The Carbiest Generation: Paying the price for an ill-conceived experiment

bad carbs ice cream sandwich

“The Greatest Generation”, coined by journalist Tom Brokaw, describes the generation that grew up in the United States during the Great Depression, then went on to fight in World War II.

We’ve had a few “generations” since then – the “Baby Boom Generation,” of which I am one (1946-1964),  “Generation X” (1965-1980), in which group my kids fall, “Generation Y” (1980-1989) and “Generation Z” (1990-?), which includes my two grandchildren.  What people in the generation after that will be called, no one knows.  Maybe the people who name generations will start over again and call it “Generation AA.”  The Baby Boomers definitely had the last truly colorful name, with all the generation names after it lacking a certain spark.

When future generations look back upon today’s generation, what will they see?  What will set us apart in the timeline of human history?  What contributions have we made to humanity that will define us in a word or a phrase?  Some people in the Low Carb Movement think we will be known as “The First Modern Generation Where the Children Had a Shorter Life Span than Their Parents,” but that’s a little wordy.  I feel a better name would be “The Carbiest Generation,” because, when it comes down to a pretty important aspect of our humanity – our overall health and very existence — this encompasses all that has gone wrong.  Blame it on the food guidelines that have been handed down to us by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and promoted by our government starting in 1977.  That’s when George McGovern took it upon himself to change the way America eats by vilifying saturated fat and cholesterol and glorifying carbohydrates.  In case you don’t remember what happened back then, or were not even born yet, this short video by Tom Naughton summarizes the dubious wisdom and eventual adoption of the tenets of The McGovern Report.

In 1984, a now-famous Time Magazine cover showed a plate serving up two sunny-side-up eggs as eyes and a strip of bacon as a big frown, with the headline, “Cholesterol.   And Now the Bad News.”  I don’t remember the events surrounding the McGovern Report in 1977;  I had my first baby that year and was a little preoccupied.  However, I clearly remember how I felt in 1984 when I heard for the first time that bread and pasta were not fattening, as I had always believed, but fat was, and that if I didn’t want to get fat and drop dead from a heart attack I would stop eating fat and focus on carbohydrates, specifically pasta and bread.  I clearly recall saying to my father (a member of The Greatest Generation), “Guess what I just heard!  It turns out that fat is more fattening than spaghetti!  We are only supposed to be eating one egg per week because they’re loaded with cholesterol!  We need to stop eating fat or we’ll gain weight and die of heart attacks!”  My dad just rolled his eyes in a ‘now what?’ kind of way, but he, along with most of America, began the slow but steady turn away from saturated fats and the way that humans had eaten since humanity began, and toward pasta, bread, fruit and large amounts of vegetables.  This was never the way humans had eaten.  Ever.  Yet this was his health, and he wanted to preserve it!  Not enough to stop smoking cigarettes, but still.

By 1984, when Time Magazine told me to how to stay slim and free from heart disease, I had two children, and I was Earth Mother.  I grew my own vegetables and strawberries, baked bread for my family every other day and dutifully read all I could about how to feed children in the healthiest possible way.  Some of the advice I got was pretty good, like, “Don’t give your children sugar.”  But the rest, as I recall, instructed me to give them lots of bread, pasta and fruit, including fruit juice.  The fact that all these foods were turning into sugar almost immediately upon being eaten was lost on me, and, apparently, on all the advisers, as well.  I remember giving my young children a “healthy” version of breakfast cereal:  air-popped popcorn (carbs are good, fat is bad) in a bowl with skim milk (carbs are good, fat is bad) and raisins and other dried fruit (carbs are good, fat is bad).  My first baby, now 35 years old with children of his own, reminds me of that “cereal” now and then.  It is emblazoned in his memory, and he loves to tease me about it.  Less vivid are memories of bacon and egg breakfasts, for they were few and far between.  I was, after all, Earth Mother, and very health conscious.

WHAT ABOUT OUR GRANDPARENTS?

It was around this time that I began to take notice of how my peasant-born, immigrant grandmother ate.  She had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the 1960s, when she was in her 60s, and now, in the ‘80s, she injected herself with insulin every day to counteract all the carbs that she was being instructed to eat.  To be fair, she had been eating lots of wheat- and sugar-packed baked goods since arriving in this country years before, along with  meat, eggs, and dairy, and lots of fruit and vegetables.  However, I’m pretty sure that her doctor would have said it was not the sugars and starches that brought on her diabetes, but the saturated fat she had always eaten – or maybe he had no idea at all.  In her youth in Croatia, she ate meat, fresh, full-fat dairy products, vegetables and fruit.  There was some bread, but it was not the staple it is today, and she certainly did not eat any grain-and-sugar laden processed foods.  She, along with all twelve of her siblings, was thin and healthy.

But once in America, as sugar and wheat became more plentiful and popular, her weight increased and her health decreased.  By the 1980s, she was well into her 80s, had suffered through three different cancers, and had erratic blood sugar swings that would put her into what she called “a reaction” – extremely low blood sugar with  accompanying dementia and unconsciousness.  She was still following her doctor’s orders to eat lots of bread and pasta.  The only thing she did against his orders was to pour oil on her cooked vegetables.  When I saw her do this, I would think, “No wonder you’re fat!  You’re eating fat!”  Little did I know.  Precious little.

WHAT’S A PARENT TO DO?

The government-supported United States Department of Agriculture is still telling us to eat the largest portion of our food as grains.  The next largest portion is fruits and vegetables.  They allow a very small part (and they don’t like it much) to be very lean animal products, low- and non-fat preferred, and only a little tiny fraction of what we eat can be fats — as long as they are not the evil, saturated kind — and sugars.  Saturated fats are now commonly referred to as “artery- clogging saturated fats,” while grains are referred to as “heart-healthy whole grains.”   We all have been influenced, consciously or not, by those terms.  I find it ironic that we are instructed by the USDA Food Pyramid to drastically reduce our sugar (right up there at the tiny peak of the pyramid), while, at the same time, we are encouraged to eat most of our daily food as grains, which begin to turn into sugar before we can even swallow them!

Protein Power

Protein Power

As Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, of the Protein Power books, and Dr. Al Sears explain in this video (Tom Naughton again), until now, no human society has ever lived on a high carbohydrate diet.  We are paying the price for this ill-conceived experiment on humanity with higher and higher rates of obesity – including childhood obesity – and rapidly growing rates of type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult-onset diabetes.”  They don’t call it that any more for an obvious reason:  younger and younger people, even little kids, are developing type 2 diabetes as a result of the advice to eat more and more grains and other foods that turn into sugar upon ingestion.  Saturated fats are healthy, and always were, but we are told to withhold them from our children.  We give kids low-fat bread and lots of it, low-fat pasta with low-fat, corn-syrup-laced sauce on top, low-fat and no-fat dairy products, steamed vegetables with no butter or oil, and lots and lots of fruit and fruit juices.

Today’s Mom and Dad have become convinced that it would be abuse to deny their children the “health elixir” known as fruit juice, even though it is no different, metabolically speaking, than sugar water.  Since high carb, low-fat meals do not “stick to your ribs” the way a good protein and fat meal does, children today must always be in possession of a high carb, low-fat snack – crackers, fruit snacks and granola bars – to ward off the inevitable gnawing hunger that comes when blood sugar falls an hour or two after the last carb-laden, fat-free meal.

There are some parents who are getting the low carb truth, but they’re not getting it from our government or the USDA, whose biggest concern (big surprise) is making sure that there are more and more ways to increase American grain consumption.  These forward-thinking parents have heard the grass-roots message being heralded by leaders of the low carb movement, and all the regular people who are outspoken examples of better living through real, age-old food.  They have seen the writing on the wall, and they are taking action.  They don’t want to outlive their kids, and they are willing to swim against the tide of conventional wisdom by giving their kids (gasp!) animal products, with the saturated fat and dietary cholesterol intact, full-fat dairy, eggs complete with yolks, and all the other foods that support good health, lower blood sugar, and proper body composition and reduce inflammation.  They’re cutting out sugar, refined and processed foods, and grains, knowing that these “foods” cause obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammation (suspected to be a precursor to all disease), and a shorter life span.

I recently had a conversation with a business associate who found out that I eat high fat, moderate protein and low carb.  He and his wife just recently heard the low carb message, and they are learning all they can about this way of eating, and  making changes.  Two weeks after we met, I saw him again and he glowingly showed me his shrinking waistline.  If he is like the vast majority of people who start eating this way, his triglycerides are going down, his HDL is going up, his LDL particles are getting larger and fluffier (that’s a good thing) and his blood sugar has stopped zooming up and down with every meal.  My colleague is eating higher fat and lower carb, but he is still concerned about all the “artery-clogging” saturated fat.  And he is still hesitant to take bread away from his pre-teen son.  “What will he take in his school lunch if it’s not a sandwich?” He’ll figure it out, I’m sure, with the help of the steadily growing wealth of information and truth on the internet today.

THE END OF THE BIG, BAD EXPERIMENT

How would you feel if you found out that the medical establishment was running an experiment on an untested drug, using you and your children as lab rats, without your permission or even telling you?  This, essentially, is what has been going on for over thirty years, except it’s food, not drugs, that is being tested on the unsuspecting American public, and, believe me, the ill effects of eating food that humans are not designed to eat are widespread and devastating.  And it will get worse unless people begin to see the truth.

I don’t know how soon this destructive low fat, high carbohydrate system of eating will be exposed for the deadly force, or should I say, farce, that it is.  I don’t know if the experiment will end in my lifetime.  I hope it will.  I see signs that change is coming.  Maybe, after all is said and done, the generation I’ve dubbed “The Carbiest” will be a thing of the past, a sad and reckless chapter in our history, and we can return to a saner, healthier way of eating and living.  You know, we’ll need a name for it.  I think “The Common Sense Generation” has a certain spark.

Comments

  1. says

    Brilliant Rebecca! Well spake. It’s a sad state of affairs, and it’s so hard to break out of the numerous nutrition myths we’ve all been suckered into believing.

    At some point, this madness will end. But unfortunately it appears to be a collection of madnesses, not just one. e.g. You can break out of the “carbs aren’t super” mentality but still be trapped in the “saturated fat = heart disease” nonsense, like your friend was.

    Sigh. We’ll get there, one day.

    !Viva La Revolucion!

    • says

      We are of one mind, Adam, for sure! We just need to keep getting the information out there, like you and others are doing, and it will slowly begin to change. Thanks for all you do!

  2. says

    Outstanding article Rebecca, thank you for sharing. I am new to the low carb life style. I have numerous members of my family that are or were diabetics and I have been looking to find the best possible life style to avoid this terrible disease and I believe the low carb way of life is it. I share my new knowledge at work and with my family and hope that one day soon they will see the light. Grocery shopping is so much easier now, just one circle around the outside areas for veggies and meats some whole fruits and dairy and I am out the door. Love the farmer’s Market when they open for the summer. Please keep sharing the great information and thanks for caring enough to share

    • says

      Thanks, Gaye! I’m glad to see you have seen the wisdom in this way of eating! So far, I have not had much luck convincing my family that this is the healthiest way to eat. I did get my father off of cereal and juice for breakfast and onto bacon and eggs! It’s such a complete paradigm shift for most people – I can’t blame them for being , uh, suspicious! All the best to you!

  3. Lin says

    my grandparents didnt have to worry about carbs and cholesterol. They all died from smoking and lunch cancer in their 50’s.

    • Dana Carpender says

      I have a feeling a lot of people are still dying of lunch cancer. ;-P

      And yeah, my paternal grandfather dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 58, on the sidewalks of New York. Of course, I understand Grandpa not only smoked, but drank a bottle of codeine cough syrup per day. Can’t be great for your health…

    • says

      My dad, whom I mentioned in the article, is still smoking away at the age of 83 and is pretty darn healthy! He attributes his longevity to smoking, drinking and eating whatever the heck he wants. Go figure! I’m pretty sure he’s in the minority. Most people can not get away with that!

      • Dana Carpender says

        Of course, there is no guarantee that individual A, eating a nutritious diet, eschewing smoking, and getting some exercise, will live longer or be healthier than individual B, smoking, eating crap, and sitting in the Lazyboy. Too many other things play a role. It’s pretty likely, though, that the *same individual* will be healthier with good habits than they would be with bad.

        That said, it turns out that nicotine has some health benefits. Smoking is horrifically bad for you, of course, but it turns out that smokers do have a lower rate of some neurological diseases, especially Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. For that matter, my doctor has offered to give me a scrip for an ecigarette to treat my ADD — it’s apparently a very effective treatment. But damned if I want to re-up my nicotine addiction after 31 years. I’ll stick to Wellbutrin.

        Unless I start to show signs of dementia. Then all bets are off.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time I’m ready for the retirement home we’re all slapping on nicotine patches for our health.

  4. Margaret Calder says

    Great article and i am trying to adopt the low carb way of life. Unfortunately both my children have inherited familial cholesterolaemia from their fathers side and have been instructed to keep meat and animal products to a minimum to avoid intake of cholesterol. I dont eat any meat apart from fish or seafood due to bowel cancer issues in my family. Any ideas of how to increase our protein intake and cut out our carbs?

  5. KevinF says

    Nice introduction. Note, the USDA is not “government supported” … it IS the government, a cabinet-level department of the executive branch.

  6. says

    Hi Rebecca

    I enjoyed reading your article, I also fell for the health advice from the 1980’s to eat high carb and low fat.

    I’m so glad I found another way with a low carb paleo diet.

    best wishes

    Kim

  7. Susan Phelps says

    Good article! It’s been about the wrong kind of “green”—the money that corporations and fast food can make from HFCS and unhealthy but addictive/”convenient” food. In response to what can my son take for lunch—my daughter thought I was the queen of bagged lunch—-tuna salad, veggie sticks, maybe two crackers or some oyster crackers, fruit and cheese chunks. When I sent blackberries, I had to send extra the next day. Some of her friends didnt know what they were and she wanted to share.

    • says

      Thanks for reading, Susan. And might I add, “Good Mom!” I wish I had known what I know know when I was raising my kids. There was no internet then, so all I could go by was the Conventional Wisdom of the time, which told me to feed them lots of grains and no fat. Parents today have so many opportunities to do research for themselves.

  8. Nancy says

    Rebecca, I learned these lessons before it was too late for my diabetic husband. Six months of no wheat, no grain, no sugar, no hi carb foods and his HbA1c is now 5.7 down from 7 one year ago. Waiting for the lipid profile – I bet it will be great after eating coconut oil, olive oil, butter with good protein and lots of green vegetables. Old folks (69) can change and can regain health after the insanity of the last 30 years of hi carb, low fat. Thank you for this perfect summary and review of our current health situation (I have 18 yo grandchild – 380 #, 10 y o grandchild 175#); we need to revolt against this big agri/big pharma/big food conspiracy. Thank you – keep up the words of change.

    • says

      I have read so many stories about people you have (unknowingly) abused their bodies for most of their lives, and yet are able to turn things around in the home stretch! Good for you for not just going with the status quo and thinking it is too late, or just injecting more and more insulin to handle the sugar that is being suggested by the regular, non-forward thinking docs.

      I’m sorry to hear about the grandkids. Do you have any influence with the parents?

  9. Lisa L. says

    Yes,our diet has changed. My parents were born in the 1920’s and I was born in the 1960’s. I am a Gen X’er. I was the fourth child of five children. We always had bread on our table. But now I know better. I wonder if you have read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis? He gives a great argument against eating any bread at all. No low carb bread. I have been eating low carb and wheat free since November 2011 and have lost 16 lbs. I have lost 10 inches in my waist and hips also. Low carb is great but wheat and grain free will control your blood sugar better and reduce inflammation. Real food meaning meat, dairy, fruit, and vegetables was the diet of my grandparents and my parents. I have returned to this kind of eating and my health has improved!

    • says

      Yes, Lisa, I did read Wheat Belly. The only regret that I have is that I gave up wheat three years ago, because I wanted to give it up all over again after reading Dr. Davis’ book! I’m glad your health has improved. Keep up the good eating!

  10. says

    Really enjoyed your article, I did Atkins several years ago and lost alot of weight. I purchased Chris Powell’s Choose To Lose” to help me get back on track.

    • says

      I looked up the diet. I see that it cycles between very high carb and low carb, and includes a lot of grain products. I’m afraid that it would not be a way of eating that I would try. Personally, I am off wheat for good, and the high amounts of carbs would wreak havoc with my blood sugar. If you are a person who loves to learn, the new book “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis is a real eye-opener!

      Thanks for your comment, and I wish you all the best!

  11. Mary Fultz says

    Dear Rebecca,
    Greetings from N.S., Canada! I just bought your Fat Fast cookbook and I just love it! Is there any way that you can share you daily menus and their macro. breakdowns? The reason I am asking is that just yesterday, when I started my own kind of fat fast, I thought I went overboard with the calories (i.e. 2200!), but finally got into ketosis, as measured with Precision Xtra ketone monitor. I always felt that calories are not the focus…but honestly…2200 and before that, my ketones were 0.2 the day before.
    For me, I have a huge goal, which is to be able to take off about 20 lbs. by June. I do not lose weight easily and therefore, if you could kindly share your caloric intake when you wanted to lose weight, I would really appreciate it! I am a huge fan of yours already, after just finding your name last week. LOL! Sincerely, Mary

    • says

      Hi, Mary!
      Thanks for reading! I’m glad that you have decided to take control of your weight and overall health. If you visit my blog at http://www.lowcarbbetterhealth.blogspot.com and look at the right side column, you will see a list of labels. One of those labels is Daily Menus. If you click that, you will see all the places that I have posted exactly what I am eating, including the breakdown of the macros.

      One of the things I realized early on in my ketogenic diet experiment is that it is truly possible to just plain eat too much fat. I did have to scale back, and when I did, I started losing weight.

      I would like to encourage you, if you will allow me, to try not to set a goal of losing a certain amount of weight by a certain time. When it comes right down to it, your body may hold onto fat longer than you think it should. Instead of a goal by a certain date, why not try setting a goal that you have some control over, like, “I will eat a certain amount of fat, protein and carbs each day for a week and see how I do.” I like to set goals that I know I have control over and at which I can succeed. For me, there is nothing as discouraging as setting a goal and then failing to achieve it.

      Anyway, all the best to you, and feel free to leave comments or questions on my blog as well as you start going through my menus.

      Rebecca

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