Dr. Eric Berg DC
The Knowledge Doc™
My Personal Story
The meat and potatoes kid
I had the typical Midwest childhood. I lived on meat and potatoes with very few, if any, vegetables. I ate tons and tons of sugar, candy, chips, hot dogs, and pizza.
I was the kid who could never eat just one of anything. Instead, I ate as much as I could stuff into my pie hole. I would easily down several pounds of Halloween candy in a few days, and I continually slurped down orange and grape soda. I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house, where I gorged on her incredible cooking and amazing cakes.
At age 11, I remember starting to become aware of feeling odd and lightheaded after I ate—a feeling that would go away if I ate something sweet. Hmmm, I wonder what it was? How do you spell “blood sugar issues?” But for the most part, I ignored it and got away with eating anything I wanted—at least for a while.
High school and college: pushing my body too far
Throughout high school, I played football, did track, and wrestled.
I pushed myself hard, not having a clue about rest or recovery. As a result, I experienced many injuries from motorcycle accidents and even experienced bone fractures in both high school and college wrestling.
Looking back now, I think it was a combination of a terrible diet and cutting weight in wrestling. Before wrestling matches, I would literally starve myself for three days to make weight and become drained and stressed. And then, after weighing in, I would stuff myself with a jumbo submarine sandwich—not the best eating habit. This continued throughout high school until I ended up exhausted and depleted. I think it stunted my growth as I only grew to be 6’ 2”. My dad was 6’5”, my brother was 6’7”, and my mom was 6’…. Just kidding, she’s 5’10”.
After high school, I joined the Army Reserve. It was weird because I went in super strong, but from daily physical stress, emotional stress, and lots of carbs, I could barely pass the physical fitness training test and was confused at the time as to why not. But reflecting back, I see that with the combination of very little sleep, too many refined carbohydrates, and a bunch of stress, I just never recovered—on top of some genetic variation that didn’t align with overtraining or endurance training.
During my college years, I lived on very cheap refined carbs (noodles, pasta, bread, etc.), lots of coffee (Cuban), and absolutely no vegetables. I craved and consumed jumbo-sized bags of Doritos. The closest I came to improving my health was eating skinless chicken, low-fat pizza, and a lot of so-called “healthy” whole grains. I kept justifying it by telling myself, “I’ll eat better when I graduate.” I remember shopping at one of those discount grocery stores and loading up on canned Hormel Chili—ouch, my stomach hurts just thinking about it now!
The combination of bad foods, no sleep, and stress put my health into a quick downward spiral.
Around this time, I started to experience a weird pain in my right shoulder that radiated to my right upper trapezius muscle, which I thought was from a previous injury. Little did I know that was my not-so-lovely gallbladder issue. On top of that, I had heartburn, an ulcer, and was carrying around mega-packs of antacid tablets that I chewed like candy.
Things were not looking good. One day, my grandmother sent me a recipe for meatloaf. I decided to quickly scan it and not read the directions thoroughly. I omitted the step of draining out the one pound of hamburger grease and just baked it into the white bread. Well, at about 2 am the next morning, my gallbladder reminded me there was a big problem. I doubled over in a ball in pain for hours.
Starting my practice and my first attempts at health
After graduation, I started my practice, partly fueled by my desire to connect to my own personal health struggles. I decided it was finally time to get healthy and thought the natural thing to do was become a vegan. But I ended up more of a “grain-a-tarian.” I was a vegan without eating any actual vegetables and only ate cheap soy products, refined breads, beans, pasta, and lots of prunes (which I relied on for my never-ending digestive problems). I think I had enough gas to run a backup generator.
I was always tired but couldn’t sleep and developed restless legs at night. I would literally go for a run in the middle of some nights to get the energy out of my legs. Looking back, it was a condition called lactic acidosis, which is a buildup of lactic acid from too many carbs and low vitamin B1. It also felt like I had sand in my eyes because they were so dry. Again, looking back, I can see this was fat-storing hormone resistance because blood sugars can affect the eyes.
My intestines were like cement. I walked around with these darkened bags under my eyes and always felt half asleep. I remember going to the park with my kids and feeling like I was still 90% in bed. I even left a restaurant once in the middle of dinner with my wife to take a nap in the car (which did not go over too well). I was friggin’ tired, man!
Needless to say, I was in trouble. So, I started to search for solutions.
I searched every health food and vitamin store I could find, creating a warehouse of remedies. By age 28, I had inflammation in my spine and hands, severe right shoulder pain, unending fatigue, and insomnia. Other than that, I was doing pretty well (sigh).
The turning point: getting my body back
But through my research, I stumbled upon an interesting book. It was called Mastering the Zone, and it shared information about fat-storing hormone and protein requirements. After reading the first chapter, I decided to try eating a buffalo burger for breakfast instead of my regular low-fat muffin. And believe it or not, I actually felt like a helmet came off my head, and I awakened.
This was the turning point. It was fascinating to realize how little I knew about nutrition and health—zero! Actually, I was educated, just in the completely wrong direction. But you know what? I was open to learning, and I became obsessed with diving in and learning everything I could. Of course, I never stopped.
Slowly, I shifted my diet from grains and sugars to more vegetables and protein. I included huge salads with kale and greens. Finally, my body started to turn around.
AND I GOT MY ENERGY BACK.
It was exciting and hopeful. I was finally able to keep up with my kids and feel good. I was 32 years old at that time.
Sharing my success with others
This dramatic transformation in my health fueled me to start studying nutrition with a passion (like I was on steroids, to be honest). I quit my full-time chiropractic work and studied everything I could get my hands on in the fields of food therapy, endocrinology, autonomic nervous system physiology, Chinese medicine, nutrition, alternative techniques, acupressure, and exercise physiology.
I was either watching nutritional videos on VHS at night or studying in the early morning.
I had a large group of patients on whom I could test things, and I started learning what worked and what didn’t. Eventually, I started teaching my methods to other medical professionals and even taught at Howard University as an associate professor for a while.
This went on for about 29 years.
I wrote a book on my findings and published The 7 Principles of Fat Burning. But the journey didn’t end there, and I kept learning new things with the help of my large group of clients. Around 2012, I realized I had a few key things wrong. For example, in my original book, I recommended fruit (especially apples) to snack on throughout the day.
Ultimately, the principles of intermittent fasting and Healthy Keto® turned things completely around for me. I updated my book to The Healthy Keto Plan and started my YouTube channel, where I currently share my knowledge on these healthy ways of eating.
Ever since, my mission has been to extract the simple, powerful truths about health from the sea of confusing and complex health information. My purpose is to be The Knowledge Doc™, helping people understand health in a simple way.
I am happy to say that I was my very first success story.
I got my health back, and you can, too!