Sunday, August 14, 2011

Whole Foods Debacle

Every Sunday my roommates and I go to whole foods to get our meat, butter, and a couple other random things for the week. Sometimes I get odd looks when I'm checking out with 300 thousand calories of grass fed ground beef, pastured butter, and a couple packs of Spinach- these Whole Food types tend to be in pretty savvy in conventional nutrition wisdom. They're are probably more likely to be joggers and soccer players than people that are going to go home and watch Real Madrid vs Barcelona on their DirecTV (inside joke).

I like to start conversations with people wherever I go, so what follows is a classic conversation between me and some hot shot doctor. To preface this, I walk up to a register, and unload 9 lbs of red meat and a lb of pastured butter on to the belt. Nothing else. My heart's about to fall out of my chest in a congealed pool of fat right??

Guy In Front of Me in Line: (Gives me a strange look)

Tyler: (Smiles) Don't worry the fruits and veggies are already at home.

GIFML: Sure they are. You're not fooling me.

Tyler: No really, I love fruits and vegetables... I just had to get all this [meat and butter] to fulfill my nutritional needs. Red meat is nature's multivitamin!

GIFML: Yeah, maybe so, but it has a bunch of other stuff in it too.

(Sensing a forthcoming splurge of unsubstantiated dogma) Oh really... Like what?

GIFML: Like cholesterol!

Tyler: Oh. Yeah, poor cholesterol has been pretty demonized. It's a real bummer that so many people have been miseducated in to thinking that eating cholesterol raises cholesterol levels in the blood and increases their chance of cardiovascular disease. You're body needs cholesterol.

GIFML: That's not true. I'm a Medical Doctor!

Tyler: Actually cholesterol is really important for production of sex hormones, brain tissue, nerves, and cell membranes. If I wanted to screw myself up I'd just eat a ton of refined carbohydrates to get my liver to flood my system with triglycerides through de novo lipogenesis.

GIFML: No, you need a balance. Too much cholesterol and you die.

Tyler: I've eaten like this for the last 4 years; my HDL is 111, triglycerides are 36, and LDL is 64.

GIFML: That's just because you have good genetics.

Thank you... Uh, so why are low cholesterol levels in women associated with earlier death?

GIFML: What? I've never heard that. Can't be true.

Tyler: Don't take my word for it. Look it up. Have you heard of medical journals?

GIFML: No. I'm a doctor.

Tyler: Well I don't want to argue about it. I feel sorry for your patients.

Sadly, that's what we get with a lot of Doctors these days. Don't get me wrong though, I don't think doctors are bad people, on the contrary I think their motivations are good and that they truly wish to help people. The problem is, a doctor might get 8 weeks of training in nutrition in medical school... the rest of the other 8 years is mostly pharmacology. And then the rest of their continuing education comes from pharmaceutical reps.

I was talking with a young athlete in Cressey Performance last week, and he said his mom makes him eat margarine instead of butter. I talked with him a little bit about how poisonous margarine is for humans and why he shouldn't be scared of eating butter. The poor kid comes back to me a couple days later and said that his mom looked it up on the internet and I'm wrong, and that their doctor told him not to eat butter. I think this is really, really sad, as the damage they are doing to this kid going to effect him for the rest of his life.

If you want to really learn about how cardiovascular disease happens and why we shouldn't blame cholesterol, check out this freshly released, free presentation from Chris Masterjohn:

Heart Disease and Molecular Degeneration - Chris Masterjohn

Slides here


  1. I would have enjoyed some kind of physical confrontation in addition to this verbal exchange.

  2. Hahaha!

    Next time I'll slap him upside the head with a nice fatty ribeye. That should knock some sense in to him.

  3. That is horrible. I totally agree- physicians (for the most part, very generally speaking) are insanely uneducated with REAL nutrition. Very sad.

  4. I just had a similar conversation with some people at my job. The only that new what the real deal is with cholesterol is a 67 year old guy that refuses to get a physical done.
    Nice article!!!

  5. Sigh, I wish people realized the title "doctor" doesn't entitle them to give advice about anything.

    I bet this guy left thinking you're a nut and he's right still.

  6. haha, I too have what my doctor calls "remarkably good" cholesterol. When I try to take a little credit for my own choices regarding diet and exercise, she shuts me down and blames my genetics. Entirely. But I don't know about this whole dying earlier thing... say it ain't so!

  7. Really enjoyed your post! I face situations like this from some of my clients because some of their relatives are doctors and they would rather take advice from a "Doctor" than a trainer. In reality, I've met a few of these "Doctor's" and not one of them was in good physical condition, and their nutrition knowledge, or lack of, is horrible!

  8. Thanks Damon,

    These situation are tough, I seem to be running in to this type of thing more and more with the people I work with. I think the best policy is just to try to explain the "why" behind what we're doing, and then show them the results that it can get.

  9. Great post & blog. I hate when doctors give that line, "well I am a doctor." You should have asked how much nutritional education he had during his academia.