I ran sixty miles per week, ate low calorie and zero fat, and couldn’t get abs. Two years of that didn’t get abs. Thin. Yes. Abs? No. No deep muscle definition at all, really. Far more than fifty people told me it would work. All of their opinions were wrong.
Twelve years later, I ate three pounds of beef per day, ate yolks only, drank heavy whipping cream, and spooned up butter, ghee, and coconut oil. In that photo, nearly 5,000 calories of my food every day came from saturated fat. No more running. THAT resulted in abs, along with the best cholesterol profile on earth. Yes, actually, my cholesterol improved: https://www.elev8wellness.com/.../vegan-dieting-destroyed... .
Should I have just done another two years of running and low cal/zero fat? If it doesn't work at all, how long do we listen to idiot opinions?
How long exactly should I have kept listening to the ineffective popular advice before I tried the exact opposite which worked like a dream?
When I first came to the Twin Cities, I turned in almost fifty applications to different prospective employers. I followed up on all. I received ONE response. It was TSA. They brought me in for their screening process and never contacted me again. I walked into the next (and last) prospective employer and did NOT fill out the application UNTIL after I’d met with and chatted with the General Manager. THAT started me on my current professional journey.
Should I have given up at five applications? Maybe at twenty? Maybe I should've just kept filling out applications?
After I discovered the reality that filling out applications doesn't work, how many more should I have kept filling out?
“She went to eleven doctors who told her nothing was wrong; the twelfth identified brain cancer; they treated her and she lived fifteen more years,” my 6am client said to me last Wednesday. She was describing a friend who would’ve died within a few months if she had accepted the first opinion, or the second, or the third, or the fourth, or the fifth, or the sixth…
or the seventh “I’m sorry; there’s nothing we can do for you.”
or the eighth “I don’t know what to tell you.”
or the ninth “all of your tests look normal.”
or the tenth “blood work looks good.”
or the eleventh “non-contrast MRI doesn’t appear to be worrisome.”
Should she have given up at the first opinion? Maybe the tenth? What if it took ten more? What if it took forty more?
I think about how it took me and my wife almost four years to help our son with his autoimmune issues. No medical professional was ever remotely helpful in that time period. What if it took four more years? What if we still didn’t have any understanding of it today, over eleven years later?
A close family member of ours received a death sentence around May of 2021: end-stage esophageal cancer. It had spread through nodes, liver, lungs, all of the body. There were innumerable cancerous masses throughout, making surgery a non-option. First four opinions: “There’s no cure; treatment is palliative.” That is, help the patient suffer as little as possible in his final few weeks. “Organ failure is assured.” “It’s terminal.”
He switched clinics, tried a novel immunotherapy that made him dramatically worse, unable to sleep, unable to lie down, too weak to talk… but he survived it, and the cancer did not survive it. Fourteen months later, his clinician ordered the port removed, as there’s no good reason to believe he’ll need more treatment. The past two scans show no evidence of prior masses.
What if it had taken a fourth or fifth clinic to get the breakthrough? What if it took twelve opinions instead of five or six? What if forty-nine in a row were wrong?
When I got Lyme disease, the first three doctors assured me I didn’t have borrelia infection/Lyme disease. My first tests came back negative. Should I have just quit looking and learning then? Because, just so you know, I’d be severely handicapped or dead today. ONLY a retest AFTER antibiotic treatment showed positives for infection on all titers. That was my idea, by the way. Not theirs. The infectious disease specialist DISCOURAGED the retest. She actually declined at first. I had to plead and explain to her that the research I read made clear that the bacterium is immunosuppressive and, as such, CANNOT show up for most patients UNTIL after antibiotics.
My wife USED to get migraines, debilitating migraines. For years. No clinician helped. SHE CHANGED HER NUTRITION. No more migraines. Should she have quit trying after the third or fourth doctor told her nothing useful?
Genuine success in the fitness industry is not easy. Burnout is incredibly high. And even with a cursory glance around, you’ll discover that most famous influencer coaches with multi-million followings cannot financially support themselves through coaching alone. They rep clothing lines, sell supplements, 12-week online templates, etc. More often than not, they frantically jump from expo to expo, cross-promoting, oversharing, and straight up just going into other lines of work. I know A LOT of people; but I don’t even know OF one other man who is/was persistently the primary breadwinner or sole provider for a family just based on being a great coach independently in the fitness industry. Always, there’s a caveat, like he’s counting on celebrity status, or the spouse has a more stable or advanced career, and/or they’re trust-fund babies, and/or this is their side hobby while they’re coming from unrelated industries.
Should I have given up when I found no role models or examples?
Should I have quit at year five, ten, or fifteen?
When precisely was the point I should have thrown in the towel?
Coming up on two decades now. When I went out on my own ten years ago, the first opinions ALL wondered how it was going to even be possible. Medical expenses went up. Cost of living went up. There’s no longer a giant institution generating marketing, leads, and sales for you. There’s no longer a giant institution covering memberships, the facility expenses and insurance policies. “It can’t be done,” was the general sentiment. “Why leave the corporate gym environment when you’re the most successful and highest paid employee in the region?”, were the exact words by my exit interviewer.
Should I have listened to those ten to twenty expert opinions?
Should I have copied and pasted the average template onto my life? Or was I right to invent the first of its kind? The only of its kind?
What I have found is that among the first forty-nine opinions mostly you get average-speak. They’re uninspired. They’re drab. They’re common sentiments. They’re emphasizing a tiny life with tiny vision and something that lands between hopeless and pointless. The first forty-nine efforts are merely uncovering what doesn’t work so well.
And, of course, people can keep being wrong well past the fiftieth opinion mark.
As far as the authoritative organizations and experts go, I don’t care what your suffix is. If you don’t have any more ideas on how to make progress, I have no use for you, and you should question your choice of profession. If you have no more creativity left to figure out improvement, your opinion is worthless. Have the humility and humanity to say, “perhaps you’ll get better answers elsewhere.” If you throw your hands up, saying, “it can’t be done,” how about just keep your mouth shut.
Get a fiftieth opinion. At least.
Per year, around 800,000 Americans die of heart disease:
Per year, around 100,000 Americans die from adverse response to approved medical care:
Or maybe it’s 250,000:
Per year, around 40,000 Americans die from second-hand smoke:
How do we respond to these highest risks which are rapidly getting worse?
We enable them. We amplify them. We definitely DO NOT combat them.
Severe obesity doubled from 2000 to 2017:
Obesity tripled since 1975:
Oversight on medical science has DECREASED dramatically, owing largely to our blank checks for pharma during the pandemic:
Regarding tobacco use, vaping has increased 1,800% among youth:
Returning to medical oversight for a moment, the irony is that the PREP Act was incredibly controversial when it was introduced by a Republican congressperson, Richard Burr, and signed into law by George W. Bush in 2006. Burr has long had unsavory ties to pharmaceutical and medical interests: https://www.statnews.com/2016/10/25/richard-burr-pharma-biotech-campaign/ . And he was implicated in insider trading at the outset of the pandemic: https://www.propublica.org/article/senator-dumped-up-to-1-7-million-of-stock-after-reassuring-public-about-coronavirus-preparedness.
All of a sudden, nobody cared about this when the pandemic struck.
But our willful naivety and complacency regarding medicine didn’t start in 2020. Nobody cared when the American Heart Association was caught red-handed being bought by pharmaceutical interests: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/health-news_b_4398304.
In fact, for the 30 years prior to the trending hashtag #trustthescience, we haven’t been able to trust the science. In modern contemporary science today, MOST published scientific research CANNOT be corroborated: https://www.nature.com/articles/533452a. Not some. MOST. Not a lot. MOST. That’s right: 70% of scientists cannot replicate claims of their peers. SEVENTY PERCENT.
When less than a third of science is able to be corroborated, how did anyone think #trustthescience made sense? Trust evidence. Distrust people. Trust solid arguments. Distrust consensus and popularity.
Scientific and medical institutions did not ascend to Godlike unquestionability in the 20th century, and they don’t mystically remain infallible for all of time. HUGE science scandals hit the news cycle for one or two days, like 16 years of flawed Alzheimer’s research (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alzheimers-study-controversy-what-does-it-mean-for-future-research#What-might-this-mean-for-dementia-research) or outright physics fraud (https://www.nature.com/articles/news020923-9); but we just go back to our previously-scheduled programming.
Sadly, expert scientific consensus tells us very little about evidence or truth. Look no further than Barry Marshall’s 2005 Nobel Prize, and you’ll find how consensus REJECTED evidence for two decades. The scientific consensus DENIED the truth. In fact, it’s hard to believe we would even know Marshall’s story and the bacterial cause of ulcers if his conclusions hadn’t landed us on antibiotic treatment pay dirt. If wealthy/influential people hadn’t had something to gain, could we rightly believe the evidence would’ve prevailed?
I don’t think so. I see zero evidence that we care at all about genuine evidence, data, or risks. It’s hard to see truth prevailing based on truth anymore. It seems to be more tied to financial interests or popular public feelings.
I mean, again, observe our top risks. The top risks have no social media profile templates, no hashtags, no memes, no attention. I see no evidence that people follow science or care about risk. They follow popularity and worry about “risks” that are popularly trending in their little tribes.
Following the food pyramid kills about 1 million Americans every year. And, if anything, our public embrace of unhealthy eating has accelerated. Look at the stats. Following scientific consensus and medical advice kills another 100,000 to 250,000 Americans per year. But we are becoming LESS skeptical of experts and entrenched institutional organizations. Second-hand smoke kills 40,000 per year. But smoke shops are popping up everywhere and tobacco use is resurgent.
Every single day, these things are killing 3,000 Americans. EVERY DAY. It’s like a 9/11 terrorist attack PER DAY EVERY DAY. Motor vehicle accidents take another 100 to 200 lives daily. DAILY. But there is zero outrage. No outcry. These ARE our highest risks. No opinion. No ideology. No politics.
As we go further down the list, we find that opioid overdose and suicide are making a run for the top risks. Next up: falls. Seriously. After cancers, respiratory conditions, all preventable risks, opioids, suicides, and motor vehicle deaths, your next most likely way you’ll die is from falling.
Not a joke. This one lies directly inside my profession. Weak people are at higher risk of fall. And falling is in the top 8 risks of death.
From 1966 to 2020 the TOTAL number of deaths in American mass shootings was LESS than food/medicine/smoking will kill in the first 12 hours of TODAY: https://rockinst.org/gun-violence/mass-shooting-factsheet/. Each hour medicine kills more people inside peaceful countries than guns kill in war zones. TODAY more Americans will die from food and medical recommendations than there will be mass shooting victims for THE YEAR. This MONTH vehicles will kill more people than mass shootings will kill this YEAR.
This year motor vehicles will kill more American children than 40 years of mass shootings have killed ALL PEOPLE OF ALL DEMOGRAPHICS.
This year clinics and hospitals in America will kill more children than all victims of all mass shootings in all countries combined for all of time.
And every single day, twice as many people will die from taking a fall than the combined total victims in gang shootings PLUS individual gun violence PLUS mass shootings PLUS accidental firearm discharge.
I agree that we should address our 10th through 1000th risks. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is the public completely oblivious and carefree about the top 9. The time, energy, money, and outrage people spend on any one of their tribe’s select 10th through 1,000th risks EXCEEDS their concern over ALL TOP RISKS combined.
Be passionate. That’s fine. Join your tribe in its fear-mongering over non-risks which never even break the top 8. That’s fine too. What isn’t fine is totally ignoring all the real top risks.
But imagine what a beautiful world we could enjoy if people cared at all about the top health risks.
The screenshot is from my last exchange with a client on 8/8/2022. I learned he passed away yesterday. I’ve been looking at that shot every hour since.
When I started taking on hard cases and health troubleshooting clients in 2004, I didn’t know it would lead me to troubling times. I saw a need in the industry, that the people who exist between medical-intervention/crippled/health-crisis and athlete weren’t well served. After cardiac event, orthopedic injury, or major health crisis, patients may receive a few weeks of physical therapy. Then what?
What about people who do none? What about people who are heading TOWARD crises? What about gym-aspirants who’ve never played a sport and have all kinds of physical woes?
So there I stood. It didn’t mean I never trained conventional clients or very able-bodied athletes and competitors. I just saw that personal training and professional strength coaches and nutritionists were already serving those groups well.
And each year there I remained, adding more accreditation, more certifications, more specialties, more education, and in 2012 I studied the entire lecture series for US medical school licensing exams. I never stopped learning. I won’t ever.
BUT… as my outreach to the less-served increased, the emotional weight did in kind. If you directly work with 100 clients through a calendar year, and 60 of them have heart disease and/or autoimmune diseases and/or strokes and/or neurological conditions and/or joint/organ replacements, there’s a very good chance that even WHEN you beat all odds you will be juggling about a dozen sad stories any given week, any given day, any given hour.
They’re all heroes, fighting battles many other people will never even imagine. And like all heroes, there will be a last battle from which they don’t return.
It’s routine. It never becomes “normal” though. I’ve seen cases of vast metastatic cancer. I’ve seen people turn around the worst luck. I’ve seen it all. Things get worse before they get better. Things get better before they get worse.
That doesn’t make it easy. It’s heavy.
This young man was hoping to get light enough to get a lung transplant. He’d made at least 60lbs of weight loss progress recently, but we suspect he was down over 100lbs from his peak. At 28, he was hopeful. Not naively, I was hopeful. Not delusional. Just hopeful.
He kept looking for a case study, a role model, someone who had been in his position and “made it,” survived and thrived. I asked him, “but what if you’re the first?” “Perhaps you will be the pioneer, the role model, the first.”
He loved that thought.
So I share this.
This young man was at severe exhaustion constantly. Not normal exhaustion. His organs were ready to give up. He was down to such little lung capacity over the past few years that he was on oxygen constantly. Not part of the time. Not a CPAP. He was hooked up to tanks or clinic-building-plumbed pure O2. His cardiac function could barely support his body while lounging, propped up…
And he KEPT MOVING. He kept trying. He kept hoping. He kept working. He got on the pedal bike or walked every day, despite the protests of his aching muscles and joints and body. Two to three years ago his pulmonologist told him to get his affairs in order, he maybe had a few months, and there’s nothing anyone can do for him.
He came back almost a year and 50lbs lighter, asking if he were a candidate for lung transplant. In awe, his physicians said if he could pierce below the hospital’s BMI metric for organ transplant, consider it done.
Long shot. One in 8 billion long shot. It didn’t happen. But it could’ve. He was closer now than before. And he outstripped all prognoses.
I make it a point to tell people how amazing they are long before the end, just in case, especially with the types of clients I gravitate toward. I leave nothing unsaid. Thus, these last words in a text exchange may seem even trite, everyday, NOT profound.
We were still scheduling. We were still looking forward. Is there any last word more meaningful? I don’t think so.
In 2019 a massive team of people worked together to create the perfect conditions to break under the two hour mark for a marathon. It involved a closed track, many pace runners, sophisticated drafting techniques, and painted lines on the ground demarcating the fastest path. It was unofficial. Mostly, it took a highly trained athlete with iron will. But in the days shortly after this feat, many opportunists jumped on the story to use it as supporting evidence for their personal ideologies or businesses. According to them, none of those incredibly unique factors mattered as much as the nutrition which the runner used, nutrition, which, they argue, is the same diet they preach. “Now sign up for our diet program,” they conclude.
The first liar I saw abuse this story wrote a rather lengthy post at the time which began by inventing an argument which doesn’t exist, and then placing himself on the “right” side. What’s the right side? Elite athletes during a world-record performance use carbs. What’s the wrong side? Boogeymen are taking away your carbs. This is a purposely-contrived sham position. The author of the post was arguing against a make-believe straw man. NO ONE has ever argued for an elite athlete during record-setting performance to never consider any carbs. NO ONE. If an elite athlete (who is at trace body fat) is going to push the limits of the GLYCOlyitic energy system, literally NO ONE would even imply this should be done in the total absence of carbs or eliminated GLUCOse. Laughable.
It’s unsurprising, therefore, that at the end of the post, there was a call to action: “buy our diet program and products.” The comedy continues. More hucksters and diet-program salesman have likewise capitalized on this story.
If it wasn’t enough for the liar to invent a debate, he then, based on this dishonest distraction, extrapolated that SINGLE outlier example to mean the LAYPERSON shouldn’t ever reduce carbs. Ugh. 35,000 shares and 700k likes later, the comments section is chock full of “yeah - you tell em!”s. Tell what to whom?
Let me be clear. No one - and I mean NO ONE - has ever argued that an elite athlete with trace body fat should avoid carbs during a world-record setting performance. No one has implied it. No one has stated it. There is no controversy here.
Leaving aside the runner’s anomalous single datum anecdote for a moment, what actual scientists performing actual science have PROVEN in real, broad-scale research, data collection, and known mechanism is that sustained-aerobic performance IS fatty acid metabolism and fat-adapted-focused athletes have no average dip in tested performance: https://news.osu.edu/endurance-athletes-who-go-against-the…/
It’s established scientific fact that you must rely on beta oxidation for a large part of sustained effort after 45-90 seconds of continuous work: https://www.triathlon.org/…/…/4-Energy-Training-Module_1.pdf
This was never up for debate. What happens with an elite runner is that he or she is highly fat-adapted AND dips into glucose need AS WELL. Thus, the runner, at a running pace of more than 13 mph, could, as an EXCEPTION, utilize a highly-refined and processed carbohydrate to his advantage. The dishonest author who was sensationalizing and abusing the unofficial world record to push his sales was beyond excited to announce to us the runner’s 100g-carb-per-hour consumption. What the author failed abysmally at revealing is that 100g of carbs is only 400kcal, which an average-trained strength athlete like me burns on a recumbent bike in 16 minutes: https://www.instagram.com/p/BwlE5tqDr3L/?igshid=oi201gzrwyr2 An elite runner ON HIS FEET is going to burn that every 5-20 minutes, depending on pace and body weight. From where was the other 500-3,000 calories coming? NOT CARBS.
THIS HAS ZERO APPLICATION FOR THE LAYPERSON, by the way. And again, the author is fighting against a red herring. The average American doesn’t have a problem getting high enough carb consumption. They consume more than 40% of their total calories from refined carbs (not too dissimilar from the runner’s specifically formulated fuel) and well over 50% from carbs: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2529628
Diabetes has been on the rise since the 1950s and prevalence accelerated since the 1990s: https://www.cdc.gov/…/statistics/slides/long_term_trends.pdf We don’t have a runaway low-carb lifestyle taking over the culture. Clearly.
And the only clinically-proven way to reverse type 2 diabetes is severe food and carb restriction for major weight loss: https://www.thelancet.com/…/PIIS2213-8587(19)30076…/fulltext
Arguing FOR carbs is akin to someone arguing that not enough Americans are smoking, since, after all, some people ceased smoking, and we’ve all heard about not-smoking all the time, and "look at this athlete over here who smokes." Now, “buy my Benefits of Smoking e-book.” Where does a rational person begin a refutation with so many nonsense statements in a row?
I mean, I get it. People may be tired of hearing about restricting carbs. But the average American still isn’t listening, despite hearing it too much. So we don’t need to have a rebellious counterargument against the sensible eating recommendations which STILL no one is doing.
Elite runners have never lost weight. The average American needs to lose 80lbs of excess body fat. How does the fact that an elite racer once got 5-30% of race energy needs from refined sugar transform into an argument that the average American (who already gets 52-70% of their calories from carbs) needs to be convinced to eat more carbs? Moreover, how does this nonsensical outcry consequently lead us to think the author’s diet program he’s shlepping needs to be purchased?
Just a reminder: I don't think regular people should ever look to runners or running culture for recommendations, for examples, for advice, for inspiration. I've made it clear many times that I don't think very highly of running culture, and that it is measurably damaging to public health:
If anything, we should be looking at elite runners as a master class on how NOT to live. I'm happy for them. But what they do is not good for most other humans. Not to be too mean, but the emaciated builds of elite runners aren't exactly healthy, desirable, or admirable. IF we even wanted a role model endurance athlete for layperson recommendations, why wouldn’t we reference the winningest Ironman triathlete of all time, Dave Scott? Oh. That’s right. He only revolutionized the sport, shaved an hour off of his Ironman time over the course of a nearly-20-year competitive career, and ADVOCATES KETOGENIC NUTRITION. That’s right. Dave Scott, an actual OFFICIAL world record holder in endurance sports, recommends LOW CARB. Checkmate.
Or why don’t we reference the top ultramarathoner in the world, Courtney Dauwalter, who beat ALL OF THE MEN by a massive margin (2nd place finisher was 10 hours behind her)? Oh. That’s right. She eats whatever, no nutrition plan, relying on the massive caloric burn rate from so much activity. Checkmate. Dauwalter is an interesting case study, in fact, showing that enough movement can possibly offset very loose nutrition. More interesting is how sensationalists don't even mention her, while they froth at the mouth over a much weaker and less-accomplished athlete like David Goggins. Now, keep in mind, Dauwalter's best Moab 240 time was about 57 hours, while the infamous tough-guy, Navy Seal, David Goggins, failed to finish the Moab 240 in 2019 and clocked around 63 hours in 2020.
And on and on we could go with the checkmates. But rather, what I want to call to people’s attention is how liars can abuse any example for an ideology and for financial gain. I realize people want really easy answers, easy targets, easy dismissive posts without nuance. But biology, physiology, and nutrition science have complexities. People who run 26.2 miles in under 2 hours and people who run 240 miles in less than 3 days share almost nothing in common with Americans who may not cover this distance on foot over the course of a year or even a lifetime. I know work-from-home programmers who admittedly get less than 1/10th of a mile of walking per week. They need to eat like someone who is 100,000 times more active? I don't think so. That makes absolutely no sense. The public health message has been praising high carb this entire time that obesity prevalence more than doubled in the Western world. We have got to get serious about ongoing, long-term, chronic reductions in starches, sugars, and grains.
Also, we want to keep in mind that sometimes people don’t succeed BECAUSE of a factor. They succeed IN SPITE of a factor. It could just as easily be that the runner would’ve been fastER without the addition of 200+ grams of carbs. For one, that was an additional half pound he had to carry. Every ounce slows you down at high levels of performance. For two, that’s only 800 kilocalories. His liver, muscles and blood are carrying over 2,500 kcal worth of glycogen/glucose without having eaten the race fuel. Each gram of digested food requires a blood supply directed at digestive organs. Digestive organs are not the skeletal muscle performing the feat. There's a very good chance that the added nutrition made the runner slower. Thus, claiming race fuel as causal for an unofficial world record is specious at best.
But this is how profiteering and politicking work. Opportunists align a message with public malcontent, rather than confront people with the actual problems and solutions. It’s dishonest and disgraceful. But it resonates. People yearn to hear that all of this talk about controlling their eating is foolish anti-science. And along come the influencers and liars to capitalize on our burnout, our feelings of marginalization, our anxieties and fears. Keep an eye out. Because the ideologues are hard at work; and they’re actively abusing marathon stories for their personal gain at the cost of your attention, pocketbook, and health.
Older people who exercise have younger cells than healthy young people who don’t exercise.
Older people who exercise heal faster than healthy young people who don’t.
An exercise-trained older population has better repair mechanisms down to the cellular level.
Older elite athletes exceed the health and fitness of many youth athletes.
But what about more average exercise enthusiasts?
Researchers at Ball State University and its partnered hospital in Indiana decided to look at people in their 70s who aren’t elite competitors, but who had consistently worked out in some respect for the past 50 years: https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00174.2018
Their findings confirm that regular exercise (even among non-elite competitors) keeps the musculoskeletal system outrageously youthful into older age. The cardiovascular system was ONLY able to stay about 30 years younger, hence why the New York Times article title doesn’t say “50 years younger”, despite lab results showing no major difference in muscle cells between trained 75-year-olds and healthy 25-year-olds.
Other mammal studies affirm this all the way down to the intracellular level: https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1096/fj.201600143RR
Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario found that trained older mice actually had HIGHER capillary to muscle fiber (C/F) ratios than young mice. Literally, trained older mice have more youthful muscle cells than untrained young mice.
As a credentialed and certified strength coach, trainer, and nutritionist with over 65,000 hours of professional experience, I’ve witnessed the equivalent of these researchers’ findings many times. In my own experience, I have findings which EXCEED theirs. That is, I’ve worked with older populations who heal FASTER than youth athletes. Eleven years ago, I observed a cardio-respiratory measurement on a 70-year-old triathlon enthusiast (NOT elite competitor). His measured Vo2 max was 68.0. This EXCEEDS teenage and 20-something competitive athletes: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23118070/
More recently I’ve had the opportunity to witness active older clients heal more rapidly than specific youth athletes or otherwise healthy teens. One of my mid-70s clients IMPROVED fitness at a faster rate post-knee-surgery THAN a teenager in my peer group recovered from a light muscle strain. Elderly active man healed a surgically damaged knee FASTER than healthy teenager recovered from minor muscle strain. Think about that.
Unfortunately, many youth athletes are encouraged to rest completely after even minor strains, which PREVENTS the very capillarization that allows muscle and connective tissue to heal. As we saw in the McMaster mouse study, older populations who exercise have more localized stem cells than youths. Really, dwell on this. Excessive directives to be sedentary actually make the injured tissue MORE fibrotic (aka - older). Meanwhile, elderly athletes who continue to exercise will keep more growth agents nearby, removed damaged tissue and cell waste faster, and overall improve tissue health better than young athletes who are sedentary too long.
Lengthy cardio training makes you fatter. This includes running. If there is no strength training included in a chronic cardio trainers' program, indeed, that person will get light, because he or she is burning off muscle and bone tissue. In 2006 a massive review of over 12,000 runners helped clarify many misconceptions about chronic aerobic exercise, especially running: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864590/.
The summary is that as we age, we must become MORE active (and there is still a reduced yield of returned results), and that even when chronic exercisers stay very active and maintain the same weight they have a statistically significant increase in waistline. This is why people find that they keep attempting the method which “worked” when they were 20 years younger, and they just keep getting worse results.
It’s not so much that aerobic exercise is always inherently obese-making. It’s that aerobic activity is purely CATAbolic. It breaks down everything, including organs, bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscle. Thus, as we age, we are increasingly liable to lose only lean tissue when we lose weight, resulting in an ever-fatter frame, no matter how hard someone tries. This is the case even for elite ultra-endurance athletes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3794477/. In fact, they get relatively fatter in only 5 days of an ultra-run. Most people wouldn't notice, since they begin with fairly lean frames. But endurance athletes go UP in body fat percentage the more extensively they train or compete.
How do we combat this?
A small portion of it is an inevitable function of aging. Systemic IGF and other hormones which keep us healthy and protect lean tissue WILL drop as time soldiers forward. This is an incontrovertible biological fact. So we must do everything we can to emphasize overall health and fitness. This means sleep. This means rest. This means recovery. This means heavy weights and sprints. This means protein. This means holistic sensibility.
To clarify, since your body is aching to get worse, you have to send signals which overcome that. This means intensity of exercise MUST go up, not down. And that, of course, will mean more recovery is needed and more nutrients to recover are needed.
In the 2006 survey of over 12,000 runners, we find that even the most avid runners, logging many miles per week, do not IMPROVE on average. If they’re lucky, they maintain weight, but keep losing lean tissue anyway, which ultimately makes them fatter, if only a little.
Sure. There are outliers. But the primary takeaway is this: aerobic conditioning is best utilized to improve cardiovascular health. Body composition is best changed through heavy resistance training/sprints and nutrition. If you love to run, run. If you want to get leanER, don't run.
I had a client who genuinely loved her workouts so much that when work travel interrupted her schedule she had a predictable/precise trend in self-sabotaging nutritional behaviors. When we figured out how to implement SOME sort of enjoyable workout even on her most scattered work weeks, she 100% nailed her food.
That was around 10 years ago. Even before then, I came to believe that a lot of self-assessment can dramatically improve through the lens of budgets. For example, everyone has an inherent daily decision-making budget. Let’s say it’s 12 decisions a person is capable of making in a solid rational and productive fashion. Routines reduce the decision loss, resulting in surpluses. Each successive day can save up more good decisions. Lack of routines and discipline tends to rack up debts. We begin borrowing from the next day. We reach a point in chaos where we not only have no good decision-making capacity left for our day, we’ve borrowed so far into the future self that we BEGIN a day with nothing to spend AND a crushing interest rate that’s overdue.
Rich get richer. Poor get poorer.
Likewise, with enjoyment, when we fail to hit our daily budget, we tend to run a debt. Then we look ahead to weekends, holidays, and vacations (ie - escapes) as a way to forget the debt temporarily. Unsurprisingly, we don’t pay off our debt by ignoring it.
When we combine considerations for the two, we find that the general idea of dieting is a non-starter. On average, people are nowhere near their enjoyment budget and years pre-spent on their decision-making line of credit. Sacrificing food enjoyment and adding more food decisions literally CANNOT work.
Think about this way: if you are at a 1 out of 10 on daily enjoyment requirements, and -37 on what should be 10 remaining good decisions, what is going to happen at the end of a day or week? Naturally, you are going to do whatever is easily available to attempt to rectify the situation. If you get some dopamine high from eating “unplanned” food, that’s what you’ll do. It’s not failure. It’s not weakness. It is a natural consequence of the landscape.
Instead, I encourage people FIRST toward discovering daily joys and low-decision-cost routines. Depending on what type of deficits you’ve been running, it could be a while before you’re reasonably allowed to approach nutrition from sacrifice and subtraction. We have to add enough enjoyment to place the person in a resilient environment. We have to pay off the decision-making debt to a reasonable degree before simply attacking with more decision costs.
If you aren’t close to hitting any enjoyment, you won’t get closer by removing more enjoyable items. If you are overspent on decisions, you won’t make better ones by adding more to each day. The structure you implement has to have a NET improvement. Your mind and body won’t allow anything less.
This is the only reasonable approach.
I’m all for doing difficult things. There’s value in delayed gratification and disciplined drive. But the reason why they work WHEN they work is that those individuals are reducing decision costs by having structure and routine. Those people are learning to take joy in the struggle which they believe will pay off in the future. NO ONE is pushing through when he takes NO joy in the struggle. NO ONE is pushing through WHEN she disbelieves progress is possible.
Tend to your enjoyment. Observe your budgets. And productive fitness and dietary behaviors will become self-evident.
Inactive people have a high incidence of joint replacement. Lack of stressing the heart and circulatory system creates heart disease: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/01.atv.0000158311.24443.af?download=true. People with low lifetime adversity have worse mental health than those with moderate levels: https://doi.apa.org/record/2010-21218-001?doi=1. We may think we want to avoid difficulties. Ironically, that seems to make life worse. Without some significant challenge, systems merely weaken.
One day you see an interview with Justin Bieber talking about thoughts of suicide. You read a news story about a perfect model killing herself. The next day, you catch the word “depression” in dozens of headlines about billionaire celebrities. Having it easy isn’t the same as having it good.
For a span of years my private insurance premiums were $3,000 per month with a yearly max-out-of-pocket between $40,000 and $80,000. And we spent it. Our physical storefront between rent, utilities, and insurance is over $60,000 per year. In the truly independent sphere, there’s no maternity leave, FMLA, PTO, calling in sick, calling in late, vacations, medical, dental, 401k, pension, job security, nothing. Zero support structure and spending $160,000 per year BEFORE house, cars, food for kids, etc. (and don’t forget Uncle Sam has to take his cut) was an IMPROVEMENT, by the way. In the employed world, it was a non-stop nightmare. My wife’s employers eliminated her division, pushed her out with an NDA, and worse. From 2009 to 2010 my employer attempted to avoid paying 75% of my compensation. Most people’s descriptions of caustic workplaces sound dreamy to us. We never had it as good as what many people call “toxic” or “impossible.”
I’m thankful for it. I’m healthy. Many times I’ve felt a desire for some stability; but then I observe how average people get bent out of shape over a delayed Amazon order, Starbucks line, social media post, or news story. A lot of lives out there are too easy; and it’s making people mentally unhealthier.
In conversations about the horrors we faced for at least 15 years, my biggest concern is that a lot of listeners appear to have such incredibly unchallenging lives that they can’t even imagine what I’m saying. They don’t seem to know this; but it’s evident in their remarks. I once had a client say, “overhead must’ve plummeted when you went independent.” Another interjected, “you should go for SIX OR MORE weeks,” when I said we were going to Greece in 2019. I’ve heard “must be nice” more times than I care to remember. And those were kind and smart people. Their jobs, pay, and lives were/are/will-be so secure that they have no context to discuss real life. The volatility that is my norm exceeds their wildest nightmares. Dealing with government employees over permits for one of our business ventures was elucidating: these people’s lives are way WAY too easy to even begin to understand the difficulties of small businesses.
This finally stuck with me when I saw a trending hardship story from a multi-million follower influencer. Tens of thousands of comments were pouring in, commending him for staying strong through such a hard time. When I listened to him describe hitting rock bottom, however, the list of “impossible challenges” included running late on private school tuition for his kids while his wife’s business was doing just fine. And as I listened more intently, his description of a “hard time” was my definition of having “made it” and becoming wealthy. He and many of his followers genuinely believe a cakewalk is “character-building difficulty.” Ok. Wow. Now I get it: a lot of people’s lives are TOO easy. That’s not good. That’s amplifying he mental health crisis in this country.
A lot of you out there are pushing through a challenge which others can’t even fathom. Not most of you. But some. Some of you are going through horrors unimaginable to the rest. And that’s good. We need challenge, especially when we don’t want it. The things others say to you aren’t only unhelpful; they’re anti-helpful. Even kind, well-intentioned, smart people will attempt to comfort you by saying sentiments which strike like hot daggers. I get it. I really do. I’ve dealt with it for almost 20 years. But believe me: you’d be surprised what you can endure. Even your own definition of impossible you may be able to endure. And you’ll be healthier than many around you for it.
I marvel at the faith of Can’t-DOists. It exceeds the most pious of pilgrims, the most reverent of reverends. It eclipses the ecclesiastical. It shames the saints. It outmatches martyrs, mosques, and monks. It passes the Pope and all his priests. We shudder at zealots who would kill, bomb, fly planes into buildings. But the Can-t-DOists, my boy, have them all beat. The Can’t-DOists murder hope itself, and, by extension, destroy whole worlds. They grin while they do it, without a fleck of doubt, and certainly no disappointment.
Can’t-DOists have so much faith in the unseen O’Great Impossible that they believe in the O’Great Impossible even when they are looking directly at the possible. It’s remarkable, really. I almost admire it. I have never had as strong of faith in anything as the Can’t-DOists have in the O’Great Impossible. To them, He explains all, predicts all, does all.
Their numbers are strong, their dogma clear: the best way to avoid failure is simply never try. Better than that, don’t even think about trying. Better than that, don’t even hope. Better than that, have an authoritative organization declare something impossible even AFTER something is PROVEN possible. That way, we don’t waste our precious energy on thinking about hoping to try to improve.
It’s a great sales pitch: ASPIRE to be a slug. Don’t just be vindicated in your inaction, when you can be virtuous by giving up. You can signal your virtue AND your faith by telling others the good news: don’t even try. Evangelical Can’t-DOism is a fervent bunch, always ready to help others: “before you waste your time, remember, all things are impossible through Him who weakens us.”
The true believers are astonishingly well-represented by medical organizations, who will proclaim certain conditions as hopeless AGAINST the evidence. Despite documented diabetes reversal, most experts will say it CANNOT be done. Even though we have images proving that some people rebuild joint spaces, the Arthritis Foundation itself won’t even entertain the idea 40 YEARS LATER. Even though bulged discs come and go, most will say it’s only a one way trip. Even though LACK of exercise worsens all cardiovascular conditions, the American Heart Association warns many against moderate intensity exercise while still hyper-promoting specious drug therapies.
When we strip away the grift and financial interests getting in the way of science, we are still left with a problem: people aspire below mediocrity. And this is where the Can’t-DOists’ proselytizing really strikes a chord, because, well, it’s aiming below THAT. What many of these experts and organizations are REALLY saying is, “ON AVERAGE, the average outcome is that things keep getting worse.” Well, no shit. But saying THAT isn’t going to fill any donations baskets, is it? It’s better to definitively declare, “CAN’T BE DONE!” That clear-cut disempowerment, my friend, is how you run a bona fide Crusade.
People with kidney disease end up with GFR levels below 60 and creatinine levels above 1.35: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/creatinine-test/about/pac-20384646. Imagine my horror when my GFR came in below 40 and my creatinine above 1.76 at the beginning of November 2021.
The general belief in medicine is no one is coming back after a GFR of 30. Time to sign up for the donor list and dialysis, get your affairs in order, and hope the life insurance policy pays out for your family like it says it will. People who are down to a single kinda-functioning kidney routinely pull creatinine levels at 1.8 and up. Needless to say, it was pretty jarring to see my own lab values similar to those of dying people.
“Defeated” doesn’t really encapsulate the experience. Some people might have this happen, and think, “well, at least I can start exercising, cut out the sugar, stop drinking, etc.”. But for me… what’s there to clean up? I routinely fast. I do lengthy raw juice fasts quarterly. I exercise. I’m on whole food as my baseline. I haven’t really had any alcohol in years. I attend to my sleep and stress management. I’m on no medications. I supplement vitamin d, c, omegas, occasional minerals. From a practical perspective, what else could I do?
Trying to figure out what risk factors I even had was dicey. Sure, I’d been vaccinated AND had breakthrough Covid infection after vaccine; and there is a growing body of evidence that healthy males under 40 in particular have higher risk of myocarditis after vaccination. There is more ACE2 expression in the kidneys than in the lungs and heart combined. So, it stands to reason that vaccine plus infection plus something about my unique genetics made my kidneys specifically vulnerable. But again, what practical takeaway did that really afford me? What could I actually DO?
I could blame it on vaccine or infection or genes or both or all or some combination or something else entirely. But so what? What was I going to DO?
After feeling sorry for myself and accepting that I may be dying, I tried to get some clarity. I have walked clients through reversal of diabetes, reversal of bone density loss, reversal of joint deterioration, clearance of fatty liver, reversal of autoimmune diseases, and a whole host of “impossible” situations. I’ve watched people with “irreparably” destroyed spines recover fully to athleticism; and the natural healing of bulged discs is now a clinically-verified fact: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30610984/ . I’ve coached clients with Parkinson’s who improve in fitness. I’ve watched those with muscular dystrophy gain muscle size and strength. I currently have clients who USED to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerotic plaque build-up and USED to take medication for it. Even for myself, I once was debilitated with Lyme disease and nerve damage. I couldn’t reliably bend my right knee without issue from 2015 to 2017 while I can now deep squat over 600lbs. “Snap out of it!”, I kept telling myself.
The difference with kidney damage, of course, is that NO ONE really believed kidneys could regenerate… prior to 2014: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/06/adult-kidneys-constantly-grow.html. In fact, ask any kidney specialists or nephrologists who graduated before 2015, and they still don’t know this unless they stay on top of the literature. To this day, the current OFFICIAL position for organizations is that kidney damage CANNOT be reversed: https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/publications-resources/live-well-with-chronic-kidney-disease.html. Not just the CDC, but all authoritative organizations in medicine state the same thing: kidney health goes one direction. The most hopeful sentiment you’ll find in mainstream medicine is that we may slow the deterioration of kidneys: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/end-stage-renal-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354532
The only thing I could even think to do was drop body weight and lower my protein intake (and I wasn’t even sold on this idea, because it’s promulgated by the same organizations who don’t believe you can heal the kidneys). Nonetheless, between those and complete abstinence from any NSAIDs, I just couldn’t even think of another thing to actually DO.
The first retest, shown on the left, was a small improvement, but still VERY concerning. There are people with numbers like that who are essentially actively dying.
All the same, it WAS an improvement. So… patiently I kept on. The following month I had another small improvement. And February I had another. By March I was in “normal” range and I had begun to add some days of higher protein intake. VERY HIGH. In part, I wanted to see if high protein intake would worsen my numbers back to where I was in February or earlier. In part, I was tired of feeling like I was getting weaker and less athletic.
Not a big surprise, but the numbers improved again, confirming my suspicion that dietary protein is likely a red herring for people with compromised kidneys. After all, WHAT are you going to use to regrow the cells in the kidneys if you’re going to regenerate them? It sure as hell ain’t carbs. Moreover, carbs are going to reinforce insulin resistance, which damages all tissue, kidneys included.
Also, I have to add that the GFR is a calculation from creatinine based in part on body mass. Technically, my GFR is even better than the picture on the right because no one updated my weight since November (all visits since have been “lab only” blood draws); and I’m down 20lbs.
1.) The uncommon is always possible when we think and behave in an uncommon manner.
Be wary of bleak opinions, especially expert ones, when the opinion is coming from people who don’t think or act in uncommon and exceptional ways.
I don’t care for toxic positivity or effusive can-do attitudes. But we have to be on the lookout for the can’t-do experts who seem to be in endless supply.
2.) Less body mass is less work for all systems and organs.
This is incontestable. Among the average populace, this is a bit of a Catch-22, because they need to gain 30lbs of muscle to be somewhat healthy. At the same time, the average American adult is walking around with 60lbs to 150lbs of excess body fat.
In my case, I can pretty much be whatever weight at whatever percent composition whenever I want within 6 months. For this particular process of healing, I didn’t take great pains to save muscle mass so much as just clock in lighter. I prefer NOT to do things this way; but I was genuinely sick and needed to give the kidneys a fighting chance. This is NOT the best course of action for all people, because most don’t have a lot of extra muscle and strength they can afford to lose, nor do they really know how to rebuild it.
Long story short: learn to fast. Learn to do medically-strict ketogenic nutrition from time to time. Protein intake will eventually be a necessity. Thus, although I acknowledge the benefits of fasting and low-protein keto diets, healing is eventually going to require moderate to high protein intake (and oftentimes not much else), if only periodically.
3.) Gain some real understanding of lab testing.
One test is ONE DATUM. Diagnosis and prognosis off of even several tests is logically fallacious and a critical-thinking no-no. I’ve actually witnessed several people get “good” A1C readings WHILE their diabetes was worsening. And, when you understand how physiology works and what the test can and can’t evaluate, this makes perfect sense.
This always shocks people, but I know how to change cholesterol test outcomes in the same day. In fact, most chronic disease diagnoses are based on a single test which you can alter the very next day. I know. I’ve done it. And I’ve helped clients successfully contest their employers’ health care premium evaluation by retesting an improved blood lipid panel one to two weeks later.
4.) Keep reminding yourself that “average” outcomes are MOSTLY self-fulfilling prophecy. Look around. You can see people don’t try hard. As such, when you’re consulting statistics, be starkly aware that you’re observing trash behavior, garbage choices, uneducated and willfully self-sabotaging lifestyle.
When you perform even modest or moderate effort at anything, you’re immediately shifting into an outlier percentile. I don’t care at all to learn from the best of the best UNLESS they came from a severe disadvantage. We need to learn more from people who’ve achieved “the impossible” against all odds. We can’t learn anything valuable from people who have an aptitude, a knack, an inherent talent, a prodigious start, or an outrageously privileged beginning. What we need to know is how someone who “shouldn’t have been able to” employed an uncommon tactic to exceed all expectations.
I never once studied a success story who came from a wealthy family. I prefer a Fredrick Douglas, or a Mark Mathabane. I want to know how someone with less than I had has done more than I’ve done. In fitness, I don’t care at all what a lifelong super athlete has to say. I want to hear from the sedentary person who was on death’s door and transformed her life at the age of 60, 70, 80.
In health, don’t look at average outcomes or exceptional backgrounds. Look at exceptional outcomes that come from average or below-average backgrounds.
5.) Hate Dogma And Conventional Thinking.
I don’t think it’s enough to challenge the status quo. We must revile it. Odium is the only appropriate response to self-proclaimed fonts of authority. Only through extensive self-experimentation and genetic testing did I discover that plant-based nutrition is harmful for me. You can find lots of opinions on this and controversial gurus who say one thing or another. But I KNOW with total certainty through REPEATED testing that my labs worsen and risks of heart disease go up dramatically with vegan eating while labs improve and risk of heart disease plummets with animal-based dieting FOR ME.
The only high blood pressure reading at rest I ever had in my entire life was during a plant-based eating experiment.
6.) “What’s the plan if you’re wrong?”
I like this question, both for myself and for other experts. It helps to move people into their thinking brains and out of their ideology shields. It’s like an Occam’s Razor meets Pascal’s Wager. I’ve heard it rephrased by clients, one in particular I really enjoy, “what is your plan to get me OFF of this medication after I begin taking it?”