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Fathead Movie Critique Assignment

My, it’s just never-ending fun on Twitter. In my previous post, I described how a doctor accused me of insulting the entire profession of hardworking, professional dietitians when I wrote that the dietitians in South Africa look like @$$holes for going after Tim Noakes. He also insisted that it’s not typical for a hardworking, professional dietitian to recommend pancakes as a “heart healthy” breakfast.

After I quoted from three hospital menus listing pancakes and waffles in the “heart healthy” section here on the blog, a reader provided a link to her own photo of a hospital menu. So I cropped it to make the relevant section readable on Twitter and included it in a tweet that read:

Check out this hospital menu for the “Cardiac Diet” … but gosh no, serving pancakes and syrup to a diabetic in a hospital couldn’t possibly be typical of what a dietitian would do ….

Here’s the cropped version of the photo I included:

And that’s when the fun began.

Someone else on Twitter warned me that doctor is a troll, and of course I’d already recognized the troll traits. Online trolls will argue endlessly, but will never, ever, ever, ever admit being wrong, no matter what evidence you provide. Instead, they’ll try to change the argument — preferably to something that has little or nothing to do with the original argument. Then they’ll try keep the focus there to avoid returning to the original argument because they know (but will never admit) they lost that one. They’ll also pepper you with challenging questions, but won’t answer challenging questions in return. It’s all about avoiding — at all costs — admitting they were wrong in whatever statement prompted the original argument.

So with that in mind, when I tweeted the photo above, the doctor immediately demanded to know which hospital’s menu it was. The demand came at 4:00 a.m. Tennessee time, so of course I didn’t answer for hours, by which time he was already suggesting the photo isn’t credible. That prompted some other dumbass to chime in and tell me I should be ashamed of myself for posting a fake photo on Twitter just to cause a stir.

Fake photo? Fascinating theory. You know how people are always firing up their graphics programs to produce fake hospital menus just to cause a stir on Twitter. Happens all the time.

When I finally woke up and had my coffee and logged onto Twitter, I replied that I didn’t know which hospital, but I had no reason to doubt that the reader’s photo was real. I also pointed out that it’s the same advice I’d seen on other hospital menus, so the name of this particular hospital didn’t particularly concern me.

That prompted this response from the doctor:

Tom has no idea if it’s real. Just shared it off the bat because it conforms to his prejudices. So predictable.

I thought the word “predictable” was interesting. Apparently the doctor has been following me on Twitter for a long time and, after witnessing the large number of unverified photos of menus I tweet, was able to predict I’d do it again. Man, I hate being predictable like that.

But “has no idea if it’s real” is just plain silly. I had a very good idea that it’s real. I had already downloaded three hospital menus and quoted from the “heart healthy” offerings here on the blog. So when a reader linked to a photo she snapped of a hospital menu recommending exactly the same “heart healthy” choices I’d seen on other hospital menus, it would have been a bit odd to think, Hmmm, it looks just like the other menus I’ve seen, but this one may be a fake.

“Because it conforms to his prejudices” is an even sillier comment. Apparently the doctor believes that when you download several hospital menus listing pancakes as “heart healthy” and then see a photo of yet another hospital menu offering “heart healthy” pancakes, only some kind of crazy prejudice would prompt to you assume it’s a real photo of a real menu. I happen to believe recognizing patterns is a sign of intelligence, not prejudice. And the obvious pattern is that hospital dietitians put pancakes in the “heart healthy” category.

But no, no, no, the real issue that now required endless arguing (according to the doctor) is that I didn’t verify that the photo is real by asking the reader to name the specific hospital. Hmmm, interesting logic. If a reader links to a photo of a hospital menu and says she took the photo herself, there are only two possibilities: 1) she’s telling the truth, or 2) she’s lying.

If she’s telling the truth (by far the most likely possibility, since she’d otherwise risk embarrassing herself publicly), then there’s no issue. If she’s lying, asking her to name the hospital isn’t going to verify anything. She’d just lie again. Perhaps the doctor believes liars have a one-lie-per-day limit.

Anyway, it turns out the reader named the hospital in a separate linked page, which I failed to notice the first time. So I replied to the doctor with the name of the hospital. Now it’s verified and all is well, right?

Of course not. Remember, trolls never, ever, ever, ever admit being wrong and constantly try to change the argument when proven wrong. So the doctor wanted to keep arguing that I hadn’t properly verified the photo before tweeting it. I replied that short of flying to Colorado to look at the hospital’s menu myself, I wasn’t sure what he was demanding as proper “verification” and asked him to define it. I never got an answer, but did receive more mini-lectures on how I should have verified the photo and I was tweeting nonsense.

Nonsense?  More interesting logic.  We have a photo of a hospital menu and (with a slight delay) the name of the hospital.  I never did grasp what exactly was nonsense about it.

Then doctor asked if the photo was of the entire menu. Well, of course it wasn’t. I cropped it to show that pancakes and waffles were on the Cardiac Diet portion. That was, after all, the original argument: is it typical or atypical for hardworking, professional dietitians to recommend pancakes as a “heart healthy” breakfast.

That drew a reply from the doctor that by only showing a portion of the entire menu, I was misrepresenting the truth.

Now that was some interesting logic indeed. Let’s see … the doctor insisted that offering pancakes as a “heart healthy” breakfast isn’t typical of those hardworking, professional dietitians. I provide photos demonstrating that pancakes are on the “heart healthy” or Cardiac Diet section of hospital menus approved by dietitians. That proves it’s typical. No doubt about it. Game, set, match.

Ahhh, but since I didn’t include the entire menu, I’m misrepresenting … uh … something, so my proof isn’t valid. Perhaps the doctor believes that somewhere farther down on the menu, there are big block letters that read: HEY, WHEN WE LISTED PANCAKES AS HEART-HEALTHY, WE WERE ONLY KIDDING! DON’T ORDER THEM. And bad boy that I am, I cropped out the warning.

Like I said earlier, trolls like to pose challenging questions, but ignore any challenging questions you raise in return and simply try to change the argument. So I asked the doctor if he still believes pancakes = heart-healthy breakfast is not typical advice from dietitians. He didn’t answer.

But yes, of course it’s typical. I normally don’t waste time in endless online debates with obvious trolls who will never, ever, ever, ever admit being wrong, but since the awful advice on hospital menus makes for interesting blog fodder, I downloaded several more. (I don’t know if the doctor would consider them verified. Probably not.)

Now, I admit I’m not showing each menu in its entirety here … that would be pointless and a bit stupid, since the menus are several pages long. All we need to know is if foods like pancakes, waffles and cereals are labeled as “heart healthy.” So here are some screen caps I’ve put together, taken directly from PDFs of the menus.

This one is from UAB hospital in Alabama. Mmm, heart-healthy pancakes.  Notice that eggs are only heart-healthy if you order the low-cholesterol version … meaning some kind of industrial-food egg substitute like Egg Beaters.

This one is from Providence Hospital in Spokane, WA. Turns out both pancakes and Frosted Flakes are heart-healthy. Who knew protecting your heart could be so darned delicious?

Next up, we have a menu from Magee Women’s hospital in Pittsburgh. Well, dangit, no heart-healthy pancakes. But brown sugar and Frosted Flakes will protect your heart, so that’s good.

From Rush University Hospital in Chicago … pancakes, Frosted Flakes, breads, muffins and apple strudel are all heart-healthy. Wow!

The hardworking, professional dietitians at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona have also decided that Honey Nut Cheerios are heart-healthy. Gee, I can’t see anything wrong with that advice.

Look at the little hearts next to all the heart-healthy choices from Strong Memorial Hospital in New York. Frosted Flakes and pancakes!

Rats, no pancakes in the heart-healthy offerings from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. But you can protect your heart with all kinds of breads, bagels and muffins … not to mention Frosted Mini-Wheats and Honey Nut Cheerios.

But don’t worry, pancakes are heart-healthy again at the Lexington Medical Center in South Carolina.

We know these choices from the University of Wisconsin Hospital are heart-healthy, because the menu assures us they were selected by hardworking, professional, registered dietitians.

This may be my favorite … from Decatur Memorial Hospital in Illinois (I was born in that town), it turns out that pancakes, cinnamon rolls, blueberry muffins, Frosted Mini-Wheats and even Captain Crunch cereal will save you from heart disease.

But of course, it’s not typical for hardworking, professional dietitians to recommend foods like these as heart-healthy meals. Just ask the doctor.

For you dietitians who know better, no offense. But this is why the profession as a whole is in trouble. Much as they want to blame Tim Noakes, or “disruptors” who offer alternative advice that actually works, or the internet, or whatever, these menus show why the profession has lost credibility.


I frequently receive emails or comments from people who’ve seen Fat Head, asking me to provide information which, as it so happens, is often already available on this blog. I’m not complaining, mind you; I don’t click every link on every blog I visit either. But since these are common questions, I thought I’d answer them here and point out some links many readers may not have noticed.

I’d like to see the food log from your fast-food diet.  Is it available?

If I had a top-ten questions list, this would definitely be number one. Yes, my food log is available. It’s been over there in the Helpful Links section since day one. Unlike certain other documentary filmmakers (ahem, ahem), I’m not afraid to show you what I actually ate.

At the end of Fat Head, you went on a saturated-fat pigout diet for a month, but you didn’t say if you lost any weight. Did you gain or lose?

My bad. The purpose of that month was to see what effect pigging out on saturated fat while eliminating sugar and starch would have on my cholesterol. It was a sort of challenge put to me by Dr. Mike Eades, who told me off-camera I could prove for myself that the Lipid Hypothesis was wrong. I ate a lot of food, didn’t count calories, and didn’t exercise much at all because I was traveling quite a bit for business. But to answer the question, I lost another two pounds. I didn’t mention that in the film because it was the cholesterol score that mattered, at least to me. (If you haven’t seen the film — and why the heck not?! — my total cholesterol and LDL dropped, while my HDL went up. Just what Dr. Mike predicted.)

Have you kept the weight off that you lost while filming Fat Head?

Nope. I’ve kept the fat off. There’s a difference. I went down to 194 lbs. on the fast-food diet, then down to 192 after the saturated-fat pigout diet. Once I started lifting weights using Fred Hahn’s Slow Burn method, I went back up over 200 even as my pants got a little looser. At the end of the 6-Week Cure diet, I weighed 195. Now I’m at 200, but my waist is the same size as when I weighed 195 in November. As long as I keep lifting weights and watching my diet, I’m not really concerned with reaching some magical number on the scale.

Do you have any sources for your claim that there’s no real scientific proof saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease? (I get that one a lot, sometimes phrased in not-very-polite terms that involve references to bovine droppings.)

Naw, I made it up. Seemed like a cool idea for a film. Yes, yes, yes, there’s a ton of literature out there supporting the claim. If you’re not up to reading Good Calories, Bad Calories, you can at least check the Recommended Reading links over there in the sidebar. A few of my favorites are:

Gary Taubes: The Soft Science of Dietary Fat
Gary Taubes: What If It’s All Been A Big Fat Lie?
Dr. Malcolm Kendrick on the Cholesterol Myths
What if “bad” fat is really good for you?

Those are some of the articles I stumbled across when I first started doing research for the film. Up until then, I hadn’t really planned for Fat Head to delve into what’s wrong with the standard nutrition advice. After reading the articles, I went a little nuts ordering books and downloading articles.

Where do you find low-carb recipes? Why don’t you post recipes?

I’m not really a recipe guy. I’m a seat-of-the-pants cook. I cook, taste, and add flavors as I go. (So does my five-year-old. She recently tasted some homemade soup and informed my wife it needed a bit more salt and some cumin.)

But there are good recipes on other sites I have linked:

NZ Low Carb Info and Recipes
Low-Carb Cooking (New Zealand)
Well Done Chef!

If anyone out there knows of other sites with good low-carb recipes, do tell. I don’t have them linked, but I’d also highly recommend a couple of low-carb cookbooks that my wife uses frequently. The biggest complaint I hear about low-carb diets is the lack of variety. Well, sure, if you do nothing but rotate eggs, steaks and cheeseburgers, it’s going to get boring. So don’t. Get these books and go to town.

Carb Wars, by Judy Barnes Baker (The moussaka is awesome.)

1001 Low-Carb Recipes, by Dana Carpender (Two words: barbeque sauce! Seriously, if you can’t find something you like in a book that contains a thousand recipes, it’s time to just give up and go back to killing yourself with sugar.)

How did you manage to marry that woman? (Yes, people have actually emailed to ask me that question. Maybe I should feel insulted …)

The short answer: no idea. But a friend and former co-worker named Amy once offered an explanation:  Amy knew me when I was engaged to another woman I’ll call Melanie. To put it mildly, the engagement didn’t work out well … mostly because just about the time I thought I was finished dealing with all the baggage Melanie was carrying around from childhood, it turned out she owned an entire storage facility I knew nothing about. So when I met my wife a couple of years later and wondered how I got so lucky, Amy said, “I think it’s God apologizing for Melanie.”

That’s as good an explanation as any other.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 6th, 2010 at 11:37 pm and is filed under Random Musings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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