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Your intuition to eat when hungry is incorrect with reference to getting you leaner. "Hunger" is caused by the secretion of a hormone, ghrelin, which happens to occur when growth hormone is released. In fact, not only does the drop in blood sugar and therefore decrease in insulin help engender growth hormone production. Ghrelin itself stimulates growth hormone release (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v402/n6762/full/402656a0.html). Growth hormone protects muscle and promotes fat loss. If you think hunger is a helpful predictor of when you should eat, you are exactly mistaken. Being hungry is the primary symptom of profound body fat loss. Ask anyone who has ever gotten extremely lean, and they will tell you that they gleefully embraced the painfully deep hunger that accompanied their morning fasted cardio sessions precisely because that is the only time you know for certain that you are losing body fat. The more hours and more frequently you do this, the leaner you will get. As long as you continue to stress skeletal muscle regularly and average a daily sufficient nutritional intake, you will lose zero lean mass in the process.
Every possible thought, belief, action, behavior and habit lies within a dense and outstretched forest. Every time you bring one of these behaviors or thoughts into being, you start a path through the wooded thicket. Your first pass is a difficult one. Branches catch you in the face. You are scratched. It's work, hard work, cutting back the vines and overgrowth. But the second pass is easier, if only a little. Over time you beat down the path, smoothing it over until it's a nearly effortless pass. By the millionth time, you have invested in paving it as a superhighway, and there isn't a single obstruction in your way.
We've all been there: on a drive home or to work or somewhere, we arrive not even realizing how we got there. We've traveled the road so many times that it's on autopilot. It's effortless, because you've perfectly carved that trail through the forest. When we're faced with road construction on our familiar pathway, it's irritating and exhausting, because we are running a different combination of circuitry, a different pathway of action potentials firing across the brian. It's unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and depleting.
The forest, by the way, is the neural network of your brain; and, in fact, we do carve physical, visible grooves in it with repeated behaviors, thoughts, actions, beliefs, feelings, reactions, vices, work ethic, eating habits, anger management, immune function, addiction, etc.
These grooves are easy paths of neuron firing. So, when you decide to change a behavior or thought pattern, you are quite literally confronted with the option to either go down the old easy path or break out the machete and get to work. The good news is you can do it. The bad news is that even after you travel the new trail, the old one is smoother. And every time you start your day, you can either take the paved path or hack down some more vines and crawl over a few more logs and stones. When you're tired, sick, sad, or demotivated, which path ya gonna take?
It's going to take a long time for an abandoned superhighway to look unappealing. You have to invest a lot in the new trail. But, in time, your new path is easy and moss grows over the old one. Cracks form in the old highway's surface. Vines come snaking back across the way; and trees sprout up through the double yellow lines themselves. The forest will retake the old highway. But it's going to be a while. Meanwhile, you've yet to invest just as much in the new trail.
Any behavior, belief, emotion or action of the brain can change. Another path lies within the forest. But you must not only create it and travel it. You must cultivate it and commit to the destruction of the old one. It's a mistake to think that just because you've formed a new habit that the old ones are gone. They are still there, pristinely awaiting your return. Only when the old ways become unfamiliar will their appeal wane.
It takes time, a lot of time. But it's legitimate. Most of the "cheat" or "I-could-never-imagine-giving-up" foods are not actually food. My mind doesn't classify them as food anymore. When I look at wheat bread or processed foods with grain proteins I get the exact same response as when I gaze upon gravel on the ground. I can eat it. I could eat it. But why would I? It's not food. You never step out of your car, catch a glimpse of gravel, and say to yourself, "I could never imagine giving up eating gravel for the rest of my life." You have long ago committed to never eating gravel. You have given up gravel-eating for your whole life, because, in your mind, it isn't food.
This took me about 3-4 years. I'm not a robot or a superhuman. I'm just some guy. So I suspect most significant behavior changes will take 3-4 years of unbroken 99% compliance. The first pass is the hardest. Subsequent travels prove easier. But when you're tired and beat down, there is comfort in the old familiar which requires a redoubling of efforts to avoid for the next few passes. Some addictions and pathologically imprinted Pavlovian-conditioned beliefs and feelings will certainly take a lot longer. But longer is not forever.
So, when you break out the hatchet, the pruning shears, the chainsaw or bulldozer, remember that the battle isn't won just because you carved a new path. The battle isn't ever really won. Three months of great drive will not wipe your memory banks clear. Old demons will call you quite clearly for years to come. But at some point, as you invest in your new superhighway, your new you, your new brain, your new heart, your new behaviors and thoughts, the old path will be nothing but a largely forgotten, vaguely familiar, perilous and unappealing path. With the vast forest of possibilities, why travel down an old disrepaired road that gets uglier with every day? One day, there won't be a single reason left.
I'm no expert. I don't know much. The more I learn, I find the less I understand. But I have completed over 10,000 consults while working in the fitness industry. I've hired and developed hundreds of fitness professionals. And I've worked with and/or seen tens of thousands of clients during their fitness journeys. So, through the course of observing and contemplating this sheer volume, I learned a couple things about the fundamental needs to set one up for success. Psychologically or emotionally (however you need to categorize it), happiness is at the center. Though we may be driven by a continual desire for improvement, a certain amount of happiness and gratitude for our current station in life wards off the fatalism and defeated-mindset which prevents progress. This happiness is a skill, not an outcome from attaining or accumulating more. Like all other skills, it must be watchfully cared for, cultivated and practiced.
Unfortunately, people think they'll obtain happiness by getting whatever they want; but the opposite is true. Wants are momentary, and so is the fleeting happiness that comes with getting what you want. Just like when people who don't manage their money well win the lottery and still end up bankrupt, if you haven't learned how to be fulfilled with what you have, you still won't be fulfilled with more. You'll just have more to weigh you down and complain about, ever-feeding the dissatisfaction and a desire to fix what ain't broke in the first place, causing harm in the process. People who seek happiness through getting high tend to only increasingly require a greater high to get them almost as happy as they were before it all.
Shawn Achor rocked the world a few years back with his TedTalk (https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work?language=en) on how we invert the equation of happiness. Convincingly, he argued that people who've developed a positive outlook first wind up more capable of succeeding at any given task. Negativity, depression, and even neutral or "realist" outlook is on average about 30% less efficient and effective at everything.
The international poverty line is $1.25 per day or $1.90 per day, depending on which source you consult. Over 12% of the world lives at or below this line. Over 42% of people in Africa live at or below this line. If we move the number up to $3.10 per day, well over 2 billion people fall below the line. Try to take this in. If an average American had his housing paid for for the month, all groceries purchased for the week, all transportation and communication needs taken care of, he could not operate at this number. Just think of one day's utilities to keep the lights on and water flowing. Forget about heat or cooling. You are wealthy.
I frequently post news stories about people who have all odds against them. Sometimes it's an amputee who is still a badass athlete. Sometimes it's a 100 year old person who started working out 8 years ago and is fitter than most people in their 30s on up. When I first started athletic training, whenever people started griping about the woes of life (as if billions of people hadn't dealt with their identical problems and worse), I'd generally retort, "at least you weren't born in a ditch in Calcutta."
Maybe that's offensive. But it ought to be. We ought to feel shame and conviction at how well we have it, and how readily we jump in to justify our waste of talent, gifts and wealth. Include me in this. I'm not talking about cultivating blissful naivety. Become an actual realist. Don't hide behind the moniker of "realist," when it's really a strategic pity party. Upward comparisons have become the order of the day, which is totally ludicrous if you think about it, since you're contrasting your environment or lifestyle against .01% or less of the current developed world population. If you're reading this, just being a fluent English user means you are in the top 10% wealthiest people who've ever lived on the face of the earth. If you have access to clean bottled water or clean running water, you are wealthier than Medieval nobility and aristocrats. Thanks to advances in technology and science, even some of the most oppressed people in the modern world have better lives than the rich of every prior century in history.
Now don't dwell on the conviction. Don't swim in a pool of shame. Likewise, don't drown in a sewer of excuses. Just properly evaluate how good you have it. You have it good. Be grateful. Be empowered by knowing how much you really have already. This is arguably the biggest part of getting skillful at happiness. If your personal evaluation is always targeted at dissatisfaction and want, you are beginning on the wrong foot. You are developing the skill of unhappiness. And some of us are so good at unhappiness that we wear it like a badge of honor.
It's an obvious fact that children generally have far more energy than adults. Why exactly is that? I believe a big part is that they have not generated the skill of unhappiness yet. They are actually in the moment, loving it for itself and dreaming about future wonders. You know full well that days where you are excited, fulfilled and happy you can rock it out no matter how little sleep you got or how long the day is. We adults have become far too good at dwelling our mind on anything but the moment we're in; and we exhaust ourselves by imagining phony challenges when we don't even face a real challenge in our day. People in the developing world have to figure out how to not get murdered on the way to potable water every day. You are anxious and depressed because your Facebook feed has some positive updates of people you envy, or negative updates of people you disagree with. You have it really, really, really, really good.
Outside of Shawn Achor's takeaways, there isn't much to add in the way of homework to cultivate the skill of happiness. I can just as easily fall into the trap of upward comparisons, and sometimes do when interacting with some of the wealthier people I know. But I have to remind myself this is an upward comparison on a single criterion. People are people. And some of the richest people out there have severe escapism issues, cannot sleep at night and spend less time with their kids on a weekly basis than I do. You see what happened there? I put the emphasis on what I have that others don't, instead of what others have that I don't.
I have clients with whom we have made Shawn Achor takeaways or other non-fitness related behaviors part of their program. We review weekly progress, what worked, what didn't. And it may sound crazy. But I have had people who are required to turn in to me 3 or more gratitudes per day and all of a sudden they are changed. In some cases, their actual personalities transformed. Likes and dislikes alter. In some cases, people started making progress in their fitness or careers again just from their outlook changing by virtue of these practices.
It isn’t a cheesy optimism exercise. It’s an accurate perspective borne out of an effective skill. You just have to build it, practice it, become increasingly able with it, just like you would with any other skill. You would not wait around for the world to gift you with any other skill. Don’t wait for a magical change in circumstances to gift you the skill of happiness either. You know for a fact that you have to practice to cultivate prowess on an instrument, a foreign language, a new sport, or any hobby, diversion or game. Happiness is no different. Practice. Practice. Practice. Oh, and one more thing: practice.
Earlier today my son, daughter and I were heading back home from the park which is about a one block walk from our house. He was on his bike; and I was pushing my daughter in the overpriced jogging stroller. Exiting the park, the pathway has a low grade incline, which turns 90 degrees onto another path that is a slightly higher incline, which leads onto our adjacent street which is a lower uphill battle. My son started up the initial hill, and at the first sign of resistance he stopped pedaling to "take a break." He then found himself completely incapable of even starting up that very same hill, let alone the next two hills. He was confused and looked at me for an explanation or help. I said, "you just learned a valuable lesson in momentum; the only time you take a break is before you start the hill or after you finish them all."
My son is you. The hills are the psychological and physiological challenges on your way through weight loss. Once you have committed to losing weight, you are traveling up a hill. If you take a single momentary break while you are on the hill, you have made a fatal error in judgement. You will not make it to the top without returning to the bottom again to muster momentum anew. Be all in; or be all out. Lukewarmness is a transgression of Biblical proportions.
If you need to lose 40lbs, ANYTHING shy of 41lbs lost is still climbing the hill. With my most driven clients, we don't slow down until they are 5 or 10lbs past their goal or the leanest physique they desire. When you reward yourself with a break after anything less than the goal number, you have fallen into the trap of Sisyphus. If you aren't familiar with this tale, Sisyphus was a Greek mythological character who eternally rolled a stone up a hill, repeatedly starting over, never to obtain the summit or rest. Coincidentally, this was his punishment for deceitfulness. I see a strong parallel with how honest you must be with yourself.
Once you go after it, commit to nothing less than the summit. Resistance will happen; and you must be prepared to grind through the discomfort in order to reach the peak. Continue pedaling. Do not submit. Keep the momentum.
The Modern Priestly Class Is The Greatest Health Hazard in Human History
People like to invoke "science," "scientists," "researchers," "medical experts," and "expert consensus" as authoritative. I include myself among those who make this mistake. Those words in quotations and related phrases have become code for the contemporary priestly class. Medical and scientific authority have become the amplified modern version of the Medieval Vatican, issuing dictums to parishioners, nominal members and non-members alike. The problem, of course, is that scientific paradigms are not just frequently overturned, but are supposed to be. They are not end point conversation stoppers. They are conversation starters. Many people cite a position or finding, drop the mic and walk away. That's a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific inquiry; and it's really a pathetic appeal to the current priestly authority. Appeal to authority is always dangerous. It's a logical fallacy in fact. Our faith in some experts, even the majority in a field, is misplaced in modern dialogue. We are engaging the mechanics of logic and debate less, while invoking our favorite icon(s) more. That makes the modern priestly class the most dangerous of all time; and they are ruining our health. But in the end, we have no one to blame but ourselves for having outsourced our own thinking and our own personal responsibility for our health to the modern priestly class.
In 1992, the group Rage Against The Machine released a song named "Killing In The Name." Specifically, it's about white authority and corruption, namely Klan involvement in law enforcement. However, the overarching theme of the song is that part of human nature is to create centers of authority and unthinkingly follow them: "and now you do what they told ya; now you're under control." The point is that while authority is on your side, you tend to feel justified in your support of it. While you agree with authority, you tend to scrutinize it less and less. While it's leaving you alone, it's really easy to believe in its rightness and even righteousness. It becomes very easy to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. No one is too rational or dispassionate to avoid falling into this trap. While authority gains popularity, its errors get magnified, and the acolytes cannot even see the increasingly egregious errors anymore. All the while it dehumanizes opponents, causes increased strife, and destroys the very ideals it had set out to bolster. The answer, of course, is Rage's crescendo chorus, "f@&$ you! I won't do what ya tell me!" Like them, let's repeat this a few dozen times in a row loudly and to music (by the way, this 40 seconds of recording is the best for attempting a personal record in any athletic endeavor). Remember this line; and invoke it every time an authority figure directs you to do something which makes no sense, with many repetitions if necessary.
When I was very young, around 3 or 4, I was infatuated with paleontology. I memorized all the names of dinosaurs, their timetables, their classifications and characteristics. By the age of 5 I found a good friend, Gerardo De Los Santos, who was equally infatuated. We both began to realize over the next few years, especially when contrasting our respective dinosaur books, that the same bones led different paleontologists to different conclusions. Revisions were constant. Names changed. Different rock strata yielded similar species. The same bone was used to make a case for a tiny species' femur or a larger species' thumb. Around 7 years old I learned that uniformitarianism, the required assumption of all radioactive decay dating, has numerous counterexamples. In formal logic, it requires only a single counterexample to completely dismantle a rule, let alone a theory or hypothesis. I was so fortunate to learn that discovery is not a fixed truth so much as an organic waltz. My favorite science writer when I was in my teens, Michael Shermer, used the term "provisional truth" to describe a discovery which seems to have the current best explanatory capacity. Provisional truths are only so good as they can provide some usefulness. The greatest of discoveries is only momentarily pragmatic, not indefinitely authoritative.
For over 20 years the American Medical Association tacitly to blatantly recommended smoking cigarettes (http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1848212,00.html). In the 1700s many if not the majority of scientists on earth believed in spontaneous generation, despite Louis Pasteur's work. Some iteration of abiogenesis still remains in popular favor despite no empirical evidence, but based only on an inductive argument which begs several prior questions. From the start of the Human Genome Project in 1990 or earlier up until 2013 or later conventional geneticists declared authoritatively that 1% of DNA is coding and the rest is some sort of leftovers or "junk." The proponents of that position have become apologists doing a revision dance almost daily for the last three years. Further advances in the understanding of epigenetics, membranome and proteome are going to keep them dancing for decades to come. Germ theory led to a chronic over-sterilization of our homes, hospitals, skin and digestive tracts to the tune of unprecedented allergies, sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, destroyed biome and superbugs, some of which can't be destroyed with bleach. Western medical researchers up until very recently thought that dietary fat and cholesterol caused heart disease, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/07/the-sugar-conspiracy-robert-lustig-john-yudkin) and despite NEVER proposing or confirming a known biological mechanism that would account for causation. You may think we know better today than we did in the past. Possibly. Yet, if you're right, tomorrow we will know better than the past... which... is today.
We need scientists and doctors. I cannot emphasize this enough. However, our need for their work must not be confused with their work being ineffably perfect. Scientists and doctors get a lot of things wrong, and not just on occasion. They get things wrong constantly and consistently even on the same topic for decades. That's not a bad thing. That's just a reality of discovery. They do the best they can with the tools available and the technology of the day. Discovery is a process, not a final product. Stop thinking of a scientific discovery as the end of a road, so much as the beginning of a fork in the road. The danger is when we begin thinking of discoveries as final, their champions as final authority, and all opponents as Luddites, Philistines and buffoons. This stops the process of discovery. This stops the debate of subjects, and begins the "my guru can beat up your guru" soliloquies. Some people blame this oversimplification on news media and technology; but infotainment outlets are just delivering what the public wants: convenience, lack of nuance, and reduction of complex subjects to the priest's sound byte.
The most erudite experts are people. Only people. No matter how many credentials they have and suffixes after their names, they are absolutely never unquestionable. They are the new priestly class, carrying the burden of being the "bearers of truth." But like all other priestly classes, this does not insulate them from criticism. In fact, it means that their ignorance, naivety, objective wrongness and insidious agenda can be hidden in a layer of infallible expertise. Like always, that is supremely dangerous. Consequently, it is a civic duty to incessantly doubt and investigate every single claim of the priestly class, especially consensus beliefs, but certainly individual claims. Reopen old investigations. Find errors. Revise with extreme prejudice. It is the right of the layperson, no matter how few suffixes he has, to exercise his first amendment freedom against the tyranny of authoritarianism and aggressively criticize to his dying breath the logical fallacy of appeal to authority or consensus. An argument must stand or fall on its own merits, not the merits of the errant human stating it, since the prevailing winds of societal values change with and within every generation anyway.
Frankly, nobody wants the liability associated with being objectively definitively right anyway. Ever hear the sayings, "do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?" or "do you want to be right, or do you want to be rich?”? Look at what's happened in medical malpractice lawsuits. As a society, we started to believe a surgeon should be 110% successful, incapable of mistakes, and that diagnoses are an end of discussion. Any deviation from this expectation and people feel completely justified in suing a clinic or doctor. It's ludicrous. Nobody wants that pressure. And nobody should have that pressure. They do the best with the tools they have and the technology of the day. If we turn our attention to science research, it's no different. Researchers don't want personal liability in being right. When some scientific discovery upends theirs, they tend to get defensive. It's unnecessary, because we (including them) need to realize that their first pronouncement was only provisional. Of course it's wrong. Everything and everyone is wrong in time. It's just a matter of how much less wrong we can be over time.
The modern person may think that the most pernicious appeal to authority was a Medieval kow tow before "the church." The historical reality, however, was that religious hierarchy never held as widespread of thought control as any modern proclamation made by the NIH, the NAS, the AMA, the CDC, the WHO and to a lesser extent the FDA. When they tell us to jump into a pile of used syringes, we say, "how long should we roll around in them for improved health?" Around 1980 the new priests in the US and UK told us to cut out dietary fat. We listened with such vigor that obesity and comorbidities skyrocketed beyond any point in human history. The new priests have marched more secular individuals (numerically and percentage-wise) to an early grave than the death toll of all ecclesiastical warmongers combined. Try to remember how disconnected and segregated the world once was, a world that never had more than a grand total of 500 million persons until a few hundred years ago. To be sure, old empires received duties from all over the world. But none commanded total obedience like the priestly class of today, a priestly class which wields dominion over all 530 million people in North America and a heavy hand on the 7.5 billion people and growing population of the world. Authorities still send our young people to die in unpopular wars that aristocrats want. Egregious failure from highest authority is not a thing of the past, nor a contrived religious behavior. Don't forget that the words skepticism and skeptic do not come to us from modern thinkers. They are Greek words from the ancients. We modern people are not so sophisticated. The Protestant Reformation was a 16th century widespread movement (after many prior attempts) thumbing its nose at the supposed authority of the day. Where are our modern widespread reformations? Nowhere. If dialogue, open debate, and massive reformation are hallmarks of progress, we are living in arguably the least progressive time in history. Critics of a finding and debate of a subject have always existed. Let's embrace that again, rather than constantly invoking the rhetorical devices of appeal to the authority or concensus of the modern priests.
The priestly class and its followers avoid debate by minimizing opponents, the act of which itself is an ad hominem fallacy. And I would argue that only in very recent history have we reached a point where the priestly class has convincingly brain-washed most acolytes into believing that issues are beyond debate, beyond question, beyond settled. The modern priests appeal to peer review or internal audit to bolster their divine revelation. However, there are many examples where these tools have failed miserably, especially when grant money, funding and careers are on the line. Gary Taubes, best known for ending the calorie and salt myths, started out by demolishing "bad science" in physics. Yes, physics. If ever there were ever a scientific field that we would expect to be empty of fraud, it would be physics, especially given the alleged rigor in peer review and publishing. Alas, even hard science, empirical and applied sciences fail: the Challenger takeoff in 1986 is just one dramatic example.
Researchers and scientists in human biology, nutritional and health sciences clearly have a lot more prestige and dollars at stake than physicists. The grand total multinational collaborative effort to find the Higgs Boson particle at the LHC was a few billion dollars. This was the largest financial endeavor in the history of physics. Contrast that against just today's current market valuation of just the top five or so pharmaceutical companies, which is in the trillions. Put that aside for a moment and simply exert basic critical thinking. Peer review and internal audit are safeguards to ensure the old belief system isn't overthrown. It's not a conspiracy. It's just the way of the world. Those who obtain power don't give it up. And there is no greater power than being the "keeper of truth." I repeat, the modern priestly class is the most dangerous of all time.
Don't mishear me. I get the same visceral response that you do when I hear people argue that vaccines are responsible for autism or that there is no anthropogenic climate change. But I have to ask myself (and I hope you'll do the same), "how much of my knee-jerk rejection of an idea is due to indoctrination by the modern priests and present popular culture?" The fact is that most of these debates are built on false dichotomies and strawman fallacies anyway. There are always more than two possible positions. You don't need to be pro-vaccine or an "anti-vaxxer." You can believe in the benefit of vaccination and be hesitant about the increasingly aggressive schedules. Neither demonizing vaccines nor demonizing people who hesitate to do all 60 vaccines on their children immediately will move society forward. You don't need to demonized climate change concern or demonize "deniers." People can recognize that humans have an impact and that we don't know how great our impact is and that we ought to put some effort into controlling what we can. They aren't either/or propositions.
Licensure, accreditation and certification are well-intentioned and necessary. Once a field has reached a reasonable conclusion, critics should have to work hard to overthrow the paradigm. Absolutely they should. But let us start by allowing the free speech of the critics in the first place. If they aren't allowed a hearing, how will we ever learn more? Even kooks can be onto something. Many great scientific discoveries were completed by total nut jobs. If your criterion for being taken seriously in a science field is that the scientist's beliefs should align closely with peers, where does that put all the eccentrics like Newton and Einstein? We have to be careful that we aren't conflating provisional truths with absolute truths. We have to be careful that we are not confusing credentials with absolute unquestionable authority. Debates should be encouraged, not avoided. Criticism should be welcomed. Having a different idea is just that: having a different idea. Our societal aversion against engaging opposing ideas is growing. That's dangerous. That's anti-modern. That's regressive. It prevents our growth and the growth of our opposition.
I have a client who's a brilliant cell biologist. He is the quintessential, authentic scientist, a representative of the top .01% who make it to postdoctoral research and beyond, publishing in the most esteemed journals. His current work is breakthrough Alzheimer's research. More than once he's lamented the bureaucratic tape that weighs down his field, explaining how peer review can be used to stall the recognition and momentum of a research team based solely on who is friends with whom or whose funding is tied up with whose research. I asked him how many people in the field get fed up and leave. He said, "almost everyone." There are so few lifelong legitimate researchers who stay at reputable university and "disinterested" labs that it's laughable. With the current state of American science, we cannot produce another Nikolai Tesla or Jonas Salk. Today, Tesla's experiments wouldn't be allowed outside of a government-controlled facility, and certainly not done by someone without proper schooling. At best, he'd be on trial for terrorism. Salk's work on polio would never even get funding today. He would need to first convince a consensus of peers that polio is curable before even being allowed to search for a cure. If the current consensus behind the funding was that polio was incurable, he would've never even had the opportunity to seek a cure. Lest we forget, nowadays no scientific discovery is worthwhile anyway unless it is profitable and can be commoditized. We are done learning. It's all about cash flow now. Where do you think most of those former university researchers are ending up? If they stay in a science field, the best way to feed their families is working for one of those trillion dollar pharma companies or their shadow subsidiaries.
I understand. As humans, we want things to be simple. It requires a lot less mental energy to point to an authority than to engage in the mechanics of an argument. But wrestle we must. Humans have limited resources; and it is unrealistic to stay informed on every topic. I get that. We get too excited about simplifying, however, and about the prospect of shutting down an opponent with a final knockout punch. I do too. The thing is, discovery does not work that way. At best, it's provisional for the moment. At worst, it's a harmful conclusion built upon prior incorrect assumptions.
Several writers have taken to the task of showing us that we don't actually even like science. It's too fluid. It's not the impregnable oracle we want it to be. What we like is a popular authority, shrouded in the terminology of science, which entertains us and hopefully threatens and belittles those who don't share our worldview. One blogger, Maddox, has gone to the trouble of showing that, on the popular page "I f***ing love science," posts which are merely photographs devoid of science garner the greatest attention and likes, while posts which involve actual science or scientific workshops garner far less attention and oftentimes almost no likes (http://thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=youre_not_a_nerd). Other writers go further, pointing out how few people are in scientific fields and how abysmally we pay the workhorses in the field because we don't actually value real scientific discovery (http://mashable.com/2013/09/20/why-you-dont-love-science/#_V59yl6aFqq9). Instead of laying our fealty at the feet of our chosen authority to score worldview points, why don't we debate, agree to disagree and lay money at the feet of childhood science education instead? I'm not talking about more priestly indoctrination. Just teach kids how to think, inquire, discover. You know? It used to be called the scientific method. Somewhere along the line the scientific method took a backseat to philosophical conformity. If you don't believe the same thing as the rest of us, well, you're just not a real scientist.
That's called circular reasoning, by the by:
What constitutes being a real scientist?
Having the same philosophical beliefs as the rest of us.
But why do we have those beliefs?
Because they're correct.
But what constitutes "correctness"?
That we all believe it.
As far as I can tell, most medical professionals and scientific researchers have worked extremely hard to get where they are. We need them. We need to appreciate them. Specialists are impressive in their areas of expertise. Doubtless, they command our respect. What they've done is admirable, and very few deserve our contempt. However, none are above criticism. There is no status a human can attain which places him beyond fallibility. None.
I've seen an increasing trend of people defending our modern day priests and nobles like we are trying to get back to an errant version of 600 AD Britain. Firstly, the privileged have never needed defending. Secondly, it's 2016; and no one is above audit or reproach. We have to learn to be ok with the fact that oftentimes incorrect information comes from the authorities and correct information comes from non-authorities. Frankly, we have to rethink "authority."
We're at a historic moment, wherein the familiarity of what the priests say drives our beliefs and we ignore that fact because whatever they proclaim is "incontestable science." Arguably, the number one driver of human behavior is familiarity. We humans developed all of these wonderful techniques of logic, analysis, scientific inquiry and reason, only to regularly ignore them. People keep smoking when they've determined that they no longer want to. People stay in abusive relationships when they know they shouldn't. People who say they want to lose weight keep doing all the behaviors that made them fat. The electorate routinely votes for the status quo even while in the very act of lamenting the status quo. The devil you know is better than the devil you don't. The devil we know is current scientific authority and consensus. The devil we don't know is scientific inquiry. Yes, the idea that very little is settled is unfamiliar and scary. However, that's how inquiry works.
Because people want to point to a single final authority, they get confused when one headline reads, "eggs are bad for you," and another reads, "eggs are good for you." Guess what: those headlines are not scientific. Read the actual published research paper rather than the New York Times summary and you'll find that no one ever stated the headline, oftentimes the study was tainted, and more often than not two opposing findings can be explained if you do a very tiny amount of critical thinking. Moreover, keep in mind that these are all provisional truths which have many gaping holes.
Personally, what I found when I made my way through the entire USMLE1 medical lecture series is that there are many systems in the body whose mechanisms are well understood. By virtue of that, a lot of nutrition and epidemiological studies are redundant, entirely unnecessary, built on uninformed assumptions and myopic in scope. USMLE1 is a massive load of information. Most doctors are going to forget the majority of the material but what they regularly encounter. Researchers never necessarily encountered the subject matter that has already fundamentally explained the very systems they are trying prove one way or another. This includes systems which are very well understood. A real common example is the citric acid cycle. People who studied physiology, human biology, biochemistry, and chemistry forget that we can feed fuel into cells independent of glucose and insulin. There have been countless studies of and medical advice given on the ideal carbohydrate intake for the human animal being 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 or 90%. What about ZERO PERCENT? What about five or ten percent? Our cells do just peachy with beta hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate. Any increase in glucose will blunt receptors and work various organs much harder. We know this; but it's practically completely ignored in study after study and in contemporary medical parlance.
I realize this subject matter is emotionally charged. People are going to read into this many things I'm not really saying. I'm not taking any sides. I stated quite clearly that most of the time two opposing "sides" are actually an incorrect oversimplification. This is just a call to action to think. And rather than launch into all of the various subjects where the modern priests are measurably hurting us and themselves, just consider a handful of my personal experiences wherein listening to the priestly class needlessly cost me tens of thousands of dollars, years of pain and almost my life and the life of my son:
I used to run long distance. By midsummer 1999, about 60 miles per week was an average. Even early on I was suffering consequences from bad mechanics during all that volume. I went to great sports medicine doctors, got second opinions, tried NSAIDs, had X-rays, went to multiple physical therapists, and searched. I foam rolled long before most people had even heard of such a thing. I iced. I did heat. I stopped running altogether. I learned about extremely complex postural and gait assessments, muscular imbalances, compensatory patterns. Nothing ever helped, except temporary relief from some of my own corrective exercise protocols. Most weeks I hobbled. Several MDs threw around the terminology "chronic acetabular inflammation." Originally, IT band was suspected. Nobody knew.
In a final move of desperation, at the age of 25, I went outside my insurance network to see the number one orthopedic surgeon in the Midwest for this type of issue. This guy fixes the most elite of professional athletes; and I was lucky to get a meeting. I shook his hand. We exchanged niceties. He didn't think I was a candidate for surgery, yet. He had only one new recommendation: see his physical therapy specialist, a brilliant Canadian who had PhDs in physiology. The three minute meeting with the surgeon was almost a thousand dollars out of my pocket. Then I was on to the therapist. His recommendations provided some brief relief. And that was pleasant given that his fifteen minute appointments were over a hundred dollars a piece out of my pocket. I later learned that he was doing what is now considered muscle activation technique or MAT. Inevitably though, the debilitating pain came back.
During all this searching, employees of mine made suggestions. Some of them had their Masters Degrees in Exercise Science. Some were medical students. Some were simply certified trainers. But none were full-fledged doctors. So, how could they possibly tell me something more helpful than all of the top people in the specialty medical world? This question begs the question. Implicit within it is a faulty logical error, but a popular one: no one but the priests have the truth.
Two years later, in 2008, at the insistence of one of my long time employees, I attended an intensive 40+ hour workshop for my own CECs for one of my certifications. During this hands-on Active Isolated Stretching workshop, unexpectedly, something occurred which all of the best minds in the field had been completely incapable of bringing about: my pain vanished. Hips and back unlocked completely for the first time in ten years. Keep in mind, there were many days leading up to that workshop when I could not walk without a brace and assistance, pain meds, and a lot of teeth gritting. After that workshop, there were no more IT band issues. There is no more chronic acetabular inflammation. There is no more wasted time talking to people who know less about this than I do simply because they once obtained a suffix I don't have.
All along, one of my own employees, just a certified personal trainer, held the only answer I needed while I plied through the specialists, spending years of my life in pain. I and they soldiered forward with the notion that once we get the right diagnosis, we can begin the right treatment, and all will be well. None of those doctors or therapists will be called to account for malpractice. I won't be getting a refund. I won't get those years back. And the trainer, the only one with the pragmatically correct knowledge, will never charge hundreds of dollars for a few minutes of ineffective time. Diagnostic agnosticism was the number one solution. There was no need for priests, correct diagnoses, gait analysis, treatments and the like. Instead, there are progressive protocols which work wonders regardless of pathology. AIS is just one of them. But they all capitalize on agnostic progression by improving blood flow in all tissues and improving movement without undue irritation or pain. In fact, one could argue that this simple method is basically the answer to any injury which surgery can't fix and some that we think we need surgery to fix.
In 2011 my son was born with an incredibly complex autoimmune condition. My wife and I have seen the best pediatric allergy specialists in the world. Every meeting we only found that they knew a minuscule fraction of what we had already learned through our extensive reading on the subject. Given my prior history with medical professionals, I enter most meetings completely unimpressed, but open to the possibility I might learn something useful. However, a pediatric allergy specialist who left school even only a year ago looks incompetent next to my wife's academic rigor in sifting through our son's disease. Those who left med school five or more years ago never even learned most of the recently discovered paradigm-altering complexities of autoimmune diseases and gut biome, unless they encountered a talk on the subject at a seminar or took it upon themselves to learn after matriculation. The field is evolving fast; and professionals are not keeping up.
The real kicker was when we discovered on our son a cancerous lesion requiring surgical removal. A pediatric dermatology specialist at one of the most highly rated childrens hospitals in the world stated unequivocally, "there is no possibility of correlation - the skin is separate from what's going on underneath the surface." My wife and I looked at each other in disbelief. This is an easily-contended statement. The skin is an organ wholly integrated with and dependent on other organs. What happens to the skin if the cardiovascular system stops shuttling blood to it? What happens to the skin if the liver is compromised? What happens to the skin during kidney failure? What happens to the skin when the immune system has hyper response to an allergen? What happens to the skin when hormones change during puberty? She is an expert in a very tiny specialized field, and she isn't a rogue. Peruse the American Academy of Dermatology website, and you'll find that she was toeing the party line.
You might be thinking that those are isolated or rare events. So, allow me to summarize every single one of the many emergency room visits we've had with our son. My wife and I have had to double check the ingredients of whatever drug the doctors, nurses or PAs were about to administer, because, although it is in our son's chart and we say it every time, NO MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL who just read it and/or heard it from us, seems to know that dextrose solution or corn-based suspension will kill our son. He would be dead a thousand times over if we entrusted him to the care of the modern priests.
In Fall of 2014 I was infected with Lyme Disease. It was a complicated journey. I met with doctors at four different clinics. In the midst of it, I went to see THE infectious disease specialist at one of the most prestigious clinics in the Twin Cities. I had only been reading about the disease for three weeks; yet my replete understanding versus her ignorance was alarming. She didn't know about different titers, kill kinetics, disease pathology, testing protocols. She told me point blank I couldn't have Lyme since I tested negative the month prior to meeting her. I strongly encouraged her to retest, since ALL of the best bacteriology on Borrelia shows it is immunosuppressive, and a positive test is nearly impossible at outset before antibiotic administration (an MD friend of mine prescribed doxycycline on suspicion weeks beforehand). She didn't know this. She didn't believe me. She begrudgingly relented against her training and listened to my stubborn insistence. On the retest I TESTED POSITIVE FOR LYME ON ALL TITERS. I would be dead or completely incapacitated today if I had bowed before the medical establishment. The good news is that I got billed $650 out of pocket for the infectious disease specialist telling me the wrong information and fighting me on retesting.
In March 2015 I tore my right pectoral tendon off of the bone, likely in part due to how thoroughly the Lyme had ravaged my body just months prior. Three different clinics imaged this. All three radiologists, two sports medicine doctors, and THE number one surgeon in the area for this concurred: complete sternal head avulsion. That was the diagnosis, so that was the surgical repair. Unfortunately, one year later, we found out that all six specialists were insufficient in their diagnoses. I had also torn the muscle belly from the tendon. I suspected it at the time, raised the possibility, but was ultimately disregarded, because... I'm not a priest. They were wrong. I was right. Again. But because I, like you, am so brainwashed into believing medical science is of the gods, I didn't listen to myself in the face of overwhelming credentials. And now it's too late to surgically fix the musculotendinous junction. Will I get a refund of the $30,000 we spent on medical expenses last year? Nope. I'm permanently disfigured. But even daring to describe these events I run the risk of societal ostracism, and being labeled a crackpot or quack or anti-intellectual. That's where the level of discourse is nowadays: the exhortation for more rigor in people's analytical thinking is considered anti-intellectual.
None of these were subpar doctors. Everyone I met with is the best of the best. These are the absolute best the medical science world has to offer us. And don't get me wrong: they are good. They are very good. Some are great. But they are only good at a part of a modality. That is limited in scope. In the end, I always ended up understanding more that was pertinent to my situation than any specialist. I obtained the right answer. They had ideas couched in diagnoses. But they were wrong, because they are humans. They are just humans. They are just humans.
Sometimes they are robots spitting out dogma, oftentimes archaic outdated dogma from a long bygone era. It's just what happens as we learn more and make scientific advances. No one can stay on top of them all. Inevitably, this leads "authorities" to state completely outdated information as authoritative. It would take a lifetime for them to read every new scientific publishing. People are no less human by virtue of a suffix. And in many cases they are far more susceptible to the frailties of humanity, because they can hide their ignorance, their naivety, their objective wrongness, and their agenda behind that suffix. They may not even know it. It is dangerous, and it is severely costly to shame the public out of learning, forming their own ideas, and vetoing with extreme prejudice the most brilliant of accredited, licensed, suffixed specialists out there. We need more doubt of authority, not less.
I was just recently reminded of how dangerously brainwashed we are, as I tried to help a suffering man whose sports medicine doctor and physical therapist abjectly failed him. A young guy, trying to figure out a low level injury he'd had, posted a question on a strength and conditioning Facebook page. From my own experience and observing hundreds of fitness professionals with tens of thousands of clients, I offered a perspective on social media. Others did as well. All of a sudden, the devotees of medical dogma swooped in to attack the credentials of anyone trying to offer insight. It was shocking. I felt like I was watching a 1940s television show with people who think if you don't have certain suffixes you are not entitled to the first amendment. I understand the fear of ill-informed opinion being held on par with informed opinion. But that fear must transcend title, suffix and credential.
In the end, no one found fault with my words. Instead, the outrage was that I dared to even opine without a medical degree. Never mind that I have worked over 80 hours per week, 50 or more weeks per year, for the last 12 years in the wellness industry, in workshops, hiring and developing fitness professionals, attending hundreds of hours of medical lecture, shadowing cardiologists and working with exercise physiologists, MDs, nurses, nurse practitioners, specialists and the like. Never mind all that because it is as irrelevant as an ad hominem attack. I have more than 40,000 hours of pertinent experience to injury pathology and corrective exercise. That's the equivalent to the COMBINED EXPERIENCE of four sports medicine doctors who've been in practice for ten years each. But that is irrelevant. Credentials are irrelevant to an argument. An argument must stand on its own, regardless of who's offering it. It must be dealt with on its own merits, not the merits of one writing it.
The irony is that personal attacks on me for offering a perspective occurred on the same day when I posted a miraculous client recovery video. In the video I posted, a 61 year old client of mine who had suffered a fairly severe hamstring and adductor tear just weeks prior was completely recovered already. Meanwhile, the young man on the Facebook page had suffered some sort of low level hamstring injury with no improvement months later and explicitly asked for ideas. Answering him was considered heresy.
We want there to be some sort of magical prestigious oracle when it obviously just doesn't exist. Even one of my clients three years ago was seeking some sort of ultimate answer. She has gastroparesis, an ailment that greatly slows the digestive tract. She had already learned certain foods were better or worse for her; but she wanted some more finality. I spent the better part of a weekend reading every germane published paper I could find, even some behind paywalls. I scoured PubMed and PlosOne. During our next session, I summarized the best findings out there: probably attempt a period of minimal fasting to help heal possibly-damaged tissue in the digestive tract; ginger shows promise; one drug appeared uniquely highly rated for this specific problem - metoclopramide. Unsatisfied, she booked a multi-day stay at the Mayo Clinic. I thought to myself, "people fly in from all over the world to Mayo - their specialists are going to have some awesome insights." Sadly, after running untold numbers of tests, and charging obscene bills, their summary was identical to mine. Identical. Well, it wasn’t entirely identical, because they left out one thing I mentioned and still believe is the main driver of gastroparesis: cytokine release affects digestive tract motility (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3196622/). This has actually been known for a long time, but apparently not at the Mayo Clinic. Long story short, there are foods which you are not overtly “allergic” to but still cause an immune response which irritates smooth muscle lining and leads to choking, vomiting, indigestion, heart burn, and/or GASTROPARESIS. Tragically, there are very good specialists who think this is quack science because they haven’t read their own journal, the official Journal of the American Medical Association which has openly embraced this possibility as recently as May of this year (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2521970).
Appeal to authority is a fallacy I've run into many times, and not just in the domain of corrective exercise. My favorite is in the nutrition realm. Dozens of times I've had doctors and dietitians offer demonstrably incorrect dietary guidance to my clients. They tell pre-diabetic and diabetic patients to eat 4-6 small meals with 40 or more grams of carbohydrates each. This is like telling someone with tolerance to caffeine or alcohol that the only way you will become sensitive to caffeine or alcohol again is by having 4-6 doses of caffeine and alcohol per day. Occasionally, my clients dare to pipe up. They say their coach explained that the affliction itself is caused in part by carbohydrate intake which can often best be tempered by restriction of carbohydrates (i.e. - in the exact same way that if you want to become sensitive to caffeine again, you have to abstain long enough to let receptors re-upregulate and the caffeine can work the way it's supposed to again). Rather than engage the argument, or talk about the known mechanics of physiology, every single time the doctor or dietitian has retorted, "and what are his credentials?" They can't even help themselves; and it makes me wonder if they at all understand pancreatic function, the citric acid cycle, insulin receptors or glucose transporters. So now I just tell clients to test blood sugar after eating a high fat meal devoid of carbohydrates and then test glucose after 40 grams of whole grain carbohydrate. Don't listen to anybody. Just see for yourself. But beware: once you start taking truth into your own hands, you're going to miss out on the ease of listening to suffixes. Forevermore you'll be forced to apply rationale to determine if the authority figure is actually making sense or if he’s a highly paid twit.
Each individual's lack of willingness to challenge authority is really what makes the modern priestly class the most dangerous. The priests are at fault to be sure. However, we share culpability by gifting them so much power. Reading is hard. Thinking is harder. Testing your own blood sugar is unfamiliar; but conducting your own experiments is actual science. Blindly following someone is not. Being practical and sensible instead of convenience-seeking is difficult. We want so badly to point to a fortress of unquestionable authority in this world. It just doesn't exist here. You are your authority. Despite this apparent reality, I've done thousands of interviews wherein people couldn't even list the medications they currently take, let alone the last ten years of their health history. It's shocking to me, but the absolute norm. If you don't do it, who do you think is going to pour over your data and connect the dots? Not everything is in your chart; and, as I discovered with my son and dextrose or corn derivatives, even when something is in your chart and they read it there's still no guarantee that the note registers in the professional's mind.
Exerting energy in your own interest is necessary. No one is going to do it for you. When you're sick and dying, and the hospital can't figure it out, do you think they're going to skip the bill because they have your best interest in mind? When the NAS or NIH change their position on a topic, are they going to reimburse all of us the trillions of dollars for the years we went on their wild goose chase or followed their incorrect advice? Only you have your best interest in mind. Do not entrust it to the priests. Invoke the words of Rage Against The Machine, "I won't do what you tell me!" Repeat as necessary. Daily become increasingly informed about the issues which affect you. Don't outsource your brain. We have to take responsibility for our own health and for applying intellectual horsepower to the scientific provisional conclusions we believe. When we do that, the modern priests won't cease to exist. We need them. But they'll be demoted to the position they should've occupied to begin with: public servant - danger and authority to no one.
Happy Independence Day (emphasis on the Independence part)
The Most Hidden Calories
There are many obscure saboteurs waiting in the shadows when changing one's nutrition. There are internal doubts. There are external doubters. There are errantly-labeled "healthy foods." There is misinformation. There are stress responses. There are hormonal cascades. There are "role models" whose experience is singularly anomalous and in no way helpful. All of these add up to be an invisible noose snugly tied to the necks of people struggling with body composition change. Every time they look for the rope that's holding them back, they can't see it; but they can always feel it choking their progress. It's time to shred the rope.
For us to get on the same page, we need to start by clarifying 8 things:
1.) Calorie counting is generally not a sustainable lifestyle; it is best suited as an introductory eye-opener for new clients, a short-term trouble-shooting effort, a method of tracking for physique athletes in show prep, and a marker for getting ENOUGH calories for the competitive strength athlete or mass gaining client.
2.) Until you've done first-hand research on metabolic output, almost everything you know about metabolism and calorie burn is false. Twelve years ago I began running experiments with equipment that directly measures (rather than infers or approximately calculates) your actual oxygen consumption and thereby calorie use. Generally, the larger you are, the higher your metabolism. Skinny people don't have high metabolisms. That's demonstrably false. They have superior distribution of calories, whatever the amount. The holy grail is not rate. It's distribution.
3.) Eating more calories raises your caloric burn. Eating less lowers it. When "experts" calculate the calories you use, and prescribe you a "deficit" plan, it's snake oil. Your body adapts to the lower number almost immediately. You can measure this.
4.) Long bouts of steady state "cardio" suppress metabolism. Think about it. Everything your body experiences is a message. If your body experiences long exertion, the message is that it needs to be better adapted to long exertion. The adaptation is lower metabolic rate at rest in order to conserve energy for the next long bout. That's not to say there's no benefit. Certainly when people are going from completely sedentary to incorporating movement, there's a significant benefit. But longer bouts at moderate exertion make it impossible for a non-lean person to cross the threshold to being lean.
5.) Anaerobic work (high intensity and resistance training) is the only scaleable method of metabolic rate improvement; but, again, what we are actually interested in is distribution. The brief intense demand of anaerobic work will raise calorie burn for many hours (up to 72) after the exertion; but more importantly it distributes whatever calories you take more toward lean tissue. This is wholly independent from increased time of effort or increased daily steps. Anaerobic work can keep improving your body composition even if your hundredth workout is the same amount of time as your first. The focus is increased intensity. Classical low or moderate intensity steady state activity (walks, jogging, typical versions of "cardio"), on the other hand, only works progressively if you can continuously realistically do more and more time, working up to hours per day every day. When two hours of walking or jogging doesn't cut it, you'll have to do two and half. When that stops working, you'll have to do three. Forever this ante up continues. Alternatively, anaerobic work, by definition, cannot be performed for more than about 45 seconds at a time, and then you must rest before revisiting the intensity again. Including rests, anaerobic workouts can be about 15 minutes long, and need not be more than 45 minutes. They also don't need to be performed every day for results, because of the metabolic carryover, unlike low/moderate aerobic activity.
6.) Growth of any tissue (including fat) requires certain cascades, namely insulin release. 10,000 calories of dietary fat CANNOT stimulate insulin production. 10 calories of carbohydrate DOES stimulate insulin production. Anything that tastes sweet can set off a Pavlovian switch that stimulates insulin production. It had few or no calories, but now you have a growth cycle churning. What happens next? You get hungry. You eat. You feed the growth.
7.) Lower metabolic rate and lower calorie burn correlate to longer life expectancy. The only people on earth who make it past 100, 110 or 115 years old are small people who eat tiny amounts of food and have slow metabolisms. Burning more calories is not necessarily a worthy wellness goal. Pause for a moment. Would you prefer to have a 12,000 calorie per day metabolism that is directed at storing as much fat as possible and shortening your life or would you like an 800 calorie per day metabolism directly solely at lean mass, organ and brain integrity which will add years to your life and life to your years? People say your heart only has so many beats in a lifetime, so you have to conserve those beats. I don't think there's necessarily any science behind that statement, except for the fact that at prolonged elevated heart rate you train the heart to be inefficient. As your beats per minute increase, your stroke volume decreases. On top of that, elevated heart rate is indicative of sympathetic nervous system response or stress. Lean people and long lived people generally manage stress well. Purposely subjecting yourself to long bouts of stress is the definition of bad stress management. You are going to die younger and less healthy if you fall into the cardio volume trap.
8.) All calories and macronutrients are not the same. Despite the attempts of Dr. Twinkie and others, there is a very simple way of proving to people that it's not just about calories or macros. Have them drink snake venom, eat mad cow disease prions, or imbibe gasoline. The first is just proteins and peptides. The second is simply a protein. The third is just calories. There are many other examples; but this tends to drive the point home. Edible and well-tolerated foods are no different. They all fall on a continuum of harm-to-help. It's not that any one compound is all good or all bad. They are on a gray spectrum which approaches one end or the other based on timing, goals, individual epigenetics, hormone balance, and dose size, etc. This is why elimination diets and avoidance of gluten or other foods is not a fad or pseudoscience. Different foods can be inflammatory for someone even if they are generally classified as "healthy foods." Proteins are a set of instructions. Grain proteins, for example, send nasty signals even for those who can tolerate them well. Very educated people have contended this; but the fact remains that NO ONE has demonstrated that even gluten-tolerant humans can create an acid or digestive enzyme that breaks down the composite gluten protein into dipeptide and tripeptide bonds (the definition of a safe and usable protein). Fats are used for many things, including hormone production and cell membrane integrity. Vegetable oils, for example, are not easily converted to needed hormones, nor do they make healthy cell membranes. Carbohydrates fuel things. Certain types of fiber, for example, feed helpful bacteria. Sugars, even natural fruit sugars, feed deleterious bacteria, parasites and cancer cells. I repeat: all calories and macronutrients are not the same. Don't confuse the brilliant adaptability of the human organism with substance similarity. We can use mold to make antibiotics. Some bodies survive infection because of penicillin. Some bodies die from the penicillin.
Now that roughly we are on the same page, understand that almost every calorie is a silent saboteur when you are in a state of inflammation and fat tissue growth. The body is either in an anabolic state or a catabolic state. That is, either the systems of the body are building or they are breaking down. These states are mutually exclusive, cascading throughout the day like the ebb and flow of tides. So our job as sculptors of a new body is to direct the breakdown periods toward fat and minimize muscle degradation. The job during building periods is to direct energy disproportionately toward lean tissue and away from fat. Don't try to create high tide during low tide. It doesn't work that way.
As a grown adult, if you are already heavy and did not just complete an intense task, anything you eat will predominantly grow more fat. Eating is anabolic. If your body doesn't have a very stressed reason to grow bones, ligaments, tendons and muscle, anabolism is exclusively fat tissue growth. Eating shortly before exercise is confusing to the body. Are you signaling it to utilize fat stores and stress muscles to depletion so that you will adapt to be leaner and stronger? Only if you're fasted. Otherwise, you are signaling it to defend fat stores and avoid the level of stress to muscles that actually brings about adaptation for size, speed, strength and endurance.
This is biology. And, sadly, even among very knowledgable and accomplished coaches and athletes in the fitness industry, the concensus opinion is the opposite. The myth is propagated by successful trainers and competitors who succeed in spite of doing this incorrectly. They eat before workouts. They eat carbs in the morning. Most of them are extremely determined people. Some are genetic freaks. Almost all of them are leaner, carrying more lean mass and far more active and more powerfully stressing the body than the average human. They have different proportions of signaling to begin with. And some more yet are playing by a different set of rules altogether, because they are regulating hormones with exogenous substances. But make no mistake, they all would progress more rapidly and with less effort if they played by the laws of biology.
Let's compare two examples of what people incorrectly think of as "good" or "bad" behavior in different people with the same body weight to outline how this can pan out far differently than what you'd expect:
Individual (A) - He's a 25 year old lifter weighing 200lbs at 5% bodyfat. He performed a 40 minute anaerobic workout yesterday, consisting of deadlifts up to 500lbs, so his 190lbs of lean mass still has a severely upregulated glucose transport status (meaning his muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, nerves, heart cells, etc. are still ready to soak up whatever energy is out there). It's morning, so his testosterone is at its peak, further directing energy toward bone, ligament, tendon and muscle synthesis and improved brain tissue integrity. He slept well, so the peak is significant and his nocturnal growth hormone release was optimal. Despite cortisol coming off of its peak when waking (which generally makes fat cells vie for the lion's share of food), he only has 10lbs of fat to exert a vote on the matter. He can eat a whole 24 inch birthday sheetcake and the worst case scenario is his workout later today might be slightly more lethargic. He doesn't have to "burn it off" because his body directs all calories toward cognitive and physical performance. There's nothing to burn off.
Individual (B) - She's a 45 year old sedentary professional weighing 200lbs at 30% bodyfat. She did cardio yesterday for 90 minutes, which supressed her metabolism and the very little testosterone she could have. She did not sleep well, because she had stress hormone release at night and in turn the corresponding insulin release, worrying about the following work day, so her nocturnal growth hormone was non-existent. She enters the day defeated from a physiological perspective and her 60lbs of bodyfat have a 10 to 1 vote over her 140lbs of lean mass. A small bowl of kashi cereal or Greek yogurt will only be used to grow more fat and perpetuate the stress cycle. But she heaps on top of that a glass of orange juice which skyrockets her insulin immediately. She fastidiously watches her Fitbit steps for the day, ensuring she gets over 15,000 to "burn off" the 2:00pm "healthy" granola bar she couldn't help but eat because her blood sugar and willpower sunk to its lowest point around that time of day. It's futile, because her insulin spike from a late afternoon apple, the granola bar, Panera at lunch and the morning cereal protect her fat cells from being touched today. Her dexa scan for the year shows yet another year of bone mass loss, even though she eats just a little less food than when she was in her 20s, emphasizes calcium intake more than ever, and makes a concerted effort to be active. The rule she lives by is "balance" which ends up continually depriving her body of sufficient vitamins, minerals and fatty acids; all the while she continues eating a diet predominantly made of carbohydrates which continues to signal her fat cells to grow or at least be protected. Her weight watchers points are generally spot on; yet she continues to grow heavier and fatter with every passing year.
The diligence of Individual (A) can be far far less than Individual (B). (A) has the scales tipped in his favor and he would have to work hard against himself every day for many consecutive days to undo all the good. If he ate a sheetcake every morning for a year, he would eventually interrupt and invert certain hormone cascades which have kept him lean. (B) has the scales tipped against her and she has to fight dutifully to get the battlefield moderately fair. Her eating and activity are complete nonsense for her current hormonal status. If she stopped working out, or only did anaerobic workouts, and ate ketogenically for 10 days in a row while focusing on stress management, she'd exit the inflammatory trap immediately.
So the trap persists. Every calorie is a hidden saboteur until the scales are in your favor. Every calorie is a bad calorie until then. Some are less bad than others, yes. But all will continue working against you, until you cross the threshold of favorable momentum.
Why Imposed Extreme Rapid Weight Loss Always Fails
And What To Do About It
In the first week of May 2016 dozens of friends, family members and clients independently forwarded us a New York Times article about an extreme weight loss show winner who ended up subsequently regaining weight and how his was a typical outcome. For people outside the fitness industry this was news. For those of us inside, it's old hat; and there are genuine physical reasons why it's so common. There also happen to be ways to counter it.
One of my very first clients about 12 years ago was a young woman who had done gastric bypass the year before we met. She lost 80lbs within the first two to three months after the surgery. In the three months prior to meeting me she had gained back all 80lbs plus an additional 25lbs. I thought this was an anomaly, but over the course of time I discovered that 10+ year post-op fail rates on medically directed extreme weight loss are nearly 100% (if we define "fail" as significant weight regained and the patient still at an obese to super obese BMI).
There are statistics that sound better than a 100% fail rate, but scrutiny doesn't bear them out. The most promising rigorous long term study on extreme weight loss via bariatric surgery, conducted by doctors at McGill University Health Center, pegged long term fail rates as low as 20.4-34.9%. This seems a lot better than 100% until you read the article carefully. Only 83.8% of the proposed sample population was followed, over 3% of patients died before the study ended, not one patient reached a normal body mass even at the lowest post-op weight, and all participants ended up still obese. Pay close attention to what's happening here. This is an internal study. The McGill University Health Center is loathe to collect or showcase data in a way that reflects badly on its outcomes. These are essentially the most promisingly-interpreted statistics on weight loss surgery capping out at a 79% or 65% success rate, but only when the authors have included exclusively the survivors, the most successful participants, and defined "success" as a BMI anywhere lower than pre-op. That's abysmal. Imagine that a participant started at a body weight of 450lbs, lost 50lbs of muscle, tendon, ligament and bone and another 50lbs of fat, then subsequently gained 99lbs of fat (this is a typical body composition outcome for most extreme weight loss participants). According to these authors, as long as that person is still the same height or taller, he would be considered a "success" at 449lbs despite netting a 99lb fatter and less lean body composition simply because his BMI is less.
It's called padding the numbers. Caveat emptor. Health centers aren't the only ones who do it. Stock analysts, mutual and hedge fund managers craftily choose the lowest price in a quarter and the subsequent highest price to outline their "incredible performance." Certain Buddhist monasteries make would-be students suffer for days outside in order to ensure that only the most dedicated will enter. The most elite schools require only the most motivated kids, because they haven't the first clue how to help the unmotivated. There are surgeons who only take the most promising patients, because they want to tout good numbers. I know coaches who only take the most self-motivated clients to begin with. In fact, any time a program emphasizes "success stories" above brand and methodology, they forever have a sampling bias in future customers. They obtain customers who would've succeeded just as well or better without any of their guidance. It's a great racket for a business, but only if you want to develop zero troubleshooting skill and eternally be incapable of helping the Everyman. Sadly, the very people most capable of helping tough cases will, by definition, be the least well-known. Thus, the most popular "experts" are an easy target to dismantle. The real experts developing pertinent wisdom are doing so by suffering in the trenches. By virtue of being in the trenches, they are not filming infomercials, creating reality shows, writing best-selling fad fitness books and uploading a selfie every twenty minutes.
If you've ever been online or watched any television, you've seen countless 30, 60, 90 day transformations and testimonials. They're a dime a dozen. People get lucky. People get motivated for 4-12 weeks. There's absolutely nothing special or particularly enriching to be learned from these. Now think to the 5 year, 10 year, 15 year transformations. You probably can't name one. They do exist, but they seldom start out in an exciting manner.
The incorrect but typical explanation levied is that the person on the extreme weight loss program never built the mental, psychological and emotional apparatus to become a thin person; thus, they're destined to fail once the strictures of external imposition are loosened. Surgically altered stomachs eventually distend. Lap bands eventually yield. Sooner or later people have to live in the real world, and not on a retreat or television show with a questionably-experienced celebrity trainer and medical doctors looking for some sort of fortune or fame by virtue of ignoring the best parts of their training.
It's an incorrect explanation, or at least insufficient, as I'm sure there's something to it. We all know people who just haven't ever learned to manage themselves in any aspect of their lives, whether it's academic discipline, work ethic, eating, exercise, practice in their chosen art, sport or music, relationships, or just good 'ol follow through on what you say you're going to do. We're humans after all. So, yes, I agree: we have an epidemic of lack of internal integrity and self-discipline. However, that's such a weak offloading of responsibility to the very people who are busting their butts trying to lose weight and struggling. They're working hard; and we owe them a more satisfying explanation than "pick yourself up by your bootstraps," when they haven't boots, or straps or hands.
I'm never one to sweep aside the psychological component. Healthy behaviors are not as exciting or sexy as "extreme rapid weight loss." We give ourselves the errant expectation that who you will be is the product of a past action. It's foolhardy. Claiming today that you are doing cardio has no bearing on who you will be in five years. You are what you do, not what you did. You will be what you will do. Yes, a single decision can change trajectory. But the accumulated baggage on the current path determines the current status.
There is a more fulfilling explanation for the recidivism, because there are real physical and physiological reasons why most extreme rapid weight lost must be regained:
1.) Physics - Newton's Third Law
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Homeostasis, an equivalent idea, is this broad term. When applied in human biology it refers to our organism's internal checks and balances continually seeking to maintain roughly our exact tissue makeup. Simply put, our body works hard to be the same mass, the same composition, NO MATTER WHAT. Some in the fitness world have proffered the solution: "shock the body." Wrong. You absolutely never want to shock the body. Have you ever heard the saying, "you can sheer a sheep many times; but you can skin him only once"? If you sucker punch your body, you are going to get dragged into a street brawl that there's no surviving. You have to coax, cajole and embezzle your way to the top, just like the Rothschilds and Rockefellers. Take a penny a day. Don't get greedy and skin yourself. Empires aren't built on a lottery ticket. "Shock and awe" didn't work on Iraq. It's not going to work on human biochemistry.
2.) The Human Animal Is A Threat-Survival Machine
Every time you signal your body that it is under threat, keep in mind that it is the most resilient survival machine known to us. It is going to grow into a bigger animal so that it can better dominate the threatening environment. The deepest centers of our brain haven't the first clue whether we are losing weight rapidly because of war, famine, pestilence, some "well-intentioned professional" slicing up our innerds with cutting weapons... I mean surgical tools, or a "well-intentioned professional" enslaving us... I mean guiding our food choices on a reality show.
When we are under threat continuously and intensely we are either going to break while trying to become a bigger animal or we are going to actually become a bigger animal. Going back to Newton's Third Law, if the perception of threat is low, the survival desire to become a bigger animal will be equally low. If the perception is great, the survival desire will be great.
On the flip side, simply reducing your perception of stress reduces the survival need to become bigger. People with better management of stress tend to be leaner. There is data on this. Anecdotally, I can tell you that, from tens of thousands of clients and members, those who manage stress well have very little difficulty losing weight and maintaining. Clients who refuse to face the negativity and stress in their workplaces, relationships and personal habits fruitlessly adhere to one diet and exercise plan after another.
One of my case studies involved an older gentleman whose work and social responsibilities were taking an obvious toll on him. My first recommendation was to stop any overt exercise. Everything in his program for the first 12 weeks revolved around improving sleep, gaining a feeling of dominance in his mornings, streamlined simplicity during the workday and purposely eating white rice, sweet potatoes, ice cream, cereal, etc. before bed at night. I never allowed him to do a single workout until he effortlessly dropped 25lbs of body fat just by lowering his psychological burdens.
3.) Extreme Rapid Weight Loss Relies on Extreme Hormonal Imbalances
Optimal hormone balance will eventually result in optimal body composition. Besides being evident common sense, I've run the experiments. This approach requires more patience and a much greater understanding of why you're doing what you're doing; but then there is no maintenance transition. The client is already in maintenance mode before reaching her goal. It's so effective that a whole movement has cropped up in recent years among brilliant innovators and laypeople alike, known by or associated with a variety of monikers: quantified self; quantified medicine; citizen medicine; anti-aging and life extension science.
With extreme hormone imbalance, on the other hand, you enter a tailspin from which there may never be an exit. Thyroid will be suppressed. Stress hormones are ignited in order to break down fat, which reduces the amount of DHEA and total testosterone [T] that can be made AND weight loss commensurately increases sex hormone binding globulin [SHBG] which will bind to whatever little T is left and make the free T (the usuable testosterone) negligible. DHEA and T work on a tipping balance with cortisol, so without them, your stress hormones get little oversight. This itself is likely viewed by our bodies as an attack, the proper response to which is grow bigger and fatter.
Following the path of reductionism to understand why extreme weight loss is regained, we could go all the way down to cation exchanges, chemical affinities and alterations in the ability of receptor transposition across stressed cell membranes. Observing what's happening at the organ and hormone level and thereabouts, however, we have all the ammo we need for now. Marked suppression of testosterone plays a major role, as obese men and women already have supressed T prior to losing weight, thus having one less androgenic (e.g. - making one leaner) stimulus in the arsenal to start. The pituitary gets a good ribbing while you're at it; and I think we can fairly state that you will have shortened the life of your adrenals and kidneys with such intense demand, along with the liver attempting to keep up with the cholesterol, energy and steroidogenesis precursor demands. Insulin is controlled; so the pancreas possibly gets a break. Leptin and ghrelin are part of the short term explanation. But when looking for a cause of cumulative difficulty, most intriguing to me is LPL.
LPL, or lipoprotein lipase, is a marker for body fat regulation. As the name indicates, it's an enzyme involved in breaking down fat. When we break down a little fat, LPL is stable. When we drastically plummet our body fat, LPL skyrockets, as one would expect. The problem, however, is that LPL also signals its countermeasure: the restoration of fat. There's supposed to be a balance in the body. And when we take LPL off the charts, the signal for fat restoration is undeniably imbalanced. We don't know the exact mechanism yet. But the double whammy is that LPL stays elevated for many months after the lost weight and possibly several years. Hence, the signal to regain fat is equal or greater than the signal you sent to lose the weight in the first place.
Not enough is known about LPL-related receptors. However, it's a safe assumption that, like when any other compound gets introduced in massive quantities, the related receptors become desensitized. When the body receives caffeine all the time, caffeine doesn't work so well. When the body receives alcohol all the time, alcohol loses potency. When LPL is constantly elevated, fat loss doesn't happen. This in part explains why heavier individuals have higher LPL to begin with, despite not naturally losing weight more easily than thin individuals. The lipolytic (i.e. - breaking down fat) action of LPL is blunted. Simply put, with extreme elevation of LPL and other extreme changes during rapid weight loss, they become less effective. More simply, it becomes a lot harder to break down stored body fat. Though we'd hope the countermeasures' related receptors would also get burned out, that just doesn't seem to be the case when you follow individuals who've had extreme weight loss. Their systems become steadily and increasingly incapable of lipolysis while readily regaining fat with very little or no new stimulus.
What To Do
It is not super exciting to lose a half, one or even two pounds of fat every one to two weeks. It's also not exciting to practice scales in music. It's not exciting to practice conjugations in a foreign language. It's not exciting to make tiny contributions to your retirement fund. In general, worthwhile long-lasting accomplishments are the result of consistent and non-exciting work. We can't proxy the hare in place of the tortoise. Whatever excitement people have at the outset of their programs is perfectly fine, and, to a certain extent, ought to be encouraged. In order to help ourselves and our fellow man, however, we must reevaluate the weight loss journey. Rather than one of excitement, it has to be the natural outgrowth of optimal-health-engendering behaviors.
The most difficult part of the road will begin after the weight is lost. New "boring" behaviors must be implemented as an obligatory path to real maintenance. When people experience difficulty and relapse, it's not a character flaw. It's a natural response to hormone imbalance. At some point, when the excitement wanes, we must put the emphasis on optimal health and hormone balance. When we do, all of a sudden, "character flaws" magically disappear. I used to think that as people neared their goals, it was time for them to begin loosening the reigns. The fact is, instead, that's the very time people need to double down and commit to additional measures, whether it's increased guidance by trainers, nutritionists and coaches or supplemental hormone therapy and fitness community external accountability. In the end, people have to find a sustainable program that works.
If your weight loss relied on extreme hormone imbalance, the transition to maintenance should be two to four times the amount of time it took to lose the weight. If it takes three months to lose the weight, it's going to take six to twelve months to enter maintenance mode. The same could be said about the energy and financial resources committed.
Now, well into my second decade in the fitness industry, I've met with over 10,000 gym members, prospective members or coaching clients. All of them have experienced weight loss at some point for 4-12 weeks. Guess what: if you're an adult human in the Western world, you've experienced weight loss at some point for 4-12 weeks. That can't be the goal. It has zero staying power. The goal has got to be deep internal change, both physiologically and mentally. Monitor hormones. Do testing. Do a mental check as a way to get additional insight into hormone balance. If you consistently find yourself dwelling on disempowering thoughts, there's a good chance your T is across the board too low, your diurnal cortisol curve is suboptimal, and your physical capacity to be motivated is low. This isn't a character weakness. It's a neurological and endocrinological reality that won't be solved by increased threat and trauma. Address this. Return to realistic consistent fundamental healthy behaviors. Don't be a flash in the pan. Remember Newton's Third Law - you're only going to more strongly seek unhealthy rewards if you further traumatized yourself. Reach out to those who can help. Avoid those who judge and shame you out of their abject ignorance on the subject. Practice the skill of listening to yourself. Then, in 10+ years, be one of the real success stories.
Post script of hope:
For those of you who have incredibly suboptimal hormone balance, you can tip the scale in your favor. Even with the cards stacked against you, even with elevated LPL, even with zero thyroid function, even with immeasurably low T, DHEA, DHT, androstenedione, androstenediol, and whatever other challenge you face, you can do it. It can be done. Start with two things:
A.) Don't Guess. Test.
There are a lot of entry points here, but one of the weakest is the CBC/CMP. If you talk with your general health care provider about fatigue, inability to lose weight, lack of drive, and concerns about hormonal function, she will do nothing or pull a CBC/CMP. There has never been a more pointless set of labs for wellness than the CBC/CMP. This will tell you absolutely nothing useful unless you are in the throes of kidney failure or Dengue Fever. Don't be distracted by the 30 different values in the tests. They are telling you almost nothing about long term health. Just so you know, almost every time a doctor has said, "well, your labs look perfect," they are referring to this incredibly shortsighted set of tests which tell us little more than you are currently breathing and don't need IV fluids. It's a cheap set of tests for a reason. Perhaps it can be a starting point to determine that you aren't actually at critical impending risk of death. But it can only be a starting point.
If your health care provider is particularly motivated, she may run a thyroid screen. Again, unless you are way off the testing range, you're going to hear nothing more than, "you're in normal ranges." You could be at the dead bottom of normal T3, and, if they even bother to check TSH, you could be at the absolute top, and they are still going to tell you you're "normal." Even good endocrinologists won't usually add TPO into a thyroid screen. So, even if you do come up as hypothyroidic, or, if you're working with a fully evolved clinician who will use the term "borderline," we don't have an answer for one of the biggest culprits in causing suboptimal thyroid function without checking TPO.
That's to say nothing about the fact that your lab values change depending on time of day. Most health experts are oblivious to this. And steroidal hormones, though they can tell us a lot, are too complex for your general practitioner.
To get more than "good/bad," "normal/abnormal," look into wellnessfx, life extension lab testing, my former employer (Life Time Fitness) or go to an actual HRT specialist clinic. If that's too involved for you at this point, I'd encourage you to begin with testing your own blood sugar ( http://www.elev8wellness.com/wellblog/lose-15lbs-for-15-in-2015) and orthostatic blood pressure. From these, you can get a pretty good starting feel for what's going on. Until you regularly pull 85 or less on glucose, you aren't losing body fat even if you're losing weight. When you stand up and recheck blood pressure, if your systolic number doesn't go up 20 points, you are exhausted from the perspective of organ reserve, and a salivary diurnal cortisol test kit can confirm it.
Once you're ready to expand the testing roster, look into some fundamentals you can change right away, like B vitamins and vitamin D. The vast majority of non-Equatorial people are extremely deficient in vitamin D. The only way to get the dose right is check your levels at least quarterly. I have a colleague who is active and outdoorsy, spends a good part of the year in Central America, but discovered through testing that he had to supplement 15,000 ius per day year-round to be in optimal ranges. Generally, people take 500-2,000 ius per day and think they're changing the landscape. If you don't test, you don't know.
B.) Revise Your Idea of a Plan
When people say they want to lose 20lbs, for example, they create a "plan" to workout and diet a certain way. The reality, however, is that "plan" is actually a goal and you have no strategy on how to hit the goal. An actual plan includes how you will perform the behaviors. An actual plan is not a checklist of foreign behaviors that most likely you won't ever do.
One of my favorite questions to ask is, "on your worst week, when you're about to lose your job, your best friend dies, your health is compromised, you hurt your ankle, your car breaks down, you've been going to sleep too late, and there's a snowstorm outside, what is the greatest number of workouts you'll get in and the greatest nutritional compliance you will execute?" Whatever those numbers are, that is your realistic average execution going forward, because all that and then some is going to happen some day, possibly today. Make the plan based on that. Do not make a "plan" based on some Pollyanna week that's never even existed. The moment you face a non-Idyllic week, you will implode, unless you have worst case scenario plotting in place. Remember, we are looking for sustainable lifestyle, not imposed restriction.
For more ideas on how to overcome your challenges and have real and permanent change, click here.
Just Another Day at Elev8 Wellness
Parkinson's is a disorder typically associated with Lewy Body formation on the substantia nigra in the brain. It affects muscle control, movement and balance among other abilities. According to most experts in the field, it is an impossibly degenerative disease.
This client, Jeff, came to me shortly after his diagnosis about six years ago. At that time, he was in crippling pain on his right side, through the neck, trapezius, shoulder and arm. His right side was the primary showcase of his Parkinson's. He had a number of other telltale signs; but his main concern was with doing his best to slow the progression of the disease.
Within about a month we had ameliorated the pain and a lot of the right side rigidity. Through Active Isolated Stretching, some muscle activation techniques and various movement work I've learned over some 40,000 hours of experience in the field, I was able to help him accomplish something that no therapist had been able to do with him. Since then I've witnessed him move through speed, agility and quickness drills like a high school athlete on his best days.
Parkinson's has such an affinity for severe muscle imbalance side to side; and I generally think structural lifts and overall conditioning with the lower body and core which are focused on good movement are the most important factors in helping clients of all kinds, especially those with movement disorders. Thus bench press places very low in what would be considered important or functional. That notwithstanding, Jeff's control had so IMPROVED (a supposed impossibility with this disease), that just for the hell of it I joked with him in July 2015 that we ought to go after a 200lb bench press. He looked at me like I was insane.
His response was warranted, especially given that the first attempt was solely with the bar (45lbs) and he was tremoring slightly and rocking all over the place. However, ever so gradually, his control and strength improved, like it has with anything else on which we put our focus. In September he was stuck at 150lbs for most of the month. That weight was just not budging. We tried a variety of program alterations and he broke through that plateau. As you can see here in this video, he now smoothly, controlledly and easily reps out 155lbs.
What you don't see here is the prior set: 200lbs. Jeff did what was an insane notion less than a year ago. And he got the 200lbs about a week before his birthday, his 60th birthday. That had become one of his short term goals; and he just knocked it out of the park. It's a feat he had never completed even as a young man. And he's just beaming because of it.
By no means am I alone in the fitness world, performing mini-miracles in the face of allegedly incontrovertible disease pathology. To the contrary, many of my colleagues over the last 12 years in this industry have become increasingly knowledgable about how to progress the seemingly fixed, how to reverse the deterioration, how to soldier forward despite overwhelming challenges. There are many great stories like this. And at Elev8 Wellness, it's just another day.
"Can't" is only an imaginary idea.
#elev8 #fitness #parkisons #parkinson #wellness #health #noexcuses #inspiration #motivation #progress #excellence #fortitude #commitment #drive #grit #courage #belief #faith #overcome #persevere #improvement #evolve #gym #training #strength #endurance #balance
Eating is bad for you. Starvation is good for you.
Numerous people around the world fast to no ill effect. In one study, a man fasted for 382 days (yes, that's THREE-HUNDRED EIGHTY-TWO), lost almost exclusively body fat, and had no notable variability in blood values after the first few days. The summary of 60 years of the best research on starvation and metabolism is that after the third day there is only upside until at least day 42 in all participants. To underscore our societal lunacy about eating too much, too often, with too great an emphasis on carbohydrates, Dr. D'Agostino deadlifted 500lbs for 10 reps after a 7 day fast. Read that again and don't ever ever forget it.
We are the descendants of the humans who made it. Our ancestors survived, thrived, grew strong, and in an environment with little food they passed on their DNA to the subsequent generations: us. There are no two ways about it. Eating fewer carbohydrates improves fertility. There is no debate. Ketogenic dieting, whether through food restriction or primarily carbohydrate restriction improves your chances when dealing with hormonal imbalance, cognitive decline and certain cancers.
Now, that's not to say that the cereal companies' marketing and the American agricultural lobby haven't been astoundingly effective at brainwashing the world. They've done a remarkable job at convincing us that we should spike our blood sugar everyday, especially in the morning, and multiple times per day. We know with absolute certainty that this repeated variability in blood sugar increases your risk of all cause mortality. But like cigarettes before them, grains and sugars are hard to kick.
Keep in mind, as noted above, there is absolutely no physical health benefit or physiological basis for an adult to eat every day. Once you're fully grown, there is no need to ever raise blood sugar again. We have this thing you might've heard of: stored body fat. Every single time you eat protein or carbohydrates you signal the body to protect stored body fat. Over time, you become very bad at using stored body fat at all. And if you continue to eat all the time, that's not going to change.
In the modern industrialized world, hunger is a mental illness. All "hunger" is is a word that humans made up in order to describe the unease that we feel when our brain detects a possible or impending gap in the supply/demand equation for the brain. This could be vitamins. It could be minerals. It could be fatty acids. But what the brain absolutely never needs is more external dietary carbohydrates. There is nothing in medical literature to contend this fact. Every study on starvation has concluded that the brain will function optimally with ketones and the glucose that the liver synthesizes. Eating frequently and in large quantities of carbohydrates will increase insulin resistance. When the brain becomes insulin resistant and you are still bombarding it with frequent meals and carbohydrates, what do you think is going to happen? It's called dementia. It's called Alzheimer's. You are hungry for dementia? Yeah, that's mental illness.
Like a smoker who craves cancer, a food addict hungers for destruction of his or her own health and wellness. And so, societally, the time has come to stop with the pretense. Most grown American adults don't need to eat for weeks at a time. We can stop pretending and making excuses. Outside of water, some leafy greens and berries every other day ought to cut it for many nutrients. The rest can be had with a weekly meal of some sort of fish and/or nuts and/or liver from humanely treated grassfed cattle. Not up for real food? Take a multivitamin or greens replacement powder.
The brainwashing is running out of steam; and you are running out of justifications. A man who starved for a week deadlifted 500lbs for 10 reps. An ever-growing number of elite endurance and ultra-endurance athletes are eating zero starches or very low carb. And their performance is improving. What in the world is the layperson doing "fueling the day"? You have fuel for years. It's already stored all over your body. You just have to get good at using the fuel. That starts with opting out of food, one way or the other. It could be a meal. It could be a category. It could be a day or a week or more. But somewhere, somehow, some day you are going to have to opt out. That is the only way. And when you do, you'll be stronger not weaker. You may even lift 500lbs.
To find out how to implement safe and healthy food restriction in realistic ways for you, click here.
Different people swear by different diets, whether it's raw vegan, slimgenics, weight watchers, paleo, Atkins, medifast, and forever on the list goes. Professional bodybuilders, the leanest athletes on earth, will eat up to 10 times a day. Meanwhile, various fit and cognitively sharp 100 year olds eat only once or twice a day. In recent years, a lot of health has been recovered and abs revealed through adding in copious meat and animal fats. Prior to that, vegans were able to get thin by removing animal products. Confused how such different plans work? The reality, in point of fact, is that any successful Weightloss program has the exact same fundamental properties: control insulin; control cortisol. That's it. Simple. This is the secret of Weightloss. And even after this article it will remain secret, because it will seem too simple.
Every diet that works is first operating on a single principle: reduce insulin. That is the most important thing if the focus is simply losing body fat. Insulin grows all tissues; but in a fat person insulin pretty much only grows fat or prevents the breakdown of stored body fat. There are many paths to reduce insulin, which is why different people swear by seemingly different paths. The principle is the same in all of them. Get blood sugar lower for longer periods of time. This can be achieved by eating less (I.e. - weight watchers), by spacing the food throughout the day (I.e. - conventional body building diets), reducing carbohydrate content (I.e. - Atkins), reducing the glycemic index of carbs ingested (I.e. - raw vegan), all of the above (I.e. - various anti-inflammatory and elimination diets) or trying to exercise your way out of it (I.e. - endurance athlete lifestyle where the activity eventually uses up the blood sugar).
Alone, reducing insulin via nutrition is profound. However, results can be accelerated with additional control of cortisol when done correctly. In general, we want less cortisol because it is so depressing to vital hormones like testosterone. But there are times where increasing cortisol is warranted. Prior to activity, it will intensify the body's use of stored body fat if and only if insulin is depressed concurrently.
The most successful Weightloss programs maximize cortisol at opportune times and reduce it at inopportune times. Cortisol is indiscriminently catabolic. It breaks down tissue. This can be fat or lean mass. Referencing the above paragraph, you can see that if you first raise insulin (which blocks the breakdown of fat), even if you workout soon afterward (raising cortisol), you will be incapable of breaking down any meaningful amount of stored body fat for many hours. However, in a fasted state, insulin is low and not growing or defending body fat. If one raises cortisol at these moments, they can preferentially burn body fat. This is why the vast majority of athletes who are getting leaner are doing morning cardio before eating and oftentimes with stimulants like caffeine.
Upon waking, all other things being equal, cortisol is at an all time high. This can go one of two ways: burn more fat or burn more muscle. If you eat before activity, sustained cortisol output WILL eat up muscle and bones and organs. If you do activity before eating, you will maximize fat burn.
There is a third component for those looking to really change body composition, not just lose weight: picking up heavy stuff. Lifting weights operates on yet another level as far as body composition is concerned. When you contract muscles intensely, you upregulate glucose transporters in muscles. Essentially, this means that whatever happens with respect to cortisol and insulin, your body will disproportionately shuttle energy to lean mass, not fat mass.
A fourth component, but a little longer ranging for most, is straight up being leaner. When less of your body is fat, guess what happens when you eat? There's less fat competing for the nutrients. You use more of your food to be lean. When you take all of this into consideration, you can see how an already lean athlete who lifts heavy weights doesn't have to do nearly as much right with nutritional and cardio-dependent modes of controlling insulin and cortisol. However, the sedentary overweight individual has the cards stacked against her. She must knock insulin down as low as possible through nutrition, because most of the tissue in the body is going to take food to grow fatter.
Activity will never scale like nutrition. It cannot make up for bad nutrition in that it cannot go back in time to reduce previously high insulin. And since most people don't have 6-8 hours per day every single day to train, you can also see how it will never have as profound an impact on insulin over the 24 hours in a day as good nutrition.
That's the secret. Control insulin. Get it as low as possible. For those trying to gain size or strength, raise it only shortly after training. Control cortisol. Increase it during activity in a more or less blood sugar fasted state. Reduce it all other times. Lift heavy things. Get lean. Yes, sleep and many other variables play a role. But think about what that actually means. While asleep, you have a harder time eating sugar and raising insulin or getting over stressed and raising cortisol. When your sleep is optimal, you have better organ reserve and are able to apply more cortisol output to the breakdown of fat once awake. When you're under-slept, cortisol is burning at inopportune times, eating up lean mass, making it impossible to ever get lean, even if you lose some weight.
Get started with Elev8 Wellness on your weightloss journey today.