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?

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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109 thoughts on “Is Conventional Wisdom Set in Stone?”

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  1. 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!

  2. GREAT POST!!!!

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

    1. That’s one of the things that Tom Naughton on the FatHead blog griped about in his movie “Fathead.” I recommend it.

      1. I have a serious pucker deficiency… and yes, it causes all sorts of side-effects. Like lack of postprandial obtunded state. Darn!

  3. Fabulous post…man, I’m so inspired right now! (And also angry at CW) Happy thoughts…

  4. 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.

    1. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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

  11. 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”

      1. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. “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!!!

  14. 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.

    1. 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).

      1. Always remember, if a product’s packaging makes a claim to be “healthy” food, it’s probably not food.

  15. 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? 😉

    1. Haha yea I noticed that too. What a marvelous food corn is! Whole grain and vegetable at the same time! Haha

  16. 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!

    1. 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.

    2. (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.)

  17. Excellent. I’ve suspected I needed more Vitamin “P” (for “pucker”) in my diet. Off to find some Sour Gummy Pundits.

  18. 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

  19. 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.

  20. 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…..”

  21. “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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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

  24. 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.

    1. Become a nurse practitioner. Then you’ll be a primary care provider and they won’t be able to tell you to shut up.

  25. 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!

    1. 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.

    1. 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)?

      1. 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

      2. 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.

        1. and we know i’m referring to veggiegirl’s blog, not THIS site, right?

  26. What a great article Mark!! Loved it and really inspires me to do my part to change CW amongst my community 🙂

  27. 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

  28. 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.

    1. 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.)

  29. 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. 😉

  30. 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 ………

  31. 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!

    1. I think it should be called Conventional Tripe, or Conventional Idiocy, but that’s just me…

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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!!

  36. OK, my wife and I have been primal for about a month and a half and are loving it. But even before my re-education I wouldhave never in a kazillion years thought McDonalds and Burger King were good choices. Nice to see Matt Lauer is all for the prepackaged gas station fruit. I am almost embarassd to be a human. That woman should be charged with fraud.

  37. I have recently gotten myself on the Weston A Price lifestyle and found your blog which I read to keep myself motivated–although I am not strictly primal. I really appreciated this article at this time. I am an acupuncturist and I was treating a patient and I just KNEW he needed to know more about diet but I was thinking he wouldn’t listen to me if I mentioned anything. I didn’t say anything and was feeling frustrated with myself (after all didn’t I CARE that this man might not be healthy?).

    I think it’s important to share but at the same time realize when other people won’t be willing to hear what you are saying. I’m sure I’ll be more helpful if I wait until people ask what I think rather than just telling them.

  38. I actually tried a Low-fat diet for a few months, but it just made me feel fatigued. I didn’t lose any weight at all.

    That’s when I learned about the low-carb and paleo diet, and the rest, as they say, is history.

  39. Great post! I love the term “average pasta vegetarian”–covers a lot of folks, I’m afraid. Her recommendations reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

    “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

  40. So what she’s saying is that I’ve been eating healthy all my life? Who knew!

  41. I havent even finished reading todays post Mark, but after seeing that video- I don’t even know what to say. It makes me want to throw up or something. Although, I can’t say I’m super surprised. I took a nutrition class at my university this past summer and they spouted the same garbage, day in, and day out.

  42. So that is the sort of rubbish they are teaching nutritionists nowadays! They should be instantly discredited and barred from teaching ever again! How are we ever going to get healthy with this misinformation going around?

  43. Such posts make me rather cry.

    Because I know these discussions. I stopped saying anything, I just ignore CW spreading people.

    I went primal a few weeks ago and watching/reading about health/nutrition make me want to go postal instead.

  44. I am extremely affected after reading this and seeing that video. The content of the video seems so familiar because I constantly hear people around saying the same things ever since I started going primal. It makes me want to throw up.

    What a sad place to live it.

  45. Doesn’t the dietician in the video AT LEAST know that corn is NOT a vegetable? Banging my head on my desk. Glaring example of CW getting it WRONG.

  46. Hey guys

    This is probably a newbie question, but where I live (South Africa) the cows are grass fed and then grain finished for about 90 days.

    Is this really unhealthy? I don’t really have the opportunity to buy full grass fed beef.

    The eggs are also another issue. At my local supermarket they have eggs that are omega 3 enriched, but they say it is fed a strict diet of grains and pulses… Are these the sort of eggs I should be eating?


    1. Actually, that is how most cattle are fed: 1-2 years of grass and then a “finishing” diet of grain.

      Personally, I think it’s more important to eat meat as the bulk of your diet than it is to get hung up on the omega-6/omega-3 stuff. Beef has a VERY low PUFA content anyway; it’s about 3-4%. I’d be more concerned about pork (10% PUFA) and chicken (15%). Lamb has a similar fatty acid profile to beef. And if you’re still worried, eating more oily fish (salmon, sardine, herring, etc.) and/or taking an omega-3 supplement will counteract the (small) extra omega-6 from grain-fed beef.

      Hope that helps!

    2. I laugh every time I see the “vegetarian-fed” label on a carton of eggs. Clearly, these people did not grow up watching the same Looney Tunes cartoons I did. Like the one with Foghorn Leghorn fighting with a cat over who got to eat the caterpillar.

      Had chickens in the backyard when I was in high school. They loved bugs. But if corn is a veggie, I guess bugs are plants.

      1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who laughs when I see that. “Vegetarian fed” usually means GMO corn and soy. I was talking to a butcher at my local chain market, asking for grass fed and he told me, proudly, “But these cows are vegetarian fed too!” *facepalm*

  47. Unfortunately, these were my thoughts as well Mark.

    Sometimes, I feel like I’m running around with people touting that the world is flat and when I mention that it MIGHT be round, the plug their ears, scrunch their nose and start babbling about how I am full of ridiculous garbage!

    REALLY NOW? You heard it from CNN, Matt Lauer or ‘Self’ magazine and I researched the HECK out of my nutrition options and I am the one who’s off my rocker? Makes me wanna scream!

    The other night, an acquaintance of mine heard me say that I am now no longer having issues with constipation since going to mostly carnivore. She stops, looks at me with squinted eyes and says “Well, sorry, but I just find that hard to believe”.

    Was she serious?? Like I was frickin’ lying? They will even balk at results!!! My husband keeps getting told that he’s “Too skinny”.

    Actually, that run-on chin of his is now chiseled and the muscles are rippling more than ever, but noooooo, he’s “Too skinny”!

    I better stop before steam arises from my nostrils!

  48. My only disagreement is this: The writers and nutritionists are not entirely to blame. I got an article from a service I subscribe to for my website, almost exactly like the lists you describe: ten best convenience foods. I actually wrote a rebuttal on my site, and the nutritionist wrote me and said, sadly, this is what the women’s magazines want. Easy, bulleted lists that don’t require their readers to do anything really difficult. It’s not because the magazines actually support that viewpoint, though it does help sell ads. It’s because easy, bulleted lists sell magazines. Period. “No one” wants to do the hard thing.

    1. And did the nutritionist say WHY she had sold out and given the magazine the misinformation they wanted?

  49. Unfortunately my sister refuses to even listen to most of the Primal stuff I try to tell her. She mentiones I should “use my own brain” in regards to this stuff as she just “can’t imagine life without bread” and “why would I want to do something so difficult.”
    People don’t LIKE Primal because they are afraid of calories, don’t want to exercise, and don’t want to give up their carbs. Everyone thinks if they give up eating bread and pasta, somehow their lives will be empty. Then again, those are usually people who won’t quit smoking for the same reason. I’m seeing a pattern of dependency here…
    Get me out of this insane place!

    1. Could you imagine the outcry if anyone ever asked a Jewish person why in the world they would want to do something so difficult as to keep kosher? Maybe someone should create a new religion that mandates low-carb.

    2. most people seem to be like that sadly. so it can be fairly lonely at times to eat healthy.

      Living amongst non primal eaters I think is the biggest challenge of all. following the diet is the easy part.

      Just yesterday at work they had what they call a “fairwell morning tea” (with no tea!) for someone who was leaving. They bought a whole heap of crap for everyone to eat. Cakes dohnuts, chips, you name it. It happened to conincide with my normal morning break when I usually eat an assortment of nuts and berries (and actually I DID have tea but it was herbal tea). Anyway I wasn’t eating any of the crap. I was in horror at what these people were putting in them – the large majority of them overweight. but I didn’t say anything as I know unsolicited advise is generally unwelcome (got that from this book called Social Intelligence)and would not go well. Anyway, turns out I don’t even have to say anything! People complaining to me anyway including my boss! “what’s wrong with you?” he says. lol. I didn’t really think to hard about it and just replied with “nothing, you’re the one eating that crap” – implying the problem is with him. He then made some comment about me being a chook eating nuts. I never heard of chickens eating nuts but whatever. maybe they do maybe they don’t. would be some pretty expensive chickens as the nuts cost more than chicken meat. anyway.. People also often tell me I’m eating rabbit food when I have a chicken or tuna salad for lunch. this is the crap i have to put up with just because I want to be healthy. i think that most of these comments come from jealousy as I seem to be the healhiest and fittest in our department. whatever the reason though it’s not acceptable.

      Also, based on the arrangement of the office I didnt have to even leave my desk so i was just carrying on with my work at my own desk trying to “stay low” until this BS was over. But several other people also made comments (which were unsolicited!). I think next time I will go outside for a walk in the park just after the speeches but before the crap eating commences so no one sees me not eating it.

      But I guess eventually all the people who follow CW will end up sick and die soon after and it will just be us primal followers left.

      the thing that suckS about that is then we are old and a good deal of the people who get sick and die are people we don’t want to get sick and die like our friends and family but they won’t listen and even if they do most will not follow through because it’s so dam hard to unless you make all your own food thanks to all those morons that believe in CW and only sell unhealthy food at restaurants and cafes etc.

      the sooner we can get this diet into the mainstream the sooner they will start offering primal friendly meals at restaurants. Once this happens it will be much easier to adapt.

      come on everyone! get the word out!!!!

      it would be so easy for restaurants to cook up some delicious primal meals and we can all enjoy them but I’m yet to see one. Everything is poisoned with crap. They take something good and then ruin it for no reason 99% of the time.

      I’ve got a “christmas lunch” coming up soon for work and I’m not looking forward to it! they are going to make a “special” meal for me as it’s a set menu and I don’t want the bs that’s on there. I should’t have to do this!!!!

      It’s so ironic that by trying to eat normal human food it’s ME that looks like the freak! eat crap and your normal. this is BS!!!!! put some sense into this world! aahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! lol.

  50. I just swallowed 4 razor blades reading this. A registered dietitian? Wow.

  51. A friend told me at lunch today that he was eating sausage, eggs & french toast for breakfast, and his dietitian told him to substitute bacon for the sausage.

    Hello? What about the FRENCH TOAST. Oh, she says that’s OK because I put low fat syrup on it. She knows what she’s talking about because she’s a DOCTOR.

    Is there some sort of idiocy requirement to get into med school?

  52. The real irony comes from my anarchist-atheist friends. “Don’t trust any government advice! Don’t trust any institution, they’re all BS!” Biggest ralliers against anything conventional and crowd of Do-It-Yourself’ers.

    Yet, in that community, biggest bunch of vegans and low-fat eaters “because it’s the healthiest way” I ever saw. Loading up heavy on the grains, beans and fruits. Sad to say, I too followed this plan for years. And that’s how I gained 65lbs. Even though coconut was “vegan” it was shunned for being too high in fat.

    A few of my more primitive-leaning anarchists are open to primal eating but most are not. It’s a very curious phenomena to be sure. I still haven’t figured it out and my telling them how my health has improved since going primal falls on deaf ears.

    1. Look for the rewilders. They’re more open to paleo than any anarchist group I’ve seen.

      1. My local group isn’t into diet/nutrition/exercise so much as they are into lifestyle. It’s a lot of the same stuff Mark gets into about being barefoot, sleeping, naps and so on, but gets far more into wild skills like fishing, gathering, home building. None of which I had a problem with, and actually rather enjoy. But no one really touches on nutrition other than “Eat Paleo, but it’s hard.”

  53. I would take it one step further and argue CW is responsible for the out of control health care costs in America. I don’t care who runs the system, when every man, woman and child is on pills and constantly at the Dr’s because of poor diet, we ALL pay for it. I hope you’re right! I hope the internet allows truth to be heard and the “low fat, high whole grain” pundits will fall. But I don’t know….

  54. MOST people are blinded by CW. I’d love to write them all off as “idiots” but these idiots are my friends, my sister, my MOM, people I love. They are totally brainwashed. It’s sad. I did get my Dad to buy and read your book and go primal. So there’s hope!

  55. “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.” – Mark Sisson

    I love it!

  56. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility problems? A small number of my blog readers have complained about my site not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox. Do you have any ideas to help fix this problem?

  57. I have never posted here before, but have been a long time reader. I had to post after seeing the video of the registered dietician giving out “health” advice to the masses of trusting people. I just have to say thank you for letting me see this. I don’t have television, and I really don’t care to keep up with what’s going on in today’s insane and surreal world – so apparently I’m not used to just how insane it has gotten since I stopped watching. I must say that at half past midnight I actually woke my husband out of a dead sleep to show him this video – he was as outraged as I am by it. I cannot BELIEVE what these corporate giants are getting away with and doing to people, and no one is stopping them. How dare a trusted nutritional professional advise people to do something that will so obviously lead to their early demise? Well, because the same corporations that own media and broadcasting companies are the same corporations that own the huge commercial food industry companies – and the very same ones also own all the pharma companies that sell everyone medice and chemo when their sick from the food they ALSO sold them, after being told by THEM on their TV programs to eat THEIR food and take their meds. How can people not SEE what is being done to them here????!! I am sorry for ranting and raving, but I really cannot believe that the masterminds at work here in the world have now become so entirely powerful so as to be able to do something THIS bold and audacious. I mean, really? Really?? I am in shock about this video clip. Wow. Anyway Mark, thanks for the link to the video, exposing me to this. Even though it makes me so mad, I’m glad I now that it’s really gotten to this level now. By the way, check out these links to see a great illustration of corporate power – ruling the entire world now it seems.

    For example, who knew that the suppliers of “food” such as Kraft, Post cereals, Oscar Meyer, Miller beer, and many many more are all owned by Philip Morris Tobacco? Guess which major television station has board members who also “happen” to be board members over at Philip Morris. Did you guess it? Yep – NBC. The source for that lovely advice we saw on your video. By the way, many of the fast food labels ADVERTISED by NBC in this piece belong to one David C. Novak, who also happens to be the Director of JP Morgan Chase, also having a chair at the Board of Directors of NBC.

    Okay I’ll stop there. Even though I could rant and rave for another 500 pages! >( grrr

    😀 But thanks for everything Mark and keep up the great work. By the way, anyone in California or elsewhere actually, please check out Nick Ranch Grassfed Beef – I have no affiliation with them other than being a loyal customer, they are doing amazing things over there, even their slaughter of beef is so gentle and humane. Family ranch for generations. I always like to plug them because I want them to stay around forever for me! So selfish. ;D

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