Conversations Over Crunches: The Continuation…

I get to do conversation for a living. Though primary to my business is the designing of, and the implementation of the workout, exercise sessions are laced with discussion.
 
The two topics which get discussed most in my studio are food, and cancer.
 
On Food…
 
Conversations aren’t always about healthy foods, though sometimes they are. Ideas, recipes, and concepts with food are exchanged freely between my clients and me, all day long, and with ZERO judgment from either side. Some ideas can be inspiring and useful, while others are just sinful.
 
Most often though, the healthy and the sinful are intermingled within the very same frame of moment. A discussion of how protein can be used as an efficient appetite suppressant, might seamlessly segue into which liqueurs are best to use as ice cream toppings.
 
My takeaway from this duality is that despite the best intentions behind talk of pious eating, thoughts of culinary sin are ever-present, both with the client and the trainer.
axxx
 
On Cancer…
 
A half-dozen times per day the word cancer comes up in the studio. Probably 1/4th of my current clients have survived some kind of cancer, or had a spouse or child survive it. A smaller percentage have actually lost a spouse or child to cancer. This haunts me, ongoing…
 
Occasionally, a client might need a biopsy, as one client did yesterday. Details to follow, but hopefully no bad news there. Others might have coworkers, neighbors, or even the family pet receiving chemo or radiation.
 
Occasionally a client will miss a workout session to attend a memorial service for someone lost to cancer. This happened twice last month.
 
That these conversations are so matter of fact, is a reminder that cancer is not just a disease, but has become part of daily life for everyone.
 
People die of other causes, but cancer is the one we discuss the most.
 
Talking about cancer while helping someone exercise, gives more meaning to the cause, though there is little evidence to suggest exercise stifles cancer. At best, it might make one stronger for the fight.
 
And of these daily conversations over crunches – of the good, the bad, and the ugly, I simply wonder about it all — all day long… Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Peter Wolf.  Enjoy…

The Primary Colors Of Strength…

Few Ingredients…

We learn the primary colors early in life, often before we even learn to read. From combining just 3 colors; red, yellow, and blue, all other colors can be reached. Often though, we don’t need much more than the primary colors to achieve a creative conclusion.

Though many great works of art include a myriad of colors from across the spectrum, it is the seasoned artist who understands best where and how to apply those colors, or even if they are needed. Even so, some of the most advanced artists through the years have been touted for their simplest works. We call this minimalism.

img-thing

The Workout As A Form Of Art…

All traditional strength exercises are variations of 6 simple movements; pushing, pulling, bending, torso rotation, squatting, and raising the extremities laterally. Every strength exercise is a variation of those 6 primary movements.  What is a workout, if not an expression of creativity…?

Pushing: The use of force to transfer a load away from our body. There is vertical pushing, horizontal pushing, downward pushing, and pushing through any angle in-between.

Pulling: The use of force to draw a load toward our body. We can pull from overhead, pull from in front, we can pull from below, or we can pull from any angle in-between.

Squatting, bending, torso rotation, and raising the arms and legs laterally have as many variations.

Other ways in which we can vary our pushing and pulling are by adjusting hand positions. Wide grips, medium grips, narrow grips, overhand grips, and underhand grips can all be used to promote variety in the pushing and pulling aspects of strength training. These varying angles and hand positions allows us to direct tension to different areas of our musculature. In squatting, varying one’s foot position can have the same effect.

Pink-Floyd-Dark-Side-of-t-640x640-300x300

Primarily Speaking…

I try and teach my students that not every painting requires every color. In fact, the works of art I appreciate most are those with few colors and few complexities. Similarly, not every workout needs every possible angle, hand, or foot position. This is a mistake I see frequently with others; the more is better mindset. Walk into any gym and you’ll see people of all ages and all levels of proficiency performing set after set of many variations of the same exercise by changing angles, hand, and foot positions until they are exhausted.

Though I also tend to pursue this type of variety in my workouts, I do so more on a monthly basis, not by the workout. That is, in the course of a month I might include bench presses performed on an incline bench, on a flat bench, or on a decline bench.  I might perform chest presses on a machine, with dumbbells, or with barbells in a month’s time – there is value in all of these, but rarely do I duplicate them in a given workout. Not only can that duplication be detrimental to the muscles by over training them, it is a very large waste of time – my most valued commodity.

Though variety will help to foster progress in hypertrophy and functional physicality, it is variety over time which matters much more than variety within a workout. Like the simple painting, simplicity in the structure of a workout can offer more from less.

It’s Not Rocket Science

We live in the granite counter top generation. We decorate every wall. Most of us have at least some clothes in our closet which we rarely wear or have never worn. Our phones have more power than most of us can comprehend, and our cars now do things which we could do on our own not long ago. Increasing social and technical complexity are among our many co-masters.

vitruvian-man

For my time in the gym, that is where the real beauty is; in a lack of complexity. I usually perform one variation each, of 6 basic movements in my workouts, and use the 13.7 billion year old force of gravity to affect them. Despite what social media, many fitness trainers, and the fitness industry at large might have you believe, it’s not rocket science – it’s a simple art. Be creative, and be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Van Morrison. Enjoy!

The lesser expectations of my lesser self…

Perhaps the most luxurious aspect of knowing how to get into shape is also the most dangerous; that I have the ability to live in a lesser state of shape from time to time – until I feel enough is enough at which point I earn my way out of it. Now is one of those times.

Understand, I’m ahead of the game for 53. I workout regularly, I workout hard, and do so in a way that is both beneficial and sustainable. I’m currently lifting poundages, in some case, heavier than I ever have. I put in 30-60 minutes on the StepMill daily, at a rate of 72 steps per minute. I ride my bike to and from work daily in temperatures below freezing, and often in wind gusts in excess of 50 mph. My balance and flexibility are far above average, and on those rare occasions when I tuck my shirt in, I can still pull it off.

Being in a lesser state of shape for me has less to do with working out, and more to do with eating. It’s worth noting I’m far from obese. I currently weigh about 185 lbs., at roughly 17% body fat. The only six-pack I have is in the fridge, but I’m far from being overweight. I have spent most of this winter so far eating inconsistently with my value system – at least on the weekends.  This has everything to do with depression, discontent with my current life situation, and college football season.

My very kind landlady left me a cake.  What else was I to do...?

My very kind landlady left me a cake. What else was I to do…?

Like many, even trainers are subject to the internal demons such as depression, the external forces that can ruin a good day, and the temptations of the weekend.  Beer me.  Though Monday through Friday it’s been meat and veggies, my relationship with Saturday and Sunday is largely based on barley and cheese.

Each day though, for the past month or so, when I wake up I tell myself today will be the day I right the ship. By 3pm it’s time for hummus and candy. Oh well.

Where I once let this define me, I no longer do. I am a good father – at any body fat percentage. I am a good neighbor – despite my 3am nachos.  I am good trainer – even without a six-pack.

Can I do better…? Yes.  Do I need to…? Those are expectations I put on myself. My clients, my neighbors, and my friends all think I’m just fine.

I can't be trusted with hummus...

I can’t be trusted with hummus…

I’ve cycled through these breaks for many years now.  I’m not talking about being out of shape. I’m just talking about not being lean, jacked & shredded – living in a lesser state of eating. Every so often I take my foot off the gas for a few weeks, or even a month, knowing that when I put it back down, my sports car will blow most anyone else’s SUV off the road.

Vegetables.  Anyone seen my weekend vegetables...?

Vegetables. Anyone seen my weekend vegetables…?

For me, this cycle occurs about every two years or so. I almost think it’s psychologically necessary. I work hard staying in prime shape most of the time because my physicality is tied directly to my livelihood.  Sometimes though, I just need a break. It’s both Ironic and coincidental that these breaks often occur during difficult times in my life. Or maybe not.

I’m going to workout with weights later today, and follow that up with 30 minutes of rigorous cardio.  After that I may enjoy a spinach omelet, or maybe a pizza. Who knows…? This morning finds me in particularly good spirits, and for that I am grateful.  It is though, still football season — so all bets are off.   Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Talking Heads.  Enjoy…

Downshift…

Preying for change…

I’ll begin this by stating in clear terms; I have no problem with the killing of, or the eating of animals.  So long as those animals have been raised humanely by organic methods, or have been caught in the wild by methods which will not significantly reduce populations or threaten the species, I’m good with it.  Man has been eating other animals almost from the beginning, as animals have also been eating other animals, including man.  All who are born, are born as a potential snack.

What I can no longer do, what I am no longer willing to accept, is to eat animals raised inhumanely, sustained callously, and slaughtered brutally.  Between the callousness of their surroundings, the hormones and antibiotics they are reared with, and within the filth they are raised in, high volume animal farming is something I can no longer support.

Shake up in the cabinet…

As I have cleared the last of my farmed meat from my freezer; beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp, and as I have used my last egg given by a caged chicken,  I now begin a process that will have me obtaining most of my protein from plant-based sources – even if those sources contain GMOs.  I would rather eat genetically modified soy curd, than an inhumanely raised chicken, or farmed or threatened fish. Or to put it more succinctly, I would rather have more GMOs in my diet, than OMGs.

As I can access and afford it, I will also include protein derived from un-caged chickens, unchained dairy cows, grass-fed and humanely slaughtered beef, bison, and whatever game and fish I catch, or my friends are willing to provide to me.

This is not a stand against eating Bambi.  If Bambi is in the right place at his wrong time, and ends up on my dinner table, I ‘m down.  This is a stand for how I believe we should conduct ourselves as a species, and as the stewards of this planet.  I am no longer willing to accept the way many corporations raise, slaughter, distribute, and market animal food sources.

BambiII

Guess who is coming to dinner…?

Sensationally speaking…

I understand the video below is social media sensationalism at its best.  I also understand that it’s real – nothing seen in it has been contrived.  These, and similar methods of animal processing are all around us, and have been for decades.  It is only social media that has many of us seeing red for the first time, over seeing red for the first time.  Seeing this video was simply the final push I needed to take this personal stand I have been on the verge of for more than a decade, but have selfishly resisted.

Judge Not, Roy Bean…

In this decision I am not passing judgment on anyone else, nor am I advocating similar actions by others.  The complexity of our food system – of our society has expanded to a point where answers and truths can no longer be established by outside sources.  In this era of increasing complexity, I truly believe that the best answers and the best truths we can depend on must come from within.

Sadly, people are certain to judge me on this decision.  There will be jokes cracked, social media friendships threatened, more than a few snickers.  That’s on them, not on me.  Though I don’t believe I will waiver on this, as I have not wavered on not owning a vehicle, I certainly won’t attempt to predict the future – I consistently suck at it.

 Restaurant not impossible…

Though I expect making these changes might offer some challenges in the beginning, I’m not too concerned about the adaptation process.  My weak link though, will be in restaurants. I eat out often, sometimes several times a day.  Most everything I eat in restaurants I have deemed acceptable until now.  That definition has changed.

Most of what I order in restaurants has been chicken or egg based.  My friends may roll their eyes as I add tofu or textured vegetable protein to a garden salad at the local diner.  Perhaps not as much if I just thrown a little ground bison that salad, and call it good.  We shall see.  Regardless, eating out will need to be modified.

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu...?

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu…?

The hustle to keep up the muscle…

Lastly, as a lifelong weightlifter, bodybuilder, and weekend athlete, I have raised myself to be the ultimate carnivore.  I have eaten red meat most every day of my adult life, often by the pound, with a belief that animal protein, beef in particular, is a requirement for strength, energy, and forging a tasty aesthetic.  This is going to be tested to be sure, since my bodybuilding aspirations remain intact.

If my strength, energy, and aesthetic suffer for a lack of feedlot beef, farmed fish, and caged eggs, my soul certainly will not suffer.  In these days, and in these times, my interest lies much more with soul-building than with bodybuilding.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this by The Alabama Shakes. Enjoy…

The Mother Of Reinvention…

“Necessity is the mother of invention”  Unknown

Carrie Sandoval and Carson Kressley...

Not yet invented, or reinvented, mother Carrie Sandoval seen demonstrating her world class photography skills for Carson Kressley.  More on that later…

Jack Of All Activities, Master Of None

As a fitness trainer I have worked to complete a variety of physical accomplishments.  Some of these I have enjoyed and kept primary in my life; they connect the thinking me with the skeletal me.  I have found much fulfillment in strength training, trail running, and surfing.  I have excelled in strength training – not so much with surfing and trail running, though I do enjoy them.

Strength training; the methadone of my existance...

Strength training; the methadone of my existance…  2005

I have participated in other activities because fitness is my livelihood and feel I should be adept in a variety of actions.  I have found little joy in running marathons, paddling a flat board across the open ocean, horseback riding, or hitting a little ball a couple of hundred yards with a stick – but I can say I have participated in them, and done so with serious intentions.

Comparing Me With Myself

In pursuit of physical challenges, I have rarely compared myself to anyone else.  If I have felt any need for comparison, I have occasionally compared the me of today, with the me of yesterday.   In truth, I’m not too competitive even with myself.  I do the things I do, intensely and passionately, because pushing my body hard sooths my reckless mind, regardless of how well I perform. I understand that the human body will only get so strong and so fast.  To want too much of these, I would be physically greedy, and I’m just not a greedy guy – usually.  I also respect that we are designed to age and to lose our capacities over time, and I’m good with that.

Post Long Beach Marathon -- King Taco in hand...

Post Long Beach Marathon — King Taco in hand…  2008

Bustin’ Down The Door

The first time Carrie entered my studio I was immediately struck by her musculature.   She had been introduced to me by her Hapkido Master, who was my neighbor located behind my fitness studio.  He felt strength training would be complimentary to Carrie’s increasing fitness regimen.  Two days later she began strength training under my guidance. Three things were immediately evident about Carrie:

  1. She is genetically gifted, both in strength and in structure.
  2. She has a supreme work ethic.
  3. She is a discriminating eater.

With that combination, in my mind, she was about to become a competitive bodybuilder.  I would confront her about this on and off for over a year as her development advanced.  In an aw-shucks kind of way, she expressed that she really wasn’t interested in that.  That’s okay.  To be great at something and not want to compete, displays a rare humility.

Thies beauty is a beast...

This beauty is a beast…

Ups And Downs

Carrie made fast progress with her strength and with her physique.  As hers were on the rise though, mine were on the way down.  Due to a couple years of scattered workouts, intermittent eating patterns, and boredom, my strength as well as my physique was waning.   As this occurred, I began comparing myself more and more to Carrie.  Consider that; a professional fitness trainer was now comparing himself to a 40-year old mother of four.

No, you're not hallucinating.  Incline bench presses with 50 lb. dumbbells -- in perfect form...

No, you’re not hallucinating. Incline bench presses with 50 lb. dumbbells — in perfect form…

Though I was stronger than Carrie in most every movement, she was in the conversation.  After a year though, our directions crossed paths and she became stronger than me in nearly every movement in the gym.  There was no shame in that for me – she’s just gifted and hard working.  This did illuminate though, that I was becoming more content with being in a lesser state of fitness.  Carrie would also become leaner – much leaner.

Enough Is Enough

Carrie wasn’t always the beast who roared her way through the deadlift forest.  Four years ago she was eating at McDonald’s 3-4 times per week.  Her typical order was 2 regular hamburgers, a large order of fires, and a regular Dr. Pepper.  Poor eating was where she was.  Physical activity was where she was not.  She even nicknamed herself, The Cookie Monster, for her love of cookies.

The cookie monster is no longer on the loose...

The cookie monster is no longer on the loose…

Whether it was out of necessity or not, this mother decided to reinvent herself.  In addition to Hapkido, she began fitness classes in that same studio.  Eventually Carrie was handed some eating tips by guru Bud Ravenscroft.  Adherence to these suggestions fostered noticeable progress with her weight loss, and that progress changed the way Carrie viewed and used food. Carrie also changed the way she viewed muscle.  Previously resistant, she came to accept the value of muscle on a woman.  That’s when she chose a new path – the path of most resistance.

Carrie has her tickets to the gun show...

Carrie has her tickets to the gun show…

The Mother Of My Reinvention

As this 40-year old mother blew by me, I found new inspiration.  I was still ahead of the game for being over 50, but came to feel I should be stronger and faster than anyone I train, or at least as strong, and at least as fast.  It became time for me to walk the walk once again.

Twelve weeks in and finally seeing me again...

Twelve weeks in and finally seeing me again…

Since we were evenly matched in strength and workout intensity, I approached Carrie about leaving my care as a client, and joining me as a workout partner.  She felt this would be mutually beneficial and agreed.  That was about three months ago.

They eyes have it, and if the don't the striations do...

They eyes have it, and if they don’t, the striations do…

My workouts with Carrie have raised my game.  I push myself harder so I can teach her better.  I push myself harder because I’m inspired by her.  I believe this is mutual.  I’m using poundages I have not used in years, and I’m loving my workouts like a junkie loves a hot spoon.  Our Sunday morning trail runs on Monserate Hill are epic, and have become an integral part of each week’s rebirth.

Getting back to being me again...

Getting back to being me again…  Monserate Hill, 2012

Of Grindage And Grace

What I have learned most from Carrie is something I have known for years, have taught to hundreds of others, yet not practiced myself too much of late – that for success in fitness, eating is 80% of the game.  I’m eating today, better than I have eaten in years.  Those eating choices are showing up in how I look, how I perform with my activities, and even in how I think.  I have, it seems, engaged in a reinvention of my own, sponsored by this mother.

The traditional post-Monserat Greek Salad.  Z-Fafe, Bonsall, CA

The traditional post-Monserat Greek Salad. Z-Cafe, Bonsall, CA

If you had told me four years ago that the person I would most compare myself to – most strive to be like, and most be inspired by, would be a forty-two year old  mother of four, I would have laughed in your face.  Now Carrie has become a mother of six; her four children, and her two reinventions – hers and mine.  Be well.   rc

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My last essay for 2012.  Please have a safe and healthy holiday season.  Check back in early January to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head…

California’s Gold…

Broadcasting legend, and possessor of broad shoulders and huge triceps, Huell Howser, died yesterday. Howser died of natural causes in Palm Springs, CA.

In my life, few things have been able to pull me away from a workout without leaving me with heavy feelings of guilt for my absence in the gym. On many weekends though, during my 13 years living here in California, Huell Howser has pulled up one side of this state, and down the other – always guilt-free in my abandonment of the gym, in favor of exploring the paths which he illuminated so well.

Huell Howser

Huell Howser October 18, 1945 – January 6, 2013


Perhaps it was because of his huge triceps, as much as his nose for unique places and treats, that Huell Howser led me away from so many weekend workouts during the past decade. If a man could be on the road as much as he, and still be built like a tank, would a missed workout every so often really be so bad…?  No!

Often times Howser led me, not just away from my weekend workouts, but deep into some lesser eating choices, and did so without leading me into lesser feelings of self-esteem.

A few years ago Howser’s show, California’s Gold, pulled me away from a Saturday workout, in favor of a messy hamburger lunch at Hodad’s in Ocean Beach. No guilt whatsoever, and well worth the 30-minute wait in line to get inside.

At Howser’s direction, I once abandoned a weekend workout in favor of eating fresh pie and fresh baked bread at Dudley’s bakery in Julian, CA. Warm potato bread, fresh out of the oven is, is way better than overhead shoulder presses – at least every once in a while.

I have abandoned weekend workouts in favor of picking apples in Apple Valley, CA with no guilt at all, because Howser told me it was okay.

I have walked through poppy fields rather than on a treadmill, and been better for the experience.

I especially enjoyed eating fresh rolled tortillas, slathered with butter, at The Coyote Café in Old Town San Diego, CA – my squats would be there for me later.

The unique thing about Howser’s personality and influence is, that if his show guided me to a particular local, I always felt as though he was there with me showing me around.  His Huckleberry Hound voice would resonate in my head.

Huell Howser’s influence on my weekends, and on my always developing California psyche have been a great reminder that, despite my best fitness intentions, the intentions of exploring this amazing region in which I now live, require just as much cultivation as my quads or my biceps.

I don’t know what my so-called fitness life will bring to me this weekend, but I do know this: I will take time this weekend to celebrate the influence Huell Houser has had on me, by drifting somewhere off the beaten path, and enjoying some of California’s Gold – guilt-free.  Thank you Mr. Houser; your presence in my life has been a blessing… rc

Canned heat…

I don’t do recipes often. I cook by instinct and improvisation – like jazz. Even more rarely will I actually post a recipe I have created. Yesterday though, I came up with a good one. I needed a quick fix to a last minute invitation to dinner at a friend’s house. I chose chili.

Ordinarily when I make chili I use whole dried beans, fresh peppers, fresh chiles, and fresh tomatoes. Since I had just a few minutes to assemble this before leaving my home for the day, I went the canned route for all my ingredients with the exception of the onion which must always be fresh.

What you’ll need:
2- 15oz. cans white kidney beans
1- 15oz can black beans
2- Cinnamon sticks (I used one for this batch and it was not enough)
1- 20oz. can crushed tomatoes
1- 7oz. can El Pato brand Salsa de Chile Fresco – THIS BRAND IS ESSENTIAL FOR GENERATING THE HEAT
1- 7oz. can Embassa brand roasted chipotle peppers – THIS BRAND IS ESSENTIAL FOR GENERATING THE HEAT
1- 4oz. can diced chiles – mild
1- 4oz. can diced jalapenos – hot
1 red onion, finely diced
2lbs. carne asada – cut in 1” cubes

Sometimes, cans can-do...

Sometimes, cans can-do…

Step 1: Rinse beans thoroughly in a colander
Step 2: Put all ingredients in a Crock Pot set to high for 45 minutes to an hour
Step 3: Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 7-8 hours

Set to low heat and spend the day elsewhere...

Set to low heat and spend the day elsewhere…

I felt like I was slumming it a bit by using mostly canned ingredients. Turned out to be some of the best and hottest chili I have ever made. The carne asada cubes shredded easily to the bite, the flavor was robust, and the Embassa chipotles gave it some great heat. I added no spices or seasonings beyond the ingredients listed.

If you’re looking for a reasonably healthy, tasty food that offers a fair little punch to the taste buds, this might be a good one to add to the buffet table for your Super Bowl party.

Calories per serving: Depends on the serving size.
Protein: Really…?
Carbohydrate: Who cares!
Sugar: Very little.
Fat: Get over yourself.

All healthy ingredients, so just keep the portion size reasonable and you’ll be fine.

“Preparing food is one of more important aspects of the human condition. Over eating that same food is one of the worst aspects.” Me

Dinner And Everything After…

There is an ideal in fitness – a false meme that can be a contributing factor working against a person with a weight loss agenda.  If I had to narrow my list of fitness pet peeves down, this one would be top 5.  What I would like to illuminate, and help people conquer is the age old idea that a person seeking weight loss should not eat after dinner.

Tina’s Energy Crisis

I will use the example of a 30-something female who I’ll call Tina:

Presumably Tina eats dinner around 6:00 in the evening – whatever Tina’s dinner might be is not too relevant.  If she’s an average American 30-something female, she’ll not actually eat breakfast until after 10:00 in the morning, and it will be scarcely healthy – enter the scone or the energy bar with a latte.

 

A slower metabolism is just a scone’s throw away…

 

As a 30-something, active female Tina requires about 1,800 calories per day to maintain her body weight.  This means Tina is burning approximately 75 calories per hour to break even.  To evoke a safe, sustainable weight loss, a calorie deficit of about 150 calories less per day would be recommended.  This will place Tina at 1,650 calories per day.  This means Tina will be living off approximately 68 calories per day on her journey to an  improved body.

Relative to Tina’s BMR, she will be burning slightly more than those 68 calories per hour while she is awake and active – even if she sits on her ass all day and does little.  What is often misunderstood about calories burned during the course of a day is that Tina will be burning only slightly fewer calories while she is sleeping – calories necessary for the energy it takes to sleep and recover from any would-be exercise or activity during her day.

If Tina stops eating at 6:00pm – after dinner, as is often recommended by the fitness media, and doesn’t eat again until 10:00am, then Tina has not fueled her body for a 2/3rds of the day – fuel which is required around the clock to bolster and enhance the metabolic effect for fostering weight loss.  A majority of the day spent not eating – not fueling.  How is a car supposed to make such a long journey without fuel…?

There is no shortage of published work suggesting hibernation theory; that by not eating often enough the body senses a decreased energy income.  In order to overcome that decreased energy income, the body slows the metabolic process down to use less energy.  Body fat is stored increasingly, and used only sparingly as fuel.  This is how bears get through winter.

A Smeal Is A Hell Of A Deal

In a weight loss endeavor there’s little difference between snacks and meals – I just call them smeals.  Every successful weight loss success story I have been associated with, male or female, young or not-so-young, has had several things in common, not the least of which is the rhythmic eating of smeals throughout the day.  A smeal after waking up in the morning, a smeal at bedtime, and a few smeals every three to four hours in between can add up to a loss.

Eating rhythmically throughout the day, the brain and body conclude that since more energy is on the way, it’s not as urgent to slow down the metabolic process or to store energy as quickly in the form of body fat.  That is, the motor runs fast, efficiently, and uses the best fuel.  Add to that, additional calories burned due to increased activity, and the energy reserves (body fat) are utilized.  This is one scenario in life when it’s good not to have reserves.

Sumo Slow

I often use the Sumo wrestler as an example of slowing down the metabolic process.  We envision these large men who hail from Japan, a predominately demure culture, as being able to eat whatever they want.  In part that’s true, Sumos take in a majority of their calories from a calorie-rich stew called, Chankonabe.   However, Sumo wrestlers coax their metabolism by eating great quantities of Chankonabe, but only do so only once per day.  This intake of substantial calories only one time per day enables weight gain at an exponential rate.  Sumos train, eat, and sleep in an environment called a stable.

Life in the stable. I wonder how stable is heart is…?

A thought:  For those reading this believing they will lose weight by eating just a little during the day and having a large dinner at night, remember Sumos live in stables, athletes dine at tables – and do so frequently.  Be well.  rc

 

Point The Finger At You…

Many people I know complain – most people I know complain often about the healthcare system.  People complain about greedy insurance companies, convoluted billing systems, apathetic physicians and medical workers, and about how those in Washington only make the problem worse.

At the foundation of all of this, in my opinion, there is much truth.  The system in its current state blows.  However, if every capable adult chose to exercise for 20-30 minutes daily, and every capable adult chose to keep their calories in line with CDC recommendations, I suspect the healthcare system would be much more fluid, much more time efficient, and far more dependable than it currently is.

Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and strokes occupy a large portion of the healthcare pie.  Often times these ailments are genetically predisposed and can not be helped, but most often they are self-inflicted.  In either case, none of these are the fault of greedy insurance companies, they are not the fault of convoluted billing systems, and they are not the fault of healthcare workers, or lawmakers.  We can make the healthcare system better by making ourselves better.

A little movement daily, and a few less calories at each meal could add up to a drastically improved healthcare system.  It could also result in a country better prepared to deal with increasing its woes.   Be well.  rc

Some Mixed Thoughts On Larger Purpose, Food Technology, Prejudice, And Change…

Nothing new this week.  I’ll have something fresh in 2 weeks.  I wrote the essay below over two years ago.  Little has changed in the collective awareness we have of our food system since I wrote this — and little has changed in the system itself, or how we use it.  Me thinks the train has left the station and the 300,000,000 drivers of the train don’t realize they are the drivers…

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Larger Purpose; Time’s Arrow Slowing Down

Americans are less healthy, less fit, and less discriminating in the choices which comprise our physicality than ever.  We had seen this coming for decades, and we let it in anyway – because letting it in required less work than keeping it out.  And there’s this; the National Institute for Health now suggests an alarming trend that could manifest within a few decades.  Unless serious efforts are met to combat the increasing rate of childhood obesity, for the first time in American history, children born in subsequent decades will have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

It is suggested by critical thinkers like Michael Pollan, and others like him, that we should work our way toward the past, in hope that we change our future to become a healthier food-nation.  Enter, Michael Pollan’s open letter to President Obama.

Inspiring but unrealistic…?

However, from historic human social and technical trends, I see little which has happened in the past to suggest these proposed changes of national bad habits could have a wide-spread effect on the future.  I suggest using the non-wellness related books of Charles S. Maier (Among Empires), Jared Diamond (Collapse), and Andrew J. Bacevich (The Limits Of Power) to further examine the ultimate wellness concern; the ability of a society to identify what needs to be changed, and the willingness of its people to insist on making those changes.

These works of social and political scholarship attempt to demonstrate that human societies are often capable of, but very often unwilling, to learn from their mistakes.  Thus, what we try to think of as advancements, are often just highly devised concessions to a more dangerous road, but one which is more easily traveled.  Increasingly, I am convinced the waters of our advanced food system, and the obesity culture it has created, flow too fast and too wide to be slowed down, let alone altered or reversed.

Perhaps a less fit, less healthy food-culture is just our social and evolutionary destiny – our Manifat Destiny.  And the white elephant in the room might actually be 300 million white elephants, each wondering what went wrong, and why everyone else is so heavy – and what time the drive-thru on the way home from work closes.

Homo-big-gulpus…

Advancement: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Modernity is a playground for the unintended consequences of our advanced food system.  Billions of people have contributed to the advancements of our food culture in the past 10,000 years, and billions more have been its victim.  Hunters, gatherers, herders, farmers, and then scientists, engineers, transportation specialists, nutritionists, and consumers have all played a part in paving the road on which we now roll.  We have all benefitted and suffered from these advancements, as we will continue to benefit and suffer from them.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean to us, not to them…

Despite that, this is where we are in our food culture, there is an increasing prejudice from a few toward the many who consume highly processed foods, as well those who have helped to create these products.  I am reminded of my father who wants to move to a new assisted living center; one with fewer old people in it.  That scenario seems both contrarian, and prejudiced.

There are now volumes of books available distilling all the political and economic reasons – the contributing factors of how our food system has evolved into its current state.  Yet there is little credence given to the concept that; it all might have seemed like a good idea at the time…  Be it Diet Coke, Snack Well cookies, or single-serving ravioli in a can, we have often embraced these advancements at their introduction, as meeting the needs of changing human, social, and economic conditions.  But we learn and quickly forget, again and again, that from such good ideas, sometimes comes a whole lot of not-so-good.  It seems the unintended consequences of advancement, might tend to stifle…   advancement?  Or, humanity itself is God’s own Ponzi scheme.

Concepts And Realism

Though the notion of turning back our food system one hundred years seems like an enticing idea on the surface (to me it is a supreme idea), what Mr. Pollan and others like him amay not be accounting for is a lack of willingness on the part of many people to make those necessary changes – individuals and leaders alike.  That is, people can be informed of what needs to be changed and of how those changes can help us, but history shows we’re not very good listeners.  Our best shot at success with the food system may just be to keep on pumping those extra B vitamins into those Ho-Ho’s, and to keep trying to perfect protein infused Gummy Bears and pork rinds.

History offers us few good examples of us reversing strong social and technical trends.  We may abandon some social and technical trends in favor of others once we realize they are not working well for us, but we tend to not reverse anything.  Humans are more the walking away type.  It is frequently proven that the next positive advancement in the food system is just as laden with unintended consequences as the advancement we had just abandoned.  It’s official; I have no answers, only questions, and a heart full of concern.  Be well.  rc

I end this diatribe with 2 questions from which I would appreciate your responses to:

1)      Do you believe that our food system will truly be in a better state in 10 years than it is today?

2)      Will this column affect how you think about our food system?

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head…