No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success


Posted by Ben on Monday, August 25, 2008

First, apologies for that stinker of a post last time (not even going to link it), at least for the disconnect between title and body. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it. I really did have good intentions, but they petered out along the way and turned into a hodgepodge of rambling. Second, I finished reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. Wow, just wow. I hate that it took so long for me to get to it, so don’t make the same mistake I did (at least not any longer)! I may or may not do a “review” post on it, but I’ll need some time to, um, digest. Seriously, though, I can’t think of anything offhand that wasn’t good about the book, and that’s taking into account the possible sensationalist media slant that may’ve gone into its writing. Let’s face it: tracing the food chain isn’t sexy by itself unless put in the context of some good storytelling (consider the movie Supersize Me). Despite this, facts are facts, and they’re disturbing at best. Even Mike(y) liked it (he’s probably going to kill me now for calling him Mikey).

Quick aside: a couple weeks ago, I ordered a few books from and took a mini-poll on which to read first. After deciding on a reading order, which of course went against majority opinion, I jumped in and quickly realized that Omnivore bred its own tangential reading list (all the Hemingway on my bookshelves, Ishmael for the third time, and maybe a couple others referenced in Omnivore, namely Meditations on Hunting).

Back to the present, it’s a good thing I had a reading list already setup since I could’ve easily gone off and read some other stuff. I’m already a few chapters into Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, and there are fireworks in my head. On its own, Zebras has a lot to say about substantial underlying conditions for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and so on. The opening chapters are a dense Cliff’s Notes walkthrough of some basic endocrinology, presented with some humor and irreverence that makes the material much easier reading. So far, so great; however, after reading Omnivore, whicn also had a lot to say on its own about obesity et al, I’m starting to get a sense of how the combination of an industrialized food chain, a stressful (real or perceived) lifestyle promoted in our society, and lack of education (through ignorance or apathy) is a perfect storm for skyrocketing obesity, and I do mean perfect. One thing of value I touched on last time was the harumphing over other cultures who practice supposedly unhealthy dietary and other lifestyle habits, yet they’re healthier than most Americans. Why? Tradition bred from evolutionary viability, use of fewer or no processed foods, and lack of stress. One point made so far in Zebras is that as cultures are introduced to Westernized diets and lifestyles, they start to see increases in these same diseases affecting our society.

I’ve seen this phenomenon firsthand. I may’ve mentioned before that I went to Taiwan on a two-week study abroad in the summer of 2002 under the guise of being a “future educator” (which wasn’t a lie, though I wasn’t technically in grad school yet), so most of my focus was on the Taiwanese education system and the use of English both there and in general society. At the time, it was just a side note to other work, but on a couple different occasions, conversation with some of the locals mentioned (with some hidden disdain) how obesity and associated diseases were more prevalent in the Westernized northern part of the island, particularly in the capital city of Taipei. Sure enough, it was. Looking back, one thing I discussed with locals, with fellow students, and somewhat in my academic work was my reaction to the food I ate. Nothing bad by any means; rather, it was the first time I was aware of the taste of food itself rather than blandly overwhelming sugar and salt (a topic brought up in Omnivore). The flavors were subtle at first, but with an almost complete lack of ubiquitous “seasonings,” I quickly became accustomed to the taste of actual food and various spices and sauces (not to mention the much lower cost), results of traditional cooking methods and straight-from-the-dock freshness (I was on an island, after all). Even the vegetarian fare during an overnight stay at a Buddhist monastery was great (soy-based immitation crab meat, mmmm). All this occurred over the first week or so in the southern half of the island. Once I got to Taipei, though, it took going to a very high-end restaurant to get anything comparable, and even that’s a stretch to say. So sure, the not-north was financially poor compared to the north, but they were far richer in nutrition and health. Coincidence? I think not.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able (or need) to write up a capstone post following these two books, but Lyle’s blog is up-to-date on a lot of these issues already (I’ve already read some hoo-ha about leptin in Zebras as well, one topic Lyle is currently ripping apart). Don’t be afraid of the jargon or depth of the topic, whether in that blog or in Zebras if you happen to pick it up. If I can get a grasp of endocrinology, so can you. Trust me. On a completely unrelated note, I registered for adult/child/infant CPR, first aid, and AED training next week with the CSCS exam to follow semi-shortly (yes, I’m going to go ahead with it), mainly to get some letters (which I can allow to expire) behind my name that will appeal to the public at large as I attempt to get some personal training started up for the new year, hopefully a boot camp setup (highly recommended by people I trust—the advertising format is an unfortunate necessity in the fitness industry) for middle-aged moms, and oh by the way, I’ll offer conditioning for their rugrats—I mean, future star athletes as well.

Total chaos:
—China: the Olympics are over, the censorship never (completely) stopped, and the glitzy facade didn’t end widespread persecution. I’m still eager to see how quickly life reverts to pre-Olympic drudgery.
—Age: more defiance, weekend warriors (harkening back to my recent diatribe on proper warm-up and preparation), a money pit of magic pills, fine wine.
—Body matters: general exercise (a treatment for cancer, a fountain of youth, a source of humor), preventing and treating back pain issues, elite runners rely on build and genetics more than form (neither you nor I are elite runners, so we do need to worry about it), flexibility, referred pain.
—Food: safe grilling (BBQ is a noun—a food—not a verb), stir-fry adventures, FDA allows irradiation (more reason to grow your own veggies), Napa Valley pr0n, powdered peanut butter (ordered mine this weekend with some oil; souffle anyone?), hummus, you’re never too busy to eat right (no, not even you).
—Kids: (illegal?) immigrants worse on obesity, concussion recovery, corporal punishment.
Obesity: a direct financial burden, terrain is a consideration, correct bodyfat calculations.
—Gosh, no, really? Shocking: illegal immigrants not self-deporting, lotteries aren’t very helpful.
—Mind matters: unused brain power, lessons from Batman, sanity in space, assess within a system (in and out of the gym).
—Geek-out: happy birthday to the CT scan, Transformers that didn’t make the cut, bicycles on Craig’s List (here, here, and here‘s your sign), volcano pictorial, dog-friendly dog training, world’s deepest hole, movie theaters surviving, card tricks, five used cars for less, how to administer epinephrine and everything else, lightweight Linux, video game douchebaggery, Eric catches for Comcast.


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