In which I introduce you to Jen-Tron, and give you cool stuff to read about faith and science

April 25, 2012 | 21 comments

Sara Mahoney has a cool blog called Losing It Together, where she and her husband write about getting healthy together. We recently had an email chat about my experience with food addiction, and how changing what I ate changed my life (or, put another way: how I killed off my alter ego, Jen-Tron the Eating Machine). She posted the short interview here if you’d like to check it out. Thanks to Sara for the idea, and for asking great questions!

Speaking of which, here’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you about:

Perfect Health DietYou’ll notice in the interview that I once again plugged The Perfect Health Diet. As I’ve mentioned before, this was the book that made it all click for me. I’ve read approximately three billion books on the subject of nutrition, and I found this one to be the best. It’s written by two Ph.D. scientists who went on a personal quest to overcome some illnesses they were struggling with and achieve optimum health. A bit about their backgrounds:

Paul Jaminet, Ph.D. Paul was an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, became a software entrepreneur during the Internet boom, and now provides strategic advice to entrepreneurial companies while pursuing research in economics (see for more information). Paul’s experience overcoming a chronic illness has been key to our views of aging and disease. […]

Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet, Ph.D. Shou-Ching is a molecular biologist and cancer researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, and Director of BIDMC’s Multi-Gene Transcriptional Profiling Core. […]

What I love about the book is that it’s written more like a doctoral thesis than a glitzy diet book. Rather than trying to strong-arm you to adopt their opinions through emotional stories or scare tactics, they simply talk about the research they did and explain why they found some arguments more compelling than others.

Anyway, I’ve also become a big fan of the authors’ blog, so imagine my delight when I saw this post on Good Friday. Even more cool was the ensuing discussion, where Paul Jaminet offered an excellent defense of the idea that not only are faith and science not incompatible, but that faith leads to better science. Definitely worth a read.

If you’re interested in hearing more about that topic, you absolutely must go get a copy of Br. Guy Consolmagno’s talk, Why Does the Pope Have an Astronomer?, in which he goes into detail about this idea that adherents to the monotheistic religions do the best science. He also has an interesting (and funny) talk you can watch on Youtube called The Religious Life of Techies.



  1. nancyo

    I bought a copy of this book after you mentioned it, and while I haven’t read it cover to cover, I’ve read enough to be impressed. And a bit confused! I’ve been eating more-or-less Paleo for a couple of years, and now I find I have a million questions how to implement the Perfect Health approach. I guess I’ll peruse the links here and on the PHD blog and see how that helps.

  2. Ciarán Ó Ceallaigh

    Bro. Consolmagno just spoke at CUA recently. What started as a lecture on meteorite density and porosity turned into an incredibly beautiful witness to the faith, I was quite impressed.

  3. Jen Raiche

    Thank you for sharing! You are an inspiration for me when I struggle with carbohydrates. =) I will check out the book! Peace!

  4. Marie t.

    I have been trying to go on a diet since last year but I fail every time. I will find this book and read it. Hope it inspires me. Is it available online?

    Thanks for sharing!


  5. elizabethe

    Jen, will you sometime please talk about spiritual attack and diet like you mentioned in a quick takes a while ago? Please. No one else talks about spiritual attack. When I try to talk about gluttony (eating too much) or sloth (low energy) with people, including religious people, or even in confession, I usually get someone saying something like “oh, be easy on yourself, you have these kids, and so much on your plate, blah blah blah.” No, I want to yell at them, SOMETHING IS WRONG, I don’t need to be easy on myself, I need to fix a problem. But I just sort of nod and go away.

    I always gain such insight when you talk about these things.

    This is one of those things where I am looking across a river at the other side and I KNOW my life would be a million times better if i could get there and I just can’t seem to get over. I am grasping at straws and recognizing spiritual attack might be the final help.

    Also, Perfect Health Diet is really good. I like it because it really cuts through some of the rambling on other “healthy” blogs, where they make these blanket assertions based on no or very little evidence: “no grains,” “all whole grains” “no starches,” etc. etc. PHD shows how all grains are not the same, all starches are not the same, just, for instance, wheat and rice are radically different in the physiological effects on the body. it’s just a fabulous book and blog if you want to dig into the science of nutrition and really understand just how young that science is.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I’m so glad you brought this up, Elizabeth. I haven’t dared to mention this in a post yet, because I know the response it will get, but my experience has been that I have rarely experienced spiritual attack like I did when I was trying to improve my health. I know it sounds like I was just making a big deal out of a vanity project but, honestly, it was downright eerie to see how much spiritual warfare was involved. I think I will write about that soon. Thanks for the suggestion.

  6. Andrea

    I really appreciate your mentioning the Perfect Health Diet way back when your baby was born. It caught my attention, I bought the book, and I’ve been on the diet for about six months now. It works well for me, and I’m getting fascinated by the whole subject of nutrition. Thanks, Jen!

  7. Andrea

    P.S. Did you know that Paul and Shou-Ching are Catholic?

  8. tanya

    Elizabethe – I went through your same issues – I was confessing and crying about my inability to quit eating (one priest told me to take a walk, or be busier so I didn’t eat so much). Here’s what worked for me: 1) a novena to Mary, Untier of Knots about this issue and 2) working with an awesome nutritionist who had me increase protein and fiber, and decrease (drastically) the sugars. I’m down 35 pounds and feel in control again. It was a relief to find out it was a bio-chemical reaction and not a character flaw.

  9. Angela

    Jen, I have a question for you about this diet. After I had baby #7, a number of health issues led me to a no-grains-no-starches- no -dairy at-all paleo diet. For a while this seemed to work fantastically as I lost about 30 lbs without too much effort, but cooking this way for a family of 9 was, well, prohibitive. (The expense! The effort!) Anyway, after about a year on the diet I began to have some real problems which were ultimately linked to low thyroid — caused, I am 95% sure, by not getting enough carbohydrates or enough food, period, especially for a nursing mom. So I started adding starches back in (including grains), and I started feeling a lot better – but I’ve put on 15 pounds in the past two months, and I find I’m so worried about my weight now, about whether or not I can eat something or if it will be bad for me, that now I’m having to go to Confession for it. My thyroid is still bouncing up and down, and there are some days when I think it would just be better if I didn’t have to eat at all.

    I have read PHD and it seems so much saner to me, but I’m wondering — so much of the nutritional advice out there, especially in the paleo world, seems to be geared toward men and women who don’t have children or with the assumption that they will not be in a child-bearing/nursing state. As a woman who is open to life and/or nursing, have you made any alterations in the diet? Does your family eat this way? How do you balance the desire for health against the tendency toward body-worship in the culture at large?

    These are all issues with which I struggle. I am sure that God really does have a way for me to eat, but finding it in today’s world is difficult!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Angela, these are great points. I will say that I eat a fair amount of white rice, and it seems to set very well with my system (oddly enough, even better than brown rice). This not only helps me keep food costs down, but gives me those extra carbs for nursing and pregnancy. Thanks!

  10. Kenneth R FRountain PhD

    Your readers might also enjoy Polkinghorne’s, “Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship” Easy read, no math.

  11. Kimberlie

    I read the interview you gave on Sara’s blog and I posted a comment there, but I also wanted to post here because I am feeling the need to make a shift to a more “clean eating” healthy diet and am having difficulty convincing my husband. He just thinks it will be too expensive and time consuming (for me, he doesn’t cook). Anyway, more thoughts on your PHD would be wonderful!

    • cinhosa


      I faced a similar situation with my wife. As an avid user of, I turned to their new cookbook to find healthy recipes. I then (in service to her and my family) volunteered to setup grocery list, weekly menus, and cook these meals.

      I didn’t ask her permission to make these changes, I just asked her to support our shared goal of spending time together as a family at dinner.

      It’s been 6 months that we started this new routine. The results:

      1. Eat as a family 7 nights a week.
      2. Spend less money because we prepare our own food.
      3. She joins me in the menu planning each week – kids join in too
      4. We trade-off cooking duties
      5. She took on the grocery shopping.

      Menu planning is key because having no plan for clean eating is difficult to make healthy choices in the moment.

      I have also found (reading discussion threads and in my own experience) that people who are married to someone who is focused on eating healthy can bring up all sorts of emotions from the spouse who may be focused on other things.

      Many of us try to ‘force’ our spouse into ‘our way’ of eating, exercising, etc. This will lead only to resentment because we implicitly send the message that our spouse is ‘doing something wrong’ because they do not want to eat ‘clean’.

      In my experience, treading lightly, asking open-ended questions and gentle support and encouragement work best.

      Best of luck!

  12. Tina


    I read the preview of the book on Amazon and have read the blog. It’s all very confusing, and hearing that the book reads like a doctoral thesis, I’m less than motivated to wade through it. Is there a basic list of what to eat and avoid?

      • Tina


      • Jennifer Fulwiler

        Thanks for jumping in with that! I’m slow on replying to comments, as usual. 🙂

  13. Krizza

    The key to writing short stories is to have a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish and sticking to it.

  14. Jennifer

    Wow. Worlds colliding. I’ve been reading (lurking) here for several years, and just in the last few months came across the paleo/primal diet. Started Ash Wednesday and with a few cheats around Easter, I’ve continued it. Heard about the Perfect Health Diet through some paleo podcasts but haven’t explored that yet. Neat that the Jaminets are Christians.

  15. Debby Osten

    I can’t wait to lay my hand on that book.

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