Wednesday, August 31, 2016
I’m not the first one to talk about the importance of sleep, the primacy of gut health, the impact food has on your well-being, how we divorce ourselves from nature at our peril, and why everyone needs to explore and express and enhance their physical capacities. Wise men and women have been saying the same things for thousands of years around campfires, on scrolls, during lectures, in town squares, and on the printed page. Today, we’re going to read about ten of them.
For each, I’ve attempted to confirm that these are indeed real quotes, claims, and practices. And in the off chance that I get it wrong and a misattribution slips through, that doesn’t take away from the quality of the content. Good tips are good tips.
1. Jeanne Calment, famous French supercentenarian, on olive oil, chocolate, and the importance of taking it easy.
There’s not a ton to say. She wasn’t writing diet books or tweeting links to nutrition studies. She was no guru or life coach. She didn’t really give explicit life advice. But she embodied both the nutritive and psychological aspects of Primal living. She poured olive oil all over food and rubbed it into her skin. She ate a kilo of chocolate a week and drank red wine daily. She eschewed sports but loved to stay active, riding bikes, and even taking up fencing at the age of 85. She lived to 122 while staying active, cheerful, and taking pleasure in life.
2. Socrates, Greek philosopher, on physical fitness.
To Socrates, physical fitness wasn’t an elective. It wasn’t extracurricular. It was a pre-requisite for being a real man (ladies, rest assured if we were talking about @socrates he’d be more gender inclusive). Not a “real man” in the macho sense. A real man in that you weren’t a real human being if you neglected your physical capabilities. In his own words, “No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which is body is capable.” I can’t disagree. Can you?
3. Ben Franklin, founding father, on cold exposure and swimming.
Ben Franklin was a renaissance man, the patron saint of entrepreneurs, and an inveterate dabbler. But he wasn’t just a thinker or a politician. He was virile and advocated lifting weights when almost no one else did. He considered sleeping in cold rooms a curative and enjoyed cold water, especially before bed. Living in London during winter, he spent two or three hours swimming in the river every night. This wasn’t puttering around, either; the man was a master swimmer, able to swim three and a half miles in a single bout.
4. Margaret Thatcher, Iron Lady, on the necessity of 28 eggs a week.
She wasn’t called the Iron Lady for her strong demeanor and unflinching opposition to the Soviet Union. She was called the Iron Lady because she ate so much steak, eggs, and spinach. Okay, I lied about that, but she really did eat that way. On top of her 28 eggs each week, she also enjoyed spinach, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, black coffee, “plenty of” steak, lamb chops, whisky, fish, and grapefruit. Oh, and there was a bit of toast now and again, but we’ll forgive her.
5. John Muir, naturalist philosopher, on the essentiality of nature.
If you didn’t know better, you might think the man responsible for quotes like “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness” and “The mountains are calling and I must go” was some pants-less SF tech exec in the midst of an ayahuasca ceremony at Burning Man. Actually, it was a 19th century Scottish-American suit-wearing, voluminous beard-having naturalist and philosopher named John Muir. Muir was the real deal. He not only enjoyed nature on a personal level, he established Yosemite National Park and taught an entire nation the importance of wilderness preservation. Hell, without Muir, we might not think of nature the way we folks in the Primal community do today—as a place of great spiritual significance.
6. Hippocrates, ancient physician, on walking and gut health.
Hippocrates is often credited with “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Just about every alternative nutrition health site will spout that off at some point in their timeline. It’s a great sentiment, and I mostly agree, but there’s no strong evidence Hippocrates actually said it. What he did say for certain was “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Simple, but deep as hell. See, Hippocrates isn’t saying walking is a cure-all. You can’t “walk off leukemia.” But, if medicine’s first priority is to “do no harm”—which, coincidentally, Hippocrates also coined—walking does that in spades. Walking is safe and helpful for almost everyone and everything. I can’t imagine a condition that walking will exacerbate, except for maybe a badly sprained ankle or something. And even then, walking with good form while avoiding pain will speed up your recovery from an ankle sprain.
Another Hippocrates quote is “All disease begins in the gut.” Now, he may not have known about resistant starch, soil-based probiotics, or kimchi. He didn’t have a papyrus Bristol Stool Chart on his office wall. He still hit the nail on the head. Your immune system—the first line of defense against pathogens, endotoxins, and other invaders—resides primarily in the gut. If you can’t digest your food or absorb nutrients, you won’t last long. If your gut biome is messed up, you’re more susceptible to autoimmune diseases and pathogens. Inflammation starts in the gut. Modern researchers are even proposing that many metabolic diseases and disorders begin with a dysregulation of our gut biome. We don’t know everything. We’re probably missing a lot more than we’ve discovered. Whichever way you cut it, though, the gut is a hugely important player in our health. We can’t say for sure if all disease begins in the gut, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.
7. Joan Gussow, food policy expert, farmer, and nutrition professor, on butter vs. margarine.
Joan Gussow is the lady who started the local food movement, invades and informs the thoughts of every New Yorker-reader’s favorite food writer—Michael Pollan—and, when asked about the eternal butter vs margarine debate, replied “I trust cows more than chemists.” Damn right.
8. Julia Child, French chef and CIA spook, on fear of fat.
Julia Child loved fat, pitied those who feared it, and never let up. If someone was “afraid of butter,” they could “use cream.” Regarding “healthy eating,” she said “the only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” In response to critics at the height of the low-fat era, Child maintained “I like marble steaks, and I like butter. I am very careful to eat two tablespoons of saturated fat a day, with greatest pleasure.” Anyone who wants to learn the basics (and more) should pick up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by the way.
9. Eugen Sandow, physical culturalist, on cold plunges and strength training.
As a kid traveling through Italy, Eugen (it’s really hard not to add that extra “e”) Sandow marveled at the impressive physiques of the classic Hellenic statues. Though most people assumed they were exaggerated representations of the ideal physique rather than recreations of actual bodies, Sandow disagreed: the perfect Greek physique was achievable, and he was going to get it. He did. In an age of lean but willowy men, Sandow became a beast with his rippled, sinewy physique. In 1897, he wrote one of the first, and probably the most complete, tomes of physical culture. Strength and How to Obtain It is still relevant today. It lays out Sandow’s philosophy of training, explores the extra benefits of exercise (trains both body and mind), explains “the secret of the cold bath,” stresses the importance of nutrition and recovery, and arrives at many of the same concepts bodybuilders discovered half a century later (isolating muscles to sculpt them, meditating on the “feel” of the muscle as you’re using it). Oh, and it’s got some incredible photos of Sandow’s physique.
10. Jiddu Krishnamurti, anti-guru guru, on being your own guru.
In the latter half of the 19th century, a group of secular “seekers after Truth” formed The Theosophical Society, an organization with some very lofty goals: promoting unity and brotherhood among all people and leading humanity to become willing and conscious participants in the evolutionary process. They eventually discovered an Indian teenager named Jiddu Krishnamurti, and decided he was their messiah—the most advanced spiritual entity on earth, or “World Teacher.” He went along with it for some time, preparing to lead humanity into a new era of enlightenment until, at age 34, he realized how silly and preposterous it all was. From then on, he rejected the entire concept of gurus, teachers, and spiritual leaders, proclaiming truth to be a “pathless land” that we must explore on our own. Ultimately, all you have is you. You can’t be taught; you must learn. You don’t lie back and let knowledge, wisdom, and advice wash over you. You plunge headfirst into it, marinate awhile, and actively absorb it. Jiddu Krishnamurti was the anti-guru, a teacher and speaker and philosopher who, on paper, resembled the prototypical guru. He “taught.” He “spoke.” He “gave advice.” But the crux of his teachings rested on the abolition of dependence upon the external—teachers, ideologies, religions, dogmas—for validation of the internal. According to him the only guru, teacher, and leader in your life was you. It’s a lot of responsibility, sure. Knowledge exists external to us, of course. Experts in a thousand different fields know more than you and reading and hearing what they have to say can be useful. But the ultimate decision of how to respond and handle that information rests in your hands. You must find the path, or realize that the path doesn’t really exist.
As you can see, you don’t have to have worn a toga and witnessed the birth of democracy to have wisdom to impart.
Now let’s hear from you. Who did I miss? What other Primal-friendly wisdom has been handed out across the ages?
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.
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Ever since the United Nations declared 2016 the Year of the Pulse, I’ve been trying to include at least one serving a day in my diet. Pulses, otherwise known as beans, dry peas and lentils, are fiber and protein powerhouses — not to mention that, at roughly a dollar a pound, they’re dirt-cheap. Thankfully, they also taste delicious.
Since “chickpea” sounds a lot like “chicken,” I thought chickpeas would be a natural swap in these Mediterranean-inspired shawarma pitas. Covered in spices and roasted to crispy perfection, they are then tucked into warmed pita bread and covered in a creamy hummus-dill sauce. Add in a few colorful vegetables and you’re left with a flavor-packed sandwich that’s perfect for lunch or dinner.
At first glance, this recipe may seem like it takes more ingredients than it’s worth, but they’re mainly spices that can be found in well-stocked pantries. To me, my spice pantry is king, giving me the ability to add maximum flavor without added fat. In healthy cooking, seasoning is everything, and for that, spices are worth their weight in gold. If you find that you don’t need a large jar, head to the bulk-bin section of your local grocery store for just the amount you need.
For a “cook once, eat twice” approach, transform any leftovers into a chickpea shawarma salad: Layer the vegetables with roasted chickpeas and top it with dollops of hummus-dill dressing.
Chickpea Shawarma Pitas
Yields 4 pita sandwiches; 3/4 cup hummus dressing
2 cups cooked chickpeas, patted dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 large tomato, sliced thin
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup hummus
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine the chickpeas, olive oil, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until browned and slightly crispy.
Wrap pitas in foil and place in the oven the last 2 minutes of cooking to warm.
While the chickpeas are cooking, whisk together the hummus, lemon juice, garlic and dill. Thin with water, if needed, for desired consistency.
To serve, divide the cucumber, lettuce, tomato and red onion among the pitas and top with chickpeas. Drizzle with hummus dressing and serve.
Per serving (1 sandwich with 2 tablespoons dressing): Calories 342; Fat 7.4 g (Saturated 0.6 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 561 mg; Potassium 577 mg; Carbohydrate 62 g; Fiber 8.2 g; Sugars 3 g; Protein 13.4 g
Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.”
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That’s also the name of my second summer soccer team. We lost our season pretty badly and had our last game on Monday night. We should have been in the lower division but were put in the top one. Fall women’s league soccer started last Sunday, and boy was it hot out there at 3pm! I had this cooling towel that I soaked with ice water and wore like a summer scarf to keep me from overheating. We lost that game too, but I did score a goal!! Co-ed soccer starts in a few weeks, and I can’t wait to watch Mazen’s first practice too!
Pre soccer egg sandwich! This was so good. Two eggs, fried, plus brie and apricot ginger jam!
Check out the difference in color of these two eggs! Two different brands. The darker one is better!
I’ve been seeing a lot of wine clubs pop up in posts on Facebook and Instagram. They often feature a promotional offer, and I am always willing to give them a try for discounted wine! I signed up for Club W a few weeks ago and loved all four wines that came to my doorstep. I’m going to keep the club going for a few months because it’s so convenient. They have a “refer a friend” program that comes with a $13 off code – a free bottle of wine for you. And for every free bottle you guys get, I get one too. So let’s all drink wine together : )
I went on a picnic play date with many of the ladies from my mom group a few weekends ago and our only goal was to try to re-enact this photo. The kids are so big now, and our offspring have nearly doubled!
We love King Family Vineyards for all the space for them to run. And this fun horse!
Girl time continued when I went to see “Bad Moms” with my friend Emily. Thought it was pretty good overall! A little over the top, but that was expected. Afterwards we met some friends for dinner at Parallel 38.
Had to try all the dips!
We also shared a little pizza, shishito peppers, cauliflower, and shrimp.
Jumping back to breakfast, here’s a yogurt bowl with granola and berries. Simple summer fuel!
Mazey and I had quesadillas for lunch. Packed with spinach and cheese and topped with Greek yogurt.
Shrimp and grits for dinner with peppers and heirloom tomatoes on the side.
We had a blast celebrating Naomi’s birthday on Saturday night. We had dinner at the Bebedero bar and shared cake that Naomi’s husband organized. Lauren and I shared guacamole and a steak salad that was so good!
Off to squeeze out a few more drops of summer fun!
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Do people use thermoses anymore? I remember when I was a kid, you alway got a matching thermos with your themed lunchbox. They don’t come with them anymore, you have to buy them separately. But I… Read more →
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Last week, I shared a picture of a popular snack that contains a very controversial preservative and it went absolutely viral. People (like you and me and so many others) care about what’s in their food and it’s a beautiful … Continued
The post Why did this photo go so viral? The food additive now linked to major allergies. appeared first on Food Babe.
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The entire premise of the Primal Blueprint is enabling you to be the architect of your health and happiness. If we can identify the environmental triggers and selective pressures under which the human genome developed, we’ll have a great roadmap for engineering our optimal lifestyle. And for the most part, it works. Not everyone will get the exact body they desire. You won’t all lose every extra pound. I can’t guarantee a six pack or a complete eradication of baby weight. But all in all, eating and living this way seems to produce good results. You can, it seems, affect your health, body composition, and fitness.
But genes still matter. And there’s a large trove of evidence showing that a person’s genetics are really good at predicting their risk of obesity.
A 1990 study took 12 pairs of adult male identical twins—with identical genes—determined their base metabolic rates and calorie needs, then overfed them by 1000 calories per day, six days a week for 12 weeks. Mean weight gain was 8.1 kg, ranging between 4.3 to 13.3 kg—all over the board, except for within the pairs of twins. When you compared one twin pair to another, weight gain was very different. When you compared twins within a pair, the weight gain was extremely similar. Not only that, but twins within a pair showed remarkable similarity in where fat was deposited (belly, hips, etc) and how much body fat was actually accrued. Overall, there was three times more variance in the various obesity measures between pairs than within them.
Genes explain how two people can have a vastly different responses to the same number of calories. They also explain how two twins can have the same response, and how two family members can have a similar response.
Subsequent papers have confirmed that obesity is highly heritable and that most of the heritability comes down to genetic factors.
How does it all work, exactly? What are these genetic variants doing that predispose us to obesity?
We don’t know most of them. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS), where vast reams of a population’s genetic data are analyzed to find patterns and associations between health conditions and genetic variants, can only point to genetic regions, not specific polymorphisms. Here are some specific ones, though:
Insulin resistance: The PTP-1B regulates insulin signaling, and polymorphisms to the gene have been shown to protect mice from otherwise obesogenic high-fat/high-sugar diets. Deletion of the gene protects mice against insulin resistance and diet-induced obesity, while mice with the full homozygous set easily gain weight. Another genetic variant increases insulin resistance by way of hypersensitivity to stress hormones. Folks with the variation tend to have more insulin resistance, higher body weights, larger waists, and a greater risk of type 2 diabetes.
Leptin signaling: Leptin affects bodyweight by regulating both satiety (increases it) and energy expenditure (increases it). If you have low leptin levels, or your leptin receptors aren’t responding to the hormone, you’ll likely eat more and burn less. Homozygous mutations to the leptin receptor gene which truncate its structure and inhibit its ability to interact with leptin increase the risk of obesity in humans. People with a genetic inability to produce leptin grow massively obese; supplementary leptin makes them lean.
Basal metabolic rate: BMR determines your baseline energy requirements—the number of calories you’ll burn just sitting around maintaining normal physiological function. Higher BMRs protect against obesity, while lower BMRs predispose you to it. That jerk who can sit around eating entire pizzas all day and stay lean? He’s probably got a high basal metabolic rate, which he got from his parents. Studies show that some portion of the obese population have a genetic variant that reduces their metabolic rate.
Hypothalamus signaling: The hypothalamus is the seat of obesity in the brain. It controls energy balance. It’s where the rewarding properties of food are determined. It’s where satiety and hunger originate. It’s riddled with leptin receptors that ultimately decide how much food we eat. And certain polymorphisms of the genes that regulate production of the compounds the hypothalamus uses to communicate and enact these decisions predispose us to obesity. Major polymorphisms to these genes are rare but almost always lead to severe obesity, while more minor variants may nudge us toward higher body weights.
Circadian rhythm: Polymorphisms in circadian rhythm genes can predict how a person’s energy expenditure will change in response to diets. If you’ve got the variant that causes a huge drop in energy expenditure when you diet, you’ll be less successful, more likely to eat extra food to compensate for the lost energy, and more susceptible to the negative side effects of calorie restriction (fatigue, malaise).
The tendency of most diets to fail also supports the primacy of genetics.
For most people, dieting just doesn’t work. They’ll lose weight, but gain it all back within a year. They’ll lose weight, and only keep it off if they subject themselves to ever-lower calorie counts that produce other unwanted health effects. They’ll keep it off as long as they have a team of clinicians hovering over them. In the real world, dieting to lose weight usually fails. If genes determine obesity, we’d expect this to happen.
Twin and adoption studies (where researchers see whether adopted children inherit their biological parents’ or adopted parents’ bodyweight) agree that obesity and being overweight are highly genetic. Overall, about 40-70% of obesity is hereditary. That sounds like a lot. That sounds like genes are your destiny.
But not everyone fails at their diets, do they?
We have hundreds of Success Stories right here on the blog that defy that claim. Many, maybe most of them are dealing with genetic propensities toward obesity, yet they figured out how to beat the odds.
Insulin resistant because of your genetics? Maybe a low-carb diet will work best for you. You can also lift heavy things, sprint sometimes, walk a ton, and do other things that improve insulin sensitivity.
Circadian rhythm gene polymorphism making you more sensitive to obesity-inducing effects of sleep deprivation? Get your sleep hygiene under control.
Basal metabolic rate lower than you’d like? It’ll be hard, but you’ll have to figure out a diet that inadvertently reduces caloric consumption.
These aren’t silver bullets. Swimming upstream against your own genetics is hard, and many, maybe most, people fail. But you don’t have to.
And another wrinkle in all this is that genes affect behavior. Got enough willpower to stick to your diet? It’s probably genetic. Open minded enough to consider that everything you’ve ever learned about health and nutrition is wrong and perhaps this Mark Sisson guy is onto something? You got it from your parents.
So yes: genes play a huge role in obesity.
Only genes can’t wholly explain the huge rise in obesity rates because genes don’t change that fast. People aren’t suffering from in vivo mutations to their “obesity genes” en masse.
The real problem is that almost everyone in the western world exists in a shared food environment which is obesogenic. If you live in America, you’re awash in drive-thrus, Big Gulps, and inexpensive, delicious processed food that’s been engineered to interact with the pleasure centers in your brain. Most modern countries are in similar boats, and obesity rates are climbing across other nations as they adopt our food-ways and work habits. The genes aren’t changing (at least, not quick enough to account for the stats).
The environment is changing. But because the environment has changed for everyone, and most people never really question its obesogenic nature—they eat the pizza, they buy the processed food, they sit for eight hours a day at work and watch TV for four, they slog away on the treadmill—researchers looking for the genetic origins of obesity miss or discount the effect of environment. Almost everyone whose genetic data they’re examining is exposed to the same obesogenic food environment, and its ubiquity masks its effects. The result is researchers pointing the biggest finger at genes. They’re not even “wrong.” The genes still play the major role.
Their mistake is assuming the environmental conditions cannot be changed. But they can.
Few researchers and genetic determinists consider the outliers, the ones who extricate themselves from the yoke of the yolkless omelets. The ones who read nutrition blogs and buy ancestral health books, and only use mayo made with avocado oil. They exist in the modern environment but resist its pull. They may have the genes for obesity but manage to remain—or get—lean. These are our people.
Genetic determinists might say that everything we’ll ever do is ordained by our genes. If we gain weight, it’s our genes. If we want to lose weight, our genes will determine how we choose to do it. If we choose to diet, our genes determine the best one, how our body responds, and how strict we are. If our body responds poorly, our genes determine whether we’ll give up or try something new. If we decide to start lifting weights, our genes determine whether it has any effect. And because we “can’t change the environment,” nor can we opt out of eating junk food or decide to drink water instead of soda if our genes won’t allow it, genes are all that matter.
You can view everything through the prism of genetics and heredity, but why?
I’m not even saying they’re wrong. Genes really do determine many things, including metabolism, behavior, and body weight. I just don’t see the point of thinking like that. Even if agency is an illusion, and I didn’t actually decide to pattern my eating and exercising habits around an evolutionary, ancestral blueprint but instead was ordained by my genes to do it, it’s a helpful one that I think we need to believe in.
Maybe belief in free will is genetically determined. I don’t know.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care and be sure to leave your thoughts down below. I’m really curious to hear what you all have to say.
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