Back To Basics or How to Lose a Book Deal

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

I don’t claim to have taken away much useful wisdom from my Weight Watchers days.  The “advice” that most leaders provided resonated like so many careful crafted canned responses.  However, there was one piece of wisdom I recall being particularly helpful when faced with plateau: When you’re not getting the results you want, stop tweaking and go back to the basics.

For WW members, the “basics” was returning to “Week 1” – the induction phase – which usually meant undoing all the fancy workarounds and special alterations you’d made to your eating habits.  The preparation, foods and meals in Week 1 were basic.   If you followed this advice, it almost always broke a plateau.  This was because your stagnation was most likely due to a recent change (or a compounding of many changes over time) and removing those changes brought you back to center.

I feel like sending this sage advice to our fellow self-proclaimed low-carb guru, Jimmy Moore.

I really haven’t been following his blogs the past year – largely because, at the time I decided to tune out, he’d climbed into bed with the paleo regime and I just couldn’t buy into all the paleo-hype – I don’t care what Grog says, if I eat a sweet potato, I have a massive insulin response and grow fatter.  However, a recent post by Wooo deriding Jimmy’s long-term fasting experiment and citing the catastrophic metabolic impact starvation can cause peaked my curiosity.  I had to go out and experience his jimmyscopes for myself.

Jimmy’s newest social media format is Periscope, a live-media streaming platform (think of it like your own personal TV station).  I didn’t have the time or inclination to listen to every single daily fasting update.  I focused on his scopes for day 1, his cheat days and his final day on the fast.  In my impression, he presents as a man in desperation who is maybe a bit out of his depth.

First, there’s the distracted style of his presentation (constantly interrupting himself to respond real-time to comments from his viewers) and the near constant requests for viewers to remember to “tap, tap, tap on the screen for hearts” made me want to bang, bang, bang on my screen in torment (listeners show their love for the broadcaster by tapping their screen to give “hearts”).   There just isn’t organized and consistent information being provided and Jimmy’s “fans” cause him to take more tangents than a geometry course.

Then there’s the actual content.  I don’t get Jimmy’s rationale for what he’s doing or why he thinks it will work.  I don’t see him presenting enough of the science behind his approach and why it will work for him.  BTW, Wooo does a very good job of breaking this down in her rant about his fast.   What I did hear is enough to convince me that Jimmy is swinging far from his roots as a basic HFLC advocate, to hawking the notions of any doctor-du-jour that manages to hold him under sway (or a book deal).  This is never a good sign.  What Jimmy is ultimately doing for good health and weight management is unclear – is it low-carb? high-fat? paleo? fasting? some miracle combination of all of these things that no average person could ever figure out not to mention maintain?

It’s not that I’m against new ideas or new approaches – there’s far too little detailed studies and results available to have concrete conclusions about every aspect of diet and energy partitioning.  However, that doesn’t mean one has to jump on every bandwagon that comes along or to do it simply because you have a pending book deal.

As with any healthful pursuit, you find what works (holistically), check that it’s working and then stick with it.

I’m not 100% sure if Jimmy’s struggle right now is a weight plateau, food boredom or some other inability for him to remain in a high-fat/low carb eating style.  From what I see, I think he’s way over-analyzing and scrutinizing every aspect of his diet and health – something he may feel he needs to do in order to substantiate his reputation with his followers but I think it’s simply increasing the pressure on him to have a positive (read: weight loss) outcome every time.  That’s just not going to happen – we’re human, after all.  Looking at all the things Jimmy has been doing, I’m not sure I can still see a clear path to improved health and weight maintenance through all the hoops and gimmicky tricks.  I think this is both eroding his messaging and his ability to succeed.

IMHO, Jimmy needs to take a moment and re-assess his health goals and re-start with a more basic approach.

This brings me back to the basics.  Remember William Banting and his Letter on Corpulence?  Banting didn’t have gimmicky fasts, “cheats” and fake foods to use in order to lose weight.  He simply abstained from the foods that caused him to fatten and replaced them with foods that did not.  Simple. Basic.

At the end of the day, our bodies are what they are.  We can improve their response to various stimuli by changing that stimuli (e.g. reducing inflammation by eschewing inflammation-generating foods) but we can’t actually change the blueprint of our bodies.  If your body’s reaction to ingesting grains and tubers is to store that energy as fat, that’s what’s going to happen.  When I come across HFLC success stories (i.e. people who have maintained weight and health several years in a row), what I find is that they mostly follow a very basic plan and veer very little from it.  When faced with health challenges and plateaus, these people don’t see it as a call to arms to take a 360-degree turn on their approach.  Then again, most of these people aren’t counting on a new gimmick to bring them a book deal, either.



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