Remembering Kevin Moore

Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Retreat: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Last year, my wife Christine and I were invited by Paul Jaminet from the “Perfect Health Diet” to participate for one week at his newly-created Perfect Health Retreat that took place at the luxurious North Topsail Beach, North Carolina on October 11-18, 2014. The full retreat actually lasted two weeks (it began a week before we got there) and included lodging, cooking classes, meals, educational courses, exercise demonstrations, and lots of time to meet and fellowship with new friends from around the world. My curiosity about Jaminet’s work first began when he coined the phrase “safe starches” to describe the white rice, white potatoes, tapioca, and other starches he believes are critical to human health from an ancestral perspective. That led me to write a blog post with a serious question I had about such advice in 2011 entitled Is There Any Such Thing As ‘Safe Starches’ On A Low-Carb Diet? which led to a panel discussion about this topic at the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium.

While we obviously disagree about how “safe” starch is in the diet for some people, Paul and I have always maintained a respectful relationship which is why he invited me to be a part of his retreat despite our diametrically opposed views on the role of carbohydrates in the diet. It was a lot of fun getting to dive deeply into the PHD philosophy for a week and I am happy I had the opportunity to be a part of this experience. With the next Perfect Health Retreat starting today and another one planned for this Fall, I thought I would share my thoughts of the good, the bad, and the ugly about what this event was like for us.

1. Luxurious setting

They couldn’t have done a better job of choosing a fantastic location for this event than a pair of beach houses right next to each other overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in North Topsail Beach, North Carolina. It’s just secluded enough from civilization (about a 20-mile drive to the closest gas station) that you feel the peace and serenity of being on an island. That’s a great way to rest, relax, soak in some sunshine, and reap the full benefits of the retreat.

2. Great camaraderie

There were about a dozen attendees from all around the world, including Norway, India, Sweden, and across the United States. Despite coming to the retreat for a variety of purposes from weight loss to health reasons, everyone of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds really got along well and Jaminet provided ample opportunity for us to have a good time together during activities and meal times. Although the retreat was just one week long, I have fond memories of the truly amazing people I met that week.

3. Extraordinary food and information

One thing is for sure about the Perfect Health Retreat. The food and information for people interested in learning about the Perfect Health Diet is truly beyond reproach. With on-site professional chefs and special guests like Russ Crandall from “The Domestic Man” giving guidance about how to prepare the meals as well as Paul himself explaining in great detail through daily seminars about what his plan is all about, there is no denying you will get your money’s worth attending this retreat. While the eating window is only from 12:00pm to 8:00pm, you get plenty of great grub to enjoy during that eight-hour period. And your head will nearly explode from the information he throws at you given in seminar-styled PowerPoint presentations complete with plenty of question and answer time.

1. Disorganized schedule

There were times during the Perfect Health Retreat that attendees didn’t know what was going on because there wasn’t any clear direction about what we were doing next. There was a general schedule of waking up, attending a morning seminar, morning workout time, doing a kitchen class, eating lunch, afternoon free time, afternoon workout time, afternoon cooking class, evening meal, meditation class, and then sleep. But it would have been nice to have some semblance of a written schedule to at least know what we’re doing next. At times, things just felt discombobulated with no clear direction. This is easily resolved with a schedule.

2. Hunger and acne

As good as the food was, Christine and I had some issues. In order to give this the old college try, I told Paul that we would eat the “safe starches” and all that he recommended and served during the week. However, although we were told to eat at least two pounds of food per meal and as much as we wanted to satiety, Christine was constantly hungry throughout the retreat. On her ketogenic diet at home, she was used to drinking her coffee with lots of fat in it in the morning and maybe a meal or two during the day without ever experiencing hunger. But eating the starch despite the high volume of food stoked hunger in her all week long. As for me, I was surprisingly NOT hungry eating all of that (but I was pretty well fat-adapted and used to regular periods of extended intermittent fasting of 18-24 hours between meal on keto prior to the retreat). My issue was the sudden outbreak of acne all over my face that was not there before. It got really bad around midweek and completely vanished within days of going back to my regular nutritional ketosis eating plan returning home. I don’t know what stoked the breakouts, but it wasn’t fun.

3. No info on ketogenic version of PHD

One thing I was especially looking forward to at the Perfect Health Retreat was learning more about the ketogenic version of Paul’s Perfect Health Diet. He has often noted that there are certain situations where ketones can play a therapeutic role in health–but there was nary a mention of ketosis at all in the hours upon hours of lectures. When I asked about it during one of the Q&A sessions, Paul’s response was, “I don’t think a ketogenic diet is balanced.” Okay, fair enough. But why not share the information about how you recommend going keto for those who do need it? I later did my own digging into this and discovered that his idea of a ketogenic diet is to eat all those safe starches he promotes to prevent what he describes as a “glucose deficiency” (no such thing, by the way) while mainlining large doses of MCT oil every few hours to produce enough ketones to receive the therapeutic effects. This is not a joke. It’s truly unfortunate that people will think THAT is a ketogenic diet using exogenous sources of ketone production that bears no resemblance to the macronutrient shifts we discussed in my 2014 bestseller Keto Clarity (interestingly, Paul would not allow me to give a guest lecture about ketosis as a bonus class for the attendees, but he did let me share a half-hour presentation on cholesterol based on my 2013 book Cholesterol Clarity).

1. 13-pound weight gain

Many have wondered what would happen to my weight if I truly gave these “safe starches” a go in my diet. Like I said earlier, I told Paul we would do his plan as prescribed just to see what would happen. And the results on the scale were pretty shocking after eating this way for just one week–I gained a whopping 13 pounds! What’s interesting is the only part of the Perfect Health Diet that was different than my ketogenic diet was the starch it contained and slightly less fat than I typically consume. Otherwise, it was quality meats and vegetables as well as fermented foods. So all of that weight gain can pretty much be attributed to the supposedly “safe starches” I consumed. While they were incredibly delicious to eat, this abundantly reminded me why I need to abstain from consuming them in my diet as someone with severe insulin resistance. But it wasn’t just my weight…

2. Constant blood sugar levels over 100

I brought my blood sugar and blood ketone monitors with me to track how I was doing throughout the week at the Perfect Health Retreat and predictably I lost my ketones within a half an hour of the first meal with starch in it (ALL of the meals had starch in them, by the way). But the surprising one to me was my blood sugar. Measuring in a fasted state and then measuring postprandial at 30-minute intervals was not a pretty picture. I regularly saw spikes that jumped well above 140 after an hour which is a sign that your body is not tolerating the level of carbohydrates you just consumed. Of course, I was documenting all of this on social media and Paul decided to chime in about it with the following:

“I saw your blood glucose was 149 after lunch. That’s a normal reading, I actually thought it would be higher so I take that as a good sign. It takes a few days to a week to increase insulin sensitivity so it should be better by the end of the week, but even now it is in the normal range.”

I’m sorry, but 149 is NOT normal for me. My postprandial blood glucose readings typically NEVER go above 110-120 at the very most. Generally, the rise in blood sugar is about 20-25 points. But after every meal I consumed on the Perfect Health Retreat, the jump was more like 60-80 points. Not good at all. It took me a few weeks to get my blood sugar back down and under control again after the starchy meals ended. Promoting a starch-based diet to someone with significant insulin resistance is a recipe for disaster.

3. Dogmatic approach

And finally, one of the ugliest parts of the Perfect Health Retreat to me was the completely dogmatic approach that it and it alone is the one and only true way to attain optimal health. There was no consideration given to any other means of getting there (Paul often referred to anything other than his plan as “unbalanced,” especially a low-carb, ketogenic diet) and I can certainly understand the reasoning behind positioning yourself in this way. He’s attempting to set himself apart from the Paleo message and forming his own brand of diet and lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with this at all if the purpose is to make your diet look like it is the very best there is. And that’s precisely what Paul Jaminet has done with the Perfect Health Diet to the exclusion of the huge preponderance of science supporting other approaches like the ketogenic diet, for example. Having a more complete understanding of the importance of a variety of nutritional health approaches would better serve him and anyone else like him holding such staunch, dogmatic views on diet. While there is a lot of good in his plan, the abject close-mindedness to consider anything outside of what he has prescribed is truly unfortunate.

All in all, I’m glad we got this opportunity to be a part of the Perfect Health Retreat and I would like to personally thank Paul Jaminet for the invitation to attend. For anyone looking to learn more about what the Perfect Health Diet is all about, I can’t think of any better way to do it than this. Hopefully, as people continue to attend this bi-annual event and report back how they are doing with it, Paul will be open to sharing both the successes and the people who don’t do so well on his program. That’s going to help more people than only sharing the people who have done well with it. You can learn more about the Perfect Health Retreat if you’re interested in attending by clicking here.

  • Peter Silverman

    I’ve had the opposite experience: since following the Jaminets’ advice the past few years, my health has improved markedly. Re: safe starch and blood sugar, in my case it depends completely on how much rice or potato I eat.

    • LLVLCBlog

      You make my point. Works for some, not for others.

  • IthacaNancy

    I’m glad to hear your report on your experience. I suspect I can tolerate more carbs than someone with extreme insulin resistance, but I also recognize when my body starts getting cravings, vs. when I feel comfortable satiety from eating a very low carb diet. I have read most of Paul Jaminet’s book and wondered about his message. While it might work well for some, I anticipate that I will continue with only an occasional serving of a higher carb food as a culinary treat. I don’t think there is anything irreplaceable to be gained from the high carb foods I’ve cut out of my diet.

  • Abu Sumayah Laughton

    Hi Jimmy.

    This was a good read. It was interesting that you mentioned getting acne after consuming starches. I have experienced acne since a teenager and it has almost disappeared in totality since adopting a ketogenic approach. Possibly this could be due to hyperinsulinaemia where excessive amounts of insulin end up in the blood, prior to consuming a high carb meal.

    • LLVLCBlog

      I totally chalk it up to hyperinsulinenia.

  • cmans6282

    Bioindividuality. I don’t understand why that is such a repulsive concept. Hopefully you’ve stopped the mouths of those who said, “If only you would eat/try ‘this’ . . . wishful thinking. I’m sure there will be something which you ‘did or didn’t do’ which skewed the results. 😛 Much respect for what you did. Keep searching for all of our sakes.

    • LLVLCBlog

      Always! People deserve to hear the truth.

  • Wout Mertens

    I wonder if it was such a great idea to jump into the moderate carb pool without a run-in period, and one week doesn’t seem like long enough to provide the likely physiological and microbiome changes needed.

    The acne could have been caused by toxins from gut biome suddenly getting a lot of undigested starch?

    • LLVLCBlog

      Perhaps. But Jaminet said immersing in his retreat would provide immediate benefits. I didn’t experience that.

  • djs_comments

    1. In regards to the weight gain, haven’t you considered that maybe it was all just water weight from your glycogen stores getting filled up? I alternate between high and low carb diets when I’m bulking or cutting respectively, and when I drop the carbs, I tend to lose upwards of eight pounds within four days.

    2. Jimmy, if you’re getting acne at your age, I’d say that there’s a much deeper underlying problem than just carb intolerance. If anything, I’d say that the carbs are exposing the problem rather than acting as the cause. Have you considered getting your gut flora tested?

    • LLVLCBlog

      Yes, but 13 pounds in a week? Not likely.

      Having micro biome testing done now.

      • djs_comments

        I’m 5’10 and weigh 175, and again, the difference between my glycogen stores being full vs. being depleted is upwards of eight pounds. I would encourage you to do an experiment of your own to really see how much of a difference it makes.

        • LLVLCBlog

          Perhaps. But Jaminet thinks ketosis is unbalanced. That’s nonsense based on the scientific literature.

          • Wout Mertens

            Weeelll… In their book they explain their viewpoint more clearly.

            Basically, long-term ketosis is a viable metabolic state (obviously), even very desirable in very specific conditions (neurological issues), but you are relying on some specific mechanisms to work well (e.g. your liver producing ketones), and you’re making it more difficult to get your micronutrients (smaller pool of acceptable foods).

            However, with the moderate carb approach, there are multiple ways to feed your body. Hence being more balanced.

            Furthermore, if you consider the amount of glucose in any persons’ blood at any time (5 grams in normal, 10 grams in diabetics) versus , it is obvious that there is still blood sugar regulation in metabolically damaged individuals, only it doesn’t work well. Therefore he concludes that even diabetics should be able to process some carbs, as part of a meal.

            Finally, note that short-term ketosis is actively encouraged by the 12-8 feeding window, promoting autophagy.

            Overall, his hypothesis is that if you feed the body so it can extract proper levels of micronutrients and if you avoid toxins, the body will heal itself to a (sometimes surprising) degree.

            Hope my paraphrasing does his intent justice.

            • LLVLCBlog

              And I think he’s left out some important parts of nutritional ketosis while actually imploring many of the benefits of this approach. Too bad because he’s so close.

  • paleopete

    Two pounds of food per meal? You have got to be kidding? That is insane!

    • LLVLCBlog

      That was the requirement.

  • weilasmith

    Paul Jaminet is saying there were no scales at the retreat, so when did you weigh yourself? did you feel your pants getting tighter while on the retreat? and P jaminet is saying that: “Although most postprandial glucose readings peak about 125 or so, a significant fraction of normal people experience postprandial readings of 149 or higher.” this is the opposite of what i have read. going over 140 is abnormal for people without blood sugar issues.

  • weilasmith

    and from the same study jaminet looks at to say that a significant number of people can go over 149 bg, jenny ruhl looks at the same data and says:

    “Only .4% of all readings were over 140 mg/dl. But most significantly, this group (the normal group used for comparison) was screened to ensure they had all off the following: A1Cs less than 6.0%, fasting blood glucose 70 to 99 mg/dl, 2-h oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) levels below 140 mg/dl and no antibodies characteristic of autoimmune diabetes. After all these tests, all 17 people over age 45 who met the screening criteria had NO CGMS readings over 140 mg/dl at all.
    This is probably because by the age of 45 people with the underlying genetic conditions that lead to diabetes, whose blood sugars would have been normal at younger ages, but who would have been getting higher than true normal readings after meals, would have progressed to where they failed the screening test. So it is a good bet that the people in the 45 and older age group in this study are truly, physiologically normal. With that in mind we are safe saying that normal people do not go over 140 mg/dl ever and are only rarely (4.4% of the time in this study) over 120 mg/dl–no matter what they eat.”

  • weilasmith

    Jimmy said: “I regularly saw spikes that jumped well above 140 after an hour which is a sign that your body is not tolerating the level of carbohydrates you just consumed.”
    Paul said: “Jimmy posted about two dozen blood glucose readings from his week at the retreat – I believe, nearly every reading he took – and only one was above 140 mg/dl.”

    Why is P Jaminet saying you only had one reading over 140?

  • michael

    First of all, God bless you.
    Second, I have some questions for Jimmy, if he would like to answer:
    Do you usually take supplements?
    Did you take any supplement during the retreat?

    Third, a different thing.
    Have you tried eating only leaves and fat for a while? Leaves are living organs of plants, like the liver, brain or kidneys to animals. It is difficult to overeat carbs (or fat or protein) while eating leaves. But leaves don’t taste good (at least, not for me). So I eat leaves with salt and fat and egg yolks. I do this because I can’t find good meat, nor good organ meat. But I can buy some good fish (not cheap, though).

    So I get my calories from the fat, and my nutrition from living organs of living beings: leaves and eggs. I know it is not great, but it is what I can afford for now, and it is much better (nutritionally and economically) than the candy, cakes, bread, muffins, cookies, and sugar loaded falsefood I used to eat, which made me depressed and psychotic for most of my life.

    Now, only good fats and leaves. No colorants, no sugars, no sweetners, no MSG, no canned food, no frozen food, no “phoned” food, no nonsense food. Only real food. Period. And I am much better, even though my family thinks I should not beleive anything I get from the internet, and follow the low fat advise from government authorities. After all, they are the authorities, and authorities always know best. Some day, in a few months, my family will see me thin, 170 pounds and not depressed and never nervous, and they will say “How can he be so much better eating like that!” and I will say “The body needs food. You all are fat, and sore, and achy, and sad, and nervous and tired because you barely eat any food, even though you are always eating. Eat food and buck political correctness!”

    Lastly, please be careful with the kidney stones. Have you looked into magnesium as a treatment for kidney stones (in particular Mg Citrate)?

    Everyone can get kidney stones: vegans, strict paleo-dieters, low-carbers. With kidney stones (and gallbladder stones) happens the same thing that happens with heart related diseases, a thousand theories, and nobody knows the truth. Just because some vegans manage to get kidney stones that does not imply that not-veganism will necessarily prevent them.

    Thanks for your podcasts and blogging. I pray you will find even better health.