Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
9 Sep

Is Conventional Wisdom Set in Stone?

In previous posts and with offhand comments, I’ve mentioned our (mostly) diametric opposition to Conventional Wisdom. I say “mostly” because when it comes to diet, there are bound to be a few areas that everyone agrees with. Real food that doesn’t come in a box is best – I can’t think of any diet book or nutritional “expert,” vegan or carnivore alike, that would say differently. Vegetables can and should be enjoyed freely – I’d even wager that most Primal eaters consume far more vegetables than your average pasta vegetarian. And, while we’re not fruitarians (you’d probably have to go back three or four million years to find a frugivorous hominoid that may be a common ancestor), we modern Primals do eat reasonable amounts of certain fruits. The areas where we virulently disagree – on saturated fat (and dietary fat in general), on red meat, on grains and legumes – are incredibly divisive. You can shun processed foods and eat organic and no one will argue against it, but once you bust out the jar of freshly rendered lard, the bacon, and the eight egg omelets while failing to produce a single cereal grain-based item, everyone becomes a nutritionist/cardiologist/dietitian.

If you’re like me, you might sigh, shrug your shoulders, and return to your greasy repast instead of engaging them with an overview of all the misguided, downright false nutritional info that masquerades as common sense. I’ve been down that road before, and I don’t want to be the guy on the corner with the bullhorn. (There is a proper time and forum for these things.) In fact, I started this blog and wrote the book because they allowed me to make the case and provide references without interruptions. Confronting people in real life about deeply held nutritional beliefs (about as deep-seated as religion, in fact) usually doesn’t end well. Humans have a nasty habit of clinging on to dogma all the more vigorously when it’s threatened with logic and reason.

If you’re relatively new to this lifestyle, though, I bet you can’t resist those moments – because I still get the bug at times. You’re at a company barbecue chowing down on a massive steak and the heavy guy with the plate of macaroni salad (made with light mayo!) smirks and makes a flippant comment about your arteries, completely oblivious to the beast he’s just awakened. The insulin-fat connection, Taubes’ work, the evolutionary basis for the Primal Blueprint, Ancel Keys’ tunnel vision – you bring it all out, and any impartial observer would have to conclude you were on to something. But Macaroni Man is no impartial observer; in fact, very few of us are, and trying to convince someone to carefully consider facts that run contrary to Conventional Wisdom is hard to accomplish in a social setting. You’ll probably go crazy if you try to, and the people around you will just tune you out if you keep it up. No one wants to hear about the evils of whole grains when the waiter drops off the basket of steaming freshly-baked bread.

But we can’t get too complacent or isolated, especially when the arbiters of Conventional Wisdom start to get comfortable. If we let them, they’ll freely spout complete and utter BS that only serves as disinformation. Take the recent appearance of Elizabeth Ward, R.D., on the Today Show.

This is a person – a registered dietitian – who doles out health and nutrition advice on a regular basis in exchange for money. This is a person who has written a book called “Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy” – and yet her choices for healthy food on the road consist of McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, and gas station convenience store fare. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like someone who actually expects the best out of people. It sounds like a health official enabling a population’s propensity to load up on junk food. It sounds like just another CW-spouting pundit who aims for the lowest common denominator (unless she truly believes that a McDonald’s breakfast and a stale beef wrap from a truck stop represent a valid healthy option) in order to protect the people from themselves.

And that’s not the only one. What about the recent crop of “Healthy Food” lists? “Women’s Health” just published their healthy list of “Best Packaged Foods.” With stuff like Haagen Dazs Sorbet (Fat free! 25g carbs, “fights heart disease,” apparently) and Mister Salty 100 Calorie Chocolate Pretzel Snack bags (you know they’re eating all six bags in a single sitting) making the cut, you can’t help but wonder about their motivation. But wait! It’s not all bad. Bagged fruit made the list. Hrm… On second thought, does an apple really belong on a packaged foods list? Well, I suppose if you put it in a plastic bag it does. It sort of gets by on a technicality. You could put a Twinkie in the middle of a forest and say it comes from Mother Nature, but you aren’t fooling anyone. (On another note: are people really too lazy to slice up some apples that they need individually wrapped slices?) In any case, a “Best Packaged Foods” lists is sort of like putting together a list of the “Best Terminal Illnesses.” Sure, some may not be as bad as others, but in the end you’d be better off not having any of them.

At least Women’s Health made the point of specifically limiting themselves to only packaged foods. Self Magazine, on the other hand, boldly proclaimed the greatness of their 2009 Healthy Food Awards list, but every item on there comes in a box, wrapping, or package all the same. I guess when your intent is to promote certain brands, you’re somewhat limited in your choices. It’s pretty hard to print a label on a New York strip steak, or brand a handful of fresh raspberries (though I’m sure someone’s trying). Still, it’s great knowing that sour gummy candy is completely and utterly healthy!

Sour Patch Watermelon

(150 calories, 0 g fat per 21 pieces)

Sometimes, you just need sugar! These sweet-sour suckers were voted the tastiest way to sweeten your day. “Gummi goodness!” a taster said. “The right amount of pucker.”

You know, my doctor did recently recommend I incorporate more pucker into my diet, and this could be just the ticket. Thanks, Self Magazine! But what about satisfying the RDA of “warm, gooey mouthfuls”? Look no further than Self’s favorite healthy treat:

Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Oatmeal

(140 calories, 5 g fat per cookie)

These cinnamon treats are chewy, sweet and huge enough to satisfy a monster-sized cookie desire. Nuke a cookie for 30 seconds for a warm, gooey mouthful.

Engorged cookie desire (ECD) is, after all, one of our nation’s leading afflictions. I’m glad someone’s finally decided to confront that scourge.

Of course, not everyone buys into this nonsense, but what’s disconcerting is that even when you “get it,” you often don’t. Take the people who commented on this Huffington Post article; they railed against Ward’s advice as ill-founded and misguided, but they countered with another layer of dietary CW – the anti-fat, pro-grain mindset. We’re up against multiple levels of harmful Conventional Wisdom, folks. You knock out the easy one (lowered expectations) and three more pop up (saturated fat is evil, grains are healthy, restrict your calories) like a hydra.

First, there’s the popular notion that the people are unable to make decisions for themselves. Doctors give up on their patients ever making lifestyle changes and instead simply write a prescription for statins and blood pressure medication. Personal trainers stick the overweight clients on a treadmill for an hour, because they want to make exercise easy and “accessible.” Registered dietitians go on national television and recommend that families eat fast food to stay healthy. And we wonder why we’re a nation of obese, disease-stricken pill poppers?

Second, there’s the fact that the basic nutritional science underlying all this advice is completely misguided. You peel away the lack of confidence doctors and health experts have in people to reveal an even more insidious underbelly. Even if Elizabeth Ward thought Americans were up to the task of actually eating healthy (what? there are no grocery stores on the road?), she’d still tell them to count calories religiously, eat plenty of whole grains, and avoid any and all saturated fat. The commenters at the Huffington Post rightly took Ward to task for her advice, but as the healthy alternative they in turn parroted the Conventional Dietary Wisdom that caused the obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases in the first place! Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

See, a lot of people understand that lowered expectations beget paltry results. If you set the bar too low, you invite failure. But what happens when the ideal is wrong, too? What happens when the people manage to hurdle the first bar, only to bang their teeth against the higher, supposedly ideal level? Those few souls who manage to follow their doctors’ health advice to the tee – eating more whole grains, avoiding animal foods, counting calories until they’re essentially starving themselves – are usually miserable creatures, and they usually fail. Any why wouldn’t they? We expect misery when we eat “healthy.” Eating right is supposed to be an awful experience. Healthy foods taste terrible, while all the foods that we’re genetically programmed to desire are actually awful for us – or so they say. It’s almost like we’re beholden (for life) to some original dietary sin, and eating things that actually taste good means we’re giving in to our animalistic, primal urges (sounds good to me, to be quite honest!).

If the assembled opposition to a healthy Primal lifestyle looks like a jumbled mess, that’s because it is. If the forces aligned to uphold CW don’t seem to make any sense, it’s because they do not. That’s the point. Conventional Wisdom is cognitive dissonance in action. It’s taking a bunch of inaccurate assumptions that conflict with each other and trying to make them all agree – a monumental task requiring the efforts of millions of complicit people (some unwitting, others willful). Because of CW, diabetic patients are told to eat less fat and more carbs. Because of CW, the obese are told to jog an hour every day, even though it only makes them hungrier for more insulin-spiking carbohydrates. It’s sick, it simply isn’t working, and something has to be done.

But even as they bumble and stumble over their words, the promoters of CW are legion. They wield the power, and unseating them is going to be tough. The small but growing Primal community online is doing their part, slowly chipping away at the BS. You see evidence of this in the teeming farmers’ markets, the comments sections of health articles, and the robust online forums featuring vigorous debates. Some great, groundbreaking work is being done, and I think it’s beginning to seep into the mainstream.

Will it be enough? Will we finally triumph over the ubiquitous looming specter of Conventional Wisdom? Will we wrest control of the hearts and minds of the gentle citizenry? Will we soon see a pasture-raised chicken in every pot, a pitcher of coconut milk in every larder, and a farmers’ market on every corner? Will Grok return to save the day?

Check back tomorrow… Same Grok place, same Grok channel.

Read Part 2 of this post: Is the Stone Beginning to Crack?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Mark you made me laugh out loud twice, thank you :)

    hannahc wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • me too! good stuff!

      Mark wrote on September 9th, 2009
  2. I’m happy to have brought my wife into PB ways, starting with lower carb eating (GCBC, Protein Power) a couple years ago. At least we can snicker and commiserate together when we hear CW crap.

    She just went through nursing school — lots of bemoaning her nutrition classes, and now the kind of food that gets served in hospitals for different conditions.

    These things are sent to try us!

    BLJ wrote on September 9th, 2009
  3. GREAT POST!!!!

    I loved the ‘First, there’s the popular notion that the people are unable to make decisions for themselves.’ paragraph. Amazing.

    Ryan Denner wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • That’s one of the things that Tom Naughton on the FatHead blog griped about in his movie “Fathead.” I recommend it.

      Griff wrote on September 9th, 2009
  4. Pucker! I knew my diet was lacking something!

    Adam Kayce wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • Isn’t pucker one of those essential nutrients or something?

      Griff wrote on September 9th, 2009
      • I have a serious pucker deficiency… and yes, it causes all sorts of side-effects. Like lack of postprandial obtunded state. Darn!

        FlyNavyWife wrote on September 9th, 2009
  5. Fabulous post…man, I’m so inspired right now! (And also angry at CW) Happy thoughts…

    Jessica wrote on September 9th, 2009
  6. That’s it, I’m finally cancelling my subscription to SELF magazine! It has been bugging me for the past few months, and that list is inexcusable.

    Great post, Mark.

    kricka wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • Lol, I used to subscribe to it! I followed the diets and nutrition advice, pulling out recipes into a notebook and everything (though I always thought their “workouts” were bs, especially the strength element). But I just saw a whole bunch of magazines put out their food awards lists, and I literally laughed out loud. PB changes everything!

      Deanna wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • SELF is pathetic! Esp in light of Mark’s wisdom.

      marci wrote on September 9th, 2009
      • I guess the consensus is the that author can go pucker SELF!

        Dav wrote on September 10th, 2009
  7. Excellent post! I particularly enjoy the line, “everyone becomes a nutritionist/cardiologist/dietitian.”
    Just yesterday at the meat counter, (I very recently stopped being a vegetarian and have Celiac Disease) I had a wannabe nutritionist from Weight Watchers trying to talk me out of the steak and bacon I was purchasing for some nice lean factory farmed crap. What’s worse is the guy at the meat counter chimed in with the same nonsense which only convinced me that I need to start ordering my meat online in order to avoid all the misguided CW out there waiting to annoy the hell out of me! Thank you for this article and for the whole site! I’m feeling better in the last few days than I have in years!

    Elaine wrote on September 9th, 2009
  8. This is interesting as I just cam across a ‘diet’ today online. Perhaps you have heard of it, its the No S diet: nothing sweets, snacks or seconds,ecpet on weekends, days starting in S, incidentally. Would this be an imporvemnt over the typical SAD? Probably, but what got me was how the author trumpets CW while mischaracterizing low carbish type diets.

    Mike wrote on September 9th, 2009
  9. I remember hearing the advice “if it tastes good, spit it out” as a way of losing weight. And I thought to myself what a miserable life it would be if I actually did that. Talk about self abnegation. Now granted, it helps that Twinkies, after years of eating Primal, don’t taste good to me. Like all advice, context is essential. But no way am I spitting out that lovely fat on my pastured pork chop. Or that heavenly piece of steak with garlic butter.

    Rachel wrote on September 9th, 2009
  10. Thanks for another great post.

    My favorite recommendation from Ward was the BK Burger Shots. Bite-sized metabolic derangement! I can’t imagine any situation where those are a good idea. I’d rather fast on my cross-country road trip.

    Brett wrote on September 9th, 2009
  11. Thanks for this timely post. I am suffering through a required “nutrition” course right now as part of my nursing curriculum and appreciate reading this as I before tonight’s lecture. I sure hope the mainstream is beginning to consider an alternate nutritional perspective. I think people are starting to reconsider processed foods… but getting rid of those whole grains is going to be hard to do!

    Shelley wrote on September 9th, 2009
  12. Mark, you made me laugh with “Macaroni Man,” but then things got serious. It infuriates me that dietitians – people who are supposed to know better! – are promoting CW crap.

    It’s made me think seriously of going back to school and getting an MPH/RD when I finish my Ph.D. in sociology, just so I can start counteracting some of the nonsense that’s floating around out there in CW “Nutrition”-Land.

    Griff wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • I thought about doing the same thing…after doing some research came to realize I would be a chronically unemployed MPH/RD.every RD Website I visited seems top be “CW”…I think there is big $$ behind CW and the RD’s know this. If I was an RD for a school district and implemented Paleo,I’d probably be sued…the outcry. The Big Agra Machine isn’t going out without a fight,know this.

      Christian wrote on September 13th, 2009
      • Indeed! (Superb post and excellent comments but this hits home)

        One of my neighbours was just offered £50/tonne LESS for his wheat than it cost him to grow. That’s 1/2 to 1/3 what it was worth last year.

        Are wheat containing processed foodlike substances 1/3 to 1/2 the price they were last year? I think not!

        The bottom is falling out of rape/Canola market too, do you expect the price of “Heart Healthy” margarine will fall?

        The only way another neighbour makes a profit on his grass fed organic beef is to cut out the middlemen and sell direct to the butchers.

        If these guys had a guaranteed profitable market they’d grow anything. At the moment the market is controlled by “food” manufacturers and supermarkets who snarf up all the money and pay for the ads that keep such magazines running. With current prices I predict another push on “healthy” cereals and Omega 6 oils at the expense of food, and our health. Buy cheap and sell expensive is what works for them and their acolytes.

        If you want to see a train wreck

        I had an idea how we could work the system to our advantage

        Trinkwasser wrote on September 14th, 2009
  13. My name is Sully and I’m a PB Zealot….had to laugh at the person with the bullhorn comment, that’s me, I can’t stand ignorance…. it makes me think of the bumper sticker in my old high school English teachers class, “It’s too bad ignorance isn’t painful”

    SullynNH wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • What are you saying…ignorance IS painful…to those around the ignorant SOBs.

      Aaron Blaisdell wrote on September 9th, 2009
      • Ignorance is painful to the ignorant innocent, too, who genuinely do not know better and don’t know there’s any alternative.

        That was me in the 90s, before a lot of good diet information got onto the Internet. The first I ever so much as heard of Dr. Atkins was 1999.

        I’m paying for it now, too. In spades.

        Dana wrote on September 15th, 2009
  14. This is a timely post as in the last 2 days I’ve had 2 instances where myself and another were discussing cooking. In one instance, my mom wanted to figure out a way to eliminate the butter from a veggie recipe. I told her that it should be left in for “flavor” sake knowing for myself full well that I wanted it in there for the fat.

    In the other instance, I requested that my friend use the rendered bacon fat from my fridge for sauteeing veggies. He hesitated and then agreed to use a LITTLE bit.

    What bothered me the most is that I have experienced in quite a short amount of time a weight loss that is becoming apparent. Maybe it’s not apparent enough for my close family & friends to realize and have faith in my recommendations/requests.

    Maybe when I am a size 4?

    shalon wrote on September 9th, 2009
  15. “but once you bust out the jar of freshly rendered lard, the bacon, and the eight egg omelets while failing to produce a single cereal grain-based item, everyone becomes a nutritionist/cardiologist/dietitian.”

    Hahaaaaaaaaaaaa..CRACKED ME UP!!!

    koko wrote on September 9th, 2009
  16. What I wonder about is, “What if we actually change the accepted wisdom?” Right now I can go to my local butcher and get beef and pork trimmings (mostly fat, renderable into tallow/lard, etc.) just for asking.

    If people wise up to the health benefits of fats and saturated fats, the foods that we primal eaters currently enjoy at a discount will rise in price, possibly prohibitively.

    Ross wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • I’m more worried about availability than price. The more people accept Primal/low-carb ways of living, the more competition there will be in the grass-fed steak industry :) Either way, I’m slowly accepting that I will spend a significant proportion of my income on food in my lifetime.

      In any case, I’d bet that if Primal became the new CW, we’d simply be deluged with questionable products claiming to be Primal – a la the Atkins craze, RealBeef(TM), “free range” eggs, or “All-Natural!” products. Watch out for the new Lardgarine, now with 60% saturated fat! (Then calmly walk over to your butcher’s for the good stuff).

      EL wrote on September 9th, 2009
      • Always remember, if a product’s packaging makes a claim to be “healthy” food, it’s probably not food.

        Ross Bagley wrote on September 12th, 2009
  17. I love how, in that MSNBC video, she called the popped corn a “whole grain” and then, with the corn as a side in the KFC meal, she called it a “vegetable.” Which is it lady? 😉

    gilliebean wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • Right, the coleslaw (coated in its sugary dressing) was the other veggie. Nice.

      FlyNavyWife wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • Haha yea I noticed that too. What a marvelous food corn is! Whole grain and vegetable at the same time! Haha

      Ryan wrote on September 10th, 2009
  18. I’m planning to get a Master’s degree in nutrition, with a goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian. But I will be a RD with common sense, not a shill for faulty no-science-to-back-it-up CW and food industry lobbyists, thank you very much.

    One of the prerequisite classes I’m taking right now is human nutrition, and for my second assignment I had to keep a three-day food journal and then compare it to the recommendations of USDA’s MyPyramid (or as I call it, MyCrockOfS—). Gosh, to be compliant, I would need to increase my paltry average of 0.4 servings of grain (I had a piece of sprouted grain toast one morning with my whole-egg and veggie scramble…my bad) to 7 servings. I had to think hard about where I would shoehorn those in, if I were so inclined (which I’m NOT!). Oh, yeah, and I would have to decrease my excessive vegetable and fruit intake. And my meat intake. And increase my dairy intake.

    Hey, on the bright side, there’s the new Smart Choices program, where super-nutritious foods like Froot Loops get to proudly display an emblem declaring what a “smart choice” they are for a healthy diet. Gag!

    Kate wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • Oh no. Oh no, you just don’t UNDERSTAND. My daughter was born with defects to her eliminatory system, including an undersized right kidney and vesico-urinary reflux on both sides. Eventually she had surgery because the left side had corrected itself but the right ureter had to be re-inserted into her bladder. (I’m pretty sure there were nutritional reasons she turned out that way, too.)

      Anyway, this required an admission to the local children’s hospital. Now, this is one of the best such hospitals in the nation, or so they trumpet in their ubiquitous ads.

      So good, I guess, they must have approved of the vending machines in the surgery waiting area, in which all the snacks were graded with a color code according to their healthfulness.

      Cheese and crackers were not rated well because of the fat content.

      Guess which snack had a green dot for one of the healthiest choices?

      Spree candy.

      S?!t you not.

      I wish I’d had my camera. I would have humiliated them, all over the blogosphere.

      Dana wrote on September 15th, 2009
    • (What I mean by “nutritional reasons” is I was malnourished during my pregnancy, and I think that’s what led to her system being messed up. She has dental problems now as well. I hope there is nothing else amiss.)

      Dana wrote on September 15th, 2009
  19. Excellent. I’ve suspected I needed more Vitamin “P” (for “pucker”) in my diet. Off to find some Sour Gummy Pundits.

    Mark Lee wrote on September 9th, 2009
  20. This post was hilarious. (My personal favorite: “‘Best Packaged Foods’ lists is sort of like putting together a list of the ‘Best Terminal Illnesses.’ Sure, some may not be as bad as others, but in the end you’d be better off not having any of them.”)

    I used to subscribe to Self, Health, Shape, and others. I’m a magazine nut and when I first got into health/nutrition/fitness, these magazines seemed perfect. I’ve finally canceled my subscriptions to all of them because I just couldn’t stomach all the CW.

    Dieting culture (especially for women) is a really, really sad thing. I know, having been a part of it, just how torturous it can be. Besides the obvious fact that “diet food” has next to no nutritional value, it only makes you hungrier and more miserable. Cravings are terrible, your energy is so low that your lame cardio workout feels impossible, and you’re hungry all day long. If only people knew the weight they could lose and how great they’d feel by simply eating REAL food.

    Emily from Healthy Eating, Naturally

    Emily wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • “because I just couldn’t stomach all the CW”

      Love this… very punny. CW really does cause indigestion!

      FlyNavyWife wrote on September 9th, 2009
  21. Thanks Mark, excellent post! I find it funny that a lot of the stuff on those lists would’ve scared me from buying them away long before I found MDA through Crossfit and switched over to a paleo/primal lifestyle.
    However I will admit that I used to be on the low fat, moderate carb, high protein diet before I learned more, and it is really scary what passes for dietary advice these days.
    Hopefully sites like yours will continue to educate people on how important and powerful a tool a good diet is.

    Mike wrote on September 9th, 2009
  22. I saw the article in Self and when I read through it, I was shocked at what the magazine was supporting as “healthy.” What is so scary is that most will read that and treat it as gospel.. can’t you just see them in the grocery store? “oh this is okay to eat, Self SAID SO…..”

    Jessica wrote on September 9th, 2009
  23. “If it tastes bad, spit it out.” Oh boy. I was talking to my neighbor the other day about a new restaurant that opened up near us. She ate there and said they cook healthy food. I asked her how it was and she said “you can tell the food is healthy, it even tastes healthy.” So I said “oh, do they cook with lard” (I was being serious). She guffawed as if I just told a joke. A little piece of me cried inside. You have to choose your soapbox moments wisely…that wasn’t one of them.

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on September 9th, 2009
  24. I meant to point out in the post that two of three resources I touched on in this post were brought to light by MDA readers.

    Thanks to DaveFish and Alisa for finding these gems.

    Mark Sisson wrote on September 9th, 2009
  25. Can I get an AMEN! brother!

    okay, maybe I listen to too much White Sox baseball but where I come from “pucker” is the kind of thing that stains your shorts! Ewwwwwww!

    Lisette wrote on September 9th, 2009
  26. Mark, you write a great article. You have a gift for words and I have finally decided I need to get your book.

    As for the CW out there, it’s just too much non-rational thought I want to cry! The worst was the clip from the Today Show, tricking people with processed junk yet again! Someone already said this, but come on Elizabeth, are there NO grocery stores out there??!! What about telling people to look for the local farm stands often found on highways??? And er, can’t we just bring our own cooler or box of food in the car? My son would be SO HYPER if he ate fig newtons in the car! Yes kids, load up on carbs and then sit still in the car or airplane for hours! 😉

    “Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.” BUDDHA

    Clarissa K wrote on September 9th, 2009
  27. Hey Shelly, as an RN I remember the nutrition stuff. How about if they ask you to do a report, do one on how Ancel Keys blew it, and most of America suffers as a result.
    And Kate… Good for you! We need mroe like you!
    As more of the younger crowd get wise to conventional wisdom, we’ll get more and more of “us” inserted into the medical community, and eventually take over! Of course, I’m wise to it and in the medical community, but been basically told to keep my opinions to myself. Sad too, as I work in the cardiovascualr end of things.

    Dave, RN wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • Become a nurse practitioner. Then you’ll be a primary care provider and they won’t be able to tell you to shut up.

      Dana wrote on September 15th, 2009
  28. See, here’s the deal… It’s called the “Semmelweis Reflex” The Semmelweis reflex or “Semmelweis effect” is a metaphor for the reflex-like rejection of new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms, beliefs or paradigms. It refers to Ignaz Semmelweis, who discovered that childbed fever mortality rates could be reduced ten-fold if doctors would wash their hands (we would now say disinfect) with a chlorine solution. His hand-washing suggestions were rejected by his contemporaries, and Dr. Semmelweis was so ostracized by his contemporaries he eventually died in an insane asylum after suffer a nervous breakdown.
    So here again the doctors could not STAND that it was THEM that was the problem! Heaven forbid that THEIR poor hygiene were killing people!

    Dave, RN wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • It still is, too. And there are people today telling them to crack down on hygiene standards and once again the doctors are shouting them down. True story. I think the New York Times reported on it.

      Dana wrote on September 15th, 2009
  29. Mark, you rock 😀

    VeggieGirl wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • This is going to sound snotty, and I in no way mean it to because I think you are a great writer and enjoy reading your blog…but I can’t help myself… doesn’t your blog support this same kind of carb heavy nutrition that “Conventional Wisdom” advocates (I’m not referring to packaged foods)?

      leslie wrote on September 10th, 2009
      • Only if I’ve stepped into an alternate universe for a moment! But I don’t see an evil mustach on Mark in any of his photos, so I think we’re safe : D

        Larson wrote on September 10th, 2009
      • Yeah, Leslie. You’ve got the wrong site…

        Mark Sisson wrote on September 10th, 2009
      • Uh… where did you get THAT idea?

        Griff wrote on September 10th, 2009
      • ok, again… maybe i’m losin it 😉 wouldn’t be unlikely…but i see lots of baking with all purpose flour and sugar..maybe natural sugar, but sugar.

        leslie wrote on September 11th, 2009
        • and we know i’m referring to veggiegirl’s blog, not THIS site, right?

          leslie wrote on September 11th, 2009
        • That you were referring to Veggiegirl’s blog wasn’t clear, no.

          Griff wrote on September 11th, 2009
        • ok..well, i was :-/

          leslie wrote on September 11th, 2009
  30. What a great article Mark!! Loved it and really inspires me to do my part to change CW amongst my community :)

    Dollface wrote on September 9th, 2009
  31. Mark Great Article. I am so glad I have my Primal eyes open now! I use to fall for all that junk and even from health professionals…well I will show them with proof when I am lean and healthy! xoxo Darlene

    PrimalGoddess wrote on September 9th, 2009
  32. Great post Mark! I work at a firestation and battle day in and day out with these guys about diet, fitness, etc. They actually get pretty fired up (no pun intended) at me!, questioning my sources and how I can go against all of the expert doctors, nutritionists and the rest of conventional wisdom. I simply ask them if what they’re doing is working for them and the conversation usually ends there. It’s hard to convince others but I’ll keep pressing on. Once on board with a primal/paleo lifestyle, it just makes so much sense, kind of a “duh” no-brainer.

    Steven wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • I have had moments like that. A former friend of mine and I used to get into it about weight loss sometimes. She insisted that all you need to do is eat less and exercise more (“ELEM,” as the Eades put it in their new book). So I asked her in our last such conversation, “Eat less of what? Doritos?” She criticized me for being too much into the “nutrition stuff” when all she wanted to do was lose a few pounds. And that’s all she’s lost, too. A few. And they come back on.


      (I haven’t lost much either, but it’s not because I eat primal and it failed, it’s because I’m NOT eating primal, or LC, or anything like that right now. Only reason I’m not ballooning up, in fact, worse than I am is I *have* made a few small dietary changes.)

      Dana wrote on September 15th, 2009
  33. Speaking of trying not to preach to the … uninformed…. Today I had lunch with my boss, and he told me about a documentary he’d seen recently about factory farmed chickens, and how factory farming seemed like a great idea to him, and how clean the place was, and how it really didn’t seem that bad at all.

    Was it hard to keep my mouth shut? I can’t say, because I didn’t. He wasn’t convinced by my lecture, but I doubt he’ll ever broach that subject again. 😉

    crunchysue wrote on September 9th, 2009
  34. to those who believe, no proof is needed. to those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.

    one thing is though, desperation breeds exploration, and only through hitting rock bottom after trying every possible cw option did i FINALLY start looking to the internet for answers. people like you mark, who present the truth in an uplifting, reasonable way are true gold to future generations. a trend setter that helped me lose that panic i felt when i realized grains, were bad for me. if grains are out, and you believe fats are evil, then whats a person to eat???

    once i gave in and started eating proper amounts of healthy fats ( mcts,animal, omega 3) i FELT the truth streaming through my blood. strong vibrant energy. but without movements like yours, i might still be at WW, crying about how weak, and pathetic i am! kudos ………

    rachel allen wrote on September 9th, 2009
  35. That was a great sermon! I think it’s funny that we call it Conventional Wisdom. Shouldn’t it just be Conventional Thought?

    I have many encounters throughout the day where I am just flabbergasted. My sister who is a vegetarian, and a sugar, grain-aholic, apparently sees me as a bad example to her kids. Her seven year old son told me I had a horrible diet! This after I took the little guy out, and he insisted on having a large Chocolate Milkshake, and a grilled cheese sandwich…

    Then there are the other people who tell me I am getting to skinny. It is nice to hear that, and that eat a big grass fed steak in front of them.

    Ah well such is life. I wish we could have our steak and eat it too!

    Mikeythehealthycaveman wrote on September 9th, 2009
    • I think it should be called Conventional Tripe, or Conventional Idiocy, but that’s just me…

      Griff wrote on September 10th, 2009
  36. this is such a great post. i see conventional wisdom as not only encouraging bad physical health, but the pscychological damage that happens when someone is doing their best to be healthy but keeps getting sicker and less in shape following this stuff and blaming themselves is also a huge problem. interestingly enough, the lack of nutrients in the SAD actually fuel eating disorders on a physiological level. ugh…i’m tired and rambling a bit…let’s try this: SAD BAD…BP GOOD.

    jennifer wrote on September 9th, 2009
  37. hey, this post is a cut above…

    “I’d even wager that most Primal eaters consume far more vegetables than your average pasta vegetarian”.

    this is what puzzles my starchetarian friends. my dietary paradigm is so foreign and unusual (fatty raw and cooked flesh, copious amounts of plant matter), that they simply don’t know what to say. they’re torn about whether this is healthy or not.

    no boxes or bags, few cans, an almost empty pantry, a freezer filled with soup bones and other mysteries, and a fridge filled with things that they don’t know what to do with.

    some of them are beginning to understand, though.

    shel wrote on September 9th, 2009
  38. As an aspiring doctor myself about to enter into medical school I can only hope to help people by recommending the Primal Blueprint as a perscription instead of pills. I am sure that I am about to encounter a ton of CW that supposedly “helps” people on their road to recovery.

    Murphy wrote on September 9th, 2009
  39. This is what’s so wrong with our society when it comes to health. Ignorant morons giving ‘health’ advice to a unknowing public. It drives me freaking crazy!!

    Sterling wrote on September 9th, 2009

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