The Worst Idea I EVER Had…

19 May

So what’s the worse idea you’ve ever had? Did you actually follow through with it? Well, I had a bad one, and I followed through with it, and it stunk!

For years I’ve tried to find the right “diet” for me and my family. I always tried to weigh the health benefits of what we ate and since I am the cook in the house, it falls primarily on my shoulders. Plus, being a doctor, my wife tends to go with what I say on nutrition since I “should” know best right?

Physicians receive about as much training in med school on nutrition as my 6 year old got about the Ming Dynasty in Kindergarten. We learn all kinds of things in and around the physiology of the human body, including the complex interaction between insulin, fat, and weight. We learn the details that is, but nothing that is the least practical in day to day life. As an internist your primary goal in training is to learn to keep people alive, but mainly when they are ACUTELY dying. Ho hum day to day primary care is covered, but not as well as more serious hospital care. So what we learn falls in line with the standard “calories in-calories out” teaching that I of coarse now reject. We learn about protein, carbs, and fat, and how fat contains twice as many calories as proteins and carbs, so they must be what make you fat!

It’s important for everyone to know that their doctors (most likely) preach this information because that is the little that they were taught, and it’s hard enough to keep up to date with all the new information when it comes to everyday practice. New drugs, new clinical trials; they all take precedent most of the time over relearning old topics. Especially when the “data” that has always been emphasized falls in line with the above train of thought. How can fat not make you fat? It just doesn’t make sense if you stick to the knowledge we are presented in our training.

So, how did I end up putting the time in to learning about Paleo? Well, that goes back to my big mistake! Around 4 years ago I read a book called the China Study just around the time my daughter was turning 2 years old. I was bound and determined to live a healthy life, avoid the chronic diseases my patients lived with everyday, and I knew my diet was the key. So, I became a Vegan. For a year…yes, a year. I bought all kinds of new cookbooks, swore bacon back to the fithly swine it came from, and became one with tofu. I’m nauseated just thinking about it.

I told everyone around me I was going to try it for a year and then re-evaluate. I knew two months in I should just quit, but I’m too darn stubborn to not go the whole year. I…FELT…TERRIBLE all the time. I was hungry, cranky, slept terribly, missed food, and even gained a little weight to boot. As a veggie all I did was try to find ways to make things taste like meat. Tempah, faux chicken stock…and the worst idea ever TO-freaking-FURKY. For the record, I never ate Tofurky, but the thought crossed my mind. It was obvious I craved meat, I was gaining weight, and I felt exhausted all the time. Come to think of it, how often do you run into a fit and energetic looking vegan? I will confess to all here, I did not make it a full year. Around 6 days before the year mark my wife and I were visiting friends in Manhattan and we booked reservations to a wonderful place called Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse on 6th Avenue. The original Del Frisco’s is in Fort Worth,Tx, and we have been there many times. I ordered the biggest New York Strip on the menu and sat in awe as the blazing hot dry aged beef fat burst into my mouth on first bit. Meat was back, thank goodness!

I kind of gave up trying to even figure out what is best to eat. I stopped cooking as much, gave in to the kids desires to turn into a miniature chicken nugget, and took the easy way out for a year or more. Eventually I started cooking again, but never with much purpose other than to make tasty things. Now I can cook, and it was fun throwing together tons of classics, mastering homemade gnocchi, building a wood burning pizza oven, making artisan bread at home…all the foodie things you can think of! Still, my wife and I were just living. We didnt’ feel good, we didn’t feel bad; we didnt’ gain weight, we didn’t lose weight…you get the picture.

Around a year and a half ago our neighbor’s started eating Paleo. My initial thought was no way, I’m not trying another fad diet because they don’t work. Why give so much up for so little gain. So we just kept up with the status quo. In the fall of last year my wife was outside talking to our neighbor, and when she came in she said “I think we should go Paleo.” Secretly I was dying to do SOMETHING, I just hated feeling defeated and controlled by food. In typical fashion in our house, we decided I would read the book, and I would give her the short version in less than 10 minutes!

I bought Robb Wolf’s book on my iPad Kindle app, and away I went. I read the whole thing by the end of the weekend and I got energized in a way I have never been before. Why? Rob MADE SENSE, and he included all the science and data my medical mind needed. If you have not read his book, please do so you know why Paleo is important and correct. He gives you the option to skip the “why” of Paleo and just read the “how.” I urge you not to do this as I feel strongly that if you know why you will be more motivated to stay with it. That night I downloaded Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes and I polished it off in two days (long nights rather). How could I change my mind so fast? This was completely against all I had been taught.

The reason is simple, my patients. I see patients all the time who come in, either have not lost weight, gained weight, or are the same; take your pick. All the while they swear they are counting calories, trying hard, and exercising where they can. I hear this story countless times a day. So there are two options: they are either all complete bold faced LIARS!, or what they are doing is not working. With Paleo, I found the answer… It’s not working.

From that day I have been very strict in my Paleo eating, and have eaten as clean as possible. Have I been perfect?; no I have not. But I can honestly say I have been 95% compliant in my eating and as you all know I am 13 days into my Whole 30 at the moment. My personal results are all the “data” I need to change the way I talk to my patients. I feel good, have lost 25 pounds or more without trying, I am NEVER hungry anymore, and I sleep like a log. Most importantly like I have mentioned on other posts, I am finally in control of my diet. Food no longer controls me and that is the most rewarding part of my journey. Will this lifestyle fizzle out in me? Guess you should never say never, but I just don’t know how I could ever go back to eating non-Paleo. Even now when I “cheat” there are certain absolute no-no’s like wheat, dairy, and soy.

All this has led to this blog, and I have plans for more Paleo projects in the future. I am a very lonely voice in the world of Internal Medicine when it comes to Paleo, but there are many years to come. I am not convinced that the government will, republican or democrat, ever change their views on nutrition and flip the food pyramid over the way it should be. It’s just so sticky, complicated, and political; but that should not stop me or all of you from trying to help others. Over the next few months I will be laying out several projects aimed at bringing Paleo more into the conversation in mainstream medicine. I’m most excited about an observational trial I am hoping to start soon with the help of the Hartwig’s over at Whole 9 Life looking at Paleolithic Nutrition in Diabetics. Exciting things to come!

I am most amazed by the quality, passion, and intelligence of the leaders of the Paleo community. This is not a fad movement, but rather a well educated, scientifically based, and compassionate group of people who want to help people get healthier with simple food choices. I humbly add myself to the mix in hopes of adding to the knowledge base and hopefully…changing the course of history. Together we can do it!

If you are a Vegan out of choice, or a vegetarian for religious reasons I certainly understand. I am simply sharing my experiences and personal frustrations in my life. Medically, I do have questions about how healthy a meat-free diet is, just as I have questions about the health of people following a traditional “heart-healthy” low fat diet. Thanks



Posted by on May 19, 2012 in General Paleo Discussion


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9 responses to “The Worst Idea I EVER Had…

  1. Steve Nagel, DC

    May 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Welcome to the party. For humanity’s sake, I hope it doesn’t take the rest of the medical profession 60 more years to figure out that nutrition and lifestyle (and chiropractic, but we’ll start here…) DOES work, it only needs to be applied correctly…

  2. Larry

    May 19, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Awesome post. As a medical student I can vouch for the lack of our nutrition training. Our training came in our first year and it was 2 hours of the entire year. The first hour was a dietitian explaining how we should give diabetics a 50% calories from carbs diet (???) and the second hour was the USDA my Food plate and how we should eat less calories then we burn.

    What is promising and comforting is that as soon as I explain the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis to my classmates and show them the clinical trials ( ), and explain to them how people all of a sudden report not being hungry anymore, they immediately agree and wonder why they never thought of questioning the calorie-in calorie-out ideas.

  3. the PRIME pursuit

    May 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Awesome post. I am always excited hear about people who have had profound boosts in energy, performance, sleep and overall health. I just wish more people would take that step of faith to see how it will work for them.

  4. Kirby Messinger (@KirbyMessinger)

    May 21, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Ernie, I think your blog is really interesting because since I’ve started Paleo (about 4 weeks ago) I’ve constantly had friends and family say it’s not “healthy”. It’s great to have a physician endorse it (especially one from Louisiana)! I work for Tulane School of Medicine and we’re developing a Teaching Kitchen to help our doctors understand nutrition and eating right so they can better help their patients. It’s amazing how many “fat” doctors there are!

    • erniegarcia76

      May 21, 2012 at 10:59 am

      Glad to hear about the Teaching Kitchen project, I think that would be great! The immediate answer is always that Paleo is not healthy, but they never take the time to learn about it. Tell them to read a book about it, then they can argue with you about it! Thanks for following!

  5. rob

    May 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Its not that hard…eat decent food in moderation, take the time to excersise, and go to bed on time. Not sure you need a medical degree.

  6. mohammed

    September 8, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I am a physician from Egypt and I am telling you that you are not an alone voice. 1 year ago I was not happy with my gradual gain of weight so I decided to exercise and “eat healthy”. I cut all the processed food and ate whole grain/ low fat diet. I tracked my progress meticulously by measuring my body fat and lean mass ( you know the BMI we advocate as doctors is completely useless ) .I went from 22% body fat to 19.9 % in 6 months ( which is very slow) after that I had a plateau for 2 months. I was doing every thing right. I lowered my calories guess what I gained 2 pounds of fat and lost 2.3 pound of lean mass, in addition to that I felt horrible most of the time. Then I tried IF and failed again. There is something that is horribly wrong but I can’t figure it out. Finally thank God I came across an article that discuss the difference between the fat adapted and the glucose burners which is a very key concept. Then I read the ketogenic diet, the primal blueprint and the paleo solution. I went 100% paleo after that I lost consistently 0,2 KG of pure fat per day till I reached 9% bf. I never thought I will have 6 packs , I discovered that I have 8 !. I am so happy about my transformation but I think Paleo lifestyle value is greater than merely weight loss and preservation of lean mass. After 8 days of terrible low carb flue I truly experienced miraculous health benefits which include:
    1. restoration of circadian rhythm I sleep like a baby now and wake up refreshed.
    2. more consistent energy, I feel more focused and I have diminished stress level.
    3. happy mood, loss of anxiety.
    4. My BP went from 125/80 to 110/70
    5. acne are gone and everybody is telling me that I look younger and healthier. hair is growing like weeds.
    7. My allergic rhinitis disappeared completely.

    • Rachel

      December 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      Dear Mr. Garcia
      I can’t thank you enough for taking the time out of what must already be a crazy schedule to start this blog. My husband and I just discovered Paleo in mid October 2012 and we can’t believe the difference in how we feel. He has lost over 15 pounds effortlessly and my weight has stabilized and is starting to go down as well however I don’t really have much to lose. The biggest difference for me is that I have had chronic insomia my entire life (even as a child) and horrendous IBS for the past 20 years for which I (and the many doctors I have seen) could not determine the cause. I had immediate relief from both since going Paleo. My greatest concern now is for my father in law who is in his sixties, overweight and diabetic and getting worse. His brother and father both died within a month of one another last year so this is very scary for everyone. We have been “talking up Paleo” to him and my mother in law and at his last doctor visit he asked his doctor about it and to my dismay his doctor told him no this is a fad thing and a terrible unhealthy diet. I have bought him Robb’s book as a christmas gift but I know he will not accept the information because Robb is not a doctor. ThankfuIly I found your blog and have printed out some of your articles to give to him along with the book and they are my only hope to change his mind and that is because you are a “real” practicing medical doctor. Without that there is zero chance of him believing this Paleo thing is anything more than hogwash! Thank you and God bless you for having the courage to step out with your faith and your “rogue” dietary recommendations!


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