What happens when a Sports Medicine trained physician, motivational speaker, and published author Jason Valadao writes an article and posts it on drjimmywestbrook.com? Website credibility increases as does our collective wellness, and it just takes 36,000 Seconds.
I feel honored that Dr. Jimmy has asked me to stop by and make a contribution to his project. I want to praise you for taking 180 seconds of your precious time to read this today. My pal Dr. Jimmy has put together quite a website and nobody writes quite like him. Thanks for reading his stuff. This writing project has definitely slowed his progression towards full-blown alcoholism and while the number of corpses in his basement is still alarming, they seem to be accruing less rapidly and I think he’s doing better overall. I didn’t write this just to hype up Dr. Jimmy or to tell you to buy my new book. It’s called Exceptional Every Day, but I do think you should take a look at http://jasonvaladao.com. My book makes a great gift for kids starting college or really anybody who is trying to live their best life.
In the spirit of teamwork, I wanted to share a few thoughts on getting started with exercise – rather simple exercises that can get you started down a new path toward health and wellness – or rather this idea of just getting our collective butts in gear, and MOVING. And I specifically made it my intention to make it easy, and at the very least to make you curious. Not curious like Dr. Jimmy who should really mind his own business during our post-workout shower time, I’m a married man for goodness sakes. I mean curious like my 6-year-old who is curious about everything. She is so curious she wakes up most days around 0500 to workout with me. Before you start calling child protective services, I promise that I don’t wake her up, and I surely am not into having my little child workout because I am obsessed with her becoming an Olympian, pro-athlete or a fancy Chico’s model like Jimmy’s Mom. She is simply curious about the process.
Pre-ramble aside, this article is short and sweet. I am giving you just a few words of guidance to get you MOVING. Jimmy and I will provide you with plenty more along this journey, as it really is a PROCESS, and you will surely laugh, smirk and possibly even curse along the way. But you will be damn proud of yourself when you look in the mirror and wake up each morning with a renewed sense of purpose and feel good about life.
Only two more minutes left depending on how fast you read. On your mark, get set, MOVE!
You saw the title and you did one of two things: you either gave it a perplexing look or you rapidly pulled out the calculator function on your smartphone to figure out how many minutes those seconds add up to. I will tell you that 36,000 seconds is equal to less than half of the 86,400 seconds you are privileged to have during a single day. But why do I speak of such a number? I am simply asking you to commit to this amount of time over the next 4-weeks. Hold on. Don’t get stressed out. Before you give me a bunch of eye roll emojis or send hate mail my way, take a deep breath. Remember, this is Jimmy’s website, so send the hate mail his way and also remember that I am not asking you to commit to 36,000 seconds each day. Not even close. I want you to reach that total over a 26-day span. Another weird number for you. Not seven days, or a WHOLE 30, but just 26. If you do more that’s OK. Before you start, there are a couple of rules that you must follow:
You need to commit to at least 1800 seconds each day, Monday through Friday (or any 5-day period in a row depending on your personal LIFE schedule)
Saturdays and Sundays are free (or 2-days in a row as mentioned above)
Based on the above rules you need to commit to 20 workout days out of the 26-day period, which means you get 6 days off to use any way you wish (don’t do what Jimmy does, it will only lead to group meetings and blindness).
And here is the MOST IMPORTANT rule: you MUST do the workout within 5-minutes of waking up each morning, after drinking 8 to 16 ounces of water without consuming any food, caffeine, BCAAs or pre-workout (this is very important and why not save your money, at least for this 26-day period.) This will also really improve our sleep and stress level throughout the day.
If you are already immersed in your own routine and it is working for you, then keep going. Keep MOVING. Share this with someone you love, or anyone that you think needs a jumpstart on their health and wellness. Let’s keep this super simple. No APPLE watches, Fitbits, or pedometers required – the truth is many of them are quite inaccurate…a future article coming your way about this). 1800 seconds of pure MOVEMENT.
The following are a few exercises to help get you started. You are free to modify as needed. Pick just 3 or 4 – or all of them if you wish – and then create a routine. Be creative, mix up the order, focus on upper body one day, lower the next, or do them together, but remember to keep moving. 1800 seconds will pass you by before you even realize it. (By the way, if you don’t know already, you can Google any of the following if you are unsure of what they look like)
Pushups (on your knees is okay)
Walking up and down a staircase
Jumping in place (use a mini trampoline if you have one), or with a jump rope
Planks and Glute Bridges
Step-ups on to a chair
Back rows using an exercise band tied to doorknob
Dumbbell overhead press (if you don’t have weights you can use a 1-gallon jug of water in each hand)
Standing Calf Raises
Turkish Get-Ups (my favorite; and you can do them with or without weight, diagram below)
Irish Yoga (not a real exercise, but this is what happens when Jimmy edits my article)
And these are just 14 exercises that any of us can do at home.
The goal is to simply get us MOVING. To start building a new healthy habit into our lives that won’t empty our wallet, will keep us from over-eating at breakfast (you will actually feel full after the workout and might even decide to try out some intermittent fasting, which is something that Jimmy and I both love), and will give us energy for the day ahead. I know it looks very easy for some of you, perhaps a lot more difficult for others, and trust me, it is not all that bad once you start. Starting is the hard part. Take it upon yourself to believe in yourself. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And as has been the case throughout the history of our individual lives, establishing just a single good habit will likely lead to several more. Thanks for giving us 3-minutes of your time today. Get some good sleep tonight because those 1800 seconds will be knocking on your door before you know it. Godspeed! -Dr. Jason Valadao
Thanks to Dr. Jason for stopping by my humble website. I’ve read Jason’s book (Exceptional Every Day) and it was amazing. I have definitely made some changes for the better in my life thanks to his book and guidance. Full disclosure, his book is low on memes but heavy on inspiration. When purchasing Jason’s book on Amazon, use the above link and if you enter the promo code “BigBoy” at purchase you will get two more copies free if you purchase three, at the price of five, and better still, 25% of your purchase will go to support Amazon stockholders. -Dr. Jimmy Westbrook
I have told Jimmy on numerous occasions, no such promo code exists. -Dr. Jason Valdao
Calorie counting is pointless, like a pencil with a broken tip #Dadjokes. Counting calories keeps us in an unhealthy dieting cycle that is making us fat and corporations rich. Here are 10 reasons why calorie counts are 60% irrelevant, 40% misleading, and 100% bullshit.
10.Calorie counts are inaccurate. According to one study, restaurant calorie counts can vary from reality by as much as 35%, but as you will read, calories are pretty much useless anyway. If you choose to ignore my advice and make food decisions based on calorie counts, know that a lot of your calorie data is inaccurate. This is like having a scale that gives you your weight in some useless archaic measurement like cubits, hands, or furlongs but is also randomly inaccurate by 1.21 gigawatts.
Furthermore, the calorie counts we get from nutritionists and food companies is biased against whole foods. This is because processed foods are generally 100% digestible while whole foods are not. When we eat foods whole like carrots, corn, and peanuts, we only fully digest some of the food and the rest is not metabolized but instead passes through our digestive system to help clean things out. This means that a lot of the “calories” in whole foods do not count but rather just contribute to the digestion of other foods and help clean us out. You know what I mean. This is how food is intended to work.
When foods like carrots, corn, and peanuts are processed, the foods become much more digestible, which means we will absorb all of the calories they contain. This is a huge win for processed food manufacturers because if the true absorption was accounted for, their healthier whole food counterparts would have lower counts by comparison. Check your toilet following a meal of whole corn vs corn flakes to note the difference in absorption. Actually don’t, just take my word for it. FYI, when I say “whole corn” I don’t mean the cob too. Also, apparently Michael Bublé doesn’t know how to eat corn on the cob.
Whole foods’ calories are more difficult to track and this encourages calorie counters to eat more labeled, pre-packaged, pre-made, processed garbage. You can’t accurately measure the calories in my Tuscan bean soup, not even with a food scale, but if you buy a “Healthy Choice” or “Lean Cuisine” meal you can very easily enter this into your food journal, add up the day’s calories, and in all likelihood cry yourself to sleep. This is what happens. We stop cooking because cooking takes time and messes with our calorie math, and we eat low cal processed junk and that is literally the worst thing we can do for our health and waistline. P.S. My Tuscan bean soup with kale and sausage is fucking delicious and super good for you. Recipe to follow.
9. The math doesn’t work. When scientists fed prisoners upwards of 10,000 calories per day and limited their exercise, they were supposed to gain a pound or more per day, based on the caloric math. After several months of this, the amount of weight gained was a small fraction of what was expected and a few of them barely gained weight at all! The opposite is also true, during WW2, conscientious observers were enrolled in a starvation diet study, and the amount of weight they lost was only a very small fraction of what was expected. Finally, the Nurses Health Initiative study followed 50,000 women for 9 years. They found that reducing 300 calories per day and increasing exercise should have helped the women lose several pounds each month but the exercise/low cal group lost less than one kilogram over 9 years, as compared to the women in the control group who ate more calories and didn’t exercise much at all. All of these results seem to make calories irrelevant because we find that if we eat more or less calories, our body’s metabolism speeds up and slows down, to keep us near our set point. This is why “yo-yo dieting” can be especially bad as it can slow our metabolism, making it harder for us to lose weight in the future. If we ignore calories, eat real food, keep moving, and engage in fasting, our set point can shift and we can lose weight permanently.
8. Calories are Outdated Science. The Bomb Calorimeter (pictured below) was invented to measure calories** and it’s so last semester. It’s a high tech device straight out of the 1870’s when its use in nutrition was pioneered by a guy named Wilbur Atwater, who was later convicted of donkey molestation and mail fraud. The bomb calorimeter actually burns things to assign a calorie count based on how much heat it puts out. Our bodies don’t actually ever “burn” things, it’s a figure of speech, unless we are physically on fire. This fact makes the bomb calorimeter somewhat irrelevant in my expert opinion. My lazy boy recliner is probably around 170,000 calories in the bomb calorimeter but if I eat it, I won’t gain weight because my recliner isn’t super digestible, it’s not even food. Just like I won’t gain weight if I eat 10,000 calories worth of wood, feathers, or broccoli (see what I just did there?) So why do we use this outdated technique for selecting food choices? It is super helpful in selling garbage foods to the public. See reasons 9 and 6. Also, don’t eat your couch or any other non-food items, unless someone cooler than you dares you to do so.
7.Weight Gain and Loss is largely a Hormonal Process. There are many hormones in play here but two of the biggest are insulin and ghrelin. I’ve written a bit about insulin before. Here is a link. To summarize, insulin is released from our pancreas when blood sugar is elevated. Insulin does a lot of things in our bodies but here are two big ones. Insulin takes glucose in the blood and stores it as fat, and insulin stops us from using our stored (belly and ass) fat as fuel, even if we are eating a low calorie diet. It actually does other things too, but that’s another article. If I took two groups of people and gave half of them extra insulin, the half that got insulin will gain way more weight, regardless of calories. Also, some would die of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which is why we can’t actually do this study, but it works on mice. Diabetics will gain weight after starting or increasing their insulin dosing. Conversely, diabetics who stop or dramatically cut their insulin dosing will lose weight (don’t do this without a doctor’s supervision). All these super eloquently made points seem to make calories irrelevant and insulin reduction the key to weight loss.
Metformin is a drug that I recommend for lots of people***. It causes a safe lowering of blood sugar which then lowers insulin, which causes you us to lose weight and also live longer, independent of calories consumed. I’ll talk about metformin and a couple of other drugs in an anti-aging post next month. Full disclosure, I take metformin (1000mg daily) when I remember, which is about half the time.
Insulin also makes us hungry because it causes our blood glucose to crash. Eating a low calorie/low fat diet keeps our insulin high and blocks access to your fat stores. To put this in common financial terms, having fat stores in our body is like having money in a savings account. It’s a reserve. Some have more reserves than others, but we all have some. When we have high insulin levels, it’s like cutting up your bank card and checkbook because you’ve got so much money in your pockets that you don’t need the reserve. If we are dieting and eat even small amounts of food that increase insulin we cut the bank card and our bodies have no choice but to cut spending by slowing metabolism. This is the dreaded starvation mode. It’s only when insulin is turned off, can we get access to our bank account and “burn” all that stored energy on our love handles.
Starvation mode not only screws your weight loss but also leads to muscle loss, and keeps you tired, hungry, and cranky. Hungry, tired, and cranky, which I abbreviate as “Hanky” is the feared triad that leads to grocery store meltdowns in children and angry Facebook posts in adults. We can avoid all this hankiness by eating healthy, fatty, filling food that doesn’t increase insulin.
Ghrelin is another important hormone that causes us to be hungry. Ghrelin (hunger) is turned off when we eat fat, but not with carbohydrates. So when we consume 300 calories of soda, we stay hungry, but 300 calories of bacon and eggs, turns off our hunger signals (ghrelin), and we feel good. Also, insulin isn’t stimulated with the bacon and eggs, so it’s a two-fer. So why do we even talk about the 300 calories? Probably because, we’ve been programmed to do so.
6. Calories allow Kellogs and Kraft to compare Poptarts, ricecakes, and margarine to salmon, carrots, and coconut oil. The Poptarts, Ricecakes, and margarine are terrible for us and the salmon, carrots, and coconut oil will nourish your body and provide much better mouthfeel. When calories and cost are the primary yardsticks, the foods appear comparable and because the foods in the second group are more expensive and lack catchy logos, cartoon spokespeople, and Heart Healthy labels, the good whole foods often lose out.
5. Counting Calories leads to low fat eating and that’s bad. The easiest and most logical way to cut calories is to cut fat because fat has 9 calories per gram, which is more than protein (4 calories per gram) and carbs (4 calories per gram). Unfortunately, we have a lot of data (see reason #1) that shows this approach to be wrong.
To make matters worse, low fat diets are often processed, chemical rich, and nutrient poor. These low fat/low cal diets put the focus on arbitrary numbers. Our focus should be on quality ingredients, micronutrients, keeping blood sugar stable, and taste. Counting calories encourages purchases like food scales, food journals, and takes the fun out of eating.
I’ll give you an example of the terrible decisions calories encourage. Let’s say you’re a calorie counter and it’s dinner time on a Wednesday evening. You have 400 calories left for the day before you reach your predetermined calorie max of 1600. You decide to eat a salad, but avoid putting olive oil on the salad to save the 220 calories that the olive oil contains, so that you can have a Twinkie (220 calories) while you watch The Golden Girls followed by Sex and the City, which is essentially the same show as far as I can tell. An hour after eating the Twinkie, you feel hungry and crappy and can barely even enjoy the hilarious quips of those delightful old ladies (Sarah Jessica Parker is my favorite) but you are at your max calories for the day and don’t want to break your diet, because it’s almost beach season. So to cheer yourself up, you go out and score some crack instead. You end up blacking out, and wake up three days later soaked in your own urine and vomit in an abandoned building about 35 minutes southeast of Houston. When you get back home, you are pleased to find that you have lost 8 pounds but your doctor informs you that you have contracted hepatitis C. This is what counting calories does to thousands of people every day.
4. Shrinkage. Do you know about shrinkage? It’s a real thing. It can shrink like a frightened turtle. I’m talking about your stomach of course and when it shrinks, it’s a good thing. Unfortunately, a low fat, low calorie, high carb diet encourages stomach stretching. When we eat low fat carbs, our only trigger to stop eating is the stretch receptors in the stomach because as we discussed above, ghrelin (hunger) is not turned off by carbs. It’s this repetitive stretching that causes the stomach to grow. As our stomachs grow, we often need larger and larger volumes of food in order to feel full. Folks who have gastric bypasses lose a lot of weight initially because they have their stomachs surgically shrunk to the size of an egg. Unfortunately, a lot of gastric bypass patients regain the weight over a period of 5-10 years, because they overeat and eat too many carbs, which causes the stomach to stretch back out to a much larger size, which is the opposite of shrinkage, and this is bad. So shrinkage is a good thing, in this case.
When we eat fat and to a lesser extent protein, we stop ghrelin (hunger), and trigger satiety hormones, most notably something called cholecystokinin (CCK) before our stomachs get so full that they stretch. CCK slows our stomach from emptying and keeps us feeling full sooner and longer. So our stomachs shrink over time and we feel full with much lower volumes of food, which is a good thing. This is one way we can train our bodies to eat less by eating higher calorie and higher fat foods. I know it’s counter intuitive, but the obvious and intuitive choice of cutting calories and reducing fat has been one of the greatest public health failures of the past 100 years and one of the food industry’s greatest victories, so let’s try something else.
3. Biochemistry I took biology at the University of Washington, biochemistry from Cal Berkeley*, and also in medical school at Florida State University. No big deal. I was forced to learn countless metabolic pathways and at one point, I was able to regurgitate them by memory. I can tell you that not once in any of my biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physiology, or biochemistry classes was the term “calorie” ever referenced or found on any metabolic pathway(see below). This is because calories are units of heat in physics, not biochemistry and our metabolism is way more complicated than what nutritionists tell us (3500 calories = 1 pound of fat). I truly wish it was that simple, but it’s painfully more complicated than that. I admit that in general, people who consume way too many calories, generally gain weight, but that weight gain is usually in the presence of high carb consumption which drives insulin up. So the cure for obesity isn’t less calories, it’s better healthier food. For instance, if we were all to drink 29 tablespoons of olive oil today, which equals around 3500 calories, would we all gain a pound of fat on our bodies tomorrow, like we are supposed to by that silly math equation? Of course we wouldn’t. This point and many others makes counting calories a moo point. It’s what a cow thinks. It’s moo.
2. Life isn’t that fair.There isn’t some little man in your belly with an abacus and tally, adding up your calories and putting fat on your body like some dickish bean counter accountant (pictured below). You know how some people eat whatever they want and never gain weight and others glance at a burrito and gain five pounds? Weight gain and loss is not always fair and not always simple, if it were, would over half of Americans be overweight?
And while your milkshake may bring all the boys to the yard differences in gut microbiome, genetics, cortisol (stress), age, insulin sensitivity, the rate of digestion (AKA gastric emptying time), intestinal absorption, drugs, sleep (more to come on this soon), meal timing, white and brown fat distribution, glycogen levels, testosterone, estrogen, exercise patterns, basal metabolic rate (calories you burn through living) and the macronutrient makeup (fats, protein, or carbs) of your meal all play a role in how your food is digested and metabolized into energy, turned into muscle, and/or packed onto your lovely lady lumps.
1. The Biggest Loser and other examples of calorie counting failures. We have many large scientific studies that have tried to show the benefit of eating a low calorie and low fat diet, all of which have failed in the long run. Even ethically questionable starvation studies from the 1940’s show that extremely low calorie diets cause our metabolism to dramatically slow over time which leads to weight regain. The best and largest study to date was the women’s health initiative that involved 48,000 women over 8 years. Half of the participants engaged in frequent health counseling, dietary fat reduction, calorie cutting, and exercise. The other half (the control group) continued eating their regular (unhealthy) diet and not exercising. After 8 years of dieting and exercising and going to what I assume were terribly boring counseling sessions with dieticians, both groups gained the exact same amount of weight, and had the same health outcomes (heart attacks, strokes etc). This and many other studies hoped to show the benefit of a low calorie diet and exercise, but failed to show any long term benefit. Please don’t take this as a reason to stop exercising, by the way.
A more public example of this is the show the Biggest Loser. But Jimmy, I loved that show and people lose a shit-ton of weight on their low calorie/ low fat diet. Yeah, I loved that show too, but the contestants start out morbidly obese, workout 23 and a half hours per day, take stimulants that Jillian and Bob hand out like sugar free Extra gum and Jenny-O turkey (this reference doesn’t make sense if you don’t watch the show.) What’s worse is that a recent follow up study conducted six years after the show had finished, revealed that nearly all of the contestants regained most, if not all of the weight. This isn’t because these people fell off the diet wagon or lack of will power, but instead the study shows how this type of weight loss slowed their metabolism down to such a degree that regaining the weight was a forgone conclusion. Countless other lowfat diet studies show the same thing, including The Women’s Health Initiative Study mentioned above.
In conclusion, it’s not that I don’t believe in calories as a concept. I just don’t think counting them is helpful and I think carbs and sugar are way more important things to watch. Furthermore, we’ve tried counting and cutting calories for a long time. We’ve all had similar results. We lose some weight. We gain it back. We feel guilty about it. We should try something different. The first step is to realize that a lot of what the food and diet industry is telling us to do is wrong and that in order not to look, feel, and age like a normal American, we may have to do some things that aren’t considered normal. More to follow on this. If this article intrigues or amuses you, be sure to sign up for my newsletter where I will be discussing things I am researching and learning about. Thanks.
*Biochemistry from Cal was an online course, but still. **Calories are a unit of heat and are a common term for the scientific term “kilocalories” abbreviated “Kcal”. I use the term “calories” instead of “Kcal” because it’s easier. ***Talk to you doctor to see if metformin is right for you.
For the sake of completeness, I think I should finish this before writing a different article. Bear with me.
6. Dark Chocolate. When you eat dark chocolate, you are eating a gosh darn health food. Let that good news soak in. Here’s why. It’s packed with antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats, and most importantly, chocolate. As I write this, I am eating a delicious 90% cocoa dark chocolate bar with my coffee. The bar is big (100 grams), like the size of a legal letter. I may eat the whole thing. But Dr. Jimmy, what about all the sugar? Easy, I’d have to eat 6 servings to get the sugar we get from one banana. Also it’s loaded with healthy fats, which helps offset the sugar content a bit.
Also chocolate is a fermented food. I’m surprised you didn’t know that. Fermented foods are generally super good for you and should be consumed regularly. If you eat processed milk chocolate like the kind in a Three Musketeers Bar (probably the weakest candy bar on the market today, in my opinion) then obviously these benefits don’t apply as you are getting a giant load of sugar in your mouth from the milk chocolate and the “whipped center.” Did anyone else ever think that the name, “Three Musketeers Bar” doesn’t really make sense? I did some research and found out that it got its name, because they used to have three candy bar flavors in one package. During WWII, manufacturers couldn’t get the ingredients for all the different flavors, so they just made the one flavor they could get. To save money they altered the recipe and added sugar to liquified elementary school gym mats to create the “whipped center” to fill the bars. The cost savings were so huge, they kept the recipe after the war. Here’s another fun fact. Only part of that story is counterfactual. Here are the ABC’s of buying chocolate.
Avoid Dutch Chocolate. I love the Dutch, and not just for their pancakes, their painters, and their progressive customs regarding women picking up the check on a date, but the chocolate in American stores that is labeled “Dutch” goes through an alkalizing process that dramatically lowers it’s antioxidants. So avoid it.
Bring your recycled shopping bags to the store.
Cocoa powder should be the first ingredient. 75% cocoa and higher is best to keep the sugar content low and the antioxidants high. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the lower the sugar.
Dark chocolate only. Milk chocolate is a sugar bomb, with less antioxidants. White chocolate is worst of all.
Eat organic and fair trade chocolate whenever possible.
Freely share my website with your friends on Twitter, Instagram, and Tinder.
7. Coconut Oil. I just wrote about this in a rant about the American Heart Association. I should have included this meme in the article. Here is the link.
8. Eggs. In the 1980’s eggs were put in the same health category as cigarettes, butter, and cocaine. Later, eggs were given a pardon and a media frenzy followed…
Thankfully the nutritional community has pulled its head out of its ass regarding eggs, and butter is also now getting some traction. Science has yet to go full circle and re-endorse the use of cocaine, but that’s a later post.
Despite being given the green light nutritionally, eggs have failed to be given the respect they deserve as one of the most delicious, inexpensive, and nutritious foods at our local mega-mart. It kills me when people order egg white omelets, which is a less healthful and less tasty version of a regular omelets. Ordering an egg white omelet is like fishing without beer. I suppose you’re still technically fishing, but I don’t see the point.
Most vegetarians don’t eat eggs, but they should. During medical school, I had friends who raised chickens as pets and regarded the eggs as a thank you present from their birds. They didn’t eat the chickens (they’re pets), but they damn sure ate the eggs. It’s like having pets with benefits. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Eggs (specifically the yolk part) are high in omega-3 fats and protein. Also eggs have very little sugar, gluten, and high fructose corn syrup — none to be precise.
9. Cheese. Is cheese a health food like kale, eggs, or salmon? Probably not, but good cheese is delicious. Admittedly, commercialized cheese has it’s blemishes, but on the bright side, cheese is low in carbs and high in fat and protein. Cheese has a few beneficial micronutrients like calcium and is a great partner with veggies. Hard, organic, grass fed, and local are generally good adjectives to seek out when buying cheese, but not required. Also traditional cheese only has 4-5 ingredients, so keep an eye out for processed fillers and chemicals. Bad adjectives include: lowfat, government surplus, mystery, canine, American, and “not for human consumption.”
Is Kraft American “Cheese” good for you? Uhh, no. Also it’s not cheese. What about Velveeta, Cheez Whiz, EZ Cheeze, or that cheese that comes in Kraft Mac’n Cheez? Also not cheese. Always avoid “cheeses” that are powdered, spelled with a “Z,” or can be squirted out of a can, unless you are in a zombie apocalypse survival situation or very very drunk.
Lactose intolerant people can be sensitive to cows’ milk cheese, but usually goats’ cheese is OK. Lactose is the sugar found in milk. Because cheese is mostly fat and protein, it’s actually low in lactose and therefore shouldn’t be as intestinally disruptive as milk, yogurt, and ice cream. I am sensitive to dairy and get a pretty bad rash from cheese, but only when applied directly to the skin of my inner thighs.
10. Beef. Here are some outrageous claims that you may not believe. Grass fed beef (GFB) is better for you than chicken. My junior high school shop teacher was caught on America’s Most Wanted. Peanuts aren’t really nuts. All of those statements are true, except for the one about my shop teacher, but he did bear a strong resemblance, and I am very sorry for any suffering that my anonymous tip may have caused #seesomethingsaysomething.
GFB is high in omega-3 fats, because grass fed cows eat grass which contain omega-3’s. As we’ve discussed before, we want a balance between our omega-3’s and omega-6’s in our diet. Almost every American has way too many omega-6’s in their diet, this imbalance is pro-inflammatory. Chickens are fed grain, even the organic ones. Green leafy grassy stuff is better than grain. I’m going to get that last sentence tattooed somewhere.
Organic, sustainably raised chickens are fine on occasion, but the conventional poultry industry in America is a horror show, and neither organic nor conventional chicken can compare to GFB. Americans have drastically increased their chicken consumption since the low fat nutritional movement. This was bad for human health and even worse for the health and life expectancy of chickens. Meat is a healthful (but not required) food choice for humans. We are just doing it wrong for the most part. The more we demand responsible and healthful meat choices, the cheaper and more prevalent it will become. Sorry I got all preachy. To be clear, I never eat chicken nuggets, but I still eat regular chicken when I’m having Hooters Wings or a bucket of the Colonel’s Extra Crispy. I just feel bad about it, and now you can too.
In conclusion, I hoped to shed some light on a few delicious foods that aren’t considered healthy. All of which are more healthful and way better tasting than mainstream health foods like whole wheat bread, Nutri-grain bars, Cheerios, chicken breasts, orange juice, and bananas. I know that I tend to ramble. I will work on my brevity in the future. My website keeps track of how many people read these things, so let me take this opportunity to give a special thanks to those of you who made it through the entire list. I appreciate you both.
Why are they doing it? It’s about the money. There’s a lot of money in keeping Americans sick, fat, and requiring surgical and pharmaceutical interventions. There’s a lot of money in selling processed sugary cardboard breakfast cereals, and unfortunately there isn’t much money in selling coconut oil or running a snarky, but honest, health website.
Just because I’m against the American Heart Association, doesn’t mean I’m against conventional medical advice. I happen to be a physician. If your doctor tells you that you need a medication, I am inclined to agree with your doctor, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask why or what you need to do to get off the medication. Patients who change their lifestyle by following my advice get off meds for cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, but you can’t just stop taking your heart meds because you ate a little kale and went for a jog. Also, I prefer yoga and weights. Don’t get me started. My point is that you have to do it with the help of a medical professional, like me.
First let’s discuss Coconut Oil. This stuff has been on a roller coaster of public opinion. Coconut oil was blowing up like Michael Jackson after the Thriller album, but haters gonna hate, and the next thing you know coconut oil and MJ get labeled with embarrassing nicknames like “Wacko Jacko,” “Pure Poison,” or “Accused Pedophile.” USA Today did a hit piece on coconut oil that had my coworker (Let’s just call him Eric.) questioning my enthusiasm for coconuts and the delicious healthy oil they produce. Here’s a link to the bullshit article that Eric was referring to.
First off, how is USA Today still in business? It’s claims to fame are that it’s printed in color, written at a pre-K reading level, and given out free at La Quinta Inn and Suites. Their crossword puzzle gives hints like “this spicy country rhymes with texico.” Speaking of spice, if The USA Today was a spice, it’d be flour. Here are some ridiculous posts from the USA Today.
Back to coconut oil and it’s many detractors. The guy who is behind the aforementioned, well publicized anti-coconut oil article is Dr. Frank Sacks, and when he’s not clubbing baby seals (joke) and serving on the American Whole Grain Board (not a joke), he writes the dietary guidelines for The American Heart Association (AHA). I dislike the AHA, and to a lesser degree Dr. Frank Sacks and I don’t believe a word he says. Here’s why. First, he was the guy who put the “Heart Healthy” label on Cocoa Puffs, Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms and a bunch of other terrible breakfast junk foods.
To be clear, he’s not an idiot (He went to Harvard.), and any nutritional scientist who went to Harvard who tells you that Lucky Charms are good for you, probably lies about other things too. He’s a smart guy, and he gets paid very well to spew this non-sense. In his defense, he probably doesn’t even like telling these lies. He must have a balloon payment coming on his summer home or something.
I’m sure if the coconut farmers would pony up some dough, the AHA would endorse coconut oil as well. Based on their track record, the AHA would put a heart healthy stamp on McDonald’s fries, my couch, or pure uncut Colombian cocaine if provided with the prerequisite monies required for said stamp. To be clear, I’m not saying that the AHA are prostitutes dressed as scientists who sell out the health of the American public to make a buck, but I don’t know how to finish this sentence.
So how does the AHA pretend that coconut oil is bad for us? By ignoring current data and instead using biased and cherry-picked research from the 1960’s to conclude that saturated fats cause heart disease (They don’t.). Coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, as is human breastmilk.
Below is research compiled from this century (no big deal) by Cochrane, aka the gold standard in research (also no big deal), that shows that the AHA’s stance on fats, and especially saturated fats, is about as current as the pants that Hammer used to wear, I forget what they were called.
This is a Cochrane meta-analysis (lots of studies data compiled into one article) about butter, (saturated fat), and this article briefly breaks down the top five saturated fat studies of the last ten years. Be sure to send this link to someone who still is afraid of coconut oil.
I spent half of a day on the AHA website, and I will never ever get that time back, but I kept finding more and more bad advice. Here are some of my favorite terrible pearls (in italics) along with my snarky critiques (not in italics):
Choose Margarine over butter. This is ridiculous and even worse than the Lucky Charms thing. The AHA is the lone holdout defending the Alamo of margarine against an overwhelming onslaught of scientific data. But why? Oh, they get money from margarine manufacturers. They support the use of canola and corn oil for the same reason, but margarine is so stupid bad for you I had to lead with that.
Eat fruits, whole grains, and low fat dairy over protein. I like most fruits (not bananas), but this advice to prefer grains and low fat dairy over protein is how you get diabetes. This advice will keep you hungry, sick, and tired. Please ignore. If you’re gonna eat dairy, get the full fat organic kind. It tastes better and lacks the extra antibiotics and hormones that can lead to early puberty, cancers, and increased breast tissue in men.
Eat non-fat sour cream. Regular sour cream has one ingredient and it’s delicious sour cream. Fat-free sour cream has 18 ingredients (I used Kroger brand as an example.). One of the ingredients is propylene glycol monoester which sounds like lighter fluid and anti-freeze. The AHA can politely f*** off with that fat free Frankenstein sour cream. I’m good with the original and delicious full fat sour cream, thanks.
Drink Soy Milk. Soy milk is not good for you. See my food rants article. If you must drink soy milk, get the organic kind, because conventional soy is about as bad as conventional cow’s milk. I feed my kids almond, flax, or whole organic cow’s milk.
Don’t skip breakfast or lunch. This will be the subject of my next article, because this is an important point, and it’s a little confusing. Also there’s a lot of potential for jokes. All the studies that show eating breakfast is good for you have two things in common. They use questionable methods (small samples, observational data, etc), and they are funded by the people who make breakfast cereals. Time restricted eating (not eating breakfast) and fasting continue to show benefits without downside in waves of unbiased new research. More to come on this, but here’s a snippet. The AHA is just trying to feed you Lucky Charms and give you diabetes. Do they get money from diabetic pharmaceutical companies? You already know the answer.
Organic food is no better than conventional food. Let me guess. There are no organic farms financially supporting the AHA. Yes, that’s correct. The AHA sited a lack of evidence for organic foods’ benefits. I guess there are mountains of data supporting the consumption of Lucky Charms. In my opinion, we should eat organic as much as our budget allows but especially with regards to the dairy we feed our kids and the fruits and vegetables that have edible skin like grapes, berries, tomatoes, broccoli, etc. More on this soon.
You can use sugars to help enhance your diet. The AHA message to monitor and limit “added sugar,” but to not worry about “naturally occurring sugar” is reckless. So the ridiculous amounts of sugar in orange juice is healthy but the solitary sugar cube in my Old Fashioned is not? Wrong. They’re both bad. The only difference is that OJ producers fund the AHA. On yet another side note, my Old Fashioneds are amazing. I may or may not be having one right meow. Hint: I am.
The more time on the AHA website, the more I laugh and drink and then cross-reference their corporate donors. Everybody needs a hobby. In the spirit of transparency, my website continues to operate without any corporate sponsors, unfortunately.
I’m going to wrap this up with some positivity. Coconut oil is proven to increase HDL cholesterol (the most important cholesterol marker for heart health) and decrease inflammation. There is a long list of other reported benefits. Here’s a link to a long list, not all of the benefits have been proven definitively but many have. In my opinion, the really great thing about coconut oil is that it is mostly (66%) made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a rare type of fat that are the perfect size and shape for our liver to use for energy. To utilize other fats as energy, our liver must break them down into just the right size and then turn them into ketones (Ketones are the energy molecules derived from fats.). This takes time which reduces the amount of energy we receive. MCTs are already the right size, so breaking them down into ketones is easy which is why MCTs are an amazing energizing fuel for our bodies that we can feel working right away. MCTs are especially great for our brains because our brains are pound for pound the largest energy utilizers in the body. Also, MCTs are incapable of being stored as fat. So even better. MCTs are used today in treatments for Alzheimer’s, seizures, Parkinson’s, cancer, and obesity.
Pure MCT oil can be purchased online and at health food stores but I find that in addition to the energy it gives me, I experience extreme gastrointestinal urgency sometimes bordering on an emergency. This is due to the liver not being able to handle a big dose of MCT which results in it returning the oil directly to the intestines. I’m told that I just need smaller doses and for my GI tract to get used to the MCT oil, but so far it’s been a series of close calls. For this reason I prefer pure coconut oil or MCT powder mixed with my coffee which has no such effects. More writing to come on this later.
In conclusion: Coconut oil is great, the AHA are corporate puppets whose recommendations are hurting Americans, and I’m still searching for non-porn sponsors for my website. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
Patients, friends, and guys I meet online often ask me how they can lower their cholesterol levels. Most the time they say that they’ve been watching their cholesterol intake, or cutting back on their saturated fat, or they send me an inappropriate picture of themselves. In all cases, they are wrong to do so. I will now take a minute to explain how cholesterol works. As a side note, I encourage all my patients to get their cholesterol levels checked before starting a high fat diet, so that they can see for themselves that their numbers really do get better. Also, if possible get a “particle size” included in your cholesterol test. Also, get a hemoglobin A1c, testosterone (for males), chemistry panel, CBC, vitamin D, and an iron level while you are at it.
Just to show you that I’m not that far out on a limb here, as of 2015, even the U.S. Dietary Guideline association (DGAC) agrees with me in the belief that the cholesterol that is in your bacon and eggs does not affect the cholesterol levels in your blood. In their most recent recommendations The DGAC said that cholesterol “is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption” and eliminated their 2010 guideline recommending less than 300 mg daily. When the Federal Government reverses its dietary stance on something, it’s usually 10 years too late and after there is way more evidence than needed to support it, and this U turn on cholesterol is no exception. I predict that fats and even saturated fats will be officially exonerated in the near future, the way that cholesterol was in 2015.
How Cholesterol Works
Our body’s cholesterol is made by our liver. Our liver makes cholesterol when it senses high blood glucose levels, and not as a result of how much fat or cholesterol we eat. Some cholesterol is good which is called HDL(high density lipoprotein) and some cholesterol is not good like LDL (low density lipoprotein).
Essentially, all cholesterol is the combination of a protein (which are dense and hard) and a lipid (fat), which is light, think fat floating to the top of gravy, which is why it is called a “lipo-protein”. The role of cholesterol is to take fats to the parts of your body that need them. Where is fat needed you ask. All sorts of things in your body require fats to function correctly, and cholesterol are the Uber drivers who take the fats to and from their intended destinations. LDL or bad cholesterol Ubers have a passenger (fat) and HDL’s are empty Ubers looking for fat particles to pick up.
Fat is needed almost everywhere in your body, but there are some places it shouldn’t be like our bellies and stuck to the walls of our arteries. Almost all of our cells need fats to coat their outer shells. Our hormones like testosterone, estrogen and the nerves and neurotransmitters responsible for our happy thoughts and feelings require fats. When there is an overproduction of bad LDL cholesterol because of persistently elevated blood glucose, and all of the body’s fat needs have been met, these Uber drivers don’t have any place useful to bring the fats and end up taking them to your body’s version of a dirty Tijuana strip club*. When deposited at these inappropriate places, your body pays the price, and not just for the cover charge and the watered down drinks, but for some really shady stuff. I think this analogy has run its course, but one of the shadiest places LDL cholesterol gets dropped off is into the tiny coronary arteries, which are tasked with providing the muscles of the heart with proper blood flow. To make matters worse, the LDL cholesterol are also dropped off in the even smaller arteries responsible for the blood flow to your favorite male reproductive organ. If my innuendo wasn’t clear enough, I’m talking about the penis. These deposits can result in decreased flow and eventually no flow at all #frownyface emoji, and when all blood flow is suddenly stopped to an area of the heart, this is called a heart attack or in medical speak, a myocardial infarction (MI).
Recently, we are starting to learn that a myocardial infarction seems to be also related to inflammation that can make cholesterol deposits, (cardiologists call them plaques) unstable. These unstable plaques leave the walls of your larger arteries and travel downstream to smaller arteries where they create a blockage or a myocardial infarction (MI), AKA heart attack.
How do we positively affect the plaques characteristics, so they don’t cause MI’s? The answer is two-fold and leads us to the definition of High Density Lipoprotein or good cholesterol. Good cholesterol (HDL) is almost all protein and no fat, which is why it is very dense, hence the name “high density lipoprotein”. Think of this guy as the Uber driver, riding around in an empty Prius, looking to pick up fats from places they shouldn’t be, like the Tijuana Strip club (coronary arteries) and take them to be recycled in the liver. Obviously, the more of these good Samaritans you have driving around in your blood the better, because they are cleaning up the streets, AKA your arteries. Now what does that have to do with plaques? It seems that if you have a plaque that is soft and fluffy and full of squishy soft fats AKA LDL (bad cholesterol) it is more likely for part of that plaque to fall off and end up causing a heart attack than if it is a hard “stable” plaque. The way plaques get hard (I’m skipping the obligatory erection joke here) is by HDL Uber drivers showing up and pulling some of those fluffy fats out of the plaques, thus firming up and shrinking that plaque and making that plaque unlikely to break off and cause any troubles.
In the light of this information, it is no wonder that, recent research has shown that HDL (Good Uber drivers) to be a much more important predictor of heart health than LDL. A recent study involving 135K patients who had recently had a heart attack showed that over 75% of these heart attack patients had normal LDL (bad cholesterol) but less than 5% of them had achieved a recommended level of good HDL cholesterol. So why do we care so much about bad cholesterol and talk so little about good cholesterol? I’ll get there but first I’ll give you another example.
Case Study I had a patient a few years ago, 52 year old male let’s call him Max Powers. Using my diet he lost 20 pounds in 10 months and was able to go off of his blood pressure meds but was disappointed that his cholesterol went up. Here are his numbers before and after starting his journey to get Healthy As F**k.
Before Total Cholesterol 192 HDL 38 LDL 146 **
After Total Cholesterol 195 HDL 60 LDL 148 **
When Max told me his cholesterol numbers went up, I was disappointed too, and my initial reaction was to blame him, I certainly can’t blame myself, but I had him come to the office and take a closer look anyway. First of all, he looked great. He had a fun summer cut and was wearing a tasteful cardigan with sassy lobster print pants. When I put his numbers into the ASCVD risk calculator (a tool doctors use to determine your risk of a heart attack or stroke) he was looking even better. I found that his 10 year risk went from 9.2% to 3%! This was an incredible improvement. I had to check my math and as always, it was correct. Part of the reason his risk went down so much was because he had better control of his blood pressure, so I put the numbers in again, but this time not accounting for his blood pressure improvements and his risk still went down by more than 50% from 9.2% to 4.5%. He was shocked that even though his bad cholesterol and total cholesterol went up, he was way less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
So why do we always focus on lowering cholesterol? Because the things that raise HDL effectively are not drugs but lifestyle stuff. A colleague recently reminded me that niacin helped HDL a little but didn’t change heart attacks significantly, so that’s out. We have many expensive drugs that can lower your LDL. Drug companies make billions of dollars per year lowering your LDL without a huge impact on your overall health. While I on the other hand, am trying to get you to raise your HDL, and I am doing it for free, so would it kill you to sign up for email updates?
In conclusion, bad cholesterol is predominantly made as a result of too much sugar and not too much fat. So, never order an egg white omelet, eat the yolks too. They are full of healthy fats, nutrients, and according to my daughters are home to the “dippy part” of the egg. Keep your blood sugar low, by avoiding most fast and processed carbohydrates and your cholesterol will get better without medications and your risk of MI will go down, but please also listen to your doctor.
Good cholesterol (HDL) can be increased with exercise, healthy saturated fats like coconut oil and grass fed beef, and some alcohol consumption, specifically red wine. I recommend all of these things, especially exercise. The complicated part is that sometimes the bad LDL is raised a little by healthy saturated fats as well, but the good HDL is raised more, creating a net positive effect, just like we saw in Mr. Max Powers. My cholesterol numbers were poor in my 20’s but have been exceptional since starting this diet and have gotten better every year. Many patients are afraid of all the butter, eggs, bacon, and butter that I recommend, but are elated when their cholesterol improves dramatically. When you get your numbers back, feel free to share them with me on the site. Mine will be measured next month and I will be sure to post them as well.
*Also, you should know that there are no clean or classy Tijuana strip clubs, I checked. Some references are listed below.
** There is a third cholesterol component known as VLDL that wasn’t mentioned in Mr. Max Powers’ lipid report but it can be calculated by subtracting the LDL and HLD from the total.
REFERENCES: Our findings suggest that reduction in serum cholesterol does not prevent the risk of AMI. There was a significant increase in systemic inflammation in AMI patients, inversely correlated with HDL levels, suggesting an important role of inflammatory mediators in AMI. Thus, a decrease in serum HDL and increase in hs-CRP strongly predispose the risky individuals to the event of AMI. We emphasize the importance of HDL and hs-CRP measurements in the assessment of a combined lipido-inflammatory risk factor for the screening of high risk individuals and the prognosis of AMI. Lipid Profile of Patients with Acute Myocardial Infarction and its Correlation with Systemic Inflammation Haseeb A. Khan,1Abdullah S. Alhomida,1 and Samia H. Sobki2
The well-known “HDL hypothesis” suggests that therapies aimed at raising HDL-C concentrations will lower the risk of CAD and MI. In a widely cited meta-analysis of four large studies (total number of individuals studied: 15,252), a 1 mg/dL increase of HDL-C levels was reported to be associated with a 2%–3% decreased CVD risk