I had to dig into an old eZine I had written two years ago this morning, fetching a recipe that will be part of the RBTI Intro Package due for release next weekend. And while I was digging, I took a moment to read one of the articles I had written on the importance of critical thinking – and of constantly seeking out opposing viewpoints to your sacred conclusions instead of banding together with like-thinkers and drifting away to crazy town. Anyway, it made me smile in a nostalgic kind of way, especially in light of the strange new world of the surprisingly-effective RBTI that I have openly immersed myself in over the past three months. Guess I was born to be a guinea pig, cuz I really love this wild world of health and nutrition. So full of surprises. Okay, here it is…
One of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever come across in pursuing health understanding is keeping my own intelligence intact. I have common sense, and I have come across some of the greatest material ever written on the subject of health. That information and common sense combined have shown me, proven to me beyond any doubt, certain fundamental truths. These truths are very basic, such as carbohydrates are not bad. Saturated fat is not bad. Cholesterol in egg yolk doesn’t contribute to heart attacks. Fiber does not cause digestive illness. Strict vegan diets suck. It is unsafe to build a diet around non-nutritive white powders. Cutting calories and over-exercising to lose weight is a futile strategy.
But time and time again, before these fundamentals really became concrete, it was all too easy to get swept away with the latest intriguing theory. I don’t regret pursuing all kinds of ideas, from being a vegetarian for years in my early 20’s, to eating a bunch of gnarly raw foods ? from whole heads of cabbage to raw chicken hearts. It was all an adventure. Each brought forth its very own insight, and gave me a rich experience from which to draw upon.
Much of this was done in the spirit of exploration. For many others, it is a very different situation in which they are drawn into the realms of narrow-minded dogma.
Like Lierre Keith, recent disgruntled author of The Vegetarian Myth. Keith followed a strict vegan diet for something like 20 years. Oopsies! An assortment of health problems later and Keith’s vegan education was complete. Vegan score appointed by Keith? F.
Others hear the preacher behind the low-carb pulpit talking up a complicated-sounding storm about how there is insulin and leptin and lipolysis and metabolic syndrome ? and if you eat carbohydrates you’re just going to magically accumulate fat because of all that insulin you’re secreting. Sounds good. The theory makes sense. Carbs raise insulin. Insulin stores fat. Therefore carbohydrates make you fat. I mean come on! They feed corn and grain to pigs and that’s what makes them fat. Everybody knows starch is fattening! (or so they claim).
I’ve even had the luxury of dealing with some of the most insane and one-sided folks of all, the raw Primal/Paleo type folks. I’ve been accused of treason for condoning the consumption of ?mind-altering cooked foods! For that special someone, mind alteration could be just the ticket to bring them back to sanity. Yes, there are nutrition cults out there eating massive amounts of feces, drinking their own urine, and using human semen for skin health. A little research and the voice of someone who overcame a serious illness or two is all it takes to get a massive and devout gang of followers.
I guess all I’m saying is that even I, with a great and diverse wealth of knowledge and experience, still get curious. I want to know what people are experiencing on their health escapades. The conclusions that people have come to in their own explorations are always of profound interest to me. I can’t get enough of it, and my mind remains eternally open to new ideas. I cover all my bases to the best of my ability, hoping that nothing goes overlooked, and that I haven’t missed some great discovery that someone else has made. And in doing so, I drift a little in that direction to really give it a fair shot. I allow myself to buy into the ideas and believe, even if for only a moment, that I might have made a tragic mistake in my own health conclusions.
We all will do this, not just in the arena of health, but in all avenues of life. But without checks and balances to keep us from straying into a realm of the totally illogical, it is easy to get lost and do ourselves some harm.
Whatever your beliefs are about health or otherwise, it is important to repeatedly challenge yourself on those ideas. If you think you have all the answers, take your ideas to a place where they will be met with stiff opposition. It is there that you will find good arguments that you will have difficulty explaining away. It is in the face of this challenge and conflict that you will develop a more complex and deeper understanding of the issues you had thought were solved. It’s here that you’ll find what you thought was a neat and impenetrable theory to be, in actuality, painfully oversimplified and blind.
If I’ve found any theme amongst all the health cults that have come to downright retarded conclusions, from vegans to raw chicken-eating carnivores, it is that they are terribly opposed to having their theories challenged and tested. Anyone who doesn’t agree is an idiot or has scandalous motives. Some vegans call the Weston A. Price Foundation ?factory farming propaganda. I kid you not. That’s like calling a group of protesting anti-abortionists ?baby killers.
I comment at blogs and websites preaching all kinds of health sermons, and I typically go to these sites and directly square off with their conclusions. The result is that I get banned. I’m told that I don’t ‘support their community’s objectives? and need to get lost. They are not interested in conversations. They are not interested in answers or advancing their knowledge because they already have all the answers. They are inflexible. They are blind. They are drifting off into space, becoming ever more isolated and ever more defensive as they collectively fall off the deep end of reality.
So the tidbit of advice I have to give is one that has served me incredibly well, and will no doubt serve me in the future ? keeping me constantly honing in on better and more sophisticated answers. That is simply to be a critical thinker. Challenge yourself and others and revel in their assaults on your own conclusions. This is helpful. This is part of the natural feedback mechanisms that are established for every aspect of our existence. We need this. We need both support and challenge to have fuller, more comprehensive perspectives in our many endeavors ? be it in health, in religion, in finance, and in relationships. This is what keeps our intelligence intact, and from drifting into deep space where we get lost and find ourselves gasping for oxygen by the time it’s all said and done.
Learn how to RAISE YOUR METABOLISM.
Well written as always. I have to give you credit for helping me over come tunnel vision in the diet/health blogosphere over the past year.
Word homey, what Tyler said.
I came by you _convinced_ that carbs were gnarly, and that my lady shouldn't grow potatoes, sweet potatoes or corn in the garden- too starchy, no good for ya. Except I wasn't feel so hot low carbin' and having my heart race in the middle of the night for no obvious reason, and becoming _even more_ obsessed about food than I was before, got me primed to hear your counter-points.
I've tried to keep that close to heart still- what I think I know may not be so. Others are coming around in health blogger land to some of the ideas 180 introduced me to. I dig it- makes me think I'm a part of something cutting edge here, in the willingness to keep digging and questioning. Of course, sometimes I think Matt drinks a little too much of the kool-aid and I give 'im crap about it. But all in good fun, and honestly, I admire the willingness to go whole hog with his new pet ideas, even if somewhere in the back of his head he may know it's not the whole story. At least that way, you get a real good sense of the strength and limits of the perspective, rather than hedging and half-assing, and leaving doubts lingering long far into the future, when you could instead be moving on confident in your insight gained.
So yep, Mateo- keep rocking it as you do, good buddy.
And paradoxically, sometimes critical thinking and logic dictate that you suspend your own for a bit to truly give an honest chance to something.
Sometimes the results in the world don't jive with the theory or our existing tool set.
So critical thinking is a funny thing. Some people revel in being so critical and logical that they cheat themselves out of a lot of benefit where science hasn't yet caught up in the explanation, yet the results are there.
Seems like there's almost an 'art' on how to use critical thinking and know when it applies and where it can fall short or not give you the full picture…
im probably not thinking clearly cause i just at a bunch of steamed brocolli with all the valuable enzymes destroyed, but dude, this blog is awesome. i seriously dont know what i would have done without it. keep it up matt
you have an uncanny knack for making posts that coincide with my brain.
dude, if it weren't for you, i would still be destroying myself with all that high fat/low carb nonsense and i really, really shudder to think where i'd be right now. thank you, so much, for being one of the few voices of objectivity in the nutrition and health world. i really do wish there were more. we have enough petty conflict in the world.
Thanks boys. It surely has been a great mental exercise to explore this, and keep it fresh.
Maybe it's not so much a matter of having an open mind, but of having a WIDE mind – willing to take in a bunch of stuff like the mouth of a whale shark, and sort it out later.
And thanks for your feedback Yusuf. There are certainly limitations when it comes to trying to scientifically explain everything. Many phenomena are in place long before science can rationally explain it. At least that's what I keep telling myself haha.
Son of a…
I typed too slows when I said "boys." Batty got one in before the buzzer.
Sorry batty. You are badass and can kick dude butt, but you are definitely not a "boy."
Thanks. I do enjoy my sort of referee-like status.
I look forward to calling a Personal Foul; unnecessary roughness towards wheat, on Dr. William Davis next week!
I think that's what might be called a 'meta-skill:' knowing when to utilize a certain way of thinking, when it's valuable, and when it's limitations are too much a liability.
In my sometimes trippy world, that means knowing when to use a critical, discerning, dubious approach to help pin down things, and when to be more loosey-goosey, usually to go to new places and find new or creative concepts. All this makes me think of Robert Anton Wilson and his idea of reality tunnels, and intellogence looking at intelligence.. Cool youtube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVC0FcSRxL8
(Thread hi-jack! Hope not)
haha! it's quite ok, matt. i have always said that my penis is metaphorical.
Yes! It's about being WIDE-minded (as opposed to narrow-minded lol).
Excellent blogpost- the topic of which is what drew me in to 180DH and what made me stick around AND pass it on to people I care about — both highly rare for me to do.
I'm with the "boys" in thanking you, Matt, for the impact you continue to make… for all the right reasons! :)
Great commentary, peeps! :)
Truly one of your best, Matt. And I can SO relate.
Gosh, you always know how to nail it in your posts- no better way to put it. In this crazy jungle of fish-oil and omgega-3 frenzies, acai berry miracles, and raw fooded low carb lunatics, its unbelievable what people in this world have to put up with!! I just think of myself as a victim of health irrationality. To think people have killed themselves in their attempt to to be healthy is a paradoxical truth in today's world– thanks to people like Atkins, Sisson, and let's not forget about Dr. Oz. I still remember how terrible I was feeling as I was eating raw salads for two months straight–but I somehow convinced myself that I was "healing". It's so easy to fall into thinking one way. But then again, I can't understand why health theories are so rampid these days. I mean a hundred years ago, there were no such things as "gyms" or "dieting". People just lived, and food was eaten for satiety and pleasure, NOT because it was necessarily healthy. Crazy world today. People just need to get their heads out of the toilet and realize that life is a lot more than cramming your body with antioxidant capsules while chowing down broccoli and counting calories. Whew. Thanks for the perspective, Matt. I feel like I matured a lot in my thinking after reading your blog. And, interestingly, I have seen your own thinking mature through your writing. You have definately grown a lot more respectful and understanding of people; or at least it seems so in you writing. In other words, you thankfully seem to have lost a lot of your douche-bag-ness, which is pretty cool. Most bloggers don't transform like that– I think that's a sign of a rational thinker. Thanks for being so awesome!!
Thanks. I think being a douche generally gets you more popularity points unfortunately, but I'm going to stick with the new, calm approach. Damn those carbs! That's what did this to me!
Oh, and if you are looking for someone to blame for all of that, blame it all on Bernarr MacFadden. It was totally all his fault. He almost single-handedly started bodybuilding, fasting, pageantry, working out for vanity's sake, extreme diets, the commercialization of health, and more!
Bravo, Compatriot Stone!!! killer article, dude! -thanks again x)
Matt,while I love your ideas and striving to dig deeper and not believing what the masses say I think you do low carb injustice.Your pic of the holy grail of weightloss is good but have you ever been to an Atkins site and scanned the before and afters.Its awe inspiring and very supporting of that diet.People not only are skinny but are also amazingly healthy looking….and yrs later too.
I think it all boils down to what your individual carbohydrate tolerance is.That and the new important fact…body PH(this has improved my health by HUGE freaking leaps!!).I have had to give up all diet sodas and cut way down on coffee to stay alkaline.I also take a tbsp of baking soda every day and two on hangover days to counter the acidity.What I find is high fat seems to make it easier to stay alkaline.
Just want to add that I tend to stay young looking when I go very low carb and also low protein.I find this pic of Dr.Harris of Panu fame enlightening.He looks alot older all of a sudden where before he looked like a kid at 50 something.Newest pic and he looks older suddenly.Well he decided that carbs aren't as bad and bumped up his starch intake by large amount.Do you see a difference in a matter of a yrs time,or maybe less?
Then you have the fructose guy Lustig.Does he look healthy?He seems to have a pale bloated look to his face.
Just pointing that out since I notice a reversing of age when I go VLC.I can look old like the Lustig pic rather quickly by going high carb and I can reverse that look rather quickly by going VLC.Its like a quick greying that I notice and many others too.Just google vids of Lustig from his bitter truth vid to his latest vids a yr or two later.
Good post Matt.
On the same theme, I have built a sturdy bull-shit detector after having been "taken in" by some stupid ideas in the past. This is hard-earned wisdom. Below are some questions I always ask when I encounter a new idea or philosophy about nutrition-
Does the idea argue from real world evidence, or from an unsubstantiated assumption? (Paleo is killed by this. We cannot know for certain what humans ate prior to written records, and when they ate it)
Is the inverse false? Does everyone who breaks the rule get the same result? (die, low carb, on the spear of thin Asian carb addicts, or Westerners who were thin on a diet of potatoes or bread prior to 1920)
Are there any examples of healthy cultures that eat this way? (Sorry vegetarians, but no there is not)
Are biological functions quickly impaired in most of the people that eat this way? (raw foodists, fruititarians)
Is this diet a one-trick pony that most of humanity never had access to prior to the 20th century? (Any number of fad diets, such as the Coconut Oil Diet) Perhaps still interesting, but not relevant to deep learning.
Are the benefits temporary? Can they work for the same person twice? Do they lead to long term results? What's the success rate? How often does this diet fail, and how?
And more. That's not a definitive list.
But there's also the "positive" questions. The questions that assume that many honest, well meaning people are not totally crazy and there is SOME merit to their message.
Is -anyone- helped by this diet? Why might that be? Where is the redeeming value? What can I learn from this diet's success and failure?
This last bit has been the hardest one for me to learn. It's just too easy to dismiss someone as a kook because they believe one or several things that are "crazy". Sometimes you find a diamond in the rough, and I have to remind myself to stay "wide minded".
Brock, I like those questions. Thanks
you know, i just checked out how the zeroing in on health forum/blog were doing these days.
holy shit wow. pretty scary stuff.
not just at their CONDEMN ALL WHO EAT CARBS, but the general lack of real science, despite their repeated claims that the science indeed supports them. also, at this time they are not accepting new members. it seems a large number of the people who were, at one point, part of the forum have been "unregistered".
oh, and it's the same general attitude across all vegan/zerocarb forums, but this one really struck me because at one point i was reading their forum daily and had a similar thought process.
I have been playing catch up on all the new RBTI learning, and finding it quite fascinating and so keen to get your 'intro package' now Matt that you mention in this post.
Also, most positively, my daughter seems to have out grown her egg allergy after past few days testing, and so I now have far more possibilities for her in cutting down the amount of meat she will have and having desserts and different breakfasts and all sorts of things – v excited about this.
looking forward to next installment,
Renaee- I had an egg allergy when I was very young and out grew it too. I was really happy about that as I love crepes.
Random commentary: The idea that just going back to what the paleos ate is one that is nearly impossible to achieve. They were eating vegetables and animals eating the natural vegetation before the seeds were highly modified. What we have available now just isn't the same stuff at all. So, we really need to pay attention to the results and adjust accordingly, rather than convincing ourselves that living as our ancestors did would work. We don't live at that time in history, you can't really approximate an environment that pretty much doesn't exist anymore. We aren't the same as our ancestors, for one thing we are taller. Also, we are exposed, pretty much from birth, to a different set of physiological stressors (weird additives, water pipes are lined with petroleum based plastics, new fangled seeds, pesticides etc.) so its really tough to merely go by how we feel or what our appetites tell us to eat. Sometimes poison tastes good but that doesn't mean we should eat it. Most minerals taken by themselves are quite bitter, but we still need some in our diets.
Anywhoo, I guess what I'm saying is that in an artificially modified and altered environment perhaps this highly modified way of tracking health (RBTI) is necessary to help us know when we are hurting ourselves and when we aren't.
Did anybody notice how similar this method is to how one takes care of someone with gout? Pretty much everything on his recommendations are things that I ended up doing for my Dad during his gout flares. I also of course used tart cherry juice. But, pork was out, beef was very low. Dinners are extremely light. We watch his acidity. He has lemony waters all the time. Lunch is the big meal of the day.
Anybody in HI looking to try RBTI – it's hard to come by the nitrogen test chemicals, but I found somebody who will ship to Hawaii, and it's very reasonable. Thanks to Jaqueline from RBTI.info for the lead. I haven't actually ordered from them yet, so I cannot endorse them personally.
Love this post too.
Hi Matt, thanks so much for introducing me to the RBTI. I'm waiting for my kit to be shipped to South Africa.
I'm gonna have to go ahead and agree with most of the comments here and say thank Matt this blog is pretty bitchin'
I found this blog through a Weston a price blog, which I was kinda following the diet but only certain aspects of it. I personally have never been one to deny myself anything that I'm craving because… Well… Honestly I just never saw a point to it, and this blog has only set that more in concrete for me.
My diet consists of "whateveathehelliwant" and as much exercise I feel like doing. If I have lots of energy and want fresh air, I go out a walk or bike. If I'm tired I nap. And I feel healthy, I'm at a comfortable weight, and I'm happy. I have never once in my life felt bad for eating something that has been deemed "junk food" and I don't plan on starting now.
As for spreading the word, I tell people who seem receptive about this blog and hope the best for them, but otherwise I just smile a nod as they tell me about how great they feel being a vegan, and how great their health is, who knows, maybe it is working well for them, but I can't see anyone as being healthy when they have black bags under their eyes. I give out bits of advice when I can, but I don't push ever. My mum keeps telling me I should be a nutritionist, I think going to school for it would brainwash me though.
So, thanks again Matt. I look foreword to reading your blog all the time, it's a breath of fresh air.
"I comment at blogs and websites preaching all kinds of health sermons, and I typically go to these sites and directly square off with their conclusions. The result is that I get banned….They are not interested in conversations. They are not interested in answers or advancing their knowledge because they already have all the answers. They are inflexible. They are blind. They are drifting off into space, becoming ever more isolated and ever more defensive as they collectively fall off the deep end of reality."
WOW, is that right on or is that right ON? Biggest/shiniest example I can think of right now: The whole Jimmy Moore/LLVLC francise. Low-carb cultism exemplified. Orthorexia run amok… I don't know if you've been following Jimmy's latest dietary adventures, but now he's gone 'paleo' and, of course, being Jimmy he's managed to find all the high-calorie varieties of 'primal' frankenfoods. Latest example being these – http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/my-version-of-the-luscious-lemon-squares-recipe-in-the-paleo-comfort-foods-cookbook/11735. Anyway, said all that to simply agree with you. I went there to be an honest contrarian voice and guess what? Got banned for my trouble. That's why I admire people like Dr. Kurt Harris and – of course – yourself. Anyone afraid of having to change their mind doesn't even deserve being listened to in the first place.
"Do you see a difference in a matter of a yrs time,or maybe less?"
Yes. Dr. Harris seems to have a healthier color about him in the second picture, possibly a result of increased carotenoid intake and reduced inflammation; his hair is longer; and he may be sporting a closer shave.
On the alarming side, his head appears to have grown to over 15 times its original size. Sounds dangerous. Is this the true meaning of 'carb face'?
Matt: "carbohydrates make you fat. I mean come on! They feed corn and grain to pigs and that’s what makes them fat. Everybody knows starch is fattening! (or so they claim)."
But they feed corn and SOY. I think the soy makes them fat mostly. Peat has also expressed this view, IIRC. The animals get health problems and maybe the people who eat them – SAD eaters especially.
"A little research and the voice of someone who overcame a serious illness or two is all it takes to get a massive and devout gang of followers."
What research does AV or Hulda or Reams have for curing cancer? They all claim it. Do they have proof? Nothing big, just the notes from a doctor who diagnosed them and then said they were in remission. What happens, IMO, is that the guru (AV or Reams or Clark) says the person is in remission. If they had hard evidence, why wouldn't they share? It's not like your doctor can hold your medical records and prevent it from being shared. Famous people have had their medical records outed, like Dr. Atkins. so Reams should be able to present lots of case studies of cancer remission, or else he's probably a fraud.
"Whatever your beliefs are about health or otherwise, it is important to repeatedly challenge yourself on those ideas."
Who has challenged your claims that doctors have a low life expectancy? Who has challenged Ream's claim for curing 10,000 cancer cases? He does not sound much more credible to me than AV. Maybe Reams had hard data, but it was eaten by his dog before it turned and ate him. But there is definitely a pattern in the lack of evidence by people claiming to cure cancer (Clark, Reams, and AV, among others). Another pattern is for the gurus to have no medical evidence even for their own remission, even though they claim to have seen all kinds of doctors. This should raise red flags or at least some serious questions in critical thinkers.
I'm disappointed that this post on critical thinking and open mindedness only got 28 comments. As Buddha said, "The mind is the slayer of the real."