Since there were so many comments and questions about the anti Supersize Me movie that MD and I were interviewed for and that I posted about last week, I asked the filmmaker, Tom Naughton, if he would write up a brief of what he is trying to do with the movie. He agreed. Here is his overview of his film and his own weight loss efforts.

Well, it’s interesting to see how emotional people can become when you mention the word “McDonald’s.” For my next film I may tackle something less controversial, such as the Iraq war or school prayer.

Several posters asked what direction this film will take. Like “Super Size Me,” my film will be a humorous documentary. Spurlock’s film was definitely amusing and well-constructed. Unfortunately, I believe he gave the audience a lot of misleading information along with the laughs. I plan to give my audience good information along with the laughs. I believe some of the laughs will be Super-Sized.

This film will NOT portray McDonald’s food as health food. It isn’t. (I also ate at other fast-food restaurants during my month-long diet, but mostly McDonald’s.) But because of changes in the American lifestyle, people are going to eat at fast-food restaurants, like it or not. So part of my goal in this movie is to show how a person can eat fast food without getting fat and suffering other health consequences.

I haven’t made final decisions on exactly which scenes to include, but I can certainly describe the highlights, in no particular order:

1. My diet history. I tried vegetarianism, Fit for Life, Pritikin — all colossal failures. But I’ve had success with The Zone, Protein Power, Atkins — all low-carb diets to some degree.

2. My fast-food diet plan: based on my diet history, I aimed for about 2000 calories and reasonably low carbs (about 100 per day, as it turns out … not really low, but hardly high.)

3. Spurlock Nonsense. If he followed his own self-proclaimed “rules,” he could not have consumed 5,000 calories per day; I’ve done the math. He won’t release his food log, despite numerous requests from journalists, and I’m convinced it’s because that log would reveal him as a fraud. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recall that between weeks three and four, he actually lost a pound, then managed to gain tremendously in the final week. His food log would likely show that he stuffed himself mercilessly to ensure that his final weight gain would be impressive. He wanted the audience to believe that there’s something especially fattening about fast food, as opposed to any other sugary/starchy food. As someone who once got fat on Grape Nuts and whole-grain pasta, I disagree.

4. How fat are we, anyway? There is, as Dr. Eric Oliver from the University of Chicago explains, no real obesity “epidemic.” Since 1970, Americans have become an average of 9 pounds heavier — we’ve also become an average of 9 years older. During this same timespan, the CDC lowered the definition of “overweight,” and bingo, 50 million Americans became overweight or obese overnight. Do we have a problem? Definitely … just look at the increase in Type II diabetes. But it’s not an epidemic. You can’t catch obesity or diabetes from the guy next to you. Government agencies exaggerate (and flat-out lie at times) because it helps them get bigger funding.

5. It’s not being fat that kills you, it’s the behaviors that make you fat. Many “fat” people are quite healthy. As Dr. Eades can tell you, thin people become diabetic and die of heart attacks, too. Before my fast-food diet, my doctor said my cholesterol profile was very good, my triglycerides (70) were excellent, he complimented my strength and muscle tone, and was pleased to hear that I walk at least 15 miles per week in the hills near my home — but at a BMI of 31, I’m “obese” and automatically deemed unhealthy.

6. More Spurlock Nonsense. I was particularly annoyed by Spurlock’s obvious belief that people consume fast food because they’re addicted, ignorant, or both. For someone who declared himself addicted, he somehow managed to quit the stuff cold-turkey and go back to his girlfriend’s wacky vegan diet without much effort. After eating at McDonald’s every day for a month, I didn’t set foot in the place for three weeks. If this is an addiction, it’s sure easy to break.

The idea that people consume fast food because they’re ignorant is nothing more than class snobbery wearing a mask of concern. Contrary to what many people think, poor people are not ignorant about the nutritional quality of fast food. (Professor Oliver looked into that very topic, among others.) There is, however, much more social pressure to be thin among the upper classes; poor people are more likely to have an attitude of “I’m fat, and I don’t care.” And if you happen to value immediate pleasure more than long-term health, that’s your choice.

I’ve conducted street interviews with dozens of people about fast food, and guess
what? Every single one of them knows McDonald’s is selling fattening food. (And most of them eat it anyway.) Many of them could guess the calorie count of a Quarter Pounder, large fries and large Coke within 200 calories. Those who couldn’t usually guessed high, not low.

7. The saturated fat / cholesterol / heart disease myth. This is the subject that led me to Dr. Eades. If ignorance is a driving force behind our health problems, it’s ignorance that’s been promoted by the USDA and other federal agencies that harp on us to cut the fat and eat more grains. Thanks to them, women will buy a Weight Watchers “Smart Ones” dinner — only one gram of fat!! — and think it’s a good choice, despite the 40 or 50 carbohydrates. Before I knew better, I used to get pancakes for breakfast at McDonald’s and skip the butter — only two grams of fat in pancakes!! The USDA would’ve approved.

8. The Lowfat Religion. Brought to you largely by the McGovern committee, which cheerfully ignored the testimony it didn’t like and swallowed the advice of the low-fat advocates. McGovern was on the Pritikin diet at the time — but couldn’t stay on it. (Being a true politician, he nonetheless told the rest of us to do what he says, not what he does.) Dr. Eades, Dr. Mary Dan Eades, and others will explain how the low-fat, high-carb diet is ineffective at best and dangerous at worst.

9. The Food Police. Once the Lowfat Religion took hold, the evangelists soon followed: groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest — almost always identified in news stories as a “consumer advocacy group.” A more accurate description would be “a vegetarian activist group posing as scientists.” Their self-righteousness would be annoying even if their advice had merit, but it doesn’t: They have played a large role in pushing natural animal fats out of the diet. They declared trans fats to be safe and harassed McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants into switching to trans fats from beef tallow and palm oil. (Now, of course, they’re suing restaurants for using trans fats.)

10. Exercise. One of the reasons I was impressed with Dr. Eades’ books is that he doesn’t offer any pie-in-the-sky (or sausage-in-the-sky) promises that you can eat like a maniac, sit on your butt all day, and still lose weight; in fact, he states specifically that to lose weight, you must create a deficit between calories burned and calories consumed. That deficit is largely missing from American society today. We have engineered effort out of our lives. At my local mall, I see people drive around for 15 minutes until they can score a parking spot near the door. In addition to misinformed food choices, that’s why we’re getting fatter.

11. My results. When my doctor saw that I had consumed an average of 120 grams of fat per day (49 saturated), he told me I’d been on a “widow-maker” diet. He said, “Well, let’s see what kind of damage you’ve done here.” Then he measured the results: I lost 12 pounds. My body-fat percentage dropped four points. Triglyerides stood at 83. Blood pressure stayed the same. Cholesterol, a slight dip from 230 to 220, although my HDL had gone down to 48 from 60 — but even the doctor admitted that could be because I had given up my evening glass of red wine during the diet. When he reviewed all the results, he said, “I don’t think I like what you’re proving here.”

12. My next diet. Because the saturated fat / cholesterol issue is so controversial, I spent another month on a no-starch, no-sugar diet that was essentially a saturated-fat pigout: lots of double-cheeseburgers without buns, polish sausages, bacon, eggs, butter, cheese, cream, marbled steaks, coconut oil, etc. The results? My total cholesterol dropped to 209, my HDL went back up to 64, LDL dropped to 130, and my triglycerides dropped to 75. I also lost a couple of pounds, despite the high calorie content, and my body fat dropped another point.

Those are the highlights. I realize my descriptions don’t sound funny, but trust me; in addition to my background in journalism, I’ve been a standup comic for over a decade, and there will be plenty of laughs in this film.

I know some of you reading this will be disappointed that I’m not out to beat up on McDonald’s, but in my view, their popularity is a result of our food choices, not the cause of them. Like Dr. Eades (and we didn’t discuss this previously), I don’t believe individual freedom and corporate responsibility are in opposition. McDonald’s doesn’t have any more of a “corporate responsibility” to sell me health food than Ben & Jerry’s does. If McDonald’s wants to spend their own money on ads that encourage me to eat starch and sugar, that doesn’t bother me — I can say no (and usually do). But when groups like CSPI want to use the tax code to force me to pay more for cheeseburgers so they can use the money to tell me to eat more whole grains, that definitely bothers me.

Ultimately, I’m responsible for making choices about my own health and my children’s health. I hope this film will give a few people the tools to make better choices of their own.

Tom Naughton


  1. It’s worth noting that the basic premise that super-sizing is generically bad is also wrong.
    Not only can you engage in a healthy weight-loss sort of diet at fast food restaurants, but even more important is the simple fact that plenty of people do not NEED to closely watch their intake.
    There are still many people who burn a great many calories per day, through high metabolism and/or heavy exercise. There are plenty of people who do not need to watch their salt intake, because not only are they not suffering from high blood pressure, but salt intake only obviously effects a percentage of people, anyway. Many have blood pressure not effected long-term by changes in salt. Salt, even way more than you need, is not automatically bad for you. Hell, it’s one of the most important nutrients. Anyone suckered into the “drink N glasses of water every day” myth, who also tries to cut all salt out of their diet because they think salt’s unhealthy, is in danger of overhydration, which is in fact a deficit of salt.
    It’s absolutely pathetic that when I, who am in very good condition for my age and am naturally mesomorphic anyway, find myself unable to order some extreme size at many fast food places, because of that nitwit’s perpetuation of European myths about “too much good stuff”.
    That’s where a lot of this comes from; in countries with less economic freedom, you have thinner people because you have less /access/ to things. Better that a society have to struggle with moderation than have to struggle for enough in the first place…but if you’re a European bureaucrat, of course, you’re going to justify your burden on society by condemning cultures which have more than your own.
    They’re decadent, unhealthy, blah blah blah.

    Words of the Sentient:
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  2. I put the word horses in my blogsearch and got this blog.
    Interesting as I am an author/screenwriter who got overweight for medical reasons and took 7 year to get shot of 15 stone!
    Nice blog. Please do cme and visit mine. Comments always welcome hav fun, Linda
    Hi Linda–
    Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
    You reminded me that I had neglected to put the apostrophe in horses making it the possessive.

  3. I have nothing to add but a hearty THANK YOU to both Tom Naughton and the Dr.’s Eades for spreading the truth! I’ve lost 95 pounds, kept it off for 4 years and I’m stronger and healthier at 43 than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m so tired of the junk that passes for science especially in the area of nutrition. I have two children and I have to fight what they learn in school and from the mass media about health and nutrition.
    I look forward to this movie!
    Hi Kristn–
    Thanks from both Tom and me for the kind words. We’re trying hard to spread the low-carb gospel.
    And congratulations on your own success; I know you worked hard to achieve it. Now you’re reaping the rewards.

  4. I hope the film will be received with the same enthusiasm as “Supersize Me” was. I do have a comment on the particular issue of exercise. While I agree with Mike and Mary Dan that it is important to create a caloric deficit to lose weight, I don’t agree that exercise is the only way to do it. There is proof of that elsewhere where studies looking at increased protein intake have evaluated weight loss as an outcome, even in the absence of regular exercise.
    Perhaps the next big concept to change is ‘calories’. As Mr. Naughton experienced himself, his caloric intake was far from being on the side of ‘deficit’, yet he lost weight. Or maybe I missed something and he did continue with his exercise, albeit moderate. In an interview with Stephen Phinney, Eric Westman and Jay Wortman (interview conducted by Shelley Schlender), it was interesting to hear Dr. Westman talk about people that he’s studying that lose quite a bit of weight on a low-carbohydrate diet without exercising.
    While I agree that exercise combined with a low-carbohydrate diet (particularly if protein intake is not neglected) has synergistic effect on weight loss, I’m convinced that there are alternative ways to increase our metabolic rate without engaging in vigorous or even moderate exercise. In fact, in my opinion, when somebody is extremely overweight (not based on BMI but actual fat percentage), it may even be detrimental to engage him/her on vigorous exercise, at least in the way it’s normally recommended… jumping up and down and spend half of your day on a treadmill to ‘burn more calories’. These individuals may end up injured before significant or even appreciable weight loss is observed.
    I don’t think there is any doubt that dietary protein has a key role in increasing metabolic rate and over and over, it is shown that satiety and thermogenesis have an important role in the process, even if the actual mechanism by which protein exert its influence still eludes us.
    I don’t advocate for ‘no exercise’. On the contrary, but I can’t dismiss the fact that people can still lose significant amount of weight once they change their habits (hence their behavior and choices) towards a diet that is controlled in carbohydrate, with plenty of dietary protein and moderate in fat (moderate just means whatever fat comes with their protein choices plus a bit of the good ones not found there; a.k.a. avocados, nuts, etc.).
    I look forward to the supersized laughs and a refreshing dose of good information from the film!
    Hi Gabe–
    Thanks for writing. I think you’ve misstated my position, though.
    I’ve said at least a thousand times in talks, books and probably even in this blog that I believe that exercise is NOT a particularly good way to lose weight. Exercise has many health benefits; weight loss just doesn’t happen to be one of them.
    I became involved with Slow Burn, and MD and I and
    Fred Hahn wrote the book not because we thought Slow Burn would help people lose weight, but we thought it was the best way to gain strength and flexibility.
    In our practice we never advocate that patients exercise to kick off their low-carb weight loss program; we always tell them not to worry about exercise at first, and that in time, as they lose weight and start to feel better, they will start to exercise on their own.
    I agree completely with your comment.

  5. Speaking of bad science and exposing it, Gary Taubes’ book based on his NYTimes article is coming out on Sept 1,–What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?
    There is a pbs transcript:
    of his interview where he states that he started to investigate the low fat diet, when, after interviewing some diet researchers, he realized that they were probably the worst scientists he ever talked to.
    In light of the prevailing attitudes from these scientists and the media that protect them, he delayed the sale of the book, spending months double checking his research so no one can claim he is mistaken in his premise. Nowadays, the media take one little error and proceed to discredit the entire work — a great tactic — and rabidly dishonest.
    I’m optimistic that with persistence, with movies like Tom’s and information from the Eades, Gary Taubes, Anthony Colpo and others the Paleo diet can become much more mainstream — maybe not tomorrow, or next year, but soon.
    Hi LCforevah–
    Gary Taubes is a friend of mine, and I just got together with him a week or so ago. His book isn’t coming out Sept. 1. I’ve read parts of it and I can tell you that it’s a tour de force, but it will be a while before it hits the stands. When it does, though, it will make an impact, I can assure you.
    The whole Taubes article/book thing is an interesting phenomenon because of the way people regard him verse MD and me and Atkins and the other low-carb so-called gurus. All of us–MD, Atkins, Rosedale, and all the others and I–took care of a zillion patients and realized that the low-carb diet worked like magic. We all refined our own methods of administering it and wrote about our experiences and about how well the low-carb diet worked for our patients. We were all accused of writing our books to make money and, consequently, weren’t taken seriously. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people say to me, when I extol the virtues of a low-carb diet, ‘yeah, but your just hawking a diet book.’
    Then someone like Taubes comes along, someone who has never taken care of a single patient, and writes up a piece saying that low-carb diets are good, and the whole world goes ga ga. I just can’t figure it out.
    I can tell you, though, that his book is well worth waiting for.

  6. People make bad choices even without McDonald’s.
    I went grocery shopping today and was reminded again of America’s obesity problem when I saw the guy ahead of me in line. He was morbidly obese and in his cart was Gatorade (sugar), regular soda (sugar), a ton of potato chips (starch and fat), and as he passed through the register he grabbed some Twix bars (more sugar). There was no protein in his cart and he’s likely severely malnourished from his soda, chips, and candy bar diet. I have come to believe that most overweight people are malnourished; they are not eating the right foods and stuffing themselves with crap that doesn’t give their bodies what they need to function well.
    What was in my cart? I got salad, meat (beef), cheese, lunchmeat, Hansen’s diet soda, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
    Hi Victoria–
    I know how you feel. I see these people all the time and I always think to myself that they could be so much less miserable than they are if only they would make some changes. But, they have to make them. The information is out there.
    Problem is, there is a lot of misinformation out there as well.
    Thanks for writing–

  7. Just wanted to say Victoria makes a good point, and I already have a box full of bad grocery-store choices (ice cream, granola, starchy TV dinner, etc.) waiting to be photographed for the film.
    That’s partly why I found Spurlock’s premise annoying; people make bad choices in full-service restaurants and at home as well. It’s silly to blame the growing rate of obesity on one fast-food chain.
    Tom Naughton

  8. My apologies Mike. Now that I went back and re-read my comment, I realize that it wasn’t clear enough. I wasn’t misstating you or MD. I was actually referring to item # 10 in Mr. Naughton’s list, where he talks about exercise. He refers to you and MD and the need for caloric deficit, and I agree 100% with that. I should have made clear that my comment was intended to Mr. Naughton, if anything, just in the interest of completion. After all, he wants to offer good information in his movie, so I thought that the point of higher metabolic rate and weight loss without necessarily engaging in exercise could be achieved by reducing carbohydrates and increasing protein in the diet.
    Sorry for the misunderstanding! I think the risk of these kinds of mistakes, at least for me, increased since I haven’t been able to ‘preview’ my comment before posting it. I still can’t see the word ‘lowcarb’ if I try to preview the post. I’ll be more careful in the future!
    Hi Gabe–
    No problem. If the inability to preview is giving you trouble, go ahead and preview your comment. I pluck about half the comments I get out of the junk comment pile where they go when the commenter doesn’t type in ‘lowcarb.’ It’s a lot easier for me to pluck four or five valid comments out of the 50 or 60 spam comments than it is to purge the 50 or 60 spams out of the legit comment file. So, preview your comment, and I’ll still get it.

  9. I am very glad to hear about the new movie Mr. Naughton is working on and look forward to seeing it.
    Victoria touched on a subject that I have trouble understanding. When viewing shopping carts, I have noticed the same thing, all carbs/obese people. However, I have also seen carb-laden carts (whole wheat bread, granola bars, juices, sugar filled yogurts, cereal, oatmeal = all those healthy carbs still = all sugar) driven by skinny people. They don’t look healthy, some have skin problems, but they are skinny, which in our society means = healthy. When I look at their cart I go into diabetic shock, know that eating that food exclusively will kill me within a couple of years, and yet these people eat it and remain skinny. Why is that? And not all of them are young.
    Hi Hellistile–
    I know what you mean. But, people can eat pretty much anything and stay thin if they don’t eat too much of it. I figure that the people with all that crap in their shopping carts eat it a cookie at a time, here and there. They don’t wolf down the whole box and wash it down with a large Coke.
    I spent a lot of time watching my grandfather eat. He was thin until he died at age 82. He never watched his diet; he ate anything and everything he wanted. He just didn’t eat very much of it.

  10. Dr Mike
    You need to tell Gary Taubes then that the Amazon website states that his book coming is out on Sep 1, 2006. That’s quite confusing if it’s incorrect.
    Regarding exercise, my sister lost 90 lbs on low carb more than seven years ago and changed nothing about her regular schedule during the two years it took to lose the weight. She went to work, took care of her husband and son when she came home, and that was it. She has a vision problem, which makes it hard to keep her balance, so I don’t think that there was any secret running or exercise routines she was hiding from me or her family –it would have been too dangerous to do by herself.
    Dr Mike, I completely agree with you frustration regarding how people treat your book. One of the things that struck me when I first read the book, was the years you spent doing the work before ever putting pen to paper. When I bring up this point with others who have claimed to have read your book, this seems to have completely escaped them. There are plenty of diet books out there written by people who have no first hand experience with patients or have done shoddy research — yours isn’t one of them. I believe people just don’t take a deep breath and read thoroughly — they just skim and pretend they understood what they read.
    I think the reaction to Taubes original article was purely instinctive — powerful accusations brought out by a journalist not in the diet industry –that scared a lot of people vested in the industry. While you may have been accused of writing your book for profit, Taubes had no skin in the game so to speak; people reacted to the information, and tried to find ulterior motives for Taubes having written the article. When that wasn’t possible, the controversy turned to the low carb plan itself and conventional diet doctors trying to CYA.
    Hi LCforevah–
    Yes, Gary knows that Amazon says his book is coming out on Sept. 1. It’s, for whatever reason, difficult to get that changed. I haven’t checked in 6 months or so, but the last time I did look for it on, it was listed as already being available.
    Your sister’s story is a common one. Exercise has a mutitude of benefits–weight loss isn’t one of them.
    I understand the dynamics of the journalist verses diet book author situation. But, what if I hadn’t wriiten a diet book and had written an article similar to the Taubes NY Times piece? In the first place, the Times would probably never have published it because I’m not a journalist. If it were published and I had developed the whole idea theoretically as Taubes did, everyone would say, where are your patients? If I had a large practice with a huge number of patients following low-carb diets, academicians would have written it off as anecdotal, others would have assumed I was trying to attract patients or sell something, others would have said, where are your published studies? People don’t realize that clinicians–unless they are on the staff of a medical school–don’t do studies. They don’t have the funding; they don’t have graduate students running around to do all the grunt work; and they usually don’t have the time (if they have busy practices) to do it all themselves. What’s more, it’s difficult without an academic platform to get a paper accepted in a journal. About the only avenue left for a busy clinician is to write a popular book, which is the choice MD and I took. Then, of course, in the minds of many, we became charlatans out after the big bucks. It’s a strange business.

  11. Hi, Dr. Mike.
    Just wanted to pipe in and give you a big THANK YOU for keeping our wonderful lifestyle alive. Having had aortic valve replacement and needing to lose a lot of weight and improve my health, I began my journey on WW. I did lose weight, but was ALWAYS hungry. I bought into the low fat myth. When my labs didn’t show much improvement (high cholesterol, triglycerides, BP), I came across Protein Power.
    I can’t thank you and MD enough for such an informative book. My total weight loss is 135 pounds and my labs are wonderful with an HDL of 71, LDL 98 and triglycerides of 52! Amazing…
    I’ve stalled now because of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (getting it under control takes time to get the right med level) and the onset of menopause. Once these issues get under control, I’m going for 20 pounds more!
    I’m thrilled that this movie is being made and that Mr. Taubes will be publishing a book on the subject. This way of life needs to be in the forefront for everyone who needs and wants to lose weight without dangerous surgery. In fact, two days ago, someone who needs to lose a great deal of weight asked my opinion on gastric bypass surgery. I begged this person to get your PP Lifeplan book (or the 30 day Solution book) and give it three weeks or so before agreeing to such a drastic step as the surgery. I think I got through to him (hopefully).
    Keep up the GREAT (life-saving) WORK! There are so many of us who appreciate it!
    Hi Diana–
    Thanks for the very kind words. It was you who did all the work and made all the sacrifices. Congratulations on a job well done.
    Hang in there through getting the Hashimoto’s stabilized–that can be a real pain. After what you’ve already accomplished, the last 20 pounds should be a breeze.
    Thanks again for the inspirational story.

  12. Dr. Mike,
    Your blog is just the best! Between this blog and Jimmy Moore’s Livin La Vida Low Carb, I am in low carb heaven.
    Can’t wait for this movie to come out, and also, I’ve been waiting for Gary Taubes book for MONTHS now!
    Oh, by the way, speaking of fast food movies… I’m losing weight quite nicely eating those Carl’s Jr’s Low Carb Six Dollar Burgers (available here on the west coast). Sometimes you just can’t avoid fast food, but it doesn’t have to derail you!
    Also, hope you have another book out soon. I read everything I can on lowcarbing.
    Hi Sheryl–
    Thanks for the kind words.
    I hope you don’t have to wait too long for Gary Taubes’ book. If I had to guess, I would say it will be coming out sometime in 2007.
    I’m on the West Coast a lot and I’ve been meaning to try on of the Carl’s Jr.’s Low Carb six Dollar Burgers, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Every time I get the hamburger urge I go to In-n-Out and get a double, double protein style, which comes wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
    MD and I are almost always working on something new–we’ll keep you posted as it gets closer.

  13. Not a good place to post this, but I’m confused by the logistics of posting comments. I’ve done it now a grand total of once (this being my second time). At least the first time it worked; we’ll see about this time.
    Anyway, in response to a comment above, you said, “I pluck about half the comments I get out of the junk comment pile where they go when the commenter doesn’t type in ‘lowcarb.’”
    Huh? Am I supposed to type ‘lowcarb’ somewhere?
    Sorry for being so dense. Must be all the carbs I ate growing up. (Been LC since 1998.)
    Hi Kathy–
    No, the ‘lowcarb’ deal was when I was using a different blogging software.  There was a codeword that had to be entered to keep the spam to a minimum.  The codeword was ‘lowcarb.’  Now you can simply comment away and I should get them fine.

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