Kurt G. Harris MD

PāNu means paleonutrition. The "paleo" here signifies "old" and not necessarily paleolithic. The PāNu approach to nutrition is grounded on clinical medicine and basic sciences disciplined by knowledge of evolutionary biology and paleoanthropology. The best evidence from multiple disciplines supports eating a pastoral (animal-based) diet rather than a grain-based agricultural one, while avoiding what I call the neolithic agents of disease - wheat, excess fructose and excess linoleic acid.

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« Interview with Jimmy Moore | Main | Insulinogenic is not Hyperglycemic »

Smoking Candy Cigarettes

Some of you are no doubt too young to remember them.

They came in two forms when I was a kid in the late 60’s. The first was a hard white candy stick the same length as a standard filtered cigarette but just a bit thinner. No particular flavor, unless “sucrose” is a flavor. There was a red, actually pink, smudge painted onto one end to simulate the ember of a real smoke.

The other kind was the one I preferred. It was actually a stick of pink bubblegum. Nude, this faux cancer-stick was not too realistic and certainly did not make you look tough, as it was pink, but if you could resist the urge to chew it right away, the dimensions were closer to a real cigarette and it had a white paper wrapper, the mouthward inch or so embossed with a printed pattern that made it look like a filter.

At least one of these – I know for sure the hard candy ones and I believe the gum ones as well - had a coating of fine confectioner’s sugar that, with a sharp puff outward, you could imagine for about two puffs that you were part of the sophisticated world of those who fit in – the smokers.

After those two puffs, you could become a regular gum-chewing or candy crunching kid, or you could go for another “smoke”.

The idea that a 9 year-old kid feigning a bad habit is more likely to take up the real and very deadly one it is modeled on makes a good libertarian roll his eyes- now what, even candy cigarettes are bad?

But there may be something to the idea. It turns out that no tobacco company has ever sued a candy company for using their brand names on candy cigarettes. It seems obvious that candy companies counted on Junior’s emulation of Dad and Big Tobacco allowed trademark infringement to enable candy companies to socialize the new recruits. 

Does this remind you of anything?

When you go to the birthday party for your neighbor’s kid, and you eat the birthday cake, what message does that send?

You show up looking trim and fit. You pride yourself on being a nice person. You are happy with your progress and pleased if people ask you how you lost weight, maybe more when they seem to look at you funny – a little jealous, maybe even suspicious. After eating this way for a few years, though, you are perhaps most comfortable if no one says anything at all.

You are weary of the reactions -the incredulity, the mockery, the eye-rolling. Pushing 50, you’ve tried pulling up your shirt to point at your gentle washboard, but you’ve learned that the segue to explaining why you are not just cultivating an attractive corpse due to all that arterycloggingsaturatedfat that you live on is tedious and it gets you nowhere.

So, not having been clinically diagnosed as having celiac disease, when the rectangular slab of Hy-Vee or Piggly Wiggly birthday cake – frosted 3/8” thick and a stratum of oily granular sugar running through the middle to boot – is proferred, you say “thank you”, flash a non-Duchenne smile that only a trained psychologist would question, and accept it, holding the flimsy paper plate and plastic fork with both hands to keep it from tumbling onto the ground.

You repair to some corner of the party where you can nibble at the cake, maybe spill a few crumbs, and eventually hide the paper plate, now soggy with vegetable oil absorbed from the corpus of the cake.

Who are the agents of acculturation here?

Even if you are not Philip Morris, are you the candy company?

What do the kids think? Well, they probably think nothing at all. It’s a birthday party after all and presents and sugar buzzes and juice and soda and treats are the sea they swim in.

All the time.

They will have no opportunity to say to you, “How come you don’t want cake?” or to their parents – “how come that skinny man doesn’t eat cake?”.

OK, young children probably wouldn’t notice one way or another, but what if you said, “No, thanks” to the cake offer? What if mom is serving, and asks “Why not?”.

Is there not a small but finite probability that you could give an answer that might lead to a discussion – a discussion that might change someone’s life, even if it’s not the questioner’s.

Maybe an image conscious teenage girl notices an adult male who from the neck down looks fitter than all the boys at her school who don’t play sports, and some of the ones that do. Maybe she hears you talk about your lack of hunger and maybe, being a teenager, after all, she is attracted to the transgressive notions you hint at – carnivory, saturated fat -that obviously horrify her parents.

How can this scenario, however unlikely, ever occur if we all keep pretending that we eat agricultural food like everyone else. Food that is constructed or manufactured instead of killed, food that is not real, food that everyone thinks is just fine for people to eat, as long as it goes easy on the “fat”.

Maybe your response to me is “Hey, lighten up, man. I do my part. I preach paleonutrition and the virtue of real food and animal fats on a selective basis.  I can’t be expected to ruin everyone’s day all the time.”

OK, you wear the Real Food Uniform often enough to do some good. No one expects you to get fired over diet advocacy at the office picnic.

If you nibble the cake to be neighborly, maybe the only damage you’ve done is some minimal aiding and abetting – The minions of Ancel Keys and the harpies of Ornish and Campbell have a little less work to do.

You’ve helped them just a little with your vignette of The Thin and Fit Old Guy Who Proves It’s Fine To Eat a Bunch of Sugar.

But what happens when you go home?

Do you doff the uniform of the Real Food Army and join Keys’ agricultural army reserve? Do you train yourself to crave the manufactured food of the dominant paradigm? Do you make and eat food with the modifier “paleo” in front of it?

Food that is designed to look and taste like signal dishes of 19th and 20th century industrially-inspired and manufactured food?

Paleo pancakes?

Paleo cupcakes?

Try a google search of neolithic treats with the prefix “paleo-” stuck on.

Here’s one:

You can make pancakes without flour? Yes! Recipe from xxxxxxxxx:

1. Beat/Mix:

1-2 eggs

1-2 table spoons of crushed almonds (or nut butter ... no peanut butter though .... peanuts are beans, not nuts)

cinnamon to taste

2. Fry the batter as you would a pancake on greased pan.

3. Top with fresh fruit. I usually heat up frozen mixed berries from Costco. When you heat them up they get all juicy and act as a syrup. I also like to add a little bit of honey even though this is not true paleo because of it's likeness to sugar.

Crushed nuts mixed with eggs? Who thinks this is not just a vehicle for sugar?

“Frozen mixed berries……get all juicy and act as syrup”

You bet they do!

Honey has a likeness to sugar ….well I suppose if likeness means “is”.

Here is another:


Paleo Pancakes Ingredients:

         1 1/2 Cups Pecan Flour (or almond flour)

         1/4 Cup Heavy Cream

         4 Eggs

         1/4 Cup Butter, melted

         1/8 Cup Agave Nectar

         1 tsp. Vanilla

         1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Cook pancakes in a non-stick skillet.

Serve with natural fruit spread or pumpkin butter.


2 tablespoons of Agave nectar would give 18-27 grams of fructose, plus whatever is in the arbitrary quantity of “natural” fruit or sugar-laden pumpkin butter you put on it. A small pack of M&Ms candy has 12 g fructose.

1 ½ cups of almond flour is about 6 or 7 ounces. Almonds are about 17% PUFA, nearly all n-6 linoleic acid, probably well-oxidized after frying in a skillet hot enough to give the “pancake” that golden hue we all like.

That seems like a pretty big oxidized linoleic acid dose to just to manufacture a sugar vehicle.

Does anyone agree that “paleo pancakes” taste like complete shite unless absolutely smothered in hepatotoxic sucrose/ and or butter?

Why not just have 4 eggs fried in butter, cream in your coffee, and a few ounces of unfried almonds?

Why mash it together into a “pancake” if it’s not about the sugar?

If it’s because your kids will scream without a sugar vehicle (we all know 4-year-olds are more physically powerful than crossfitters and are messed with at your peril!), what will your kids do the first morning at University in the breakfast line when there is pile of all-you-can eat pancakes? Will they know there’s wheat flour in place of the ground-up almonds you’ve been conditioning them with?

Would it not be better to train your kids, and yourself, to avoid Neolithic food by the simplest expedient there is? So simple a child could manage it?

Something as simple as a simple rule.

A rule like:

Don’t eat anything that looks like Neolithic food, especially Neolithic food.

What is the point of all this? I just don’t get it, and I don’t think it is because I am just too lazy to make this stuff. 

It’s easy to make fun of commercial junk in a box like “low carb” pasta, zone and atkins bars, etc. All stuff that may be gluten free or have sawdust in place of of high GI starch, but whose real reason for existence is just to appropriate what should properly be freestanding, honest, real food back into the maw of corporate big-agra commercial interests.

How about this:


I am not making this up.  A “Paleo” chocolate cake loaded with Stevia, price $45 US. Note the high-end Barbara Barry tile in the background. I suppose that explains the price.

I am on record as stating that eating anything sweet should be totally avoided if you do not want to have difficulty avoiding sweets. I cannot prove it, but it seems plausible that eating and drinking artificial sweeteners is a physiologic version of “smoking candy cigarettes”. There is likely to be some neuro-hormonal conditioning along with three diet sodas a day. Is there any way a diet soda habit makes it easier to avoid the hyper-ubiquitous sweets we are surrounded by?

I think “cheat days” make just as much sense as a weekly Marlboro red for ex-smokers or lines of coke once in a while after you have left Hazelden. But I admit that is a mere common sense observation, and if it “works” for you to go hyperglycemic or have an extra BM once a week, go for it.

But this “paleo food” thing is bogus. If your food needs a prefix, it is not “paleo” in either the historical or the metabolic sense, and it is, more emphatically, not paleo in the sense that it is helping to keep alive the reigning agricultural paradigm – the one that wants our food to look like agricultural food so that we still crave agricultural food.

Manufacturing simulacra of grandma’s comfort food in your kitchen is either:

1)   Pointless work to make something awful tasting

2)   A veiled excuse to make a sugar vehicle

3)   An unconscious exercise in the service of Ancel Keys’ Neolithic Food Army Reserve. Keep that big-agra-supplied uniform pressed and hanging in the closet, waiting for the call-up. For the day when the paleo-pancake is not doing the trick, and hell, why not have just one real pancake?

If you’re not as evil as the tobacco company or as cynical as the candy company, are you still unconsciously the kid at school sharing cigarette –shaped treats with his playmates at recess?

Are you nurturing the seed of the dominant agriculture-based dietary paradigm, an unconscious conscript in Ancel Keys’ sugar-is-innocent reserve army?

If you are a vector for cultural change, which way is the arrow pointing?

Wear your Real Food Uniform.

Active Duty.

Fly your freak-flag high.

Say no to the cake.


History of childhood candy cigarette use is associated with tobacco smoking by adults.

BMJ article on candy cigarettes

Where to get them

Lustig video on fructose


Top photo by Sally Mann - Candy Cigarette - 1989 - reproduced under fair use doctrine

Reader Comments (103)

Damn! At first I thought this was just a little rant, but you're really making a call to arms here. I agree that constructing substitute foods for the neolithic poison is the wrong approach. If you want to eat cake, don't pretend it's ok because the ingredients are paleo on some level. Face yourself and say: I want cake, but I'm not going to eat it.

I also agree that cheat days just re-hook you on the bad stuff. I used to do a Low-GI Diet with cheat days once a week. I would will-power through the week, buy 50€ worth of candy at a time, and eat nothing but sugar from midnight to midnight on the cheat day. Total bullshit.

Since PaNu I've not only stopped planned cheat days (not perfect ;-) ), but also any kind of diet soda. When I try candy now, it doesn't even taste good.

Unfortunately there definitely is something to the psychological aspect of sweet. Even though I don't enjoy chocolate or ice cream any more, I eat it once or twice a week. It's not even a physical craving, it's like a psychological habit. My mind thinks that eating chocolate is a treat, so it wants to eat chocolate. The actual eating isn't that great and I know it beforehand, but my mind is conditioned to it. This sucks, as I'm self-sabotaging myself this way. I'm stuck at 95kg (lost 19kg on PaNu already) for over a month because I'll cheat myself with the stupid chocolate bars/ice cream, feeling stupid while eating them. My mind goes "What are you fighting, I'll win anyways!" and I give in.

Do you have any tricks or hints as how to out-smart a conditioned mind? I'm pretty sure it's almost entirely psychological, and not a physical craving.

Thanks, and continue the great work,

PS: I'm psyched! Your interview is coming out today on Jimmy Moore's show. The telephone consultation could be awesome, I'd probably get one. Maybe you could put them online as podcasts, so interested people can buy them if they like the topic! Or put them online for free, but give the consulting person 50% off for making it public.


Thanks, Bleicke. I am not perfect myself. When I cheat or succumb, I just do not lie to myself and that is what helps the most. I think failure is always highly likely -we are human, but if we plan for failure it is pretty much guaranteed :)

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBleicke

Wow! I cannot say enough about this post! It is simple, there are really no facts stated (minus the links at bottom), and most likely by the tone of your writing...it came off the top of your head. But it is powerful! The notion of a "cheat meal" being good has literally been stated so much that we believe it to be real. Almost like the lipid hypothesis?

Well done Dr. Harris! Your work is very much appreciated!

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBen Wheeler

In some ways, I consider it a blessing that I'm allergic to nuts and soy... I'm not tempted by the vast majority of the low-carb or "paleo" substitutes.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPK

Candy cigarettes were the best. Remember "Big League Chew"?

Normally when you refuse the cake all you get is ridicule. "Oh, he's on a funny 'diet'... " If they keep prodding at me, I just say look at me. Usually shuts them up.

I had a complete dogshit diet for most of 30 years. I ate pancakes drowning in Mrs Buttersworth's HFCS (sometimes drank straight from the bottle) almost every day for breakfast for about 15 of those years. I love pancakes. I eat paleo pankcakes.

I agree they do have the potential to be a vehicle, but they sometimes satisfy an itch that I can't satisfy otherwise. 24 fried eggs with butter, cheese, sour cream, sausage or anything else you can add to it cannot fill that void (I've tried). If the void isn't filled, I will keep eating until it is! That's usually about 12,000 calories later. Sometimes those end up being junk food calories.

Paleo frankenfoods for everyday diet... NO! Paleo frankenfoods to help a recovering junk-food-junky stay on track... they have a place.

P.S. I admit most of the paleo pancakes suck. Your recipe sucks! ;)

KGH: not mine, actual recipes from other sites.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrok

> If your food needs a prefix, it is not “paleo"

This is so quotable it made me smile.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Great stuff and very timely. The fake foods are a massive problem. However when reading this I kept on thinking of Jimmy Moore. I know he isn;t paleo but I got so frustrated with his reliance on sweeteners and manufactured foods that I gave up looking at his blogs. he was struggling to lose weight, he had regained much weight and I kept telling him just to concentrate on real food but he couldn't give up the sweets. I hope you address this stuff in your interview with JM

The other aspect of this is business - no problem with busienss - but there is more money in sweeteners and products than in simply recommending widely available real food.

Keep on going Kurt.


There are a variety of things I have done for money since age 12 or so as young lad with working class parents. Selling or shilling for stuff I think is a scam is not on the list.

You cannot yet appreciate the irony of your comment about Jimmy. The fact is I had this on my growing list of blog topics since last summer. Jimmy interviewed me in September and I made reference to the "smoking candy cigarettes" idea and said the blog post was imminent. Of course I realized a few days ago I had never got round to posting it and thought I had better get to it.

I am sorry to hear Jimmy has gained some weight back. Anecdotally, I see this commonly among diet-pop drinkers, whatever the mechanism.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I expressed my thoughts on paleo frankenfoods for newbies a while back here (advice #7): http://castlegrok.com/becoming-a-caveperson/

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrok

...fact this piece was worth a donation!

KGH: good grief you were the first to link me, Chris, no need for cash support from supporting bloggers.

Thank You!


January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Fantastic post!

Ask people that have truly given up carbs and they will concur that is among the most difficult thing one can accomplish. I had drug like withdrawals after giving up sugar (mostly mental)...I was that hooked.

Cheat days have always been failure for me...I get hooked on the bad stuff again and eating healthy becomes a chore.


January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRandy

What a timely post, considering the Jimmy Moore podcast is slated to come out tomorrow. I don't want to slam Jimmy too hard, because I believe that the popularity of his show has been of great value to the high fat/ paleo community. If nothing else, he has had many great doctors and bloggers interviewed on his show, and he is getting the word out. After tomorrows show airs, for example, there will be that many more people aware of PaNu, which is awesome. He has a good heart, and I truly hope he loses the weight that he is trying to lose.

Thanks for this post today, it was an excellent read, and an inspiring call to be a good example to our friends, family, and everyone we meet.

Starting tomorrow, I am going to say no to the cake.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevan

On this side of the pond, Dr John Briffa has pointed out the problems with sweeteners. See Losing the taste for sweetness trumps using ‘healthy’ sweeteners, in my book

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNige

I read your post 5 minutes after consuming my first ever batch of experimental paleo pancakes. There is a also a paleo carrot cake in the fridge right now. I really enjoy the challenge to my creativity as a cook to work with a much more limited list of ingredients. Now 3 months into paleo eating, I am still experimenting to find where the (sugar free) sweet spot between best results in terms of health and weight loss and liveability lies.

Before I had even heard about the paleo diet I felt quite strongly that there had to be something wrong with people on low carb diets who seem to live mainly on protein bars and ersatz pasta. I was looking for a way of eating that I could follow forever after experiencing the bitter defeat of regaining hard lost weight so many times. Eating low carb substitutes for high carb food represents the mind set of a diet being a temporary fix. My main motive to look for paleo versions of traditioinal recipes is that I want to be able to offer something to guests that goes beyond meat and vegetables and that I can still partake in. What has really reassured me is that the reuslts of my experiments have been quite palatable but I still feel like I can take them or leave them. The pancakes this morning were pretty good but the leftover meatballs that I topped with a poached egg a few days ago were phenomenal and infinitely more satisfying.

As for the real cake, I would never touch it. For one thing, I'm just not that hungry any more. I can easily skip a meal or even two. I used to compromise on my diets all the time when travelling. Now I carry a supply of nuts in case I get really hungry and wait until I can get some decent food. It is just that much easier for me to look at a donut and a stone as two things that are simply not edible rather than classifying the donut as something you might eat in limited amounts or in certain circumstances. When I cook pasta for my boyfriend I nibble a bit to check that it's cooked and then spit it out. A tiny bit of pasta wouldn't do me any harm but I wouldn't swallow a tiny bit of cardboard just because it's harmless either.

Your blog is a great source of information and inspiration. The image of the candy cigarette will definitely stick with me now.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSunna

Interesting take on this topic, Dr. Harris. I'm curious how my family is going to react to this when I get home in a few months (probably well because of the favorable flavor/satiety features). I'd been considering some Paleo-prefixed dishes (the foodie and father in me wants to be playful and creative), but thinking of them in terms of candy cigarettes does give me pause.

Social situations in the future will be opportunities to have meaningful discussions that don't come off as preachy and extremist...I have thoroughly enjoyed talking the ear off anyone I happen to be eating around about why what's on my plate is there and what it has done for me. Never done with intent to condemn or condescend, of course. Social circle reactions to an honest and reasoned approach to eating are a form of litmus test, as displays of discipline and dedication should be greeted with respect.

Incidentally, my father, a teacher, told me a couple years ago about a young girl whose father was a doctor, and this girl wasn't at all shy about her enthusiasm for healthful eating (which mainly involved sugar avoidance, as I recall). I hope to instill the same in my children, who are 3 and 4 right now. I'm looking forward to talking about our meals, not just scarfing them without an appreciation.

Thank you for the food for thought.


KGH: You are welcome - all I am saying is that we cannot make a new paradigm that reverses the conventional wisdom while perpetuating the old one.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIan Lucas

i'm a teacher and when the birthday cupcake is brought around to me or a snack is offered, i say i eat no sugar whatsoever- i say it to the teachers and the children. it's not such a big deal if you really don't care what people whisper about you and if you have seen the suffering of a family member first hand.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterv

Maybe it's because the people who know me are accustomed to me going my own way and routinely seeming a bit weird in my thinking, but I have found that my dietary and exercise changes over the last two years evokes more interest and curiosity than it does disdain. I also recognize that I have a bit of a bully pulpit because of my job and I probably get the benefit of the doubt where others might not.
The two things they readily acknowledge, and to some degree envy, are the changes in how I look and my near perfect lipid profile. Little by little they ask me questions, make some changes, come back with more questions, and over time they start to talk/eat/behave weirdly like me. And then they think I'm normal.
Thanks as always for your work.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKen Smithmier

This post hits close to home for me. I have 2 children and I am guilty of making them substitute "treats" to try to get some sort of nutrition into them. Left to his own devices, my son would eat Cheerios and milk and sweets all day. In fact, we had an argument this morning re: the chocolate milk he gets from the cafeteria at lunch. I told him to look at the number of grams of sugar in it when he gets it today. I am extremely frustratated as a mother. My daughter (age 8 today) is slightly better, but not much. All of this is complicated by a father who thinks they need to consume more fruit since neither of them like fruit! And you should hear the whining when I insist they eat some meat...

Last night, I was even thinking about the remote possiblity that my son may have some level of gluten intolerance. He has repeatedly been anemic and taken Niferex Elixir to combat the anemia. I think the ONLY way to get this child to change his diet is to have a medical diagnosis that would absolutely preclude eating crap.

Dr. Harris, would gluten intolerance/celiac affect his iron absorbtion?

By the way, I am in full agreement with everyone who has posted positive messages re: this blog. The check (albeit small) will be in the mail TODAY.

KGH: It certainly could as anemia is common with celiac disease- buy this book:


Your story is one I hear nearly every day, especially the part about the husband (sorry guys, it is most often the husband) working at cross-puposes to the more interested mother.

You must turn to your fierce inner she-wolf and do what is right to train your young cubs.

It can be done! One of my first patients, a lady with an autoimmune disorder, has a 10 year-old son who now warns other kids at school about sugar and wheat.

Kids want to emulate their parents and will eventually do so if you let them- and of course both parents must be on board.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMNS

Did you go to a birthday party this weekend? Surrounded by fat adults eating cake and complaining about how they can't lose weight? That's what I pictured the whole time.

My question is: How do you celebrate in your own home? Do you have kids? And do they get cake for their birthdays? With 8 people in my family, there's a fair amount of cake over the year. 3 in January.


My wife says regarding the SAD: Every day is special ;)

Is there not a birthday, holiday, special occasion, etc. for someone to help to celebrate almost every day?

Have you ever been to Italy? There is a religious holiday about once a week if you count all the regional ones.

Do adults need to drink liquor or take drugs on their birthday? Do kids have to be fed hepatotoxic fructose on theirs?

Try a "milkshake" of half and half mixed with coconut milk as a treat for your kids, or paleo ice cream -the one thing that is OK becuase it does not even need the paleo modifier.

Electric ice cream maker, 2 cups whole cream, dash of vanilla, 2-3 egg yolks, 10-15 g sucrose - will feed four kids and they will love it - my niece and nephew eat it until they are full, which does not take more than one serving.

My wife made me a "paleo carrot cake" one birthday and it tasted just OK. I ate three pieces over 24 hours and got diarrhea - probably the 2 cups of rice flour in were too much for my VLC system.

We did have something good on the grill as I recall - that was excellent

I am a bit strange, though. I drink maybe a glass of wine a week and I haven't celebrated my birthday with alcohol for decades.

Alcohol is a whole 'nother kettle of cultural fish, maybe some other time I'll talk about that.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Thanks for a laugh. I am that guy who hasn't had a piece of his own birthday cake in 15 years or so, and have been explaining why not for just as long. I had my 40th this pat October, after refusing a piece of my own 40th B-day cake, and catching Hell for it. Someone said "You look like you're in your late 20's. What's your secret?" I said "I don't eat cake". I saw a few half-eaten plates of cake after the party.

Anyway, just remember that of all the people you will ever meet, half of them fall to the left of the mean on a Bell curve of intelligence. "Paleo" is just a label to assist those "lefties" in understanding. Too bad some people are trying to cash in on what was a good idea.

KGH: I love it!

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe other Kurt

Frankenfoods definitely were my downfall on my paleo transition. The funny thing is that I never thought I craved sugar before, but after I started eats whole foods consisting of mostly fruits and meat I couldn't get enough of it. I blame it on trying to "paleo-ize" all the modern foods.

"Sugar-dependent rats show enhanced responding for sugar after abstinence: Evidence of a sugar deprivation effect" is a study on www.sciencedirect.com about how rats show drug-like dependancy for sugar and increased consumption when it is removed and then offered again in their diets. I think that proves that planned cheat days really just cheat your health.

The abstract can be found here

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJacob Alstadt

While I agree with your points on the fake food (just have a smaller serving of the real stuff, which often tastes better!); I think you're drawing the line a bit too hard on the "sugar vehicles".

For someone without weight issues/diabetes, who works out regularly, what is wrong with making e.g. a fake pancake based on almond flour, eggs, cream and then top it with berries or (*gasp*) a teaspoon of "natural" jam, for desert?

Sugar does taste good, and I have no problem admitting that. The situation would be problematic if you have a sugar addiction, where eating anything sweet will cause binge eating. But if you eat correctly 95% of the time -- what wrong does it do, really? Especially in the context of intermittent fasting, which further improves glucose tolerance.

KGH: Well, I have tried hard to say what I think is wrong with it - a cigarette a week won't kill you either but as a cultural practice helps keep alive an unhealthy paradigm in others and yourself.

I don't think I said in the essay sucrose should never be consumed. If you want it, just like the cigarette you can just eat it and be honest about it- you don't need faux neolithic dishes to eat sucrose, do you?

No one has to do anything. Everyone is free to make their own choices.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMikael Jansson

If I'm going to have sweets, then I'm going to have something good-like cheesecake. Not a crappy candy bar or some disguised paleo cake. To me, a quality (for what that is worth) sweet item still tastes good, But I don't crave it all day long every day after that (maybe that's just me?). I make it a point to turn down offers of sweet/sugary/carb food when it is offered. This has worked for me and most people don't mind the explanation "sugar makes me sick" (even though I'm talking about years down the road). I think turning down food offers and "counter" food (donuts and such at work) is fun-yes, you get some funny looks and the occasional "health nut" comment by those who are always complaining about how bad they feel and how much they hurt, but so what. Maybe someday they will connect the dots. But, I usually do not offer any info beyond that-most people simply don't want to hear it. Funny!

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

Divorced dad with 4 kids......mom makes me out to be a "health freak" cuz I don't eat the birthday cake or the halloween candy........the good news......kids are curious and asking questions.
I love this post.
Thank you again for your time and this blog!! Paypal donation coming tomorrow when I'm on my home computer. Put up your link on my blog also. Sorry for the delay in that,
Thank you again,

KGH: Thanks, Marc!

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

...wow.... Kurt... you have summarized and expanded my personal feelings. I have discouraged artificial sweeteners and "primal cakes" ...but as I work with people they beg for more variety.

I must admit that while I avoid it myself... I have been providing people with the locations of such recipes...NO MAS!

I applaud and thank you for your blog and in particular this Tour de Force!


KGH: Thanks, Steve

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Cooksey

Kurt - wholeheartedly agree. My personal experience has been that seeking proxies for non-paleo foods via culinary alchemy merely erodes my self-control and hinders the development of the mindset necessary to be strictly paleo.

I've been guilty of posting one or two recipes for such things, but the truth is the only time I ever use them is when I am 'sort of' cheating. These simulated non-paleo foods appears to trigger almost the same levels of gluttony in me as genuine non-paleo food. This is very telling.

Pure genius. Although avoidance of neolithic agents grains, PUFAS and fructose should impose a "problem" in a society drowned in them, I find myself often being labeled as obsessive about food.

While I take it as a complement in the context, I do think that in a way; this couldn't be further from the truth.

Infact, I don't think i have ever thought about consumption of food less then I do now. Satiating, tasty, simplistic healthy food 2-3 times a day; and then I get on with life. If I miss a meal or if no good options are available, I can have confidence that I will function just fine no matter if the next meal is 1, 3 or 10 hours away. That has never been the case before. No need for emergency, expensive, time-consuming snacks/meals just to survive the day.

While some argue that one piece of cake won't kill you, the same argument could really be made for a fraction of mercury added to the water at that same birthday-party because it's a tradition to do that on birthdays. (You would probably have to look long and hard to find water as beverage the ways things are today though.)
Although the amount would be minuscule, and you could argue that there wouldn't be significant if intermittent in the whole scheme of things yadayadayada, from a principle standpoint; no one would argue that the latter is even remotely acceptable, even accounting for it's "traditional-value".

The value of standing by your principles should never be underestimated.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercust

Damn doc, you sure as hell can write.

I remember those gum cigarettes during my childhood. We used to "smoke" 'em in front of our teachers and they couldn't technically do anything to us, haha.

I get the anti-social stares all the time when I rejected someone's cake at the beginning of embarking a paleo-based diet. But after 1 year and losing 50 lbs and looking 15 years younger and good lipid profiles to boot, my friends gave me a huge juicy grass-fed medium rare tenderloin steak with half a block of organic butter on it and a candle stuck into the butter.

I guess they can't argue with the evidence of health.

Thanks for your time and willingness to save the world.

Adam from Singapore

KGH: Thanks Adam!

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

my biggest problem with eating low-carb/paleo is my non-stop craving for sweets.
i have no problem avoiding bread, cake and pasta, its the extreme urge for something sweet right after i finish a mean even through im totally full and satiated.

the same goes for feeling perfectly fine until someone starts passing around a sweet plate at work, i turn into a crack addict and cant just say no, nor can i stop at one.

i had an easier time quitting smoking , ditching wheat products and adusting to intermittant fasting than i have quitting the post meal sugar binge...

KGH: I still crave sweets, too, but never wheat. I actually think fructose/sweet flavors is more addictive than nicotine.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercoba

Based on my experiment of one, I have discovered that substituting sugar with stevia does not make me crave sweets or other high carb foods.

I am 62 years old and for the first 55 of those years I ate the common American diet high in sugar & carbs.

About 6 or 7 years ago I made the decision to cut way back on carbs after reading about the effects of insulin. I've virtually eliminated high carb foods from my diet. Most of my carbs come from the daily salad I eat.

I've been using stevia to sweeten my green tea ever since. I don't eat, nor do I have any cravings, for any other "sweets" or high carb foods.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterT.O.

Genius Kurt. I wanted to tell you a couple of ways that you reach me. I have had the same thoughts on eating "candy cigarettes", in my mind though "frankenfoods" and you put it into words and expand on it. I haven't had too much difficulty refusing these neolithic "treats" at work by saying "I don't think I could come up with enough insulin to eat that" or "if I eat that, I will start on a 3 or 4 day binge, buying birthday cakes on the way home from work..."

I also appreciate some of the very scientific explanations in your posts. I am a medical lab technologist in a hospital biochemistry lab so I can understand and appreciate the information.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMrs.K

Although I agree we should walk our talk AND talk our talk, the complexity of diet and nutrition (as well as all the bullshit out there on these topics) makes this a tough call. You DO need to know something about the people you are preaching to in order to approach them correctly. I have done some version of "paleo" for over 10 years and have done my share of proselytizing, but sometimes it comes back to hit you in the face:

- people who listen, but misinterpret and go around claiming you can eat as much fat as you want, while conveniently forgetting the part about carbs
- people who translate the concept into a low fat version because they cannot let go of fat = bad
- people who understand, try it, but cannot pull through due to lack of motivation and end up even more disillusioned with nutritional advice

Most people I talk to have just a vague memory from high school biology what a carbohydrate is, let alone what it does to insulin.

On a positive note: we can now (finally!) simply point the interested to this blog, instead of saying "Cordain, but dairy and high fat" or "Weston Price, but no grains". Here I agree with every tenet, the complexity issue is dealt with effectively and the whole "So what do I do?" is there in 12 steps. Now I just need your blog in German!

KGH: Maybe you can translate it! Some of your points are excellent and will be discussed in an upcoming post.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Boy, you have no idea how timely this posting is!

Over the past 10 months of eating "paleo", I have had a great deal of fun coming up with "paleo substitutes" for various deserts. I have come up with "legal" versions of ice cream, pie crust, chocolates, cakes, cookies, breadings, and pancakes that are virtually indistinguishable from the "real thing" (and in most cases BETTER). I have been thinking of them as vehicles for good fats (COPIOUS amounts of cream, coconut oil, and butter) rather than vehicles for sugar (in my case, raw honey), as the amount of honey used per recipe is really quite miniscule. Those on the SAD are not especially crazy about my "deserts" as they are unable to taste the "sweet" with their damaged taste buds, when I, on the other hand, find them perfect.

Thank you for reminding me that high n-6 nut flours oxidize when heated, something I should have known, but hadn't really thought about.

Why is this timely? Because, lately, I have been going a bit overboard with my experimenting and as such, have made these treats a staple again, not because of my craving them, but rather because I get an idea and want to act on it immediately, and then I tinker. As a result, I have regained a couple of pounds (3).

I don't want desert to be a staple, but rather an occasional treat, because.... "all seriousness and no fun make Jenny a dull girl". I eat absolutely no fruit, so the occasional dose of fructose via honey (bundled in a ton of fat) won't kill me.

KGH: I treat myself occasionally with actual fruit - a handful of blueberries with vanilla flavored sugarless whipped cream on top.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny Light

Food has been designed to be hyper-palatable. The analogy you are crafting is documented well in this book:


Even just the video on the Amazon site sums it up. You can see that near the end he likens it all to tobacco.

That book is what started me on cutting sugars and other hyper-palatable foods, and why I found this blog most interesting when someone pointed it out to me.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllTooHuman

well, guilty as charged, i make, and eat grain-free, lower-sugar 'treats'. i have 4 kids and they do get gluten-free cookies sometimes and the like. we as a family certainly, overall, eat wayyyy less sugar, no gluten for me and baby, and much less crap then the SAD eaters. i feel good about this. perfect? nope. but pretty darn good that my kids like homemade chicken fingers dipped in almond flour and egg then lovingly crisped in coconut oil. or in their lunchbox they will eat wholemilk yogurt with 1/2 tsp sweetener. have youlooked at organic yogurt cups alla stoneyfield? over 24 grams sugar per 6oz cup!!! life isntideal though, andmykids refuse completelyplain yogurt. i do feel good that my baby's favorite snacks at age 14 months arent "whole grain containing ritz" or"goldfish", instead she eats Stilton cheese, frozen blackberries, unsweetened greek yogurt, chuncks of local grass-fed butter, ect.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremily

Timely post. Matt Stone just posted a link to a youtube video by Robert Lustig "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM). I wish we had speakers like that come to our institution...

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I love the term "sugar-vehicle" and will be sure to use it with my kids. For me, toast/pancakes/muffins are a "butter-vehicle".

You are absolutely right. Kids learn by example, and their tastes are developed very early on by the choices parents make about food. I don't buy juice anymore. They know why, and have gotten used to drinking water or milk if they're thirsty. But we still have a long way to go.

The hubby is resistant. Some things are very ingrained, and he's not the one reading about food/nutrition. He still has the crazy notion that cream and butter gasp will make him fat, and eyes me with suspicion. But he eats about half a loaf of (sourdough, rye) bread a day, and loves his beer.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKD

Wow, you're hardcore!

I like it.

If you indulge in cheat days or creating something to be like a neolithic food, you brand paleolithic food as something you don't really want, and just put up with as much as you can.

I stopped doing the paleo prefix foods a while back, and now I have more time to buy and eat real food. And live.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave, RN

The BMJ link is broken.

Great blog, I just added it to my daily reading list.
I really appreciate all the effort.

KGH: Fixed it - thanks

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKiran

That social eating comment hits home today with me. I'm going to my other in laws this weekend, and my wife is wondering what I'm going to eat. It's my mil's 85th birthday, and she wants lasagna... They know that I eat "different" but I expect it to be met with some ridicule or headshaking. To give you an idea, they live on 50 acres and raise there own grassfed cattle, no hormones etc. And they don't even eat it. They just sell the cattle to the butcher shop. They buy meat at the store because it's cheaper.
They're kind of old-fashioned, and although I think the Mom in Law will "get it" since she was raised on that cattle and the raw milk it provided, the rest of them... not so much. And one the my nieces is a vegetarian to boot.
It's going to be a rough weekend. And whats worse is that in their old Polish culture, food is everything, and if you turn it down, you've offended them, or they wonder what's wrong with you.
I'm dreading it to a degree. Everything they eat, I don't. Fortunately if they want to fight about it, I could take any of them, since going paleo I've gained muscle mass and about tripled my functional strength. :) Gotta look on the bright side!

KGH: Like Chuck D says, Fight The Power.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave, RN

I started eating low carb 1 year ago (long-time diabetic). Though not a diabetic, my wife eats as I do. My Mom was a great baker, and while growing up, we had homemade desserts every day! My wife is also a great baker and has won the Southern Living Magazine cooking competition for cookies. So over the last 25 years, we have had our share of low carb desserts made with sugar substitutes. The taste of eggs turns my stomach, but if I can't taste them I'm fine. So the only way I have eggs for breakfast is for my wife to make a quiche without a crust, which is very tasty and filling. So to come up with something I could eat for breakfast when we started, she baked biscuits made of (basically) almond flour, coconut oil and egg whites - no sweetener. She made cheesecakes with no crust sweetened with liquid splenda or things with ground up nuts and portions of Lindt 85% chocolate bars. Eventually, I came to the point where I almost never eat any of these things. However, they were good! They were not substitutes for real cheescake, etc. And I did find them helpful in transitioning to healthier eating. My wife eats these more often than I do and, sometimes when she makes something I will eat a piece, but rarely. I do think that eating sweets, even artificially sweet things, can make this more difficult and that the kind of carbs one allows oneself is as important as how much of them one eats.

I'm not sure why I wrote all this! I just wanted to say that a low carb sweet that is good enough to stand on its own was helpful to me when I started this (given my eating history).

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Damn good post!

As the other Kurt suggested with his Bell curve, most people are followers. It didn't take many liars like Keyes and fools like Campbell to influence an ignorant politition (a redundancy?) like McGovern and lead the nation to disaster.
As a friend of mine once said, "When you're advancing yourself the others will follow along - but if you hunker down and get comfortable the advance stops."

For our own sakes as well as those around us we should seem as well as be real foodists.

Thanks again, Kurt.


January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjerome

I can't argue with statists or vegetarians, at least if they're relative strangers. It makes me so angry and upset, it's not worth the rise in blood pressure. And with 95% of the population being statists, when I encounter the statist vegetarian, I just can't bear to be in the same room.

I have no desire for sugar. To be clear, I want it, but I know it will not make me happy if I "indulge". I will in fact feel sick afterward, perhaps because of downregulated frucktokinase? That, and desserts are just too sweet now. So it's an easier pass. With pizza and bread, I struggle more because I don't have any noticeable symptoms from eating it (besides weight gain). I have to believe that I'm interpreting the science correctly that it's bad for my insides.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterzach

This post reminded me of what happened on my last birthday.

I had decided that I was going to "cheat" for my birthday and headed down to the grocery store. I had told myself that whatever I wanted I was going to buy and eat to celebrate. So I am in the store checking out the pizza (use to be a favorite food), had one in the cart,then I thought, I might as well check out the meat see what was on sale. There is was in all it's divine glory, a 2.5 inch top sirloin at $3.49 a pound! I looked at the pizza $8.00 for 12 oz! Needless to say I went home with the steak.

I am always amazed when people say that L/C paleo is too expensive. I don't think people look very closely at what they are paying per pound for the Neo-food.

KGH: I totally agree.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterketojim

I made some Paleo Mayo (with olive oil, egg, and mustard only) and it has been a nice addition to my hard boiled eggs or tuna but I think you are talking more about baked goods.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

WOW! (That seems to be a recurrent precursor to today's comments is it not?!)

At first read, I was in agreement. "Yes, yes, those naughty candy cigarettes"....And then, I realized that you were talking about me. "Whaaaaa? You think whaaaa??? But, but, but....." And then I realized you were right.

I call this your 'Tough Love' post. First I thought you were preachy. Then, I thought you were arrogant. Then I just realized I was in denial and absolutely (unnecessarily) defensive. Much like an addict, no??? Hmm....But I digress...

You gave it to me straight, like Franklin Covey's "7 Habits for Highly Successful People". I need to stop whining about my sugar addiction and stop my 'cheats' and stop my 'but I can just have a little' justification statements.

I've been struggling with this for some time and will continue to struggle, I'm sure, but if I do not take hold and claim my defeat of such a controlling psychological issue, I fear all my efforts will continue to stall.

You are correct, all of my preaching and proclaiming of my new 'health' by eating this way is null and void if I continue to give in to occasional binges and food-masking (ie Almond flour banana bread with Xylitol, Stevia and whatever else sweetener I choose to use).

I should no longer enable my own bad behavior, which will lead to enabling the same bad behavior in my children and I need to print this article out and read it every time I try to 'convince' myself otherwise.

Thank you.

~ Ingrid

KGH: I still struggle with sweet cravings as well. You are not alone.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIngrid

If you still struggle with sweet cravings, even after all these years, what could explain that? Why would a healthy animal "crave" a toxin?

BTW: That little girl in the photo is breathtaking. I wonder what she looks like "all growed up."


I've only eaten this way for 2.5 years. I think a taste for sugar is biological. You will never lose it completely, you can only attenuate the urge with avoidance and deconditioning.

I am arguing to add psychological conditioning to your kitbag.

The availability of fructose in the SAD is totally unnatural and we are not evolved to deal with it.

The little girl is the photographer's daughter and it is just a candy cigarette.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Dr. Harris,

First time poster (on any blog-a-thingy), LONG time lurker. Retired Army now Human Movement Coach, I have been eating Paleo, PaNu, Ancestral, whatever the term for nearly 17 years. I've done my best to stay with my eating habits through my service, in the face of acculturation, and in the pre-interweb-knowledge everywhere-online, world.

As exercise science slowly (and now more quickly) moves towards becoming a part of the health care field, and holding my position of Coach, I have seen the effects of the above mentioned way of eating over and over. I have read your blog since the beginning, and I'm not sure what your personal timeline incorporating the PaNu menu into your life, against the timeline of the blog is, but you sound like someone who has "seen the light." Once there, everyone else is now weirder than you were (perception) when you started. It's a fantastic thing when one is "freed" from all of the binds of the SAD. Over time, on the new WOE, one continues to change at the cellular level. This, I believe, transfers, in a positive way, over to personality, mental stability, and other "intangible" elements. Physical change is much easier to observe; mental change, however subtle, is obvious as well.

If you are choosing to eat the cake at a birthday party, then you have simply not gone through the cellular changes that support the mental change that makes one realize, that there is no choice. Moreover, the same lack of change which has one having to resist the cake at all, also led to the lifestyle choice that put one in that situation in the first place. I've seen divorce, relocation, career change, social group change, and other major physical lifestyles changes as a result of eating properly for extended time periods.

Great blog! Thanks for part of my education.


KGH: Neurobiology is as much an effect of behavior as a cause. When you practice anything, you are changing neurons and they way they connect in your brain. Practicing eating neolithic food cannot avoid increasing your possibility of actually eating it. Like sports visualization in reverse.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAl

In my experience if these foods can help people ease into the diet, I'm all for them. In the end it's pretty easy to get off them because all those nut and coconut flours...well, let's just say they don't digest well for most people in my experience. They are basically tons of indigestible fiber. And if anyone is using Cron O Meter or other nutrition tracking tools, they'll quickly find that they mess up EVERYTHING from omega-3:omega-6 ratio to total carbs. I did eat these sort of things though and still managed to reset my taste buds to be adverse to sweet, though it took a year or so. A friend recently served Coconut Bliss to me and it tasted like OMGTOOMUCHSUGAR.

I noticed the girl in the Washington Post article was eating lots of these things. The NYC paleoers tend to have been doing it pretty long and none of our gatherings feature paleo cupcakes. Birthdays? We stick a candle in steak.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Re gluten sensitvity:
This Doctors site is great- Dr Rodney Ford he has a list of tests that you can get. His testing shows without doubt that 1 in 10 are sensitive to gluten and should cut it our of their diets. He is a pediatric gastroenterologist and allergy specialist.

His books on gluten are an easy and very instructive read.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulianne

What is really interesting is the whole concept of 'cheat days'. I think you have touched on something that resonates with many people. I have been eating great lately, feeling good, losing weight, lots of energy (waking up before the 5:30 alarm) but as today is my birthday my wife took me out to lunch and as I struggled through the menu to tease out something reasonable to eat I was coaxed by her that, "it's okay to a have a cheat day, it's your birthday" and ended up eating a big, white bread sandwich and a gigantic chocolate chip cookie (skipped the chips as they don't do much for me anymore). "You're going to have cake tonight anyway, right?" So now I feel kind of lousy, and yet still feel obligated to eat the cake she so lovingly prepared for me. I'm very frustrated!

I think this idea that we should celebrate birthdays and holidays with giant meals and sweets galore is really self-serving to those people who want to eat that way. In other words, the people who want to have a big bowl of pasta, a soda and a piece of birthday cake NEED you to do it along with them. They have a subtle, vested interest in having you reassure them that the way they are eating is okay. If you say ,"no", they see it as an indictment of the way they eat and try to entice you back to the dark side with them.

It's time for me to take a stand personally to get rid of 'cheat days' and with my spouse to understand that she is ultimately undermining my health.

KGH: Spot on - now for the real challenge - taking control of food choices away from the most powerful entity on earth - toddlers!

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I'm sorry if someone has posted about it, but is there any alternatives to the use of Agave nectar? This stuff is just nasty.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChuck O

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