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Remembering Kevin Moore

#AHS12: A Dichotomy Of Differing Interpretations Of What Paleo Is

It’s the Monday morning after what has been an absolutely thrilling, engaging and, yes, tiring trip to the Boston area for the second annual Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS) that took place August 9-11, 2012 at Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Hall (pictured to the left). Cambridge, Massachusetts is an amazingly energizing town full of such a diverse range of cultures which made it the perfect place for holding a scientific event surrounding what comprises a Paleolithic, or ancestral, lifestyle. After attending #AHS11 at UCLA last year, I was inspired to shift my diet to more of a low-carb Paleo approach to eating which put the focus of my diet on real foods as much as possible. I had already been eating better quality foods, but AHS11 reminded me why it was wise to be doing it for my health. It was exciting to come back to this event again in 2012.

There were so many awesome experiences I couldn’t even begin to share the totality of what happened in the three days at #AHS12. If you want to relive some of the highlight moments from the lectures and the conference itself, then I HIGHLY encourage you to scroll down the thousands of tweets that took place during LIVE-tweeting of #AHS12 over the three days. Video footage of all the presentations was taken and will be available for FREE online in a few months (please be patient as this takes some time to get done). It was a spectacular sight to behold and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to be there, participate in it and share in the continuing astronomical growth of the Paleo health movement happening around the world as a result of efforts like these. But if I’m going to be completely honest with you (as I always try to be), then I can’t help but share some serious concerns that I think need to be vocalized so we can address this sooner rather than later.

A good, healthy, open debate of ideas is always a positive thing no matter what you are talking about. Within the context of ancestral health, we have varying levels of interpretation about what that actually means and this was on full display at #AHS12. I don’t know if the dichotomy of differing interpretations of what Paleo is was deliberate by the organizers or not, but it presented a wide range of diverse points of view from those advocating ketogenic high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diets for treating obesity, cancer and metabolic health issues to those advocating for “safe starches” in the diet as a cultural extension of what man has evolved to be eating for optimal health. Representation of both sides of this were strongly represented at #AHS12.

This discussion, of course, extends well beyond the consumption of carbohydrates in the diet which is only one element (albeit a very important one) in the context of the healthy nutrition debate. But that debate seems to be the most contentious and ubiquitous within the Paleo community amongst those of us who have a keen interest in the wide variety of therapeutic uses of being in a ketogenic state most of the time and those who argue that humans are not optimal when they remain in ketosis over the long-term. This is an extremely critical topic to discuss at such a conference dedicated to sharing the science behind this. I’ll admit I was pretty disappointed to hear rumblings of what I’ll term “carbohydrate fatigue” from some of the people posting on the social media. Even one of the later presenters at #AHS12 made note of the prevalence of carbohydrate discussion that was happening there by stating at the beginning of his lecture, “Hi, I’m Stephan Guyenet and I’m not gonna talk about carbs.”

While I don’t think we need to be obsessed about the carbohydrate issue because it’s not even close to being the whole story on making our modern diets healthier, I’m still amazed at the antagonism from many in the Paleo community about low-carb diets. It seems to me there are a few from the Paleo world who would like to distance themselves from those who believe in the low-carb diet aspect of healthy Paleo living. And I’ve got a reality check for these people: a good portion of the members of this community who describe themselves as Paleo interpret that as a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet. Yes, there are a sliding scales about what that means within what Chris Kresser describes as a “Paleo template.” But the end result is we are all consuming more legitimately healthy fats like butter, coconut oil, ghee, lard, olive oil and others while simultaneously eating exponentially less carbohydrates obviously from refined sources, sugars and whole grain sources (although there were a few presentations at #AHS12 that promoted consuming grains).

However, when it comes to starchy carbohydrate sources of nutrition such as white potatoes, sweet potatoes or white rice (the toxin-free “safe starches” identified as such by Paul Jaminet), there’s a definite divide between those who avoid them because they raise blood sugar and insulin levels as well as lipid numbers to unhealthy levels (even Robb Wolf shared on a Q&A panel that he recently had to return to a ketogenic diet after consuming “safe starches” messed up his numbers) and those who believe these starches provide the adequate glucose your body needs to perform and function as it was intended to. That’s quite a division within the Paleo community that doesn’t have an easy answer to bridge the chasm. One of the issues that I’m most disturbed by is this notion that eating a “very low-carb diet,” as a below-50g-daily ketogenic diet is described in the Paleosphere, leads to negative health effects including and not limited to dry eyes, sleep disturbances, thyroid issues, elevated cholesterol levels (especially LDL), increased fasting blood glucose numbers, lowered immunity to fungal infections and many more. I’ll be working on a new series of blog posts addressing some of the more common accusations being made about low-carb, high-fat diets in the coming months. But it’s interesting to note that practicing physician Dr. Cate Shanahan shared during a panel discussion at #AHS12 that she’s been putting her patients on 20-70g carbohydrates daily for years and has never seen these kind of issues happening.

My concern with the people who have “carbohydrate fatigue” and want to silence those us who consider low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat as a critical part of our Paleo lifestyle is that it will discourage people from becoming active in and enthusiastic about spreading the message to their friends, family and co-workers who so desperately need to be eating healthier than they are now. We are all in this together as a family like I said on a panel at PaleoFX12 in March and it is imperative that we are inclusive about what we believe respecting each other in the process. We are a whole lot closer in what we believe about healthy nutrition than not, so why not band together for the sake of reaching those still mired in erroneous belief that they need to eliminate fat from their diet and eat lots of “healthy” whole grains for fiber? There are bigger fish to fry out there than to nitpick on the minutia from within.

For me, if someone is able to tolerate more carbohydrates in their diet from starchy or even grain-based or sugary-based sources and can remain healthy in the process of eating that way, then why in the world would I be against their decision to consume them? I wouldn’t and I’ve long encouraged people to find what works for them and do it. At the same time, there are a lot of overweight, obese and metabolically-deranged people walking around out here in Realville who require a deliberate adjustment of their diet from the many years (decades!) of extremely poor eating. During the panel I was honored to moderate at #AHS12 called “Safe Starches: Are They Essential To An Ancestral Diet?” the point was made that there are many starch-based cultures around the world without a problem with obesity and disease. I responded that they must have adapted well to eating those foods and didn’t grow up in a typical American food environment populated by “Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho-Ho’s and Doritos.”

I think that’s an important point of discussion on this issue because we really don’t know what impact all of those industrialized, highly-processed, high-carb junk foods have done to the bodies of so many of us who subsisted on them as the primary source of nutrition (or lack thereof) for a majority of our lives. That’s the life that so many Americans and other westernized cultures are still living RIGHT NOW which is why I believe the low-carb version of Paleo is such a vital one to support and encourage for people who are overweight or obese, diabetic or other metabolically compromised. That describes a whole lot of people who need to find an alternative answer to the high-carb, low-fat, grain-based diets that are being recommended to them by so-called “health” authorities as optimal. Very clearly, they are not. And needlessly scaring people from even attempting to go on a much-needed high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb plan because of some specious effects that have not been vetted out by any scientific evidence is an irresponsible position to be held by anyone in the Paleo community.

While everyone doesn’t necessarily need a ketogenic diet, I believe most people would find incredible benefits focusing on a real foods-based, high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb nutritional approach to start and then make personalized adjustments as necessary from there. We should consider high-fat, low-carb as the default beginning point of a Paleo lifestyle change for people coming off the Standard American Diet (SAD) and then tinker with it and encourage testing to measure how certain foods will respond. Interestingly, the most common questions and comments people had for me at #AHS12 was about my current nutritional ketosis n=1 experiment than anything else (my 90-day update is coming up this week!). Obviously, there is great interest in how ketosis can enhance health or people wouldn’t be inquiring about it like they are.

Living ancestrally in a modern world requires us to be mindful of the historical lessons of the past while realizing that we live in a very different world now. I think all of us in the Paleo community want to pursue the best health we can possibly attain and that there are varying ways to get there. The sooner we can get those tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions more worldwide who eat a crappy diet to realize what they are doing to themselves consuming what Paleolithic man would have never recognized as “food,” the sooner we can start making changes that will benefit their health and help them live a long life to come. Aren’t we all on the same page of making that happen with this movement we call Paleo?

What do you think? Are you concerned about the divisiveness that seems to bring a wedge between the ketogenic vs. “safe starches” camps of the Paleo community? Or is there something positive that comes from representing these very different factions within the same movement? I’m very interested in what you think!

  • EEE

    Jimmy – when giving the update on your nutritional ketosis journey, are you going to provide your daily menu?  I generally use ketostix but I’m thinking of investing in doing the blood ketone tests.  Thanks!

    • LLVLCBlog

      No, not yet. I still have three more months in this experiment and will not share my menus until it is over.

      • Willis Morse

        Jimmy – After reading your ketosis posts, I got a meter, hoping this would explain why the weight loss halted and I stopped felling like superman all the time. Turns out I’m nowhere near ketosis anymore, despite eating high fat very low carb for years.

        After getting the ketone meter, I started tracking meals and found that I’m eating between 130 and 150 grams of animal protein a day. As soon as I dropped the protein down to 70 grams, I started inching back towards ketosis. I’m starting to take the protein thing seriously here. Unfortunately, that ends up being not much meat and eggs for a whole day. No matter how much butter or cream cheese I eat or cream or olive oil I drink, I’m still starving.

        In retrospect, I think my end of ketosis coincided with a shift from pure Atkins (lots of fat, who cares if it’s soybean) to meat-intensive Paleo eating. It would be very ironic if there’s something to all this vegan stuff after all, but it turned out to be the protein, not the fat that is the problem. Man, I hope not :-) 

        So can you talk generally about what you are eating? I’m not looking for recipes or anything, just wondering if you’ve had to cut WAY back on meat and eggs to pull this off, and if so has that had any effect on how you feel?

        • LLVLCBlog

          You should NOT be hungry. One of the key elements of being in ketosis (especially when your blood ketone meter is over 1.0) is the lack of any hunger at all. Email me your readings to livinlowcarbman@charter.net along with your current menus. I’m happy to help you tweak what you’re doing to be successful. :)

        • Jordi

          Willis, I strongly recommend that you read Dr Rosedale’s book “The Rosedale Diet”.  I think his insights there would help you with this.  His approach with the A – B – and C lists as well as protein guidelines work very very well.

  • Jimmy – Awesome comments.  One diet does not fit all, the percent of calories or energy from the macro nutrients differs based on the individual, in my experience.  Paleo/Primal/Ancerstral/LCHF diets, just a spectrum of the same healthy nutritional advice we all understand.  We should support each other and the common goal to re-define healthy nutrition. 

  • Paleolawyer

    I think the “Paleo Template” allows an opportunity for each person to dial in to what works best for them. For me (so far), I am doing well with about 30% carbs (from fruits and veggies), 30% protein, 30% fat…. With the last 10% coming from whatever I think I need more of in a given day (some days it’s more fruit, some days it’s fat, etc.).
    Paleo has allowed me to learn that I do poorly with sugar and grains, but don’t seem to have notable problems with occasional corn or dairy. And a little sushi rice doesn’t mess me up like a slice of cake does.
    On a standard American diet, its almost impossible to be as sensitive to what causes an inflammatory response, digestive discomfort, blood sugar issues, etc.

  • I wholeheartedly agree, Jimmy!  People need to get their health back and then zone in on a subset of Paleo or Atkins.  I think the whole “safe starches” campaign is from the Paleo crossfit camp who aren’t metabolically broken.  People coming from a SAD diet need to reclaim their health first before adding starches back in.  As for grains, I’ve seen the evil they do to health, not just with my own health but with my friends’ health too.  Just like any family there will be squabbling but at the end of the day there is love and acceptance.  We’re all reading the same book, even if we’re not on the same page at the same time!

    • samhuff

      I think Dr Christopher Gardner (Stanford University, CA) diet study is apropos here. Low carb was shown to work *much* better for insulin resistant pre menopausal women. Unfortunately I do not know if this has been verified for men or post menopausal women. But I strongly suggest that appropriate research would extend his conclusion.

      Aren’t the safe starch people nearly all young people in the 20-40s?

  • zack passman

    Commenting on the Low Carb stuff…

    I was surprised reading the live tweeting about this too. I was keto for 100 days when I started. Since then I’ve moved to post workout “carb refeeds” consisting of sweet potato, banana (or other fruit), and a tablespoon of raw organic honeycomb. 

    I only visit the gym 3-4 days a week and it’s really only about 100g of carbs I get post workout.  Otherwise, on off days and pre-gym visit, I’m as low carb/high fat as I can be. I find myself out of a ketogenic state only post workout for about 12 hours. (I should use my keto sticks to verify this.) Being in ketosis is like being high without any crash. the carb refeeds take care of post workout recovery, but are low enough where I don’t feel a return to a carb flu.

    I guess what I’m saying is Keto is my “normal” state and carb refeeds serve a very specific purpose. I personally wouldn’t go nuts on carbs otherwise and can’t see why there would be scoffing at that idea. 

  • Renee Lee

    You’re misrepresenting Robb. He did NOT say he went back to a ketogenic diet. He said he had to drop his carbs “a bit.”

  • John2

    Thanks, Jimmy.  What works for you also works for me.  Stay the course.

  • Kurt

    Jimmy, I agree with you 100 percent. I have been really concerned seeing the polarization occuring in the paleo community. There are so many great things in the Paleo community, but if we don’t do a better job of banding together a lot people that so desperately need help will get lost in the confusion. I really feel that the low-carb, high fat approach in the best starting point since so many people are suffering from the ill effects from our terrible high-carb laden, poor food quality diet. From there you can always adjust your carb levels to what still works. If safe starches work for an individual, that’s great. But it is important to note that they won’t work for many carb intolerant people. Since being diagnosed with Type 2, I started the low carb lifestyle and quickly got my blood sugars under control. Over time I continued to reduce down to ketogenic levels and plan on staying there until I have my weight is where I want it to be. It’s going great so far! I will then play with slight upward adjustments in my carb levels, but don’t really plan on going much higher than I am now. I love being heathlier and want to stay that way.

    Keep up the wonderful work. Your efforts positively impact the lives of a large amount of people!

    KB

  • I think that we can learn from both sides.
    We do not currently understand everything about the variation in individual response
    to carbohydrates, such as sex differences (http://www.paleoforwomen.com/), or dependence
    on history of metabolic dysfunction. We also do not completely understand how an
    individual’s dietary needs may change as a function of time depending on external
    conditions (e.g., Jack Kruse’s ideas about circadian and seasonal cycles,
    mediated by vitamin D intake and other factors).  In addition, how much carbohydrate a person
    will do best on will depend on their goals (performance, longevity, reproductive
    health), but once again we do not understand the complete picture! There was
    disagreement about the longevity effects of carbohydrates in the safe starches
    panel. We should keep Rosedale’s ideas in mind as we learn more, but not get
    too obsessed with basing our diets on longevity until there is more evidence. Personally,
    I will eat a diet similar to what Rosedale recommends, because I have not
    experienced any negative consequences – the possible longevity increase
    is an added bonus. If somebody is not thriving on a high fat, moderate-low
    protein, low carb diet he/she should not just keep doing it because he/she
    thinks it will make them live longer, though. They should self-experiment until
    they feel better. Maybe lowering their protein intake could help, as Rosedale
    suggested, or maybe they should add in more starch as Jaminet and Kresser recommend.
    Nobody should be miserable on a diet, just because he or she believes that it
    is supposed to be the right answer. On the flip side of the coin, if convincing evidence
    comes out to show that Rosedale is wrong and that carbohydrate restriction
    actually negatively affects longevity (even if I still am thriving on a high
    fat-low carb diet) I will start re-shuffling my priorities. I will
    self-experiment until I find another diet equilibrium that allows me to reach
    my goals while simultaneously betting on longevity.

    I think the danger lies in people becoming too rigid
    in their own views and not acknowledging that there are many factors that we
    just do not completely understand yet. If people tell you that they have the absolute
    final answer, don’t believe them.  As a
    scientist, I am comfortable saying that there is no definitive answer, yet. As
    the science evolves, self-experimentation and clinical experience are critical
    for people in the ancestral community, allowing us to find the diet that works best for ourselves, and to inform scientific research (the technology panel was an exciting preview of where we can head). We should not dismiss any personal anecdotes on either side of the argument.
    Perhaps we should not even call it an argument or a debate, but instead recognize
    that everyone has valuable information to add to understanding the complete
    picture.

    Thank you Jimmy for bringing people together to discuss this important topic!

  • Honestly anyone who has truly, fully ketoadapted and felt that lovely beautiful freedom of food combined with boundless energy for all things INCLUDING HIIT has no debate in their mind.  They are convinced.  The starchers are truly missing out and will never know the joy of burning ketones instead of carbs and the side affect of making your entire body and mind feel good instead of tired, worn, inflammed and lactic burned.

    Its a crappy few weeks to adapt.  It takes a but load of commitment to train keto-adapted.  No carb refeeds or back loads, no cycling, just pure fueled by fat day in and day out.  But oh so worth it.  My weight loss is flying at about 5 to 8 pounds a week even through a cold that slowed me down a bit.I know Jimmy enjoys the total satisfaction only a nutritional ketosis type diet can provide.  It is truly like awaking from the nutritional matrix.  You have no idea just how optional carbs are until you truly commit to living without them.  A few months on when you really hit your stride, your world CHANGES. 

    • RoseNunezSmith

      Yeah, it sounds a little nutbar evangelistic, but this is my experience, too. I just don’t know if I would extend it to everyone; I’ve known at least two people who didn’t really do that great even after a year of hardcore zero-carb. But my hardcore keto experience, yeah, it matches yours.

      • LLVLCBlog

        And I agree it may not work for everyone. But sart here and make appropriate adjustments from there.

  • I recently read the books The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living/Performance and have to say they make a pretty good case for Keto.  I now believe you can be completely fat Keto adapted and don’t even need carb refeeds or anything like that.  Now I just need to try it out and see what happens.  I’m already eating in the 20-40 carb zone.  Now I just need to add some exercise heh.

  • Kelly Mahoney

    My comment is about the picture of the Harvard Law School. The Harvard Law School? Why wasn’t this symposium held at the Harvard Nutrition School? Did any of the prestigious members of the Harvard Nutrition School participate or even visit?

    • LLVLCBlog

      Walter Willett would have been an amazing guest. The Harvard Law Society helped host the event and brought in nutrition policy experts.

  • LLVLCBlog

    Can’t agree with you about the importance of self-experimentation but I appreciate your opinion.

  • Tess Howell

    thanks for the event review, Jimmy — i’ve been eager to hear how it went!

    • LLVLCBlog

      There was so much that went on, Tess. I’ll be linking to some GREAT blog posts recapping many of the talks. Also, the videos will be online for FREE in a few months (takes some time to do all that post-production stuff!).

  • LLVLCBlog

    I often joke with people that for the first 32 years of my life (before finding low-carb), I ate my allotted carbohydrates for my entire LIFETIME. So now I only have fat and protein to eat henceforth. 😀

  • LLVLCBlog

    HAHAHA! THANKS sweet lady.

  • Carol Lovett

     It was great to meet you in person!  I too was annoyed by the constant presentations about carbs. 

  • Thanks Jimmy,

    I think it’s an important schism to work through and I’m glad you are taking ithead on.  The campaign against low carbs appears to be predicated on spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt…much of which has been dispelled numerous times already. 

    > I think all of us in the Paleo community want to pursue the best health
    we can
    > possibly attain and that there are varying ways to get there.

    Until we understand and accept that there is room in the pursuit of health for multiple approaches, we’re going to squander precious time on political bickering and infighting.

    -Michael

    • LLVLCBlog

      Well said!


  • We should consider high-fat, low-carb as the default beginning point of a Paleo lifestyle change for people coming off the Standard American Diet (SAD) and then tinker with it and encourage testing to measure how certain foods will respond.”

    Agree 100%, Jimmy.  And, from my experience, when I started “tinkering” with my diet, I realized that ketogenic diet suits me best.  Less than 50 grams of carbs, moderate protein, lots of fat, and absolutely no sugar, grains of any sort, and no starchy vegetables.  Very little fruit.  And, finally, I am back to my ideal weight and high energy and good health.  Bliss.  

  • To borrow a quote from Benjamin Franklin, as the delegates were signing the Declaration of Independence, “Gentlemen, we had better all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately,”  I beleive it is vital that we stay focused on what we can agree on, and that is the knowledge that sugar and grains need to be eliminated from the human diet.  This, in and of itself, is a monumental task.  To get the general population to understand this seems nearly impossible.  And, the low-carb and paleo people would do well to respect each other’s perspectives and work together. 

    Being someone who had weight issues her entire life, and has since experienced the health benefits of living a very low-carb life for many years, I know the value of limiting carbs.  It was a little disheartening to hear a few of the speakers, who had no experience with being obese, question the value of limiting carbohydrate consumption.  But, a number of the speakers did eloquently explain the vital role that a low-carb diet has for healthy living.  Nora Gedgaudas, for example, did an excellent job.  Her book, Primal Body, Primal Mind, summarizes a great deal of the research (presented at the symposium) on the value of being both paleo and low-carb and gives strong, convincing evidence supporting paleo low-carb living.  She stated, “We don’t ever have to eat any sugar or starch of any kind at all to be optimally healthy.”

    If there are those lucky souls in the paleo community who can enjoy higher levels of fruit, roots, and tubers, that’s great.  But, it must be understood that for many of us, being low-carb is going to allow us to have quality lives that would not otherwise be possible.

    Jimmy, you summarized the issue really well, in the above article.  It was a pleasure to meet you at the conference.

    Ida 

    • LLVLCBlog

      Thanks Ida! Great meeting you at AHS12.

  • Suzan Robertson

    There is no one-size-fits-all food plan that works for everyone, and the sooner they admit that and get on with the business of educating people to give up sugar and wheat, the better.

    My husband, who is very active, lean, and fit, eats rice, white potatoes, and drinks milk. If he eliminates those foods, he loses weight and becomes very tired.

    I am overweight and fairly sedentary. I eat only minimal starches, like a sweet potato a couple of times a week, and a banana every so often. I no longer consume dairy. If I eat more starches and dairy, my weight loss stalls, and I am tired all the time.

    The Paleo community has done much good and has helped many people regain or achieve good health – but some folks are much too dogmatic and self-righteous – and that is detrimental to the cause.  

    I would like them to stop trying to prove  who is right, and accept that we’re individuals who have come from different places in life – some come to Paleo with damaged metabolisms, some with other health issues, some from a vegan background, etc. OUr bodies have differing needs. Why not just leave it at that?

    There is no perfect eating plan (and no set amount of starch consumption) that works for everyone, so why continue trying to prove who is right and who is wrong? It’s tiring and silly.

    • LLVLCBlog

      Preach it!

    • Jhiqui

      No reason to give up well-prepared fermented + sprouted grains unless you’ve got GI issues. 

      • LLVLCBlog

        I don’t eat ANY grains personally.

      • There are other reasons to give that stuff up besides GI issues

  • Paleo Passage

    Great wrap up!  I’m looking forward to more discussion on this topic.  I would hope that folks could put on their big girl/boy panties and have a civil fact based debate on the topic.

    My own personal feelings on this topic is that the Paleo diet is not a one size fits all approach.  There’s a spectrum or template.  For example, my husband and I are both Paleo Locavores.  I am a Low Carb, Paleo Locavore.  He needs more carbs and gets them primarily from sweet potatoes and white rice.

    We embarked on our Paleo journey as you suggest, eating a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet.  I felt great.  He had low energy even after a few months.  When we started boosting his carbs with those “safe starches” eating Paleo became a viable option for him.

    We both test with a glucometer to see how our blood sugars are affected.  According to the urine test strips, I am in ketosis.  I’ve been following your nutrional ketosis N=1 with interest.  I suspect that I’m not in the optimal range for blood ketones.  I’ve not run out and gotten the equipment to test (although I am VERY tempted) due to the expense. 

    Thanks for being the eyes and ears for those of us who cannot attend these events.

  • Jen W.

    TOTALLY AGREE! People need to FOCUS on the “eat real food” movement. If it has an ingredient list…it’s not a whole food! If we could help people focus on that, we would eliminate most of the unhealthy foods
    in the diet. Then you can work on the tweaking of carbs and safe starches or not..but people will never get rolling if they are instantly facing confusion. So many people still think that substituting so called “diet” foods for the twinkies and hoho’s (Atkins candy bars, granola bars, sugary yogurt, etc.) is a good thing. Lots of people I know think french fries are a good choice for a vegetable. I even heard the comment the other day that a strawberry cupcake was good, because it has fruit in it!  I hope we can help people focus on healthy whole foods and learn to leave the processed foods behind.

  • Hi Jimmy! Great seeing you at AHS12! I’ve been mulling your questions over for a good 24 hours and here are my thoughts.

    I think there are a few things going on, but one of the biggest might be simple fatigue. There are a lot of folks who have been at this for a while now, have their nutrition dialed in, and just aren’t interested in the debate anymore. Which isn’t to say there aren’t others newer to the neighborhood who aren’t, but at this particular conference, there are lots of folks digging into some serious nuances who have moved beyond the simple dichotomy of carbs vs. no carbs. Taubes was one of my entry points into this whole world, so I get it, but it just isn’t as compelling of a discussion for me anymore.

    On a personal note, I am one of the people who experienced problems going super low carb. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe Dr. Shanahan when she says she’s never had anyone with issues. If it is true, then she has folks self-reporting who aren’t admitting it or who never came back to her practice because of problems. In my case, I went whole hog into this and felt great. For about 6 months. Then my hair started falling out. I got really, really tired and wasn’t recovering from exercise or poor night’s sleeps. Speaking of sleep, my cortisol levels were spiking between 2-4am and I couldn’t get back to sleep. My anxiety that had been eradicated by Paleo crept back in. There’s more, but I’ll stop there since no one wants to hear about my libido. These are real problems, all alleviated by reintroducing some sweet potatoes, plantains, and fruit. To hear Shanahan, Rosedale, and Gedgaudas tell me that I must be doing something wrong or that I’m merely fueling a carb addiction is a hard pill to swallow. My sanity and the health of my family are far more important to me than whether or not I will live to be 104.

    As Chris Kresser mentioned on your panel, there are too many other human populations who regularly eat starches and have no signs of the diseases plaguing us. And let’s be honest—none of us got the issues we’ve dealt with by overeating sweet potatoes!

    I’m not personally anti-low carb or pro-low carb. Paleo is technically carb agnostic, and as we heard at AHS12, there is no one Paleo diet. It simply doesn’t exist, and I’m bored with those saying otherwise. There are too many factors going into each of our individual needs and lives.

    Because I feel like I’ve answered the question to safe starch or not for myself, my attention is just naturally going elsewhere. I feel like if you spend all of the conference going from one insulin presentation to the next carb presentation that you’re missing out on a lot of fascinating talks on culture, anthropology, and what it means to be human at this point in time. It’s time to start focusing on other Paleo-adjacent topics: having a community, sexuality, getting in the dirt, movement, food policy, etc. Because health is not just about macronutrients.

    As interesting as the focus on starches can be, my prediction is that in the future, our attention will go to our immune system and our microbiome. These are the two (inter-related) fronts that will yield some real answers for those suffering from health and weight-related issues. I hope to see more about both of these topics next year at AHS13. 

    • LLVLCBlog

      Karen, thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I’m right there with you on there not being an obligate need to restrict carbohydrate intake within the context of ancestral diets. But I do think there is a segment of the population who could do well on a more long-term ketogenic nutritional approach that can still fall within the definition of a Paleo template.

      I agree with you that those who promote everyone to go low-carb is not the correct assessment, I’m equally disturbed by the scaremongering that takes place amongst those who say you need to be consuming “safe starches” to avoid the inevitable problems associated with very low-carb diets. I’m not seeing any of the kind of adverse effects of eating a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet personally and am disappointed that this cherished way of eating for me is being discouraged as a viable means of doing Paleo.

      That said, I agree that the move to looking at gut health is indeed the future of the movement. But we don’t need to drift by this issue of carbohydrate intake lightly lest we leave many of those we are trying to reach in the dark about what’s right for them. We are all different and some may need that very ketogenic diet that is being lampooned as health-damaging by those in the Paleo community advocating for “safe starches.” THANKS again for your input!

      •  Thanks, Jimmy! You know I love you and your tireless attention.

        I don’t see any reason why all of it can’t be Paleo. I’m so glad that there’s something for everyone and that people can find what works for them. Naysayers be damned! 😉

        • LLVLCBlog

          THANK YOU Karen! I just wish we could have these discussions explaining that there are differences among us without tribes forming around any one ideal as the ONLY way. You’re exactly right, it’s all Paleo to me.

    • Exceptionally Brash

      My experiences going from lower carb to VLC were exactly the same, and I also bristle at the idea that since I am only an anecdote, the phenom does not exist. But for me, the alternative of going back to higher carb was even more of a disaster. I finally found success with Jack Kruse’s suggestions and also a possible explanation. It is unfortunate that the wider paleo community seems to have permanently ousted Dr. Kruse, and can no longer either learn from him, or offer much of a workable alternate plan for people in a similar situation.

  • Anna

    How different are we, as individuals? How’s this for different: I can eat massive quantities of any kind of food – carbs, protein, fat, processed, unprocessed, PUFAs, MUFAs, anything – and not gain a single pound. (Not that I do.) I can tolerate dairy and am not sensitive to wheat. On the other hand, I have read and heard the gamut of food sensitivities and the different individual reactions to food types. Egg/nut/peanut/gluten allergies, soy/dairy/casein/lactose sensitivity, people who don’t tolerate acidic foods, and the list goes on and on and on. Some people are insulin resistant, some are not. So why does everyone need so much convincing that we may have highly individualized dietary needs? JERF makes total sense and as long as this is the foundation, tedious internal debates over micronutrient levels is a waste of time.

    • LLVLCBlog

      Absolutely! That’s why the insistence on pushing “safe starches” or ketogenic diets on EVERYONE is silly. Find what works for you, follow it exactly and then do it. It’s all about what is right for YOU and nobody else. If you’re healthy and can thrive eating a certain way, then nobody should deter you from doing just that. 😉

  • Jhiqui

    If you have any digestive issues whatsoever, adding starches in, even so called safe starches is a HORRIBLE IDEA. If you have leaky gut issues, consuming starch is one of the most suicidal things you can do to your health. 

    If you’re free of those issues, go ahead and eat starch if you wish to and you’ll gain benefit from them. 

    • LLVLCBlog

      The problem is most people don’t have “digestive issues” on their radar screen. It’s all about weight.

  • Lynn

    Where is this going to be next year? I was hoping in the midwest…Chicago?

    • LLVLCBlog

      That hasn’t been decided yet. Maybe Kansas City from what I’m hearing through the grapevine. We’ll know for sure soon.