Presented at the Wise Traditions 2018 Awards Banquet
The project that got me started on my journey was my documentary, Fat Head.1 It’s because of Fat Head that I will always have this warm place in my heart for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Ten years ago, I was a first-time filmmaker, I barely knew what I was doing, nobody had ever heard of me, and yet Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Mary Enig—God rest her soul—were very generous with their time and expertise. It’s fair to say that what I learned from them and some other great people changed the direction of the film. It became less about why “this one guy is a big fat liar” and more about why “these people are big fat liars.”
In fact, what I learned while making Fat Head not only changed the direction of the film, it changed the direction of my life. We were living in Los Angeles at the time, and my wife and I started thinking about what it really means to have a healthy lifestyle. I started asking myself things like, “Do I want my kids to become L.A. kids?” “Do I want my children addressing me as Dude?” Eventually we decided that it would be better for them if we at least moved outside the Los Angeles area—say, about two thousand miles away.
So now we live on a little hobby farm just south of Nashville, Tennessee, and it’s great. I had no idea how much I would come to enjoy doing farm work on the weekends. Unfortunately, when I’m working on the farm, I have a tendency to do things like get stung by insects that give me a cellulitis infection. . . or knock myself unconscious with a sixteen-pound T-post hammer. . . or get beat all to hell and flipped in the air by a couple of three-hundred-pound hogs who decided they really didn’t want to go on a scenic drive to the processing plant. . . or continue to do manual labor on the farm while ignoring that little pain in my shoulder that turns out to be a bone spur that severs my bicep tendon. Other than that, it’s a great life!
THOSE ARTERY-CLOGGING FOODS
The only downside of farming is that we’re raising more of our own food now; I’ve been eating stuff like sausage, pork chops, fresh eggs and other foods that are going to kill me. In fact, I eat so much of this stuff that, by some estimates, I’ve been dead for at least three years already. I know these foods are going to kill me because, for many years, I’ve been seeing warnings from the experts that saturated fats will clog my kitchen sink—and my coronary arteries.
This got me wondering what other foods were lurking in my kitchen, just waiting to clog my kitchen sink and, thus, my coronary arteries. So I hired a couple of young lab assistants (my children), and we set out to conduct a series of experiments. Over the course of our research, we discovered that bread will clog your coronary arteries. . . apples and bananas will clog your coronary arteries. . . and Brussels sprouts will clog your coronary arteries—although that probably wouldn’t happen if you freakin’ cooked them first. (We learned that from a consultant we brought in to repair the lab equipment.) Eventually, we learned that the only food that will not clog your coronary arteries is chocolate ice cream because you can wash that down with some hot liquid and—presto!—your arteries are clear. So coffee and ice cream for everyone.
Now, perhaps you might say that my experiments were not based on solid science, but the point is, neither is the comparison of clogged sinks with clogged arteries. The question is, how did that flawed logic end up replacing what our grandparents, great-grandparents and hundreds of generations before them understood about what makes for a healthy diet? In other words, what the bleep happened?
CROWDS VERSUS EXPERTS
To understand what happened and why—and also to consider where I think we’re going now and why—I want to talk about a few of my favorite books. Even though they weren’t written about diet and health, they tell us an awful lot about how we make decisions as individuals and societies.
We’ll start with a wonderful book called The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki.2 I’ve heard people who never read this book say things like, “The wisdom of crowds, are you insane? Every moron in the world has an opinion, and they’re all on Twitter.” Yes, I know, but the wisdom of crowds does not mean taking advice from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. The wisdom of crowds simply means that knowledge is diffuse. You can name almost any subject, and thousands (if not millions) of people out there in the crowd know something about it. If those people have a way of sharing and comparing what they know, they often come up with better answers than the supposed “experts.” Little groups of experts—no matter how educated they are—almost never have as much combined knowledge as we find out there in the crowd.
The wisdom of crowds is based largely on experience. This is the kind of knowledge that people gain from actually doing things and then seeing what the results are. The wisdom of crowds is also unplanned. Nobody’s in charge of it, and nobody makes the final decision because it’s based on spontaneous interactions, and it is through these interactions that the answers and the solutions that work bubble up to the top. Finally, the wisdom of crowds develops over a period of time.
Now, doesn’t that sound familiar? Of course it does, because for most of human history, this is how we knew which foods were good for us. This was the knowledge of the village and the tribe; it was the knowledge that was passed down over the generations.
Not that long ago, it was still the kind of knowledge we relied on, even in countries like the United States. Here’s a perfect example: A poster put out by the U.S. government in the 1940s called meat, eggs, butter and whole milk “protective foods”—with no margarine and no Cheerios in sight. What if you were diabetic? A hundred years ago, a popular cookbook for diabetics told them to eat foods like meat, eggs, fish, butter and cheese—and it told them not to eat foods like sugar, bread, pasta and cereal.
What if you needed to lose a few pounds? When I was in high school in the mid-1970s, our health teacher also happened to be the wrestling coach. He told us that if we wanted to lose weight, we should base our diet on meat, eggs and vegetables; he told us to stop drinking sodas, and he told us not to eat foods like cereals, breads, pasta and French fries. He never said anything about going on a lowfat diet. How did he know this would work? By reading studies put out by Harvard? No, he knew what would work from experience, because part of his job was to help high school athletes get down to their competition weight—which he did.
Here’s another example of what people believed back then. In 1976, a funny movie was released called Silver Streak. Two of the minor characters were fat guys trying to lose weight, and their diet dinner consisted of…a hamburger patty, tomato slices and full-fat cottage cheese—not a lowfat diet. (Some of you may remember when restaurants used to serve that meal, and it was called “the waist trimmer.”)
This was the kind of knowledge we inherited from people in previous generations. And what did people in those generations look like? You’ve seen it in your grandma’s photo albums. Nobody was talking about an obesity epidemic back then, and rates of diabetes weren’t going up and up and up like some kind of bad bitcoin bubble.
Why did we abandon the wisdom of crowds? How did we end up believing that food created by Mother Nature will kill us and that the key to staying lean and healthy is to live on foods that only exist because of modern industry? How did that happen?
To understand what happened, I want to look at another book, The Vision of the Anointed, written by one of my favorite authors, a professor of economics named Dr. Thomas Sowell.3 What Sowell describes in The Vision of the Anointed is almost the polar opposite of the wisdom of crowds. Whereas the wisdom of crowds assumes that knowledge is diffuse, the Anointed tend to assume that knowledge and expertise are concentrated (concentrated among the Anointed, of course). While the wisdom of crowds is based on experience, the expertise of the Anointed is mostly academic or theoretical. Where the wisdom of crowds is unplanned, the vision of the Anointed is not only planned, it is often imposed. Finally, whereas the wisdom of crowds tends to develop over time—then getting passed down through the generations—the Anointed tend to fall in love with ideas solely because they are bold, new, exciting or just exquisitely expressed.
Here’s how Dr. Sowell describes the Anointed in action. Keep in mind that although he was not writing about nutrition policy, these people all operate pretty much the same way, no matter what the issue. It’s good to be aware of the pattern.
• STEP ONE: The Anointed identify a problem. This problem is now The Bad.
• STEP TWO: To fix the problem, the Anointed propose a Grand Plan—preferably something bold, new and exciting. Interestingly, the Grand Plan almost always involves spending more of other people’s money, or restricting more of other people’s freedom or both. In other words, it puts the Anointed in charge of the rest of us.
• STEP THREE: Because the Anointed are so supremely confident in their own ideas, they don’t believe the Grand Plan should be subjected to little annoyances (like proof that it will actually work). Instead, they simply assume that because their intentions are good, the plan is good. And because The Bad is so very, very bad—and “we must act now, before The Bad becomes even worse”— they will happily dismiss any evidence that the theory behind the Grand Plan is wrong.
• STEP FOUR: The Anointed assume that no good, intelligent person could possibly oppose the Grand Plan. (Remember, the Grand Plan is The Good.) So people who oppose the Grand Plan aren’t just opposing a plan, they are opposing The Good itself. They could only do that for one of two reasons: One, the opponents are stupid, or two, they’re evil. (They are so evil; they actually want The Bad to continue!) So the Anointed have no problem trying to silence or even destroy the people who disagree with them.
• STEP FIVE: Because the Anointed are so supremely confident that the Grand Plan will bring about The Good, they will—if they can—impose it on other people (for their own good, of course) because those people are probably stupid and would not adopt the Grand Plan voluntarily on their own.
• STEP SIX: Now, here’s where it gets fun. It often turns out that the Grand Plan does not actually bring about The Good. In fact, it sometimes turns The Bad into The Worst. When that happens, the Anointed will never, ever, ever, ever admit that the Grand Plan was a bad idea. As Dr. Sowell says, they are often wrong but never in doubt. In short, if the Grand Plan fails, there can only be three explanations, according to the Anointed:
1. The plan was good, but people didn’t follow it correctly (because they’re stupid).
2. The plan was good, but it was undermined by people (because they’re evil).
3. The plan didn’t go far enough. (In other words, we need to do the same thing again, only bigger.)
I want to mention a third book, Antifragile, that covers some of the same territory as the other two, written by a brilliant author, trader, mathematician and philosopher named Nassim Nicholas Taleb.4 Antifragile explains why some systems are fragile—meaning they tend to break or completely blow up under pressure—while other systems are “antifragile,” meaning they survive or even get stronger under pressure. For example, the human body is antifragile. If you are exposed to germs, and they don’t kill you, your immune system gets stronger. If you stress your body through exercise, you get stronger.
Much of the book explains why the Anointed end up creating systems that are fragile. (Taleb doesn’t call them “the Anointed” because that would be rude. He prefers the term, the Intellectual Yet Idiot.) He describes them as people who feel qualified to tell us what to do, what to eat, what to think and so forth, when their only skill is passing exams written by people like them.
One of the reasons the Intellectual Yet Idiot create fragile systems is due to what Taleb calls “neomania”—once again, falling in love with things or ideas or theories simply because they’re new. Taleb is not opposed to things that are new, but he reminds us to respect the fact that things that have been around for a long, long time have survived for a reason. They’re antifragile, and they’ve proven their value over time.
If we apply this to food—which Taleb does—which foods are the most likely to be good for us? The foods we’ve been consuming for the longest time! In fact, Taleb says, “My rule is drink no liquid that is not at least a thousand years old—so its fitness has been tested. I drink just wine, water and coffee. No soft drinks.”
Another reason that the Intellectual Yet Idiot types tend to create fragile systems is that they place too much value on academic theories and not enough value on practical experience. That’s because they think knowledge works like this: “Ivy League researchers discover Scientific Principles, and then those principles are put into practical use.” (In other words, Harvard professors discover and publish the laws of aerodynamics, and then birds begin to fly!)
Of course, that’s not what happens. In the real world, human beings figure out what works through experience, and eventually, university researchers may come along and explain why it works. But we don’t have to know why something works to know that it works. As Taleb writes, theories come and go, but experience stays.
Finally, the Intellectual Yet Idiot types create fragile systems because they want decisions to be turned over to a central authority. Here’s why that’s a bad idea. When we make our own decisions—whether as individuals or as states within a country—we learn from each other’s successes and failures. If you try something and it works, I learn from you. If I try something and it fails, you learn from me, and you are not harmed in the process. As a group, we become smarter and stronger—we become antifragile. When a central authority makes the decisions, the capacity to learn from each other goes away, and then one bad decision will affect everyone—which makes the system fragile. To quote from the book, top-down is usually irreversible (that is, mistakes tend to stick), whereas bottom-up is gradual and incremental, with creation and instruction along the way.
THE FLAWED GRAND PLAN
Let’s take a brief look at what happened with our U.S. Dietary Guidelines. If you keep Sowell and Taleb in mind, I think you’ll see that things played out in an entirely predictable way.
First, we had a problem. By the 1950s, too many Americans were dying of heart disease. Along came a bold, new, exciting idea on how to fix it, but this idea was theoretical, and it was not based on experience. In fact, it was a bad idea and probably would have died out. . . except the Anointed fell in love with the idea, and we ended up with a Grand Plan.
Specifically, the McGovern Commission decided in the 1970s, “We must convince Americans to cut back on saturated fat and cholesterol and get more of their calories from grains.” Neomania kicked in with the idea that the key to becoming healthy was to eat more foods created by modern science. Chemists assumed that they could produce a fat replacement that was superior to lard or butter. However, as described in Antifragile, what Mother Nature does should be viewed as rigorous until proven otherwise, and what humans and science do should be seen as flawed until proven otherwise. Overriding Mother Nature requires some very convincing justification on our part—the non-natural needs to prove its benefits, not the other way around.
Was there evidence that the theory behind the Grand Plan was wrong? Of course there was! As Dr. Weston A. Price documented, there were people all over the world who lived on diets that were high in animal fats, and those people were healthy. They had low rates of heart disease. There were also numerous clinical studies showing that switching from animal fats to vegetable fats did not reduce heart disease. In some studies, switching actually raised the rates of heart disease.
Of course, none of that mattered once the Anointed fell in love with their bold, new, exciting idea. In a news clip I used in Fat Head, George McGovern said, “We must act now, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the evidence to come in.”
As we’ve seen, the Anointed always assume that no good, intelligent person could oppose the Grand Plan. So, as Gary Taubes has described in his book, Good Calories, Bad Calories,5 and Nina Teicholz discusses in her book, The Big Fat Surprise,6 a lot of scientists found out the hard way that disagreeing with this particular Grand Plan was a great way to kill their career.
Finally, the Anointed decided we should turn our decisions about which foods are good for us over to a central authority, and the central authority imposed the Grand Plan wherever it could. Schools, prisons, hospitals, military bases, other government facilities—they are all required to follow the Dietary Guidelines. We’ve even had cases where parents who packed their kids’ lunches at home were told they had to follow the Dietary Guidelines. A school in Chicago told parents, “You know what, we’re not even going to let you pack your kids’ lunches at home anymore, because you’re not following the guidelines. We’re going to make your kids eat healthy lunches” (like the ones prepared in the school cafeteria).
FATTER AND SICKER
That’s how we got where we are. And as Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working out for you?” You know how it’s working out for us, so I’m not going to quote all the statistics, but I want to share a few headlines: “Baby boomers are fatter and sicker than their parents were at the same age.” “Children are developing type II diabetes and fatty liver disease at a record rate.” “Some ten-year-old kids are so overweight, now they need hip replacements.” And a staggering number of our troops are fat and tired, which is a far cry from how they looked going into World War II.
We can sum up the effects of the Dietary Guidelines by quoting the always quotable Yogi Berra: “We made the wrong mistakes.” Except the Anointed don’t make mistakes. The problem can’t be them—it has to be us.
An official from Public Health England recently wrote an essay explaining why Britain has an obesity problem. Here is the official’s explanation: It’s because people aren’t following well-founded government advice! And why aren’t people following the well-founded government advice? The official’s answer: Because they’re easily confused! In other words, “The plan was good, but people didn’t follow it correctly because they’re stupid.”
In the United States, we got this explanation for why the Food Pyramid didn’t make us all lean and healthy: “The Food Pyramid has been described by many as difficult to understand and as the obesity rates would suggest, has gone largely unheeded by many.” Once again, people didn’t follow it correctly—because they’re stupid. (Apparently, Americans were trying to form their meals into actual pyramids, and when that fell down, they just gave up.)
The next step for the Anointed was to say, “So, what we need to do is take this hugely complicated triangle and reformat it into a nice, simple circle,” which became the USDA’s MyPlate in 2010. And when the circle doesn’t work (which it won’t), we’ll probably end up with the Food Square, or the Food Parallelogram or whatever other shape they come up with.
To be fair to the USDA, they didn’t repackage exactly the same advice. In the revised 2010 Guidelines, they admitted that people had gotten fatter, and they admitted that rates of diabetes had gone up. . . and so: “We need to cut back on saturated fat even more.” In other words, “We need to do the same thing again—only bigger.”
THE GOOD NEWS
Let’s move on to the good news. Ever since I made Fat Head, people have been asking me, “What can we do to get the USDA to change this lousy advice?” And I’ve always given the same answer: “That’s not my goal.” We don’t need national Dietary Guidelines any more than we need national Haircutting Guidelines.
My goal is not to change the USDA. I don’t think that’s possible. My goal is to convince people to stop listening to them—and I’m happy to say that is already happening. According to a recent survey, only 23 percent of Americans still believe that the diet recommended by the USDA is a healthy diet. Sales of full-fat dairy products are going up, sales of butter are going up, sales of lowfat dairy products are going down and people are eating more red meat. Which means, the wisdom of crowds is finally striking back! So why now? Why didn’t this happen thirty-five years ago? Well, a little more than thirty-five years ago, I got my degree in journalism, and one of the things we learned about was the extraordinary influence of the information gatekeepers. Information flowed from the top, through a relatively small number of gatekeepers, and then down to the rest of us, and that’s where it stopped.
At the time, I saw that up close and personal. When I left college, I got a job as a writer with a small health magazine, and guess what? I was one of the people writing articles telling you to cut back on saturated fat and cholesterol. I didn’t know any better. Researching an article used a process that I call “the usual suspects.” Let’s say you were writing an article on what causes heart disease. You would talk to the American Heart Association, but for background, you’d first read several magazine and newspaper articles written by other reporters…who had talked to the American Heart Association. Then for quotes, you would interview a doctor…who got his information from the American Heart Association.
Unfortunately, not only did I write articles telling other people to cut back on the bacon and eggs and start eating healthy cereals, margarine and skim milk for breakfast, I followed that advice myself. In retrospect, I wish that the negative effects had just kicked me in the ass, really hard, all at once—because then, maybe I would have figured it out. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I just kept getting a little fatter and a little sicker each year. I started getting things like asthma, sinus infections, arthritis, digestive problems and psoriasis on the back of my head. At the time, I told myself, “Well, this is what happens when you get older.” (I was in my thirties.) The point is, millions of people were having bad results from following this advice, but we didn’t know that because the flow of information was top-down.
Nowadays, however, if people are frustrated with diet and health advice that doesn’t work, they do what any intelligent person would do—they go out on the Internet and complain to several thousand perfect strangers. And that’s good! Because the wisdom of crowds is based on sharing our knowledge and experiences, and when people go online, they are finding countless experiences like these:
It makes me so upset when I think of how I used to feed my daughter on the advice of her pediatrician and the government. Skim milk, cereal, pasta, bananas, orange juice. . . I was so frustrated because I couldn’t figure out why she was so heavy.
I was sent to a diabetes seminar by my doctor. I followed the diet, but my sugar was never under 170-180. When I went back and told the nurse, she said I didn’t follow the diet correctly.
Doesn’t that sound like, “The plan was good, but people didn’t follow it because they’re stupid”?
When people go online and realize just how many people have been following this advice and getting the same lousy results, they come to the logical conclusion: “I’m not fat and sick because I have a genetic condition, and I’m not fat and sick because I’m stupid—I’m fat and sick because this advice sucks.” Then, because of the Internet, they take the next logical step, which is to look for advice that actually works for them. And they’re finding it. Surveys are showing this over and over: More and more people these days are getting their advice from bloggers, podcasters, filmmakers, doctors and researchers they never would have heard of before—as well as organizations like the Weston A. Price Foundation. They’re finding answers on YouTube and through people they follow on Twitter, not to mention from the thousands and thousands of people out there who happen to know something.
Do these people all agree with each other? No. There are debates going on out there about low-carb diets, ketogenic diets, paleo diets, high-fat diets, lowfat diets, the all-meat diet, the all-potato diet, et cetera—and that’s good. Because the diet that works for you might not be the diet that works for me, and the diet that works for me when I’m thirty might not be the diet that works for me when I’m sixty.
By the way, I had all those health problems in my thirties “because I was getting older.” Well, I just turned sixty, and I don’t have those health problems anymore. I went out into that big, messy, unregulated crowd, looking for ideas. I did a lot of experimenting, and I found something that works for me. If the information still only flowed top-down, I’m not sure I would have found those answers. I know I would not have heard of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
The Internet reignited the wisdom of crowds, with information now flowing from bottom to top. That’s how it should be, because when you are dealing with a problem, it is much better to get a hundred answers from a hundred different people than to get one answer from some supposed expert who happens to be wrong. That’s why it drives me nuts when I see something like this: “The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will help policy makers, educators, clinicians and others speak with one voice on nutrition and health.” Really? We need “one voice” so that one bad decision can affect everyone?
No, we need thousands of voices. The correct answers and solutions—the ones that actually work—will rise to the top. That’s why organizations like the Weston A. Price Foundation are so important, and that’s why people like you are so important. Even if all you do is go online and share your experiences eating a traditional diet, and even if you are not a blogger, podcaster or filmmaker, you are contributing to the wisdom of crowds. That makes a difference.
It makes me happy when I get emails like this one: “I wanted you to know, now I’ve lost nearly eighty pounds since Fat Head made me rethink everything I had ever learned about food and nutrition.” This was from a woman who used to live on a lowfat vegetarian diet. Now she eats meat and eggs and other foods full of saturated fats (that are going to kill her someday and clog her sink). When people go online and see an experience like that, it inspires them to try something new and find something that works.
Here’s another fun part: Now the Anointed are hearing back from the rest of us. Oh boy, they don’t like it. We’re not “respecting the experts” anymore, but I know they’re listening. Some years ago, I wrote a post making fun of this stupid study showing that eggs raise your risk of diabetes. Among other things, I pointed out that if eggs actually were causing diabetes, it was difficult to explain why diabetes was shooting up when egg consumption was going down. The researcher who produced that study actually felt compelled to show up on my blog and respond. The response basically boiled down to this: “You’re not qualified to question me, because I’m a PhD, and you’re not.” (Yes, but I have the right to make fun of you, because I’m a comedian, and you’re not!)
I don’t have anything against PhDs. There are PhDs doing awesome research, and we encounter many of them at Weston A. Price Foundation conferences. In fact, I have evidence that some of them begin life as normal people. I’m pretty sure some of them would agree that sitting in a classroom is not the only way to acquire knowledge that is useful.
Let me give you another example of people talking back to the Anointed. A certified diabetes instructor wrote an article explaining that diabetics should be on a lowfat, high-carbohydrate diet. Why? “Because the USDA says so.” The site that published that article got hammered with comments like these: “As a physician with prediabetes, I am appalled that a high-carbohydrate diet continues to be promoted. So you recommend that diabetics like me eat higher carb diets and then take as much medication as needed to keep blood sugar under control? How can that possibly make sense? This column is not helpful to diabetics and is probably dangerous. I am going on six years of eating thirty to thirty-five calories of carbs per day. My A1c has been in the ‘non-diabetic’ range ever since I went this route, and I feel better than I have in years.” A lot of other people told me that they also tried to post comments, but the comments never showed up. (The website later explained that they were having “technical difficulties.” As in, “Technically, we didn’t expect our expert to get slammed like this.”)
That happens all the time now. Last year, the American Heart Association came out with their presidential advisory study, where they carefully examined the research and then concluded, “Wouldn’t you know it, researchers have been right all along: saturated fat will kill you.” Within two days, this thing was getting ripped to shreds all over the Internet.
Of course, the Anointed would like us to shut up and have figured out how to deal with some of this backtalk. Remember, because no good, intelligent person could possibly disagree with them, they have no problem trying to silence or destroy the people who do. Thus, dieticians in New Jersey are trying to make it illegal to give dietary advice without a state-issued license.
Some of you are probably familiar with the blogger named Steve Cooksey (the “diabetes warrior”). He’s a diabetic who got his diabetes under control through nutrition. He was coaching other diabetics on how to do the same thing. A group of registered dietitians tried to bring him up on charges because “he was giving health advice and he didn’t have credentials.” Fortunately, he eventually won his case.
In Australia, a surgeon named Dr. Gary Fettke was appalled by the number of amputations he was performing on diabetics. He did some research and started advocating low-carb, high-fat diets. After the dietitians complained, the agency that regulates doctors told Dr. Fettke that he could not give dietary advice anymore because “he wasn’t qualified.” Fortunately, he eventually got that decision reversed.
I’m sure you’ve probably also heard about what happened to Dr. Tim Noakes in South Africa. A woman on Twitter asked him a question about feeding her toddler, and he replied. Because he recommends a high-fat diet, a dietitian complained, and he was brought up on charges before the group that regulates doctors. It turned into a long, expensive trial. After he won, the Anointed (the dietitians) decided, “You know, we should try the same thing again, only bigger,” and they filed an appeal. They put Dr. Noakes through a second trial, which again resulted in victory for Dr. Noakes.
Of course, these trials were never really about Tim Noakes; they were about the Anointed trying to silence and intimidate anyone who disagrees with them. They think they’re going to take us back to the good old days where they hand down the advice, and we just follow it. But that’s not going to happen because if I switch to a diet of meat, vegetables, eggs, cream and butter, and I lose weight and my health improves, I’m not going to change my mind because the Anointed tell me to. I’m not going to go back to a diet that doesn’t work just because the American Heart Association puts out one more bogus study. The wisdom of crowds is going to keep getting stronger and stronger because we’re not going to stop sharing our knowledge and experiences with each other. We’re not going to shut up.
NO MORE BAD BETS
I’ll give you one more example of why I won’t shut up. A woman who posted in the Fat Head Facebook group had been trying to follow a lowfat diet her entire life and had struggled with her weight for years. There are millions of people like her out there. This woman wrote:
I started searching online for ideas. At that point, a perfect storm of ‘coincidences’ happened. We were led to ‘The Oiling of America,’7 which led to tons of documentaries on health and nutrition, which led to Fat Head. My searches had already started me on watching my carbs, but Fat Head put it all in place. . . that light-bulb moment. In this past year I have now lost almost sixty-five pounds. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the people—scientists, doctors, bloggers, everyday people—who never gave up on getting the message out to people like me who were utterly despondent and desperate. If it weren’t for this information, I would be a fat, unhealthy, unhappy mess.
I’ll explain why the wisdom of crowds is here to stay by telling you an old joke. A couple of drunks are sitting in a bar watching the six o’clock news when they see a guy standing on the edge of the building. The first drunk says, “I’ll bet you twenty bucks he jumps.” The second drunk says, “Alright, I got twenty bucks says he doesn’t.” Sure enough, the guy jumps. The second drunk says, “Well, I’m an honest man, here’s your twenty.” The first drunk says, “Naaaww, I can’t take your money. I’ve been sitting here drinking all day, I saw him jump on the four o’clock news, and I saw him jump on the five o’clock news.” The second drunk says, “Well, so did I, but I didn’t think he’d do it again.”
The reason people are now returning to the wisdom of crowds is that for forty years, they’ve been told to make the same bad bet with their diet—over and over and over—and they’re tired of losing. They are not going to do it again.
2. Surowiecki J. The Wisdom of Crowds. New York: Anchor Books; 2005.
3. Sowell T. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. New York: Basic Books; 1996.
4. Taleb NN. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. New York: Random House; 2014.
5. Taubes G. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. New York: Anchor Books; 2008.
6. Teicholz N. The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. New York: Simon & Schuster; 2015.
7. “The Oiling of America.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvKdYUCUca8.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2018