Science Schmience

I remember when the precursor to “The Calorie Myth” launched onto the diet book scene almost 4 years ago and the kudos and comments started flying in.  All the research!  All the science!  A diet that was science-based!  No woo-woo hocus-pocus!  Everything backed up by science!  Wheeeeeeeeeeee!  It was all so exciting.  People were clamoring for a diet based on facts, not fiction; not some crazy regime that had us swilling with lemon juice on rising, eating 3lbs of grapefruit every day, and bolting down nothing but as much cookie dough as we could stomach for the first week and then alternately eating cooked cabbage and raw eggs for the next month.  We were all clamoring for a diet that science had proved would really work.  In a world – or at least a country – where ‘scientifically proven’ is banded about like it’s the highest accolade a thing could attain, this book was filled to bursting with ‘scientifically proven’, and people everywhere sighed a collective sigh of relief.  Finally!  Diet sanity had arrived.

Then, as the weeks went by a few people started yelling, “This book manipulates the facts”, “The studies chosen are just cherry-picked to support the author’s agenda”, “The author isn’t even a Doctor, he has no idea what he is talking about”, and other inexplicably odd statements that actually said nothing at all that was useful.  They were both lambasting the scientific proof provided and simultaneously screaming for correct scientific proof because Jonathan suggested that people should try eating real, whole foods instead of the standard American diet if they wanted to lose body fat and feel healthier.  Say what??  We need scientific proof to eat spinach over candy?  Are all the self-appointed health do-gooders that love to spend time bringing down books like The Calorie Myth picketing outside Krispy Kreme stores demanding scientific proof that they are bad for us?  When any number of truly crazy ass diets (which come, unsurprisingly, with no scientific anything) come along, where are all these people demanding scientific proof before they would embark on them?  Try reading book reviews on Amazon if you want the answer.  No wait, don’t bother.  It seems people only criticize and scream out against things that are actually helping others to be healthier.  We are a very weird race.

Since collaborating with Jonathan and embarking on this whole *SANE thing, I have become an avid reader of all things ‘health’ – when time permits, which is way less than I would like.  I say ‘health’, because as we all know, opinions of what constitutes real health are as varied as there are colors on a Pantone Chart – and then some.  As time marched on I realized that the term ‘scientifically proven’ has now become about as meaningless as a food label saying ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’, which means that we don’t really have a benchmark for what is right and what is not, and what we should accept as fact and follow versus what we should toss out in the trash.  And yet, ‘scientifically proven’ is still hailed as the standard by which we need to measure every ‘health’ thing that flies by our conscience.  If something is said to be scientifically proven then it absolutely must be The Thing that we can all buy into with full confidence, right?

The problem is that these days, pretty much everything that is scientifically proven has a diametrically opposed – and scientifically proven – argument.  Coffee is a magical bean straight from heaven and will cure all that ails you!  vs. Coffee is the most toxic substance on earth made by the devil and will kill you when you least expect it!  Both sides of the fence offering up scientifically proven results for why their science is correct.  So which one of the scientifically provens do we know is right?  Which one are we supposed to believe?  That’s a problem.

I started to see this everywhere across the whole ‘health’ and wellness scene – you need meat, meat will give you cancer, vegans are the healthiest people on earth, people who don’t eat animal products will keel over and die at any moment, Paleo is the only diet we humans are designed to eat, dairy is essential to great health and without it your demise will be swift and painful, dairy will cause inflammation and all your farts to smell of methane, low-carb, high-fat, low-fat, high-carb, high protein, zero carb, low protein, SANE, KETO, Bulletproof coffee – where’s the protein and veggies?!!, sugar is poison, raw food is the only food with nutrients in it, grains are the staff of life – avoid them at your peril, juicing will even de-toxify your soul, cleanses are required before anything else will work, coconut oil will heal your entire body from everything including the inability to gargle with your mouth closed, grains and starches will make you obese faster than anything else on earth, butter will kill you with high cholesterol, eggs are the perfect food, if you drink juice you may as well eat a Mars Bar, eggs will block your arteries and give you heart disease, if you don’t eat breakfast you will gain 57lbs a week, practicing intermittent fasting every day will make you as lean as a package of 97/3 ground beef, and on and on and on.  Each proponent fights their scientifically proven point to the death.  It’s exhausting.  Not to mention ridiculous.  I just want to know what’s real so I can make adjustments and skip off merrily into the super-healthy sunset.  Instead I started to just become immune to all of it – the brilliant and the asinine – and now when I see the words, ‘scientifically proven’, my eyes glaze over and I click outta there faster than you can say, “Oh, and give me a large side of spin with that please”.

Then there were the articles where scientists made scientifically proven stuff up to make a point.  I’m looking at you, Scientists Say Eating Chocolate Can Help You Lose Weight!  In reality there are boatloads of people – scientists and otherwise – making stuff up and selling it to us as scientifically proven because most of us don’t (can’t) know any different.  The only difference between them and the chocolate study is that the people behind the chocolate study told us it was a scam, plus why and how they did it.  We like to trust scientists, doctors, and ‘health experts’.  We want to believe they are pure-hearted and honest, driven only by a desire to help and heal.  If we can’t trust them, who can we trust?  There absolutely are some amazing health pros and experts out there who are fighting the good fight for their fellow man’s well-being.  But there’s a lot who aren’t, especially in this revenue-driven medical system I chose to become a consumer of when I crossed the shores some 15 years ago.

For 40-odd years we’ve been told endlessly that eating fat makes us fat and that the only way to not die of heart disease is to eat much less fat.  If we do eat some it should be of vegetable origin.  Presumably that message was scientifically proven.  Awesome.  So now a huge bunch of people have over the last few years scientifically proven that all that was bunk.  OoooooooooooooK then.  Scientifically proven is clearly where it’s at.  And how do we know that the former is, in fact, bunk?  Because after 40 years of following that scientifically proven information we are far fatter and far unhealthier than we were 40 years ago.  Oh, wait.  That’s just anecdotal evidence.  Yeah, anecdotal doesn’t count for anything, right?  The fact that the former didn’t actually work in real life isn’t worth a hill of beans.  Makes you wonder who benefited from this 40-year-long pushing of erroneous ‘science’.  Big Pharma, perhaps?  Big Food?  The entire medical profession, maybe?  The Government?  All of the above?  Oh no, wait.  That would all just be conspiracy theory.  Silly me.  Point is, it certainly wasn’t you or I.

Wow this is a long post.  Go grab yourself a snack, I’ll wait.

And then there are {what I suspect is} the majority of food and beverage manufacturers.  We just don’t want to believe that these companies don’t give a mouse’s bottom about our health, but in reality their existence in this world has one purpose: to create {enormous} revenue to pay their executives, board, and shareholders.  I would hazard a guess that most people now understand that mainstream soda is not a healthy choice (AT ALL), but just look at the Beverage Institute of Health and Wellness funded entirely by Coca-Cola and tell me that all the dietitians, doctors, scientists and ‘health experts’ show up to work every day because they believe what they do is truly helping mankind be healthier. And I quote, “The BIHW does not promote products or brands, or any information not based on peer-reviewed science”.  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.  Coca-Cola can declare their products as healthy based on peer-reviewed science.  Hey, it’s scientifically proven!  GO, Soda!

We’ve been blindly buying and eating edible products forever, without batting an eye or questioning them for a millisecond, and yet suddenly when someone offers up an alternative that truly is healthy we become instantly suspicious and require copious amounts of scientifically proven data before we will even consider it.  When was the last time you questioned C&H or ever thought twice about eating their products?  Right.  (PS. Their tag line is “The Real Way to do sweet”. Their marketing tactics make me want to pour vats of melted butter over them.)  But when someone suggests that maybe sugar isn’t the best for us and there is something better – healthier – we’re all, “Where’s the science??  Where’s the evidence??  How do you know this is better??”  And so we’re given evidence that equals the volume of Saturn (without the rings) that sugar is killing us, plus anecdotal evidence that would circumnavigate the globe 17 million times and we’re still standing there going, “But it can’t be that bad, C&H wouldn’t sell it to us if it were poison”.  And still no one is asking for the scientifically proven data that sugar is safe or good for us.  We all just take it as fact that it is fine.

There are studies up the ying yang (plus an endless stream of anecdotal evidence that says that sugar is the single biggest enemy to our health), yet suggest to people that they could make a drastic improvement to said health by simply swapping out sugar for xylitol and erythritol and everyone throws their hands up in horror screaming, “How do I know these things are safe??  Where’s the science that says they are not going to kill me??  How do I know I won’t become obese eating them??  OMG xylitol has a glycemic index of 7 – I’ll put on pounds!  (Meanwhile, sugar has a glycemic index of 58).  I am not going to let one grain of those things past my lips until I have scoured the entire internet for every last mention, and read every last scientific review that ever existed before I decide if I am letting it into my temple of a body”.

As an aside I was just reading on C&H’s site how cane sugar is much better than beet sugar.  Cool!  Does ‘better’ mean that it will kill you slower or faster?  Good to know.  Clean eaters everywhere will rejoice to know that …it seems to be cleaner“.  At least you can be reassured that the sugar that is killing you is the cleanest sugar there is.  And, just in case you are confused about sugar, C&H have cleared that up for us:   “Obesity is the result of eating too much food, especially those with a high-caloric content. It’s easy to point a finger at sugar as the reason for obesity. Science, however, doesn’t support that view.”  Really.  Well I’ll be.

I can think of countless examples of this in daily life where we have blindly been eating whatever crap food manufacturers have thrown at us our whole lives, but as soon as someone suggests we might want to try eat real, whole foods we demand to know every last intricate detail about where, what, why, when, and how before we sit in a dark room, surrounded my incense while chanting, as we meditate on whether we should allow it into our bodies.  It really is insane.  Like eating real, whole foods could possibly be more harmful than eating a standard American diet (except if you’re allergic to peanuts and you eat one).

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All this just to say I no longer give a flying duck about most science.  Science schmience. When the scientists, doctors, medical professionals, and other ‘experts’ can’t agree on any of it – despite an overwhelming amount of wildly contrary ‘scientific proof’, churn out ‘science’ that refutes the ‘science’ that was just published by someone else, and spend cycles along with an obscene amount of money running studies that a few years down the line are then ‘proven’ to be hogwash, how are we lay-people supposed to be able to make any sense of it at all?  It’s no wonder that I and countless others just don’t put very much credence into anything that the ‘experts’ claim are scientifically proven – at least in the realm of food and health.

Annnnd in case someone inadvertently misunderstands me here…I do not think all science is stupid or a bunch of rubbish.  I do not think all doctors are quacks or useless.  There are some things that I have a lot to thank traditional doctors for and for which I am extremely grateful.  Some of the science and doctors and experts out there are nothing short of brilliant, but the problem is that it’s hard to tell the fabulous from the awful, and the absolute truth from the utter nonsense and / or blatant dishonesty – because all of it is released to the world as The Truth.

As one lady commented on the blog of a Doctor recently, “I am a non-scientist who is following the debate as best I can in the hope that you smart people will figure it out & publish the results so I can just for the sake of all that is holy finally lose some of this godforsaken weight.  I can’t follow the science & don’t have time to try to figure it out myself.  I need answers & I realize there aren’t any at the moment so I read a lot of blogs while I’m waiting”.

So in light of all this, it’s anecdotal evidence all the way for me, baby.  I decided I was going to suck it and see, because I am not a Doctor or a scientist or any other kind of medical professional, but I am super-capable at observing how my own body responds to things, adding 2 and 2 to get 4, and fitting puzzle pieces together successfully.  I no longer give a rip what studies have been done or what the ‘experts’ say.  It’s like not listening to gossip – I hear what others say about someone but I will treat that someone according to my own experience of them, not what a third party told me.

3 months back when I started on this voyage of uncovering what in the world was wrong with me, I had a bunch of tests done.  Most of them were unconventional tests.  By unconventional I mean tests that most MDs do not order or work from.  I suspect that a lot of MDs don’t believe in them, and even probably think they are scams.  But I was at the point where traditional Western medicine had done pretty much nothing for me in terms of healing my body of Bi-polar, psoriasis, eczema, headaches, migraines, IBS, excess body fat, exhaustion or anything else that I wrote about here – some of which I have had without relief since I was 11.  It’s true that traditional medicine gave me a whole pile of band-aids for these things.  But healing?  Yep, I was game to try anything that might end up taking me down a path to true healing.

Who’s with me?

www.carriebrown.com

 

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  • Jan - Right on Carrie!
    It’s up to us to figure it out. Watch Ty Bolingers series this week on preventing and curing cancer. That’s the way we should all eat. Just real colorful food!ReplyCancel

  • Pip - It’s astonishing isn’t it? I read a Facebook anti sugar site ( just eat real food – no sugar or seed oils – not selling any supplements or recommending anything weird) and doctors are constantly on there abusing it. They tear any quoted study to bits. You would think not eating sugar was the most dangerous thing in the world!ReplyCancel

  • Erik Hyypia - I grew up with a scientist for a father, and engineering as my profession, and have a great respect for true science. At the heart of science is saying, “I’m observing this, and I have a theory why that is happening. Let me test it and try to disprove that theory. Then let others try to disprove it.” And in this way, you weed out the bad theories, refine the good ones, and end up with something useful, repeatable, predictable, and authentic. This can be done at an institutional level, a family level, or a personal level. “If I do this, I observe that, over and over again, repeatably.”

    The more complex the problem, the more variables you need to take into account. Stabbing yourself in the hand and observing you bleed is a simple, repeatable experiment. Understanding how body chemistry operates is rather more complex. But the basic idea of good science is the same: Develop a theory, test it and TRY to disprove it in every way possible, and if it stands all the tests, and all the tests of your allies and competitors, you might be on to something.

    Along with that is the idea of controlled experimentation. “If I change this one thing, what happens?” You don’t need to be a scientist to do this. We all do it every day. “If I replace my bulbs with LEDs, what happens? My power consumption drops, my bill drops, and I have more discretionary income. And I can measure all of that.”

    What the food and beverage industry has done, however, is brutally dishonest. They have over and over spun up studies to prove that smoking is good for you, sugar is necessary for your existence, aspartame does no harm…the list is endless. This is not good science. It is partisan cherry picking of results at best, and murder for profit at worst. They have not done good science by trying to disprove their claims in every way possible. Those claims have not stood the test of repeated assaults by other testers. In fact, we see the opposite over and over. The only conclusion I can come to is that getting you to part with your dollar is the only thing they care about, and they are willing to lie, falsify, cherry pick, sue and kill to do it.

    I’m going to guess that Carrie is leading up to experiments in personal science. “If I eat this, my body rebels in this way, repeatably.” There is a long and valid history of personal science leading to one breakthrough after another, and nothing is more valid than doing things to your own body and clinically observing the results. I, for one, cannot wait to hear where Carrie is going with this.

    To sum up my rant, I think digging for understanding and personal experimentation can produce some amazing results. It’s the antithesis of blindly ingesting all the for-profit bullcrap that we get fed daily. It takes guts, stamina and an inquisitive mind, and I think Carrie has those in spades. I can’t wait for the next blog.ReplyCancel

  • Tina - My stepmom once told me that I need to eat a more balanced diet. I asked her if she meant that I should eat sugar and she said, “Yes, of course.”
    There you have it. Some will never get it and will always look at the rest of us as weirdos. I’m proud to be in the company of more.ReplyCancel

  • Wren - here here! for n=1 experiments. after all, that is what really matters to us, personally, right? what are the results that YOU experience? we are all so very different. I’ve learned that a lot in the past few months. I’ve tried “coaching” people into following the SANE way of eating, and for some, they just didn’t get the results expected. Then others, I suggested eating LCHF, and again, no results. This whole weight thing is too complicated. There are many variables besides what you eat such as sleep, stress, water, exercise, genetics, toxins, the environment, etc etc.

    I love reading your posts, Carrie. I alway stop what I’m doing to read them. You crack me up “practicing intermittent fasting every day will make you as lean as a package of 97/3 ground beef”. That made me laugh out loud. And I wish. I’ve been doing IF for about 3-4 months now and my bodyfat % is exactly the same.

    Keep us informed. I’m very interested in what changes you’ve made in your life and how they improved your health.ReplyCancel

  • Belinda - Hello, Carrie,
    S.A.N.E. was the beginning of my understanding a little better. I learned about a Broken Metabolism and many other helpful ideas on the Jonathan’s podcasts with you and his guests.
    Things began to turn in a more personal direction for me when I was staying at the same weight, not feeling better and Dr. Cathy posted a study somewhere that stated that protein intake in amounts larger than the body needs will be processed as sugar, I got enormously disappointed.
    How was I going to learn what 90 gm/day of protein was going to affect my own Blood Glucose? I had to accept my body, get a glucometer and become more of a scientist for myself.
    I had to use my own curiosity to lead me on the journey that would take into consideration my age, my genetics and all.
    I really responded to Wheat Belly and Grain Brain. The understanding finally has led me to Low Carb/High Fat.
    I am now doing LCHF and achieving great results. I need only 20 gm/2 x day of protein.
    That is my n=1 that Wren mentioned.
    I truly am happy not to have to eat 10 cups of veggies a day.
    We all have to find our own path, ultimately.
    I enjoy the unique way that you document your reflections on the journey and your world, even the exasperation of looking for truth, both relative and ultimate.
    I was a Calorie Myth convert for a while. We have to believe in something to even have the possibility for it to work. The Scientific Method says that this is not so.
    But alas, here I am with my experience and thank goodness it is working for me. I am within 20 pounds of my goal, getting fitter and feeling great.
    For now, even the nutritious carbs of vegetables has to be limited for me to lose weight. My body has to heal from hyperinsulinemia. I’m willing to continue the experiment.
    Much love and success on your continuing journey.
    It’s great that we can encourage and support one another.ReplyCancel

    • Deb Sanders - Your journey sounds exactly like mine. Using a glucometer was really eye opening for me. It has given me control over my body’s response to food. LCHF has proven to be the best way for my body as I had also developed hyperinsulinemia from years of eating SAD. My blood work showed crystals in my urine from eating too much raw spinach and kale in smoothies, presumably. You just have to figure out what works for you.ReplyCancel

  • Joe Wojtuniak - Amen sister!ReplyCancel

  • Joe Wojtuniak - Amen sister!ReplyCancel

  • Joe Wojtuniak - Amen sister!ReplyCancel

  • Lori Pellnitz - Great insight Carrie!!

    If there is one thing I’ve learned on my health journey, the one thing I can truly have faith in is my n=1 experiments on what works for me. I’m grateful for people like Jonathan Bailor, who have brought together people with different nutritional perspectives to discuss them, teach others their theories to help determine what works best for them. It is hard to see how eating real food instead of edible food product could be bad, but the ratios of which kind of foods in what amounts needs to be figured out on the individual level.ReplyCancel

  • Beth - I have known about SANEity for all of a week and a half, and I have been listening to the podcasts that you and Jonathan Bailor put out a few years ago, and I feel like I have discovered the holy grail of health. I struggled with my weight in high school and college, although my “will power” *never* worked. Ever. It was only when I was happy (think summer at grandparents, when I started dating my husband) that I could lose weight, and that was totally without trying! My mom would joke that I was skinny when I was happy. Now I can see there probably was a lot of truth to that. All of the “anecdotal evidence” in my life points to this being 100% true, even if it is supposedly too new to have produced scientific proof. The thing about medical ARTS, however–you really cannot test everything with proper control groups and other constants because you cannot know all of the factors!! Similar to Jonathan shared in the book and the podcasts about two sets of twins treated identically, you are never going to get the same results twice when dealing with humans, ESPECIALLY if your science is flawed in the first place. The other problem is that, like researching can lead you to come to the conclusions you want to find, experimenting with the aim of proving your own wishes and desires usually does not lead you to write a report that more than vaguely suggests that your theory was wrong! So–I suppose I’m going SANE to see if the Myths are wrong, but I already feel loads better. I already knew sugar made me sick, and was trying to get almost totally off it, but after a week of doing this IMPERFECTLY and my sleep, energy, clothing fit, and mood have changed. So thank you for “not caring” about the science. I really cannot believe that I have never heard of this before now when most of it really does seem like common sense!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - I’m with you Carrie…..all the way!!!ReplyCancel

  • STOP » Carrie Brown | Life in the SANE Lane - […] (and downright lies) behind much of the nutrition out there is staggering.  It’s confusing at best, and harmful at worst.  I lost count the number of times I have thrown my hands up in the last 6 months and thought, […]ReplyCancel

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