August 29, 2014

This Blog Post Will KILL YOU (!!)

Bright lights! Pretty colors! 
Look here, LOOK HERE!

Or save your life! Or help you drop 14 pounds in two weeks!

Here is a sampling of recent blog post and article titles from around the Paleo/low-carb/ancestral health world:

Is this what I’m doing wrong? Is this why my blog has just a teeny tiny (yet growing, thank you and welcome, newcomers) readership?

Is it the lack of inflammatory and attention-grabbing titles?

Maybe I’m doing myself a disservice by posting heartfelt, honest things (like this and this) without dressing them up in hyperbolic headlines.

Before I get into this, let me say right here, straight-up, that I admire, respect, have learned from, and look to for trustworthy information all the people behind the titles I selected above. In no way is this post intended to disrespect or offend any of them. But just because I value the contributions they make to our community (whatever facet of it you feel you belong to—Paleo, Primal, low-carb, keto, WAPF, just real food, or maybe nothing yet, because you're still in lurker mode, figuring out what you'd like to try, which is totally fine), that doesn’t mean I automatically love everything they say or do. And thank goodness, right? It would be pretty creepy if I did. (At least, I think it would be.)

People are confused. Very confused. I overhear a lot of conversations about food, nutrition, and health at work, and I tend to stay out of them unless specifically asked to opine. And even then, I’m hesitant, because I find people generally want black or white answers, and if you know anything about how complex all this stuff is, then, well, you know how complex all this stuff is. (Hehheh.) And when people want to hear “yes” or “no,” I have to stop myself from offering a more appropriate answer, which might take ten minutes to deliver. And I’m not saying people are so confused that it’s a lost cause to even try to convey some sensible information to them; I just wonder if sensationalist headlines are the way to go about it.

Is that how we want to help people make sense of things? Wheat will kill you? A low-carb diet could ruin your health? (I am quite the level-headed person when it comes to this stuff. So please know I’m not saying here that wheat is the ultimate health food for everyone, across the board, or that there are no people for whom a low-carb diet might be detrimental in some ways.) I’m simply suggesting that approaches like this might—just might—serve to alienate people, rather than encourage them to start looking into dietary changes that could be helpful—and yes, I’ll go ahead and say it: life-changing.

I just think there are people out there who could be scared off by headlines like these. They could be deterred from opening their minds (and their mouths) to something different from the way they’ve been doing things all their lives. If someone was considering a low-carb diet, but then ran across the first title I listed, they would think, “See? I knew those low-carb diets were bogus. Everyone knows Dr. Atkins died from a heart attack.” (No, he didn’t.) Never mind that the article itself is actually very good, and clearly states that LC diets are beneficial for some people. I found it quite balanced and helpful. Just because ketogenic levels of carb intake can literally save someone’s life doesn’t mean everyone, everywhere, needs to forgo bread for the rest of their life and start doing shots of olive oil. So I’m not bashing the article; just questioning the title. And it’s kinda funny, because Laura Schoenfeld, the author, posted a preview of it on her own site, where she gave it the more judicious (in my opinion) title, “Do You Need to Eat More Carbs?” I’m not sure why it has a more attention-grabbing title on Chris Kresser’s site, except that, well, it’s more attention-grabbing.  ;-)  (And kudos to Laura for another not off-putting title, “Is Your B-Complex Vitamin Doing More Harm Than Good?” Not bad, compared to something that might have generated more buzz, like, “Your B-complex is MAKING YOU SICK!”)

So yeah, great article, lousy title. I could say the same thing for the article on resistant starch (RS). There’s been a ton of talk about RS for a while now, and it does seem to have some very interesting and promising things going for it. I’m not about to start mainlining isolated potato starch for cryin’ out loud, but I’ve got nothing against someone who wants to experiment with this cooking up some white rice or a couple of real, whole potatoes, sticking ‘em in the fridge, and having a few bites now and then. Again, the article itself is quite good. Lots of links to scientific literature to back up the claims made. (Not that links to PubMed are all they’re cracked up to be. Sadly, much of what passes for “peer-reviewed research” these days is best used as birdcage lining—especially if your birds have diarrhea. This being said, one of the things I appreciate and respect most about Chris Kresser and his staff is the amount of time they devote to fact-checking. I find far more balanced takes on things from them, and less “bro-science.”) 

Okay. Who really cares about any of this? And why should they care that I’m saying it? After all, my following is much smaller than those of, say, Abel James and William Davis. (And no, I don’t honestly believe the reason for that is my lack of in-your-face sensationalist headlines designed solely for the purpose of generating “likes,” tweets, clicks, and profits via people buying stuff from my affiliate links.) I’m new, I’m still finding my way through the professional landscape, and not a whole lot of people know I exist. (For now.) That doesn’t negate me having a right to voice my opinion, at least here, on my own blog. And then again, opinions are like buttholes, right? Everyone has one, and most of ‘em stink. HA!)

Aaaaanyhoo, that little bit of self-deprecation was just to set the stage for me saying that I don’t want to be anyone’s guru. I don’t want to be a celebrity, or to be famous. I just want to feel like what I do matters. Like I’m reaching someone in a meaningful way—hopefully many someones—and they will be impacted positively by something they read here. (Or hear me say in person, if they work with me.)

It might be nice if, someday, I attend one of the various and growing-in-number Paleo/Primal “events” (like Paleo f(x) or the Ancestral Health Symposium) and someone recognizes me, either by name or by face, from the avatar that pops up when I leave comments on other people’s sites. That would be pretty surreal. But that is certainly not my goal. I am a very low-maintenance person. I don’t need a lot of fancy “stuff,” or trips to exotic locales. I don't need to be a zillionaire. I would, however, like to start making some kind of living from nutrition and health, and be able to leave the day job I referred to as my “festering open wound of a soul suck” in this post. So maybe I need to stop talking about beef hearts and books I’ve read, and start talking about how vitamin C is a pretty great antioxidant, but in megadoses, it is a pro-oxidant and might CAUSE CANCER and/or WRECK YOU PERMANENTLY. Or write something about how the EMF from the power lines near your house and the TOXINS IN YOUR TAP WATER will TURN YOUR UNBORN OFFSPRING INTO MUTANTS, so you’d best move to Mars, or at the very least, spend thousands of dollars on a whole-house reverse osmosis filter unless you want to DIE IMMEDIATELY. (You could also spend the same amount on fancy bottled water for a lifetime instead, but that would take away from you shelling out for the organic, biodynamic superfruit berries, grown especially for me and my readers by the members of a recently discovered tribe in the Amazon rain forest, where they, and only they, oversee production of the berries so we are assured they are mold-free, toxin-free, shade-grown, sun-dried and fermented to remove phytates, oxalates, and goitrogens, and delivered to the U.S. in cloth bags made from sustainably harvested hemp, strapped over unicorn horns. Affiliate link and discount code coming soon! Along with a suitably sensationalist title to the post in which I introduce this fabulous, must-have product that's available only here, of course.)   

Okay, like I said, this is mostly tongue-in-cheek. I am way too new here to be legitimately criticizing anyone who already is making a living at this, because clearly, they know a thing or two I don’t. (Probably a hundred things...) And sometimes I kind of feel like I’m in junior-high, sitting by myself at lunch, gazing over admiringly at the “cool kids,” wondering if they’ll ever ask me to come over and sit with them. I am not in a position to alienate myself from my very tenuous link to the cool crowd. And the fact is, each of the in-your-face and hyperbolic headlines Ive called out here was merely a way to get people to click through to posts that, on balance, are actually worth reading and whose content is not inflammatory.

So it’s clear I have a lot to learn. But if this is the syllabus, I might have to consider dropping the course and finding another.

P.S. Regarding what I said about not being famous, there are two exceptions: One, if I manage to become a wildly successful novelist and become a household name along the lines of Amy Tan, Jodi Picoult, or Gabriel García Marquez. And two, I would love to host a show modeled after What Not to Wear, but it would be called What Not to Eat, and instead of raiding your wardrobe, telling you what you’re doing wrong, how to make it right, and sending you on a shopping spree for all new clothes, we would flip that to food. We’d assess your current diet, your health/weight goals, go through your pantry and fridge/freezer, and then take you to the supermarket to teach you how to shop for foods that are more suitable for you. Seriously, I know people would watch that! I’ll be Stacy; who’s going to be my Clinton? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?  =)  (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you are either a self-respecting heterosexual male, or a female who’s been living under a rock for the past decade.)

Remember: Amy Berger, M.S., NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition.


  1. I love the idea for the "What Not to Eat" show. I would definitely watch that! You'd just have to find a network that does not sell advertising to "food" manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, or OTC medication producers.

  2. IMHO hyperbolic headlines detract and 'it depends' is a better answer than 'yes' or 'no' to many questions. Don't change your blogging style.

  3. I like posts real without sensational headlines, and product placements. Sort of cheapens the content of what you are writing about if a sensational type headline is used. You have my vote for the "What Not to Eat" show. If mainstream TV won't carry it, there's always public television networks that may take it on like PBS, CBC, BBC, TVO... Then again, maybe one of those other cable/online networks may give it a try - "Walking Living, Sane Men (and Women), Old Fashion Family, Making Good.... : )