Thursday, July 10, 2014

What's the Best Diet?

We are what we eat. Literally. All of the parts of your body are entirely dependant upon what you poked into the hole in the middle of your face coupled with whatever activity and genetic influences you inherited.

We are made of what we eat - made of it.

You can calorie count but it's boring and psychologically depressing, no one wants to accept that they are actively depriving themselves of fun stuff so I suggest take a long term view and stick to simple rules and basics (you can add detail as you like (or not)):-

1.  Avoid 'White' Stuff. Read Tim Ferris Slow carb Diet.  You can get as elaborate as you like with tweaking (like using cinnamon, water, timing your meals with exercise, etc) but in essence FAT is NOT an issue.  If you want to know what 'simple carbs' are then read Ferris lists but understand this - during most of human evolutionary history quick energy foods were hard to get hold of so we have a biology which, when presented with sugar, bread, pasta, rice, pasta, bread, corn flakes, sugar, etc on what has become a simple carb conveyor belt of hell our body will latch onto it pronto and do what? Does it stay a carb? No. It turns it into FAT - it get's stored by your body 'just in case' it's the last meal for a while (as it must have been in out not so distant past).

Is this oversimplified? Except for rare cases that's pretty much it and it's been the thrust behind the Paleo Diet Fad which to some has become a lifestyle.  Due to human variability we don't all respond exactly the same way to this diet.  Personally if I don't eat ANY 'white' stuff I can eat like a horse and drop 5kg in 2 weeks.  As soon as I eat chocolate and ice cream or just lots of cereal (obvious simple sugary things) I can put 5kg back on in the same time.  If I eat or don't eat fat it makes little difference.  If you eat fat AND sugar together all hell breaks loose. Females hold onto fat easier (sorry, talk to your creator) so you wont experience (nor should you) such dramatic short term changes if you are female.


3.  Willpower.  Noooooooo!  When presented with the truth of our biology our first reaction is to ignore it, pray, and continue on our merry path to weight gain and metabolic breakdown.  Old habits die hard so it does take mental effort to walk back into Coles and choose differently.  We're like robots really, so ingrained is our cultures approval of stuff which just isn't good for us. "But it's LOW FAT!"  This was my wife's mantra for years and no amount of reason made any difference so one day I said "Don't listen to me, just look at the label and ask yourself how many spoonfuls of sugar are in that."

4.  Cheat Day!!  Yay!  To offset the mental breakdown you are about to have by forcing yourself to change habits, there is the cheat day.  One, even two days (if you're active) a week of eating whatever the hell you want and not feeling like a diet leper makes such a difference and not just because it's a mental health day.  If you've been a good boy or girl the other 5 days your body will react to the 'starvation' of simple carbs by lowering your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).

This means that your survival mechanisms will slow you down to conserve resources - you don't want that.

BMR is the rate your body burns calories while you are doing nothing.  Our body evolved to survive so if it senses that it's being somehow deprived it will down regulate.  This is often why people diet, loose weight, then plateau, get frustrated then break diet and go back to the chocolate Isle at Woolies. The injection of fast food one day a week tricks your body into maintaining it's BMR.

5. What about exercise?  Go to the other post.  Strictly speaking you don't have to exercise to lose weight but of course it can help.  Also if you are active you have to inject some simple carbs into the routine otherwise you hit an energy wall and fall over.  Ferris goes into that.

7.  Body loves a Shock!  Anything new or 'novel' gets noticed by our organism (us).  Abrupt changes force adaptation.  Sorry to sound morbid but if you want to kill Granny (or a pet) just prevent her from moving and feed her the same dull, white diet.  Again we evolved to engage with different situations and we thrive when challenged.  Food is no different hence the restriction/binge nature of this approach can work quite well.


Doug Scown

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What's the Best Exercise?


This will be a post I will continually update.  Why?  There is no 'best' but there are certainly some principles which remain, some which die because they're just wrong, some which survive because they're wrong but popular and the biggest group, the stuff which we just don't know about yet.  I'll refer to us as organisms a lot because 'brain-body' is cumbersome and they work together.

Hang Your Hat

The HYH category are things which we understand quite well, things we understand quite well.

1. Humans evolved as movement based organisms (movement has been described as nutrition for your brain).  If you deprive them of movement, they weaken and become increasingly susceptible to injury even without even trying. The 'best' movement is walking because it's easy and we're made for it.  Walking (and movement generally) works best if it's done for at least 1/2 an hour or more each day and movement has all sorts of benefits - it improves posture, inhibits pain, clears your head, improves mood, slows brain shrink (doesn't make you smarter but keeps you less dumber) and makes you more attractive (true).

2. We love complex movement, novel movement.  Complex movement requires complex brain firing and brains love 'novel' things so every now and then vary your movement. It's also why we suspect that Tai Chi, Pilates and dancing are very useful for chronic pain and general well being because they challenge the brain.

3. Exercise is for your brain, less for your body.  The brain controls the body so although every problem combines an 'in' body or tissue problem the effect of disease or dysfunction is as much a brain issue as a body issue.  It's a chicken - egg paradox. In reality our entire body is quite seamless from a development point of view even though we can separate it into organ systems.

4. The organism is highly adaptable - bouts of High Intensity (HIT - high intensity training) force the organism to shift.  Athletes have been doing this for centuries.  It's simple, effective and allows you to eat more (yum!). Weights once or twice a week can do this but it has to be difficult.  Short, heavy, simple (one or a few exercises) workouts (which of course anyone can be trained for) do it.  It's not for everyone but if you like it, do it.

That's it for now.  Anyone is welcome to suggest alterations.  I'll keep 'eating' to another post.



Enter the Matrix

The following link is for the eggheads.

It's great fun to be able to use the word 'matrix' at work and still remain credible and within the realm of science but what on earth does it have to do with the spine?

Almost everything it seems.

Most problems felt in the body are triggered in the body however, how they feel, particularly when these conditions become chronic, is due to what is happening up inside the head, in the matrix.

The crowning achievement of biology in the 20th century was the mapping of the human genome.  It has allowed us to forge ahead at an even greater rate with our understanding of life, both how individual organisms function (and dysfunction), and how we all appeared to evolve.  It begins to reveal the why of the inherent, and unwanted, faultiness of ourselves but it also reveals it's wonder.  We are not even a single organism but a collection of billions most of which are not even 'human' and without which we could not survive.  We are not even constant.  In 7 years time we may see a slightly more wrinkled version of our self in the mirror but it will be a facsimile, most of those billions of cells having divided, died and replaced, giving you the illusion of continuity.

No wonder our reality verges on science fantasy and has been so difficult to understand.  Even highly esteemed scientists and thinkers get befuddled by the brain.

Nevertheless the average 10 year old grasps concepts which even Einstein was unaware of.  We were not the only humans on earth just the ones which have survived so far.  The universe is not static but expanding.  Black holes are real and consciousness, despite many of us not wanting it to be so, appears to be a final fluid function of the universes most complex piece of biology.  The brain.

In the developing embryo the beginnings of the central nervous system precedes all other structures, so, while the end product may appear to be a collection of disparate pieces, the body as a whole is a continuous, effectively homogeneous collective.  In fact biologists explain that we are not so much a single complex organism but a complex arrangement of billions of separate cells which have learnt, over billions of years, via the effects of physics and chemistry to arrange themselves into patterns which work.

And what of this Matrix - the brain map?

Well, we can see our limbs move but we cannot see our brain.  It's role and functions are counter intuitive.  You cannot feel it but feel with it, we cannot see it but see with it, we cannot move it but move with it.  We cannot even study it without using it to study itself.  It's no wonder that it's enigmatic nature is the source of considerable confusion, and the stubborn refusal to admit, that despite thousands of years of introspection and hundreds of years of science, what we perceive appears to be the projection of an organ weighing about 1.3kg.

Surely our seemingly unlimited subjective reality, our marvellously creative human imagination with which we make our world and experience it, surely it is greater than this.  But consider it's parts as science has revealed and is continuing to reveal - it is comprised of 100 billion neurons, each with hundreds, thousands of interconnections, each with a plastic, fluid nature.  The result is a moldable neural network of such complexity that it defies all rational mathematical numbers yet it is definable nonetheless as a product of these things.  Despite the considerable achievements of many of history's introspective traditions, none of them escaped the burden of superstition.  We can barely begin to understand reality without first understanding how the brain works and admitting that this is where we sit.  All other explanations are, for the present, just ideas.

Many fear that by reducing the study of the brain to it's constituent parts we will destroy the wonder of it.  In the film 'The Matrix', what neo experiences is the product of the machines.  In the same manner our attachment to our subjective experience as 'real' including our ideas and cherished beliefs does not often accord with reality.  This is why science has become such an essential tool, a way of thinking, with which we've been able to begin to poke our way through our cloak of ignorance about how things work.

We're afraid I think of damaging our awe and wonder.  We don't want to know what's around the next corner because it may not be as grand as what we've imagined.  But who imagined the nebula, the sheer unimaginable size of the universe, the speed of light, the roundness of the planet, the sun as a star, matter as the products of stars, the brain as the seat of our senses then our subjective reality, the fluid nature of the brain in response to experience?  The risk of knowing far outweighs the so called bliss of ignorance.  As a child I gazed up at the moon and considered how it could just be there without apparent support.  That was enough for me.