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
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
Thursday, June 4. 2015
Friday, May 29. 2015
A book, Gary Taubes: Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
Wednesday, May 20. 2015
I often write about dietary and nutritional issues here, trying to debunk the fads, but I think anything people do to keep moving with vigor in all stages of life improves the quality and functionality of life. Physical and mental challenges, constantly.
All kinds of resistance exercises are excellent for the regular sedentary Western person to maintain posture, balance, function, bone density, and muscle mass. The challenge is that middle-aged people develop aches and pains, reminding us that Nature and maybe God never intended us to live much beyond our prime breeding ages. But, there is a need for a few wise elders. Why not be one?
What exercise cannot do, unless you are hiking the Appalachian Trail (we did it as a between-jobs extended sabbatical, before kids - Georgia to Katahdin. A crazy 5-month honeymoon of bliss, bonding, and exertion. Youthful woodland passion from hill to dale, from state to state. God saw us. Then hubbie's "garden leave" ended, we started new jobs, I got an office, life returned, and kids came. I think we created our first one towards the end of that hike and we later nicknamed him "Trail," - short for Trail Mix) is get rid of fat. Only diet can do that.
When people have young kids, they rightly neglect their own well-being. Nature demands that. After that chapter, you either rise or fall.
These are averages for average-fit people, not what might be desired. Average sizes, not lifters and hard exercisers (for ages 30-60). These rough numbers are with reps, however many one can handle (1-10):
Average fit male can bench press his weight.
Friday, May 15. 2015
Princeton ethicist: it's 'reasonable' to kill disabled newborn babies
What does 'reasonable' have to do with ethics?
Monday, May 11. 2015
Via Insty, from Starting Strength:
Exactly right. Fitness for life and postponing decline. That's my goal. A generation or two ago, most American middle-aged people were overweight, weak slugs unless they did manual labor. The cultural change has been dramatic: people avoid heavy-lifting jobs, then pay for the privilege of lifting, pushing, and pulling weights for an hour.
Saturday, May 9. 2015
Thursday, May 7. 2015
A major omission, however, is the topic of lawsuits. No physician wants to be asked on the stand something like this: "Doctor, you have testified that in your opinion Mrs. Jones had the symptoms of ordinary migraine headache and did not need an MRI. We have an expert witness who says he always orders an MRI for headaches...."
This topic gives me a headache. The fact is that rigid "best practices" combined with lawsuit avoidance diminish physicians' use of their judgement, flexibility, experience, and more.
Sunday, May 3. 2015
Saturday, April 25. 2015
Tuesday, April 21. 2015
It's not either-or. Hospitals are looking for good ratings and market share. It definitely can go to ridiculous lengths and it remains a good rule of thumb that the hospitals with the best "hotel services" are not the most medically-advanced. And sometimes the "most advanced" can get you into new problems.
Monday, April 13. 2015
Photo: I look in pretty good shape for a country boy, don't I?
Mrs. BD decided that my lazy middle-aged, sedentary-working ass needed a trainer. Well, I happily do outdoor work all I can on weekends, but there is church, theater, museum, music performances, etc...
In long-past years, I would routinely swim a mile a day racing friends, or run 5-20 miles. As I say, middle-aged lazy ass now. It's crazy, isn't it? In America, many people pay for physical exertion while, mostly, the whole world prays for work with no lifting. I love sort-of mindless physical work like ditch-digging or log splitting or chain-sawing. Mental work fatigues me.
How in this world can physical labor be a luxury good? Anybody, no matter how impaired; every person can do at least useful simple physical work and I am not talking about Steven Hawking who works 10 hrs/day.
I haven't even been playing tennis regularly since the organizer of our group died (dropped dead on the tennis court, which I said he would have always wanted, but not right then. I feel the same way, but one would feel bad to interrupt a good doubles game that way).
Anyway, Mrs. BD gave me 20 beginning sessions for Christmas with this young trainer she uses, quite inexpensive, in a hole-in-the-wall gym (not Equinox). (For presents, our family goes more for the experiential than the material.) 5 am sessions, fine with me. Get it done before work. An Ohio farm lad. He is good, cheerful, not a body-beautiful type and with just the right amount of sadism to laugh when you feel pain. He asked me what my tolerance for aching muscles was. I honestly told him that I love the feeling of physical fatigue and ache - bring it on - and only hate mental ache and worry.
Naturally, he asked me my goals. I said maintaining and improving strength, fitness, and endurance in middle age. I have no weight problem or physical problems (thus far). I can ski all day and hike up hills all day, do manual labor all day, but I do tire. My many sibs are all exercise nuts, wiry, a bit too skinny, hard-bodied, and far more fit than I am.
For no good reason I can see, Mrs. BD wants me alive so she made me get a physical and an echo stress test before starting. I avoid "physicals" like the plague, and figure every 5-7 years is just barely tolerable. Anyway, I went. Passed. I quickly found out why she wanted that. This guy said I won't need too much aerobics for a while because his fitness training plan for me will be highly aerobically stressful in itself. He does not allow rest periods and claims any endurance improvement will come from that. It's called "boot camp." Whew!
Trainer said my weight is fine, but I am soft, with some signs of age and muscle loss. Gee, thanks - but I knew that. He wants to build muscle weight and eliminate soft weight so it comes out about even. He said quit carbs and eat a hard-boiled egg, or a small plain yoghurt, or one slice of meat or 2 of cheese after hard work-outs as breakfast, to inject a little protein in the bloodstream. Nothing more. Said that was plenty for a guy doing a hard morning workout since I have mostly sitting or just walking afterwards. I guess I can handle that, altho I never have eaten any breakfast except coffee since I was a teen and do not like to eat in the morning. 2 coffees and a smoke is a perfect breakfast.
I am not a big eater at all but I am known to nibble. I can appreciate fine food but I don't need it - a small sandwich or a small bowl of soup for supper is plenty for me. I am not a carb addict other than mashed taters (in a lifetime of Dunkin Donuts, I have almost never bought one of their pastries - maybe one a year at most).
I'll confess it's a good, luxurious feeling to put part of your well-being in the hands of an expert.
Wednesday, April 8. 2015
There's a name for that: Orthorexia nervosa.
It is indeed an eating disorder which is probably related to, and often overlaps, the other eating disorders. Unlike the other eating disorders, it seems harmless enough although irrational, a waste of time, and annoying to others. A waste of effort and money too. Basically another variant of the obsessional neuroses.
Vegans, organics, gluten freaks, Whole Foods, and all that silliness.
Nobody can define healthy eating and it doesn't matter as far as we can tell. Therefore, if you worry about food we say you just need to get a life. A social life, wholesome hobbies, etc. Unless you need to lose weight for health and vigor, to prevent arthritis and diabetes, etc, that is. Does your cholesterol count matter for anything? Not at all, unless you have the genetic disease of hypercholesterolemia which is detectable early in life. In that case, you take pills, cross your fingers, and pray.
Tuesday, April 7. 2015
Wednesday, April 1. 2015
This is the sort of crap that drives docs to retirement. It's called "electronic medical records," and it is essentially government-mandated in hospitals now. It is an incredible time-waster, and almost requires physicians to follow a script instead of focusing on you. Docs used to just note relevant positives and relevant negatives quickly on a piece of paper in a minute, and then practicing the art and science of caring about you.
"Care" is not an economic term. It is not a technical term. The "medical care" experts don't get that.
Read it and weep: Please Choose One.
It's too late to keep corporate and government bureaucracy out of American medicine. We all must now just seek out physicians with the traditional, independent medical values, who work for you despite the intrusions. However, most of them will not "take insurance" anymore. They can't afford the professionally-trained billing staff.
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