“Lead with fear,” Sigma Nutrition Radio, Ep. #401: Quack Asylum – Part 2: Greger, Berg & Saladino

This episode of Sigma Nutrition Radio and the previous one are a celebration of 400 episodes of the podcast! They are a ton of fun and worth listening to, at a minimum to hear Alan and Danny giggle fiendishly as they listen to clips of quackery in their natural habitat.

I wanted to highlight the discussion of Greger and vegan ideologies, as this was a form of pseudoscience that I got caught up in myself years ago. Several references in the conversation–Dr. Ornish and the Pritikin diet in particular–hit close to home for my 2000-ought self! Around that time, when low-fat, high carb was ebbing but still a cultural force, I developed the most dramatic consequences for my health condition. After I was hospitalized, surgically altered (lost half a lung), and went onto very challenging medications, including high-dose corticosteroids and weekly chemotherapy drugs, I was looking for any semblance of control over my health. And around that time, we were all witnesses to the cultural fight between the high carb, often vegetarian or vegan, camp and the low-carb, Atkins camp. And I took a side.

I was predisposed to favoring the high carb dogma–I’d been a vegetarian for environmental reasons for much of the previous decade. I thought (and still think!) pork is gross and unappetizing, and I still do not choose to eat it or beef out of personal preference and environmental concerns. It was not a hard sell, therefore, to take those tendencies and convince me that I was also reducing my risk for inflammation (a buzzword any person with autoimmune diseases will be susceptible to noting), and decreasing my risks for other health conditions like heart disease and cancer. And after adding 20 pounds to my body the first month of corticosteroid treatment, I was suddenly very interested in managing my figure.

I fell deep into this mindset for several years. My old cookbooks from that time include calorie and fat totals written in the margins, where I was calculating the percent calories from fat in order to keep things at or below my preferred goal. (Fifteen percent? Honestly, I don’t recall now, but I do know that it resulted in me being chronically hungry.) I extolled the virtues of what I was eating to anyone who would listen. I felt superior and informed and believed the rest of the world was ignorant and harming themselves. I even went to a symposium with Dr. John McDougall and got one of his books signed by the author himself, after he went through a long powerpoint presentation that would fit right in with anything presented as quackery on this podcast.

And it was quackery. I made it through the other side, but it took experiencing the negative consequences for these choices for myself for a while before I was willing to try and let it go. It was a gradual process of reeducation and personal experimentation. And now, decades later, I use this past time period to remind myself to stay humble. What I think I know may not actually be true. I use this blog to highlight folks I think are providing the best, evidence-based information out there so we can become strong, beefy, healthy people, but I’m not infallible. With any luck, a decade from now, I’ll still be writing and connecting with all of you, and we can laugh about the things we used to think was true, and we can all keep learning.

Did you give the episode(s) a listen? Have you ever realized that you were taken in by pseudoscience or nutrition quackery? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below, or find and follow Progressive Strength on Facebook!

Sigma Nutrition Radio Podcast

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