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Glenniver’s Travels

“Every man desires to live long, but no man wishes to be old.”
― Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

An image of “The Pink City,” Jaipur, India appeared on my laptop screensaver thingy. I showed my wife the image since we both visited that city together 8 years ago when we backpacked India as part of a two week adventure holiday which was kicked off by attending our friend’s wedding in Ahmedabad. This also coincided with her trying to shop for clothes online at Target and was struggling to find anything in her size because everything is now in plus sizes. Plus has become the new normal it seems. This isn’t me bragging about how great my wife looks (she does look pretty damn great), but truth be told, she is 5’4” and a 117 lbs. If you knew nothing else about her and only those two numbers, 15-20 years ago that would have been nothing unusual. There would be petite, normal, and plus size, the majority of clothing being in the “average or normal” range, and she would have found clothing quite easily. Instead, she has to shop in the “juniors” section. I’m sure she is not alone, but I find it fascinating that because of the obesity epidemic, my wife is no longer normal….

So, I teased that she’ll have to shop from India as I then showed her the image on my laptop. She teased, “Well there, I was the plus size!” She was. We both were. We were giants when compared to the average heights and BMIs of those we met in Gujarat. I remarked about how we then had the opposite experience when we walked around Amsterdam on our layover coming home from that trip. We are walking around during rush hour and all of these “giants” were flying past us on their bicycles! That is when I remarked, “That was a real “Gulliver’s Travels” moment for us, wasn’t it?” First, we were in one land where we were the giants, only to all of sudden (okay, not really… it’s a 12-hour flight from New Delhi to Amsterdam) be in a new land where we were the tiny ones.

We briefly reminisced about that remarkable trip, and then she went back to working on her PhD and I had my inspiration to write this post, which has nothing to do with travel, but everything to do with meat. Confused about how I got from backpacking India to dodging bicyclers in Amsterdam to meat?

Fair enough.

My challenge, and goal, for this post is to take those and other experiences, couple it with other pieces of information I’ve read and gathered, and hopefully, tie it all together into something that will be kinda, sorta, coherent.

The story I want to tell is the story of, up to this point, what I have been learning and thinking about as I dig deeper into this complex, sometimes objective, sometimes very subjective, and very, remarkably, like oh-my-God-get-over-yourself, politicized, and hyper-emotional topic.

But before I begin, I will make it clear from the onset that I am not an idealogue; I don’t protest an identity of being a “vegetarian,” “vegan,” or “carnivore,” I am not here to preach that there is only one way of eating. But if you have read some of my previous posts, especially the one about Taíno, my Puerto Rican horse, what will come to light in this post is not a wholehearted change in my philosophy, but a change in the ratios/percentages of the foods we may want to consider consuming under the umbrella of whole foods. I will also admit from the onset that as much as I am enjoying my experiment… I totally crushed a bag of mesquite kettle-cooked chips, a Reese’s peanut-butter cup snack pack, and three pumpkin beers last night! I love the Autumn! White girls get their pumpkin spice lattes; I get to enjoy pumpkin ales!

So, what have I learned that required such a long, unnecessary, but fun-to-write preamble?

I think we need to be eating more meat.

But not just bacon, sirloins and ribeyes. The increase should be ‘nose to tail’ of these animals: organs, especially liver and kidney, bone marrow, and if and when safe, brain. It should also include a much greater variety of animals. There is more to life than just filet mignon… which means, unless you have seafood allergies, lots of fish and shellfish. I’ll even add insects into the mix. You’ll say “gross!” But what the fuck do you think a lobster or crab is when we get right down to it? I’ve eaten deep-fried cockroach. I’m not above doing it again! Although the oil it’s deep-fried in does matter, so there is that caveat. (I didn’t ask the street vendor about that when I was in Bangkok.)

Why am I thinking this way now?

That’s the real story I want to share.

Things I have read and watched in the past about whole food diets were good! Great even! But I could find holes in some of their arguments. Again, I do need to be clear here: I’m nitpicking. Whether you proclaim to be a vegan, vegetarian, keto, paleo, carnivore, Anglican, or Episcopalian (he last two don’t count, just a bad religious joke… they’re really the same. And yet not)… the one thing they all agree on is doing your best to eliminate the refined, heavily processed sugars from your diet. This in itself would do wonders for Western diets. Just kick the sugar habit and most, if not all, of our chronic diseases would disappear. When I talked about Taíno, I made the argument that if you simply went outside to find food, what would you find that you could eat? You’d find fruits, vegetables, and animals. Not breads, pastas, craft beer ☹, cookies, cakes or chocolate bars. This still holds true, but in making that statement, despite knowing the truth/differences, I still failed to fully appreciate the huge differences between what is actually edible in the wild when it comes to fruits and vegetables, and what we find in the modern produce section of our supermarkets. I could also walk outside our Puerto Rican apartment and pick mangos from a mango tree that grew in the flipping parking lot. I may have been prone to thinking it was much easier to forage for such foods than it really is. (I’ll follow up with another anecdotal story of my own shortly.)

Okay, Doc, it’s back to the future time.

Here is what we know, so far, about our ancestors. We split from chimps and gorillas, etc., about 5-6 million years ago. We anatomically came into being about 200,000 years ago, although new evidence suggests we might be older, pushing closer to 300,000 years ago. Along the way, we have split and intermingled with other similar hominid species such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, and possibly other subgroups. We have been very successful at physically adapting to the unique environments we have moved into as we have spread across the earth over the last couple hundred thousand years. Nitrogen content, discovered in the remains of our ancestors, points to a conclusion that we are an apex predator. Only on unlucky occasions did we get eaten by saber-toothed tigers or bears, oh my! We know for a fact, across the globe, that when we compare Neolithic skeletons to older Paleolithic skeletons or contemporary hunter-gatherers of the same time-period, Neolithic skeletons are inferior. Statures are, on average, far smaller. Brain casings are 200-300 cm³ smaller. Jaw development is poor and dental decay is disproportionately high. Oh, and we have had fire for over a million years, possibly 2 million years. Chimps and bonobos have yet to accomplish this feat. But while on the subject, chimps will eat meat. They hunt. They’re just not as good at it, despite their physical attributes, as we are.

Here is what we are not sure of when it comes to the archaeological record. For whatever reason, our brains exploded in size over the last 2 million years. Anthropologist have ideas, hypotheses, but there is no real consensus on what the real driving mechanism was for this. Personally, I think all the ideas which have been proposed have real merit, to varying degrees, as to how our brains got so big. I say they all have merit because I don’t think it was just one of these ideas by themselves that drove our brains to evolve the way they did, but all of them, working in a synergistic way, did. The ones I would like to zero in on, though, is that we clearly started to eat more meat than our other primate cousins. We also moved to shorelines and started eating far more seafood. We discovered and can manipulate fire and started cooking our meats with it, which aided in digestion of these meats. (I have also recently learned of two interesting genetic mutations we have that directly affect the development of our brains that other primates, in fact all other animals that we know of, do not have.)

The Crux of the “Carnivore” Argument:

To be clear, most “carnivore” diet experts are not outright anti-plant. They’re just questioning how big of a role they truly play in our diets and argue that they served as survival foods and consolation prizes if and when we came up empty from the hunt.

The first major argument proposed is just the sheer amount of toxins there are in plants that just aren’t good for us. Not just “not good for us,” but will outright kill us upon ingestion. It is not in a plant’s best interest to be eaten; therefore, they have evolved many chemical defense strategies to deter being eaten by animals. Of course, many animals have evolved coping strategies and chemical solutions to counter these defenses. We are just no longer one of those animals. When it comes to various traits of saliva composition, intestinal tracts, colons, and stomach pH levels, we have far more in common with a lion or cheetah than we do with a deer, buffalo, or any other ruminant. To the point, about 6 million years ago we stopped eating bamboo shoots like gorillas and outsourced the bulk of our nutritional needs to ruminants. I have said this before: we can’t eat grass, so we eat the creatures that do.

The counter argument to the above line of logic, and one that anti-aging experts are a fan of, is regarding what is known as hormesis. Hormesis is any process in a cell or organism that exhibits a biphasic response to exposure to increasing amounts of a substance or condition. Within the hormetic zone, there is generally a favorable biological response to low exposures to toxins and other stressors (thank you Wikipedia). In other words, the “benefits of antioxidants and polyphenols” is not insomuch that they are good, but that they are in fact bad. Just bad in a good way. Much like high intensity exercise sucks! But it is these stressors that end up forcing our bodies to perform certain biological tasks and do what is necessary that triggers and leads to the positive health outcomes we are looking for. I don’t think carnivores disagree with this so much, as they are making the case that we experience enough of these hermetic stressors in our environment already, even eons ago, that we just don’t need to consume plants to trigger this effect. In fact, those with colitis, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney stones, etc., could be because too many of these toxins (phytic acid and oxalates) are in your diet and causing you real grief.

This is as deep as I’ll go in this post regarding plant toxins, but I will encourage you to read The Carnivore Code by Dr. Paul Spaldino for an in-depth explanation on this topic along with how he addresses other topics such as fibre.

I want to move on, because as much as I would like to talk about how much cyanide there is in apple seeds… I want to move along to the elements of the discussion that I have found more persuasive and then share how my gym teacher logic factored into wanting to write this and share.

It’s the topic of bioavailability: all foods we can eat, plant or animal, have nutrients. Toxins in plants aside, there is still the question of how easily our bodies can absorb said nutrients from said plant or animal. As it turns out, animal foods kick the snot out of plant foods when it comes to our ability to break down and absorb the key nutrients we need to not only survive, but thrive. 

Another factor in bioavailability, aside from our ability to absorb said nutrient, is also how much of said nutrient is in the food we are eating in the first place. Naturally, this varies from animal to animal and organ to organ and plant to plant. Some of these are inconsequential, and so we can default to the original question of how easily we can absorb said nutrient. But others are not, and the key one I want to discuss is protein. It’s no secret that we need protein in our diets. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and there are 11 essential amino acids we require on a rather frequent and regular basis, because we don’t make these 11. Hence why they are called “essential.” I won’t say that it is impossible to get these 11 from plants, but it is really hard to do. It is why I won’t say you can’t be a vegetarian or vegan, but they have to be very careful and work extra hard to make sure they do get these in their diet. The easy one to target is the vitamin B family. The B12s and 6s are essential for us, are easily found in meat and other animal products, and really hard to get from plants.

Aside from which proteins we need to have, the question then is, “Well, how much?” How much protein do we need on a daily basis? What are the requirements for the human body to live optimally? Although there is a range and it can depend on your level of activity and what your goals are (bodybuilding or some other athletic endeavor), the current findings and consensus among the experts (and this question has been studied a lot, mind you) is that ideally, we want to consume 1 gram of protein for every pound (0.6kg) of lean body mass. This applies to both men and women equally. Men will therefore need to ingest more, on the average, because, on the average, we tend to be bigger and carry more lean mass.

Now, I have questioned this requirement often and it certainly does have its detractors in the clinical world because, as I will explain, trying to consume the optimal amount of protein can be hard to do! But it does get easier when we eliminate many of the other foods, that although might taste good, offer little to no value and simply serve as unnecessary fillers, taking up precious space in our stomachs, i..e. breads, pastas, potatoes, and even that Greek salad. I’ll get started on broccoli shortly.

I have also had to accept the reality, despite my best efforts in what I thought was a pretty darn good diet, that I may still have been left protein-deficient more days than not. As I break down my numbers for you (and I hope you do the same), I think you’ll see why I now think this, and you may see this problem for yourself come up as well. But first, a quick chart for you to look at that breaks down grams of protein per ounce, and as a bonus, calories per ounce. This post is not directly about calories, but you might see a pattern there as well.

From Animal Sources

Calories/Ounce                  Grams of Protein/Ounce

Beef                     71                                                     7

Eggs (1 egg)        78                                                     6                          

Chicken               68                                                     6

Pork Chop          65                                                     7

Pork Belly           147                                                   2.6

Lamp                   83                                                     7

Sausage              85                                                     3

Salmon                59                                                     6

Tuna                    39                                                     8

Haddock             29                                                     7

Scallops              32                                                     6

Shrimp                28                                                     7

Oyster                 56                                                     2

Mussels              49                                                     7

Lobster                              27                                                     4

Crab                     24                                                     6

Non-Animal Sources

Calories Ounce                   Grams of Protein/Ounce

Broccoli              10                                                     0.8

Kale                     14                                                     0.25

Cauliflower         7                                                      1g

Tomato                5                                                      0.9

Lettuce                               4                                                      0.4

Pepper                11                                                     0.5

Walnuts              185                                                   4.3

*Almonds           162                                                   6

*Mushroom       6                                                       0.9g

Wheat germ      108                                                   8.9

Bread                  71                                                     3

Potato                 26                                                     0.6
(1 medium sized)

Potato Chips      156                                                   2

You may have noticed a couple of glaring exceptions from both lists (pork belly, almonds, and walnuts), which is why I might still caution the bacon and sausages. Almonds and walnuts also come with a caveat: toxins. And they can be fattening when consumed in large quantities. But, fair enough, their protein count is impressive.

So, we’ll do the math on me (I hope you do as well on yourself), and here is where my gym teacher logic and other cognitive biases started to chime in as I was finishing Dr. Saladino’s book, leaving me thinking “I think this guy is onto something.”

Right now, I’m roughly 200 lbs. and around 17% body fat. I’m not fat, but admittedly, I’m not competing on stage anytime soon. So, subtract 30 lbs. of fat from my body (that does sound like a lot when you say it like that), and we are looking at around 166 lbs. of lean body mass, give or take. As noted above, most of our animal products are ranging between 6-8 grams of protein per ounce (33g). I went with 7 as an easy number and good average. This means that in order to get the adequate/optimal amount of protein that the experts recommend on a daily basis of 1 gram per pound when there are only 7 grams on average per ounce of meat, 166/7g = 23.7, I need to eat close to 24 ounces of meat/animal product a day. Yeah. That’s a lot! I have been roughly this size since I was 19 years old. I can almost guarantee that I have never eaten a pound and a half in one day, ever! I’ve come close when I’ve had an 18 oz. ribeye, but that’s been about it. This is why I have always had my doubts when all the textbooks have made the recommendations of getting 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean tissue and sided with the detractors. But then again, not getting adequate protein my have affected my ability to recover from all my workouts and my football, hockey, and rugby practices, not to mention the games. What if eating more protein could have helped reduce my risk of injuries? Could I have consumed more protein shakes? Maybe, but I tended to hold off on those due to both costs and the fact that there’s also so much other crap in them (sugars).

That all said, it’s doable. I can eat 23-24 oz. of animal product a day, split it up over a couple meals, allow myself to adapt to it, and build up to that. Yes. I can certainly try. (And I have been over the last 5 weeks.)

You may have noticed what’s in the vegetables. Aside from the almonds as an outlier, you have cauliflower at 1g of protein and kale sucks at just 0.25g. Broccoli has 0.8 grams, so let’s go with that as a not very accurate average, but at least I’m not picking on kale. So, how much broccoli would I need to eat (or really, any other vegetable) to get the recommended protein? 166/0.8 = 207.5 oz. of broccoli. I would need to eat 12 lbs. of the stuff. That is just not going to happen! Never mind the farts, although they would be epic, our digestive system is just not built to consume that much of any plant material. Gorillas? You bet’cha! Humans? Not on your life. 

It was looking at the protein counts and doing some simple arithmetic that helped convince me of what the “carnivores” are saying. At least, it convinced me to give it the ole’ college try. So, we are eating more animal product each day and cancelled our Misfits subscription which supplied us with organic vegetables every week. Now we end up only eating veggies when we order or dine out. Otherwise, it’s steak, eggs, tuna, salmon, pork, and sometimes chicken. Overall, it’s been feeling good and we are saving a ton of time in the kitchen now that we no longer have to take the time to chop up all the vegetables for the crockpot or stir fry.

Now for a handful of passing thoughts/stories. We were not always the giants I made us out to be when we backpacked India. You see, while Gujarat, India is known to have a population which leans more vegetarian, the Punjab do not. They eat meat, maybe not cow, but they do eat a lot of lamb, and it showed. They are considerably taller compared to the Gujaratis, as I discovered while visiting there.

My next observation follows up my mango story, and what we would find if we went foraging in the woods: I took a mushroom hunting course two weeks ago. 10 of us went out into the woods for 2 hours. We did find some mushrooms growing that if we ate them, we’d die (the angel of death mushroom). We also found a dozen or so individual mushrooms that weren’t deadly, but also weren’t really edible. We did find about a ½ a pounds worth of honey mushrooms, which are edible, more or less. Fair enough, it was not a full-on “foraging” course (I hope to do that soon). But it did force me to rethink what we’d find in the wilds of New England. Edible plants are just not in enough supply the way fish, deer, squirrel, and a whole host of other animals might be.

Now, just a couple final thoughts. When I told my wife of the diet I was thinking of trying, she, without hesitation, volunteered to join me in my experiment. She started researching recipes and going over costs and in general got really excited about eating more meat. Have you ever known anyone to ever really get that excited about eating only vegetables? Yeah, me neither. I’m also sure there are some exceptions, but why do most kids the world over not seem to really dig vegetables at dinner? Could it be that their little bodies know something we have forgotten as adults?

This leads to my last fun observation. How many kids really like milk? Right! It’s about the same as the number who like vegetables. Very few. Why is that? It’s probably because once we are weaned off our mother’s milk, we aren’t supposed to continue drinking it – especially another mammal’s milk. Hopefully you noticed that I didn’t include milk as an animal product we should consume. This is because we shouldn’t. Aside from the many articles I’ve read about milk and its non-healthy-for-us qualities, I would like to recommend the movie “Forks over Knives.” Here they go into great detail about one key ingredient in milk that is just not good for us: casein. It’s a protein. It’s a protein we don’t need and can’t process well. It’s a protein linked to issues that range from causing leaky gut to cancer. There might be a reason why most of us don’t like milk, unless it is packed full of syrup to make it chocolate or strawberry milk. So just to reiterate, I think we may need more animal products in our diet, but milk is not one of them. To conclude, my hope is that you will continue to do your own homework on the subject and draw your own conclusions, and go from there as we all strive to be the best and healthiest we can be. Even if a couple craft beers or spiced rums get enjoyed along the way.

Saladino, Paul MD. (2020) The Carnivore Code. New York. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Mason, Paul MD. Carnivore Diet and Optimal Health
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xgokvp5bfNg

The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Carnivore Diet: Crazy delicious, or just plain crazy? Ep47 – Paul Saladino Interview

The Joe Rogan Experience #1050 – Dr. Shawn Baker
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj_Bc9hdHa0

Additional Reasons to Add to Fermi’s Paradox.

Where are all the aliens? This is the question Fermi asks. When we do all the guesswork with our statistical math, even when we are at our most pessimistic in our assumptions, we still come up with the possibility of millions of potential planets that could support life. That’s the paradox for astrophysicists. If there is still the possibility for huge numbers of life supporting planets, where are they and why do we still feel so alone?

Astrophysicists have come up with quite a few reasons for this. They call them “filters.” Of course, the big ones are that life is much more complicated to boot up than we realize. “Advanced life,” like ourselves, are even harder to be realized (I will touch on this one again shortly). Extinction-level cataclysms periodically rock planets, which is everything from gamma bursts to comets smashing into the planet (I’ll follow up with this one as well). Then there is the possibility – even if a planet and potential technologically advanced civilization survives all of those potentially life-ending and civilization-crushing scenarios – that the reason why no one else is out there is because they blew themselves up, either with their technology directly (i.e., nuclear weapons) or they self-destructed due to climate change. These are all real possibilities that could lead to why no one is out there.

There is also the simplest explanation. We’ve only been looking for a few decades, and space is really big. We have a hard enough time even identifying asteroids and comets in our own backyard, never mind the so-called “Planet X” or “Planet 9,” not to mention that radio waves on a galactic scale take a long time to get around. So there could be technologically advanced civilizations springing up and trying to do what we are doing, but depending on how far away they are and when they reached a point in their electrifying of their civilization, we may not hear from them – or them from us – for hundreds or even thousands of years. Or they have come and gone, and we missed the signal because we only just built those listening posts a few decades ago.

Now the more complicated possibilities for why no one is out there. On galactic scales, life on planets is rare, but through sheer numbers, there could still be a lot of planets that have life. We’ve established this, but I want to touch on a couple more filters that astrophysicists and other thinkers have not brought up yet. These reasons could be huge as to why technologically advanced civilizations do not seem to be out there.

Firstly, we still don’t know why or how we ended up with big brains. We have theories, and they are good theories, but a big brain is an anomaly in the evolutionary context of the planet. Even rarer are big brains with hands that have opposable thumbs. Dolphins have big brains, but they can’t make fire (I have stolen that joke). On the other side are the great apes: they have opposable thumbs, but they don’t have the cranial capacity we have; not to mention that we diverged from chimpanzees and bonobos approximately 5-6 million years ago, and Mother Nature has never deemed it necessary for them to advance beyond what their current capabilities are. They are not only able to survive, but they thrive in their environments and have not had to change much at all. This could be the case on all of these potential worlds out there. Evolution may have finally led to a troop of organized hunter-gatherer primates, but they are kicking ass and living the good life as they are. They don’t need larger brains and electricity.

But let’s stay on the evolution track for another moment. Virtually every organism and creature on this planet – once we got beyond single-celled organisms – have banked on bigger, sharper teeth or claws, or have adapted really well to eating certain kinds of vegetation. Several species may move in herds, but this is usually the extent of their cooperation. Lizards and fish and many other species don’t seem to show empathy. Just about every mammal does. I know rats do. So, in the realm of evolution towards a species that can only survive when it works together, this has taken a long time to produce (I want to be clear: evolution is not linear, but it is really hard not to feel that it is when we do look at our fossil record and can clearly see we started out with single-celled organisms and, 3 billion years later, we put a fucker on the moon!). But that is also another filter. Mother Nature, until us and dolphins came along, has never really backed a big-brain strategy. It’s either been photosynthesis creatures or creatures that can eat those photosynthesis creatures, or creatures that can eat those creatures; in other words, creatures with strong teeth for chewing grasses, or really sharp teeth to eat the herbivores. Even mammals have taken this approach for almost their entire existence. I’d say this is a pretty big filter. Not only can a comet or solar flare cause a mass extinction at anytime in the course of a planet’s history, Mother Nature may never see the need for big brains to ever be a requirement.

But what if there isn’t a climate cataclysm like the meteor from 65 million years ago? We are only here because that happened to earth. Until that meteor, the dinosaurs were doing, more or less, just fine. It’s hard to imagine little ole’ us ever having a chance with T-Rexes and Raptors roaming around. So, we got lucky. Maybe the other planets don’t have those cataclysms and cold-blooded creatures rang supreme.

Now the next filter. Let’s say these other planets somehow find life evolving and adapting in such a way that ultimately, a frail creature that lives in tribes of a few dozen to a few hundred, like us, does ultimately find its way coming into existence.

This is where I want to go into more depth about a filter that I think would keep most of the “aliens” from ever reaching out to find us or to broadcast signals so we could find them. We have already addressed one key filter that they blow themselves up and commit “civilization suicide” before they get to star travelling levels, but I’m going to argue that is not even the filter that prevents them or that we should be most concerned with. I make the argument that most of them never even get to the point of being an electricity-wielding civilization (EWC), not because by this point they would lack the IQ as a species to do so, but because they would never need to become EWCs in the first place. This is my first argument. I draw on this from our own history. We, as humans, have anatomically existed for over 200,000 years. We only started using electricity in the last 200 years, give or take. Once upon a time, our ancestors started using fire 2 million years ago and seemed to get on just fine.

Also, current hunter-gatherers, when Western civilization isn’t fucking with them, do quite well on their own. I cite Civilized to Death by Chris Ryan and The Awakened Ape by Jevan Pradas, who both stress what good anthropologists have known for ages, which is hunter-gatherer tribes have it pretty darn good compared to our modern standards of living. They only have to work 4-5 hours a day in gathering food and doing their chores. They live a life of leisure and community, devoting much time to socializing, dancing, sex, and enjoying the occasional psychedelic experience as well as enjoying the bright stars of the night sky. They have tough feet that do not require shoes. They have good teeth and virtually no heart disease. They have an encyclopedic and intimate knowledge of the environment around them. They know which plants and animals to eat and which ones to stay away from. Sure, they do have challenges, but it is amazing how remarkably adapted we are to handle those challenges. Tribal peoples the world over are happier than we are; even those tribes who we have pushed into some of the most challenging and harshest environments to live in. Why would any sane person give that up to put up with the bullshit we have to deal with, like taxes and moronic bosses? And don’t think I don’t see the irony of how many people every year enjoy “camping” for their holiday. That’s how we used to do it all the time. Then there’s the number of folks who enjoy hunting in their spare time. They do for fun what we used to do all the time as a way of life!

This is a big filter, and one of the most important filters, because even with our big brains, we only stopped living like slightly more sophisticated chimps 12,000 years ago.

Which leads to another important filter that could keep space-age civilizations from popping up: it is here I cite the work of Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson and their book, Why Nations Fail. As you read this book, you begin to realize that it doesn’t just describe why the Latin world is poor compared to the US, or why sub-Saharan Africa, China, India, and pretty much every other nation outside of Western Europe, the English Commonwealth and the US can’t seem to get their shit together. Through reading their work, it becomes clear just how much of a fluke our modern age is. They describe some key events in history, which they term “critical junctures,” where had that war or plague gone the other way, we could still be in feudal systems of serfs and slaves, with no real innovation and no incentive to do so. We’d still all be living like peasants with a handful of narcissistic sociopaths at the top inbreeding with other narcissistic sociopathic families in order to keep their dirty hands in power and stroke their own egos.

We take our current scientific age of progress for granted, like it was just a matter of course and time that all societies ultimately progress to high levels of technological invention and use. But I just want to highlight how lucky and fortunate, not to mention remarkably rare, that these key institutions, such as patent law, private property rights, and anti-trust laws, along with participatory and inclusive institutions such as assemblies, congresses, parliaments, and senates are, which have allowed for the last 300 years of economic growth and technological advancement. Now, if you are growing up in the suburbs of, oh, say Independence, Missouri, it may be impossible to truly appreciate how fragile these systems are and to also be aware of the number of times these rare and unique creations have been almost crushed and stamped out of existence (remember the robber barons of the 19th century, anyone? Or that once grand city of Venice).

This is not to say that relatively advanced Extraterrestrial Civilizations (ETCs) don’t exist. For the moment, we do. But if a pandemic like the one we are currently experiencing (which, in the grand historical scheme of things, is just a bad cold) can knock so many of us down and highlight how fragile our economic and political systems for innovation and technological advancement can be, this shows a level of naivety and unchecked faith in them and misses how fragile they are and that a lack of these systems could be just as big of an impediment for ETCs to reach space-age levels as any comet or other galactic filter.

In a fun coincidence of timing, the YouTube Channel “What Da Math” posted a video on a recent article which was published with the intent to redesign how we classify type 0, type 1, type 2, and type 3 civilizations from the Kardashev Scale we currently use. Just for a brief background, Kardashev’s scale labels civilizations on their capacity to harness and use energy. Type 1s have traditionally been considered those who have mastered their planet and have harnessed it for energy (this is where we lie, I do believe). Type 2s are considered those that have harnessed their sun/star and are masters of their solar system. There is a tendency to cite the theoretically hypothesized “Dyson’s Sphere” as an example of this (Star Trek TNG did an episode on this and featured a clever way of bringing Scotty back for a guest appearance). I won’t discuss how stupid of an idea a Dyson’s Sphere is, but it shouldn’t take away from the idea that type 2s can harness and use a lot of energy. Type 3s take it to the next level and can harness and use the energy of their whole galaxy. You could maybe think of a type 2 being us in Star Trek and a Type 3 would be the “Galactic Empire” from Star Wars. Using these templates or standards has been what has helped guide how we look for ETCs. We are looking for the harnessing and use of a lot energy.

The new article instead wants to reframe and reclassify what type 0s, 1s, 2s, and 3s are, and therefore why it will be such a challenge to find such ETCs and how we should change our current approach in order to have a chance at finding them.

Here is the Abstract:

ABSTRACT
Context: The interest towards searches for extraterrestrial civilizations (ETCs) was boosted in the recent decades by the discovery of thousands of exoplanets.
Aims: We turn to the classification of ETCs for new considerations that may help to design better strategies for ETCs searches.
Methods:This study is based on analogies with our own biological, historical, technological and scientific development. We take a basic taxonomic approach to ETCs and investigate the implications of the new classification on ETCs’ evolution and observational patterns. Finally, we use as a counter-example to our qualitative classification the quantitative scheme of Kardashev and we consider its implications on the searches for ETCs.
Results: We propose a classification based on the abilities of ETCs to modify their environment and to integrate with it: Class 0 uses the environment as it is, Class 1 modifies the environment to fit its needs, Class 2 modifies itself to fit the environment and Class 3 ETC is fully integrated with the environment. Combined with the classical Kardashev’s scale our scheme forms a 2-dimensional scheme for interpreting the ETC properties.
Conclusions: The new framework makes it obvious that the available energy is not an unique measure of ETCs’ progress, it may not even correlate with how well that energy is used. The possibility for progress without increased energy consumption implies a lower detectability, so in principle the existence of a Kardashev Type III ETC in the Milky Way cannot be ruled out. This reasoning weakens the Fermi paradox, allowing for the existence of advanced, yet not energy hungry, low detectability ETCs. The integration of ETCs with environment will make it impossible to tell apart technosignatures from natural phenomena. Therefore, the most likely opportunity for SETI searches to find advanced ETCs is to look for beacons, specifically set up by them for young civilizations like ours (if they would want to do that remains a matter of speculation). The other SETI window of opportunity is to search for ETCs at technological level similar to ours. To rephrase the famous saying of Arthur Clarke, sufficiently advanced civilizations are indistinguishable from nature

The only thing I want to challenge or question on this reclassification is regarding the following: on the surface, I know what the authors were striving for, but I think they have it backwards. I will make the assumption that type 0s would be hunter-gatherers who simply “use the environment.” We might be type 1s currently because we definitely can modify our environment (roads, skyscrapers, mass deforestation, massive dams and bridges, etc.). But I find it a little unclear as to what they mean when they say “Class 2 modifies itself to fit the environment and Class 3 ETC is fully integrated with the environment.” Here is where I’m going to argue they got it flipped. I instead want to make the fun case that agrarian societies would be classified as type 0s for the way they use the environment. Type 1s are us in our current industrial and technological phase where, as mentioned above, we can and have undertaken monumental projects which have dramatically changed our environments to fit our needs. But here I’m going to say that hunter-gatherers are the type 2s and 3s. They adapt to their environments. Whether they are in the Amazon Basin, or the Kalihari Desert, or the Arctic, hunter-gatherers change to fit their environments. They change and modify their tools depending on the game they hunt, they change their clothing (or lack thereof) in order to survive in their environment, and they will even genetically adapt. Compare the anatomical differences between Australian Aborigines whose torsos are shaped in a way they can dissipate heat during the hottest times of the day when temperatures can reach 35-40 degrees Celsius, and then can turn around and conserve their body heat when temperatures drop to 5 degrees at night. The peoples of the north, such as the Inuit, have evolved to carry a higher percentage of body fat and uniquely have an extra layer of fat on their hands to protect them from the icy-cold waters. It’s the genetic changes that may constitute full integration into their environment, which would make them type 3.

As a result, this might be why we can’t find anybody out there. They are already in harmony with nature, fully integrated into the environments they live in, and therefore have zero need to build enormous satellite dishes.

 

Qualitative Classification of Extraterrestrial Civilizations https://arxiv.org/pdf/2005.13221.pdf

Imperceptible Changes

“Never underestimate the utility of incremental improvement” – Jordan Peterson

I want to talk about one of my clients at the Boston Sports Club, who has given me his permission to share this anecdote. But it applies to my other clients over the years as well. His just happens to be the most recent.

I don’t think we can truly appreciate (for all kinds of various psychological reasons) how truly powerful just making one change can be; how changing course by just 1 degree can have you in a totally different place. I mean, we get that with a ship, sure, but it can be very abstract to fully appreciate how that can manifest itself over time when it comes to bettering ourselves and literally taking life one day at a time and still have an eye on the future. I’ve mentioned this before, but the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray is one of my favourites. Yes, him coming up with thousands of different ways to kill himself is funny, but there is a much deeper psychological meaning to the whole movie. I am currently reading 12 Rules for Life by Dr. Jordan Peterson, and while it has enjoyed being a best seller, surpassing all the crap about Trump, it is occurring to me that you really don’t have to read his book. Just watch “Groundhog Day”; it gives you the whole psychological transformation from the being selfish “it’s all about me,” to the nihilistic “What the hell am I doing and what is this all for?” to coming out of all that chaos and realizing that it is not just about trying to get the girl, but instead, becoming better each day. Being a better person. Taking care of myself and helping others do the same. It is finding that meaning, over time, and lo and behold, isn’t it amazing that he gets the girl when – and only when – he finally becomes worth having.

That’s the fast, psychoanalytic summary. So, I won’t get all Carl Jung on you here, but the point of slow gradual improvement is what I want to tackle, and Steve (we will call him Steve) has been proving to be a terrific example of this very concept. Six months ago, he signed up at the gym and wanted a personal trainer. Unfortunately for him, I just happened to be the trainer closest to him. 😊

We’ve seen this all before. He is a very successful lawyer in his mid-30s, but with all the financial success, it has come with a heavy price. It came with 120-hour work weeks, and as a result, everything else cascaded downward around him: fast food and alcohol, a broken relationship, high blood pressure, lots and lots of stress. Everything I have been railing against, he was the archetypical embodiment of.

He didn’t know it at the time, but him waking up and realizing he was in trouble was the first step. The first degree of change. We met, I gave a little bit of the big picture, and a lot of what we were going to do next week. What he didn’t know was that I was preparing to help him go to war for his soul. The enemy: the flawed American dream. But this isn’t an enemy you crush! You can’t go into this and think you can annihilate the enemy. What we do need to do is stand up to it; make it an ally and learn to live along with it, learning how to take care of ourselves and devote the right amount of time doing that. Once we are in a better place, then the “American Dream” becomes far less flawed.

I am writing this 2 full months after the “New Year’s Resolutions” that have stopped happening. Our gym is a ghost town again in comparison to the first 3 weeks of the year, with a small handful of new regulars who, of course, have been welcomed into the fold by the vets. (This is why NYRs are so stupid! They try doing too much, all at once, and then poof! They’re gone.)

Steve didn’t do that. He still worked a lot, still ate not as well as he could, and still drank more than he knew he should. I was okay with that. My job was to help him get stronger. Period! So, we trained. Then he came in the next week. We trained again, and shocker: he was stronger than the week before. So, we did it again the next week, and he was even stronger. Six weeks later, he was twice as strong as he was when he came in the first time. This is about when he asked me, “Glenn, what can I be doing next?”  Now, I started coaching him on the food: eat cleaner, as many vegetables as possible. This was at the same time Lenny had come back looking better than ever, so I asked Steve to read my blog post about Mr. Clark. (Update on Mr. Clark: he has stuck with the diet and training. He is 65, and he has a six pack! Not bad, Uncle Teddy! Not F$%#ing bad at all.)

Steve has been eating better. By doing these small things and getting better, he was getting more productive at work, which meant he was able to start dialing back the hours. As we built a solid and committed time every Tuesday morning, this has led to him realizing he can do this the other mornings during the week. He likes swimming (we have a pool), so he swims a couple times a week and trains with me. Because his activity level was going up and becoming far more intense and demanding as he continued to get stronger, he has been craving nutritious foods and has drastically cut back on eating crap. Along the way, he has met someone and started to enjoy more time with her. Because he isn’t home alone, he is drinking less. This isn’t an infomercial where I then say he’s lost 50 lbs. and looks like a fitness model. Nope, that hasn’t happened yet. His changes have been slow and tempered, but the foundation and new habits he has and is building are now a part of his identity. We have only been at this 6 months. Looking back on it, he has done and accomplished a lot! But that first week, making all these changes, all at once, would have seemed (because they are) overwhelming. What is that saying? “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Yeah, duh! But then you need to keep taking steps. That is what Steve and my other clients, and Lenny, keep doing. They keep taking steps, and each day they get just a little, often imperceptibly, better.

Steve has started over the last 3 weeks getting into the intermittent fasting. Now the changes are coming even faster. Where he was once in a vicious cycle of too much work, too much bad food, too much stress, too much alcohol, etc., he has made the shift to a virtuous cycle of tough training, followed by a sauna, followed by a hot shower, followed by less, but more productive and meaningful work. This is followed by stresses, sure, but because he is in such a better, more resilient place, he is able to cope that much better. This means alcohol with friends for enjoyment, but not as the crutch to get him through such tough stressful days, which means he’s more fun to be around, which means he has a great girl, which means “keep doing this because this is all so much more fun!”

It started on one of the last days of August. It is by no means over, but the trajectory of his ship, his soul, his path, is on a new and exciting course.

There is one piece I want to add to this post as it relates to both Steve and an earlier one about “False Idols.” It follows my realization, due to my own experiences over the last couple of months and the real addiction Steve and so many others have. It’s not to alcohol, or heroin, or cocaine, but to work. Hourly, wage-earning, work. I am working for a security company. For my wife’s and my current needs, I am paid well enough hourly. I am no lawyer billing at 200-plus-dollars an hour but I am paid well enough. I am also not on salary like I was as a teacher. So, the more I work… the more I get paid. Okay, so thank you Spock and your logic, but when you put in 60 hours a week and do that a few times… holy shit! My paycheques have been great! Like, solving-financial-problems-reaching-financial-goals great! Here comes the feedback loop: a previous paycheque was good. So, I worked even more hours the next pay period. That paycheque was even better, so I worked even more the following pay period. My last paycheque was a whopper! So, guess who wants to work even more? Now, like I said, I do not bill at $200 or more and hour. But can you imagine if you were someone who did? Working 30 hours is good. You’d have a nice cheque put into your account. So, you work an even 40 hours. Your next cheque is even better, then you must help a big client with a big case and you end up putting in 50-hour weeks. Shocker! Your cheque is even better. We see where this is going. Next thing you know, you’re in competition with yourself to see how many hours you can put in during the week. 60, 70, 80, 100, and your paycheque keeps getting even bigger: huge, massive amounts of money being dumped into your account, and it looks good! It feels good! It makes the effort and sacrifice seemingly worthwhile and you are getting rich because you have no time to spend any of it!

I tell all of this to Steve. He looks at me, then says, “Yeah, but then you don’t have a f$#%ing life!” He appreciated what I had experienced: me, finally feeling that feeling, had me really starting to understand the dilemma he and many others face. I will also say that many will experience making six figures, but quickly fall into the trap of needing to make six figures to keep a lifestyle they can now afford, which puts them into a “rat race,” to quote Robert Kiyosaki. But it’s a rat race on steroids.

This lends itself to how truly impressive Steve’s transformation has been. He’s getting his life back. I took today off (first one since Christmas Day!).

Be careful of the snakes in the garden, false idols, dragons, etc. They come in many forms.

 

 

“Youths!”

“Youths!” – Schmidt (New Girl)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oC45CC1s-0

To be 20-something again. I have been attracting attention and some goo- natured heckling from my younger co-workers at my third job: I’m the salad guy. The greens guy. The veggies guy. The health nut guy. “Look at you, you are eating so healthy” guy.

The 20-somethings are eating pizza, French fries, and tasty burgers. They also are stunned when they find out I’m 37, which, despite all my meditation, still gives my ego a boost.

The last post was about making time.  As you just read above, I mentioned this is my third job. The first was getting hired on as a personal trainer for Boston Sports Club. The second job was landing a gig as a tour guide for Dorchester Brewing Company. The third and most recent has been landing a security position with Vanguard Security, who just happens to have a contract with the new Canada Goose retail outlet in downtown Boston. So, my days Monday to Friday are split between working at the gym in the mornings and Canada Goose in the afternoons/evenings. My Saturdays are at the brewery.

This means I am putting in long days. I am generally leaving for the train before 7:00am most mornings and not getting home until after 10:00pm. So, in this post, I thought I would share how I am breaking down my day so that I can minimize my “hypocrisy” of my previous post.

The caveat I should mention is that I enjoy everything I am doing. Compared to working in the factory or gym-teaching, nothing I am doing feels like actual work. I like making people physically suffer at the gym. I like talking about the history (“According to Glenn”) of beer. And I am relishing the opportunity to practice my observational and verbal judo skills, which is much easier said than done.  But I am – despite the schedule and the demands from my clients and managers for my time – the master of my day.

Every day I am working at the gym. I may not always work out, but I hit the sauna for 20 minutes and grab a shower. I do my Wim Hof breathing almost every day.  I do not work out every day, but I do get 2-3 good workouts in that are high intensity and last no more the 20 minutes. Then, I go to the Prudential Centre. Every day that I am working at Canada Goose I stop at the grocery store. There, I shop for my day. What do I buy? I buy mixed nuts, and/or broccoli salads and/or deviled eggs, and/or sushi, and/or tabouli, and/or coleslaw, and/or Greek salad, and/or (I hope you get the idea). I am not buying crap.  Usually, I’ll buy 2 items from the list I just created, then I go and drop it off at CG. This is when I will go to Barnes and Noble and grab a coffee and read a book. When it is time to start my afternoon shift, I walk to CG. Because most days I practice intermittent fasting, I will generally wait till my first break to eat my first meal, but sometimes I will eat at Barnes and Noble.

I will admit I am spending a little bit more than I otherwise would if I was home and prepping my salads at home. But I am not spending more than the 20-somethings who are also buying their food at the mall, but are eating very differently from myself.

Some of us are on the go, some of us are not home that much, some of us have roommates who may or may not be disasters in the kitchen, so you may or may not be able to utilize your kitchen to its fullest. You may be eating out a lot. This is okay if we recognize that it will still come down to choice and making good eating your priority. I do, and am completely fine, with being good naturedly teased for it. I am eating just as good, if not better now, than ever before because of the quality and selection of nutritionally rich foods at the Star Market.

I hope briefly sharing what I am doing to still prioritize my health, despite also living the American dream of working 3 jobs, provides some value and helps you do the same.

 

 

 

 

False Idols

KIRK: Sulu. When did he find the time to have a family?
SCOTT: Well, like you always say, if something’s important, you’ll make the time.

  • Star Trek Generations

This is not the first time you have heard that, I am sure (well, maybe the Star Trek reference is), but the point is the same: with most things in life, you will never find the time, mainly because you can’t find time. It’s right there, as abstract as it is, all round you, flowing. Let’s be honest; you have never “found the time” to do anything in your life. You made the time. We all have the same number of hours and minutes in the day. Even daylight savings doesn’t create any real time travel for us.

Some of us are super busy; some more than others. Some of us work insane hours, some of us have kids, some of us are retired, but our hobbies and volunteering might have us busier now than we were when we were working. Some of us might be students, and some might be between jobs. But I think you will find examples in every stratum of those, despite the demands on their time, who still make the time for themselves to eat well and train.

I don’t want this to be a lecture, but I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and as tends to happen when I do, someone, somewhere posts something I can read and incorporate.

This popped up on my MSN homepage: “6 American Work Habits Other Countries Avoid at all Cost.”

I am not a religious lad, but I’ve read the good books and I don’t think you need to be a biblical scholar to know that the first handful of commandments are about idolatry. They also go beyond just stomping out pagan superstitions, but apply to any false dragon you might be chasing; in this case, work, money, financial success, etc. – which are important. We need these things to live and, to a certain extent, to have a level of purpose and happiness. But as I tease on my brewery tours when I get to the conversation about hops and the American craft beer revolution, just because X is good, it does not necessarily follow that more of X is better. Working is good for us, but too much is killing us. There is a lot to be said for the Calvinists and the “Protestant work ethic,” but we may be taking it too far in one particular direction and missing the entirety of its point.

Here is the list of habits the rest of the world is doing its best to avoid.

AMERICANS WORK CRAZY LONG HOURS
THEY HARDLY EVER GO ON VACATION
AND THEY BARELY TAKE ANY FAMILY LEAVE, EITHER
AMERICANS TEND TO EAT AT THEIR DESKS
AMERICANS SELDOM TAKE BREAKS DURING THE DAY
AND THEY SEND EMAILS AFTER WORK HOURS

https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/career/6-american-work-habits-other-countries-avoid-at-all-costs/ss-BBF2Eyk?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=mailsignout#image=1

Naturally, we are not all guilty of this, but too many are, and it shows in the country that may have the most material and financial wealth, but also leads the way in depression, obesity (except for Australians), diabetes, heart disease, and the list goes on.

We’re not happy! We’re not healthy! So, are we really that wealthy?

It is my not-so-humble opinion that in as much as it is important to do a good job and take pride in ones’ work, as my grandfather and father would say, “If you are going to do it, do it right the first time, or don’t do it all” (yes, I have misapplied that at times to “youthful exuberances”😊).  But have we maybe taken this too far in worshipping the Type A personality? The workaholic? The Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank entrepreneur who is smashing out 120 hours a week to get their startup – their  baby – off the ground?

Here in the States, and the rest of the world, pilots and truck drivers are legally limited in how many hours they fly or drive. This is because when they exceed this number, statistically speaking, the odds of screwing up and/or falling asleep (and therefore screwing up) go way up. But the very same doctors who lead the way in imposing this don’t practice what they preach. American doctors work the most number of hours (80-100+ hours) a week compared to their counterparts/colleagues in other countries. Would you be surprised to learn that they have the highest rates of malpractice lawsuits, and therefore have the highest rates of malpractice insurance out of anybody? It can’t be they continually hit the wall against their “God complexes,” could it? I won’t accuse every doctor of having a God complex. But to think you are retaining, never mind learning, anything after a 100+ hours a week in med school and think you are able to perform that quadruple bypass after the same number of hours in the week is a little naïve, don’t you think?

So, if we know pilots and truck drivers’ performance topples after so many hours, is it not fair to ask yourself the same question of your own performance? When does working so many hours create diminished returns? As in, you’re now just wasting your time.

I want you to be productive and successful, but I also want you to be healthy and happy. So, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, maybe reflection; how can you make the time to pursue, and achieve, what is really important to you?

It’s not all about the Food.

The goal of this blog has always been to help educate on both training and diet, along with other ideas, tips and hacks for a happy, healthy, physically fit way of life. Topics I haven’t talked much about are the value of friendships and what is a real silent villain in the story: stress.

We know stress is bad.  We know modern living, for the most part, is not helping. For some, depending on their circumstances, choice of vocation, etc., it’s making it worse. At this point you would have to be living under a rock to also not know that as connected as we are digitally with social media, many have never been, or felt, so alone.

I was in the sauna a couple days ago (I have a great new routine at work now, but that is for another post). One of our members is originally from the Dominican Republic, but has been in Boston for 20-plus years now. His name is Pedro, and he is a warm, friendly lad in his early 50s, and as he enters, I take the opportunity to practice what little Spanish I can still speak from my Puerto Rico days to say hello and ask him how he and his family are doing.

“Buenos días, señor! Cómo estás? Cómo está la familia?”

Pedro: “Not so good today.”

Me: “Oh no, señor, I am sorry to hear that. How come?”

Pedro: “My father passed away yesterday. I will be flying tomorrow to go back to be there.”

Me: “Ah! I am really sorry to hear that. May I ask how old he was?”

Pedro: “We think he was 112 years old. But he might have been older.”

Me and the Lad sitting beside me: 112! What was he doing!?

Pedro: “He might be older because back then, some tax laws in the DR forced many to delay in getting their children their birth certificates. Many wouldn’t get one until they were almost teenagers.”

Us: “So… wait. He could be older?! Can we ask what he ate?!”

Pedro: “Dominican food, I guess.” (Dominicans consume a lot of rice and beans and fried food. It is delicious, but not necessarily what I would be advertising as the way to go. But they also consume a lot of fresh fruit and coconut and generally consume far less processed food.)

Me and the other lad: “What else was he doing?”

There is a glint in Pedro’s eyes: “My father loved women!  With him and my mom, I am the youngest of 6. From a previous wife, 18.”

Me and the Lad: “……Wow…. that’s a lot of kids!”

Pedro: “Yes, and we all have children and many of them have children, and so on.”

Me: “So, he’s like a great-great-great-grandfather.”

Pedro: “Yes, many grandchildren visit him all the time.”

Me and the lad: “What else was he doing?!”

Pedro: “You know the game, Dominos? Very popular where I grew up.”

Us: “Yeah, we’ve heard of it.”

Pedro: “Well, he played that with his friends every afternoon. He’d have to walk 5 kilometers into town to play, and then after he played and enjoyed his cigar and some wine, he’d walk back. You see, I am Mormon. I don’t drink.  I also don’t smoke, but my father, he loves the good tobacco and the Mama Juana.”

“But many of us were concerned about him walking because it can be so dangerous there.”

You think the drivers where you are from are crazy here in North America? In other places, they are nuts! I’ve seen it! So, I could believe it when he said that their drivers are not punished the same way, if at all, so as pedestrians you must be very aware and careful not to get hit when crossing.

I will spare you all the science because there is already so much of it out there and many studies have been done on these key topics, but after hearing this story, I was able to look at the young guy next to me and say, “This guy was doing a lot of things right!”

We gave Pedro our condolences one more time and wished a safe flight as he left the sauna to get on with his day. But I did look at the lad and say, “Wow… his father was doing a lot of things right, and really enjoying himself.”

There is something, when it comes to enjoying a long, healthy life that, by far, has proven to be the key: a very robust and enjoyable social life. He played Dominos every day with his buddies and he had a whole host of children and grandchildren always visiting. He faced death on the road every day, which means he had to keep his wits about him; be in the moment and be very aware of his surroundings. He walked 10 kilometers every day, which would have been low impact, but it kept him moving and active. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it! He always moved. He also clearly was having a lot of sex in his life, and I don’t have to go into the details of how beneficial that is and how sex deprived we, in the west, are (and it shows).

He also had very little stress. We know what stress does to us, and I have written in the past about how exercise and meditation (especially meditation) helps mitigate and reduce it effects. It certainly helps when you are retired, but he allowed himself the pleasures of life without going to excess. He was not a pack or two-pack-a day-smoker of cigarettes, nor an alcoholic. He enjoyed quality tobacco and a couple glasses of his Mama Juana. We also know walking and movement helps produce BDNF in our brains, which helps us feel good. And while we are on the subject about juices in the brain, family and friends, and having that sense of belonging and kinship, produces all kinds of the feel-good juices in our brain (oxytocin and dopamine, to name the big ones).

Across the board, what researchers find when they look at centurions from around the world, is that centurions have these very simple things in common: they love, and are loved. They laugh. They enjoy themselves. They love life.

I don’t think you need a PhD in clinical psychology to realize what was Pedro’s father’s very non-secret-secret to what was clearly a long, joyful life.

Pass Me the Gravy!

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”
– Jim Davis

This is when I am supposed to tell you to eat everything in moderation on the big day, and then also be careful on Christmas.  I am also supposed to remind you that it is during the holiday season that many of us pack on the weight and then fail to lose it over the subsequent year, which is true. But I would like to try a new approach because I, myself, do not eat in moderation on Thanksgiving Day. My wife’s grandmother makes me a Pumpkin Cheesecake pie, just for me, and buys me a six pack of pumpkin beer every year. I eat until I get the strange feeling that I might die. One day, two if you count Christmas, is not going to make you fat! It’s everything else you are doing during the month that is. I get it, there are a lot of staff parties and friend get-togethers, so it is a challenge.  But even those do not take up every day of the calendar leading up to New Year’s Day when you finally are able to relax on the eggnog and focus on your resolutions for a better lifestyle.

My suggestion is feast and famine. At least a famine of the comfort foods. Eat big or go home on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Enjoy the leftovers as well. But on the days in between the staff and family get-togethers, focus on vegetables. You can even incorporate some intermittent fasting. Earn the big days and enjoy them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bread is Not a Food Group!

Bread is Not a Food Group!

Neither is pasta, rice, or pizza, or anything else we have misidentified as a carbohydrate. Wait, we did identify them correctly as carbohydrates, that is all they are made of or full of! But thanks to the bodybuilding and gym industrial complex, nobody knows anything about their food except for being able to say carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Every food has a little bit of all three (along with lots of other important stuff), just to varying degrees, like grain that is used in bread is (my best guess) 90% carbohydrate. Only 30% of a delicious sirloin is protein. So, I find myself amused that our vernacular has changed from saying meat, or steak, or fish… to protein. You know bro-science has taken a giant leap into the pop culture when you hear a soccer mom saying, “I need some protein!” Not “I’d like a piece of tenderloin steak with my salad, please!”

Here is my issue with the whole damn food pyramid and the how and the why it has set up so many of us for failure. Grains are a flipping seed! How did some very intelligent people say you should have 10-12 servings of grains (bread) and only a small handful of nuts and seeds? Grains are flipping seeds!

Because of this initial fallacy (thank you lobbyists), we treat man-made foods (breads and pastas) as their own food group and have seriously confused the sources of both our macro and micro nutrients. I have been doing some reading and it turns out that we can, in fact, eat the various cereal grains. When we pick them directly from the stock it is just fine. Here is why, and at the same time, a glimpse of what I share with customers when I give my tours at the brewery I work for. You see, the barley, quinoa, wheats, etc., that grow wildly can only be stored for about six months. They contain a decent amount of protein and other nutrients that our body thrives on. But when we first adapted to the grasslands of the savannahs and fertile crescent, we couldn’t mass harvest these seeds. We basically picked them by hand like everything else. If you have ever been dragged to a farm to pick your own berries by your mum in the spirit of teaching you a good work ethic, you will now know what I’m talking about when I say it takes a long time to pick a kilogram’s worth of berries. The same is true of the cereal grains. I would guess it would take you all day to pick the amount of calories worth of grain that you can get in a 480-calorie, old-fashioned glazed donut from Tim Horton’s (or Dunkin’ Donuts).

Hard to overindulge and get hyper fat and malnourished when one incorporates the manual labour involved.

Now let’s look at what is on your grocery store shelf. The breads and other products have been so highly refined, bleached white, etc., that they are designed to be stored for a hell of a lot longer (I’ve heard 30 years). The process of refining these grains, for store shelf products, strips all the nutrients from them that made them so valuable to our ancestors in the first place. All that basically remains is the carbohydrate. If you treat these man-made foods as their own food group, you will certainly cover your carbohydrate needs as a macro nutrient, but nothing else and you fulfill that carbohydrate need in over-abundance.

What we forget is that vegetables, fruits, and meat have carbs in them as well! Remember, a piece of steak is only approximately 30% protein. So, what is the rest of it made of? If it’s grass-fed beef, it is full of pretty much everything else your body needs that is healthy, which includes some carbohydrate.

Same with cabbage, spinach, broccoli and pretty much every other vegetable. Not only do they contain decent quantities of proteins, all the vitamins and minerals, as well as all the phyto nutrients and polyphenols we are only now starting to understand, they also contain some carbohydrates.

Now, after hearing all of this, does it not just make sense to get our energy from the foods that are the most nutrient-rich? As opposed to the nutrient-stripped slices of bread or bowtie pasta? Hence the term “empty calorie.”

So here is what I would recommend. Look at the food pyramid and see where they put nuts and seeds (it’s near the top) and consider the cereal grains as part of that category. The next step is to consider the source. You can buy the unrefined cereal grains at Whole Foods or other grocery stores, but as stated above, treat it like every other nut and seed and you will quickly discover that you will only need a quarter to half cup of these cereal grains, such as quinoa or einkorn, to meet your nutrient needs while keeping the calories down. Just because they are better for you in their natural state does not mean you get to eat it by the pound. Remember the berry picking.

A Pound a Week

“If you believe that weight loss requires self-deprivation, I’m going to teach you otherwise.”    –  Robert Atkins

“You know what the secret to weight loss is? Don’t eat much.” –  Simon Cowell

I have another line for Alanis Morrissette’s “Ironic” song…  It’s like I go to the gym to work out and exercise, but I take the elevator to get to the third floor where the squat racks are. It’s like going to the gym to train my muscles, burn a few calories and work real hard, but be too lazy to put back the weights I used…

Okay, I’m done venting, but I gotta tell ya… people can be weird. Or maybe not weird…. No! NO! That IS weird! How does anybody think that is okay? So here is my PDA/Bro Science announcement: If you take weights off a rack and use them, have the decency to put them back! It’s a gym with a gazillion members who use those weights, too. This ain’t your own personal total gym that you keep under the bed and never use. We use this stuff too! Put it back!

Okay… thanks for listening! I needed to get that off my chest, and apparently, it’s not good customer relations to shout at the 20, 30, 40, and 50 somethings like I used to when I had an 11, or 12, or 13-year-olds do something stupid. So, I, or one of my colleagues, put the weights back and we joke about it and laugh at the irony that the guy who can bench press 350 lbs. can’t put the 45’s back that he used for a super set.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I would like to discuss what I’ve been thinking about lately. I don’t have all the answers, but hear me out on this one: there is this idea, and maybe it is a legitimate one, that you should not lose weight too quickly. You should aim for only losing a pound or two a week. Then, in personal trainer school, we learn about calories and counting calories and then we talk about how, if a client wants to lose weight, he or she should reduce the number of calories they are taking in each day by like 500. 500 over 7 days gives you 3500 calories, which is the amount of energy stored in a pound of fat, and… bingo! You are now consuming one less pound of calories a week and therefore will lose that off your midsection, and therefore will weigh one less pound next week. What’s that you say, sir? You want to lose 20 lbs.? No problem! We are going to do this then for… 20 weeks.

I suppose if we base all of this on first-grader math, it might, on the surface, kinda sorta make sense. And be a great way to avoid the yo-yo dieting and weight loss, and then weight gain, that so many people fall victim to. But did anybody ask the guy who yo-yoed in weight what he did so right, and then so wrong? It’s rhetorical; he stopped eating right and went back to his old ways thinking that since he had reached his goal, he was now allowed to go back to eating whatever he wanted, as much as he wanted, and all would be right with the world. (Yes, we, as humans, can be – and are – this stupid!)

Here are my issues with what they teach in Gym Teacher School:  Firstly, this whole calorie counting and BMI, etc., is that in the real world… NOBODY KNOWS! 30,000 years ago, my ancestor had no idea how many calories was in that pound of mastodon meat. He didn’t know what a calorie was. He ate everything and anything that didn’t kill him. They would eat till they felt full/satisfied and then they chilled out until they got hungry again. They also weren’t very fat. But we are talking about my ancestor in Ice Age Europe, so by this time in the evolutionary timeline, my guy was likely carrying a slightly higher percentage of body fat on him than my friends in sub-Saharan Africa (Guinea).

Trying to estimate calorie intake (although possible, thanks to science and websites and stuff) is not the best way to go. Nor is taking that said guestimation and then trying to have your client reduce X by, oh, say 500 calories, so that you get his/her new daily calorie intake to be X-500. It’s shoddy math and overly simplistic, which then misses how truly complicated our metabolism is and how simply reducing the intake of the wrong food is not really going to solve your problem. Bad food is bad food no matter how much you have.

The next dilemma we need to sort out is the misunderstanding of what a fat person is. Just because he is fat does not mean he is a Hercules underneath it all who just needs to be sculpted like the Statue David. His excess body weight does not mean that every time he/she moves he/she is getting this great muscular workout. It’s just the opposite; their metabolism is both so badly broken and so nutrient-deficient that they are, in fact, malnourished. Under all that fat lies the body comparable to a survivor of a Japanese or German internment camp from World War Two. They are, in fact, starving. This is also why in the outset of starting an exercise program, it is so challenging. They have a lot of weight to move and no muscle to move it.

So, the question I pose is: would it not just make sense to stop eating the crap? Eat lots of veggies, maybe some meat, berries, and the whole array of nutritionally rich foods. Eat as much as you want of these foods. Stop being malnourished and allow your body to drop the fat as quickly as it needs/wants to. In a previous post, I talked about my fajita story in Puerto Rico where once I dropped the shell, I leaned up very quickly. My last post was about Mr. Clark losing 20-plus pounds within a month. But because all he ate was what we are supposed to be eating… he looked better than ever. Not starved. Not malnourished, but the opposite: highly nourished.

The conclusion I have, based on hard empirical data, is this: if you eat what you are meant to eat, train, or run, or dance, or do burpees in a way that is, more or less, in accordance with how we used to move and hunt and fish and gather veggies or berries or run from that damn lion… your body will make the appropriate changes to look, feel, and function the way nature always intended it to. For some of us, this will happen quickly. For others, less quickly, but changes will occur all the same. You will also be dead damn sexy! Just as mother nature intended.

Now, go crush a workout! Eat lots of vegetables, and put your damn weights back when you’re done!

“I remember where I put my keys!”

“Uncle Teddy:   [from jail cell] Lost another 5 pounds. 83 so far.
Tommy Gavin: Wow.
Uncle Teddy:    Yeah, this Murder One diet is the way to go. ”
-Rescue  Me

I have been working the last 6 weeks at a gym called Boston Sports Club. Since I am currently working for someone else, it would be wise of me not to point out the pitfalls of large corporate gyms or trash talk any members. The good news so far (only sucking up a little) is that the pitfalls are not so bad and, actually, the members we have (for the most part) are awesome. So, I won’t go on about the kid who was doing partial squats with weight that was clearly too heavy for him, and when I politely corrected him and suggested less weight and deeper, fuller range of motion squats, his response was, “Thanks, dude, but it was like our eighth set!” I said, “It could have been your hundredth; all I care about is if you’re going to do it, do it correctly.” I won’t, in this post, get into why the hell anyone would think 8 sets is a good idea. There are exceptions (powerlifters), but even that might be excessive. Why would we do 8 when 1 set, done correctly, done safely, and done with the right amount of soul crushing, intensity is all you need?

I won’t be able to reach or save everyone, even with a captive gym audience. Fortunately, many don’t need saving. They are there! They are training and I have noticed one particularly cool trick several of our members use to help them make sure they get there. These members are coming in on their way to work in the mornings. Many just come in to drop off their gear, but some even take their showers at our facility and prepare for work in the morning at our gym. Then they go to work. After work, they come back to work out because everything they need for the gym is already there waiting for them. (Brilliant!)

But here is the story I really wanted to share in this post: One of my colleagues is the personal trainer to actor/comedian Lenny Clarke. He’s been a working comedian and actor for years, and the role that you might know him best for would be as Uncle Teddy from the show, Rescue Me. Now, believe me; if you saw the show, and then saw him now, you’d barely recognize him. He’s worked hard to get where he is, but that’s still not the story I want to share.

Mr. Clarke disappeared for a month or so. I figured he was off working and shooting scenes or something. But this morning, I see this gentlemen wearing a bright red shirt, that says Banff with a Maple leaf, training with my colleague. Turns out, I’m not the only Canadian in Boston, so I thought I’d walk up and give this new Canuck a hard time and tease my colleague to double whatever he had planned. It wasn’t some random Canuck, it was Lenny! (Who is not Canadian, for the record; he just visited there.) I didn’t recognize him until I got up close. In just 40 days, he went from weighing 214 down to 191. We say our hellos and how have you been, and I ask, “What did you do to lose that much weight!?” He quick tells me, but they’re in the session so we keep it short and I go back to work.

Here’s where it gets great! I’m at the front desk with another colleague as we check in members, and now that he is done his session and getting ready to leave, I ask him for more details.

“Glenn, we were only allowed 8 ounces of meat/protein twice a day with a cup of vegetables. We could snack all day, but only vegetables. No super starchy veggies, so even zucchini was out. But cucumber, carrots, celery… all that stuff! A lot of cabbage! It wasn’t until I’d been there a couple weeks that they said I could put some spicy mustard on my cabbage. And hey, let me tell ya: it’s hard to eat a lot of that stuff! It fills you up!” (The quote is not exact. Writing this, 9 hours after the conversation, I can’t help but have Uncle Teddy in my head as he is saying this.)

Here is what I wanted to know: I say, “Lenny, a lot of those vegetables are rich in nutrients and sulfur, especially the cabbage. Cabbage is rich in sulfur and that’s good for the brain. I got to ask, how did your brain feel?” (Okay, I’m no lawyer, but I did know the answer before I asked it.)

“Glenn! I feel great! I remember things! I remember where I put my keys! I remember things I talked about with buddies months ago! Months ago! I remember stuff!” (Side note: I teased him about being in a Buddha state… there was definitely something in his eyes that screamed a rejuvenated, youthful aliveness and alertness.)

“I’ve got energy and I don’t get that… that brain fog.”

“Glenn, I got to tell ya – I did this to look better! But now I feel better! So much better!”

That’s the recipe! Two meals. 8 ounces of beef, chicken, fish, eggs, etc., and a cup of vegetables. I’ll confirm with him as I see him more often at the gym, but I can imagine the veggies could be raw, steamed, stir-fried, or grilled. And the rest of the day, you can snack and eat when you are hungry, just so long as it is veggies. Cabbage.

Is there really any simpler way to eat right and lose the fat? Nope! (Maybe I should have been a lawyer.) But it’s not easy. He had to go on a retreat (New England Fat Loss) to make it happen. And, alas, many members who do come to the gym are only working with half the equation. They are coming to the gym, they are training, but 7 weeks, since I have been hired, most have not changed their body compositions. They are still overweight. They still have not mastered the second, and most important, half of the equation: eating nutrient-rich foods and not the crap.

My colleagues and I are, and will, continue the never-ending endeavor of trying to reach and help these members.

 

  • I asked Mr. Clarke if I could share this story via my blog as soon as he finished telling it to me. It saved me from writing a whole piece venting about 8-sets guy.

Lenny Clarke IMBD
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164873/

http://www.newenglandfatloss.com