Low Carb Critiquing and Constructive Criticism vs. Slamming and Tearing Down Values

Looks like my post yesterday about deciding for yourself, and 13 Low Carb Resources was well received. Thanks for all the Facebook Likes!

I received an email about it.

I’m at work but I’ve been mulling over your 13 low-carb post…

Is there going to be a 13 Pretty Good Churches post at some point? :)

I’m being a dick, but there is a built in deterrent to commenting on that post, since most disagreements are nit picky (especially among one’s own readers). We can find the good in almost anything. But, the problem with a lot of those low-carb sites is that:

  1. they employ religious thinking
  2. they are married to low-carb at the identity level, which means they are totally closed to information and research showing that low-carb isn’t necessarily ideal
  3. sometimes people set themselves up as gurus, manipulate their followers, and use despicable marketing tactics to sell total crap

It’s worth pointing those things out. If anything there is less disagreement than agreement, anyway. The people who disagree are shunned or humiliated. Same kind of shit that got us the low-fat nonsense.

I began tapping out a reply from my perspective and when it began getting long, I said ‘aww, what the hell—let’s just put it out there.’

First, it serves to take a bird’s eye view of the whole thing and in general, my view and judgment tells me that the LC community, for all its warts, is a net value and helps a lot of people. Everyone I’ve ever known of on LC…

  1. loses fat
  2. tends more toward real foods more of the time
  3. improves health, vitality and energy

A big percentage stall at some point, but losing 40 instead of the 60 you wanted is still a huge net benefit, in my judgment.

Now that we have paleo, that’s a next logical step for LC folks to try, and because of the underling religiosity of society (not just LC), paleo can be a tough nut to crack right off the bat. So, another way to look at Jimmy Moore, for example, is that he serves the value—as a religious man whom religious people trust—of telling people: “”paleo is OK, even if it has an evolutionary foundation.” So, ironically, the religious thinking that Jimmy subscribes to (and, I think, does a very good job of not wearing on his sleeve constantly) is responsible for getting more religious people interested in a paleo approach—where they’re going to be exposed to the science of evolution—than you or I ever could.

This is a good thing. So you have people out there saying “Jimmy’s just trying to horn in on paleo; I mean, look how religious the guy is,” when in reality, he’s to be commended for leading people to a more paleo, Real Food way rather than saying “don’t go there, stay away, they believe in evolution.”

As to the other points, well, that’s the realities of business and self-help in general and so that’s why you check out a bunch of sources and find the one(s) you’re most comfortable with. Some people really get into the promotions, contests, challenges, giveaways and such that guys like jimmy moore and Mark Sisson engage in. That’s great. Doesn’t interest me—either as a participant or doing any such thing myself—but clearly there’s a lot of people who, for whatever reason(s), get into it and it helps keep them in the game. I see no reason to criticize or bemoan that. Different strokes.

Here’s what I am all for:

  1. General critiques. This post itself is a bit of an overall critique of the LC community and I’ve done it in the past for paleo as well. It recognizes the overall net value and either explicitly or implicitly suggests improvements to the value. The way to make errors and the bad stuff less and less relevant is simply to increase the value.
  2. Constructive criticism. Same as (1) but typically directed at one person or organization. I have constructively criticized Jimmy a few times. He’s taken my criticism well, has blogged about it, even had me on his podcast. What more could one want? So, he exposes his own readers to my criticisms of him, but what exposure to those criticisms would his readers get if I, like so many, attacked him personally or suggested that everything he does amounts to a pile of crap?

So to summarize, step one is to get the macro, bird’s eye view and make a judgment call: net value or net disvalue? Everyone knows my judgment in the matter. LC and paleo are strong net values in many ways for, among other things, educating people about good Real Food, dispensing with the myth that saturated fat will harm you, that cholesterol will kill you, that you need your X servings of hearthealthywholegrains per day…etc., etc.

Conversely, most of the conventional wisdom is a net disvalue (just look around you). I put “vegetarinism” (that allows dairy and eggs) about in the middle because you can get adequate nutrition and there’s a strong Real Food thread to it. Veganism, the rest of the conventional wisdom catechism, fat & cholesterol phobia, processed food pushers, et al, I put at net disvalues and as such, am happy to contribute to their complete, merciless, utter destruction…and eventual grave peeing.

For LC and paleo, it’s as easy as not tossing out the baby with the bathwater. Dry that baby off and get more good Real Food in it—and ignore the dirty water.

…Oh, yes, I do have a PGC (Pretty Good Church) idea. Check out the Unitarian Universalists. Any church that welcomes atheists and secular humanists is A-OK in my book. I blogged a bit about them here.

Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. The cost of two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance the travel to write, photo, and film from interesting places and share the experiences with you.


  1. Ed on February 21, 2013 at 11:48

    I don’t understand those people who think that it’s not enough the Paleo flourishes; low-carb must be destroyed.

    And the idea of writing an email to someone to lobby them to help in that destruction is even more bizarre to me.

  2. Ted M on February 21, 2013 at 13:59

    I came to bulletproofexec.com/diet (as close as I get to a particular diet) through someone that sent me to Mercola. My desire is to simply be healthy and avoid the heart issues of my parents (Dad died at 41, Mom died at 58). I happen to be a christian and consider the way I eat as close as I can get to food God made for us to eat. GMO is obviously out and anything I buy at a grocery store/Farmer’s Market will not be processed and if it is animal sourced then the animal should eat what God designed it to eat.

  3. Rakesh Patel MD on February 21, 2013 at 14:09

    Trying to put a square peg in a round hole will always be painful. It is important to keep in mind that all macronutrients are necessary. It’s figuring out the correct amount (that is different for everybody) that can be difficult at times. You have to find the right pharmacological dose (yes, food is a drug). Nice posts.

  4. David B on February 21, 2013 at 14:54

    It wasn’t clear to me that in the original post ‘religious thinking’ meant Religion literally, but rather it might have been implying that a lot of low carb sources rely on more of faith based/dogmatic approach to presenting information. e.g. It’s true because it’s in the bible (GCBC).

    I think this is a natural consequence of trying to over simplify the message – a few bullet points are all the great unwashed can handle, after all! And its easier to (literally) sell a simple message. I think people like Peter Attia do a great job of breaking that down – presenting the science in excruciating detail, refusing to generalize to a one size fits all, and a willingness to experiment and refine their message as their own understanding develops. Even so, I guess it’s still a small ‘leap of faith’ on my behalf if I choose to accept his message, simply because I don’t have the background or means to perform a rigorous analysis.

  5. Alex on February 21, 2013 at 20:28

    I feel somewhat that I’m becoming the resident vegan commenter. But oh well.

    I personally know several vegans who, on said diet, have met your three criteria. They’ve lost fat, ate more “real food”, and claim to feel better. In a couple cases, they have documented improvements in race times. Full disclosure: This is all true for me as well.

    On a broader scale, I think you have to grant that there are many more who have met those criteria after reading advice that is often far from perfect. Forks Over Knives, for instance, basically sucks; but I have no
    doubts that some people eat better now, having seen it.

    “First, it serves to take a bird’s eye view of the whole thing and in general, my view and judgment tells me that the ____ community, for all its warts, is a net value and helps a lot of people. Everyone I’ve ever known of on ___…”

    My point is this: You could fill in that bland with any number of diets, or general fitness/nutrition/wellness/etc. movements. Low carb clearly works well for some, as does higher carb paleo. Others thrive on a conventional “chicken and oats” bodybuilding diet. And there are – trust me – healthy (and sane) vegans out there.

    Anything that gets people to eat reasonable portions (because the math still counts) of reasonable food (because adequate nutrition does too) is a net gain, I think. Even better if it emphasizes the benefit of a reasonable fitness regimen to compliment eating well.

  6. Zen on February 21, 2013 at 21:15

    What do you mean by ” Provide references for my preconceived notions.”

  7. Galina L. on February 22, 2013 at 06:45

    I think that for a person who needs a LC diet Atkins-type diet from 70-s with mayo and other crap is way better than the “real food” approach. It is about priorities.

    • John on February 23, 2013 at 11:53

      Actually, the Atkins diet in the 70’s was very much a real food approach, much more so than LC generally is today. There was no reliance on protein powders and shakes (many today which bear the Atkins name), and the high omega six oils hadn’t taken over all the sauces and dressings and such. In Atkins first book, it was even nicknamed “The Steak and Salad Superdiet.” That’s shows that there was a real food focus right there.

  8. Ulfric on February 22, 2013 at 09:21

    Alex says ; “Anything that gets people to eat reasonable portions (because the math still counts) of reasonable food (because adequate nutrition does too) is a net gain, I think.”
    Not at all, the definition of “reasonable food” is the crux (and that totally affects the mathematics too)
    My government’s definition of “reasonable food” is not a healthy one, for me. I prefer to decide what THAT is myself.

    • Alex on February 22, 2013 at 12:38

      As you should, and as do I. A vegan diet does not follow the food pyramid either, remember. My definition was intentionally vague, because I think it is quite clear that people thrive on a variety of very different diets. Hence: Choose whichever you like, and keep your calories/nutrition in line.

  9. bernardo on February 22, 2013 at 17:24

    Everyone gets it wrong. Truth is LCarbers are (mostly) fat people who struggled for years with diets, people who couldn’t stop thinking about food all day and who had a lot of problems that came from it. I was one of those. I know carb restriction had a magical effect for me. People belive so much is GCBC not because someone told them to (like religion), but because they had that feeling that the explanation, the whole thing, the sympstons, the results, the development was something they knew intimatly and for years. Things made some sense finally. People who didn’t have those problems will never understand it maybe. Who knows…

    Now, I have the impression Paleo people are (mostly) people who wanted to make their health better but weren’t necessarily fat, or much fat anyways. You won’t see people discussing crossfit and fat percentage (I want to loose more 3%) as frequently as you’ll see in Paleo foruns. Low carbers have other priorities.

    I know both of these groups have all kinds of people, but it seems clear that they are different populations, coming from different places (MOSTLY). To me it’s clear why there are such fervent discussions. Truth is, both sides don’t understand each other and think they are talking about the same thing, but are acctually doing so with distinct definitions in mind.

    I like to stick to Tom Naughton’s Blog (Fat Head), Mr. Richard’s here and, of course, our dear Mark Sisson’s. Those are more open, and at Mark’s and Tom’s comments are in general very positive/fun.

    • Walter on February 27, 2013 at 21:13

      WELL SAID! As for me, I did discover and begin the Paleo “buy in” via Jimmy Moore. I love his balanced approach, and I also love the fact that he’s not in your face about his religious beliefs. Admittedly I’ve never been morbidly obese, and Paleo makes more sense to me. I’ll restrict carbs until I get to a better weight, but I’m not at all anal about ketosis.

      I don’t think you have to be an evolutionist to go Paleo either. I’m not sure it even matters unless you are looking for a new religion. We don’t have to go back too far in our history to see a hunter-gatherer diet.

      I love this blog. I found it via Angelo Coppola

  10. don on February 22, 2013 at 20:49

    Well paleo diet fans, you have only mild concern for animals as it relates to how their health affects you when you choose to eat them. This is a slight step above others who out and out support animal torture and who think they must have milk and cheese at every meal. The problem being that meat is still torture from cows, to pigs to chickens. Hopefully though you can oppose things like the leather industry, down fur in which birds are tortured through plucking them and other such things like vivisection and injecting them with cancer. These studies are of course almost all ridiculous because animal torture, experimenting as it is called, in over 95% of the studies done are meaningless in humans. Apples and oranges.

    Protein of course makes your blood more acidic and eating much of it causes your bones to be savaged for calcium. Then of course there is all the heart related problems, cholesterol, strokes and heart attacks from eating too much animal flesh, nerves, blood and cartilage.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 23, 2013 at 09:06

      Well Don, if your concern for animals leads you and others to eat less of them, have at it. I’m not interested, never will be, but y’all have yourselves a merry time.

      BTW, in another post I mentioned having seen a funny Tweet the other day: “I’ve been a vegan for only 3-minutes and the best part has been reminding people that I’m a vegan.”

      “Protein of course makes your blood more acidic and eating much of it causes your bones to be savaged for calcium.”


      “More importantly, however, modern experimental science has thoroughly debunked the idea that eating meat leaches calcium from the bones.
      Since HC Sherman first observed in 1920 that people who eat high-protein diets tend to excrete more calcium in their urine, over 25 trials have been published showing beyond a doubt that increasing dietary protein does in fact increase urinary calcium.

      “On the other hand there are at least four studies showing that people who eat the most protein have the slowest bone loss over time and another four showing that people who eat the most protein have the lowest fracture rate over time.

      “What we really care about, however, are the intervention trials, because these allow us to demonstrate cause and effect. While several of these have found modest benefits by providing protein-deficient elderly patients with small protein supplements, by far the most important intervention trial is that published by a group led by Bess Dawson-Hughes of Tufts University ( ) showing that protein intakes far beyond the minimal requirement actually improve bone health.

      “In this study, 16 older men and women were randomly allocated to a group made to increase their protein intake from 0.85 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, considered adequate, to 1.55 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Another 16 people were randomly allocated to a control group and left their diet unchanged. After nine weeks, the group consuming extra protein had lower levels of bone turnover and higher bone mineral density.
      The Dawson-Hughes group, contrary to many other studies, did not observe higher urinary calcium with higher protein intake. Studies conducted by Jane Kerstetter’s group at the University of Connecticut ( ), however, showed that an even larger increase in dietary protein from 0.7 g/kg to 2.1 g/kg did, in fact increase urinary calcium, but not by leaching it from bone. Instead, they found that consuming more protein increased calcium absorption from the intestines. Markers of bone turnover tended to decrease on the high-protein diet but the decrease was not statistically significant. Kerstetter’s group is conducting ongoing investigations to determine the mechanism by which meat and protein enhance the intestinal absorption of calcium.”

      “Does meat really leach calcium from the bones then? Not according to the scientific evidence.”

      It’s this and other more wrong than a very wrong thing from the vegan ideologues that in my judgment makes them a net dissvalue to others and society, causing more harm than good. Best wishes to any individuals, however.

    • Alex on February 23, 2013 at 09:43

      Again I’d say that, while there are vegan ideologues pushing absolute falsehoods and myths, so too are there paleo and LC advocates that do the same. For every Michael Arnstein there is a Scott Jurek, for every Dr. Campbell a Jack Norris.

      As for the vegan community (if such a thing can be said to truly exist) being a net disservice, I’d simply reiterate what I said in my first comment.

    • Gabriella Kadar on February 23, 2013 at 10:48

      The only thing to do is after a few years of vegan eating, get a bone density test done. Then another one a couple of years later. That’s the only way you’ll have some evidence for yourself that the vegan diet provides the amount of calcium your body requires to maintain bone. Let us know how you do because I’m objectively interested.

    • Alex on February 23, 2013 at 14:19

      I’m a 24 year old male, with a pretty vigorous exercise habit. Both strength training and distance running have been shown to improve bone density – and I do quite a lot of both. I’ve run 50 miles in 9 hours without anything like a stress fracture, if that means anything.

      All of that would indicate that I should not have a problem, and certainly have never felt as if I have. Still, I’d not had a test done before my vegan turn, so there would really be nothing to compare it to. Perhaps the next time I go in for a battery of tests, I’ll see about it. I’m always curious to know my “scores”. (All of which, I should add, have been good.)

    • Gabriella Kadar on February 23, 2013 at 16:18

      That is why I suggested two tests two years apart. The tests have to be done with the same machine.

      Bone requires two components: the scaffolding and the connective tissue in the bone. One provides strength and the second flexibility and resilience. A person can have low bone density but not sustain fractures. But there is a limit to everything. When the teeth begin to come loose, then you’ll know if there’s a serious problem.

      You sound like a very intelligent person and I’m sure you are consuming a high end vegan diet. Or supplementing where necessary.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 23, 2013 at 16:29

      I would suspect, Alex, that for young people like you, unless there is some super serious problem such as starvation, junk food exclusive habit, anorexia, etc., there’s unlikely to be enough resolution in any tests that’s going to mean anything. Perhaps a bone density test and then another in five year’s time, same diet, etc. most important that you go for high nutrient density and for god sakes, eat a couple of raw oysters every week. No CNS, b-12 issue solved. I believe Peter Singer gave the ethical green light on that even.

    • Alex on February 23, 2013 at 17:34

      He did, and I have no real issue if people want to consume them – in the sorts of quantities you mentioned. B12 is the only thing I don’t expect my diet to (mostly) cover, for the obvious reasons. I am thus careful to supplement B12, and vitamin D in the winter months. Otherwise, as you suggested, I simply try to eat a lot of high quality plant foods, while getting enough starch to fuel my training.

      I should also add that, should any health issues arise – be it low bone density or something else – that are likely caused by some dietary deficiency, I’m not married to eating this way FOREVER. Dealing in those terms is impossible. I do what I do now because I feel good about it, and I am physically well. If things change, then I’ll change.

    • Gabriella Kadar on February 24, 2013 at 12:25

      Clams and mussels too then, right?

      Too bad the squid has an axon and they hunt in cooperation. mmmm calamari!

      I’ve never been a big fan of lobster. Used to eat it. But a few years ago I went to a lobster wholesaler and there was one big lobster standing on top of one of those styro boxes. Swear to god, this lobster looked at me and he had an intelligent look and that was that. No more lobsters. I guess if I had to kill my own goats and lambs I’d be in trouble too. I confess to being a coward.

    • Gabriella Kadar on February 24, 2013 at 12:43

      Plus one early morning last week when I woke up (damn this freaking stupid week when everyone seemed to have trouble sleeping through the night) I heard a brief thing on BBC overnight radio that in Romania it has been observed the cows kiss one another on the nose before slaughter. Well, I had to turn off the radio right quick. It haunts me still. I don’t eat beef except for liver and kidney, but shit, that was bad sh*t to hear especially as a first thing upon regaining consciousness.

      I used to breed tropical fish and there are entire genera of fish which raise their young. Tilapia, a farmed fish, are a group who raise their young and the youngsters then help the parents rear their younger siblings. Bass and sunfish do the same. Pickerel and pike travel in committed pairs. Catch one and you’ll catch the spouse.

      So, yes I can understand why someone won’t eat animal protein. Years ago when I was a teenager I rode my bike past the stockyards here in Toronto. It was Auschwitz for animals. That got me off meat for 2 years. Whatever diet I engineered for myself ended up making me sick, drove my parents crazy. I eat meat with respect. I remain conscious of the fact that an animal’s life was taken away so that I can cook a meal for myself.

      But I think, in general, anyone who is preparing their food from primary ingredients (not processed junk food) can do the same thing regardless of what it is they are eating, vegetable or meat. Don’t waste, don’t throw food out, don’t gorge. The news reports state that people throw out an awful lot of food.

    • Don on February 24, 2013 at 17:54

      Well Richard I admit that I have not investigated this issue and repeated the claim here hoping someone would counter with some information. I certainly will look at the links you have provided and I already have actually, but I will read them more thoroughly later. I already spot massive problems with both of these studies which I will come back and address but the fact that you are on record as stating more or less ” I don’t care” as it pertains to animal welfare then that goes to the core of one of the main reasons people reject eating meat. If your answer is “I don’t care” then I would say that thinking extends to your information selection on meat and dairy diet and it’s effects on humans. Thanks for the links.

    • Val on February 26, 2013 at 09:49

      Hi Don, I presume you are the same “don” from 20:49 since those are the only “Don’s” I see on this thread…
      I DO care about animal welfare (I’m a veterinarian), and misinformation/sensationalism really irritates me. The procurement of milk does not constitute “torture”; a cow, doe, or ewe will not “let down” her milk if she is stressed or in pain. Animals must be handled gently & kept calm.

      As Gabriella said, I am always mindful of the lives sacrificed to keep myself & my family well fed.

  11. Mario on February 22, 2013 at 21:30

    I really liked this post. Anything that encourages more people to eat real food and less “manufactured” food is generally worthwhile. I have huge reservations about veganism for reasons that aren’t worth getting into here, but the overall point of eating real food and eschewing manufactured food is one the vasl majority of westerners would be wise to follow.

  12. marie on February 22, 2013 at 22:00

    It’s an aside, but seems to me the Unitarian/Universalists are redefining the meaning of ‘church’, from a community of common Faith (which defines a religion) to a community of common Values (independent of religion). Yes?

    • Richard Nikoley on February 23, 2013 at 08:01

      I don’t know enough to really say, but what I’ve seen doesn’t strike me as conventional religion.

  13. Tuesday 26th February « KB CrossFit on February 25, 2013 at 03:01

    […] Primal Corner – Low Carb Critiquing and Constructive Criticism vs. Slamming and Tearing Down Values […]

  14. Dr. Curmudgon Gee on February 26, 2013 at 12:34

    my friend visited an organic buffalo dairy farm in Italy that make mozzarella cheese.
    buffalos wait in line every morning to get milked so they can get into the “lounge” area.


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