J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Losing Weight in the United States is an Act of Rebellion

Disney wants to fatten you up.

Disney wants to fatten you up.

I just got back from Disneyland. Fun trip. Also a bit of a shock, in one regard.

America is fat. Seriously fat. The number of people I saw who were disabled by weight problems was disheartening and saddening.

In the Bay Area, it’s easy to forget this fact. On average, we’re thinner here. It’s not because we’re morally superior or have more willpower. It’s because we have access to fresh food, and we live in a microculture that encourages healthy eating, organic food, and exercise.

Most Americans aren’t so lucky.

What I realized, looking around at my fellow Americans, is that to eat a decent diet in most parts of the country is an act of rebellion. To eat well (real, high quality food), the average American is rebelling against:

  • what most restaurants have available on their menus
  • packaged items advertised as “food” on television
  • 9 out of 10 aisles in the average grocery store
  • cultural conditioning
  • the fattening and hormone-disrupting foods our government subsidizes (sugar, corn, wheat, soy, etc.)
  • in many cases, what your family serves for dinner

There are thousands of voices telling you to eat the wrong foods: pseudo-foods that won’t support your health; packaged foods that will make you fat (or fatter); Franken-foods that will leave you with no energy and feeling depressed.

It was a wake-up call for me … I had forgotten how bad it was out there in mainstream America. I want to reach out to U.S. readers who are struggling with weight (some of you have contacted me personally), and who may not have access to the culture of good food that is so readily available in the Bay Area and other health-conscious parts of the country.

Words of encouragement to those who would like to lose 30 or more pounds of fat (at least half the adults I saw in Disneyland could easily lose this much):

  • In most of the United States, the deck is stacked against you in terms of eating well. That doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. U.S. food culture is changing, slowly. You can be part of that change.
  • To make a change in your diet, health, and life, you will need to commit 100% to the process. To do this, take some time to consider the consequences of not changing your diet (Type 2-diabetes, reduced virility, reduced mobility, early death) and also the rewards if you do change (improved energy, physical attractiveness, self-confidence, better health, better sex life, longer life).
  • Once you commit to a change, you will get friction from your family and friends who may feel that you are judging them. Make it clear that you are just trying to get healthier, and that they do whatever they want with their own bodies, and that you are going to eat real food regardless. (Secret: if you stick with it, they’ll eventually follow)
  • Your first step, which will yield massive results, should be to eliminate or greatly reduce refined carbohydrates. This includes high-fructose corn syrup (soda), white flour (bread, pastry, donuts, etc.), and sugar (ice-cream, candy bars, etc.). If you only make one change, it should be this one. You might have a rough couple of days while your body adjusts to not having a massive flow of sugar available at all times, but you’ll adjust.
  • To get your (fat-burning) liver in good shape, go easy on the alcohol. A 40-day reset was helpful for me. Beer is good, but beer is not your friend.
  • Second in importance (after removing/reducing refined carbs) is getting rid of processed oils that oxidize easily, promoting inflammation, chronic disease, and weight gain. These include vegetable oils like corn oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, other seed oils, and trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils). I’m guessing that for most Americans, the biggest sources of these oils are french fries, popcorn, and chips.
  • What should you eat instead? Fresh fruits and vegetables, good fats (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter from grass-fed cows, unsalted nuts and seeds, avocado), and humanely raised animal products (the “humanely raised” is not only to be a good person, but free-roaming, grass-eating animals tend to be healthier, happier, and more healthful when you eat them, especially in terms of omega-3 fatty acid content). If you don’t have access to grass-fed meat and free-range poultry and eggs, consider supplementing your diet with fish oil (for omega-3 fatty acids), or eating more fish (but only eat wild-caught, low-mercury fish, like sardines and wild salmon).
  • Don’t replace refined carbs and classic desserts with massive amounts of “natural” fructose. Eating an apple or a square of dark chocolate is fine. Skip the 12oz. glass of OJ or big handful of raisins or granola bar. Lots of fructose is hard on your liver and will slow or prevent fat loss.
  • What about grains and beans? This is not the post where I tell you to go paleo. Unless you have serious digestive or autoimmunity issues, eat small amounts of properly-cooked beans, and lower-gluten grains like oats and rice. Organic whole-grain (or even partially whole-grain) sourdough bread may be fine too. Consuming grains and beans (neolithic/agricultural foods, which our bodies have had less evolutionary time to adjust to) are fine, for most people, in moderation (but if these foods give you digestive issues, get your complex carbs from starchy vegetables instead).
  • Get your gut bacteria working for you. Your gut biome will change as your diet changes, but you can fast-track a healthy gut biome (which will help you burn fat and improve your mood) by eating probiotic foods like raw sauerkraut and plain kefir.
  • Reduce your exposure to bisphenol-A and other hormone-disrupting chemicals. Common exposure sources are plastic water bottles, packaged foods, canned foods with plastic linings (soups, tomatoes), and thermal receipts (BPA can be absorbed through the skin).
  • If you have a deep emotional attachment to a food, eat that food once in awhile. Even eating it once a week probably won’t hurt you, as long as the rest of your diet is good. It makes sense to eliminate foods that you don’t actually enjoy that much first.
  • Don’t think in terms of dieting. Think in terms of permanent positive changes to the way you eat. Think in terms of nourishing your body, mind, and spirit.
  • Find out what works for you, in terms of your taste preferences, cultural upbringing, budget, food sensitivities, ethical standards, etc. Do it your way.


There are no magic weight loss supplements. Diuretics, stimulants, and laxatives will all harm your health — don’t take them. Some supplements may support weight loss by reducing inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, and improving liver function. If you don’t have a negative reaction (try them one at a time so you know), the following might be helpful:

  • fish oil (2-4g/day, depending on body weight)
  • vitamin D (2000-4000IU day, depending on body weight)
  • chromium picolinate (up to 200mcg/day, support insulin sensitivity)
  • milk thistle (support liver function)

I’m not a doctor, and you should consult yours before taking any supplements.

What About Exercise?

Yes, exercise! Exercise is great for you. But in terms of losing fat, diet is at least 80% of the equation. Most people would lose fat just by walking around Disneyland if the diet part of the equation was looking better.

I think the key to a successful exercise program is finding a physical activity that you enjoy, and that is easy to do. Then do it every day.

One More Voice

I realize that there are at least 1000 blog posts offering this exact same advice. But seeing how massive of an obesity problem we still have in this country, I can’t be silent. Even if this post only helps one person lose five pounds, it will still have been worth it to me to write it.

Mainstream food culture in the U.S. still sucks. For those of you who don’t have local access to good food culture, I feel for you! Until your local culture changes, find what you need on the internet (places to buy good food, recipes, health information, like-minded folks), and keep your own standards high.

It’s rough out there. Don’t give up. Raise your standards. Corporations and government will follow where the people lead. So rebel against the bad food that makes us sick and fat. Together, we can change the USA from the land of the fat to the land of the strong.


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  1. nikki harvey

    A real eye opener to just how much of a problem this is in America, thank you for this post it really makes me feel lucky to have a choice in what i eat. Kind regards Nikki

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

    • So many food choices here in the U.S., but so many of them are corn, white flour, corn syrup, and oil recombined in various ways!

  2. I agree with your comments 100%. I am a practicing hospital dietitian in Central Illinois. The one thing you do not bring up is money. The cost of many of the things you mention are above and beyond what most of my patients can afford. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, grass fed butter, grass fed beef, wild caught salmon are not available for purchase on a food stamp budget. They are not available at the food pantry. Some of those foods I cannot afford to buy on my salary as my hours were cut due to patients not having insurance or no coverage for a dietitian. A health food store is 40 miles from me. I can order online from Vitacost, but can my patient with no credit card or internet? If one’s children are hungry and there are 12 days left until your Link card has money in it do you feed them cheap, starchy foods or do you let them go to bed hungry? Look around, the obesity crisis is mostly in the lower income states like Mississippi. My daughter lives in Boulder and buys $10 butter. No one is fat there. They can walk into the Whole Foods and spend $75 on one bag or groceries. My patients walk into Aldis and spend $75 on 2 weeks worth of groceries to feed 4-6 people. It is very difficult and frustrating. Just my side of things

    • You make an excellent point Gloria — I hear you! Still, there are affordable nutritious high-calorie foods that can be the staples of a healthful diet, including eggs, rice, yams, and sardines. Not gourmet fare, but no more expensive than juice boxes, cereal, corn oil, etc. Grass-fed butter is ideal but even regular butter is a better choice for cooking fat than vegetable oil (and it tastes better). Part of the hurdle is budget, part is nutrition education (which is what you are doing — very important work).

      Big picture — I would love to see the U.S. government subsidize fresh vegetables instead of corn, soy, wheat, and sugar. Why shouldn’t healthful foods be cheap?

      Thanks for chiming in, and thanks for being on the front lines of this struggle.

  3. Barbara

    Great article, thank you J.D. The same problems apply here in Australia too. As you said we need to lead by example so our children learn a healthy lifestyle of eating well and excercising regularly is normal.

  4. I think most people realize they have choices! Either they are lazy (yes, judgemental) or stupid… to not realize the harmful habits they choose for themselves and/or their families. Unfortunately, the easiest & cheapest options lead to obesity.

    • I think that many (if not most) people who struggle with obesity are not lazy or stupid, but are more likely following the wrong advice (crash dieting, low-fat diet, etc.). The packaged food industry also presents many “choices” which are presented as healthful, but in fact are just the same (like labeling food as “natural,” which means nothing).

      Yes — we all have free will — but let’s work together to support people who want to make a positive change in their health. There are millions of people trying REALLY hard to lose weight, but they don’t have the right information or the right cultural support. Let’s help those people, not judge them.

  5. In my line of work I do not find the people with poor eating habits to be stupid as stated in another comment, but often they are very uneducated about nutrition and are very grateful to be taught about healthy eating, and often try very hard

  6. Sara

    Great article. Really sound and solid advice that’s realistic and helpful amid so many unproven and dangerous fads.

    • Thanks Sara. I was thinking “Does the world really need another weight loss post?” But after my “Disneyland wake-up call” I literally could not think of anything else until I wrote it. I do think food culture in the U.S. is slowly changing for the better, but I’d like to see that change accelerate! The current situation is especially unfair to kids who aren’t old enough to make their own food choices.

      • It’s the same here in the UK. Our obesity problem is now similar to the USA. There are now plans to prevent the marketing of junk foods during kids TV times. It breaks my heart to see overweight children now becoming the norm. I’m convinced the aggressive marketing of carbohydrate laden convenience foods is a major problem, as we’ve all fallen for the low fat myth, while ignoring the real problem which is sugar. Our NHS service is, quite literally, buckling under the weight!

  7. John C Moyer

    Basically, the consumer society only works for the fat 1%.

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. Jodi

    I have just recently found your site and am pleased by the sound information you provide as well as the restraint and respect you give to everyone’s replies. I am looking for recommendations for a book or two available electronically with meal plans and some recipes for low-carb diet. Really looking for some ideas which I can build on for my family to experiment with changing our diet. We generally eat a pretty unprocessed food diet but it is higher in carbohydrates like rice, bread, and pasta than I would like. But what do I substitute for those foods?

    I live in a small town in Africa and our choices for food are vastly limited and very seasonal, especially compared to types of foods given in most cookbooks and when addressing specialty diets. Also, like Gloria mentioned, even if some of the recommended foods are available, they are very expensive and doubly so here as they are imported. Also, considering that most people can’t afford meat once a week, to eat it as often as recommended in a low-carbohydrate diet is morally difficult for us.

    However, I still would like my family to start decreasing the amount of carbohydrates we consume but really not sure what to fill them up with if not brown rice,pasta, or sweet potatoes. We are a family of 8 (two 17-yr old boys, two 13 yr old girls, and two 10 yr old boys plus my husband and myself) so being able to prepare an adequate quantity of food at reasonable cost is also important. I have been trying to have a couple of meals a week that are with limited or no starch but to do that routinely is a larger step.

    We are not vegetarian specifically but usually have had limited access to meat and also often have visitors who are vegetarian so we rely quite heavily on legumes like beans and lentils. But I am willing to experiment although eating meat every day we would find really excessive. The two cookbooks that is the backbone of our kitchen is More with Less and Extending the Table. They have great recipes from around the world and use many of the types of food we have available here. But, in summary, I would like some ideas for meal plans that are nutritious and filling without carbohydrates.

    Do you have some suggestions?

    Thank you and sorry for the long comment.

    • Hi Jodi — thanks for your comment! What are the health goals for your family? Are you trying to lose weight or just eat better in general? If you are active and generally in good health, I don’t see any problem with eating brown rice, sweet potatoes, and legumes as staples. Certainly that’s way better than the standard American diet staples of white flour, soda, and factory-farmed milk and meat.

  9. Jodi

    I have a few objectives; I would like our family to have a culture of healthy eating with a lower-carb and low-meat diet that is fairly easy to maintain regardless of socio-economic status and living location. Also one that allows for flexibility so when we have visitors or visit others who eat differently than us, we can adjust accordingly. Lastly, our children have lived most of their lives in Africa but we will be moving to the USA mid-2015 and I worry about their exposure to so much fast food and unhealthy options so want to be intentional during our our last few months here to address food choices and provide examples of options.

    All of my children are adopted and are of African-American or African origin. There may be genetic tendencies within their birth families for hypertension, diabetes, obesity which we do not know as well as there are higher incidences of certain nutritionally-linked health risks associated with being of African descent. I would like my children to have a dietary foundation from which to build their own lives when they move out and begin making their own choices. I see already how one of my girls is “addicted” to carbohydrates and although she is young, if she sees that as her primarily foundation for a meal or snack, it will be more difficult for her later in life. Yet, I don’t want food and food choices to become an overwhelming issue in her life either.

    For myself, I wish to lose weight as I have recently passed the 50 yr mark and see for myself the negative influence of too many carbohydrates and I wish to be an example for my children that change is possible.

    There are many views about and varieties of low-carb diets and they are often presented as if there is only One Way. I find myself confused in trying to sort out what is true, necessary, and feasible. Also, I don’t want to be making one meal for myself and another for the family but hope by limiting quantity of the same foods for myself to achieve weight lose. I struggle with the emphasis on meat at every meal with many low-carb diets so have been reading some on vegetarian lower carb options as well.

    I was surprised to read the negative comments on soya. Because there is so much protein deficiency here, there is a porridge that is widely used here made from a mixture of maize and soya flour. We sometimes make soya bean salad or cook and grind them as a spread for sandwiches. In fact was thinking of making it with lettuce leaves when lettuce is available instead of bread but now I am uncertain what to think about the use of soya.


    • Those are great questions, and I think the topic deserves its own post. I’ll answer briefly here as well.

      Let’s say the goal is to move from a high-carb diet to a medium-carb, nutrient dense diet, with lots of flexibility, and to keep costs low. It might be helpful to think of some simple guidelines for each meal, including:

      – Some protein (low-cost options include an egg, canned fish, beans, nuts/seeds, yogurt/kefir [if lactose-tolerant]). You could add more expensive protein sources (fresh fish, poultry, beef, lamb, etc.) a couple times a week or as budget allows.
      – No more than one source of starch/complex carbs. Yams and sweet potatoes are a great easy-to-digest, nutrient dense starch. Brown rice is a good choice too. White rice is fine in small amounts but large amounts will spike blood sugar too quickly.
      – Fresh fruit and/or non-starchy vegetables with every meal. Go for lots of color.
      – Some source of good fat. Most cooking oil is bad news, but nuts, olive oil, avocado, butter, and even pork fat are all fine.
      – Water or unsweetened tea or very dilute juice to drink … no sugary drinks

      So in general the idea is to push meals away from starch and excess sugar, and towards higher protein foods and good fats. Overall there will be fewer carb calories and more calories from good fats and protein. If carbs are lowered but fat isn’t increased a little you may find that everyone is still hungry after eating.

      For yourself, if you want to get leaner, you could reduce carbohydrates further. This post may be helpful:

      and also this one:

      I don’t think soy is a great food, especially for growing children, given that there is the potential for hormone-disrupting effects.

      That said, adding soy is better than protein deficiency, so it just depends on if there are other protein sources in the diet.

      I hope this helps point you in the right direction!

      • Jodi

        Thank you, your reply was absolutely on target and the links were very helpful as well. I am so glad to have stumbled on to your web page and so appreciate the information.

  10. Aaron (halotek)

    Just mentioning that there is enough evidence now that too much fish oil is problematic at the 2+ gram range. It’s possible that EPA is not as problematic as DHA at higher ranges, but look at studies like this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19717153

    • Thanks for the comment Aaron. Remember that the DHA amount is significantly less than the total fish oil. For example I take and recommend 2-4 grams of fish oil up to daily for adults. This corresponds to about 200-400 grams DHA, which is within the ideal range suggested in the study you linked.


      Our results clearly show that an intake of 200-800 mg/day DHA may have protective and antioxidant effects on LDL and could represent optimal doses for cardiovascular disease prevention in a healthy population.

      That said — I agree that too much fish oil could be problematic. Possible issues could be blood thinning and immune suppression. 4 grams a day of fish oil might be too much for some smaller adults. Combining fish oil with aspirin or warfarin will have synergistic blood-thinning effects would could lead to easy bruising or even internal bleeding. So you’re correct to recommend caution.

      • Aaron(halotek)

        Sounds good. I’ve for so long go by the active amounts I barely look at total fish oil content. I think oily fish 1-2 times a week is probably best anyway.

  11. You should check out my blog regarding hacking the microbiome: http://hackacne.com/2014/12/11/stool-analysis-a-brave-new-world/

    Certainly related to allergies and asthma, particularly in regards to Short Chain Fatty Acids such as butyrate. Really interesting.

    Hopefully MDs start picking up on this like you said, as DIY health can get stressful and tough.

    • Fascinating! I didn’t know about the link between butyrate and allergies/asthma. I was only aware of the potential colon cancer prevention effect of increased butyrate. Beans are one of the few foods that have been linked to a lower incidence of colon cancer … might be butyrate or it might be lectins.

      Also interesting in your linked post re: sodium valproate/butyrate similarity. How similar are they exactly? I’ve been interested in the potential effects of sodium valproate on enhanced adult learning, such as:

      Maybe I can just eat more fiber and then learn perfect pitch. 😉

      I noticed your blog examines links between acne and diet. Your recommendations make sense, but I didn’t notice any discussion of the role of vitamin B5 and vitamin A (both of which may dry skin and decrease sebum production), and biotin, which may increase sebum production. Any thoughts on this?

      • The wiki page for butyrate says:
        “Butyrates are important as food for cells lining the mammalian colon (colonocytes). Without butyrates for energy, colon cells undergo autophagy (self digestion) and die.[1] Short-chain fatty acids, which include butyrate, are produced by beneficial colonic bacteria (probiotics) that feed on, or ferment prebiotics, which are plant products that contain adequate amounts of dietary fiber. These short-chain fatty acids benefit the colonocyte by increasing energy production,and cell proliferation and may protect against colon cancer”. I would hypothesize that beans have a protective effect due to the butyrate. I have recently focused on prebiotics such as FOS and GOS. I think a lot of attention goes to probiotics, and not enough to prebiotics. Some interesting new studies on prebiotics: http://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/news/2014/12/prebiotic-b-gos-helps-reduce-anxiety.aspx

        Supposedly valproic acid is a short-chain fatty acid. I think sodium butyrate supplementation will become popular in the clinical setting, but it makes sense to get the body to produce healthy quantities through fiber and gut bacteria. Here is a recent study on fiber and SCFAs http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24815-highfibre-diet-may-protect-against-allergic-asthma.html#.VJFxHCvF-4J

        As far as the b5 and vitamin A, I haven’t really noticed any deficiencies in either, although individual cases vary. I think reducing sebum is more of a bandaid fix rather than addressing the underlying issues. Some people have great results with accutane, however I didn’t. Perhaps those people that had a successful experience had an underlying retinol deficiency.

        The human body is adaptable too, so I don’t think there is one ‘right’ way to go about it, and there are so many underlying factors. I just tried to document what worked for me.

  12. Nicholas Fulford

    I am 56, and I know how easy it is to fall into bad patterns of diet and a sedentary life style.

    And yes, we are encouraged to become “flub-monsters”. I can only conclude that there is a big profit motive in this. If selling healthy food was as profitable on a large scale as selling unhealthy food, we would all be lean, non-diabetic and reasonably fit.

    Four months ago I went on what was for me a killer eight day hike, and as I huffed and puffed my way up trails, I realized how motivating it is to experience nature’s beauty – up close and personal – while knowing in my bones that I really had to make changes if I wanted to fully appreciate living. I still enjoy my jalapeño chicken wings from time to time, but it really is from time to time as opposed to habitually. And I get to the gym 3 to 4 days a week for an hour of intense workout – most of the time.

    Setting a goal and seeing my progress towards that goal is very motivating. When I started in the gym in September, I was only doing a full set of pulldowns at 70 pounds. Now I am at 110. By summer I will be doing chin-ups, and next September when I do that hike I won’t get winded as easily, and will enjoy it a lot more. And the wonderful collateral benefit is that my heart will be stronger, and if I am faced with a major illness I will have a lot more bodily resources to draw upon while fighting it.

    There really is no downside to this, but first one needs to start, and to give oneself reasonable and obtainable goals while adapting to a new lifestyle of diet and exercise. More strenuous goals can be set as long term ones, with short and middle term goals as waypoints. I won’t be climbing Mt. Everest tomorrow, but I may be in good enough shape after 5 years that if that was the goal I set for myself, I could reach it.

    Things I need to be aware of along the way include drinking enough water each day, and getting enough sleep each night. Many of us are chronically deprived of water and sleep due to being overly focused on sedentary activities at work or play. We ignore the needs of our bodies at our peril, and it is easy to do.

    And so, what I must do is have long term, mid-term and short-term goals; and understand what I need to do to reach them; and become habituated to healthy new behaviours. I also have to give myself permission to indulge in a few less healthy things every now and again, such as my jalapeño chicken wings with a pitcher of beer. As one friend of mine said: “All thing in moderation, including moderation.”

    I am not inexorably tied to habits that are bad for me, but to overcome them requires creating new habits that are good for me. It takes time, patience, persistence, and enough tolerance of some failures to avoid throwing in the towel.

  13. By the way, do you still supplement Vitamin K2 MK-7? Is it worth it and have you noticed any benefits or negatives?

    • I do still take vitamin K2 (natto derived MK-7 form, 50mcg a few times a week), even though I also eat K2 rich foods. I consider it insurance against possible tissue calcification since I take a relatively high dose of vitamin D to control asthma symptoms. I take cod liver oil too (for vitamin A). The fat-soluble vitamins regulate each other in various ways, and while there is disagreement on which ratios are best (and I’m sure the ideal ratio varies from person to person), my guess is that precision isn’t necessary. More on fat-soluble vitamins:

      I haven’t noticed any effects from K2 supplementation — I just take it as a potentially helpful preventative measure (primarily against heart disease, but also for bone strength). Vitamin D very clearly keeps asthma and allergies in check, and I suspect vitamin A boosts testosterone.

      • Did you mention something about K2 improving sleep? Does that still hold true? Once again thanks for making your experiences public, always neat when people do that so other can learn.

        • It could be! I’ve been sleeping really well, but I haven’t done the work to track exactly which supplements affect sleep and how.

          • What about vitamin b5 and b6? do you supplement those for asthma? Check this out:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23642972
            I would imagine pantothenic acid would be important for melatonin and cortisol synthesis, and a subclinical deficiency could throw them out of whack. I have heard it used anecdotally for allergies and asthma, which makes sense as it would raise the body’s natural levels of anti-inflammatory hormones.

            • I did experiment with both B5 and B6, but neither was helpful for asthma (though B6 did seem to reduce histamine and control allergies). Vitamin D and diet change have been successful for me, so I’m no longer experimenting with supplements in regards to asthma and allergies.

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