We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Friday, October 2. 2015
The American lobbying and advertising Whole Grains Council has had huge success in selling their health scam. Just like Whole Foods. Food piety has two arms: the ignorant, and their commercial predators.
Enjoyment applies to OJ too. It's basically sugar with no other food value. Years ago, the Florida Citrus cabal convinced Americans that they should have it for breakfast. Tasty, but no different from a Coke. Scurvy is not a problem.
My point with my nutrition myth posts is that you should eat whatever you enjoy. If you have a weight problem or a health problem, that's another matter. Just don't pretend, for example, that an OJ is any "healthier" than a Pepsi, or brown bread is "healthier" than white bread. That is just marketing to the low-info shopper and gullibles like Michelle Obama.
We all love happy myths, do we not? The fantasy that we can control fate.
Wednesday, September 30. 2015
Sunday, September 27. 2015
I'd rather be on a flight with an EMS person than with a Dermatologist. Every person should know how to do CPR. The tricky part is knowing when it is needed. If they stop breathing and turn blue, probably yes.
People do die on airplanes, but they probably would have died anyway. Interesting factoid: airplane air has 10% lower oxygen than the air on the ground.
Tuesday, September 15. 2015
I have repeatedly insisted that a "healthy human diet" cannot be defined. As omnivores, humans can survive and thrive on many sorts of diets. Each culture has its own food biases, myths, preferences.
It is an imaginary First-world problem to obsess about food as if food were medicine, magical, or potential toxins in our civilization of revolutionary food abundance, quality, variety, safety, and flavor.
(We have discussed weight loss and physical fitness ad nauseum here, so this is not about those special nutritional areas.)
Old wive's tales, obsolete studies, superstitions, misrepresented press reports, etc. These are my own views via the literature. Do your own research if you want. This applies to otherwise relatively normal people without serious ailments:
- Coffee is bad for you. Wrong.
- You should drink X glasses of water per day. Nonsense. If you are peeing, you are hydrated.
- Beer and coffee are dehydrating. False. They are just enhanced water.
- Red meat is bad for you. Nonsense. Where did that myth come from? The Federal Chicken Board?
- Organic foods are "better for you." Zero evidence for that, but there is evidence that organic foods have fewer nutrients. Not that it matters; it is de minimus.
- You need roughage to prevent colon cancer. That is disproven. It will give you larger BMs if that is what you enjoy.
- Fruit and fruit juice is good for you. Nope, they are just flavored sugar, what I term warm popsicles. Tasty though. Fruit is just a dessert as the Italians understand, not real food. Worried about scurvy, are you? Fruits are not really healthy foods, but are good sources of sugar if you are sugar-deprived.
- Eggs are bad for you. Wrong. They are an excellent food, actually one of the few "perfect" foods (ie balances of fat, protein, and carb). A "perfect food" means you can thrive on it, alone, for a long time.
- Carbs and starches are bad. Nope. They are great foods as long as you are not dealing with a weight problem. With the egg, potato is the other "perfect" food item. Well, milk too.
- Eating fat makes you fat. Wrong. Excess carbs make people fat. Carbs, plus general gluttony.
- Three meals per day. Why? It's just a habit. For youth and manual laborers, certainly - plus snacks.
- Vegetarian diets are healthier. Utter cultish nonsense. Active humans and growing kids need plenty of good protein for normal growth and muscle maintenance and repair, which is difficult for vegetarians to obtain without extra effort and expense. Low-protein cultures generally have littler people with less strength.
- Gluten? Don't get me started.
- Salt is bad. No, it is essential for health. If you have dangerous blood pressure, take a pill.
- Vegetables and greens are "healthy." Not especially. They are just cheap, sometimes tasty, tummy-fillers. If you hate all veggies and greens (even steamed spinach with garlic), take a multivitamin once or twice a week and forget about it. Otherwise, enjoy them.
- Low cholesterol diets? There is no meaningful relation between dietary cholesterol and heart disease unless you have severe familial hypercholesterolemia in which case you take a pill and hope for the best.
- Alcohol is unhealthy. Nope, good for body, soul, and cheerful companionship if not abused.
- White vs. Brown breads, rice, and sugars? The brown thing is pure foolishness, except for flavor preferences. If you need brown rice for the microscopic protein in it, you need Food Stamps desperately. Get an EBT card and buy yourself a Big Mac.
- Fish oils are healthy. A health-food scam, same as "organic." Fatty fishes are delicious, though: shad, tuna, swordfish, trout and salmon, bluefish. Even a baked mackerel with garlic and rosemary.
- "Free range" is better. If it's a cultural, moral, or flavor thing for you, go for it if you can spare the cash. I'd like to see a blind tasting. I do hate to see animals raised in meat factories, but all animal husbandry is meat factories. Nursery schools and day care are caged meat factories too, but we don't eat the product.
Where am I in error?
Thursday, September 3. 2015
Monday, August 31. 2015
Sunday, August 30. 2015
Thursday, August 27. 2015
Yes, it is as dangerous, or more dangerous, than drunk driving
How to Stay Awake on the Road: Tips to Combat Drowsy Driving. Those are some reasonable ideas, especially the quick nap in the car or a stop with a little walk. If it's a frequent problem that you have, and you need to drive long distances often, you might persuade your doc to prescribe some low-dose amphetamine or adderal for the purpose. That's what truck drivers do. Call it "Driving Narcolepsy."
It is odd, isn't it, that when you arrive at destination you can feel just fine?
Wednesday, August 26. 2015
Thursday, August 20. 2015
I keep learning more about exercise physiology. A few thoughts:
- Strength training and cardio go hand-in-hand because without increasing strength, one can't accomplish the effort and apply the power needed for intense cardio. I do resistance 2/wk, mixed cardio-resistance 1/wk, and cardio 3/wk (that's for 2015, not forever).
- Walking, hiking, jogging, recreational biking and swimming, and most sports are not cardio exercise unless you are in cardiac rehab. They are just applications of your fitness. Of course, the whole purpose of a fitness pursuit is to have something to apply vigorously in real life. I think of it like learning math: You internalize this hard thing so you can do that other thing that you really want or need to do. Like hike up Mt. Greylock or Mt. Washington, or ski all day with good control, kayak a few miles, etc.
- Cardio workouts have to be as intense and powerful as possible. It seems that plodding along is not worth the time unless you are in your 80s or 90s. Intervals are best, probably. As the trainer said, if you can talk you aren't working it and if you are not dripping and stumbling you didn't do it.
- If you are not too fit or strong, I think difficult cardio builds some degree of strength along with the endurance and the heart challenge/stress it provides. In other words, "cardio" is not pure cardio at all for most of us ordinary schlubs.
- Around 30 minutes is enough. Many cardiologists say 20 minutes 2-3X/wk is good. I do 3X for now. When up to 30 mins, you just increase the intensity, challenge, and power-required in the same time box. That's efficient, because you have a job and a family. It's not time - it's intensity. I am at 30 mins and working on increasing difficulty, stress, and intensity each week.
- I like to mix up a cardio session to keep it interesting. As long as there are no breaks at all between things, that works to maintain an elevated heart rate and pushes the fatigue envelope to the limit. Gotta jump quick between things. I think my ideal lunatic cardio morning would be 15 mins elliptical intervals, 20 fast heavy ball smashes and 20 fast mini-squats with low-weight mil. lifts done twice, then 15 min intervals on inclined treadmill. Finish up and rest with a one-minute plank of some sort. That will leave me pooped and panting for a while, and ready for the day. I would mix in a row but it inflames my back and hip flexors the same way sit-ups do.
- When I am done, I go home and have a well-salted hard-boiled egg for breakfast. A little protein, just in case. Trainer says to have 2, but one egg is all I want. Plus coffee, an Advil, and a cigar of course. Rewards. And Mrs, BD says "Whoa - lookin' good. How do you feel?" "Tired."
Wednesday, August 19. 2015
Wednesday, August 5. 2015
To maintain fitness and conditioning from middle age onwards, there are just a few exercises that are most efficient and essential. They are efficient because, combined, they are full-body, all-muscle engagements which require balance and control, and which can eventually pretty much eliminate the need for other exercises. This applies to gals too.
If unfit, it seems that most of these need to be worked up to gradually with smaller muscle groups (eg calves, quads, curls, pull-downs) to be able to handle them with proper technique and without pulling a muscle or damaging a tendon. That's called conditioning.
I mention this topic today because I have just started with barbell squats so I am slowly getting to the full deal as I move from unfit and sort-of weak but fully-functional to borderline-fit for my age. An adventure, physically and mentally:
Plus...general fitness interval-type cardio aerobics of a great variety of fun sorts on off-days, from heavy ball smashes and throws to farmer walks to lunge walks to step-ups to squat+mil pushes to ropes to sprints (elliptical, bike, run, swim, row, etc). It doesn't need to be boring but it does need to be stressful and varied. If not stressful to the max, it's a waste of time: if you can move afterwards and are not dripping with sweat it's not tough enough to make much difference. Gasping and heart pounding for 20-30 minutes.
Lots of the exercise machines and lighter weights seem to be made just to raise you to the point that you can do a few sets of those simple, basic, demanding multi-muscle resistance exercises in a reasonable time before you go to work in the morning. For example, I can't do 20 push-ups or 10 pull-ups yet, so we try to condition the things to make that possible. Intensity, simplicity, and weights save time and money. (nb again - this is not about body-building, it's about maintaining general fitness for life for as long as possible)
This is what I am learning. I get lots of arguments from readers. Go ahead and argue with me while I begin to rediscover my 22 year-old abilities. Painful and deeply-fatiguing, but do-able over time. I know a fit 55 year-old gal who can do 35 regular pushups. She shows no muscles and looks fully trim and feminine.
Tuesday, August 4. 2015
A bit from the article:
Saturday, August 1. 2015
The ideal fitness program for those over 35 is 2-3 days of an hour of varied, intense resistance work and 2-3 days of 25-40 minutes of focused cardio/endurance work. That's all it takes. This will keep you going strong and looking good until everything finally breaks down and you throw in the towel on vigorous life and write your wills, get a trust and estates lawyer, and set things up to await the grim reaper.
Plus, of course, your usual sports activities and Yoga, shopping, work, hiking, jogging, casual bicycling, swimming, sex, whatever which are fun but of no health benefit. (People with physical jobs don't necessarily need this stuff.)
We mentioned in the past that, except for the elderly (over 78-80 in the US these days) or those with serious cardiac or pulmonary problems, walking, fast walking, comfortable elliptical or biking, do nothing at all to improve fitness or to burn fat. For the otherwise healthy, I consider those to be little more than anorectic rituals or wholesome entertainment.
Cardio can be boring as heck. My cardio exercises use intervals to keep it interesting. Here's an interval program that even cardio-hating people can stick with because it mixes variety with challenges: A Way to Get Fit and Also Have Fun:
Their research showed that many do not stick with a prescribed program, making it all useless. Lazy does not work. To add interest, I rotate this sort of thing from bike to elliptical to rower with minimal rest in between. Depending on my free time, I quit it all after 30-40 minutes.
Wednesday, July 29. 2015
Back exercises are the best things for posture, generally. Dead lifts, especially. Not a bad idea to stick a post-it on your desk saying what your Mom said at the dining room table: "Sit up straight with your shoulders back." (She also always said "Stand up straight like a soldier.")
A few links on the topic:
You probably spend hours in front of a computer every day—so make sure you’re doing it right
Working Out Isn't Enough: Advice for Desk Workers
Sunday, July 26. 2015
I am no expert, so take with two grains of salt - it is just what I have learned. This is regarding maintaining recreational fitness, ie "Ordinary Fitness for Life" - not serious athletic training or serious muscle-building.
Below average = "weak." Nobody, male or female, wants to be weak or below average. Average is good for a starting target or even an endpoint (Average fitness is my personal endpoint). This isn't about body-building but just about maintaining good, versatile functionality in youth, or later despite aging. These things are not a complete fitness program by any means, just a few rough indices of average American decent fitness because they involve so much of one's physicality.
- Fitness entails, requires, not being fat. Nobody needs a silly BMI to know when they have unpleasant and unnecessary flab. You can feel it with your hands. Lard slows us down with everything in life because our hearts are forced to pump blood though it when we have other things to do. It's dietary.
- An average fit woman can expect to deadlift 100 percent of her body weight. Average fit males can deadlift roughly 150 percent of their body weight.
- Barbell squats for leg and core strength are roughly the same as above. (For me now, three sets of 25 deep squats without weights is challenging, and torture with plain kettlebells or clasping a heavy ball. I like to do squats combined with light dumbbell military lifts. A full-body engagement but not stressful enough for my fitness trainer who considers it an exercise for nursing homes. I doubt that I will ever get to dumbell squats, but who knows? I may die first.)
- The average fit male should eventually be able to bench press 1 x body weight for a solid set - or at least once. Average fit female can press around 80-100 lbs. They say it's good for boob-fitness too.
- For push-ups, the average fit male can do 25-40. The average fit female can do 20-25 knee-push-ups. (Many exercise trainers feel knee pushups for women are worthless). Push-ups are about muscle endurance, not so much strength. Lots of people do them as part of their morning or bedtime rituals. (I have trouble doing them due to an old right shoulder injury - once body surfing, and again skiing, and then I totally destroyed it for good doing flies. Every middle-aged person has a handicap or two if they have lived life off the chair or sofa, but it's no reason to give up on vigor)
- An average fit person can run a mile in ten minutes or less without dying.
- Elbow Planks - A core exercise. Fit men and women can do 2 minutes or more. My boss puts weight plates on my back to save time. Sheesh. More weight, dude. I can do it. Why not just jump on my back? Sweat drips. I alternate with push-up-style planks and sometimes with one-handed planks.
Physical conditioning is humbling for the middle-aged. Age, joint issues, and body type alter things, eg short people with short arms have shorter and thus larger muscles and can naturally bench more than lanky people - and often average people over 55 need lowered expectations.
In the end, I guess you use good form, do what you can do, and build up from there without obsessing about the numbers as long as they improve. As I said, conditioning is not all resistance, but without rigorous muscle work you can't do all of the other exercises to the max, or all of life as vigorously as one might like. The goal is to maximize ordinary life and your ordinary recreational sports. I assume most of our interested readers do some sports, but perhaps not. Exercise is for life utility. If your day job is physical, lucky you. All of our day jobs were physical a generation or two or three ago, females included.
Your views and opinions welcome -
Wednesday, July 22. 2015
Many Americans tend to overeat.
The experience of food satiety is mediated by a variety of physiologic signals, psychological states, and cultural factors, and some of that signaling may have some genetic tendencies. However, it is my experience that the main causes of overconsumption are three simple things: the ready availability of tasty carb things (unresisted temptation), feeding+sitting as recreation, and ignoring satiety. By the latter, I mean not paying attention to when enough is enough. In our world, there is always more, and gluttony, eating until "full," makes no sense at all on a routine basis.
In other words, ignoring your body's "enough" signals instead of one's maximum stretched stomach capacity. Some people will consume whatever is put in front of them regardless of hunger, while some will only consume until they sense that they have had enough. The former two are the buffet-killers while the latter do not consume their cost of the buffet. Living in a world of food abundance has a downside but nobody would choose the alternative.
I have found that overweight people can be easily trained to identify satiety if they want to. We know a few things about this:
1. Protein seems to trigger satiety best.
2. Fast eaters tend to ignore their satiety signals far more than slower eaters. That's why it's called piggish.
3. Food impairs mental alertness and physical capacity for a while so it's best not to eat for a couple of hours before exertion. Hydration is necessary, though. If at your ideal weight or underweight, a little carbs an hour before difficult exertion is a good idea. After heavy resistance work, a little protein, or a regular meal if at target weight, is an ok idea.
Tuesday, July 21. 2015
Reposted by popular request. If the reader is strong, fit for most physical challenges in life, and in good shape, then this is all irrelevant and should be ignored.
- Weight loss is mostly a separate subject from physical fitness training. Adipose tissue (fat, the revolting yellow lard that burdens your body and heart especially, and drives surgeons nuts by makes their scalpels greasy and slippery) is very easy to accumulate and difficult to burn off. It's like the opposite of money.
- Your energy storage consists mainly of carbs stored as sugar (glycogen - the petty cash drawer of energy) and carbs converted into sugar and then into fat if the sugar isn't burned right away (the long-term investment which is more difficult to access and burn). It's been calculated that the average Western citizen has enough stored energy to walk 600-1000 miles. A gift of evolution.
- To burn fat as fuel, you have to restrict sugar (ie, carbs). The resulting condition is known as ketosis, and can make your breath smell funny. It is thought that your body can speed up its ability to mobilize fat as an energy source, when carb-limited.
- There is a myth about good carbs and bad carbs. This really only applies to diabetics. All dietary carbs are converted to sugar, even potatoes. That's why all the talk about dietary sugar itself is nonsense. We've all seen people have a Splenda in their coffee with their whole wheat bagel. Are you kidding me? A little sugar is 10 calories and the bagel is 300 calories. Many people do not understand that all carbs become sugar during digestion. Yes, even brown rice and whole wheat bread. If you need the microscopic amount of protein in them you are in real trouble.
-To attain a target weight, you have to restrict but not totally eliminate carbs from the diet. One or two slices of bread and one apple is plenty of daily carbs for a weight loss program, along with the relatively small amount of carbs in vegetables.
- As I have posted in the past, exercise, especially intense exertion, has numerous health and life benefits but is an ineffective way to try lose fat without the primary dietary component. The reason is that the body burns carbs preferentially. It's easier for it to do. The body is set up to protect its long-term investment in case of starvation conditions and it is happy to store as much as you will offer it. It's a sponge.
- In middle age, metabolism slows for both men and women. Menopause, especially. Caloric needs drop substantially regardless of activity level. Accumulating fat becomes easier, and getting rid of it becomes more difficult. Best just not to accumulate it.
- It is true that, the minute your feeling of hunger goes away, you have probably had enough to eat. Also true that, in the prosperous Western world, feeding has become a recreation, an event, or a self-soothing therapy or a cure for boredom, and a clockwork routine, and both hunger and satiety signals are thrown to the winds. For example, many sedentary people will eat a lunch simply "because it's lunchtime."
- It is also true that intense daily exercise reduces appetite in most people. It has to be intense, though.
- The less you eat, the more your stomach shrinks and thus the quicker you are satisfied. If you pay attention to it, that is.
Now to fitness, not weight loss
- As for physical conditioning (but not for weight loss), it is true that anything beyond full-day sedentary is good. Maintaining mobility and ordinary functionality is a good thing. Use it or lose it. The more activity demands you put on yourself during the day, of any sort, the better off you will be.
- To maintain good conditioning in middle age and later age requires either day-long physical labor or a more compact, more intense, daily or every other day effort and commitment for those whose lives are basically sedentary. That is most of us in our luxurious, decadent era. (Walking around counts as sedentary as does weekend sports or yard work.) Otherwise, there will be more physical deterioration than we want.
- I agree with all who say that serious weight training is the best way to do that. I agree that intense weight training and high-intensity aerobics are the most efficient ways to improve or maintain physical conditioning at any age.
- a physically-stressful weight training program requires some protein for muscle repair and construction. It doesn't require very much, but it requires some small amounts during the day. A whole steak or fish filet is not necessary, but an egg or one slice of meat 3 or 4 times daily is plenty sufficient protein for a demanding program. Adult humans do not need much protein - except for pleasure.
- It is true that light, high-rep workouts and non-intense aerobics (meaning if you can breathe relatively comfortably) have minimal benefits, but they do make people feel good, reduce anxiety, and help with sleep. That counts for something. Better than nothing.
- Being fit will likely not extend your life, but could make it more pleasant, energetic, and functional. It will make you more attractive too.
- It has become clear to me that fitness and fatness is a class- and culture-related topic. In the US, poor people tend to be fatter and less active. I don't know why that is. For what's it is worth, Pres. Obama does a tough workout for an hour each morning with a trainer before he does anything else. So did Bush. Good examples for those of us who sit on our behinds most of the day to earn a living.
- Gluttony is a sin, deadly spiritually and literally like lust. Prosperous Romans ate until over-full, puked in the vomitorium, then went at it again. For fun. Their slaves were healthier than the patricians. Adult people do not need much food to be healthy and strong. On the other hand, fitness is a secular, esthetic, and practical virtue. I have never been able to think of my body as a temple but it sure comes in handy.
- Why are Americans overweight? Cheap food, habit, hedonism, TV, internet, prosperity, machines, minimal hard work to be done. It's no mystery.
A fairly good piece on the physiology: Fat Metabolism During Exercise: New Concepts
Thursday, July 16. 2015
Tuesday, July 14. 2015
And it is driving doctors crazy and wasting their time: Death By Documentation
Nobody goes into medicine to do paperwork, to be bossed, or to be a rule-follower. Quite the opposite historically, but the new breed seems more submissive and less defiant.
Monday, July 6. 2015
Sunday, June 28. 2015
It is true that blood cholesterol has nothing to do with arterial disease or heart disease but you can still find physicians checking peoples' cholesterol. I take my Lipitor not for trigycerides but because it seems to prevent heart attacks by some other kind of magic.
Medical and non-medical erroneous or pseudoscientific enthusiasms can last a generation because they infect the culture. Red meat and salt-avoidance, for examples. The 8 Stages of Scam
I recently saw a relative get into big trouble by believing the old "salt is bad" admonition. Skepticism is the best default setting in life.
Tuesday, June 16. 2015
Effortful physical exertion has many benefits (not walking or slow jogging, but heavy exertion) and should be pursued by anybody who desires to stay fit, but weight loss can only be achieved via diet. That means no carbs. It is settled science...
We take it for granted today, but it is an astonishing fact that, at least in the Western world, one of our challenges is dealing with too much cheap good high-caloric food. For regular folks, that's a first in human history.
Wednesday, June 10. 2015
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