No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Foundations

Posted by Ben on Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Last time (and several times before), I talked about the importance of warming up and easing into a workout/program/lifestyle rather than blindly jumping in with both feet. As I’ve been reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, I’ve been presented with some compelling reasoning that suggests our country suffers from a mass(ive) eating disorder, largely because we as a whole lack a common culinary tradition. Mass media (and the people who take it as gospel) *tsk-tsk* other countries and cultures that supposedly eat unhealthily based on what science tell us, yet these other peoples are far healthier and happier than us. How can people who eat seemingly high levels of saturated fat or maybe drink seemingly high levels of alcohol possibly be healthier than a society whose gastronomic tendencies are rooted in the infallability of science? Because that’s how they’ve done it for who knows how long, and it works. In the case of food, tradition—over generations and centuries, not a single nuclear family’s lifespan—is a marker of dietary viability.

One of the beauties of science is that it can—and does—change. The earth used to be flat, the sun used to revolve around said earth, and running used to be the only possible way of achieving any level of physical fitness. Obviously, those theories and many others have been disproved and discarded; other theories have held up better under scrutiny and continue to be tested. However, science through the lens of mass media tends to (a) sensationalize, (b) omit, and (c) turn correlation into causation. You’re surely aware of the recent push for low-carb eating—this idea supplanted the low-fat lifestyle, but what on earth was there before? Well, um, nothing more than people sitting down to supper with the family almost every single night and knowing more often than not exactly what they were putting into their bodies. As we’ve become further and further removed from our food sources, we’ve started caring less and less about their origins and processing, instead focusing on price and convenience rather than quality, thereby setting the table for wild, almost instantaneous mood swings when it comes to what we eat. Believe it or not, we’ve known what to eat for a long, long time, but we sometimes put way too much faith in unsubstantiated facts.

Dilemma raises an excellent question, paraphrased: how is it that we discriminate the most fundamental source of life and livelihood—our food—based on the least healthful factors, and how did this change come about? I’ll leave you to read the book—obviously, I highly recommend it—but seriously, think of the foundation and make-up of our bodies. Do you know where your supper came from? I couldn’t tell you about mine if my life depended on it (I’ve been searching for local farms in the Charlotte area on a regular basis and have two on the radar, here and here, with a third and possibly fourth to be determined soon). Until I find local food sources, especially in winter (summer is easy), one trick I’ve started using is looking at ingredient lists—the shorter (and more pronouncable), the better. Sure, it costs a little more, but at least I can better picture the actual components of what I’m eating (couldn’t hurt to do the same for the pets, either), and the long-term cost savings are immeasurable.

In an earlier post, I stated: “People who train only their mirror muscles are preparing for others to see them following. People who also train their hidden muscles are preparing for people to see them leading.” While food is the ultimate bodily foundation, biomechanics can’t be allowed to suffer, especially given our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. I’ve also mentioned the need to examine the “why” of what you’re doing, not just the “how,” which is increasingly being made more complex than is necessary. Ideally, you’re in it for the long haul, not just beach season. Remember all those grade-school gym and playground exercises? There was a reason—general physical preparation—behind doing those, even if the PE teacher didn’t know it. When was the last time you saw anyone beyond elementary school doing bear crawls and crab walks? (For the record, I did both and more at the gym on Monday and consequently scared two Barbies out of the aerobics studio. Sweet.) The body is a unit, not a conglomeration of parts to train individually; if you treat it as such, you’ll get a lot of bricks with no mortar to hold it together.

Follow-ups:
—Cultural and modern medicines can co-exist in harmony.
—Olympics: Dara Torres’ aftermath in age and goal setting, Yahoo! tops NBC in online coverage, life after the lights.
—Part three of Lyle’s discourse on leptin.
—Dr. Eades piles on another pro low-carb study.

Stuff:
—I’ve long had a problem with the statement that the brain runs only on carbohydrates. Of course, I haven’t been able to support my opinion other than having done three separate iterations of a (mostly) cyclical ketogenic diet (sometimes I went a couple weeks at a time without a carb-up) with only very temporary mental hiccups during the fuel source changeover. A recent study at Biosingularity suggests that I might just be right.
—Mmmm… meat cake and meatless muffins.
—Some randomly good randomness from Tony.
—Fat: Troubleshooter updates, high-metabolism brown fat.
—Stem cells: heal more quickly, universal blood and other uses.
—Family matters: why rush to marry/divorce, singles are getting healthier, egg donation in a down economy, more women foregoing children, a breather from elderly care, a family tree for all humanity, Lonesome George, if life is a highway
—The military is (as always) pursuing ways to control enemies’ minds. Under this guise, there are domestic, civilian implications on the radar as well. For all the windmill chasing, at least they call off a charge once in a blue moon.
—Mark’s Mystery Meat: juicing, your immune system,
—Geek-out: space (training, risks, pictures), viral batteries, digitizing vinyl, secure your Gmail, Facebook cranks up the creepy factor in advertising, wearable and zero-emissions motorcycles, a pictorial history of electricity (and transportation to come), how photography connects the world, round-the-world helicoptering, hey McFly!

More stuff:
—A tale of two people.
—Barbara Guerra.

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