Gluten-Free Living: FOX New’s Clayton Morris
JONATHAN: Hey, everybody. Jonathan Bailor back with another Calorie Myth show. I’m very excited about today’s show because this is going to be a unique one. I had the distinct honor and pleasure of meeting today’s guest while I was spending some time over at Fox & Friends earlier this year. He’s just a delightful gentleman who got a peak at the Calorie Myth and was like, Hey, wait a second, I’ve been saying this for a long time. Give me a copy of that book. In fact, he has not left, but is augmenting his resume as a national broadcast journalist and has started a podcast dedicated to living a saner lifestyle. Specifically, it is called the Gluten Free Podcast. I said, What is going on in this individual’s mind and life to cause this very unique resume? So I wanted to invite Clayton Morris on the show to have an awesome conversation. Clayton, welcome to the show, brother.
CLAYTON: Hey, thanks so much for having me, man. It’s a pleasure.
JONATHAN: Cool. Well, Clayton, let’s start with a quick history so folks can know what led up to your recent foray in the health arena and then we’ll dig into that.
CLAYTON: Well, I think I’ve gone up and down in weight over the years and working in television, become very cognizant of how much you weigh because, you know, the camera adds 15 pounds — you always hear that. Well, food also adds more than that, too. So I would notice it right away in my face because I’m on camera and I would see it and the double chin and just knowing my pants size was higher and the whole thing — As I crept up around 200 pounds — I’d never, ever gone over 200 pounds but I hit like 198, 199 on the scale and I said, “That’s it. That’s it for me.” I needed to figure out what works because I couldn’t figure out why I was putting on weight. Was it because of the cheese or was it because of tortilla chips? All of these different things men would tend to blame this one thing as the reason I put on weight, It’s my addiction to chocolate, or something like that.
For me, I really started studying low-carb — just living with more awareness of processed foods. My wife and I are very cognizant of that with our children. Now we have a 3½-year-old and a 20-month-old, so the food that we were preparing in blenders and stuff for them when they were little and just making sure that the prepared food we were eating was fresh, natural, locally grown, organic, and we became more and more aware over the past couple of years about just what we’re putting into our bodies. So that led me down this path of going lower carb, and then that eventually led us even to our further path after I had conversations with Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, down the path of gluten-free living and really trying to remove some of that excess stuff from my life. Then the pounds started dropping off with the lower carb living. Thirty pounds later, I just felt healthy and people are saying, What are you doing? What were you doing? Don’t lose any more weight. You’d hear from the women in my life, but I’ve never felt better.
JONATHAN: Well, Clayton, I thought you’d have a very interesting perspective here because I have been told — I am not a media professional such as yourself; I guess I’m an amateur dabbling here — but I hear stories, for example, of people eating Kleenex. I mean, it’s really the calorie-counting connoisseurs of the world where it’s just like, Starve your way to success. Look like Twiggy. How do you talk to your peers about this lifestyle?
CLAYTON: Well, it’s interesting. I talk now to them about a lot of the myths that are out there. I think your book is perfect around this because there are so many myths as it relates to the types of food that they’re eating and so, really, in the media business, it’s the women who, I think, are most concerned with their appearance in that way and, I’m just not going to eat anything, Oh, I can’t possibly have a steak because I’ll never fit into that dress again, or that sort of thing. I sort of laugh now in conversations with them. It’s been happening a lot more in recent weeks, actually. Someone said, Are you going to have that bagel?, this morning because we did a bagel segment and I said, Nope. No, I’m not. There’s a reason behind that because I don’t want that ravaging my insides. He just laughed, like, C’mon, that’s not going to do it to you. I’m like, Actually, it will. Let me explain why. I’m getting a little bit –
I don’t want to be cocky about it — that’s the last thing I want to have happen – but I’m just becoming aware of the level of ignorance around this low-fat idea that we’ve been fed for the last thirty years, Oh, I can’t eat bacon, I can’t do this and that because I’ll just put on weight, I’m never going to fit into that dress again. Actually, that’s not the case. It’s if you have that sandwich with that bread — that whole-grain bread that you’re having for lunch — that’s the reason you’re not going to be able to fit into the dress.
JONATHAN: Yes. Clayton, why do you think it is that, for example, let’s say you had one of those breakfast breads and there were some lox and maybe some bacon and some eggs and someone who is a vegetarian said, I’m not going to have those things, and everyone else in the room would be fine with that. They wouldn’t judge them. They’d just be like, Okay, that person lives a vegetarian lifestyle. I get that. Why isn’t this lifestyle accepted in a similar fashion?
CLAYTON: Again, I think it comes back to the lie that we’ve been told. Through all the marketing for years, we’ve been told that low fat is the way that you lose weight. Low fat. We’ve seen all the heart medication commercials, the cholesterol-lowering medication commercials. So in this country, we are deluged with — I give speeches on technology and the way that we interact with it and a few years ago when I was giving a speech, one of the slides that I would put up was about how many images our brain sees, how many pieces of advertising we used to see. I mean, tens of thousands a day. Our brain sees all of that. So we might not be reading it necessarily but our brain sees it and sees it as a photograph and we internalize it. We’re just deluged with this information. That was a few years ago. I’m sure the number is way even higher now — how much our brain sees in advertising as we drive down the street, look at our smartphones with advertisements on them now, you’re at the grocery store with advertisements. So we’re just completely inundated with this stuff and I think we begin to believe it is [Inaudible 06:13]. It’s propaganda, really. So it’s hard to undo that. We know that vegetarians live a certain way and we accept that, but when you say that I’m — I don’t know that we even have a name for it yet. If you say, I’m Paleo, or maybe, I’m gluten-free, people think you have a celiac disease or you have some sort of intolerance because of a medical condition. It’s like, No, I don’t. It doesn’t present itself in my body as celiac but I know what it does to my body. So there’s this lack of education around it.
JONATHAN: Yes. I love that you brought up advertising and — certainly you’re welcome to not answer this question because I know certain professional positions and obligations — but just speaking from personal experience and my limited experience in the media, I was on another morning show and I wanted to show juice as an example of something that most people think is healthy but is something you should avoid and they said, You can’t do that because that company is one of our sponsors. So as someone who makes their living in the media and understands the power of the media, given how little money there is to be made on eating actual food, and how much money there is to be made on eating and marketing processed starches and sweets, and given the power of the media and how everything is dictated by money as is the way in capitalist world, is there hope here? How do we overcome this?
CLAYTON: Well, I think there’s a burgeoning awareness around this. We see this in the late ‘90s and early 2000s with the emergence of the farmers’ markets and this movement to that on the weekends and people saying, Oh, I get all my food from farmers’ markets now. So you’re seeing this in communities all across the country, so that’s encouraging that they’re not just beholden to that big chain grocery store where they can’t get fresh food anymore and so supporting local farmers — we now know the benefit of that.
I had a conversation at a pub up in the Pocono Mountains a few months ago, right before the holidays, with two individuals who live up there — they’re big viewers of our show. They struck up a conversation with me and they were — not to get into politics — but they were conservative and we got into this conversation. I said, When did it become a conservative principle to support the big box Walmart stores and those sorts of things? They said, I don’t know. We are conservative and I wouldn’t be caught dead going into a store like that. We got into this discussion about the meat that’s in there — it comes from five different countries, packaged as one ground beef package, and pretty disgusting — this idea. They started telling me about these local co-ops and these local farmers’ markets that they go to, where the local farmers bring their eggs and the chickens and the meat and the local bacon and everything. They said, We support those people. To them — not to get into politics, again — but I said, That is a conservative principle. Right? The conservation of the earth, the conservation of our resources, the conservation of our lives, and having that connection to our local community is really powerful.
So I don’t think we’re that far gone. I think we’re starting to see some shifts in areas where — Like, I used to live in West Virginia as a news anchor — Bluefield, West Virginia — and I used to remark that there’s no fresh food. If you wanted to go out to dinner, you ate dinner at, like, a Wendy’s. It doesn’t have a lot of resources and so I think, given the experience I just had up in the mountains of Pennsylvania, up in the Poconos, it’s a similar setting to what I experienced in West Virginia and you’re starting to see this movement towards getting in touch with the local farmers and the local farmers’ markets and those local restaurants which are also pulling resources and putting them in the restaurants. I don’t think we’re that far gone. I hope that we’re starting to turn a corner.
JONATHAN: I love that you brought up just a slight political angle here because, without going too deep politically, I think it’s a very fascinating track because often times people will see the various coasts, the more stereotypically liberal areas of the country, organic, blah blah blah — all the sort of [Inaudible 10:13] that comes along with that and then when you move into middle America, more of a conservative but traditionally it has less of that organic type of feel in general. Do you see that shifting?
CLAYTON: Well, I do. As I travel to different parts of the country, it’s not there yet. I was just down in Virginia for a segment, down in Blacksburg, Virginia, and I said, Where can I go to get some dinner?, and I was hoping they would [issue the chains 10:42] — the chain restaurants — but they said, Go near the mall. The mall has a whole bunch of — There’s a TGI Friday’s over there. There’s an olive garden over there. You can get stuff good because they’re sourcing a lot of that stuff locally from people if they can. Like, Red Lobster tries to get local seafood when they can from the local seafood providers and things like that, but it’s still not there and I think it’s not their fault; it’s just difficult. We see what’s happened to the family farm in this country. I think it’s what — you probably know way better than I do, the statistics on how many Americans — it’s like six percent now. I mean, it’s a really, really small number of family farms anymore but we’re actually seeing the smaller farms growing — these sustainable farms that are growing but they’re not worried about the size because they’re going to sell their potatoes to McDonald’s; they’re doing it because they’re going to sell their potatoes to their local community.
JONATHAN: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Because you’re obviously very passionate about this area — also it sounds like you have a bit of a conservative background yourself — there seems to be this conflict of sorts, let’s say, of traditionally in the conservative realm, there’s this high-value place on family values — not that it’s not in the liberal realm, but family values is a banner marquee of most conservative talk, let’s say.
JONATHAN: Also when we talk about regulating food stuffs such as limiting the ability to provide sugary addictive things in schools, there can be talks about that limiting people’s freedom and yada yada yada. As you’re seeing more and more research, you mentioned Dr. David Grain Brain, and if we look at other physicians coming out now about the addictive nature of a lot of these starches and sweet-like products making them more analogous to pharmaceuticals rather than food, and there’s a wide acceptance for regulating pharmaceuticals and tobacco products to our children, do you see any progress in the conservative arena in terms of — not removing freedoms, a.k.a. you can still smoke, but you can’t sell cigarettes to children — anything like that happening in schools with regard to these toxic edible products?
CLAYTON: That’s a good question. I’m sort of middle of the road when it comes to my politics which enables me to see both sides, I hope. I’ve sort of, in the past few years, really leaned more towards, Government, just stay out of it, but I grew up in very liberal Philadelphia and that seemed to have formed a lot of my youth. My parents and my sister are both social workers. So I have those tendencies to really want to help people but I don’t know that government is the answer for it anymore. Like, maybe I used to in my youth because I think about how much government screws things up but when it comes to our children and this even questioned recently about smoking in the car with your children — moving to ban it, making sure that that’s not happening in the car — children can’t protect themselves in those situations. So I think in our schools, to have these — when we now know that it can be a poison.
If you listen to Dr. Richard [??Robert??] Lustig in his research about sugar as a poison — if you think about it as a poison, that the research is showing that it has the same effects on the body as rat poison, the way that it interacts with the body. I mean, that’s scary stuff. So can we limit the exposure to it and make sure that the parents are educated about it? I think there has to be this education process about it. So the government can only go so far. They can try to make sure that schools have healthy alternatives in the schools so that it’s not just one thin — that you only have a soda machine — but there’s maybe bottled water instead. I know that for a while, they were replacing it with juice — which is your point — it’s even worse. Like, one step forward, eight steps backwards, right?
But I think it has to really start at home. I think we place a little bit too much reliance on the school as the solving of the problem and I really think it needs to start at home in that education process. So how do we reach the parents? How do we educate the parents about what they’re doing to their children and how they’re influencing the home? Even something like sleep training their kids. I get furious when I’m, like, in Times Square, on my way to work, and I’ll see parents at, like, 10:30 at night pushing their little kid in a stroller. I’m like, Don’t they know about the sleep research and the way in which that kid should be asleep by 7 p.m. because you’re screwing them up? So parents need some help. I think parents need some help across the board and I think it needs to start at home.
JONATHAN: That makes a lot of sense. I often use the argument of vegetarians or vegans or halal or kosher or Orthodox Jews and how they have very unique dietary circumstances and schools do nothing to facilitate those dietary circumstances, yet somehow they’re able to equip their children to thrive in those environments. So it seems like it’s doable, it’s just like you said — either a matter of education or a matter of priority even. What do you think?
CLAYTON: Yes, I think it has to be a level of priority and then, at the end of a long day, parents are working really hard and the economy has been struggling and it’s the thing to get home and try to get a meal on the table quickly, but I think if we can have that level of education on recipes that are easy to make and that aren’t going to stretch your budget and are going to provide — For instance, there was a nice article, I think, in the New York Times this past week with Dr. Lustig. Actually, he’s got a new recipe book coming out around sugar. He’s like, I never wanted to become like the anti-sugar guy, but what he does when he works with parents is, he’s like, We have to take them through this process. We have a community table and we bring them in — parents and their children — and we’ll have eight or ten couples and we do this education process with the kids because if the kid is sick or overweight, that’s where this process is started. So it needs to happen with the parents.
So they bring them in or they sit them around this table, they show them how to prepare these really healthy meals, and they show them the budget for it, and when they show them that it’s not going to change their budget, it’s really powerful. We take them through that transformation and they walk out of there, knowing that now they can go to their grocery store and prepare this, this, and this for their kids and their family; they can lose weight; maybe get rid of that diabetes or alter that dramatically; lower their blood pressure – everything — and they’re not going to stretch their budget. We have this mentality that it’s just cheaper for me to go to McDonald’s or it’s just cheaper for me to get this processed food, to get this processed pasta, and throw that on the table with Kraft macaroni and cheese and that somehow that’s healthy for my kids. We know it’s not.
JONATHAN: Well, along the lines of educating and empowering individuals, you have started doing that yourself, which is wonderful, with your new podcast — the Gluten Free Podcast. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind that and just more about the show in general?
CLAYTON: Sure. It really just came down to — I want to be educated. So when I get to speak on that show to people like you — and you are a great guest on the show — and then my wife and I will have a conversation about it after the show airs and she’ll say, I love that episode with Jonathan and this and this because X, Y, and Z, and we’ll have a great discussion about it — if I get a few takeaways from each episode, that’s fantastic. The inspiration really was the education. I wanted education to be the crux of it. So for myself, I wanted to ask the questions that my audience might be thinking and try to fill in the blanks because I think a lot of people are out there, scratching their heads as to exactly how to get started with this whole thing and they’re not necessarily sure where to turn. So I wanted it to be accessible — not too far along where someone doesn’t feel like they could just jump in the car and go along with us and catch a ride with us. Plus, it’s worked for me and my family. My son and my daughter eat that way and my wife and I eat that way and we’re not stretching our budget. We’re doing really smart things with our budget and we want to live a long life and I don’t want Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family and all of those things. All of those components come together that I want to be able to share with other people and say, Hey, put that bagel down because listen to this show.
JONATHAN: Well, I really admire that, Clayton, not only because you’re getting the information out there, you’re walking the talk, but also since you are a public figure. Anytime any public figure does something like puts out a show called the Gluten Free Podcast, you’re making a public stand and you’re serving as an example and you’re in the public light, and the more people we can have like you doing that, I think the more mainstream momentum we can get for this. So I salute you and I appreciate that.
CLAYTON: Wonderful. Thank you so much. Yes, I would encourage anyone who wants to listen to the show and download, subscribe. We’ve got a community in the website. It’s actually launching, I think, in a few days, which is really exciting. So please leave comments and you will have free recipes every week over there, so you can get free recipes and blog posts that will really help you along.
JONATHAN: Beautiful. That site will be up when this show airs, given the delay we’ll have in post production. So what’s that URL?
CLAYTON: It’s BenefitsOfGlutenFreeDiet.com.
JONATHAN: All right. Again, listeners, that’s BenefitsOfGlutenFreeDiet.com. Clayton Morris, thank you again for your great work and for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure, brother.
CLAYTON: Well, it’s been a real pleasure on my end. Thanks so much, Jonathan.
JONATHAN: Thank you. Listeners and viewers, again, remember, this week and every week after — eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. We’ll chat with you soon.