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.
Body fat is not broken down by any kind of calorie equation. The breakdown, lipolysis, as it's known, is the result of six hormones elevated in the absence of elevated blood sugar. This is an incontestable biological fact. It is not my opinion. There exists no debate. This is not an article to examine one type of diet or program versus another. This is just the description of lipolysis. If you want to understand it, read on.
Lipolysis is set in motion by any one of or the variant combinations of six hormones: cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline, growth hormone, testosterone and even ghrelin. Consider each.
Cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline usually come along the same stress cascade. If you workout, take caffeine, or diet in such a way that drops blood sugar, your body will respond to those stressors with these hormones. You will unlock stored fat and use it up. This is why different nutritional and dietary regimens can work. As long as they elevate some stress response in the absence of insulin, they will help the person following that program to retrieve and lose stored fat. As such, different people will swear by slim fast shakes, others by weight watchers, some by vegan lifestyle, some by Paleo, some by sprints, some by endurance training, some by Crossfit and others by long walks. Guess what. They're all gimmicks. The principles don't, can't and won't change. So it's no surprise that different people with different lifestyles will find different programs more or less effective. Simply stimulate cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline in the absence of insulin and you burn fat.
Growth hormone can be a little trickier. It burns fat. It fights aging. But it comes out in bursts and works on a tipping balance with insulin. Whereas stress hormones can be high while insulin is high (though this is bad), growth hormone cannot be high while insulin is high. The two largest bursts of growth hormone should be in the middle of your sleep and about an hour after you wake up. If insulin remains elevated, however, you cannot produce any meaningful amount of growth hormone. This is why people who eat a lot of carbohydrates, people who don't sleep well, night eaters and breakfast eaters all have a much harder time getting a six pack than their counterparts. This is also why most type II diabetics who start using insulin gain fat initially. Insulin can grow fat and does stop growth hormone. However, if you strike the balance right, a big blast of insulin clears the blood of glucose AND insulin. With the blood cleared of both glucose and insulin, ideal things can happen: you'll raise stress hormones, and growth hormone will be boosted. As such, in rare cases, administered just right, using insulin can make someone much leaner and more muscular. This may sound confusing, since at different times different hormones are good or bad. Thus different foods are good or bad depending on timing as well. Many elite bodybuilders use exogenous insulin and growth hormone because they are such powerful substances. But the dosing and timing is absolutely everything. Get either one wrong, and the result can be fatal. Also, if blood sugar drops too substantially (and you don't fall asleep permanently), the stress hormone release can be so high as to force your liver to dump more sugar in the bloodstream and now you're back at square one. It's a delicate balance.
Testosterone is the king of fat burners. Many elite athletes use testosterone or a derivative steroid because it's so adept at increasing lean mass and decreasing fat mass. It is fairly gender and age dependent. This is why, on average, a 17 year old male is usually far more muscular, lean and powerful than a 65 year old female. The young male's and the older female's measurements of stress hormones are only a bit different. Their growth hormone levels are some different. But their testosterone levels are so incomparable that the concentrations are measured on separate scales. Results are obvious. There are a lot of ways to dramatically improve testosterone levels: sleep more, and sleep better; ensure that you get sufficient mineral intake (supplementing magnesium and zinc before bed and upon waking if need be); lift heavy weights and/or do sprints of some sort; avoid long bouts of stress (including endurance training and long cardio routines); eat saturated fats. The cells which make testosterone in your body CANNOT make any sex hormones without LDL, just an FYI. Look it up. This means that if you're taking a statin or avoiding dietary fat you could be making fat loss a lot harder than it needs to be.
Ghrelin is the easiest to raise. It is the hunger hormone. So... get hungry. When your stomach is growling and hunger pangs are stabbing you in the belly right before you cave to the pressure and eat the storehouse of food, ghrelin is hitting its peak concentrations in your body. Unfortunately, this is a real willpower battle, so not one I recommend. But whenever you feel the hunger, you are just annihilating stored bodyfat. Controlled fasting and ghrelin have a lot of benefits actually, like curing all digestive disorders, resting your organs, accelerating detoxification and increasing your life expectancy by, oh, 50 YEARS! During elevated levels of ghrelin your body is hitting a freak out point where it is going to bend your mind and force you to eat, thus regrowing the bodyfat you've been starting to use up. Don't give up or give in. When you overcome that intense hunger, know that you've gotten a little leaner. Over time, as you practice this on a regular basis, you'll soon find that you haven't got any fat on your stomach. Be careful. Like all hormones, this should not be high or low all the time. But you should be able to get hungry and forego eating at least once every day - preferably in the morning.
Even though we don't want to raise insulin at night, you also don't want to raise ghrelin prior to bed or you won't sleep well. Larger meals of greens and fats or small servings of high glycemic index carbs ( which will be cleared from the blood quickly) are better for the end of the day, so as to keep ghrelin and insulin low, growth hormone and testosterone high and enable stress hormones to spike right around when you are supposed to wake up.
Oddly, completely different diets and exercise programs get some of the same things right and some of the same things wrong. The fundamentals don't change. No matter what, raise these six hormones as best you can; and minimize the duration you're exposed to insulin. But be careful. These are hormones. So timing is everything. If you eat and raise insulin before raising stress hormones (I.e. - food before workout) the result is proteolysis (lean mass breakdown) not lipolysis. Many people make this mistake, lose "weight" but don't get leaner. They keep getting fatter and weaker (skinny fats) despite a dedicated workout regimen and clean nutrition. They're working the timing equation the wrong way. Similarly, people who feel stressed and anxious all the time AND snack just keep growing a bigger and bigger gut. If they simply fasted through the bouts of stress, then ate like a pig after sprints or heavy lifting, they'd look more like a fitness model.
I invite you to read on only if you are ready for tough love:
The jury is in. In fact, it has been in for a very long time. No one was born irrevocably predetermined to become fat or anything else. Sorry.
Thanks to the Enlightenment, humans could begin blaming all of their faults on the deterministic actions of matter in the universe. Thanks to Freud, humans could begin to blame their failures on being stuck in a developmental stage. And, much more recently, thanks to the Human Genome Project, we have all begun to update the Medieval "the devil made me do it" to "my genes made me do it." I mean, after all, taking responsibility sucks, right?
However, despite all of our hopes and dreams that we could blame everything on inherited genes, it just isn't so. First off, genetic expression changes throughout your life and is dependent on your every act, choice and environmental change. Second, various discoveries disproved that malarkey: http://dmm.biologists.org/content/6/1/236.abstract. After all, it is pretty preposterous, since no matter what your genetic makeup, people stranded on an island with almost no food don't grow fatter.
Hey, it sure would be great. Imagine if you couldn't help yourself from having piles of cash stacked in scattered safety deposit boxes. Being a bank robber is just in your genes, so you couldn't help but collect all this money. But, alas, we all have to take responsibility for our actions and their outcomes, no matter how much we just want to believe that our taboo is externally induced.
Humans haven't become any more sophisticated in their fundamental desire to absolve themselves of all accountability. Point to the gods or the Higgs Boson. Your argument is the same. Headlines read "evolutionary biology discovery explains prevalence of rape." Really? If only we could prove that the most heinous acts in the universe were incontrovertibly fixed to happen, we could feel a lot better about our own little sins. Nope. You should've zagged when you zigged; and you had total control to do so. And you know it.
Yeah, yeah. I know. "Influence." Yes, genes, family, peers, mental disorders, addiction, etc. exert INFLUENCE. But influence is only influence. Influence isn't even potential. And potential isn't even actualized reality. It is scary. It's scary to say "I caved to these influences." It's an admission of weakness. And we all know admitting to weakness of character is much more difficult than blaming a condition. But you have to start somewhere to begin the change. And why not start with the only thing you can control: your reaction. You can't control others. You can't control who your parents were. So, why are you starting your change (or lack thereof) with talk about totally uncontrollable variables? Instead, let's focus on the empowering. You've got 168 hours of influence this week. Now go pick what you'll fill it with and how you react to it.
Have you ever thought, "I could cure my mind by getting my stomach in order?" Probably not. But a growing body of research is teaching us that gut health and intestinal flora may help explain and be the key to fixing psychological disorders. It could mean that better bacteria might make you become a better student, business person, wife, husband, athlete, speaker, or a happier, better human.
Though you have about a trillion cells making up your body, you have about 100 trillion bacteria. In fact, we are more "other biological creature" than we are ourselves. So, giving short shrift to caring for your microbial makeup will lead to some unhealthy living. More and more research efforts are aimed at uncovering the clear role that our microbes play in everything we encounter biologically, including cancer. Now, we are launching into the effect these critters have on our minds.
Want to be smarter, more powerful, less anxious, more dominant? Take a probiotic. Stop eating inflammatory foods. Maybe get a poop transplant. It sounds crazy. However, that is precisely what several teams have been working on. The last option, scientifically termed fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), has already been in extremely experimental medicine in hopes of curing a variety of diseases. However, recently researchers at McMaster University in Ontario confirmed that FMT even alters brain chemistry and behavior. Basically, when you take the intestinal flora from fearless mice and give it to anxious mice, the anxious mice become fearless.
The discovery isn't that shocking really, as the developing field of neurogastroenterology has already found a great number of our feelings and emotions originate in the gut, not the brain. Our post-enlightenment ideal of a pure machine of 1s and 0s sitting inside our skulls is simply not accurate. And Dr. Michael Gershon wrote "The Second Brain" in 1998 to let us all know it.
As you ponder what all this could mean, you may be wondering how exactly you change your own gut bacteria in order to become all you can be. Unfortunately, that answer is not entirely clear, yet. A few teams, like Ubiome, are working on mapping out gut bacteria in order to find the correlations between disease pathology, personality characteristics and specific strains of flora. But it's a long process. One day we may be able to select all the specific strains which make us live longer, healthier, less stressful and better lives and deselect the opposing ones.
In the meantime, what you can do is try to take as good care of your second brain as possible in three simple ways:
1.) Don't destroy your gut
- limit or eliminate all the offenders which irritate or damage gut lining and bacteria (this includes most grains)
2.) Rebuild your gut
- grassfed butter or ghee contains a compound which is uniquely productive for reducing pathogenic gut bacteria while engendering the growth of beneficial bacteria
3.) Repopulate your gut properly
- unfortunately, the strain of probiotic does matter a lot (far more than the count); and this is a complex subject which is not well-known or understood by even the most advanced nutritionists and medical practitioners; as already indicated in the article, each bacterium species and even subspecies is unique and acts differently in your body and interacts differently with other bacteria
- the short explanation is to avoid yogurt (i.e. - many fermented foods contain bacteria which paradoxically enough increase histamines and inflammation in the body, potentially even increasing your risk of certain cancers) and ensure that whatever supplement you do take includes these three: Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium infantis, and Bifidobacterium longum (unless you plan on learning all the intricacies of microbiological bacteriology and dozens of different strains, just memorize "long infant plants" to remember these three for checking labels)
Recently I visited a gym environment where I hadn't been in three years. Every single "regular" was more or less doing the exact same routine, complaining about the exact same shoulder issues and looked worse than they did when I last saw them. The skinny lean guys were still complaining about how they cannot gain 5 pounds of muscle; and the big guys were marching about with more belly fat than ever. You might be thinking, "well, Jonathan, you have to understand that as people age..." AND I'm going to cut you off right there. Not true. Have you ever read Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter from Birmingham Jail? Time is neutral. What are you going to fill it with? More of the same unevolved waste, because your pride is higher on your priorities than improvement? Or are you going to get a coach? You need one. We all do.
I get it. You already know everything. That's why surgeons just practice on pigeons at home. That's why music schools don't exist. That's why universities have never played an important role in the progress of anything. Sounds ridiculous? That's what my ear hears when people talk about not needing help in any area of their lives, especially fitness. I've seen the same people aimlessly pounding out endless hours in the gym to basically no avail for a decade. And this depressing fact is highlighted more every day as I age and continue improving, and as my clients and colleagues age and continue improving.
We have to start with your head and your pride. A good friend of mine used to daily paraphrase Henry Ford, saying, "whether you think you can or can't, either way you're right." So if you believe you have to devolve as time passes by, you're right. Except, you aren't right. How do you explain people like Dana Torres? They aren't just genetic freaks. I've worked with lots of people like this. The examples exist, challenging your paradigm. Now, you have to do something with that cognitive dissonance. You can either let it change your mind, or you can cynically come up with some excuse for why it doesn't apply. And then, again, whether you think you can or you can't, either way you're right. This is the number one reason why you need a coach. You need at least one person in your life showing you the "impossible" is possible on a regular basis.
A couple years ago NPR ran a segment on Sandy Palais (http://www.npr.org/2011/02/21/133776800/seniors-can-still-bulk-up-on-muscle-by-pressing-iron). For the first 63 years of her life she knew everything. It netted her osteoporosis. Never having done serious strength training before, she swallowed her pride, worked with some trainers and at 73 she could Deadlift 165 pounds. Does that sound like we're predetermined to degenerate as we age? We aren't. You can put away whatever equivocations you're already building in your mind about her, because she didn't have a very fit starting point and her routine isn't even that streamlined. It's just decent.
But your pride is still there, keeping you depressed, disempowered, making excuses, thinking no one could possibly have something different that's helpful. You've built up all kinds of slick coping mechanisms so that you won't listen to anyone about anything: "I don't want to get too bulky;" "I don't want to get too skinny;" "everyone in my family has high cholesterol;" "I know what to do, I just don't do it." You know what? Save it. I've done over 10,000 consults and I've heard it all. A coach is someone there to help you go through the deep internal change about which you're unwilling, unwitting and incapable of doing efficiently on your own.
Yes, there are all of the fundamentals: your program design and form is garbage; your workout regimen is based on thirty year old wisdom that was wrong back then; your chiropractor, nutritionist, last trainer, orthopedic surgeon, gp, and physical therapist all told you the wrong advice; you don't know about food sensitivities, inflammation, controlled ketosis, nutrient timing, biorhythms, effective supplementation, citizen medicine, and the like. Obviously, you need a coach because you don't even know enough to know that you don't know anything. However, I'm not even talking about that. Let's say you are extremely advanced, you've worked several thousand hours in the wellness industry and you KNOW what you are doing. The second you stop seeking coaches and new mentorship your skill set is passé and your knowledge base outside of your troubleshooting experience is obsolete. Sorry folks, that is just status quo in every industry nowadays.
So, again, I get it. Good coaches are expensive and you're broke. That's why the trillion dollar tobacco industry is primarily funded by the lower third of the socioeconomic ladder. That's why the porn industry yearly revenue tops $57 billion. Guess what. People have, are and will continue to spend tons of money on vices and pointless purchases, oftentimes with money they don't even have (the AVERAGE American credit card debt is almost $16,000). So why do we still have this stigma about seeking help with fitness, nutrition, wellness and stress management? Without these pillars, people can't even function. But yet we have to shame ourselves and each other about going to a trainer or a therapist. Should I chide you for paying "just to have someone keep you company while you play the piano"? Should I chide you for paying someone "just to keep you company while you read your Calculus text book"? I mean, why bother even letting assisted self-improvement enter the conversation when it's so much easier to act self-righteous and self-medicate with a variety of dirty little secrets? The reality is that every person who hasn't admitted they needed help and paid for it in healthy ways has paid for some really unhealthy ways to cope instead. But they keep it a secret.
Listen, I don't have any health issues because I take care of myself and I have been fortunate. Yet I have to pay top dollar on premiums, health care and taxes because you don't. So, let's not play the "expensive" game. Your pride costs you AND others more than several years of working with the most elite professionals in the world.
Everyone needs a coach. Even the best coaches need coaches. Even you. Even me. But if you think you can't learn anything new and it's not worth it and you don't have time, either way you're right.
Infants (the demographic with the lowest incidence of chronic disease and most positive central nervous system regulation) do best when they drink breast milk. There are some rare abnormalities, like chylothorax, wherein this isn't the case; but generally it's true. Breast milk content varies, but on average the macronutrient content in energy (as opposed to volume) is about 50% fat, 10% protein and 40% carbohydrates. Babies are growing rapidly, thus their carbohydrate needs are relatively high.
How does this instruct us as adults? Well, if you're in a rapid growth cycle like babies, which really only pertains to bodybuilders or people trying to accelerate their cancer cell production, then you want to move your carbohydrate intake up to 40% or more. It will raise blood sugar, stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin which grows ALL TISSUE especially those cells which are upregulated for growth. Upregulated cells would include muscle cells after a workout, or cancer cells if you have cancer, or fat cells if you are sedentary. Also, insulin creates insulin resistance, leading to degeneration and aging.
What does all that mean? If you are trying to maintain or have moderate increases in strength or muscle, carbohydrate intake other than fiber should be severely limited, except immediately following some workouts and/or in the evening when fat cells are most difficult to grow. If you are really active, like a 90 year old Okinawan karate teacher on his feet all day, then you might benefit from a little more white rice in the diet.
By virtue of decreasing carbohydrate percentage, this means that your fat and/or protein intake will go up. If you want to grow fat at half the rate of a baby, there is a strong argument that a good balanced diet should look like 60% fat, 20% protein, 20% carbohydrates (again, not including fiber).
If you don't want to grow fat at all, especially if your activity level isn't very high (keep in mind, kids move a lot more than you, and nature doesn't peg their carb needs higher than 50% of total calories), then dietary fat most likely should be higher. If you haven't done any heavy lifting, 15% or fewer calories coming from protein is probably fine, meaning fat percentage could go as high as 80+%.
If you still think that dietary fat intake increases your risk of heart disease or some other ideas pulled from 1950s American nutrition science, please please please watch Gary Taubes' Googletech talk for free online and read my earlier blog posts.
This is not meant to be exhaustively comprehensive so much as concisely heavy impact. I did not include logic puzzles, sleep, art and the like, because, frankly, after you do even a few of these seven practices, one of the first ideas that will come to mind is a desire to obliterate a sudoku puzzle, write a song, paint a picture, read and write a few books, speak a new language, and invent something that makes the Rubik's cube look like a prehistoric relic. Oh yeah, and you will sleep progressively better and better and better.
Complex large living organisms that don't move don't have brains. They're called plants. John Ratey, MD has created a great book, "Spark," which details numerous studies showing the cognitive benefit from movement and then the mechanics down to the cell level of how exercise makes you smarter. My favorite illustration driving this home concerns the Sea Squirt, an underwater invertebrate. This little critter roams about until it finds the place where it will live out the rest of its life; and then it eats it own brain. After all, if you sit still most of the time, why would you need a brain?
2.) Ketosis (not to be conflated with ketoacidosis)
Your brain will live longer if you can keep your blood sugar low almost all the time. Eat seldom; and when you do, make sure you get coconut oil, butter and fish oil. Your body will learn to live off of fat (again, since this is how it was meant to work and how it started working when you were born). Without elevated blood sugar, it is darn near impossible to get any chronic diseases, especially the ones affecting the brain.
There are numerous examples of people who reversed advanced Alzheimer's and dementia by simple ketotic regulation.
Via intermittent fasting and MCT and short chain fatty acid administration - d beta hydroxybutyrate can cross the blood brain barrier and is neuroprotective. Given that neural cell death will occur when energy is no longer uptaken, ketone bodies afford each affected cell within the brain additional longevity since they operate independent from insulin-dependent GLUTs.
J Clin Invest. 2003 Sep;112(6):892-901.
D-beta-hydroxybutyrate rescues mitochondrial respiration and mitigates features of Parkinson disease. Tieu K, Perier C, Caspersen C, Teismann P, Wu DC, Yan SD, Naini A, Vila M, Jackson-Lewis V, Ramasamy R, Przedborski S.
Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 70 (2004) 309–319. The therapeutic implications of ketone bodies: the effects of ketone bodies in pathological conditions: ketosis, ketogenic diet, redox states, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial metabolism. Richard L. Veech* Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, National Institutes of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, 12501 Washington Ave., Rockville, MD 20850, USA
3.) Stop the Confusion: Eat Great Food
Your brain started out only hungry for its needs: vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. You starved it from its needs and became a drug addict. That is, you stopped eating foods dense in nutrients; and instead you began eating foods which have no nutritional value, leech nutrients out of your body and get you high. That's right, the nutritional value of grains and pasteurized dairy is less than nothing. Not only does their processing rob them of any nutritional value whatsoever, your body uncouples some of its own minerals (like calcium) to get them out of your body.
Add to that the fact that these foods create a euphoria from the blood sugar roller coaster and that they contain opioids: casomorphin and gluteomorphin.
Your brain is actually confused about what it wants and what it thinks tastes good, because you have starved it from its needs and been taking opiates for years. You are an actual drug addict. This is not a joke.
The good news is that as you begin supplementing, eating nutrient dense foods and turning away from your opiate addiction, you can actually regain normal brain function again. Believe it or not, when you have been flawlessly feeding your brain appropriately for a few months, you don't crave or think about the drugs anymore. I repeat, this is not a joke. I'm having an ever-growing number of executive and lifestyle coaching clients who don't even think about pasta or pastries anymore.
If you get an itch, it's only because you are nutrient deficient, and/or because you're still sneaking a little opium in (a piece of cheese, a bite of bread, or a sip of beer).
Be prepared for withdrawal. "Everything in moderation" is folly when talking about opiates. And that's to say nothing of the inflammatory sadomasochistic euphoria from blood sugar instability. You are sick; and the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. If you need some help during detox, don't be afraid to get more vigilant with your antioxidants and properly sourced caffeine (more to come on nicotine gum in the future).
4.) Rewire Neurons
Practice focused thought. You can do it with breathing, with guidance, with neurofeedback devices, and/or by running a low current across the brain. All of these increase levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, GAbA and serotonin. Depression, anxiety, pain and neurodegeneration can be stopped. The brain is complex; but it is still a series of many understood processes which can all be altered.
Some studies on current applied across brain:
Researchers attached an electrode to the upper incisor in rabbits to stimulate the trigeminal nuclei via the infra orbital nerve with only 10hz @ 5v, resulting in over 15% increase in cerebral cortical blood flow.
Int J Neurosci. 2009;119(9):1292-302.
Assessment of the outcomes of cerebral blood flow measurements after electrical stimulation of upper right incisor tooth in rabbits.
Gulturk S, Gedik R, Develioglu H, Oztoprak I, Cetin A.
Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Cumhuriyet University, 58140 Sivas, Turkey. email@example.com
Another 10hz study showing safe increased blood flow with brain stim:
Acta Physiol Scand. 1990 Mar;138(3):307-16.
Effect on cortical blood flow of electrical stimulation of trigeminal cerebrovascular nerve fibres in the rat.
Suzuki N, Hardebo JE, Kåhrström J, Owman C.
Department of Medical Cell Research, University of Lund, Sweden.
Safe, among the longest studied so-called "nootropics" or smart drugs, they boast alleged IQ improvements in adults.
In rat models, they have proven to be specifically neuroprotective in the substantia nigra, including pars compacta.
There are about 3000 favorable studies on pubmed for the racetams, although I found the following one among the most recent and interesting.
Indian J Pharmacol. 2012 Nov-Dec;44(6):774-9. doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.103300. Piracetam and vinpocetine ameliorate rotenone-induced Parkinsonism in rats. Zaitone SA, Abo-Elmatty DM, Elshazly SM. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt.
It's a drug. It's controversial. It's basically NZT from the movie "Limitless." It makes people smarter, better at problem solving and extremely focused for very long periods of time. If you are a depressed, anxious, unhealthy and addictive personality, it is inarguably a bad idea. Moody people and the emotionally immature beware. That's most of you, even the adults who aren't in college anymore. However, if you are happy, smart, relaxed, healthy and very controlled, prepare to have the best day of your life. On modafinil, sleep is deep, recuperative but totally unnecessary. Daily longterm persistent high dose use, like with any drug, isn't smart. But limited irregular use, like with many drugs, has some significant upsides. One of them is the protection of brain cells.
Clinical trials have proven its benefit in improving concentration. Unfortunately, most of the studies with Modafinil for Parkinson's were focused on finger tapping, not mental acuity, and therefore had minimal statistically significant outcomes. Mental fatigue is much less with modafinil, even if body fatigue is under affected.
Aviat Space Environ Med. 2012 Jun;83(6):556-64.
Modafinil as a replacement for dextroamphetamine for sustaining alertness in military helicopter pilots. Estrada A, Kelley AM, Webb CM, Athy JR, Crowley JS.
J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2010 Spring;22(2):130-54. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.22.2.130. Psychopharmacological neuroprotection in neurodegenerative disease: heuristic clinical applications.
Lauterbach EC, Shillcutt SD, Victoroff J, Coburn KL, Mendez MF.
The above six takeaways should be substantial enough to help 99% of people A LOT. However, in the case of Parkinsonism, there is at least one more big trick.
This is some of the heaviest artillery for people deep into neurodegeneration. The layperson need not apply. Although selegiline has fallen largely out of favor, even for early-onset Parkinson's among American medical practitioners, it has a track record of netting the patients much greater overall benefit than dopamine therapy alone. More recent reviews argue that the fears once associated with selegiline had too many confounding factors.
J Neural Transm. 2013 Mar;120(3):435-44. doi: 10.1007/s00702-012-0899-3. Epub 2012 Sep 12. Rasagiline and selegiline, inhibitors of type B monoamine oxidase, induce type A monoamine oxidase in human SH-SY5Y cells. Inaba-Hasegawa K, Akao Y, Maruyama W, Naoi M.
Source: Department of Neurosciences, Gifu International Institute of Biotechnology, Kakamigahara, Gifu, Japan.
Clin Neuropharmacol. 2012 May;35(3):134-40. doi: 10.1097/WNF.0b013e318255838b.
Selegiline: a reappraisal of its role in Parkinson disease.
Fabbrini G, Abbruzzese G, Marconi S, Zappia M.
Source : Department of Neurology and Psychiatry and IRCSS Neuromed Institute, "Sapienza" University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
How do you explain the experience that someone has never had? Better yet, how do you convince someone they can do something they believe is impossible? The easy answer is you can't and you don't. What you do is use the closest experience someone has had and make analogy. Here, I try to make the ultimate one.
You're an addict. Food. Sex. TV. Booze. Anger. Something. You'd like to change. Or, at least you once did. You tried some stuff. Something kinda worked. Overall you failed. Ergo, change must be impossible. Right?
You read a testimonial. You attend a meeting. You believe, for a moment; and then you doubt. Doubt grows into disbelief. Disbelief becomes who you are. Change is impossible. It's your genes, your parents, your weak will, your age, your gender, the man keeping you down, the religious nuts, the irreligious nuts, the conservatives or the liberals or some factor you don't control keeping you from change. Change isn't in the cards. The "they" and the "them" have created a power structure that you just won't ever overcome. Right?
But you still sort of want to believe you can change. So, every once in a while, you put some hope in a pundit, an author, an infomercial. You try some new things. A little something works; but overall not really. Now it's a fact. A law. An immutable truth. Change is impossible.
This is the juncture in an article where the author knows he's struck a chord, made some connection you can relate to, and then he proceeds to draw you in a little more by giving his own testimonial or an example of some famous person. I'm not going to do that.
Instead, I'm going to point you at your own life. You have already changed, in profound ways, but you no longer view them as profound because they're familiar, tired, everyday. So try to remember when they weren't familiar.
Pick an identity, thought-process, skill or aptitude you at one point never had. Hint: that's all of them. Now consider one. Any one will do. Take, for example, riding a bike. At one point it was impossible. It was impossible for you to become the person who naturally rides a bike. Everything within you should have prevented you from gaining the skill. Then you transformed. It wasn't just unnatural for you. No humans are built to ride a bike. Yet somehow you did it.
Dig deeper. At one point you could not talk, read, write, think critically. At one point you were not an adult. At one point you were closed-minded. You couldn't draw, paint, photograph, play music, balance a ledger, run a company, lead people, run a 5k, shake someone's hand.
All of it, every aspect, was a set of action potentials in the brain. Then you began firing the neurotransmitters across a different set of pathways. Sodium flowed into and out of cells in a new pattern. And you changed.
You know what it looks like. You've done it. Every day you change dramatically. Every morning you wake up with the identity of "the person who has never made it through this day." And then you make it through this day.
We do what is familiar. By definition we don't understand what is unfamiliar. Change is the release into the unfamiliar. The skill or practice of change requires effort toward relinquishing oneself into the unfamiliar. It's uncomfortable, nonsensical, illogical, foolish, dumb, ignorant, baseless. Then, all of a sudden, the bike balances. Oh, now it makes sense.
People every day say to me, "I can't imagine eating that way." Or "I can't imagine living that way." Well, I agree it's unfamiliar. I couldn't imagine speaking English before I began speaking it. Then I couldn't imagine reading Greek until I did. Now I can imagine learning any language I put effort toward. No one is good at anything until they are. No one does anything until they do.
Really, change is inevitable. It's going to happen. It has. It is. It will. The question isn't whether it's possible. The question is if you are going to take an active role or a passive role. With entropy alive and well, you know where passive leads.
Taking an active role is unfamiliar. It's dumb, nonsense, irrational and doesn't work. I can't imagine how it could. Right?
Tonight or tomorrow morning you are going to stare in the mirror, wondering if one day you can sleep through the night, or be thin, free from sadness, liberated from the bottle, smart, good enough, successful, fulfilled. You want to change. Maybe it's possible. You've done it before. So now what?
Change something easy.
Change something challenging.
Change something difficult.
Change the impossible.
Mozart had to learn to feel, then move his fingers, control them first, synthesize his motor control with his ear and imagination next. Much later he became a musical genius. You're trying to play a sonata and you haven't even untied your hands or stood in front of a piano.
Just having read this, the contagion of change is already in your blood. It is infecting you at this very moment. You remember when you did the impossible before. Just the act of reading right this second is changing every cell in your body. Your pile of atoms configured themselves to capture electromagnetic waves from the screen in front of you. The optic nerve sent that data to the collection of chemicals inside your skull. You read. Proteins arranged themselves just so and you accessed memories.
And deep, deep down, you sensed a weak, inaudible, pathetic whispered "I think I can." It's silly. It's embarrassing. It's nonsense. Yeah, that's part of what change feels like. So now what?
Change something easy.
Change something challenging.
Change something difficult.
Change the impossible.
Everything the human body and brain does is a skill. And all skills require practice to improve. If you want to change the impossible and do the unimaginable, then you must practice. And like any other skill, you must start where your current agency allows.
So right this second make a list of the unimaginable. "I can't imagine making a list right now." Exactly. One practice session already accomplished. "I can't imagine forwarding this on to everyone." Perfect. Two practice sessions down.
Then, do the unimaginable every day.
"I can't imagine admitting I was wrong about X."
"I can't imagine forgiving my enemy."
"I can't imagine donating to my political enemy."
"I can't imagine never eating gluten again."
You imagine different and you become different. So now what?
Remember - you've already profoundly changed trillions of times.
Change something easy - write your name with your non-writing hand; read the cliff notes of a classic novel you've never read; eat your fast food sandwich without the bun just once.
Change something challenging - incorporate a new vocabulary word into your next conversation; tie your shoe with a type of knot you've never used; set a new personal record time for holding your breath.
Change something difficult - fast for a day; call and speak to someone you've had a grudge against; wake up one hour earlier than usual and meditate on only one word (i.e. - an ideal like "humility" or "forgiveness") for the whole hour.
Change the impossible - It's been four minutes, or four hours, or four days, or four weeks, or four months, or four years since reading this article. You're finally prepared. You've practiced. You've built up to this moment. You're now face to face with what you always wanted. And guess what: it's anti-climactic. You glide effortlessly across the threshold. It's hard to even remember how hard you thought this change would be. It happens just like every other change, naturally, and slipping into the forgotten it occupies the past where your other profound changes lost reside.
Can't imagine it? Spoiler: you just did.