You often hear folks advocate for things like ‘organic’, ‘grass-fed’, or ‘pasture-raised’ food. What are your thoughts on all of this?
I think there’s a phenomenon where the idea of having humane ways to raise animals and even ways to help with climate change gets mixed up with health. I learned about low-carb diets in the year 1998. I started using a version of a low-carb diet that really didn’t pay too much attention to food quality. There was no grass-fed beef and there wasn’t much organic food available. The diet I started using worked just fine. I’ve used low-carb diets now in clinical practice and in research for over 20 years here in Durham, North Carolina. I’ve learned from people that there are many different ways to do this. You can eat “clean” with organic, free-range, grass-fed beef, and going to the farmers’ market, but you don’t have to do that. It’s not essential to get results with a low-carb diet. All you really need to do is keep the carbs super low. I think it’s great if you can make a difference by eating that way, but it’s not necessary for keto. The downside of the focus on healthy, “clean” eating as a required part of keto is that it takes away access from a lot of people who don’t have the money to purchase those kinds of foods.
You’ve said before that you can do this diet perfectly fine even if you order fast food, as long as you’re particular about how you do this. Can you speak to that?
I set up a clinic that takes insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid, as opposed to a concierge practice where only the rich people can come. There are some doctors that do that and I think that’s fantastic, but my goal was to learn how to implement low-carb diets in the world that people live in right now. One gentleman came back to me losing 10 pounds a month even though he was eating food from the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s. He heard what I had said in my class regarding the keto list of foods and figured out that he could eat two to three double cheeseburgers off the Dollar Menu at McDonalds without the bun and fries, and without sugar in his drink.
While it might sound terrible, many obesity doctors give people pills and sell products, some will even do an operation on your stomach so that it’s tiny and it forces you to eat less, so as far as all the different ways of going about things, having the low-carb food at a fast food restaurant is a relatively healthy way to go about things! Fast food and restaurant industries can even be part of the solution if they understand that all you have to do is cut carbs. In our area you can get lettuce wraps or you can just tell people you don’t want the bun. What happened to this gentleman who ate off the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s is that he started eating less – he didn’t need as much, because he was starting to burn his own body fat. He was starting to burn the energy that he’d already stored up by eating the way he used to. He’s finally using all of the food that he had purchased through the years!
If you can’t afford clean eating or you don’t like those kinds of foods, it’s not necessary. It’s probably helpful in environmental change, but I’m one of the hold-outs looking for evidence that grass-fed beef improves human health over just regular beef. Studies show that the food is slightly different in terms of its composition, but you can’t find studies of giving this food to people showing benefits. I’m a clinical researcher, so I can’t recommend something with the strength of a prescription until the level of evidence like for a prescription drug has been gathered. At Adapt Your Life Academy, our position is to remind people that those are all “nice if you can” sorts of things, but the most important thing is to keep the carbs really low so that you can burn your own body fat.
In your book, End Your Carb Confusion, there is an analogy of a sound modulator. Can you explain this analogy in reference to today’s topic?
Amy Berger and the Adapt Team helped me put together End Your Carb Confusion. The sound modulator is like an amplifier with different knobs on it, controlling different things. The most important thing to start out with is controlling the carbs. Clean eating is like the fine-tuning knob, where the most important thing is to keep the carbs really low. That’s been our role, to remind people that all this started with carb restriction – keeping carbs down. Other important things are exercise, staying active, and stress management. The first thing to really grapple with, however, is keeping the sugar, starch, and carbs really low.
To recap, you are not against grass-fed or clean foods, but you believe that you could do the diet perfectly fine without them?
That’s right. In our teaching and in my clinical practice, for years there was no emphasis on that. I think it’s important for moving forward to help change the food environment, but it’s not necessary right now to help the people in front of me.
Check out the full video here.