I’ve received no shortage of grief from people over my criticism of the deified low-carb Paleo diet. Low-carb, and particularly low-carb Paleo which combines two ideologies, is served up in the bowels of the internet as being the underground solution to the deadly and corrupt eating recommendations that flourish in mainstream media and academia. While I have little love for Western Medicine, or the industrial health/corporate food/drug/agriculture empire, that doesn’t mean that low-carb Paleo is the great “secret” to health that has been stifled by the “man.”
Anyway, in my experience personally and in communication with tens of thousands of people all over the world for the last half decade, I can say definitively that low-carbohydrate eating, with or without the silly Paleo fungus that often attaches to the groin region of this movement (manifesting in the desire to fast even when you have signs of a low metabolism, and avoid acceptable and sometimes preferable food sources like grains and dairy products) can be dangerous.
Sure, anything can be dangerous. I’m not saying that it’s not dangerous to eat fast food daily and sit around completely immobile on the couch for 30 years. I’m not saying that it can’t also end in disaster if you partake of the predominantly legume, grain, and soy-based diet of the mainstream while jogging daily. This too can end in disaster. Any diet and lifestyle endeavor can be dangerous, and any food or beverage or activity can be highly detrimental in the right context. But it’s important to plant seeds in those that are blinded by infatuation, so that a little light bulb goes off in their brains when they do, indeed, start to suffer some of the consequences of their dietary and lifestyle explorations…
Consequences like hypothyroidism, with obvious signs such as puffiness in the face, loss of sex drive, inability to exercise or recover from exercise, loss of energy, frequent illness or infection, being cold all the time, increased aches and pains, hair loss, mood disorders, menstrual irregularities, or any number of different ominous signs of dysfunction.
Anyway, here is a great example of someone who did what dozens of us here have done…
1) Got really unhealthy by eating and living really unhealthfully
2) Did low-carb or low-carb Paleo diet and maybe began exercising a lot too
3) Lost a ton of weight
4) Thought Paleo was the greatest thing on earth – the answer to all things, and that carbohydrates, a biologically-inappropriate substance to be consuming in quantities impossible to obtain during the Paleolithic era, were the cause of all that ails modern humans.
5) Began to get ill
6) Began to gain fat and lose muscle, looking worse despite having looked great at six months into the diet and exercise recommended by typical Paleo aficionados
7) Stuck with it out of the belief that maybe the failure is due to a lack of discipline, going even further in the extreme direction of carbohydrate restriction all the way down to a zero carbohydrate diet
8) Got even sicker, hitting rock bottom somehow
9) Finally said screw it, getting curious about what some low-carb Paleo hater (me usually) said about it not being the miracle panacea it’s touted to be
10) Reversed health problems immediately
Anyway, here is what was sent to me by Korg Kcuf (not actual name). If you remember anything, remember that short-term results can be deceiving. There are hundreds of ways to lose weight over a 6-month period, but all of the ways that have been studied end in long-term failure and weight regain – even if you stick to the diet you lost the weight on. Health is not about how you look, but how you feel. In Korg’s case, he steadily looked and felt worse on low-carb Paleo. I personally looked better on low-carb by modern standards, but feel much better now…
I have been a long time reader ever since you and Richard had that back and forth on Freetheanimal. That really opened my eyes to a world outside low carb paleosphere. I know you’re busy and probably get tons of email requests but I figure it’s worth a shot to see if you can help me with the direction of my diet. Here’s a little summary up until now…
I started paleo around 6 years ago after a long stint of eating horrible and binge drinking, I was 22, 220~lbs, 5,11 and weak as a baby. I radically changed my diet and life to a strict paleo (Loren Cordain’s version) and started working out heavily. For about 6 months everything was amazing, got down to 178, was the leanest I had been since I was 16 or so and had decent energy, then things got bad. I started not being able to heal after workouts and lost my sex drive big time, also started to get dry skin and dandruff. Of course at the time I was so enamored with paleo that I figured I should get stricter.
Started IFing (intermittent fasting), stopped drinking all alcohol and no sugar/salt of any kind. Anyway long story short, I got worse over the course of a couple years so much so that I couldn’t workout from lack of recovery and I gained back 3/4ths of the weight. After that I went nuts trying to figure out the best diet, still living in paleo world but cheating all the time cause I couldn’t stomach all those nuts and veggies. That’s about the time I read your site and started reading other sites who advocated high carbs, this to me was insane-sounding. Anyway I didn’t actually follow your refeed plan until about 4 months ago after a failed attempt at complete carnivory.
I made it 9 days on meat and cheese alone and I got some horrible abdominal pains. At that point I was totally depressed, nothing worked, and all of a sudden I thought about your site and you calling out Richard and I turned on my computer and read your refeed ebook front to back, same day I implemented it. Only two days later I felt tremendous, abdominal pains vanished, sex drive came back and my man boobs started shrinking. That last one really threw me for a loop and it proved to me that some hormones were in play.
Anyway today I am about the same weight but feel ten times better, workout and have sex daily and have gained a lot of muscle. Believe it or not but before I found your site I visited the doctor/endo 3 times for thyroid/testosterone issues and they all said I was fine!! I felt like death warmed over and was fat but I guess still healthy enough for today’s standards.
It was seriously a huge eye opener to say the least. For going on 4 years I was completely convinced that I didn’t need carbs to survive, all the while slowly deteriorating. The second day of the RRARF I realized I had orthorexia and was completely stressed out over eating. It’s also funny reading all those former low carbers start to change their tune on potatoes, fruit and rice, wheat is still the devil though. :D
I just searched through my photos and found these gems, first is from 2006, happy beginnings of paleo. Second is 2008, two years in and things are not great. Third is 2010, really unhappy and about to embark on VLC/carnivory. Shown from the side to highlight the second chin. Through this whole time I took paleo very seriously and tried to convert people, carbs are bad, blah blah. Now I’m almost embarrassed looking back at that first pic.”