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What Was Your Wakeup Call? And A Review Of Jeff O'Connell's "Sugar Nation"
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September 10, 2011
4:58 am
Txomin
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Thank you for the reply and suggestions. I am compiling a little library on these topics.

To be honest, although I have been studying the topic for over 2 years and although I have concluded that I am on the right track, I need to wait until November/December to get my yearly medical exam before I can overcome my last misgivings regarding LCHF diets. I need the data before I pass it on.

You see, I am eating two dozen eggs a week (for example). How can I recommend this to a person that has had several coronaries and is on heavy anti-cholesterol meds? I need to be 100% sure I am not going to harm anyone.

September 11, 2011
7:02 am
Beowulf
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My wake-up call came in several stages. I've always been naturally thin and full of energy whether eating SAD, lacto-ovo vegetarian, or now paleo/primal. When I was 20, I assumed that I was healthy because I "exercised and didn't overeat," but yet as I got older I really started taking a good look at my friends and co-workers. I saw people eating less than I was, working out more, and trying really, REALLY hard to lose weight, usually unsuccessfully. That made me begin questioning the SAD world-view. I also ate constantly, but I just attributed it to a "high metabolism" since I never gained any weight.

Then when I was in my mid 20s my dad was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. He had always been somewhat overweight, and over the next few years I watched him struggled to eat "right" and exercise. Yet that wasn't enough, and soon the medications began flowing in, first for the blood sugar, then hypertension, and then lots more after he suffered a minor heart attack two years ago.

I'm also watching my mother, who has always struggled with a few extra pounds, try to deal with her cholesterol "problems" by doing all the conventional wisdom garbage and having no luck. She's active and otherwise healthy, eats lots of whole foods, but her doctor is just needling her about her LDL even though her HDL is great.

I came to paleo-style eating as a trial. I'd read about it, and frankly I wanted to see if I could do it (I'm stubborn that way). I also decided that it couldn't be "dangerous" since this is how humans ate for millions of years. A pledge to give up grains for 48 hours turned into a week...and then a month...and then nearly half a year. Now I'm satisfied with my meals and the occasional snack (vs. eating constantly), and I eat WAY better quality food (no more chips and crackers constantly being munched between meals).

Now I'm struggling with telling my family. My sister dealt with an eating disorder, so my parents are apt to worry if they find out I did a major 180 on my eating (lacto-ovo vegetarian to grain-free omnivore). I tend to eat like my old self when I'm out at a restaurant or over for dinner (this happens only a couple times per month, so I'm not thrown off by it). I really think they could benefit from this way of eating, but I want to make sure I have my proverbial ducks in a row before coming out of the closet. This website and others provide great information, I'm constantly reading for more info, and the plan is to tell them what I've done after sticking with the eating style for a year. That way they can see that I haven't gone off the deep end, and I'll have plenty of facts to back up my choice. And hopefully change their health for the better, too.

September 12, 2011
12:36 pm
ravi
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first ring - emergency appendectomy at 48 - hit the snooze button...

major slam: healthy 1 year old's teeth showing some decay despite organic "healthy" diet including wonderful whole grains, lots organic fruit, and well yes - always some meat but gotta watach the high fat right?

organic didn't save us (although we still support that wholeheartedly) but dear ol weston price did--

may he RIP--

September 12, 2011
10:03 pm
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Txomin:

OK, I understand your caution.  And it's easy to end up in a situation where someone changes their life, has a problem due to 30 years of their previous bad habits, and then blames the problem on the change.  (Also see my notes below to Beowulf.)

Beowulf:

If you want to present people with a book, I'm a big fan of the Jaminets' Perfect Health Diet.  In addition to being very close to the way I eat, it's got fruit and yin-yangs on the cover, even though it's really just "high-fat paleo plus rice".  So it's very non-threatening and easy to present to people who are skeptical of paleo.

ravi:

The work of Weston A. Price is one reason I'm functional paleo as opposed to traditional paleo: there are a lot of nutritional benefits to the right kinds of high-fat dairy if you're not frankly intolerant or allergic.

Good to see you back! 

JS

September 13, 2011
4:04 am
Vasco
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I just came across your blog and I'm utterly impressed at how succinct and to-the-point your writing is. Congratulations on a work well done.

I had several turning points... I was too far out for a single one. 🙂

I'm 37. At around 33 years old I started having severe Reactive Hypoglycaemia. I would feel an uncontrollable urge for chocolate after lunch, and unless I binged on chocolates and sweets every 30 minutes or so I would feel like sh**. In about a year I became a non-functional human; I couldn't work or have fun. I was scared that I had become a diabetic but my symptoms didn't quite square with the expected for diabetes.

I did an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test and came back negative for diabetes. So everything was just fine and dandy, it would appear to the doctors.

I went to an endocrinologist an she took a look at me and my story, didn't say a word, wrote out a prescription, and that was it. I thought "great, she knows what it is and I'll be well in a jiffy". After a week and a half taking those drugs without any improvement, I had turned into a violently aggressive person. It took me a few days to realise it, I was so chemically unbalanced. I threw the stuff in the garbage, and decided I had to take control of my own health. Goes to show that you pick the diagnostic and treatment when you pick the type of doctor.

I got an "alternative" doctor, someone with a more "holistic" approach, and she said I should go "paleo". I had no idea what she was talking about. Being an engineer, I had utter faith in science and progress, so I struggled with that notion of "caveman eating". I couldn't fit it in with the rest of reality... yet.

I went back and did the Glucose Tolerance Test, only this time I did it at home; I wasn't convinced that only 3 samples in 2 hours was an adequate data resolution to analyse the problem. After all, I really felt like crap after every meal: I would either fall asleep 20min after eating, or develop the most extreme brain fog, shakes, hotness and sweating. It was debilitating, it had to show up somewhere! And it did: a 6 hour home test with 15min sampling revealed a highly erratic hormonal system. You can take a look at it here. As an engineer, I recognized that pattern: it's a negative feedback system that's too tight (it "rings" instead of converging slowly). I was obviously hyper-sensitive to sugar. But what caused that sensitivity? the doctors were at a loss for words there.

I read Cordain's book, fumbled with Paleo for about 2 years, and started to get a feeling that maybe the conventional wisdom wasn't so great. But traditional Paleo wasn't working, I still had the shakes and the craves and was hungry and weak.

Then I went to the dentist to take out a couple of molars that were crooked. The usual antibiotics were applied. And miraculously, I was cured of everything for a couple of weeks! But then it came back, slowly at first, then full on.

With this episode I convinced my "holistic" doctor to make deeper tests. We did a special kind of Glucose Tolerance Test: an intra-venous and oral one in sequence. Lo and behold, there was nothing wrong with my hormonal system! The intra-venous test went perfectly normal, while the oral test provoked a drop from a fasting glucose of 50 to a post-prandial peak of 162 to a drop of 21. No wonder I felt bad, that 21 low was pushing tons of epinephrine into the system! It's amazing I didn't kill anyone.

But I had found the smoking gun: it was the gut bacteria!
We then tried eradicating Helicobacter Pylori, which did improve the symptoms a lot, but didn't quite resolve the problem.

I kept insisting on traditional paleo for another year or so, but it just wouldn't work right. I eventually gave it up, and just settled for avoiding refined sugars and living with the pain. My wife knew she couldn't speak to me after meals, but my small daughter couldn't understand my temporary bad temper. It wasn't fair on them, and I couldn't take antibiotics all the time. I had never heard of prebiotics or probiotics by then, and my holistic doctor was against dairy, so that was it. I just soldiered on.

One thing that kept me sane was regular exercise. It has loads of beneficial effects on me. I enrolled on a Jujitsu class and stuck with it. It does wonders to my good temper and my energy levels. But the shakes were still there, just waiting under the skin for a square of chocolate or a slice of bread to blow up. I needed to get down to the bottom of it.

After 5 years of searching the web, I was pretty sick and tired of it all. But I gave it another shot, this time from scratch.
I found the excellent and now defunct "Canibais e Reis" blog, and learned about ancient tribes nutrition and saturated fat benefits. Then I ended up on Mark's Daily Apple.

I bought Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and then I saw how conventional wisdom was made of wishful thinking and commercial interests, instead of scientific endeavour. What a wake up call that was.

Wow!... I lost the extra 7 kg (15 pounds) of belly fat in a couple of weeks, and never felt better. It turns out I just needed more fat. A big chunk of it every day. I totally subscribed to Mark Sisson's way of life and even my wife wanted to jump on that wagon. We've been really happy with the changes that our bodies have gone through. I now have 2 small children and have the energy and patience to play with them.

I found several other useful blogs too: "Hyperlipid" and "Whole Health Source" are always a gas to read. And now that I found gnolls.org, there is an even better science-driven source of information to pick through! 🙂

The remaining obstacle is now getting doctors to understand what is going on. My blood lipids profile looks downright scary with an LDL=223, but with TG=79 and HDL=72 (and TG/HDL=1.1) I'm not worried at all (all large fluffy LDL here). I've been taking full blood works results to "mainstream" doctors I know, and although they can't see anything wrong in all the other markers (quite the opposite, I've never been or felt healthier or stronger), that LDL is the big black spot in the middle of the table that they just can't stop staring at. Good god, when will there be an update to the conventional wisdom's model??

Well, that's it. Sorry for the long comment.

September 13, 2011
6:55 am
Vasco
Guest

Oh, and I totally agree: we only get our butts of the floor and do something about changing things when we get desperate.
Seems like this is our nature. 🙁

September 14, 2011
11:04 am
Bill Strahan
Guest

May wakeup call was the time I was at the beach. I plopped down on the sand and a group of volunteers surrounded me and set to work trying to get me back in the water before my skin dried out. They kept saying things like "Someone splash some water on his blowhole, we can save this one!"

A slight exaggeration, but coming back from a trip with the family and then seeing my wife's pictures of me in my swimsuit. It made me go get on a scale! 239 pounds and I was having a hard time buttoning my size 40 jeans. I'm 5'10".

Today I weigh 188 pounds, I wear size 32 jeans and I'm physically capable of more at 44 than I have been at any other time in my life. Thank you Robb Wolf and CrossFit!

September 14, 2011
1:45 pm
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Vasco:

What an ordeal!  

Note that Jeff had the same problem (reactive hypoglycemia) in Sugar Nation, which greatly complicated his life (dealing with both incipient T2D and reactive hypo).

Fat helps for several reasons: mainly, you're slowing gastric emptying and increasing GI transit time, so you're slowing and blunting the glucose peak (dropping the glycemic index) of whatever you eat with it.  Most likely this puts the peak within a range your body can deal with.

I also recommend Perfect Health Diet, both the website and the book, as a great source of fat-friendly paleo information.  I would particularly pay attention to this article about high LDL on Paleo (make sure to follow the links in the first paragraph).

Like you, I don't find the arguments against saturated fat to be convincing.  And I doubt the medical profession will ever advance beyond "high LDL = statins", because it's so profitable to be able to say "You, even though you are obviously healthy, are clearly sick and in need of expensive medication because this number is too high."  (And once you take statins for a while, you'll start becoming sicker and in need of more medication...)

Bill:

Our self-image is often woefully out of date, and the figure in the mirror changes so slowly that it's easy to miss the transitions.  Pictures can pull us out of our accustomed context.

JS

September 14, 2011
2:00 pm
julia
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First, let me just say thank you so much for the time and effort you put into this fantastic blog. I've enjoyed reading for the last several months, though this is my first post.

My pain thermometer reached it's max about 3 days ago. I was coming out of a somewhat severe depression following the end of a relationship that was not healthy for me. I was sitting at a job that I hate, but have been too paralyzed to attempt to find a new one. I was miserable, and aside from that, unhealthy too. I had been aware of paleo and all of the benefits, but for one reason or another just couldn't commit. I had one excuse after another, (I do paleo except I still eat, X, Y, or Z.) Monday afternoon, I found out that my dad, who is a Type 2 diabetic with one below the knee amputation, and a recent bypass surgery, has some sort of infection in his other leg. It hit me really hard, because 1) I hate that the abuse his body has sustained over the years is probably permanent, and 2) because I realize that I was on the same path he was. I'm not diabetic and am actually pretty active (Crossfit) but I'm overweight by 30-40 pounds, and desperately need to get these extra pounds off for many, many reasons.

I'm 35 and realized that NOW is the time to change. To quote you: "We don’t get what we want: we get what we are just barely willing to tolerate." And that is when it hit me, for too long I was getting what I was just barely willing to tolerate in every facet of my life: my health, my relationship, my career. No longer.

Thank you so much; your writing helped to give me the shove that I needed. And thanks to everyone who shared their stories. I'm looking forward to this journey.

September 14, 2011
3:01 pm
Sara H.
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My wake up call?

When I got diagnosed with MS almost 3 yrs ago.

It should have been sooner though-you're right on: I put up with feeling horrible for way too long. My symptoms were so varied that I couldn't quite put things together. However, I did know that I had been prediabetic for years but the doctors kept telling me not to worry I wasn't diabetic yet! So I didn't-I ate whole grains and felt self rightous that I ate low fat. I'm not overweight so I blamed everything on genetics.

Even when I got diagnosed I was ready to follow the standard MS drug protocol. But then the Copaxone nurse showed up at my house to show me how to inject. She laughed at my husband and I for asking so many questions, telling me that most patients just took the drug without hesitation! She also told me to ask my doctor for antidepressants because if something happened to one of my children I wouldn't be able to handle the stress and my MS would advance rapidly! She kept repeating to me "You have no control over this disease". She then encouraged me to call her anytime because she made money every time a patient contacted her! Needless to say my husband and I were appalled! And being the stubborn person I am when someone tells me I can't do something I look for ways to prove them wrong!

Anyway, I did take the drugs for a 4 months while searching for other options. looking back I'm glad I did because it gives me a way to quantify where I am at now. I noticed no improvements and had a constant sore throat. After lots of research I went gluten, sugar and dairy free but stayed low fat. I saw tremendous improvements in my constant brain fog and general aches and pains. I was still experiencing fatigue in my legs though and felt there was still more I could do. I discovered the Jaminets (Perfect Health Diet)in Feb 2011(and from there you and Mark) and now feel fantastic! I realize that I will always have to stay vigilant and there are some things out of my control but what I can control (and personally I feel like that is a lot!)I will. I've had stable MRI's and now have the goal of teaching my neurologist that gut health and brain health are interconnected. He keeps telling me diet will get me nowhere-and I keep telling him I felt like crap-now I don't. Isn't that somewhere??
Anyway, I should dump him but the drive to prove him wrong motivates me! 😉

September 14, 2011
5:24 pm
PrimalNut
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My wake up call was when I came down with rheumatoid arthritis at age 38.

What 38 year old has arthritis???

 

And the other thing...I was fed up trying to sh*t a giant brick every 2 weeks.

September 15, 2011
7:05 am
Hipparchia
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I learned to control hunger at the most unusual time- my first pregnancy. I had morning sickness which was controlled not by crackers, but by going without food for a while. While the months passed, overeating was becoming more painful. I had no place to put food into. I also gave up grain fiber, since it had the opposite effect on my pregnant organism. I switched to calorie-dense food, meaning mostly meat.

The week before the birth, I almost totally fasted.

Then, I breastfed for a long time.

All the while, my body re-learned how to burn stored fat. I was never unhealthy, just a little more jiggly than I wanted to. So I learned to eat the right stuff and to be able to fast.

I actually lost body fat during pregnancy, and more during breastfeeding. Now, I am at my high school weight- and I've kept my increased cup size, strangely, unlike with other diets.

I also learned that a tiny human also has natural appetite for meat and fat and will avoid grains as if by instinct.

A bonus: hunger makes me more artistically creative. Nothing gives me more attitude to solve a painting problem. Painting on a full stomach is an impossibility now.

September 15, 2011
12:47 pm
Uncephalized
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My wake-up call was passing 200 lbs at 5'11" and 21 years old (my max was 210 in 2009). It took me a while to find paleo, but it's been the only thing that worked. I didn't really realize how fat and out of shape I was until I lost most of the extra weight (I'm still working on the last few % bodyfat to really consider myself lean) and started moving and lifting more. Right now I'm at a comfortable 180, but still with some definite room to improve my body composition. The biggest difference is that now I KNOW I can--and will--get there, and I'm actually not doomed to being fat my entire life just because my mom is and "it's genetic". That's a pretty powerful weapon in my arsenal.

September 15, 2011
8:44 pm
Theresa
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Hi!
I was going to show my needle fearing 4 y o that "pricking your finger" for a blood test is not all that bad. I ran my own blood in the glucose tester and got the number 13 back, an hour or two after sushi lunch. It's not just about overweight and appearance anymore. I need to fend for my longtime health.

September 15, 2011
9:52 pm
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Julia:

I'm sorry to hear about your father.

Getting started is the hardest part.  Once we're moving forward, it's usually obvious why we should continue.  And as one of my co-workers once said: "NOW is an excellent time."  (Actually it's the only time.)

I'm glad my writing has helped you.  Thanks for letting me know.

Sara:

"You have no control over this disease."  Wow.  That's a terrible thing to say.  What she meant, of course, is "I have no control over your disease."

Functional paleo isn't a universal curative...but as I say in this week's article, it's the first place you start.  I'm glad it's helped you.

PrimalNut:

Actually, you'd be surprised.  Late 30s-early 40s is when many men start to come down with autoimmune disease, due to the drop in testosterone levels (T is immunosuppressive).

Rheumatoid is nasty stuff.  How are you doing now?

Hipparchia:

"I also learned that a tiny human also has natural appetite for meat and fat and will avoid grains as if by instinct."

Absolutely!  How is it that mother's milk is best for a baby, then suddenly, one day, gluten and strained pablum is best?  Answer: it's not.  As a child I always picked the meat out of the stew.

And I absolutely understand your point about hunger: I see you discovered the ghrelin article.

Uncephalized:

Never underestimate the power of big round numbers.  And it's good that you caught it around 200-210, because the bigger you get, the more difficult it is to return to anything resembling normal.

Theresa:

13?  Doesn't that mean you're dead?  Wow.  Sounds like reactive hypoglycemia to me...

 

Again, I thank all of you for sharing your experiences.  It's helpful to know we're not alone in our struggles.

JS

September 21, 2011
2:10 am
Brooke Fotheringham
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My wake up call was December 27 2007, I stood there a few days after Christmas eating stale cookies and flat champagne for lunch (just doing my part to clean up after our party), and realized that both my brain and body felt worse than I could ever remember them feeling without being really ill.

I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions normally, but starting January 3rd 2008, I got it in my head that I was going to stop eating grains and sugar altogether (didn't even know about paleo at the time, but I figured I should get as far away as possible from my diet based on free scones and coffee working as a barista), and I switched over to a meat based diet. In less than 3 days of steak, steak, and more steak, I got my mind and energy back. It was the most amazing transformation I could have ever hoped for.

September 21, 2011
4:24 pm
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Brooke:

So you went paleo by instinct?  That's great!  Most of us are so brainwashed that we're incapable of making that leap without help.

Welcome to gnolls.org...please stick around!

JS

September 26, 2011
5:41 am
Theresa
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No JS =-) It means I'm from Europe. I don't have the US eqiv.

September 26, 2011
6:05 pm
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Theresa:

OK, that's less worrisome.  80-100 mg/dl is considered "normal" fasting glucose for us.

JS

September 27, 2011
2:49 am
Robbo
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I was overweight, unhappy. Funnily enough I worked for a company which was developing a weight loss product. I went to a company lecture where the top science guys explained just how bad it was to be very overweight, and how unhelpful standard medical advice was. In my overweight state I felt so uncomfortable I decided to take action.

I had previously tried adding exercise to my lifestyle (jogging, cycling). Result, zero change in weight, small improvement in speed and endurance, knee pain, and scarring from a crash.

After some research I got the Atkins book and followed its message religiously. Atkins, because people said it's not hard to follow, no suffering necessary, and it does actually work. It worked for me well beyond my expectation, and in fact the increase in well-being would have been well worth the effort, quite apart from the weight loss.

Since then (seven years) I have encountered Paleo, firstly through de Vany. Paleo provides the ´big picture´theory as to why Atkins works in practice for weight loss. Of course it also brings added wisdom to low-carb, and fills in parts of the picture Atkins wasn´t aware of.

My personal regime is low-carb, no grains or sugars or HFCS, no seed oils, no ´fake´foods. It keeps me full of physical and mental energy. I do find zero grain and sugar much more easily sustained than low grain or sugar. If I have a cinnamon bun with morning coffee, I have to exercise willpower not to have another the next day.

For me your recent series lays out very elegantly a great truth which runs to contradict ´Eat less, Move more´. The key processes which control what we put in our mouths are unconscious, or at best semiconscious (like breathing, you can consciously control it, but when you stop paying attention, it carries on anyway). Controlling eating by willpower is a bit like having to take every breath deliberately. Sure you can do it for a minute, or ten, or an hour. But for a lifetime ? The role of willpower is not for eternal vigilance but to create new food habits which align with your body's processes that will take care of you whether you pay attention or not.

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