A Rose with Starry Eyes

{March 17, 2010}   CRON blog

March 14, 2010

A Post That Did Not Go Through the Fine Tuning Committee

There is an interesting phenomenon in the low carb world, the inner workings of which I will not reveal in detail, but I think this is safe to tell you about.

I have mentioned before that Dr. Richard David Feinman can be a bit fiery, and that’s what I like about him. He can not be accused of lacking passion. But at times he can be accused of lacking subtlety or tact. Or something. He occasionally goes a bit overboard. But being very wise and knowing this, he many years ago instituted a check on his correspondence to prevent him from sending emails that might be just a bit over the top.

It’s called the Fine Tuning Committee, and it’s named after Dr. Eugene J Fine, his best friend and long term colleague. The committee used to be just Dr. Fine, but over time other people, including me, joined its ranks.

The funniest thing to watch is when RDF writes a post or letter, such as a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, and then EJF edits it and tones it down. They have the most entertaining good cop/bad cop routine I’ve ever seen, except that they’re not playing, it’s real! RDF really is that fiery, EJF really is a nice person, and a great editor. The first line of my play, Discordia (the one about The Iliad, which at least Ela and my father have read in Greek!) was “You have to start from the assumption that everyone has the best of all possible intentions.” EJF is the kind of person who makes you believe, at least for a few minutes, that this is actually a reasonable stance about life.

I respect that, even admire it. But I’m so much more like RDF. I get a lot of my passion from anger (surprise! I’m a union organizer!) and I’m always railing about something. However I’ve learned that you can’t just go ranting all the time and expect to get anywhere (I actually knew that early… Southern women are taught practically from birth how to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, though why one wants so many flies occasionally eludes me) so I sorta have my own internal Fine Tuning Committee. Remember all those polite and professional responses to the attacks on us in the media? I’m not really that nice. I just know that taking the high road is tactically usually the right way to go. So I may be thinking some pretty harsh stuff, but I edit it back and sound like I’m smiling.

I think we all have an internal Fine Tuning Committee. You know that voice in your head that says, “DO NOT HIT SEND!” right before you’re about to send a potentially disasterously over the top email? Or the voice that says, “Perhaps you won’t be so angry about this after you’ve had a nice yoga class and a glass of wine.” That’s the Fine Tuning Committee. Some of us even manage to externalize this phenomenon.

Well, I’m having one of those days when my inner Gene Fine has left the building. I’m pretty nice, really I am, I like to start from the assumption that everyone has the best of all possible intentions, but I’ve been running out of nerves lately and this commenter got on my last one.

Why must you weigh out very low-calorie foods like celery? Will you truly go over the day’s calorie limit if you eat too much? As a fairly small woman, I find it pretty simple to eat well under 1200-1400 calories per day without weighing provided I eat exclusively whole foods.

Behaviors like needing to weigh every gram of food prompt even advocates of other “extreme” diets to ask whether CR prompts disordered eating behavior in some.

First, welcome. Please do not be discouraged from reading or commenting in future because I am about to rip your comments apart. You’re not nearly as annoying as a great many commenters I’ve had in the past, you just happened to comment on a day when my last nerve was shot. Sorry.

[Wait, I think Gene snuck into my head again for a minute. That was so nice. I mean, the above comment was so nice. Gene sneaking into my head for a minute was just weird… I suddenly knew a whole lot about nuclear medicine and it was awesome, but then it was gone in a flash and I was the same bitter angry union organizer I usually am.]

FIRST: if you don’t weigh and measure, how do you know you’re eating 1200 to 1400 calories? The data on under-reporting is overwhelming. Did you once weigh and measure your food, eat 1200 to 1400 and remain weight stable, and now you don’t weigh and measure and you remain weight stable?

How tall are you and how much do you weigh? Cause at 5’2″ and no exercise at all several years ago, I ate between 1200 to 1400 and gradually dripped down to 99 pounds, at which point I stopped because I missed a mildly important detail at work due to excessive hunger and the persistent thought of a cup of cottage cheese. Right now, at slightly over 1400, I am losing weight consistently. Point being, I doubt that you’re really eating 1200 to 1400. I suspect you only think you are. But maybe you’re 4’10” feet tall, 90 pounds, and 60. That would be awesome, and I bet you look great if you are. There was once upon a time a CR blogger who about fit that profile, Minicronie. She was adorable and actually weighed and measured her food. Her calorie numbers were like that and she was actually right. She was also so tiny as to make me look like a giraffe.

MR weighs every drop of food he eats because he’s so close to his personal edge that if he doesn’t, he will easily accidentally eat more than the calorie level he’s carefully chosen. The body defends whatever weight it’s settled on, and it’s very easy to gradually go up in calories if you only monitor your weight.

That being said, I personally often don’t weigh very low calorie foods like celery. I often consume an entire pint of grape tomatoes while grocery shopping and talking on the phone (yeah, that’s what that noise is, it’s me eating grape tomatoes) and I don’t know their exact calorie count, it’s just that I’ve weighed pints of grape tomatoes enough times to be fairly sure of their count. I often munch on un-weighed celery while making dinner. I am not close to my personal edge right now so it seems kinda silly to weigh everything, especially when I still very occasionally eat out.

But here’s the part that I really want to rip apart:

Behaviors like needing to weigh every gram of food prompt even advocates of other “extreme” diets to ask whether CR prompts disordered eating behavior in some.

Really? Does that prompt some people to ask about eating disorders?

Guess what:


In a nation where two thirds of the population are overweight or obese, where diabetes and heart disease are epidemic, and where there is just a lot of annoying crap on the internet, I am sick of answering stupid questions about CR and eating disorders. Yes, we are different from “normal” people. We are on a science experiment, and we take responsibility for our own health in a way that makes us downright freakish compared to the Cheeto eating population (wow I don’t even know how to spell that snack food it’s been so long since I ate it.) We don’t have “orthoexia” or whatever idiotic made up disorder is in fashion this week. Anorexics don’t run to their doctors for blood tests to make sure they’re in optimal health on a yearly basis. Anorexics don’t do their nutrition on software to make sure they’re getting optimal nutrition.

I will be the first to admit that we, and my partner in particular, are a bit odd. MR has the kind of personality that craves a rigid structure. He’s like that in general, and guess what: he’s the happiest person I know. He loves routine, schedules, plans, and cute little packed pill boxes. He’s just that way. At any given moment, I know what he’s doing. I like that. I have more than enough spontaneity in the rest of my life… I enjoy the calm secure quiet of a partner who is the dictionary definition of predictable.

Life-extension is MR’s life’s work. He writes about it, researches it, and has made CR his big experiment. He tweaks his diet, messes with his calorie levels, and looks so much like a teenager at the age of 39 that I occasionally wonder if I am going to be arrested for having sex with a minor. His mommy however assures me that he really was born a solid four years before me, so I think I’m okay, but you guys would bail me out if I got into trouble, right?

CR has done incredible things for my partner, and I see the effects every day. He doesn’t just look amazingly youthful, he is in unbelievable health. He weighs about the same thing I do, but can pick me up and carry me around anytime I don’t feel like walking. He never, ever gets sick, even when he is forced to sleep next to and even cuddle a very sick girl who — due to not being in proper CR state — has a terrible cold, and he never gets more than a tickle in his throat. Even that is unusual. His moods are even, he’s happy almost all the time except when I’m being a crazy psycho b*t&h and yelling at him for something stupid. Or if the amazon.com order gets screwed up.

It also does amazing things for me. I never got sick at less than 108 pounds. CR cured my anxiety disorder. When I’m in low calorie balance, even at a higher weight as I’m losing, I have this clarity of mind that is incredible. Granted, I do occasionally have flashes when I think I know a lot about nuclear medicine, but they pass quickly and are probably unrelated to CR. Though they may be related to CR, The Other, which is of course Carbohydrate Restriction. There are so many confounders, it’s hard to tell.

As Paige says, CR brings out the scientist in us. We are running a human experiment, and MR just wants to run his under the most laboratory perfect conditions. He’s serious about catching that bus to real life-extension, the kind that only biotech, not lifestyle, can make possible. I’ve seen him run for the bus before, and let me tell you, he’s serious about it. He’s willing to make sacrifices to that end, much like an Olympic athlete makes sacrifices to train to be the best in the world.

Does that bother you? Do you think that’s weird?

Again, I don’t care. I’m not doing this to impress you. I’m not doing this to impress anyone, actually. I’m doing a lot of other things to impress people, but not CR. This is for me. And, no, it’s not even for MR. He’s cute and all, but there’s no boy cute enough to justify doing this kind of unusual, call it extreme if you want, lifestyle just to keep him.

[Well, what if he had a really sexy New York accent? On top of everything else that makes him perfect? Like, he still brought me my morning supplements and a tablespoon of inositol dissolved in Diet Mountain Dew in bed every morning, he still packed my little baggies of nuts and seeds, he still explained medical studies I don’t understand to me over the dinner table just because I bat my eyelashes and say please, but he has a devastatingly gorgeous New York accent? Would that be worth doing CR, even if I didn’t want to do it for myself? I have to seriously consider the possibility that it would. After I peel myself off the living room floor, onto which I have fainted while even considering the possibility. New York accents really, really wreck me. We all have a type. Sometimes you just have to own it and move forward.]

Yeah, we’re weird, but we don’t have an eating disorder, and we don’t need to make the random commenter comfortable with our lifestyle. Do you find it triggering? Ohhhhhh poor dear. Go read something else if information about health triggers whatever problems you may have. Don’t project your own issues onto me. It’s like those idiots who oppose calorie labeling on menus: are you really so scared of information? I find the prices on menus very upsetting, but guess what: I deal with it and pay the bill. We all pay the bill in health when we eat as though it doesn’t affect our health.

[Wow, I am on a rant. And I am having a wonderful time. I think I may have hit my head when I fainted while thinking about the New York accent thing… ouch… I’m sure I’ll recover from any damage by the time I have to either a) cook lunch b) go back to working on my *very serious project* about which I assure you I am very serious. Cue putting back on the librarian glasses.]

The thing about MR is that he practices what he preaches. He doesn’t just look at the science and say, “Wow, that’s interesting, calorie restriction makes every animal in which it’s ever been tested live longer, that’s awesome, I think I’ll have a cheeseburger!” No, he does something about it. And he does it with passion. It’s what attracted me to him in the first place. He puts his broccoli where his mouth is… or something like that.

It’s probably also what caught my attention the first time I met RDF. When I asked all the scientists if they believe that CR would work and if then they did CR or thought they should, they all had entertaining answers. I applaud their honesty, but none of them were acting on the data that they themselves produced. RDF was the last to answer, and he said that he had been on a low carb diet for eight years. After fifteen years of fat phobia, the only thing that ever got through to me was the biochemist from Brooklyn who actually walks the walk instead of just talking the talk. “Thank God for Dr. Feinman,” says MR for the fiftieth time. He tried to tell me, over and over again. Eat more fat. Cut out carbs. He is very gracious about the fact that he’s been telling me this for six years and it’s not till I meet the biochemist that I really get it.

Of course, people still say stupid hand-waving things when you tell them you’re doing a low carb diet. Check out our new commenter’s other comment:

A high protein, low carbohydrate diet has been shown to cause brain shrinkage in rats. The brain uses glucose as its primary fuel, so it seems prudent to give it enough through adequate (though not excessive!) dietary intake of complex carbohydrate.

Dude, have you been reading my food records at all? I’m eating at least 50 and more like 100 g carbohydrate a day, all healthy veggies. I don’t think my brain is shrinking. People have been doing ketogenic diets of under 20 g carb/day safely since the seventies and probably way before… I don’t have the energy to get into evolutionary arguments now, but anyhow, this is just ridiculous. “I heard that rats’ brains shrink on Atkins.” “My Aunt Lucy lost her mind when she went on a ketogenic diet.”


I think the other thing that made me immediately pay attention to RDF when I met him at CR was the flash of his eyes when he talked about how the low carb message, the raw data itself, had been repressed by the nutrition establishment. We CR folk have been so attacked in the media and misrepresented that I find anyone who has been through the same a kindred spirit.

People who actually walk the walk instead of ignoring the data, who actually feel passionate about their work and about changing the world: that’s who I want to hang out with. People who are willing to take risks and take a bit of negative press and have their grant applications rejected cause they fall outside the mainstream.

I have no idea how EJF got funding for the cleverly named RECHARGE trial, but it kinda rocks my world. What if ketogenic diets really can help some people with cancer? This matters! While the nutrition establishment is wringing its collective hands about saturated fat, there are people out there doing research that might actually change people’s lives. This makes me feel a bit less cynical and bored than usual.

I will declare victory when I get funding to do RDF’s low carb diabetes trial. He doubts I can do it. I invite him to imagine what happened to the last guy who doubted me.

If they can find him.

link: http://www.mprize.org/blogs/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: