“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact” ~ Charles Darwin (it's evolutionary baybeee!)
Monday, January 2, 2012
The 2011 Annual Report
Before I welcome in the shiny new year, like so many, I did quite a bit of reflecting back on the year that was in 2011. There can be no doubt that 2011 was a breakout year for the Asylum. So, before I say adieu to the past year, and without further ado ...
Lots of milestones this year at the Asylum. The first big happening was the airing of my interview with Jimmy Moore on his Livin La Vida Low Carb podcast. It's now been over a year since I recorded that on Nov. 9, 2010, and so much has changed in the low carb and health and fitness community since. In retrospect, the whole experience was ultimately positive, but Jimmy's presentation of my interview and the supposed "answer" interview with Gary Taubes will forever leave a bad taste in my mouth. That it came at a rather rough time in my personal life didn't help, but the storm passed and, in the end, the coordinated effort to portray me as a mentally unstable stalking lunatic turned out to be a massive fail for those involved. Still, I thank Jimmy for the exposure and the opportunity to do my part to unravel the unfounded mythology that we've come to know as TWICHOO in these parts. Blogger stats took a significant uptick ... the truth shall prevail ...
I introduced the library in March where I routinely "dump" peer review research that might be of interest to others, and I hopefully get a chance to blog on at some point in time. More recently I've expanded the "blogroll" at the Asylum. If you ever see anything you like, have at it! Shoot me an email so I can read and link to your work.
The Bunny Ears come off: I don't recall the exact date but shortly after the interview, I shed the cartoon bunny-eared avatar I had used to that time. That avatar had taken on a life of its own that I really hadn't given much thought to. You see, on a silly day sometime in 2010 I came across a website where you could make such things. Being in a whimsical mood, I had some fun. I've got an orange kitty, my husband calls me Bunny and I'm a proud American ... the avatar was born. Like my anonymity, the avatar itself seemed to take on a life of its own. I've no idea what folks thought seeing it, never really thought about that much when I first put it up, but it's part of the history of the Asylum.
Speaking of Anonymity: As the months wore on, being anonymous became less and less tenable. I find this interesting as well ... perhaps worthy of sociological study. Because on the internet, people can basically do and be whatever they want, and yet there are any number of legitimate reasons for people to maintain anonymity in this day and age. So I guess I remain somewhat surprised by the reaction to my wanting anonymity, especially from the likes of a jonjanedoe12345. I felt then, as I do still today, that my identity is immaterial to most of what I write here. It does not change the scientific facts and evidences as we know them which remains the bulk of what I write about here. I do believe it makes a difference that I've lived the weight battle and all that, too, but this is not about my weight loss in the end.
I'm Out & The Asylum gets a New Look: And so, after careful consideration, in June I emerged from beneath the CarbSane pseudonym and undertook some personalization of the site. In the end, the coming out was rather anticlimactic, but I'm glad I did it. Ultimately it took the rug out from under those detractors who had imagined who-knows-what. I started a cooking blog, but unfortunately haven't gotten to post much in it. I also started a Discussion Board. I'm hoping it might yet become a place for more folks to exchange ideas and experiences, and give and get advice.
While I intend to address some "outside" goings on later in this report, no summary of general events here would be complete without recognizing the impact of the "shot heard round the LC Web" at the Ancestral Health Symposium. The readership had been growing slowly but steadily, but shot up in the aftermath and has remained higher ever since. Having an "insider" affirm a lot of what this "outsider" has been saying has been a wonderful turning point here.
A Half-Million Hits: In November the Asylum registered its 500,000th pageview, and I'm happy to report that in 2011, we exceeded that same benchmark. So ... you can do the math. Ultimately Jimmy Moore did succeed in his purported rationale for having me on his podcast, only I doubt he intended it to be this way. Alternative views to the low carb lies are getting out and garnering respect these days. In 2011, I like to think I've done my part.
More recently I've done a little more tweaking of the place. I joined Twitter as a means of sharing what I'm reading about the web and added a "Friends of the Asylum" blogroll. I have a Facebook page but don't do much with it. One of these days I'll figure out how someone keeps up with all these redundant levels of communication and perhaps seem less inadertantly antisocial. Wish me luck!
A Barrel of Fun: Who would ever think that blogging largely on journal articles in peer review journals could be so much fun. Granted, many of the laughs come from the more general discussions, but still. This has probably been one of the more trying years in my personal life on many levels. The Asylum has been something so positive and rewarding in my life providing that much needed respite I don't know what I would have done without. I simply couldn't do a year in review without mentioning that.
I have so many people to acknowledge and thank for contributing to the success of the Asylum this past year. I sure do hope I don't leave anyone out here! In somewhat chronological order:
MM: A fairly regular commenter here has helped me immeasurably behind the scenes by providing me with journal articles that are tucked behind pay walls. Although I have access to some with my affiliations, I do not have remote access and tend to teach at satellite campuses and the like. Her efforts have been so greatly appreciated, as is her friendship and contributions to the blog in comments.
James Krieger @ Weightology: James was probably the first big "name" to post here at the Asylum in 2010. I'm greatly appreciative of his occasional comments, and tweeting and linking to my work.
Paul Jaminet @ Perfect Health Diet: If I'm not mistaken, Paul was the first big "name" to include this blog in his blog roll and has linked to my work many times throughout the year. Thank you Paul, and thank you for your wonderful book and blog.
Matt Stone @ 180 Degree Health: Matt featured me in his 2010 year end reading list, and several readers found the Asylum via that route. I only wish I had the time to keep up with you man!
Anthony Colpo: AC as well was one of the first big guns to include my blog on his site. Being called tenacious by AC, however, was an even higher compliment! Don't let him fool ya with the brash Aussie schtick. AC is one good egg.
Yoni Freedhoff @ Weighty Matters and Mike Howard @ Diet Blog: These two seem like all around great guys who linked to my blog in some key posts and contributed to the readership here relatively early on in 2011. If you don't already know them, check 'em out!
Todd Becker @ Getting Stronger: After my Insulin Wars piece, Todd tried to comment on the blog but Blogger wasn't so cooperative. He emailed me and what developed was a nice collaboration that moved the discussion on insulin forward on both of our blogs. Thanks Todd :)
Kurt G. Harris @ Archevore: I honestly didn't know all that much about Kurt as the calendar rolled to 2011 other than that he was a popular blogger. Well, 2011 got off to an ... er ... rough start with the two of us not exactly seeing eye-to-eye. This has changed dramatically of late. Thank you Kurt for coming back and choosing this blog as one of those places where you contribute to the interwebs from time to time in comments.
Stephan Guyenet @ Whole Health Source: As a (former) fellow scientist, I understand perhaps more than others the difficulties he must have faced (and no doubt continues to face) in blogging on matters closely related to his professional work, so early in his career. I'm well aware that my style and approach can make affiliating with me a risky venture. So I especially appreciate Stephan contributing here on occasion, and linking to this blog. Stephan is a class act ... it's no wonder so many more than just his Mom read his work.
In a perfect world, I would have the time to link these all up, but this is the real world. So if you've missed any of them and they sound interesting, just use the search engine here and I'm sure they won't take long to find. These are posts I think are important to understanding both the science and culture of low carbing and beyond. I'm sure I've missed some, feel free to suggest others in the comments section.
Wow! 2011 sure has been an eventful year both inside and outside of the Asylum. Some mentionables, but by no means an all inclusive list:
~ Cheers ~
Dr. Kurt Harris started things off on his Encore Week podcast with Jimmy Moore, and followed that up with his classic Paleo 2.0 post on his newly renamed Archevore blog. Shortly there after, Dr. Stephan Guyenet began his Food Reward series and it wasn't long before we learned that Stephan isn't a low carber at all. Not that this should have shocked anyone, but it did seem to come as a surprise to some, and took the wind out of the sails of low carbers everywhere who had linked to his Whole Health Source. Add Stephan to the likes of Free the Animal's Richard Nikoley in the potato eating ranks! I'll never understand the reaction to Stephan's series in low carb circles. So wedded to denying the laws of physics are they that they read untold offenses between the lines. Sigh.
Many put the Ancestral Health Symposium as a turning point, but I believe the inception came before that. A short but pointed statement in the Comments section of his blog:
I don't know a single person who studies metabolism/endocrinology professionally who takes that idea seriously
And with that, the wheels started coming off the Taubes' Partridge family-style bus. Gary's poor behavior led to Stephan "taking off the gloves" and laying out the case against the CIH, or what I call TWICHOO. Surely with this the tides would turn. They have, considerably, but there is much work to be done. Even with the likes of Chris Masterjohn over at Daily Lipid cautioning readers against dietary dogmatism, the loyalty blood of low carb dogmatists seemed to thicken. Clearly, some need to re-read this classic, several times over. Or perhaps more severe intervention is in order. Construction of the padded room wing at the Asylum is almost complete!
Meanwhile over at his Perfect Health Diet blog, over the course of the entire year, Dr. Paul Jaminet was blogging up a storm with such series as the Dangers of Zero Carb diets and forever embedding the term "safe starches" in the low carb lexicon. We basically closed out the year discussing the benefits and supposed harms of eating starches, but we learned that folks like Mark Sisson were now at least straddling the edge of the canoe on starch consumption.
~ Jeers ~
Over on the dark side (grin) things were busy as well. Gary Taubes kicked things off with a two part interview with Jimmy Moore where he repeated the mantras of carbs drives insulin drives fat accumulation and sneered at some anonymous female blogger. The LC web was in sheer delight over Gary's publicity tour, granting interviews left and right, and even an appearance on the Dr. Oz show. Who will ever forget his lame performance and refusal to take a cholesterol test. Ahh, but a month or so later he made the boneheaded move of having his diet doctor Nagler order up a test. The results were good so all was right in the world for a while. Taubes as savior lived another day.
Over in LLVLC land, Jimmy Moore started yet another heroic effort to shed that mysterious weight his low carb diet seems increasingly inadequate to control. Challenge accepted to eat nothing but coconut oil, beef and eggs ... and what's a "little" chocolate thrown in. So ecstatic was he over the results he posted shirtless pictures of his progress ... pictures that revealed to any objective viewer that Jimmy's days banking on his weight loss were likely numbered. Perhaps realizing some of the writing on the wall, Jimmy also started a new podcast with "everyday low carbers" where they could discuss all the other glories of low carb. Low Carb Conversations is worth listening to if only because it exposes a lot of the reality behind the movement. About.com's Laura Dolson only lost 35 lbs, 50 for the obese founder of CarbSmart, which would be considerable were it not for the fact that both of these individuals remain significantly obese. We learned how his co-host(ess) lost a lot of weight once on low fat but it was all muscle, and how a lowcarber who packed back on almost 60 lbs only regained "a few" pounds. There was the guest who underwent gastric bypass after failing to lose all the weight on low carb, the long time low carber who is heavier than ever dismissing it as "not being perfect" ... the list could go on. One would think Jimmy, being as shrewd as he is, might recognize the "unintended consequences" of such discussions -- always ending in recipe shares.
In line with his positioning of himself as "journalist", Jimmy launched his first attack blog when he asked several LC experts about James Krieger's (excellent) series on Insulin's Undeserved Bad Reputation. Couched in the guise of welcoming debate and discussion, the one-sidedness of his selection of "experts" -- including some folks who are not experts at all -- made the post into a bash fest. What grew out of some of the discussion was a number of blog posts by Peter/Hyperlipid emphatically declaring fasting insulin levels as the ultimate determinant of weight loss. As the poster blogger for remaining doggedly wedded to a failing hypothesis, each ensuing post seemed to grasp for further straws. Sadly, this has culminated in throwing all scientific integrity out the window to doctor up data and throw out inconvenient points that don't fit the mangled interpretation thereof. And yet all of this was but a preamble for what was percolating under the surface. That which bubbled over at the Ancestral Health Symposium.
At AHS Gary Taubes made a jerk of himself, pushing aside others to get his shot at Stephan, topped off with his closing salvo that Stephan should look at all the science not just that which supports his hypothesis. The cell-phone video of the event captured the collective gasp of the audience. This was way worse than Oz to the nth! In response to Stephan's dismantling of TWICHOO, Gary launched a series of blog posts where he told us how he really feels about scientists -- they are all idiots! In a five -- yes five -- part series Gary supposedly addressed food reward while digging his own hole deeper and deeper.
Many bloggers took sides. Some, like Peter, at least openly and unabashedly. Others, like Dr. Jack Kruse and J. Stanton/Gnolls preferred to take pot shots under the guise of not really taking sides. Speaking of Jack, aka The Quilt (or Leptin Man to Asylum inmates), I suppose no 2011 roundup would be complete without at least mentioning his Leptin Reset plan. There is some sort of viral thread over at Mark Sisson's Daily Apple where folks jumped on this new bandwagon to reset their leptin receptors or something like that. Forget that this seems to be nothing more than a knock-off of another leptin diet plan, or that Jack can't seem to go more than a few sentences without glaring typos, grammatical errors or just plain making sheet up. But enough about Q, he insists he's not a low carber anyway. Why is Don McLean singing in my head? ... drove my chevy to the levee ...
So, also speaking of Stanton, it would seem that all the buzz over dysfunctional mitochondria can be traced back to J. This was quite the hot topic, picked up on by Peter, on the web this past year. If it's not the insulin folks apparently needed another thing to blame for being hopelessly metabolically damaged -- cue sky opening music -- impaired fatty acid oxidation in mitochondria! Would that it was true as the cause and not the effect. But the lure of the damaged metabolism to blame is strong. Stanton's not so cleverly veiled jabs at Stephan did not go unnoticed. Sometimes I wonder if hormonal deficiencies of a certain Type are not more prevalent amongst low carbers leading to them acting more like bitches (in the canine sense).
What an appropriate segue back to our intrepid low carb cruiser, who fell off his new plan before the April 1 goal and then started putting weight back on predictably. He did get down into the 240's following a six-day publicity stunt fast only gain it all back. His weight updates disappeared from the menus blog, and in August he shut the doors there. Jimmy was up to his old KimKins shenanigans with censoring and altering comments again. Being no longer able to blog about his weight loss and healthy high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet as much, Jimmy needed a new thang. And so began the n=1 experiments, but knocking low carb products wasn't seeming to go over very well. Jimmy did go to AHS and predictably came home energized to go Paleo baayyybeeee! All the while that "paleo" has become less and less synonymous with "low carb", Jimmy spent most of 2011 trying to co-opt that movement into his LLVLC webpire. It seems many of the big guns in that movement are pushing back a bit on that. Not so fast Jimmy! And so he needed more schtick and an excuse to stop these n=1 things before the Quest bars land in the jaws of his glucometer.
Enter the "safe starches" post. This one is worthy of many jeers. Firstly, if these discussions are truly in the interest of presenting a variety of opinions, he needs to actually consult a variety of sources. Secondly, his definition of "expert" needs to be revised to reflect what it means in the English language. Thirdly, while Paul was gracious and apparently had the time and energy to devote to his response (unlike James Krieger who was busy with other things), such massive data dumps are just not a very nice way to go about this. So jeers to Jimmy for these sorts of posts. But there are still more jeers deserved from this very same debate. Those being for the likes of Dr. Jeff Volek calling Paul a nutjob, and Dr. Uffe Ravnskov dismissing the whole notion as nonsense. Also in general, many of the respondents seemed not only unfamiliar with the simple concept of "safe" = starch w/o toxic elements in the food source, but too lazy to bother finding out before commenting.
But clearly the biggest "winner" out of all this is Dr. Rosedale, a man I've dubbed L. Ron, who penned the most lengthy response of all and continued it about the web. Ahhh, I just realized I forgot an InSanie to L. Ron for the most ridiculous quote of the year when he stated that we are all basically diabetic. The comments on Jimmy's blogs discussing safe starches are worth reading if only to inform yourselves of just how deep certain delusions run in LLVLClue land. Deep. And as I think of the paranoia over blood glucose spiking postprandially, I can't help but mention Dr. Wheat Belly Davis. Sure, many of us may well do better without wheat in our diets, and surely that is imperative for some. But with cardiologists like Davis out there confusing love handles with visceral fat and dragging out the old (anti-protein) arguments against oatmeal equaling battery acid, who needs all those misguided conventional medical professionals.
And so the year drew to a close with lines sharply drawn and blurred all at the same time. About the web there's a discomforting mix of cognitive dissonance and allegiances to old friends. Perhaps it's fitting that a rising star in the low carb world is Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, who blames the obesity epidemic in the US on low fat milk, from Sweden. Because some variant of Stockholm Syndrome seems to be at play here.
More lighthearted awards for LC Insanity can be found HERE
I often jokingly refer to myself as the Inmate Running the Asylum here, but what would the Asylum be were it not for all the other inmates?! It's been said several times that the Asylum has the best comment section on the web. While that may be a bit of an overstatement, there's no denying that the group here is something special. I tried to play with some ways to list the most prolific commenters here or somesuch so that I could find an objective way of thanking at least a few of you by name. I didn't have much luck with that. Over the year prolific commenters have come and gone or been streaky as I'm sure real life tends to beckon. Frequency isn't everything either. So, rather than risk hurting anyone's feelings for being left out, I hope you'll accept my deep heartfelt thanks to all of you! It is such a joy to get your feedback, discuss so many topics, and sometimes just go off on zanie tangents. I thank you for your support, your encouragement, your intelligence and your humor.
The Asylum rocks because you rock!
So there you have it. My summary of 2011. No doubt I left something out as I tried to capture the goings on here at the Asylum and the greater carb-conscious community. I'm really looking forward to the new year. I enter the year with no firm goals for this blog, etc. I'll probably be merging the Chronicles with the main blog using a separate label for those more personal posts. I'm sure some have noticed that I've not posted much on that blog. I'm mindful of living too much of my life out in the public eye, it's a mistake I think some bloggers have made that I don't care to repeat. I'm also mindful of painting myself into a corner, so I want to make sure the Asylum stays true to the mission of exploring the science of nutrition and related areas from a low carb perspective. My hopes for 2012 are that we can continue to unravel the myths that have permeated the low carb community, and in keeping with the name of this place, foster a more "sane" approach to carbohydrates. I'm still toying with other aspirations, be sure I'll keep you apprised of new developments.