I received a note from a reader this week, mostly appreciating what I didn’t have to say about COVID-19. But she did add, “Tell us this — what does Joe Black eat?”

Ooooh I don’t know. Does anyone really want to know? Should I be worried? Can I be completely honest? How specific do I get?

OK. Here goes. Judge me as you will. But go back. Way back.

For most of my life, I have followed what we were told was a heart healthy diet.

Low fat. High carbs. Lots of fruit and vegetables.

If anyone wanted to lose weight, they were told to avoid bread and potatoes (which maybe should have told us something).

About eight years ago, it was discovered that I had a significant level of atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries.

Further testing indicated that my coronary arteries are probably doing their job so I’m not likely to have a heart attack, but I will fight blood pressure issues for the rest of my life.

At about the same time, a friend of mine introduced me to research clearly indicating that we had it all wrong — that carbs were the culprit. And I was a carb-fed animal. Carbs for breakfast. Carbs for lunch. Carbs on my bike rides. More carbs with dinner. I ate but I was hungry all the time.

That friend also introduced me to Whole30, basically 30 days without carbs. I can tell you that for a couple of weeks, it wasn’t too bad. Then it hit me — it was tough. My energy levels were zero. My performance on the bicycle was awful. I got dropped in the parking lot.

But by the end of the 30 days, I felt pretty good.

I lost weight. I wasn’t hungry all the time. My problems with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) went away. Don’t get me wrong. You can’t exist without carbs. As a biker, I need more than most, especially on a 3-4 hour ride.

But it should be complex carbs. And you don’t need as much as you think. I will follow a low carb diet for the rest of my life. I am convinced it is the most heart-healthy approach out there.

And about that low fat. We now know that there are good fats and that a diet totally avoiding fats has problems of its own. We just have to seek out the good ones.

The other thing that I have changed is how I shop. I’ve always read labels but now what I’m looking for is simplicity.

Most of the items in my grocery cart have one name, easily understood. Broccoli. Spinach. Salmon. Eggs. Milk. Various fruits.

My friend, the late Sam Beall of Blackberry Farm, taught me why butter was better than margarine (check the ingredients).


So what is a typical Joe Black meal? It trends toward sameness.

When I find something I like, I stick with it until I get tired of it.

Here’s what I had yesterday.

Breakfast: Two eggs, almond milk, almond flour pancakes, maple syrup.

Lunch: Chicken salad, carrots, fruit, coconut water.

Dinner: Grilled chicken, asparagus, Jasmine rice, pumpkin pie.

I drink a Kombucha every day and snack on Pistachios.

I have a distinct weakness for Benton’s bacon, Haagen-Daz’s ice cream, Fritos, dark chocolate and hot dogs with chili and slaw.

A late night snack is likely to be tart cherry juice and a handful of Cheetos (don’t ask me to explain that one. I can’t). I believe that we need to enjoy our food and I’m not afraid of desserts.

I love good restaurants and avoid the chains. If the chef and the owner are the same person, that’s my kind of place. I love seafood of all kinds and a really great steak, cooked medium rare, is heavenly.

So, there you have it. I’m not going to try and tell you what to eat. I’m not a nutritionist.

This is what works for me. Do your research and eat what’s right for you but avoid white sugar and white flour whatever you do.

Your heart will thank you for it.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblack dpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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