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Dear Penn Jillette: Your Diet is BS

  1. Sabrina says:

    As a longtime vegetarian (for ethical and environmental reasons, as well as simple preference– I never really cared much for meat), I unfortunately am acquainted with the full range of so-called “whole foods plant-based” diets, of which Fuhrman’s is one. All of them eschew oil, sugar, and salt, and prescribe extremely bizarre eating patterns. Each new rendition of this diet type is more disordered than the last, as the diet book authors try to create a diet that will produce weight loss (not just improved health– somehow this just isn’t good enough) for everyone. I used to follow a blogger who follows this style of eating (though I never did myself, I do enjoy dishes with lots of veggies, beans, and whole grains, and I found some of her recipes creative and tasty, once I added a little salt and oil to them), but she fell down an eating disorder rabbit hole. When she began writing about bringing her own food to social gatherings or not eating at all if there wasn’t anything available that meets her strict criteria, as if this were “healthy” behavior, I could no longer remain silent and pointed out in the comments how disordered this behavior was. For my efforts, of course, I was flamed. My only hope is that there was somebody reading those comments who thought about what I wrote and decided to walk away from these disordered eating habits, but I will never know, because needless to say, I don’t follow the blog anymore.

    I completely agree that the last thing we need is another one of these diets out there in the world. Blueberries covered with cocoa powder and cayenne? 4 containers of them? No thank you, and that is nothing like a Mexican chocolate cake. I’ll keep eating my blueberries with my morning yogurt and having chocolate cake when I want it. I might not be as skinny as I can possibly be, but I won’t feel the need to binge on weird combinations of food in the middle of the night. I’ll be well-nourished, satisfied, and therefore able to sleep in the middle of the night instead.

    • GlenysO says:

      Thanks for the insight on that diet – it sounded fairly disordered to me (as all diets are) despite being cloaked in “whole foods” lingo. And yes, that blueberries/cayenne/cocoa powder dessert sounded HORRIBLE to me – of course you’d have to eat 4 containers of it because you never actually feel satisfied from it. Good for you for standing up to disordered eating with that blog – and by protecting your sanity by dropping it. Thanks for your comment!

      • Sabrina says:

        Another thing that often comes up in that “whole foods plant based” diet culture is that its adherents claim that they now only need 4-5 hours of sleep a night, ostensibly because they are so “well nourished” on their “nutrient dense” diet that they now have boundless energy. We know from scientific research that calorie restriction can cause insomnia and disrupted sleep, so I believe that this is what these folks are actually experiencing. It’s not that they are now somehow superhumans who don’t need sleep, but instead they are starving humans who can’t sleep. Perhaps this is behind Penn’s middle-of-the-night bingeing behavior (which I noticed he mentioned at least twice). Sleep is such an important indicator of overall health. I know my own sleep suffered quite a bit when I found myself snared in the diet trap. Now that I’m out and working on long-term habits that nourish the health of my body, mind, and spirit, I sleep so much better. My trip to dietland was not a long visit (I’ve been very lucky) but still I need to read blogs like yours to keep me from getting back on that train. So thank you for all you do!

  2. Ocean Bream says:

    To a regular person who doesn’t know much about dieting etc that sounds terribly unhealthy. The secret to good nutrition is one that evades many, I fear. Myself included. Why do lots of people have such an unhealthy attitude towards eating!?

    • GlenysO says:

      I think there are many forces working against us: ages old sexism that motivated women to keep busy with their “figures” instead of attaining real power; industry that profits from our collective body insecurity; policies that subsidize big food industries but not smaller growers; our lack of priority for feeding ourselves (particularly a US problem)…and on and on. Not to mention we humans have tried to manipulate our diets for centuries for whatever reasons, so it just seems like a natural thing for us. But we know now that if we just go for a variety of foods and don’t worry too much about it, and take the focus off of changing our appearance, we have the best chance at health.

  3. Geniecc says:

    That sounds like such a sad way to live. It’s funny, I also used to use blueberries and no-fat yogurt (the sort that is so runny it’s basically liquid, packed with artificial sweeteners to disguise that it is absolutely awful) to have what I called a controlled binge. I got to eat until I was full and had all the same physical symptoms of a binge – the overstuffed feeling, the numbness – but it was healthy (ha). Looking back, it just seems so tragic. Yes, blueberries are amazing, but nobody is eating that many blueberries unless they are actually wanting to eat something substantial.
    I feel bad for him. Those excerpts are really eating disorder-y.

    • GlenysO says:

      They really are. I agree on the blueberries – they are great, unless you are trying to use them to satisfy a craving for something else. I hope he doesn’t stay on this forever. Unfortunately, he hasn’t really learned any healthy habits that I can see that will last with him when he eventually and inevitably falls off the wagon.

  4. What. The. Fudge. Also, a gem from the comment section: “Eh if he’s feeling happy and healthy and losing all the weight he wants, who am I to judge…maybe he’s got more willpower than the rest of us.” AGHHHH. The disorder-y restriction=admirable willpower perception might make me more upset than anything else. It’s so widely accepted and perpetuated that sometimes I fear it will never, ever fall out of fashion.

    • GlenysO says:

      Right, the willpower thing is SO misguided. Our psychological and biological systems are geared to override our so-called “willpower” so that we don’t starve to death (or to mere bad health). I’m not sure where the idea that good nutrition means disordered eating came from, but I desperately want it to go away!!

  5. What’s crazy is they did an episode of Bullshit about how unscientific and predatory diets are!

    • GlenysO says:

      Aeeeiiii! That IS maddening! But of course, he’s not on a “diet” – he’s making “lifestyle changes!” (said with all the sarcasm in the world) >:->

  6. A quote about that “focused feeling”:

    “Have you a lean and hungry friend who thinks too much? If so, he may be thinking about food.” — Richard Armour

  7. Songbirdo says:

    “If you take medical advice from a Los Vegas magician, you are an idiot who deserves to die.” – Penn Jillette

  8. Matt says:

    I think the author of this article has the wrong impression of Penn. He’s one of the most humble guys out there and he did say not to take advice from a magician. The diet clearly works for him, if he says he’s happier why shrug it off? I’m sure he is. When/if it stops working I get the impression he’s the kind of guy to change accordingly. Good on him and good luck to him I say.

    • GlenysO says:

      Well, he’s written a diet book about his diet, for other people to purchase and read…so yes, he is actually asking people to take diet advice from a magician. If diets weren’t harmful over the long term (and science shows us they are), I wouldn’t care, but what he described as his diet was extremely disordered eating, so I do take issue with the promotion of his diet.

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