis! 

In one of the more cynical marketing ploys in commercial diet program history, Medifast has introduced a new weight loss plan that pretends to be more affordable and permits customers to consume formerly forbidden high-carb foods like fruit, pasta and potatoes.
This graphic for Medifast Achieve
from a recent blog post
is the same big hot mess
as the diet itself.

Ironically, Medifast is calling this program Medifast Achieve™ although the most likely achievement will be a short-term spike in its stock price.

As the company's profits -- and customers' waistlines -- expand, the only thing likely to shrink are customers' wallets.

When I lost 35 pounds on Medifast two years ago, I followed the more nutritionally logical 5&1 Plan which eschews fruit, pasta and potatoes in favor of lower-carb alternatives. I developed a habit of doing without these foods and planning my meals around a protein and vegetables.

Which I still do to this day, with the addition of butter, coconut oil and other healthy fats.

Medifast is using a cheap
point of entry as a hook
to sign up new members.
Happily, the 5&1 Plan is still being promoted by Medifast's Take Shape for Life (TSFL) division, which includes the services of a free health coach who provides guidance and emotional support. However, for those who opt to order their food directly from the Medifast website, that plan is neither mentioned nor offered.

The new Medifast Achieve™ plan is now just another low-fat, low-calorie diet, similar to Weight Watchers -- but without the meetings.

Because the higher carb load will not put dieters in the fat burning state called ketosis in which the body burns ketones instead of glucose, weight loss will be significantly slower. This will dampen motivation and increase the likelihood of failure.

Medifast admits on its own website that carb load makes a difference in losing weight:
"In general, be aware of your total total carbohydrate intake. If you are experiencing slower weight loss or hit a plateau, we recommend staying between 80-85 grams of carbs per day."
And this:
"While on the Medifast 5 & 1 Plan for weight loss, we recommend that you avoid fruits, dairy, and starches because of their high carbohydrates contents (eating too many carbohydrates during the weight-loss phase can prevent you from achieving or maintaining the fat-burning state)."
So how does that square with the fact that the newly permitted baked potato snack contains a whopping 37 carb grams and has a glycemic score of 111 (anything over 70 is considered high)?

And though the Medifast Achieve™ website links to multiple studies that "prove" the Medifast diet is effective for weight loss, a footnote at the bottom states, "* All studies based on the heritage Medifast 5 & 1 Plan."

Indeed, I could not find any studies on the Medifast Achieve™ website to prove this new plan works except as a means to separate desperate people from their money.

Since there are only four Medifast replacement meals per day in the new Medifast Achieve™ plan, it will seem cheaper -- and thus more appealing -- to dieters on a tight budget. In reality, they will have to fork out money for an extra lean & green meal and snack each day, resulting in higher overall food costs than the 5&1.

I credit Medifast with being my catalyst to discovering a more ketogenic eating style, but I have since parted ways with the program because I disagree with its focus on low-fat foods. However, I will always feel indebted to the company for helping me achieve my initial quick weight loss -- a success that Medifast newbs may never experience.

Fortunately, they can still lose significant weight on Medifast via the company's Take Shape for Life program, which continues to advocate the "heritage" 5&1 plan with its history of proven success.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas

My first attempt at Fat Head Pizza,
henceforth to be known in my house
as Fat Cooky Head Pizza
This #LCHF pizza crust has great taste and texture. And it doesn't require squeezing water out of cauliflower!

I usually work nights so making dinner is a relatively rare event for me. Which explains why my husband raves about pretty much anything I cook. Still, I can pretty much tell when he is giving me an encouragement trophy or thinks I really scored.

Fat Head Pizza was the real deal.

This low carb pizza recipe with an almond flour, mozarella cheese, cream cheese and egg crust is all over the keto blogs; so it's hard to know where it originated. It's called Fat Head Pizza because Tom Naughton's brother sampled the recipe and posted about it on the Fat Head Movie blog.

But if you read the blog post, the brother's son actually tweaked the recipe from the Cooky's Creations blog; and since I can't source an earlier version, I will credit Cooky as the creator unless I am corrected.

Pizza dough after being rolled out
between two sheets of
parchment paper
No matter who came up with this genius pizza crust concept, many LCHFers now call it the "Holy Grail" of low carb pizzas. Even most of the ketons on Reddit talk about ditching cauliflower and other faux pizza crusts for Fat Head.

Though cauliflower is arguable a tad healthier, it is a ton more work and some non-believers consider cauliflower's, um, fragrance off-putting. As in, my husband leaves the room house when I cook with it.

If you decide to try this low carb Fat Cooky Head Pizza (which sounds like something a first grader might call the class bully "Go away you fat cooky head pizza!"), be forewarned that it is very filling. A slice or two is all you will need to feel satisfied.

I made my first pizza with pepperoni, olives and baby bella mushrooms, which I sauteed in olive oil first since the toppings bake for only five minutes on the pre-baked crust -- just long enough for the cheese to become gooey.  I also used the lowest sugar pizza sauce I could find, but next time I might just use sliced tomatoes to lower the carbs even more.

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Here is a link to the recipe I used from Cooky's Creations.

I also watched this very helpful You Tube video from Elizabeth Nimphius to visualize the process.

And here is the blog post from Fat Head, along with the Reddit thread.

Mangia! And do let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Low Carb Diet Restaurant Trick: How to Magically Turn Any Sandwich Into a Salad

I was never a big fan of Subway (even before the creepy Jared revelation), mostly because its meat seems to be a little on the mystery side. But one thing that restaurant chain does right is offer the option to turn any sandwich into a salad.

Ditto for Togo's, a west coast sandwichery known for ├╝ber thick rolls stuffed with so much meat and vegetables you practically need pliers to get your mouth around them.

In my early Medifast/low-carb diet days, I would find myself looking longingly at a menu's sandwiches,  wishing some of them were salads instead. If none of the salads looked good, I would sometimes order a sandwich sans bread.

Until I got smart.

Philly Cheese Steak Salad
These days, I look at menus as mere suggestions, assuming any ingredients in a sandwich can be plopped atop romaine lettuce, spinach or other salad greens.

At work the other day, the in-house food vendor offered Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches as its Friday lunch special. I politely asked if I could have the sandwich as a salad and ended up with such a gorgeous looking meal a bunch of other people ordered it that way, too.

Many low-carbers are huge fans of protein burgers, which are bunless hamburgers wrapped in lettuce. I find these kind of awkward and messy to eat; so I even order my cheeseburgers as salads (or just eat with a knife and fork).

Of course, most restaurants do not mention the option to turn any sandwich into a salad. Bread and rolls are a lot cheaper than salad greens; so they offer only a limited number of salad choices.

But if a restaurant has lettuce and tomatoes in its kitchen, it should be able to accommodate your request. And you should be willing to pay a buck or two more if asked (although that has yet to happen to me).

To borrow a phrase from Taco Bell, "Think outside the bun." Then imagine which of your favorite sandwiches could become your favorite new salad.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My Kimchi and Roasted Cauliflower Rice For Lunch Every Day Science Experiment

So I'm on day three of my own personal science experiment to eat kimchi and roasted cauliflower "rice" for lunch every day.
Mmmm... lunch
Kimchi and roasted cauliflower "rice"

Before the science police come to my house and handcuff me, I realize it's not a valid study since I'm not measuring anything and there is no control group. But I'm cool with collecting anecdotal data and hope to achieve a perceptible change in my overall health, energy levels and appearance.

At this point you may be wondering why I'm eating this weird combination of foods for lunch every day and what I hope to gain. And for that we need to start with kimchi, a Korean food staple as intrinsic to that country's cultural identity as the hot dog is to America's.

Since starting this blog, I have become a nutritional research hobbyist and recently noticed an increasing amount of literature on the importance of our microbiota. I did not even know I had something called a microbiota until a few months ago, but it turns out I have several in different parts of my body, including my mouth and skin.

The microbiota I'm going to focus on here is my gut microbiota -- the cluster of bacteria in my colon. (Biologists used to call this bacterial soup gut flora, but maybe they thought it sounded too much like something you'd find at a goth florist shop.)

Anyway, the factoid about gut microbiota that really hijacked my attention is that many scientists now consider this collection of bacteria a body organ, just like the heart. To me this revelation was as mind blowing as finding out Pluto was not a planet (although I think it may be re-instated. Could you please make up your mind already astronomers?)

I was equally amazed to learn we have ten times more bacterial cells in our body than human cells. So in some ways we are walking bacteria nesting in a human host, which is kind of creepy when you think about it

The bottom line is the adult gut contains thousands of different species of known bacteria that collectively weigh as much as the brain. And that's a $#!+load of bacteria!

The health connection to all this is that only one third of these bacteria is common to most people -- the other two thirds is peculiar to the individual. And its composition -- big surprise here -- is impacted by what we eat.

The reason it's so important that we have a good combination of gut bacteria is that our gut microbiota affects our health and mood in a major way. Everything from getting cancer to being depressed to gaining weight is affected by the health of our gut. There may even be a link to autism.

This recent New York Times article explains the mood association way better than I ever could; so I suggest you read it at least three times, along with this intriguing piece on the obesity link from Scientific American last year from which I will share this intriguing excerpt:
"New evidence indicates that gut bacteria alter the way we store fat, how we balance levels of glucose in the blood, and how we respond to hormones that make us feel hungry or full. The wrong mix of microbes, it seems, can help set the stage for obesity and diabetes from the moment of birth...."
This pre-riced cauliflower
should be back in stock
at Trader Joe's in August
So, I figured if I had an opportunity to improve my gut microbiota, one of the best ways I could do this was to eat more foods associated with good gut health. And when I did the research on this, one of the most popular suggestions always turns out to be fermented foods like kimchi.

I purchased my kimchi from the neighborhood health food store, which stocks a brand local to Sacramento called The Cultured Kitchen. For the caulirice, I hoarded stocked up on the pre-riced frozen organic cauliflower when Trader Joe's still carried it and roast it in the oven with some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. (You can also make your own caulirice from a real cauliflower using a Vitamix, box grater or most any food processor or blender.)

In addition, I am taking probiotics in tablet form and eat only yogurt that contains live cultures when I'm in the rare yogurt mood.

Whether my gut flora will now bloom -- or whether I will even notice -- is hard to predict. But as my dear departed Grandma might have said, "It can't hurt."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Chris Christie Fat Jokes

So you don't get to be more than a hundred pounds overweight without eating a few more doughnuts or cheeseburgers than you should. But does that mean it's okay for Jimmy Kimmel to joke that the White House chef is worried Chris Christie will turn the presidential mansion into a White Castle?

Chris Christie eating a doughnut
on the David Letterman show
Or that the New Jersey governor should select a running mate who is 600 pounds so he'll look thin in comparison?

Or that he's not fit for the Oval Office ... unless they widen the door?

While these monologue fillers may elicit a mild chuckle, are they really funny? And how do they affect people who are overweight and struggle just to get through the day?

Recently Jerry Seinfeld said he refuses to play college campuses any more because young people are so politically correct you can't make a joke without offending them. Our society in general has become so prickly and sensitive it's practically impossible to make a jab about any group without hurting someone's feelings.

That said, certain groups are off limits -- unless you are a member of that group. Which means gays can make jokes about gays, Latinos about Latinos, blondes about blondes, etc.

Should Jimmy Kimmel
pick on someone his own size?
Maybe Kimmel's jokes would be funnier if he were fat like Christie because he'd be poking fun at himself at the same time. It's okay to laugh with someone -- not so much at someone.

If I were morbidly obese and had to hear fat jokes night after night, it would probably make me feel worse about myself. Which would make me depressed and less likely to take action to change my situation.

I would also be subject to discrimination by people who judge others based on their weight.

"Overweight people have much less of a chance of getting a job, they have much less of a chance of keeping a job ... (and) they are paid less than those who are thin," David Birdsell, dean of the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College in New York, told ABC News. "In this era of exercise, we impute moral failings to people who don't rein in their weight." 

Still, it's not a comedian's job to make society fair or increase the self-esteem of people who don't fit a socially ideal mold. Whether in good taste or not, comedians like Jimmy Kimmel will continue making jokes about Chris Christie and other outliers when the audience stops laughing.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Diet Etiquette: Is It Rude to Discuss Other People's Diets?

So yesterday a member of one of my Medifast Facebook groups -- let's call her Carol -- started an interesting thread about co-workers who make derisive comments about her diet. She had declined to partake in the chicken tenders, rolls and potato salad served at a lunch meeting, and someone remarked, "Oh, are you going to be eating your special diet food?"

What's weird is that Carol could have easily responded with some equally snarky comment about her co-worker's hyper-carby meal and how sleepy she and the others would feel after lunch. But having been raised by non-wolves, she just smiled and said "yes" while smarting inside over the rudeness of being called out for eating differently.

While everyone on the thread agreed there is really nothing you can say to jerkwads who try to make you feel like an oddball for not eating what everyone else is eating, the thread digressed to a more general discussion of whether it is ever polite to comment or ask about other people's diets.

To me this dilemma is similar to asking to touch the belly of a pregnant woman. Some expectant mothers are extremely offended when someone requests to touch their belly while others think it is cool that someone wants to share in their miracle.

Though some people who deviate from the standard American diet don't like to be asked what they're eating or why, others welcome the question and relish the chance to talk about it.

The problem is you don't always know who is who.

Personally, I am fascinated by what other people eat, but I always test the water before diving into the pool. I'll ask a simple question or make a comment about someone's meal and then check to see how they react. If they act like I just asked how much money they make, I'll back off immediately. But if they seem comfortable with my food question, I usually follow up. More often than not, I learn something beneficial and forge a tighter bond with that person.

Like weather, food is a great universal ice breaker; and it's a far more interesting topic.  I mean how many times can you say, "Wow, it's really hot outside today!"

My only advice is to refrain from criticizing the way other people eat or suggesting that your way of eating is superior to theirs. How we eat is a deeply personal subject, and if someone is trusting enough to discuss this subject with you, it's not cool to show disdain for their choices.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why You Should Give Your Maintenance Diet a Name

Now that I have successfully maintained my Medifast fueled weight loss for over a year I am increasingly fascinated by the topic of weight maintenance.

I used to think of weight loss dieting as a finite process. Once I sprinted to the goal, I had won. The race was over.

So even though I had "won" this race many times over with the help of Weight Watchers, Atkins, Jenny Craig and their ilk, I failed to grasp that weight loss is just the beginning of a much longer and more complicated journey called weight maintenance.

Which isn't even a race at all (though if it were, it would be more marathon than sprint).

In the course of our lives, the amount of time it takes us to reach our ideal weight is a sliver compared to the huge slab of pie that forms the rest of our days.

And just as we need a specific plan for how to lose weight, we need a specific plan for keeping that weight off for good.

The cool part about weight maintenance is that we get to figure out that plan for ourselves. Which brings me to why it's important to give our new way of eating a name.

I just finished reading Refuse to Regain by Barbara Berkeley, which provides a very specific guideline for weight maintenance that revolves around something I'm pretty sure the author made up called the Primarian Diet. This diet plan contains a contradictory jumble of concepts, simultaneously claiming to be to be primal and natural, yet including such "foods" as diet Jello and Lean Cuisine. If you are interested in reading this book and learning more about the Primarian Diet, you can check it out here.

One thing I like about the Primarian Diet is that it has a name; so when Aunt Betty offers you a slice of birthday cake you can say, "Oh, sorry, I'm a Primarian; so I can't eat that." She will be too embarrassed by her ignorance to ask you what the heck a Primarian is and refrain from cajoling you into eating just one little piece.

So as you approach your ideal weight, I encourage you to start researching all the various ways of eating out there and develop your own plan that will allow you to maintain your weight loss once you reach your ideal weight. Just because you lost weight with Medifast does not mean the Medifast maintenance plan will help you be successful at keeping your weight off. You may be better off with a Paleo type diet or adhering to some kind of daily carb/protein/fat macro range -- or just avoiding certain food categories like flour and sugar.

Most likely you will tweak your maintenance diet along the way, but ultimately you will create a customized way of eating that will help you maintain your weight loss over many years.

Oh, and do give your new diet a name. Naming something makes it real and present instead of amorphous and easily forgettable. Not only will your Impressivesoundingname Diet help you fend off Aunt Betty and her carb-riddled cake, it will also help remind you not to eat those nachos or cookies and provide you with self-imposed rules for what you can or cannot eat most of the time.

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The KonMari Method as a Perfect Metaphor for Weight Loss

I admit to being a little late to the game in hearing about the life-changing magic of tidying up made popular by the younger, non-felonious Martha Stewart of Japan, Marie Kondo, who has paradigm shifted the formerly dreary and anxiety filled chore of de-cluttering one's living space (and, dare I say, making it almost enjoyable).

In case you are even further behind the 8-ball than I on this pop cultural phenomenon, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is not only an international best seller whose author was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2015, the KonMari method (as it's known) is a metaphor for ridding yourself of the emotional baggage tied up with your $#!+ load of stuff.

Which includes clothes that are toolargeortoosmall, the stuffed bear your 16-year-old boyfriend wholatercheatedonyouwithyourbestfriend won at the county fair, and the tapioca beads sitting in your cupboard because two years ago whileinashoppingtranceatSafeway you had the ephemeral desire to make scratch tapioca pudding. Which, of course, you never did.

The signature concept of the KonMari method is to pick up each item in your home and ask yourself the profoundly simple question, "Does this spark joy?"

(Obviously, there is a lot more to it and I highly recommend you purchase the book to learn all the secrets, including how to properly fold socks.)

I have already begun applying the KonMari method to my clothing and am astounded by how many items I was able to discard by asking myself what I wanted to keep instead of what I wanted to get rid of.

Now that may seem like a small difference, but it turns out this counter-intuitive filtering method yields dramatically different results in how many Glad bags you tote off to the Goodwill or dump in the trash. We tend to hold on to things for perverse reasons, such as feeling guilty that we bought them in the first place or having a sentimental attachment because someone gave them to us.

For instance, using the KonMari method on a scarf your mother gave you for your birthday, you would ask yourself "Does this spark joy?" And if the answer is "no," you would thank the scarf for being a reminder of your mother's love and inform it you are now going to help it find a new home where it will be loved and appreciated.

Or let's say you bought a dress on a whim two years ago but never found an occasion to wear it. You might say, "Thank you for that moment of joy I felt when I purchased you, but it turns out we are not really a match; and now I will set you free so that you can find you a better owner."

Of course, you do not really have to make a goodbye speech for each item you discard, but if you're having trouble letting go it is surprisingly helpful.

The main point is the items we hoard store in our homes that we do not use or love impart negative energy every time we interact with them. They figuratively weigh us down by making us feel guilty, wasteful or ungrateful. They also create clutter, making it harder to find the items that do bring us joy.

By lightening our physical load we lighten our emotional load, and this liberating feeling carries over to other aspects of our lives.

Whether it's a friend to whom we no longer feel a connection or a food we eat just because it's sitting on the table, once we get in the habit of choosing things that bring us joy we are less likely to reflexively settle for whatever happens to be there.

I was reminded of this principle the other day when a friend at work offered me a Keebler chocolate chip cookie from her lunch sack. At one time I might have accepted it, even though packaged cookies don't really appeal to me. But these days, I am more selective, and on the rare occasions I eat a cookie it has to be home made or from a good bakery.

Interestingly, the KonMari method promises that if we follow its principles we will never rebound and have to wade through a huge household mess again, which is similar to losing weight and never gaining it back. By consciously seeking joy instead of driving through life on autopilot, we are bound to make better choices that will ultimately make us happier and healthier.

For more information on the KonMari method, watch Marie Kondo's Google Talk or check out my favorite KonMari vlogger Lavendaire here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

What's the Point of Pasta?

What's a meal without pasta? Healthier.
Thinking back on my pre-low-carb life,  I can't believe how much I used to count on pasta to complete my meals. If I wanted to prepare a recipe that contained sauce, I thought I needed pasta to ferry the savory liquid to my mouth -- an edible mini van, if you will, whose main purpose was to transport something from one place to another.

Who ever heard of meatballs and marinara sauce without spaghetti? Or Chicken Alfredo without fettuccine?

Of course, there was another "vehicle" that sat humbly on my plate all along that could have done the job just as well -- and with far less damage to my fat cells.

Yep. Good ol' vegetables.

Turns out these colorful foods, which spring from the ground instead of being made in a factory, have the same amazing ability to carry sauce as pasta or rice.

And even though vegetables also contain carbohydrates, they have far fewer grams and way more fiber. Not to mention other healthy stuff, like phytonutrients and vitamins that are not first stripped out and then added back.

Last night I was musing on how much my meal composition mindset had changed when I was contemplating what vegetable to serve with my tomatillo chicken, which had slow cooked all day and was now Tindering for a partner.

Sure I could have served this delicious protein dish over rice or noodles. Or wrapped it up in a tortilla.

But I had some fresh baby spinach in my fridge; so I sauteed it a few minutes with some good olive oil and a few grinds of Trader Joe's garlic and sea salt blend. Then I added the chicken and topped the melange with a handful of Italian four cheese blend until the whole thing was melty and gorgeous. The only thing I forgot to do was take a picture; so you will just have to imagine how good it looked.

The point is that these days, instead of figuring out what shape of pasta will go best with my meals, I consider instead which vegetables will best complement them and leave pasta and rice out of the picture altogether.