On May 14th, 2019, the low-carb community was taken aback with surprising news.
Banting 7-Day Meal Plans, a popular Facebook low-carb group with over 1.5 million members, was banned by the platform without warning. A population akin to an entire city found themselves without a support system, no new meal recipes to add to their week, and essentially...no home.
Many were in uproar and disbelief. Heated discussions around censorship, targeted attacks, and even anti-low-carb conspiracies ran amuck. Notable figures such as Professor Tim Noakes, Dr. Shawn Baker, Marika Sboros, & Crossfit founder Greg Glassman chimed in with their own two cents. Clashing opinions, ranging from blaming silent but powerful anti-fat industry heads to supporting Facebook’s decision because they believe the diet is unscientific, caused quite the schism. Or rather...broke the tension that’s been building as more and more adopt ketogenic lifestyles.
After all was said and done, Facebook reinstated the group 2 days later.
What could have caused the banning of millions in the first place?
The creator of the Banting 7-Day Meal Plans, Rita Venter, joins this episode to walk us through the entire debacle.
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Rita. Really great to have you on the program. I know you're dialing in from South Africa, so appreciate the big time difference from San Francisco to South Africa here.
Thank you for inviting me. I'm very honored to be on your show, to be honest. It's a huge privilege.
No, our honor. And this is a very timely conversation. We just had Professor Tim Noakes on our program, and this was before the recent controversy hoop-la around the Facebook group that you started, with over 1.6 million people on it, about the Banting diet which is sort of the South African colloquial term for a low-carb, ketogenic lifestyle. And just to give a quick summary for the folks who haven't been following the controversy, which was big on low-carb Twitter and nutrition Twitter. Essentially, one of the largest diet/lifestyle groups on Facebook, over 1.6 million people, was banned without warning, and then the last couple days was reinstated. And it seems to be kind of smoothed out.
Yes, it has.
We'll dive into that. But before that, I'm just curious to hear your personal story.
You know, what brought you into the Banting lifestyle, the low-carb lifestyle? And what caused you to start this group? Obviously years ago, which was quite seminal in terms of what you've seen the movement grow to till today.
Yes, it's five years ago. In August, it'll be five years. My brother and his wife came to see a function that we had, and they'd lost all this weight. And I was like, “Oh my word! What happened? How did you manage to lose all this weight?” And I'll never forget when they came, and they said they'd bring along their own cauliflower rice. And I was like, “Eh? What's cauliflower rice? What are you talking about? Rice is rice.” And when they arrived, they looked so fantastic, I was so jealous. I was like, “What happened guys? How did you lose all this weight?” And they basically said, “Oh, we're following the Tim Noakes diet.” Because everybody knew it as the Tim Noakes diet, it's true. Nobody had knew the word Banting.
So, obviously I couldn't wait to get home to Google, because you couldn't really Google there, because it would have just been rude. So I couldn't wait to get home and Google this. And you know, the more I read, the more I realized that this was the lifestyle for us. My husband's a type 1 diabetic, and he could never control his sugar. And I know that it's normally type 2 diabetes that do the keto, paleo, and the Banting diet. But then he went to China for business. And you know, I just was, “Well, this is the perfect time to clean up the house, and start reading labels and start cleaning out.” And when I did clean out, I was left with one tin of tomatoes in the cupboard. Every single thing that I had in my cupboard that was healthy, like muesli and cereals, and all those things, they were all full of sugar, and very, very high carb. Although they said fat free, and ... I was just like, “Wow.” You know, I have to literally ... I didn't throw it away. I actually gave all the food to a local soup kitchen, because obviously the food wasn't ideal for me, but it is fine for people that are hungry. So I gave that all away, and we started there. And I lost ... At first, I actually gained weight to be honest, because I was just completely overeating. You know, I didn't know how to do this.
So then I decided, seeing that I've got a black-belt in Facebook, I'm just going to join every single group that I can possibly join, about this lifestyle. And I belonged to a group, and this group was selling meal plans. And there was an elderly lady on there, she said that she was a pensioner, and she couldn't afford this meal plan. And could somebody please give her some help, because she wanted to know if she was overdoing protein, and the group owner basically said to her, "Look. If you can afford to stuff your face with protein, you can afford to buy one of my meal plans." So that sort of got me a tad ... Well, it didn't make me a tad annoyed. I got seriously hacked off. And I just decided I'm going to start a group, and I'm going to design meal plans, and I'm going to do them based on what we can eat and not eat. And I'm just going to give them away for free. Everybody is welcome! Come and get them all for free. So, that's how the group started, basically. I wasn't trying to be noble or anything, I was just really, really annoyed that somebody would disrespect somebody that was older than them in that fashion, and that somebody would disrespect somebody that just couldn't afford something. You know, I'm fortunate enough not to have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, but there are a lot of people that aren't in that position.
So, when I started the group, it was a very, very elitist lifestyle. I mean, people were eating like Wagyu beef, and every little thing had to be organic and the most expensive, and organic coconut oil, and organic everything. Like I said to somebody the other day, “It was like grass-fed beef, watered with the tears of unicorns.” If you didn't have that, then you weren't going to be successful at Banting. You know, we've got a huge problem in South Africa, with people that eat very, very high carbs. They eat what I think, what you Americans would probably call grits, maize meal. So it's grits. So it's a staple diet. Maize meal, it's the staple diet in South Africa.
Would you say that the carbohydrate load is over 50% typical?
Oh, yeah! In the same meal, they're eating what we call pap, which is what you call grits, or polenta, or you know, if you want to be really fancy. And potatoes, and rice, and ... Well, everything is just carbs, because those things are all really cheap. So, carbs are cheap. I mean, they're GMOs, they're not the best food. Well, look. I'm not going to demonize carbs. Carbs are not bad for everybody. Carbs are bad for people that are insulin resistant, and carbs are bad for ... You know, let's not completely demonize carbs, because I don't think that's ...
Yeah. Yeah, I appreciate that nuance. Absolutely, because I think it's like, the carbs really stop the notion of famine. Right? Because they are so cheap and available, and now I think it's like, okay, we solved people starving to death. Now people are over-consuming it. How do we re-fix that new problem? And I think that's, I think the more sanguine, more positive mindset around why we're talking about this lifestyle. One of the questions I had was ... You know, it sounded like as you were experimenting and going on the Banting diet, the low-carb, ketogenic diet ... How long was that adaptation period for you personally, before you went and wanted to start your own meal plans? Curious to hear your initial transition.
Probably about two months. It was about two months when I realized that I needed to take this seriously, because I started feeling so much better. You know, I wasn't sluggish, I didn't have brain-fog anymore, I could play with my granddaughter. I just felt so much better. So, it was quite a quick transition, actually. And then I was like one of those reborn Christians.
Got to learn about this, and talk about this, and figure this out, right?
I can spread the message to everybody, and I beat everybody to death with it. It was awful. I think I was awful during that time, to be honest. I really, really was awful.
I want to talk about the explosion in the interest and the growth of this community. And I think we have very interesting personal parallels here, where my entry into the low-carb ketogenic lifestyle, actually really started from fasting, which in a lot of ways, is a very parallel metabolic strategy as a low-carb diet, in the sense that both strategies reduce the carbohydrate intake and shift towards more of a fat oxidation, fat metabolism state, and induce ketogenesis and ketosis. And now today, I think a lot of people in both communities or strategies, both do fasting or intermittent fasting, and a low-carb, ketogenic diet.
But I remember three, four years ago, when I first started fasting, people thought I was nuts, people thought it was crazy, no one knew what the hell was going on. And I imagine, four or five years ago is when you started the Banting group, and you were exploring for the first time, people must have thought you were crazy. How do you not eat carbs? This is a staple that the government and all the regulatory bodies have been telling us to consume, consume, as the base of the pyramid. I want to hear your journey, in terms of seeing this movement grow, and the evidence grow, and the science grow. And it must have been very, very quick to go from one person, yourself, starting this group, to over 1.6 million people in five years. Can you describe that journey, and what were the inflection points across the last five years?
The group grew because we attracted people that were of all walks of life. Not just wealthy people, all walks of life. And they started seeing this in their communities, and people started posting pictures of their before and after. So how has the times changed in South Africa? Five years ago, if you said that you were Banting, it was literally like you were ... It was like a cuss word. The most exciting part about the Banting journey is how everybody's health markers are improving, because obesity is just a symptom of eating incorrectly. The more incorrectly you eat, the more obese you're going to become, and the more you're going to develop all kinds of symptoms like type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, and all of that.
And that has been the most exciting part, is that people actually post their progress and updates. They post these progress pictures on the group, they post ... Frankly, because we're a closed group, so they don't really care. Their friends aren't seeing those results. They're posting all kinds of ways in how they're curing, or putting it through remission, their illnesses. And that is the most exciting part. While we used to focus a lot on losing weight, we don't focus on that anymore. We keep on telling people to improve your health, and the weight loss will follow.
Yeah. It must have been incredible for you to see that just, I'm sure, in the group of 1.6 million people, thousands of people talking about getting off of insulin. Right? And I think that was something I saw three, four years ago, as I got into fasting, and the low-carb, ketogenic lifestyle. People that you talk to are like, "I'm reducing my insulin units, from 100 units, to 50 units, to 25." And you're like, "Wow. That's incredible. Congratulations."
It's so rewarding. It's so ... And then the other thing that we saw, is so many women with PCOS, that's polycystic ovary syndrome, they are having babies. Loads, and loads, and loads of babies are born on our group, according to our group members, and loads of them were literally told that they'd never have children. All of a sudden, their body is completely healing, they're getting their menstrual cycles, and they're actually having children. You know, they've done absolutely nothing, other than cut down on the sugar. Well, eliminate the sugar, really. And cut down on the carbs, and cut down on the things that were making them ill. Because yes, we can fix the symptoms, we can give people insulin, and we can give them medicine. But unless we fix the core, that is unless we fix the cause, that is never going to get you to the point where you're going to be completely off those medications, where your blood pressure is that of a teenager now, where you're not going home with a party pack of tablets every time you go to the clinic.
You know, we've got clinics here, we're where people go to, to see the doctors and stuff. And a lot of them have to take a day off work, so they don't get paid for their day. So they were losing money that way too. Besides the medication, they were losing because they were not getting paid. So, it's been a very exciting journey. And the health benefits on this group have been nothing short of miraculous. And I'd like to challenge anyone that says that this lifestyle doesn't work.
Yeah, absolutely. And I'm curious from ... I know a lot of our listeners are in the Silicon Valley tech community. Growing a group to 1.6 million people plus, is in five years, it's incredibly fast. Was this its purely organic interest, as people were just ...?
You know, Geoff? You know what makes our group popular, and why people join? It's because we're kind, and we don't judge anyone for their obesity, for what ... You know, we're not the type of group, that if you go and post a can of Coke because you don't know whether you're allowed to drink that on this lifestyle or not, where people will judge you for it. We'll just say, “You know what? No, you can't have that. Rather, have water,” instead of saying, “No! Why are you here? Don't you know about this? Haven't you done research?”
So we basically see our group as an entry level research. So we post links on the group of, you know, from all the famous people that you've had on before. So when we post those links, we have an admin complement of I think about 27 people, and they're all over the world. So we've always got somebody doing admin at any time. We preapprove every single post that comes onto the group, because there's a lot of people trying to post porn, and all kinds of stuff, so we preapprove. So what it is, we will preapprove a bunch of about 50 posts at a time, and then we'll go onto them all immediately, and then the wisdom of the crowds come in. You know? We never give medical advice. If somebody is not well, we'll tell them, “Go to see your doctor, and then come back to us and give us some feedback.”
But the reason why the group has grown is because we are kind to people. That's my opinion. Because that's what people said, when the group was reinstated, there'd be no judgements, there's nobody telling that they shouldn't do this. We don't tell people what they should and shouldn't do. We don't dictate to people what they must do. We tell them what they should do to get healthy. And we're very strict on the group. Very strict. No hate speech, no racism, no politics, no any of that. Anything that's going to cause strife in the group, we don't allow that. We respect every single person for who they are. We don't care whether you're large or small. We don't care if you got a different skin color, or you have a different religious belief, or sexual orientation. You know what? Take that stuff and take it somewhere else. This is not the place for it. And I think that's why the group grows, because we try to be kind to absolutely everybody.
So it sounds like it's a very sensible discussion group, almost the epitome of what a Facebook group should be like. Obviously, as you as one of the admins and leaders here, sounds very open-minded- You ask one of the admins and leaders here sounds very open minded, folks in discussion, not giving medical practice online. This is more of a discussion support group and a lifestyle discussion group. You got banned last week.
Out of nowhere. Talk me through that. Obviously you've built this community for the last five years and then boom deleted. What was the exact statement? What was... How would you respond?
I said, well, let me just tell you. The night before the group was banned, I had a sick dog. Martha was ill the whole night that was awake the whole night. I fell asleep at about seven in the morning. About 45 minutes later, one of my admins, Natalie, she phoned me and said, "Rita, the group is gone! The group is gone!" I said, "What???" I see who logged on. I saw that the group has been permanently deleted for transgressions of about community standards. I was like, "What? What did we talk grace? What violation?" Violation, now transgression. Violation of our community. I'm like, we've got a little bit of an admin check. I went in there, go, "What? What happened? Who said what in the group? What did you guys do?" They were like, "Not guilty. Sorry. Not us." I promise you my inbox was flooded, you get that message requesting and you get your inbox. I must have had probably about 2000 messages.
What's happened? Why have you deleted us? And not only me every other admin as well. And we were like, "We don't know what's happened. We don't know what's happened. Did I do something wrong? Why did you block me from the group? I was like, "No, you didn't get blocked. We all got blocked." So, then there's, I think on Facebook on every group where you can go and look at group health. We've been doing that regularly to make sure that we not in contravention of any of the community centers, because you know we know that that is possible. Especially now with, with, you know like anti-vaxxing and all of that, they're trying to take that down. I then decided I'm going to phone in America. Yeah. The lady on the phone, the recorded message says, "You know what? Sorry for you. We don't speak to anyone. If you want to complain, go on to Facebook and complain there.
You tried to call Facebook the corporate line and then it was, nothing was there.
No, no, no. They say choose one for Facebook, choose two for Instagram. You choose one. Customer service choose one or two, whatever. It says, "We're very sorry, but we do not offer customer service on the phone. Go see... "And then they guide you to the Facebook page. The most hilarious thing of it all is I saddle in the forms and everything. So, we start phoning everybody and who do you know, Facebook, blah, blah. I pull in this form. The best is, they send me this thing back and they say to me, "We are entitled to take down any group or any person. We can take them off Facebook at any time. You know, our discretion. And please in the survey at the bottom about whether you're satisfied or not."
I ignored that part. And then, they sent me back within probably 12 hours and everybody's freaking out. And, in the meantime, I just started a new group so that we could help those people that we'd be helping in the meantime. We basically got 26,000 members in like 12 hours or something. Everybody just started joining. Obviously people were still waking up and doing all kinds of stuff. Then, I appealed again and then they just said, "Oh, yeah. Well, we got to your request and yeah, we'll analyze it and we'll get back to you." In the meantime, Twitter exploded, Facebook exploded. Everybody in the world that was any way involved with low-carb just came together as one and spoke as one voice and said, "Why are you taking this group down? What is it? What have they done? What community standards have they-" Because, it's like beating your head against a wall. They're so big that they basically don't care. That's what I sort of found out. There's no recourse. You'd think, okay, maybe if it was a community of 160 people or 1,600 people, but 1.65 million people for God's sake.
I don't know of any other group on Facebook that is that big, to be honest. I've looked. I could be wrong, but a nutrition group I haven't seen a... And we just don't understand it. And then, they came back with all kinds, then it was because we were hacked in. Then, it was because we were giving out medical advice. Then, it was because somebody on our admin had done something on another platform-
All this information, were coming from official Facebook representatives? They were just telling different reasons?
Yes. Everybody was giving us a different reason. Everybody. The one lady on our group, on our admin, she has a friend that works for Facebook in Ireland. She contacted her and that girl came back and said, "Listen, this isn't good news. You guys are not doctors. We've received thousands and thousands of reports in the last few days that you're giving out medical advice." So yes, they said that the group was hacked, but if the group was hacked, it was hacked through Facebook. Facebook was actually hacked not just the group.
What's happened, if we got a hack, what's happened to the information of all those people that are on this group? We've got 1.1 million South Africans, the rest are all international people. So, it's American, British, Australians, even people from Malaysia and all over the world. We've got people that are on this group. What's happened to, did Facebook get hacked? I don't know. I don't want to go down and start with conspiracy theories. I'm not my youngest son who believes everything's a conspiracy theory, but something's happened. Somebody somewhere targeted this group, because of promoting this low carb lifestyle and people getting healthy without having to spend millions on medication. Yeah, maybe, I am a conspiracy theory, but that's what I believe. I really do believe that, because there's no else. Why come up with 20 different scenarios?
Yeah, I mean it reminds me of something that actually happened to our podcasts here. We had a conversation with Dave Feldman who some of our listeners and you might know as a citizen scientist who's been doing a lot of biohacker experiments on his own blood work. Proposing a theory around how LDL is not necessarily a causal factor for heart disease, which LDL sometimes raises when you have a ketogenic diet. Wen we were running our distribution on that podcast, Facebook actually banned the promotion of that podcast. And then, we had a similar action where we're like, "Okay, can we do a manual review of what's going on?" You know, we're not giving medical device, we're not telling people, you know, conspiracy theories. We're just having a conversation like you and I are having now about how we see the world and our perspectives. I think there was some notion around is this conspiracy against low carb Keto?" Is there an automatic ban on certain keywords?
I think this points to the larger debate around the utility or the platforms of something like a Facebook or a Twitter and then the push on various political sides around how do you prevent fake news but not have censorship? And I think that's one of the most, and if you, you know, go one step further beyond just the diet world, just the whole world of discourse. How do you balance? Where do you think about censorship, fake news? Like the anti-vaxx, do you ban that explicitly? Or alt-right or Nazism, do you ban that? Do you allow people to have a conversation? I mean, probably a much more complicated and nuanced discussion for this conversation. But, my sense is that I think nutrition is a part of that broader social norm discussion.
I think that people are feeling the effects of the wisdoms of the crowd. The wisdom of the crowd, the way everybody helps each other. Let me tell you something, I don't believe in a lot of these groups that you mentioned. In fact, I also don't believe that it's right to censor them, because it's a slippery slope to, well, like in many states. I don't like what you're saying, but I don't think that it's my right to stop you from saying what you have to say, because I should respect your views. I might not like them. I probably don't like them. You know politically, I lean very what you would call left. I'm quite liberal. But, I don't think I'm liberal. You know what? I think everybody should just have an equal chance and everybody should be treated fairly. Everybody should be treated the same. We all have the same aspirations. We all have the same goals for our families and all that. We all just want to be left alone to do what we do. Although, I don't agree with a lot of things, I don't believe that they should be banned. I don't think censorship is a good thing, you know? Unless, obviously, it like endangers somebody's life.
Inciting violence. Yup.
Yeah, inciting violence.
Right. I think that's, and I very much agree with everything you just said there. I think it's strange for the alternative, which is do you really want the government or Facebook with some... You know, we all know friends that work at Facebook, some product manager at Facebook arbitrarily deciding this is allowed speech, this is not allowed speech. Do we really want that alternative? Where you have arbitrary bureaucrats or corporate folks deciding what is acceptable speech? I think that is a weird alternative to suggest this is more optimal with the right caveats. You know, like Nazism is terrible, but it's like, okay, they can have their discussion there and everyone can laugh at them and demean them.
And it is very much an American or Western civilization concept where we allow the KKK to have their marches and everyone has the right to critique and criticize that terrible, terrible behavior. That's kind of the democracy or freedom that we have as a society, where we allow people to do stupid stuff. People have the right to criticize them for doing stupid stuff.
No, it's all fun and games until people get hurt, then I think that's when you start banning. When there's real violence implied and where there's proper hatred implied. Like for goodness sake, if I hate eating potatoes, that's hardly going to affect anybody else. You know? It's not the same as the hating somebody based on the color of the skin or their religion or any of that. You know, like get a grip.
I absolutely agree. I think that's a good distinction that you mentioned, right? It's like the current free speech laws I think actually make a lot of sense. You can say whatever you kind of want, but you can't yell fire in a movie theater. That's a classic example. You're causing panic and causing potential harm to people. You cannot say, "Let's go kill S type of people." That's inciting and promoting actual violence. And I think there's that distinction, therefore, it's like, okay, let's live and think about this lifestyle, which is a self choice. I can eat whatever I kind of want to eat. We can let you eat a bunch of soda, a bunch of sugar. That's fine, but I can't talk about, I don't want to eat that. You can't talk about that. That is very strange.
And then, the other thing that a couple of years ago Karen Thompson, I don't know if you know her. We did a like a bit of a podcast as well about low carbing. We weren't allowed to promote it on Facebook either, because they say that we were fat shaming. I was like, "How are we fat shaming?" We're diet shaming. We're not fat shaming. We're talking about like following a different path. So, I don't know if it's the algorithms are a bit out of whack, you know, like maybe it just picks up things that got words in there. You're not allowed to say somebody is fat. Well, I was fat. I'm not going to sugar coat that. But, the thing is that we've become so politically correct if you don't actually know how to get out of the world of craziness where you can't even say, "Look, I'm fat and I want to lose weight." I'm unhealthy and I want to get healthy. What kind of political correctness is that? Because, what, nobody in the world is allowed to excel anymore. Everybody has to get a prize. Nobody's allowed to, everybody gets offended with everything. I am more than willing to say, "I was fat. I lost 50 kilos. I was fat." What now? You know, it's the world went crazy with the political correctness. So, it could quite easily be that, that they saw the word fat too many times on our group. I don't know.
No, I very much appreciate that sentiment. I think we talk a lot of folks that have either served in the military or are elite performers. There's just some weird averaging of expectations. You just can't say that. I was bad and I want to improve. This is my path. And it's like you can't really say that, because it's gonna hurt someone's feeling that is in a bad shape. It's like, well, we gotta have some progress here. We gotta have a conversation. We want to just help people. I think your intent is not to say, "You are fat, you are bad." You're saying that, "I was fat. I didn't want to be fat, because I think it's unhealthy and this is my journey to not get fat." And then, people can use that as a role model or a template.
And then, on our group, I always tell people that you are not fat or overweight, because you are greedy and lazy,, because you ate too much and you exercise too little. You're actually know ill. Learn to accept the fact that you've got an illness called insulin resistance that will eventually become type two diabetes. That is what if you've got a stomach that's really big, that's what... Why make fun of somebody that's overweight? Would you make fun of somebody that's got cancer? I mean, why somebody that insulin resistance has got an illness. They've got a condition that is a real illness. Why make fun of those people? Why tell them him that they must go and exercise? That can even get up for God sake. They can't get off their couch, but they must go and run a marathon. What is that?
We stress all the time, you can go and join the group. Oh, no, you can't see the post if you're not a member, but you can go and join the group. I tell people all the time accept that you are not this way. It doesn't matter how much you starve yourself as long as you keep on eating potatoes and rice and pop, you are going to stay fat. They go on all these diets, because they call it the calorie in calorie archive, you're starving people. We won't make you starve. Maybe yes, maybe in caveman days people did starve, because there was nothing around. But, nowadays, you go on every street corner is there is a McDonald's or there's a whatever Kentucky Fried Chicken or whatever.
The interesting thing is that once people start realizing that this isn't their fault necessarily. That's when make that transition where they realize, "You know what? I can do this. I've got an illness and I've got to eat for my illness." You know, if I was diabetic, I wouldn't take sugar. So, therefore I have insulin resistance, so I've got to eat to put my illness in remission. I mean, we've got people who put their illness in remission. I mean, we've got people in our group that have lost like 87 kilos. Don't ask me pounds, I don't talk in pounds. It's like-
Yeah, it's like 150, 160 pounds. That's massive, yeah.
Correct, correct. They've lost that, and not through exercise. Okay, they start exercising later when they can actually get up and walk. Not through exercise. They've done it simply by cutting carbs and cutting sugar.
I think you're restoring agency back to the individual, where I think you're empowering them. It's, "You're out of shape, or fat, not because you're a bad person. It's because you're suffering from a form of disease. And you can take agency and create a lifestyle to actually fix and resolve and mitigate those issues." Which I think is a very empowering message.
Yeah. And you know, quite often we get the message on the group, "Oh, I hate my body." And I always say to them, "Don't dance because you hate your body. Dance because you love it. Make, love it enough to get better." And I find that that gets people going. When they, when you start empowering people and you start giving them knowledge, but not very sciency knowledge. Okay, like, we're not very sciency, okay? We don't go like, I mean if you have to tell somebody to go and check should be HbA1c and, they don't know what it is. We just tell them, "Go and have a blood test." I find quite often that it's so sciency that it just goes over normal people's heads. I mean, I'm on a chat group on Twitter, I think it is. I never say a word because those people are so clever that I never say a word. I just—
They're just citing research papers and yeah hemoglobin 1C-LDL-HDL lipidology.
Yeah. So it's quite often, you see, that people will say, "Looks like my cholesterol is high." And then we'll say, "Well, what is the breakdown there?" "What do you mean there's a breakdown?" Because they don't have that information, they're not empowered, and we'll say to them, "There's good cholesterol, there's bad cholesterol. There's triglycerides." So, you know, if your doctor is saying to you that your cholesterol is high, maybe your good cholesterol is high, have you asked them for that breakdown?
So there's all of that. I must tell you this story because this actually happened yesterday. It's actually shocking the level of knowledge that doctors give to their patients. A lady sent a message that her started dancing and he's a Type 1 diabetic and he's getting sugar low. So I said, "Well, has he been to his doctor? Had a blood test and checked to see?" I wasn't going to tell her to go to HBO on TV because that's not going to ... So I said, "Has he gone to the doctor to check his glucose levels and to see if they're coming down, and is he decreasing his insulin?" So she said, "No. What do you mean he must decrease his insulin?" So I said, "Well, you know, if you have got a high glucose then you've got to take more insulin. If you've got low glucose then you've got to take less insulin." She said, "I never knew that. What are you talking about? I never knew that. I just thought the man's not eating enough." But his blood sugars have come down but he's still taking the same amount of insulin that he was taking before."
Because you know I'd say young, they're a young couple of about 25 or something. Oh no, lots of stuff, you know? Like, I'd like, okay, just ask your doctor to explain that to you. So like, it's not stupidity or ignorance. It's that they haven't been told, you know? And I'm not, I'm not giving medical advice. I'm just saying to her, look, it makes sense that, you know, like, when your husband's blood sugar is a bit high, then he gives himself extra insulin. She said, "Yes." I said, "Well now that it's low, you've got to reduce it." She said, "Never knew that." I said, "That, what was that? No." And so, of course, he's been very low and he's strictly going hypoglycemic, which is—
Yup, makes sense.
... you know, it is so dangerous. So I said, "You get that man to the doctor tomorrow, you go and get a blood test done and you go in so that the doctor can adjust his insulin." And then she said to me, "Well, thank you so much because I've taken so much away from this." And I was like, okay, well that just makes sense to me, but it doesn't make sense to everybody. Not everybody thinks that way, you know. The doctor told him he's got to take 110 units of insulin per day and then he will carry on taking 110 units of insulin per day. And that's nothing against those people today. This is what happens when you take glucose, I mean when you take insulin. This is why you take insulin. What is the function of insulin? They don't tell people this.
I 100% agree with that sentiment here, which is that, I think this is what's happening with the growth of groups like yours, and the growth of more of, what you call citizen science or biohacking. People just want to understand what the mechanisms are before just following a blind script, and I think more and more doctors are realizing that you don't necessarily treat your patients as a dumb little box that you just shove medicine at. If we can actually empower and teach people, what are the mechanisms, why this drug, why this intervention does something, that gives the patient ultimately more understanding and awareness and hopefully improves compliance of using this medicine.
And I think, I can imagine folks on the other side would say, "No, these people are not trained. They have no education about, for medicine. They should just, like, listen to the doctor and don't question." I just don't think that's realistic anymore. I don't think people in this modern age with access to information are just going to follow a script. If you treat the patient as a rational human that wants to improve their lifestyle, if you just empower them a little bit by just explaining to them why you're doing this, why you should lower your insulin as you go on a lower carbohydrate diet so you don't go hypoglycemic, as you were kind of describing, um, I think the patient would be like, "Oh, wow, I understand a little bit better and I will comply with your script better."
And you know, she's just needed to, in part, understand, so I said to her, "You know what? Previously, maybe he ate this slice of cake. So you would take the insulin for that slice of cake." She said, "Yeah." So I said, "Well now, he's not having that slice of cake but he's still taking the insulin for that slice of cake." It was like, "Ah! Okay, now I understand!" You know, so, it's, our, our group was, when you've got 1.6 million people, any problem that you have, somebody has had it before. Please believe me. Whether it's the, that you've got a keto rash or whether you've got, whatever, there's somebody that will come along and say, "Look, go, obviously you'll want to go and see your doctor." But they'll say, "Oh, I heard that, and this is what I did, and this is what fixed it."
And they suddenly all just come along and say, "Oh yeah, I also had that and yes, with the keto rash, I just needed to increase my carbs a little bit and it went away." So, you know, that is the wisdom of the crowd. That is what is empowering people that, and I think that people are far more comfortable speaking to somebody that is on their level than somebody that, you know, looks down at them, "I'm the doctor, you're the patient, I know your body better than you do."
I'm not saying that Google is a substitute for a medical degree, but there's a hell of a lot of information out there, hey?
I mean, it's horrible because, you know, we're all going to die within the next five minutes if we follow all of Google's medical advice.
No, yeah. I think that's an important cog and an important nuance that I do want to underline, you know. Both of us are not medical doctors. Google is not a replacement for a formal medical training, and I think our role here, with the discussion, is, we're not telling people what to do, but we, I think it's worth the information and help people understand and start digesting how to think about themselves, and ask the right questions to their actual doctor. I think, arming the patient with the right questions and the right baseline sense of information, so they can actually have a productive conversation with their primary care practitioner, as opposed to coming in completely naïve, completely dumb with no idea what to do, and just, "Please doctor, you know. Just fix me." We're empowering people with some agency and some background knowledge for the right questions to take a little bit of agency of their own health.
Absolutely, you know. And you know, how empowering it is to go to a doctor and say, "Look, I've got this rash, this keto rash." Cause that happens, we don't know why it happens. Nobody knows why it happens. Some people get it, some people don't. You know? And, basically, they say, they're starving their body completely of carbohydrates, but the, I know that there's a carnivore movement out there, but not everybody can do it. Like not everybody can, I've got a friend in Canada, she's can't eat any vegetables. She's got such bad Crohn's and celiac disease, you can't eat any vegetables.
But the thing is, to be able to go to the doctor and say, "Yeah, you know what, I've got this, and I saw that a lot of people have got it to. Can you tell me what it is?" You know, it's empowering. You've got to put power back in people's hands. Power, empowering them about their own bodies, you know? And, you know, we had people in our group at one such, all these purists, you know? Like, oh gosh, they were just the most annoying people on earth. "Oh no, you can't do that because of this, that, and the other." And we did say, "You know what? Quite honestly, people will eat what they want to eat, and I find that that's another sort of group that keep people almost trapped because they intimidate people so much.
We are not that. We are not sick. We are not here to tell you that you need to go and research before you come and ask us. You know what? If you're going to go and research, then you don't need to ask for help. You know? You're going to, so we see this very much as a research thing so that you can get, it's like a forum where you can get help from other people that are, that have gone through the same thing, long story short. You know? That's what it is.
So the good news is that, with, in the last couple of days, the group was finally reinstated.
Can you talk to us about how that came to resolution? And then, do you have a sense of how to prevent this from happening in the future? I mean, obviously, if it, you know, did you learn something from this? Or was it, you didn't learn anything and you're just like, "I don't know."
I don't know, I didn't learn a damn thing. But, like, they took us down on the 14th of May, and then they, at about 8:00 in the morning, South African time, and then they reinstated us on the 17th of May at about, probably about 8:00 at night, they reinstated us. It was devastating for most of our members, there were, there were lost. They literally got, I mean, I remembered one stage on the group they had a hashtag on there saying, "I'm a groupie." Because everybody just needs to go there. Because they, they needed this. So, what did I learn from this? I learned that the group is a lot more important than I actually believed. I didn't know. I just, you know, you just do what you do, and yeah, you know what? Somebody mentions you every now and then, and stuff, oh okay. I'm not a celebrity person at all, I don't think people are, I'm not like that. So um, so I didn't realize how high importance it was, but I can tell you something, that really heavyweights got involved in getting the group reinstated.
One of them was Greg Glassman from CrossFit, and he just, he took it very personally, actually, and he was calling all kinds of people. Senators, attorneys, and I was like, "Oh my goodness!" I mean, I'm not just a little woman in Cape Town. And all of these people are, and they're not bad at realizing, but this group is really important to so many people that people were prepared to come together and help us get this thing up and running again. What I found from the members was actually, I mean, I don't know how many times before in the group in the last few days, thank you, Jesus, I mean, there was just so many of them. And, at the, I think, uh, people were angry as well, but I think, over it. You know, you know what it's like. I mean, like, you know, it's like that story on Facebook, you get angry today in your car because something else has happened. Can we get back to the business of helping people and getting them to, and getting them to just live a healthier life, and that's it, you know. And why they took us down, if they're going to take us down again, I don't know. I don't think they'll try because there's some very serious people who got involved in this, so.
Yeah, I mean, this is a really community. I mean, this is, almost, this is like a city of people talking together, and I can completely understand how thousands of people would miss their city. They miss their community, if it's gone and blown out, for no reason. But hopefully there's a silver lining here where people realize, or Facebook or the folks at powers that may be, that you can't, don't mess with these people because this is important for many, many people. Thank you so much for creating this group and this service, and I think, just, our conversation for this last hour or so. I mean, I think that leadership, that warmth, really comes from how you set the pace and tone. How do our listeners get involved or stay in touch and help support this growth, here? Obviously there's the Banting 7 Day Meal Plan group that you run.
Well, I've got exciting news. I've got a book coming out in October. So, myself and Natalie and Kim, with two of the admins and myself, we're writing a book that will be, just talking and telling people how to follow this lifestyle in plain English, not scientific English, just plain English. It's basically most of the questions that have been asked on the group, that we've, it's just an expanded, it's a queue, basically, and then lots of recipes. The recipes that were the most popular on the group, but affordable recipes where you can involve your entire family. So that's one exciting thing that's happening.
And, um, how to get involved. You know what? You don't have to get involved on the group, but you know what? Just reach out to somebody close to you that's banting with us and just say to them, there is another way. And just give them hope. Go onto the group and join the group and get testimonials there and show people that, you know what? You don't have to live a life where you are basically doomed to live in like a prison called the body for the rest of your life, and have kindness and patience with people.
Well said. Well, I can't say anything much better than that, so we'll wrap it here. Rita, really a wonderful conversation and I'm looking forward to the book and the continued growth of the group and all of the work you're doing.
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