In Part 1 my aim was to share both the reasons for my interest in nutritional science and the extent of my experience as an explorer in these lands. My intention is both to a) encourage you to question received wisdom, and b) to consider making your own dietary experiments and discoveries if there is any aspect of your health you would like to improve.
Back in the 80s going on a “low carb” diet was less controversial than it is now. Even so the misinformation about saturated fat was widely believed and much of the public commentary was negative. This is the nub of my argument; once you have tried it out for yourself, lost weight, felt more energetic and alert, stopped craving sweet foods, and realised how delicious everything tastes, including the vegetables you are still eating, you know that the negative propaganda is just that, and no one can convince you that what you are doing doesn’t work the way its exponents say it does, because you have personal experience that cannot be denied (dismissed, ignored, pissed on from a great height, but not denied). This is why the other side isn’t going to win in the end. We go on some version of a low carb diet, and we feel better, so it doesn’t really matter how many people tell us this isn’t possible, because we know it is. So, this may not be standard Feldenkrais, but this kind of knowing is exactly what Feldenkrais is all about, when you know something because you discovered it for yourself no amount of belittling can take it away from you. Plus, there are other even more controversial health claims to investigate than the possibility of losing weight, hence my keenness to spread the word.
If you want to see an organisation that claims it is built on “Ideas Worth Spreading” distance itself from someone attempting to encourage people to eat more vegetables you only have to look at Dr Terry Wahl’s TED talk. They have toned it down recently; the written warning is the first thing you can see below. For many years it was scrolling over the screen even as you tried to watch a physician explaining how she had used an experimental diet to reverse the severity of her Multiple Sclerosis symptoms. A doctor mind you, with documented evidence of her own improvement, and the radical suggestion that you might benefit from eating more veg! That’s how controversial this stuff is! I am so please to see other people expressing their outrage in the comments below. Hers is a great story, but not one I am going to focus on here (particularly as most of the health benefits I have experienced have come from eating fewer vegetables).
I think the important issue is to understand how nutritional science has been hijacked; once that is clarified, and you have more questions, then it will be easy for you to research for yourself how people with your particular health issue have supported their own healing process by adjusting what they are eating. But the lies matter, because they are everywhere and they have been around for so long the misinformation has been embedded into our culture. Even when the Guardian gets around to sharing some new piece of research demonstrating that saturated fat is not just not bad for you, but actually good for you, you will only need to turn a few pages to find some writer casually damning eggs for causing “high cholesterol”, describing steak as “a heart attack on a plate”, or, less obvious but just as insidious, lumping fat-and-sugar together whenever they talk about unhealthy eating – and of course since they went full on with the plant-based propaganda their recipe section is full of poor quality high carb “healthy” meals. All that salad looks so pretty, how could it be doing you any harm? If you make it to the end of this article, you will always know there is an alternative narrative with a great deal of science to back it up, even if you don’t feel the need to change what you are doing right now, you will know for the future.
I have already experienced the frustration of doing a job that required me to tell people things about themselves they didn’t want to hear, so I do not plan to revive to my childhood interest in joining the medical profession just to have to tell people that they are addicted to foods that are damaging their long-term health. There are many highly-qualified, highly-experienced medical professionals out there doing that job better than I can, and dedicated investigative journalists too.
I am going to enlist some of the best presentations I have found online, with headings and introductory paragraphs to help you decide where you want to start. Some of the most useful and enjoyable lectures and interviews cover more than one important subject, so it will be interesting for me to decide where to put each link, and I will inevitably be doing some cross-referencing. Hopefully you will be able to go straight to whatever interests you most and then work your way outwards from there.
I promise you this journey has enormous potential for the maintenance of your long term health. The general assumption in our culture is usually that a debilitated old age is inevitable, with the progressive deterioration of first our physical, then our mental functioning, requiring a steadily increasing dependence on a daily cocktail of drugs whose chemical interactions within us are barely acknowledged, let alone fully understood. I have always enjoyed the intellectual defiance expressed by the 75 year old man in the well-known anecdote who, when told that the pain in his left knee was due to old age, retorted that his right knee was the same age as his left, and wasn’t giving him any trouble.
I am writing this in the uncharted territory of Covid-19 world; we are immersed in a situation where the only long-term plan that we can safely commit to is the improvement of our own personal health and well-being, the boosting of our own immune systems, to embrace our ability to make our own lives better by fully engaging with the bold and liberating act of self-healing.
There are some general themes that appear in almost all of these talks: the simplest way to improve your diet immediately is to stop eating refined carbohydrate, stop eating industrial seed oils, and stop eating processed foods. Movement and fitness are important, but are not enough to keep you healthy if you continue to eat these foods.
I am aiming for presentations that are less than an hour long. If there is a longer talk I would also like to recommend to you on the same subject I will include a link. I will keep reminding you that most of these people are MDs, with clinical experience treating the conditions they are discussing. After a while you will naturally begin to wonder why so many qualified medical professionals are being labelled as ‘quacks’, and that will prepare you for the section on nutrition and politics.
For my own ongoing journey, I find it helps to return to the material most relevant to my current dietary experiments many times. One aspect of changing your diet I haven’t mentioned yet is that indoctrinating yourself can be really helpful, particularly when you find yourself struggling with an addicted response to a health-depleting substance. Whenever I fall off the wagon I return to these lectures to remind myself of just why I am being so strict with myself.
Sugar: Refined, Unrefined, Cereals & Beans, High-Fructose Corn Syrup–& Alcohol
So, to begin in the least controversial area; sugar. This is probably a natural place to start if your problem is excess weight. It will not surprise you that sugar isn’t good for you, however it can be useful to know that Doctors have been trying to explain just how bad it is for our teeth and our health since long before Dr John Yudkin published Pure, White and Deadly back in 1972.
Dr Robert Lustig is great on the dangers of our modern processed diet, how high-fructose corn syrup seems particularly addictive, and how corporate interests are interfering with government health advice. Like many of the people I will mention he is keen to make it clear that the slogan “a calorie is a calorie” has been taken up as the rallying cry for food producers with a financial incentive to make sure you don’t stop buying their highly processed products. This short discussion of sugar, explores why American children are suffering from the same health conditions as adults afflicted with alcoholism:
This man is very comprehensive and he covers a great deal of the relevant material; Gary Taubes is not a medical doctor, he’s an investigative journalist whose area of expertise is science. This is a really excellent and enjoyable interview, and it is a nice way to introduce Dr Bret Scher’s Diet Doctor Podcast:
There’s plenty more uploads on YouTube from both these guys, so let’s move on to…
Saturated Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat (but chemically extracted seed oils might be making you ill…)
Ok, hold onto your hats because now we are in the topsy turvy world of lies, damned lies, manipulated statistics, and how Ancel Keys made everybody ill!
Here is science journalist and ex-vegetarian Nina Teicholz on how we all got conned into eating polyunsaturated chemically-extracted industrial seed oils instead of good healthy animal fats:
The benefits of animals fats are central to several of the arguments below, so I will keep this section short for now, and add more links if that seems necessary.
One thing that caught my eye, and then disappeared back off the radar very quickly back in the mid-2000s was a big Norwegian study (50,000+ participants, over 10 years) that demonstrated that women with higher cholesterol lived longer than women with lower cholesterol. Now I am more aware of how important saturated fats are for neurological function I am not at all surprised – a healthy brain is composed of 20% cholesterol and it is so important for how we function that our brain manufactures its own supply. So here’s the lowdown on the importance of cholesterol for the health of your brain – long is best, and I have gone with neuroscientist Dr David Diamond, because he has the most comprehensive overview of what is wrong with the approach the medical profession as a whole has been taking to dietary cholesterol that I have found so far – I may add more here later too:
– and this leads very nicely into…
Corporate & Ideological Interference in Government Guidelines
This is a bigger topic, perhaps the biggest, because it explains what is going on behind the scenes for those of you who are wondering why all the misinformation is common knowledge and all the accurate information is constantly under attack. It is harder here to decide where to start, so I am going to go with the political side; here is warm, vibrant Nina Teicholz, with her investigations into “The Real Food Politics“:
Nina has been actively campaigning to shift government nutritional guidelines, with a disturbing lack of success.
If you enjoyed Dr Robert Lustig on sugar, you might find what he did next even more interesting. This longish talk is on the interference of corporate entities with government process – he is most informed about America, but of course America’s shoddy public health practices and shoddy food standards are both becoming more prevalent in the UK:
Now for the ideology side. It is very likely that you have seen lots of commentary and “evidence” that suggests that giving up eating animal produce will save the planet. As I heard this argument build and build in the media I became more and more concerned; where were the nutritional caveats? How come no one was talking about how many people would experience poor health without animal produce? How did anyone imagine that all the land that is only suitable for grazing animals – hill, rocky, full of trees, owned by small farmers – might be turned into fields of soy and grain? I was so relieved when at last a few people began to speak up. Just hearing this man – Frédéric Leroy – taking apart the misinformation in the EAT-Lancet Report was a huge relief:
This is the woman I think of as our very own Dr. Zoë Harcombe (BA and MA, economics/maths at Cambridge, and Ph.D. in public health nutrition), on “The Mess: The Money vs. the Evidence”:
Here’s another take down of EAT-Lancet, and a dissection of the issues with epidemiological studies on nutrition. Dr. Georgia Ede – ‘EAT-Lancet’s Plant-Based Planet: Food in the (Mis)Anthropocene’:
I had no idea how fascinating this subject was going to become. In Australia, Dr Gary Fettke narrowly escaped becoming a martyr to his successful curing of a type 2 diabetic patient, and the injustice he was subjected to inspired his partner Belinda Fettke to do some deep research into the absurd situation he found himself in. This is Ivor Cummins (biochemical engineer) in an interview with them both that explains the legal situation Gary found himself in, and what Belinda discovered when she decided to follow the peculiarities of his situation back to their source in history, which turned to be the Temperance Movement back in the 19th century and the belief that we should be eating what Adam and Eve ate in the Garden Of Eden:
– it is important not to leave the (tax free) financial power of the Seventh Day Adventist Church out of the equation when you see how much bad science is being promulgated even at the risk of accelerating the destruction of our soil, and with it our planet as a living, breathing ecosystem.
Diet & Neurological Health
In some ways the neurological aspect of diet is my biggest concern. I have had poor physical health all my life, so my mental and intellectual health is what matters to me most. I can’t say for sure when I first came across this strand of the story, but even back in the 80s I had heard about the use of a high fat ketogenic diet to radically improve the health of children with extreme forms of epilepsy. There’s a lot of research on this available online, much of it from the people that want to sell you coconut oil, but all the best evidence indicates that we absorb more nutrients from animal fat than vegetable fat, even the good kind.
I have a lot of speakers to choose from, but one of the most articulate and inspiring is Dr Georgia Ede – this is another Diet Doctor interview:
I cannot over-emphasise how important it is to share this information if you have the respect and trust of any young woman who is becoming convinced she shouldn’t eat animal products for ideological reasons, and this becomes even more important if she ever plans to become a mother. For this reason I am going to overdo this section of my “course”. This theme overlaps with much of the important information about inflammation as well, so this is also the section with the most information about how to reverse chronic auto-immune conditions as well. I should probably make a list, so consider this a placeholder if you don’t see one yet.
Nora Gedgaudas Primal Mind The Care, Feeding and Optimization of Your Brain:
Dr. Georgia Ede – ‘Our Descent into Madness: Modern Diets and the Global Mental Health Crisis’:
Nora Gedgaudas The Silent Autoimmunity Explosion:
There will be more of this in the follow up materials list at the end.
Diet & Ecology, Politics, Feminism, & Saving Mother Earth…
Now I am going to hold my breath, cross my fingers, and introduce my final speaker. When I became a near-vegan my goal was to save the planet. I knew the planet needed saving because I had read The Doomsday Book, by Gordon Rattray Taylor, while still a teenager. I remember learning that the planet’s soil was being eroded by cash crops like cotton, that over-population meant we might run out of food in a few decades, that aerosol sprays contained chemicals that were making big holes in the ozone layer, and that pollution from fossil fuels was degrading urban air quality in ways that were dangerous to our health. When you have been conditioned to be a “good girl” the idea that you might sacrifice some of life’s pleasures to save the world feels like it is not just your ‘duty’, but perhaps even a little appealing in a self-righteous sort of way – anyway, hairspray was very bad for my asthma.
It was the 70s, so I naturally became a proper feminist (the sort that doesn’t like to shave, or pretend misogyny is funny – when people make jokes about humourless feminists they mean me). Added to this, when you are as old as I am you grew up in the Socialist culture that Americans still believe exists over here. I was very much a ‘pinko’ with a very earnest approach to life, and an easy convert to the Diet For A Small Planet. My copy is long gone; apparently it was ok to eat eggs and dairy. Except it turned out it wasn’t, because my respiratory allergies were clearly triggered by milk, cream, and yoghurt. I could get away with butter, and small amounts of cheese, but it was obvious that I needed to go full on plant-protein. I knew that was complex and I followed the instructions to the letter. Rice and beans may be part of my black heritage but nevertheless my weight increased, and my digestive health suffered. The relevance here is that I did not have to overcome a belief that eating animals was wicked. I was very sure it was perfectly natural and healthy, so when I started to eat meat again all I needed to sooth my soul was a way to continue to save the planet.
The organic food movement was poised to take up the slack. I already cared about the quality of the soil. Whenever I saw some stupid article “debunking” the idea that organic veg was better for your health I was both irritated and smug; organic farming wasn’t about human health, but soil health. Actually of course, if you heal the soil eventually the quality of the produce does improve, so after a while the snarky articles disappeared. I still didn’t care. It was all about the soil. Better quality food has become more and more available, and I am glad I can shop ethically, and actively support farms that strive for good quality of life for their animals.
But that’s enough about me, because here is Lierre Keith. Her veganism was idealogical, and therefore much harder to relinquish, even as her health was steadily deteriorating (apparently irreversibly). As it is she is outspoken about her own change of mind, and has to have security for protection when she speaks in public. So the film I have found is not the best quality, but her ideas are thrilling, particularly for anyone interested in world social and economic history, taking in the subjugation of women, the enslaving of many indigenous populations, and the long, long history of land-grabbing. Never did I expect to find a thesis about the human diet that so thoroughly overlapped with so many of my political interests. I happily embrace the shift she describes from identifying as a liberal to identifying as a radical.
This film includes the tale of how she came to face up to the relationship between death and life, as revealed by her little kitchen garden and the battle with her slugs. She is a wonderful speaker. If you only have time to watch one of these films to the end, start here, and work backwards, you won’t regret giving her your time. I had to make some quick decisions, and Lierre is too controversial for there to be a lot of short talks. I will add more links here as I find time to rewatch more of her interviews so I can highlight all her best stories. Like many of you she also shares my deep love of trees, and I don’t think they get much of a mention here:
– so, I am going to publish now and then edit. I did not realise how long this would take and I don’t want to wait until tomorrow. Once I have posted the extra links I will announce it on FaceBook and keep you all as up to date as I can.
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