Episode #72 Tom Naughton

FAt Head Movie



In the program this week, stand-up comedian, writer and filmmaker Tom Naughton talks to us about his updated director’s cut of Fathead, a 2009 documentary response to the movie Supersize Me, and to discuss the issues of wellness and weight loss. Are misconceptions about healthy eating harming your chances of success? Could well meaning but wrong dietary choices be setting you back on your mission for healthy weight loss? Tom tells us about his own experiences and successes with paleo dieting and other lifestyle changes, and offers advice for others in the same boat.

Listen in to find out more about the effects of processed sugars, and how the right dietary fats should be embraced rather than rejected. Many diet and fitness programs concentrate heavily on weigh-ins, BMI and cutting out fats, when in reality carbohydrates and sugars are far more damaging. Once certain problem foods such as carbohydrates are cut from your diet or reduced managably, you should start noticing real change in how you look and feel. Don’t obsess over the scale – it’s better to avoid checking entirely, or to have a friend keep track for you, so that you’re not becoming demotivated over natural fluctuations and instead are seeing the whole picture.

We also consider the agricultural implications of paleo dieting and how everything from soil condition to plant types can affect the nutritional value of fresh produce. The fresher the better, and many tasty and healthy things can be grown at your own home – saving you money while helping you to get healthy.

Tom Naughton will be speaking at Low Carb Cruise – check their website for details

The directors cut of ‘Fathead’ can be viewed via the iTunes store, and is available on Hulu and Amazon Instant

We’ll be taking a look at Tom’s new book in the future: keep listening in for updates!

Resources mentioned in this show:

Fat Head The Movie

Low Carb Cruise

The Book Emperor Of All Maladies

Book The Wisdom Of Crowds


Melissa: Welcome Tom. Thanks so much for being on the program today.

Tom: Hi Melissa. Thanks for having me.

Melissa: I wanted to get you on because you’re doing a lot of fun stuff. Most people will know you as a stand up comedian. But you added two more credits to your resume’ in starting I think in 2009 when you became a documentary filmmaker and also a health advocate, after radically changing your own health.

Can you tell us a little bit about what got you started on your own health first and then how you sort of got caught up in becoming a filmmaker?

Tom: Sure. Well, I mean I was actually interested in health. For many years I was just going about it the wrong way. I went through… because I was overweight for much of my life. I was trying different diets. I was a vegetarian for a while and I read Eat to Win and all these other programs. They just didn’t work very well. So I was kind of in not I give up mode, but oh, maybe this is the best that’s going to be mode.

I ended up making Fat Head because I watched Super Size Me and it annoyed me. I mean it’s an entertaining film. Spurlock’s a good entertainer, but the film itself annoyed me. There were stuff in there that just didn’t sit right with me. I ended up deciding I was going to make Hat head as my own documentary response having no idea if it was ever going to get picked up or go anywhere but I just kind of felt the need to do it.

And since I was planning to go on a fast food diet for a month, I started reading up on well, what’s this going to do to my health? I’m looking in the diet weight loss and doing research.

I mean the great thing doing a film or any kind of research project today is you’ve got the internet. You don’t have to run to the library and find those journal articles that someone decided to tear out instead of copying. I mean you just keep reading and reading. The more I read, the more I kept thinking, wait a minute this isn’t what the experts tell us. This isn’t what the USDA says. I kept digging and following links. I think my wife got tired of me yelling “Honey, look at this. We’ve been lied to.” So while I was making Fat Head, my opinion on what a healthy diet is really shifted quite a bit.

Melissa: Uhmn, and what did you discover?

Tom: Well, I went into it kind of thinking you have to watch your calories and you don’t want to overdo the saturated fat. The more I read, the more I realized now that’s not really right. Fortunately for me, I haven’t done the fast food diet yet, or I probably would have done it the wrong way. I kept learning saturated fat really isn’t bad for you. The whole idea that it causes heart disease was based on really flimsy evidence. It’s probably not the fat that makes us fat. It’s probably too many refined carbohydrates jacking up our insulin and kind of kicking off our bodies’ get-fat program.

The more I read, the more I was amazed, outraged and a lot of that went into the film. So some people have pointed out and either as a compliment or a criticism depending on their take that Fat Head is almost like two short documentaries put together. Part one is kind of here’s what’s wrong with Super Size Me and part two is more like okay now but that’s out of the way. Here’s what’s wrong with what you’ve been told about healthy eating. That’s a legitimate point. It is kind of like two documentaries in that regard.

Melissa: Yes, I think what a lot of people took from… for those who, I’ve certainly remembered that  Super Size Me coming out and thinking of course, McDonald’s as bad for you. Really thinking about particularly when he… I think he talks about – I haven’t watched it recently, but what he talks about is liver becoming a fatty liver and all that stuff.

I had that just 18 months ago. So that really, I was like what? You know you can’t be because I’m not eating McDonald’s and yet I still have this problem. But what was funny to me was too that I was so able to turn that around in such a short period of time by just diet. Not that I was eating McDonald’s by the handful beforehand but by more or less addressing like you said insulin and things like that and was able to completely reverse that really quickly. Whereas conventional medicine had kind of failed me and said no, next is medication. That’s the best we can do for you there.

Tom: I’m sorry.

Melissa: Go ahead

Tom: And I bet you were told until you dug into the research yourself that you had to cut down on fat.

Melissa: Yes. Basically, I had all the wrong information there. I think obviously what had happened with me was the solution that was on the horizon was surgery of some kind; either the gastric band or something like that which was really scary. I was pretty much on the verge of doing that. I was really, really close to it because they were like, “Well, you’ve got these injuries. You can’t run. You can’t do these other things. You know it’s going to be more and more medications, so this should be the thing.”

Then for some reason I just couldn’t you know. I went and saw the doctor and had the consultation but I was just too scared a cat. Then as life pulls funny things on you, little did I know that like a year and a half later, I would meet one of the foremost bariatric surgeons in the US who taught others – Dr. Stickler and find out that he completely gave up his practice and turned around and became… using a paleo-style diet to help people and went away from surgery completely. He just said that’s not working. I’m not having a success rate I’m having if I use a paleo of a style diet.

Tom: Wow! Good for him.

Melissa: I know! I was so shocked when he told me that. I said you’ve got to come on the podcast, Doc. He just completely did a u-turn and said I’m not having the success rate that I can get if I have them do the diet. So they said or do this kind of eating and also the whole psychological aspect which is going a little off the rails there.

But yes, my doctor’s advice to kind of a lot of things that were not good, but all these fat was a bad thing. It took a lot of time, in fact, I had to continue to remind myself like with coconut oil and I don’t do much dairy. I use [05:53 Inaudible] as replacement for that. But I had to keep like putting little post it notes around the kitchen that you’re eating enough fat today.

Tom: Oh, it’s hard to overcome 30, 40 years of conditioning. Here’s now the complaint I had about Super Size Me. He started to develop fatty liver disease and the doctor that he was consulting with said, “Well look what all this fat is doing to your liver.” By that point, I had read enough to think maybe he’s pounding a whole lot of milkshakes and ice cream and cokes. I don’t think it’s the fat. I think that’s the sugar. But fat kept coming out as the bad guy in the film.

Melissa: Yes, and I think that that’s the thing there, Tom. I know you helped promote on. I was just getting going here when the Cereal Killer guys came on. I’ll put a link to that in the show in case people haven’t seen it. The Irish guys that made[06:45 Inaudible] Irish and Sammy who’s in San Francisco made another documentary about fat and so forth – Don’t Fear the Fat, that’s another good one to watch because I thought that addressed the problem quite well, but people are just so afraid. Like you talk about eating an avocado and they’re like, “Oh, the fat!”

Tom: Yes, yes.

Melissa: What are you, crazy? But I think that’s the wrong way of thinking about it. In your film, you talked about how we’ve been fed a bunch of baloney.

Tom: Right.

Melissa: But what other things did you find out as far as looking at your own health while doing the film or maybe after the film?

Tom: Well, I mean my opinion on what a healthy diet is of course has continued to evolve. At the time that I finished Fat Head, there were really the major thoughts going through my head.

I still think these are important is number one – don’t fear the fat if it’s the right kind of fat. Natural fats are good for you. Animal fat, olive oil, coconut oil, it’s the chemically extracted fats. What we call vegetable oils but most of them are seed oils, those are the ones that are bad for you.  So number one was don’t fear the fat.

Number two – if you do have health problems, if you do have metabolic syndrome, it’s probably refined carbohydrates doing that to you not fat. The third thing was for me realizing that weight loss, we were making it way too hard on ourselves.

Melissa: Tell me about it.

Tom: So when you go on a low-fat diet and you starve yourselves and for all kinds of biochemical reasons, your body can’t take it. You finally give up then you blame yourself thinking you’re weak-willed.

So for me, when I came away from Fat Head, it was like embrace the fat, stay away from the lousy vegetable oils and keep the carb intake low. It doesn’t have to be zero but for me it has to be low and suddenly maintaining my weight wasn’t a struggle anymore. At that time, paleo was not really around or if so, I wasn’t aware of it.

Melissa: Right, right.

Tom: So for me then it was like embrace the fat, low carb. So I was eating what I would now consider low-carb junk foods which I’ve since given up. I’ve realized I don’t need a low-carb pasta. I don’t need to find low-carb pancakes and low-carb cookies and low-carb this and low-carb that. I’ve gone to more of a real food diet. I am not a Paleo purist. We still have some cream and I like butter and we put a little cheese on things. I don’t think most of us have to be purists to be healthy but I’ve definitely gone in more of a real food direction.

Melissa: Yes, I think I call it my own version of Paleo, what I adopted finally for my diet and it’s still evolving. But I eat a ton of vegetables way more than most Paleo folks do – organic, clean vegetables. But I have to again watch the carbs and make sure I’m balanced out there because of insulin resistance which was off the charts, and metabolic syndrome, and all these other issues that were causing problems for me. But I think too a lot what can happen with the Paleo folks is they can go off the rails on sugar because honey and agave and maple syrup are things they love on their paleo pancakes.

Tom: Right, right, right.

Melissa: And two, I think a lot of women I’ve interviewed too, young and old have had issues because they’ve gone too low carb and resulted in health problem s and osteoarthritis , osteoporosis, all these things  from the problems that follow on behind from hormone dysregulations and stuff like that, a little bit inside baseball.

But yes, I think the cleanest stuff you can eat without any preservatives if you can and also dairy for a lot of people is totally doable well if it’s good, clean dairy so to speak as opposed to having hormones and chemicals and stuff in it. I just found it to be – when I did food sensitivity, I was highly sensitive to it. I noticed that one side gave it up and by that point it didn’t really matter to me, that I’ve just felt better and stuff. I did goat cheese once in a while or something like that but I don’t really, I don’t miss it anymore.

But the low-carb and the gluten-free – those are my two bees in the bonnet there because why bother with those? You know the gluten-free foods which I found in my case were worst that eating gluten. So I was super reactive to teff and all the things they put in the gluten-free food to make it taste as good as gluten foods. So I was just better off to give up gluten completely.

Tom: Well and I think that’s the mistake a lot of us make when we – in my case giving up carbs, for some people giving up gluten – is you run out and look for substitutes for those favorite foods. You might not need a substitute for dinner rolls and you might not need a substitute for pancakes. Give your taste time to adjust and you might find you don’t miss those things at all.

Melissa: Yes. Have you found, did you find that you had a problem with sugar as well-processed sugar?

Tom: Not really because like I said I actually was interested in health long before I actually got healthy. I’ve known since I was probably a teenager that sugar is not good for you. So I really never had a problem with excess sugar consumption, which is part of the way I fooled myself into thinking I was healthier than I was because I didn’t realize that all that pasta I was eating was jacking up my blood glucose. That in a way I was on a high sugar diet, maybe not the fructose portion but I was certainly living on, I was living high on glucose for a long time. Put it that way.

Melissa: Yes.

Tom: And it really wasn’t until I made Fat Head that I fully grasped what my diet was probably doing to my blood sugar numbers.

Melissa: yes, and something you talk about quite a bit too is the body mass index and how that can be a big pitfall for people who think they’re in a healthy range and actually aren’t.

Tom: Well and it can go the other way too because you can have a healthy BMI and you can be a skinny fat person, someone with no muscle tone but you’ve got fat around your liver. You maybe have a little bit of a distended belly. I’ve seen plenty of people like this.

These are people who were skinny their whole lives and they were probably considered underweight. Then they get to normal weight by packing fat around their liver. Well that’s not really the way to do it. There are also people who are considered overweight simply because they have muscle. You know to fit those, to be in the normal category according to the BMI way of measuring things, it’s not just lean. You kind of have to be on the skinny side. There are a lot of people who have good muscle tone and bulk up lifting weights, whatever and they’re going to be considered overweight.

Melissa: Yes, I’ve seen quite a bit in the gym, in gyms where if you’re working with someone in a conventional gym environment, they’re very married to the BMI index center and telling people sometimes the wrong information there in my opinion like you said. Because if you have muscle tone and if you are building muscle and strengthening areas of your body, you are going to have to find it, in some cases hard to fit in to their index, so to speak.

Tom: Right. I really don’t, I don’t even weigh myself. We don’t have a scale at home.

Melissa: Good plan, good plan.

Tom: And I think for a lot of people, the smartest thing they could do is throw away the scale. If you want to know if you’re overweight, look in the mirror. Is your belly distended? If so, then you probably have fat around your liver. You need to do something about it.

Do you have fat hanging off in a lot of places? If so, do you need the scale to tell you that? On the other hand, if you look lean, if you’re muscular, who cares what the scale says?

Melissa: Yes. I agree. I mean, that’s one of the first things I did. I adopted a totally new plan after decades of being ruled by the scale and calories and just as said “No, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to have somebody else take my weight every so many weeks and record the numbers. Then we’ll look at the numbers and decide whether we should change things or not. But I’m not going to have the mental image every day of the scale just ruining my day, and ruining my mental focus for the rest of the month, or the rest of the year even.

And that’s what again the traditional diet fitness industries have made us think. That’s what you need to do every day, every minute, to weigh in and not to mention various television shows that shall be nameless.

Tom: Yes.

Melissa: And then focus on that.

But one of the things you talk about too in a big focus of the film is how sugar and carbohydrates relate to inflammation. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Tom: Sure. I don’t want to paint all carbohydrates with the same brush but the highly processed carbohydrates, the kind that just flood your bloodstream right away and jack up your blood sugar – high blood sugar provokes inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of a lot of physical ailments.

And to make matters worse, to throw gasoline on the fire, a lot of the processed carbohydrates that people eat are mixed with highly processed vegetable oils which also provoke inflammation. So you go out and eat that donut or whatever that’s made with white flour and it was fried in vegetable oil. You’re basically giving yourself an inflammation double whammy.

Melissa: Yes, yes. My inflammation was 16.9 when I got started. It’s now down to 1.5. So I’m working for my perfect score of zero.

Tom: Right, there you go.

Melissa: My doctor said, “You have a massive infection.” I’m like, “No, I don’t. I’m just really, really sick.” But it wasn’t from an infection. It was just everything was just off the charts. I was like, “Hey, you know, it looks on my blood panel like 16.9 isn’t even on the scale.” He’s like yes because it’s really bad.

Tom: Yes, we had to make a bigger scale for you. Congratulations!

Melissa: Exactly. I agree in my mind from the research I’ve done and from people I’ve talked to in working with who I call my performance doctor, as to be differentiated from conventional medical doctor or integrated medicine doctor is that inflammation – that’s what opens the door to all the disease that’s out there that you can possibly get.

So when I was working with him, I’m still working with him but I said so okay, my score’s off the chart. What do I want to do? You want it to be zero. And I said, “I don’t think I could do that.” But again, it was remarkable how quickly I was able to make progress over a series of months of course to see big chunks of that go down. But I said, “What do you mean?” He said because that’s where disease and breakdown of your body comes from. You don’t want that. You don’t want that. He said you definitely don’t want that going on for decades. I said sorry doc, too late. I already had that going for a decade.

Tom: Well, what you hope now is you’re able to start rolling back the damage but so many people think heart disease. They have this picture of a pipe in their heads and cholesterol coming in and clogging the pipe like your sink gets clogged and then you get heart disease. That’s the image we were all fed for years. It’s just not true.

Heart disease, I don’t know if we can say it, begins with inflammation but put it this way. Inflammation happens very early in the process and speeds things along. It’s the inflammation in the arteries that sucks the cholesterol into the walls of your arteries. The cholesterol is there to try to put out the fire. We’re blaming the fire on the fireman. It’s the inflammation that gets that ball rolling.

So there’s heart disease. Probably has a lot to do with inflammation. It may not be the only cause but it’s a big cause. I just finished reading a wonderful book called The Emperor of All Maladies which is about cancer. The author who is an oncologist believes that inflammation has a lot to do with certain cells separating and starting to live for themselves and becoming cancerous.

Melissa: Yes, yes. That’s the research that’s being talked about now is exactly what you said about how these cells get sort of diverted or doing the wrong thing. They get the wrong instructions when they start going rogue. That’s where problems happen.

I think in my case, I know that to be true because when I changed my diet, the kinds of food I was eating to be specific is the inflammation of course went down but also, on the blood panels you can look at arterial inflammation and that was like perfect. That went from a medium score. So I wasn’t on the road to heart disease even though my body type would be prone to it under conventional medicine. But all that just disappeared. I was like oh good. Something good’s happening.

Tom: Yes.

Melissa: So that really showed me, that really encouraged me because that showed me the power of how like you just said, you could reverse these things. Because when I got going, I said to my doctors, so how much of this can we change? All he said “Don’t know.” He said I don’t know.

He said we could try. He said but don’t get too up there because we’ll have to see. It’s all up to your individual body, how much damage you’ve done over the decades. Whether we can make progress, I’m sure we can make some but he said I don’t know if we can get the information to zero or if we can do any of these things.

So at three months, six months and then a year and then now, I’m so encouraged because I see changes happening. I’m thinking if this can work for me with so many things going against me, what about people that are halfway healthy or people that are 20 years old or 30 years old. This would be great for them.

Tom: Yes, and I think that’s a good point. We talked about things like heart disease and cancer. Depending on what age you are when you’re listening to a podcast like this, you might be 25 and you look good in your jeans and you’re thinking heart disease and cancer, pfff, that’s 50 years off.

Well one thing to keep in mind is when I was in my 20s I remember I used to wake up with backaches. I’d get restless legs or you’d get this like sore thing in your jaw. You can’t figure out why it’s there but it kind of hurts and it’s uncomfortable.

Among the many, many benefits that I found after changing up my diet, it occurred to me one time, I don’t remember the last time I had a backache. I used to wake up in the middle of the night with my lower back hurting. And now I do farm work, I ought to have a backache and I don’t.

My wife talked about how she used to get these sores in her mouth. She doesn’t get them anymore. She and I both used to get restless legs. Sometimes in the middle of the night people would think, “Well these two must not like each other. They’re kicking the crap out of each other under the covers.” And the restless legs went away.

So even if you’re 25 and you think you’re healthy and you’re not worried about a heart attack as that happens to old people, there is still all kinds of benefits you can pick up just having a healthier, more comfortable life.

Melissa: Well yes, the prevention aspect of it. That’s the key. If I knew then what I know now, luckily, even with all these things going against me and injuries I’ve had from sports and things like that, still you think that you could get to say 50 or 60 and have such amazing health. It would be incredible. So younger people listening, that’s the golden ticket that’s waiting for them is if they can stay in preventative mode by just eating good food so to speak.

Tom: Yes, I think of my great grandfather lived to be 101.

Melissa: Uhmm.

Tom: This was long before all the processed foods and everything came along. In fact, I know when he was younger, he was a farmer. So he probably ate a lot of what was on his own land. I remember that guy in his 80s. We’d have like family thanksgiving dinner and he’d say, “Come on kids. We’re going to go walk off this dinner.” Here’s this guy in his 80s. We’re walking behind him. We’re adolescents. We’re going, “Geez grandpa, slow down.” That was a guy who lived on healthy food for his whole life. I think that’s how we’re supposed to be.

Melissa: Yes, yes, I agree. Yes, it’s now the challenges but things like you’ve done with the film is to get the word to a wider audience. But I’m so encouraged. I don’t know. I want to ask you a little bit about that because you’ve been in the trenches I can’t even imagine making a documentary or film. The word film alone, having some experience in video and stuff in days gone by, it’s just I can’t imagine actually trying to put together a film but all the headaches and so forth.

But what’s your view on how things are going these days in terms of health education, health knowledge being reaching a wider audience, things like we’re talking about today? Do you see it going in a much more positive direction faster?

Tom: Absolutely and I think it’s happening because of something and I actually gave a speech on this at one point – the wisdom of crowd’s effect.

Melissa: Okay.

Tom: I’ll make this as brief as I can.

In my speech, the wisdom of crowds, I compared – there’s an economist, Thomas Sowell wrote a book called The Vision of the Anointed. He explains how these people that he calls the anointed, they have theoretical knowledge but they are so confident in their theoretical knowledge, they basically try to impose their vision no matter what it is on everyone else, which is basically what we have at like the USDA. Telling all schools here is what you can and can’t serve. This is all theoretical academic knowledge but they’re so confident in it that they basically said, “Here’s how everybody’s going to eat.”

You contrast that with and this is a different book – The Wisdom of Crowds, which is the idea that knowledge is not concentrated in a few individuals. It’s diffused. When people share their knowledge, especially knowledge based on experience with each other, the right answers tend to bubble up.

So I think that what we have now with all the Facebook groups and blogs and all these other social media, where people who are interested in health get together and share ideas, I think we are seeing The Wisdom of Crowds effect kicking in big time. It’s not only affecting the people who go to the social media to get information and all that. It has changed the direction in which information flow. It’s because it used to come from the gatekeepers in the media down to the rest of us.

And I now see first off – the gates have gone away. And second – the so-called gatekeepers, I’m seeing more and more that they’re getting their ideas for articles and for information from the crowd. So I think that knowledge is just it’s bursting forth now when it used to be isolated. People are sharing it with each other. Because of all that sharing of information, the correct answers are bubbling up the way they should.

Melissa: Yes, I’m glad to hear that because I think in just the time I’ve been working in my little cubbyhole over here in California, I get a chance to travel around a lot. I’ve been to a bunch of conferences and things. But when I just – you know I’m travelling on planes and go into different cities and stuff, I see just in the last two years, like you said an explosion of people finding answers, being more interested, realizing there are sources out there for them to go to that are accessible.

I’m really encouraged because then you’re seeing small things happen. Like some of the food industry is saying we’re not going to give antibiotics to chickens anymore or something like that. We’re not going to do this and I can’t imagine that happening five years ago or six years ago. I just can’t imagine.

I think there was somebody on CNBC that I was listening to a couple of weeks ago; they were asking some food company. I think it was a Colorado-based food company or something and they said something about why you changing the focus of your products or something. He said, “I think it had to do basically with gluten-free and some GMOs and things like that. He said, “Well that’s not the interview where we’re saying it wasn’t gluten free and GMO, just a fad. It will pass. He said, “No, it’s not a fad. We’ll be out of business if we don’t make changes here. Change our product.”

I thought holy molly. Wait a minute. Let me get that recorded because the interviewer was so stunned by what he said back. And he said “Look, I’m running a company here. I’m in the business to make money for shareholders. If we don’t change what we’re doing, we’ll be out of business.” He said, “Look what happened to Kodak.” I was like what? Wait a minute, just comparing himself to a little different situation there with Kodak but digital cameras, the iPhone and that sort of thing but for people who do not follow in there.

But what he was basically saying is well the demand is there and people are demanding what they want to buy. They’re not going to pay for what we’re offering. So we will be out of business. To me that was stunning, stunning that that some big company would say that.

Tom: I think that it goes back incidentally to one of my complaints about Super Size Me. He had the attitude that a lot of people do. That we buy junk food because that’s what they sell us and that is not the way economics work. We don’t buy what they sell. They sell us what we know we will buy.

Melissa: Yes, good point, good point. I like that.

Tom: That’s the reason the McLean burger failed. We didn’t want to buy it. I’m seeing that show up in so many ways now. Again, I think driven by The Wisdom of Crowds. People letting each other know what foods are working for them and what aren’t. I still do programming work downtown Nashville two or three days a week and there is a food truck that comes around, various food trucks come around. One of them is a burger place and I noticed on the side of their truck there was in big letters, ALL GRASS FED BURGERS.

Melissa: Yes.

Tom: Who the heck was advertising that their burgers were grass fed five years ago or ten years ago? Well these people have obviously realized people want grass fed burgers. I bought meatballs, of all things at a grocery store recently. I don’t usually buy meatballs because I flip it over and I look in this second or third ingredient is wheat, bread crumbs. I looked at these things and right there on the package it said – no grains, minimal processing.

Melissa: Yes, yes. That to me, these kinds of steps and I’ll say it quickly, like was saying I’m talking over a period of two years since I’ve become the CEO of my own health. To me that is just lightning speed change that’s happening. I think it’s happening because like you say, the people aren’t going to buy the stuff that they don’t want and so there we go.

Out here in California, I don’t know if you were still here but Carl’s Jr. has just introduced what they call “A natural burger grass fed.” Grain finished I think is what they left out of that statement but they’ve advertised it like crazy. A couple of years ago that wouldn’t happen either. Why would they say grass fed? People will go what?

Tom: Yes, people would have either said, “Well aren’t they all grass fed or who cares?” And if that’s a fast food chain, do the math. That’s huge.

Melissa: That’s huge. I noticed that and this has been a big discussion among a lot of the CrossFit people who I’m not a member of the CrossFit tribe but they’re seeing the paleo. They’re seeing the CrossFitters and all those people who are demanding that kind of food. Although I think they’re a little too smart to be fooled by “All natural burger,” which is usually something unnatural.

Tom: Yes, yes.

Melissa: But still a fast food, so I think the next documentary could be on the horizon for the fast food industry. But to me, I’m very encouraged because that means that things will change. I think the next thing that will happen is hopefully someone in Silicon Valley will come up with a way for us to rehab the soil all across the US so that we can actually grow the food we want.

Now I wanted to ask you about that specifically because you have a farm.

Tom: Right.

Melissa:  What’s your view? What’s your outlook on that as to how we can get enough usable soil that’s clean enough to grow food for everybody, the kind of food we want?

Tom: I’m not sure if we can grow food for 7 billion or 8 billion people or whatever it’s going to be without some degree of factory farming. I would love to think we could. I’m just not sure it’s possible.

Melissa:  How about we take over the national parks.

Tom: Well there you go. But it has been shown that soil can recover a lot. What looked like dead soil can recover if you let the animals come in and graze. There was that guy Allan Savey or Savory, whatever his name was. He showed what had looked like a dessert and they brought grazing animals in. Just by returning the things to the natural cycle o f- animals eat, they poop. Things in the soil eat the poop, et cetera, et cetera. That it could bring this back.

That was part of the reason we wanted to buy land. Yes, I’d love to tell you that we don’t eat anything except what we grow but it’s just not true.  We don’t have that much happening yet. But we are adamant about getting the soil healthy. We have chickens and we’re moving them around. Then we plant gardens and the soil is so rich where the chickens were when you move them.

I think that’s eventually where we’re going to have to go at least the people want healthy food coming from healthy soil. You can’t just plant soybeans in the same field over and over and over and over and over without using chemicals, without using fossil fuel fertilizers. I hope we get back to some kind of healthy rotational system.

Melissa: Yes, that’s the thing I wonder about because a lot of people will say well we can’t develop. It’s too late for the US to develop that kind of food on a grand scale. I think maybe, maybe not. That’s what technology is for.

Tom: Yes.

Melissa: To help us do it. Then maybe there are lands that can be used as well but I still think it’s a noble pursuit.

Tom: It is and I think if a whole lot of us start doing it for ourselves, we may not fix the whole problem but we can do a little Voltaire thing here in each, tend to our own garden. That’s going to help.

Melissa: And that’s become to me, too. That’s another thing I’ve seen on the rise incredibly is for city dwellers and for people with limited like little patio space or something. How a lot of these companies have started to come out, with what I’ve seen online of little mini garden kind of structures. I don’t know how to describe them. They’re like little pyramids actually where you can grow tomatoes and beans and all kinds of stuff and in a very limited space, maybe 10 or 20 feet. They just kind of stack up and things.

Tom: Yes, where they do the vertical gardening.

Melissa: Yes, yes.

Tom: In the limited space, yes.

Melissa: You can do incredible amount of stuff for a family that way. I think Ben Greenfield talked about it a little bit – the triathlete, the guy about how he’d been on a tour of a factory where they were developing these in the US for people and they send them by mail or whatever. But to me, that’s again so encouraging. Seeing the rooftop gardens like in New York in Bourquin, where there are these huge rooftop greenhouses that they’re growing fresh produce in. Then take it down in the elevators and shipping it around New York. That’s pretty cool.

Tom: Yes, I think that’s just again, it’s the demand. It’s The Wisdom of Crowds people getting the idea that the fresher the food is, the more nutrients it has, the better it is for you. Like I say, we don’t live entirely off food from our land. I don’t even know what percentage it is. We’re trying to get more and more there. But man! When my wife pulls something out of the garden, you can tell.

Melissa: Yes, it’s so good.

Tom: The flavors just incredible and I’m thinking this is why when you get into things like why do people overeat, blah, blah, blah? There are a lot of reasons. One of which I think is the food is not nutrient-dense enough.  So your body says I haven’t gotten what I need, so keep eating. We notice when she pulls kale or something out of the garden and you eat some of it, in very short order you get this wonderful, satisfied feeling.

Melissa: Yes, I noticed. I can comment on this too. I noticed after about a month of changing what I was eating that when I would eat like a meal, like the first few bites, I would start to get this, like a rush of wellness. It’s the only way I can describe it. Just a good feeling, it would just go throughout my body and I was like what is this? It wasn’t on the same part like having a shot of booze or something but it was just a sensation.

Tom: Yes.

Melissa: I said it has to be the food. It has to be the food. It was like the body is saying thanks. Thanks so much for giving me what I need. Again, I was having to replace a lot of minerals. I was very mineral deficient in everything. So it had caught up over a few weeks and then it was like when you gave it a repeat performance of that great food, it was like, “Oh yes! Okay good.” And yes, I think that’s a big issue is that people are eating stuff. Like you said they’re not getting what they need and so the body just says, “Keeps on going until we get what we want.”

I don’t want to take up too much more of your time but I want to have you tell people about the director’s cut that’s now available in Netflix of Fat Head.

Tom: It’s not on Netflix right now. I should point that out. We had a two year deal with Netflix which the two years have come and gone.

Melissa: Okay.

Tom: But it is available on Amazon instant play. It’s available on Hulu. It’s available on I’m missing somebody – iTunes.

Melissa: iTunes, yes.

Tom: And also on Amazon, you can just go look for the director’s cut. Be sure you look for the director’s cut of the DVD. The director’s cut is not that much different. I basically, since it had been a few years, I went back. I cut out some of the Super Size Me oriented stuff because that’s been a while ago.

I kind of did an update. Like okay I finished Fat Head in 2009 but here is where I’m at now. It would explain how and why I’d gone toward a more paleo diet. How it seems to be affecting me. How it’s affecting my girls – neither of them have ever had a single cavity by the way.

Melissa: Yes, stunning isn’t it? Stunning!

Tom: Yes and they have classmates who have had eight or nine already. So the director’s cut is just the newer, more up to date version.

Melissa: Okay cool. Now, where can people find you online, Tom?

Tom: Fathead-movie.com.

Melissa: Okay and any upcoming events that you’re going to be speaking at?

Tom: Well yes, I’m speaking in a week or so. I’m one of the speakers on the upcoming low-carb cruise.

Melissa: Oh cool, all right.

Tom: I’m one of the speakers there. I’m going to be giving a presentation that is essentially a speech version of a chapter in the book my wife and I are developing. We hope that book comes out next year.

Melissa: Okay cool. I’ll put a link to the low-carb cruise. That’s with Jimmy Moore and his great folks and very educational and fun at the same time.

Well, it’s been great having you on. Do let me know when your book is coming out. I’d love to have you back on for an update.

Tom: Absolutely, I’d love to come back.

Melissa: Okay Tom, thanks very much.

Tom: Thank you.


  1. So happy to find the pod cast so much of the content just makes sense.

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