Reflections on humans held captive in a carbohydrate culture

Fast carbohydrates food

When refined carbohydrates are everywhere, how can we help the millions who are being held captive, against their knowledge, by an endorphin-releasing, addictive substance that is making them fat and ill?

I have been thinking about that question a lot, ever since returning from the Low Carb USA conference in San Diego at the end of July.

The conference itself was a fabulous four days, full of cutting edge presentations by leading low-carb experts like Jeff Volek, Dr. Steve Phinney, Dr. Georgia Ede, Dr. Jeffrey Gerber, Miriam Kalamian, Dave Feldman and many more, including Diet Doctor’s Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt. We heard a number of times, particularly in speeches by Dr. Robert Cywse and by addictions researcher Nicole Avena, how addictive carbohydrates really are.

It was my first time, in my three plus years of ketogenic eating, that I’ve attended a world-class event devoted to the low carb (even no carb) way of life. It was invigorating and inspiring. The presentations were informative, detailed and motivating. The Q&A sessions after each speech featured thoughtful, applicable queries. Many of these presentations will be featured as videos on Diet Doctor in the months ahead.

For me, however, one of the most inspiring and motivating parts was simply meeting and talking with other attendees whose lives have been transformed, sometimes even saved, from finding the low carb ketogenic way of life.

Everyone had a story. Often it was a moving and dramatic transformation from ill health and disability to new-found vigor and wellness. I heard about adult epilepsy finally under control, hundreds of pounds lost, diabetes reversed, migraines eased or gone, depression lifted, even cancers held in remission. Some of these people will be featured in upcoming posts here at the Diet Doctor site.

A recurring theme, among all I talked to, was the overwhelming feeling of being set free, being liberated from the shackles of poor health and poor diet after years of captivity. Freedom from the siren call of carbs. It was freedom from feelings of guilt and shame over the weight they had tried for decades to lose. It was the freedom from feeling ill, tired and achy, of suddenly having energy and the desire to move and dance. It was freedom from feeling unjustly blamed by their doctors and others in their lives that they were simply making poor choices, or were too lazy or not trying hard enough. Now they knew that addictive carbohydrates had been unwittingly making them sick for years. They could see that now so clearly. Now they were free.

It was a joyful, inspiring, supportive mingling. At the end of the four days we parted with the hugs of true connections and friendships made.

And then, with a number of hours ahead of me before my plane back to Canada, I decided to visit the world famous, award-winning San Diego Zoo. The zoo pays the utmost attention to creating for each species its optimal environment and diet. For their pandas and other animals that live on bamboo, for example, they grow 67 different bamboo taxa. Their astonishing collection of birds each have their nutritional needs researched and a diet created that mimics what it would consume most closely in the wild. The carnivores, like their 18 Sumatran tigers, get fed shank bones or rabbit carcasses stuffed with beef heart.

All the animals looked remarkably healthy, happy and well-cared for, existing on the food they were evolved to eat in an environment that mimicked their natural habitat.

Not so the humans — thousands of them visiting the zoo on this hot July day. Many looked miserable, exhausted, chaffing under the hot sun. Three out of four, alas, were overweight or obese. Children, adolescents, adult men and women, seniors.

All around, however, were food kiosks selling huge containers of soft drinks, ice cream, corn dogs, hot dogs, pizza, french fries, kettle corn and much more. Sweet smells lingered and taunted on the breeze. Many people munched on carb snacks or sipped from huge containers of sugary drinks as they watched the animals eat their specially-tailored optimal diets designed for their specific needs.

It was the humans who were captive in an unhealthy environment, caught in a carbohydrate-addictive culture that they did not know yet was a cage that was making them sick, fat and exhausted. It was heart breaking to see. As Kristie Sullivan noted so eloquently last year in a post called Carb Trouble, “how do you start a conversation?” with a stranger to let them know that all the carbs in their life are what is likely causing their ill health and weight gain. You simply can’t start the conversation. They must hear it from a trusted source, like a doctor, friend or family, or from a ground-swell movement that has them see, with their own eyes for the first time, the bars and chains of their carb cage.

It was deeply upsetting. But I came home redoubled in my commitment to help spread the word as far and as wide as possible through Diet Doctor, to help make low carb simple and understandable to all.

Anne Mullens


A keto diet for beginners

Low carb for beginners


All earlier posts by Anne Mullens

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  1. Nadine
    So well said Anne!
  2. Julie
    I've only been doing Keto for 2 weeks and 3 days,have lost 9 pounds and don't need my allergy medicine any more :) I have so much energy and I feel happier. Can't wait to reap more benefits.
  3. Della
    As an act of kindness, you might send a copy of this article to the zoo. 🙂
  4. Stephen
    Very well written article! Thank you.
  5. Cassieoz
    LOVE your para about freedom/liberation from carb slavery. Absolutely! Couldnt have articulated it better
  6. Stacy
    I have asked myself the same thing many times, trying to help my own family see what is happening. Refined and processed foods are killing us. I love your article, also we were just at the zoo last weekend here in Kansas and sadly I saw the same as you in the humans, however the animals did look somewhat happy. Then we got to the gorilla exibit and I was shocked to see that the cute stuffed animals someone sewed for them were filled with pretzels and m&Ms! I'm not sure that's a tailored diet for a gorilla at all and they didn't look very happy either. As I'm telling my three boys they may not drink a soda or have any candy from those kiosks, here's the gorilla with some m&Ms. It's very hard most days to keep my kids eating well especially when we see family. My husband and I have worked hard to give up and purge refined carbs but we have done it!
  7. 1 comment removed
  8. Jen
    I agree with another poster....send the article to the zoo. To members of the government, news outlets. Change the available foods (and make them affordable) and I guarantee people will be far more likely to make better choices. As a parent, I would rather give my kids nutritious food, even if they have to wait for the salad to be cut up, or the chicken to be cooked to the right temperature. But when the kids are starving at the zoo, and you're out of snacks, and all that's available is junk....are parents going to let their kids scream and cry from hunger pangs or put the only available food for purchase in their bellies? Change the food that is available. Grocery stores, gas stations, even fast food chains have started making changes so more healthful food is available. Every business that sells food, lodging, or recreation should change.
  9. Travis
    Exactly as Dannie said. The picture and foods you mention are high fat as well! Carbs are the preferred fuel of the body. The thing is we need to get back to the basics, whole foods and complex carbohydrates aka starch. Keto is the same old fad diet.
    Replies: #28, #40, #44
  10. 3 comments removed
  11. Sandy Stevens
    I have the cure for all the " food gurus", dieters and food fanatics! Spend 6 months in detention camps, you will Thank God for a slice of bread! Over
    Reply: #29
  12. Andrew
    Travis carbs are not the preferred source ketones are and your brain can run fully on ketones red blood cells only use glucose and while in ketosis that happens from gluconeogenesis people on here posting need science KETO for the WIN
  13. Trevor
    Great article, thanks!
    If the San Diego zoo researched human nutritional needs as carefully as they do those of their animals, then set up a kiosk selling human-optimised foods and advertised it as such, would humans come and buy and eat/drink their wares? Only one way to find out.
  14. D D
    I've just stopped all the simple carbs and sugars. I still do complex carbs (fruits, vegetables) and things are working out pretty well. My long lasting insulin has dropped from 124-32 units, this gives me a,fasting bg of 95-117. Still playing the sliding scale with the humilin R so I don't bottom out.
    Started on July 8 at 247, today 226. Can't complain
  15. Joseph Habeeb
    People consume way too many calories and don't exercise enough. This whole notion of clean eating is ridiculous. Yes some foods are more nutrient dense than others. Yes some are more calorie dense. But this whole elimination thing is just extreme. Find out what your BMR is then factor in your activity level and eat all the macronutrients in the amounts you need to suit your energy needs. Get some fiber as well. If everyone treated their diet like their checking account they while be much better off. Imagine not keeping track of what you spend and just buying whatever you want. You will be broke. People need to control and monitor their food intake instead of just eating aimlessly. Anytime someone tells you about a diet that you can eat as much as you want but restrict you to a certain type of food items run for the hills. Eventually you will give in to
    cravings and binge.
  16. Margaret
    Much of the food shown here and discussed in the article isn't just high in carbs, it's also highly processed, manufactured food. No real food offered at all. And if you eat that food, you remain unnourished and want more to eat. I feel sorry for us.
  17. Kenrick
    Why are folks who don’t agree or follow keto posting here ...especially with comments that obviously show they have never read or studied any nutrional research ...especially research using RCTs not just observational studies we all know observation shows association not causation ?

    My conclusion is they must be sad, lonely people that troll in order to seek reaction ...oh dear !

    I or am certainly not adverse to debate ...but it should be informed ...based on science not commonly held fallacies that have been proven egregious time and time again by real solid research ...


    Replies: #23, #35
  18. Teresa
    Great article!
  19. Alain
    "They must hear it from a trusted source, like a doctor, friend or family"

    Even that is not enough, the sugar addiction is too strong.
    Only people with strong mind can overcome this addiction.

  20. PAUL
    Kenrick- Well said.
    Perhaps they are sugar industry trolls, paid to spread doubt and confusion in our community.
    Doesn't make sense for people to be paid up members of DietDr if they don't follow the LCHF lifestyle.
  21. Maha
    Thank you Kenrick. I was going to respond to the naysayers, but that would be feeding the desire for attention.
  22. Laura
    As a health coach in the USA (Alabama) I couldn’t agree more with this article! We have a lot of work to do.

    Thankful for this website as I share it with hundreds of my clients everyday

  23. Mary
    Walk into any convenience store; they are stocked with addictive but legal alcohol, cigarettes, and sugar/carb rich foods. Only the first two are recognized as addictive, of course. Sadly, you really can't talk anyone out of addiction that they don't want to give up under "normal" circumstances. Sugar/carb addiction is fully and often vehemently, supported by a great many medical doctors, medical associations, nutritionists, and the government.

    Change is going to take a lot of people being successful with keto/LCHF. There is a growing trend to support it. I find the trend encouraging having found keto years ago and having seen it grow. Truth and results and happiness will win out over vested interests in the end.

  24. Natascha
    Well said 💗
  25. Susie
    Oh dear, Dannie, you seem to be missing the point. Go back to the beginning and read, then re-read the article. Then look at the Diet Doctor website and watch the experts, including non- guru , bona fide Doctors in the various videos. Listened ,look, learn and then comment.
  26. Susie
    Travis, Keto is not a fad diet. It was, in fact, a diet primarily for those with diabetes, In the 19th century, the ketogenic diet was commonly used to help control diabetes. In 1920 it was introduced as an effective treatment for epilepsy in children in whom medication was ineffective.
  27. Susie

    I have the cure for all the " food gurus", dieters and food fanatics! Spend 6 months in detention camps, you will Thank God for a slice of bread! Over
    Sandy, I hope that now you are (hopefully) rehabilitated into society,you now realise that here on Diet Doctors, there are no gurus, or food fanatics, just a simple way of eating that is enjoyable, healthy and do-able.

  28. Kathy
    Excellent perspective on who is the captive. Nicely done! The contrast is alarming and you did it justice. For those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
  29. John Bueglas
    You also do not have all the facts. Inuit people traditionally lived on lipids and protein and people in northern and Southern Hemispheres traditionally had access to carbs at distinct times of the year. The rest of the time there was only lipids and proteins available. The body has two distinct metabolism, carbohydrates or lipids. Carbohydrates allowed us to store lipids for times of limited food resources. Lipid metabolism allowed us to use what we eat and not worry about storing fat since food was less plentiful.

    In today’s world, carbs are available 24/7 and virtually on any corner. The latest scandal in fast food showed the use of carbs to make fake “real” chicken. It made the chicken more addictive than the actual meat

    We don’t need to fatten up for winter anymore, we don’t need to load up on carbs. We need very little of it just the way nutritionists used to say we need little protein if we load up on carbs. No one has ever said abolish carbs but society has accepted the unhealthy volume of carbs as healthy but it’s just not true. I hope this has helped to understand more clearly.

    By the way my doctor suggested I go on a keto diet for my diabetes. She is no “guru” and I was free to say no. I’m a scientist who has taught at university level so I investigated it thoroughly before trying it.

  30. billy
    I am a 53 year old man, and just kept getting fatter and fatter. I was eating well according to the food pyramid. Oatmeal for breakfast, whole grains, low fat. Lots of roasted squash and sweet potatoes, along with the Brussels sprouts and kale. When we had pizza for dinner, just one slice of thick crust, etc. Burgers and fries once a week, but mostly whole foods cooked at home. We were eating a 'good' American diet. After the gym I would be destroyed--it would take me forever to recover, and I had chronic tendonitis in my knee and elbow. I had difficulty walking down stairs. I got up to 280lbs at 5' 11".

    Since eliminating all sugar and starch six months ago, and only eating the Brussels sprouts and broccoli and meat and fish and eggs and grass-fed butter and such, I have lost 40lbs of fat according to my Dexa scan. My nagging joint aches are gone, and now when I go to the gym I feel energized, not wrecked. My triglycerides are down, my resting heart rate is 60, and I've cut my high blood pressure medication in half. I monitored my glucose and ketones with a blood meter, and was usually around a .4-.7 on the ketone strips. So not extreme Keto by any means. Sometimes I ate eggs and avocado for breakfast, and sometimes I waited until lunch.

    I can't believe the transformation that has happened in my life. I don't feel deprived at all, and I no longer crave the junk---burgers and pizza and such. Since we started eating this way, my 21 year old son has lost 30lbs of fat, and my wife has lost 15. We are all so much more excited about the future, and the only thing I wish is that everyone could feel the difference that getting insulin under control can make in your life. We didn't eat 'strict' Keto, just a good low-carb, medium protein, healthy fat diet that anyone can do. I have a weakness for homemade salsa and chips that I refused to give up, so I didn't! (Same for the street tacos once a week!)

    To the nay-sayers I would just suggest that they give low-carb a try for a month and just see if it makes a difference. I will never go back to eating that way again. Peace to all of you and enjoy the journey.

    Reply: #45
  31. John
    I must admit there can be a danger of blaming the garbage you call "food" (The SAD) for the problems you have. And then eliminating Carbohydrates because your foods are loaded with them. Sure a low (SAD) carb diet will roll back a lot of diseases and problems, Compared to what? Is there clinical evidence that Keto or low carb works better (whatever that is) than a nutrient rich, whole "normal" diet. Or is it comparing keto with eating crap? If you are obese and have been personally responsible in looking after your body and have all the problems that occurs with that condition do you just need to eat healthily or must you (once again) have a knee jerk reaction and eliminate all (insert current 'flavour' of the Month").
    I'm not saying doing keto does not work. It absolutely does. But so may eating (for example) a moderate amount of low GI carbohydrate foods. So may getting some exercise as well, with a healthy diet. So does fasting in conjunction with a healthy diet. The foods we eat are nothing we evolved to eat and we have evolved to eat carbohydrate (we are a carbon based life-form remember), protein and lipids. But we didn't evolve to where we are eating the garbage you call food nowadays. ALL the carbohydrate foods, fruits, grains etc bare NO resemblance to the heritage/original forms. Look at a wild raspberry and then look at the artificial version in a shop. They have been bred to be huge and sweet. Changing your diet from garbage to nutritious and healthy can be done many ways.
  32. Isaac
    Having done strict keto for 12 months I've spent the last 6 just doing lower carb with intermittent fasting (IF). I think there's a fairly simple formula that bridges the opinions of the keto-proponents and the naysayers:

    Do LCHF if you are overweight or aren't fully active and exercising regularly. If your energy expenditure isn't high you'll need the extra help of cutting out nearly all the carbs to maintain your weight or weight loss. Alternatively, do more regular and longer fasting periods which will naturally limit your calorie intake. Despite what we know about the relationship between insulin and carbs, glucose/fructose etc., calories are still an important factor to weight loss.

    If you are at your healthy weight and active, doing weight or cardio training, playing sport or walking on a regular basis, LCHF isn't necessary. Just cut down on the simple carbs and eat a balanced whole food diet with periods of IF to keep everything running nicely. That is all you need.

    The food pyramid is kind of OK if you are already at a healthy weight and do the exercise, which is why it still has a lot of support from doctors everywhere. The one correction would be to move the grains and cereals much nearer the top, the bottom row should be all vegetables.

    For people that are overweight or battling type-2 diabetes then yes the food pyramid is not going to help you lose weight and needs to look very different to make it the LCHF way. But the fact is, the LCHF way of life isn't necessary for everyone if you are already at your healthy weight, eat whole foods and exercise or do periods of fasting, or both.

    Once I hit my target weight after 12 months of keto, I've spent the last 6 months on a whole food diet with much higher carb intake, regular exercise and IF and I haven't gained a pound. LCHF is for one lifestyle and personal set of circumstances. The balanced diet with exercise that everyone has been banging on about for years, is for another.

    The one takeaway that I have from my experiences on this site and with keto is that everyone, regardless of lifestyle, would benefit from doing IF in some form. It really does help with maintaining weight or kick starting weight loss and with health generally.

  33. Andy king
    Nothing wrong with someone having s different view

    But when that difference is caused by ignorance of lack of knowledge the truth will always win so don’t let it get you down

  34. Tera
    Very well written article Anne, thank you for sharing. My wife and I have been Keto for 3 1/2 months and we love how eating this way has changed our lives for the better. We tell everyone that will listen about how wonderful eating Keto is - I have had a few recruits at work, but sadly none in our families or our closest friends. Diabetes runs rampant through her family and most of them are all lean, tall and skinny - but they are completely addicted to processed carbs and sugars; and the overweight ones are the same. Although they can physically see how eating this way has changed our bodies on the outside (I was overweight and have lost 25lbs, my wife was thin already, but she has leaned up considerably more), and we tell them about the changes on the inside as well - it hasn't convinced them. As I unpacked our Keto food at a family get together, one of my relatives went so far as to laughingly say that I was going through a lot of effort just to avoid exercising to lose weight (she said this AFTER watching The Magic Pill and coming to Diet Doctor) - sad but true.

    My hope for them as well as everyone else is that they will break the cycle, I will keep advocating; and if I never convince another person, I know there are at least 2 lives that are saved and will continue to enjoy a healthy, satiating, and correctly tailored diet.

  35. Lucille
    The same question might be asked of other addictions: heroin, alcohol, etc. and the answer is the same: once addicted, more than a conversation pointing out the harm of their ways is required to alter behavior. I suspect that addiction has strong physiological components and it is not simply that those addicted are weak willed or ignorant.
  36. Slim
    To Sandy. Spend six months in a detention camp and yes you will thank God for a slice of bread however your body will crave fats, trust me! Brad will make you hungrier.
  37. Slim
    Of course I meant bread .
  38. TeeDee
    Travis, I can't imagine why you would even take the time to post something that is so provably false. Carbs are 'not' the bodies preferred fuel source. It is fat and protein that the body craves and when you salivate over the carb foods around you, it's because your body is seeking protein and it knows you can eat endlessly when carbs are ingested. Give your body the fuel it needs (animal protein and their fats) and you'll see the difference in how your body reacts to it's proper fuel source. Take care.
  39. Denise
    Excellent article, Anne!
  40. Packo
    You obviously have not done the keto diet for an extended period of time. My Doctor is astounded
    at my results, never mind the 45lbs weight loss or good/bad cholesterol etc.......
    I''m off my Diabetic meds.

    My Doctor is looking into this and will beging "saving" lives. I have 2 friends who are now doing keto.
    Blood pressure back to normal along with 25lbs weight loss in 6 weeks and my other friend was a total
    mess with many "numbers" out of wack. (HDL A1C and all that blood testing stuff)
    after 5 months he's back to normal and loss 55lbs.

    So not a study, by no means................and what is there to debate?!?! Just sayin'


  41. chris c
    I see something similar at a local nature reserve. They work hard to maintain the environment to feed lots of birds and insects. The cafe is full of "healthy" high carb food, including vegetarian and vegan options.

    Time and again I see people visit the cafe, then walk part of the reserve carrying their snacks and "energy drinks", then return to the cafe before doing the other half (one way is about 5 km and the other about 3). They are often rotund. So sadly are some of the children.

    Meanwhile I eat a thickly buttered oatcake with smoked salmon for breakfast and a cup or two of coffee - just enough to tell my liver and pancreas my throat hasn't been cut - then spend the rest of the day living off stored energy from my previous day's meal(s). I can walk the entire reserve without snacks and routinely go 6 - 8 hours and sometimes up to 14 before I get hungry and need to eat again.

    In my high carb low fat days I used to resemble those other people.

  42. Robin H
    You get to choose.
    So carb it up!!!
    Many of us have read, listened, studied and experienced the science of burning ketones as our main fuel before glucose.
    I’ve been struggling with an autoimmune since I was 38. Today at 58, I’m in the BEST physical condition of my life.
    I chose ketones.
  43. Dianne Redhead
    Well done Billy! You're an inspiration to all of us. After reading your post I quickly raced off to the kitchen and rustled up a spinach omelette made with 2 eggs, a tablespoon of cream, a teaspoon of vintage cheddar cheese, and garlic. I ignored the devil on my shoulder telling me to munch on toast. You must be feeling so energetic and extremely motivated. Regards, Di Redhead in Australia.

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