How to quit sugar & other unhealthy habits [Transcript]

Transcript for my video on how to approach quitting sugar.

Almost everyone understands that Sugar isn’t particularly good for you and may feel guilty whenever having sweets or candy. This wasn’t always the case, sugar used to be advertised as just a source of quick energy, and even as a means for losing weight. “Mmm, another thing – the cold crisp taste of Coke is so satisfying it keeps me from eating something else that might really add those pounds.” Nowadays you can find all kinds of articles, books, documentaries and plenty of videos that describe how unhealthy sugar is for you. With recent research data on the health effects as well as the Sugar Industry’s antics coming to light, the topic has gotten even more attention. The more you learn, the more you’ll want to stop eating it. As a recovering sugar addict, I’ve read and watched all kinds of great content on the subject, but the focus is rarely how to quit sugar. Since I’ve already put out two videos on the problems with sugar, I figure a solution is in order.

The key point of this video is to explain why people become inclined to eat sugary foods, and how to undo this inclination. The other thing we’ll look at is the mindset to have when approaching this, as well as how to react when you have a craving. Several of the techniques in here can be applied to eating less unhealthy foods in general as well as quitting bad habits.

There are five areas that are working against you that we need to address. Once those are out of the way, quitting sugar becomes really easy. We’ll start with your brain.

Sugar keeps you consuming it regardless of the amount of food you have eaten for 2 reasons. The first is that it is actually biologically addicting – sugar acts on your reward center in the brain to give you a sense of pleasure when you eat it. When you frequently consume sugar, you become tolerant to it and require more to get the same amount of pleasure. Then, you can suffer withdrawal symptoms like headaches, tremors, mood swings and irritability when you go without eating it.

Another way sugar keeps you eating more food in general is by keeping you hungry. Eating sugar causes an excess release of insulin, and when there is too much insulin present in the body, your hypothalamus cannot pick up on its leptin signal. Leptin is a hormone released from fat cells that is registered by your brain as a “satiety” signal. So when your brain can’t pick up on that signal, it thinks you’re starving. Ever had a soda or two before lunch and thought “Man that really filled me up, I think I’ll have a light lunch.” …Me neither. Your brain also interprets hunger as your environment not having much food available so it says “We need to use less energy by reducing activity and we have to store whatever energy comes in”. Anything that raises your energy expenditure makes you feel good – things like coffee, exercise or ephedra. Anything like hunger that lowers your energy expenditure makes you feel crappy. The sugar keeps you hungry and feeling lethargic and crappy. Quitting cold turkey quickly breaks this cycle after a week or two.

So here are the 10 most obese states in the nation. Ten most obese states. Here are the 10 laziest states in the nation, here are the 10 most unhappy states in the nation. Here’s the adult diabetes rate, here’s the adult heart disease rate and finally here’s soda per capita consumption. Pretty significant overlap, wouldn’t you say? Yea?

One thing I found really kept me going in spite of massive sugar cravings was knowing that the longer I went without sugar the better I would feel. This brings us to a key point which is: “Reducing sugar doesn’t mean reducing happiness”

The main premise of Allen Carr’s book “Easy way to stop smoking,” is that you need to get it through your head that you’re not depriving yourself of anything by quitting cigarettes. Cigarettes don’t improve people’s lives in any way and the only reason smokers feel deprived while quitting is because of the dependency the cigarettes created. While sugar at least tastes good, the feeling of deprivation occurs for the same reason -extended use of sugar changes your brain so that you crave it.

A lot of people when faced with the idea of quitting sugar will equate it to depriving themselves of pleasure. What they’re not realizing is that sugar isn’t raising overall happiness, it is simply creating a temporary contrast in happiness. If you’re constantly consuming sugar, you can be making yourself unhappy, lethargic and fat without realizing it. So what is happening is your baseline happiness gets lowered, and you have a spike in pleasure when you eat sugar. However, when you’re not dependent on sugar for that boost in pleasure, then your baseline happiness is much higher and you’re more content all the time, not just when you get sugar.

The other thing people will do when approached with the idea of quitting is that they will start to predict the agony they can expect and visualize it as a graph like this with time on the X axis and agony on the Y axis with agony extending out into eternity. The reality is that your body adapts to the absence of sugar, so you will feel much more comfortable without it and worry about sugar less and less so that graph will look more like this:

Depending on what your diet looks like and factors like whether or not you drink alcohol, you can expect to start feeling much better in as little as a week to two weeks.

This brings us to the next thing that is working against you: Advertising & …Almost any store selling food
Food companies have found that virtually every food product they sell, they can add at least a little bit of sugar to a product to make it tastier. The “Bliss Point” is a term used for the point at which the product is the sweetest and therefore tastiest it can be, before adding any more sugar would make it too sweet. This is why sugar is in 80% of foods on the market, and it’s mostly in foods you wouldn’t expect to have any sweetness to them.

So you have to put in some effort to ensure what you’re buying doesn’t have added sugar and avoid all the tempting advertisements and colorful packages. We’re bombarded with advertisements for crappy and especially sweet food everywhere we go. You can try to ignore them, but having to see these food pictures all the time is a bit confusing for your brain. Your brain will release dopamine in response to expecting to get that food.

A car speeding towards you can immediately jack your heart rate up even if it stops 10 feet in front of you. Mothers will start to lactate when they hear their baby crying even if it’s in another room. Your brain has a lot of ways to prepare you for what it expects to happen, and this is the same with food. When we think about, see or smell foods our brains trigger what is called the Cephalic Phase Insulin Release to prepare you for digesting that food. The sweeter the brain thinks the food will be, the more insulin it stimulates the pancreas to release. This extra insulin can make you feel even hungrier as it will block your leptin signal, like we discussed before. So, just the sight of sweet food can make you hungry even though the contents of your stomach have not changed at all.

The good news is that you can deconstruct this programmed response the brain has created. If your normal programming is: see picture of food, buy food, take food out of the package, eat food then advertisements or food labels in the store can have a real strong effect on you. However if you change your programming to: see real food, check if food is fresh or ripe, cook food, and then eat food, your brain will stop associating colorful packages with eating and it will become much easier to resist well marketed foods.

The next thing you have working against you is your habits.

In the “Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg talks about the Basal Ganglia, a primitive part of the brain that takes long series of actions and packages them into a single “chunk”. So a task like unlocking your door, sitting down, putting your seatbelt on, adjusting your mirror, putting the key in the ignition and so on becomes just “backing out of the driveway.” Duhigg says that habits “…emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.” Try and remember your commute to work in the morning yesterday. What do you remember about it? Not much or maybe even none of it at all- this is because your Basal Ganglia takes over and you run on “autopilot”. The thing is is you can autopilot your meals too, this is something McDonald’s is of course familiar with: “Every McDonald’s, for instance, looks the same—the company deliberately tries to standardize stores’ architecture and what employees say to customers, so everything is a consistent cue to trigger eating routines.”

As you repeat an action, a fatty tissue called myelin covers the axons of your neurons. Myelin speeds up and strengthens nerve impulses, allowing actions associated with certain neurons to be performed with much less mental energy. This is where “practice makes perfect” comes from, but this also explains why people can get stuck into certain routines. You can get “good” at anything you do. “…but I’m pretty good at drinkin’ beer🎶 ” You can get “good” at deciding you’re better off going for the packaged food since you’re too tired to cook. You can also get “good” at resisting cravings for junk food, buying some proper food, taking it home and cooking it.

The other side to this is familiarity and Nostalgia. Alan Hirsch describes Nostalgia as not relating to “a specific memory, but rather to an emotional state.

In Robert Lustig’s book “Fat Chance,” he says that food is one of the true enjoyments of life. “Yet familiarity breeds greater cravings. Ask Philadelphians about their cheese-steaks, New Orlean denizens about their Po-Boys and beignets or Memphians about their barbecue. Surprise! Those are among the three most obese cities in the country.”

All this information I’ve been throwing at you about how your brain reacts to food and develops habits et cetera is designed to be ammo for when you have a craving. Understanding what causes the craving makes it much easier to control.

In his TED talk, Judson Brewer describes a technique that several smokers have used to kick their smoking habit. They just needed to analyze their smoking cravings and be mindful about what the craving felt like when it came up. They’d crave a cigarette and then notice their body was a little tense, heart rate maybe sped up a little bit, and some noticed they were fidgeting in their chair. By simply being mindful about these aspects, subjects were able to step out of the craving and realize what exactly it was and let it pass. Next time you feel the urge to buy some processed food or sugary snacks, think about why you’re doing this. Are you just reacting to some advertisement you saw? Maybe you have a headache from the withdrawal period? Maybe you have a habit of turning to sweets when you are stressed. By analyzing and understanding what it is that’s creating the craving makes it really easy to get in control, and let it pass.

The fourth thing that has been set up to work against you is your gut.
Sugar contributes to the breakdown of the intestinal barrier, resulting in a “leaky gut,” which increases your body’s exposure to inflammation and creates several problems like worsening insulin resistance. Were you to insert a gastroscope into someone’s stomach so that you could see their stomach lining, you could actually see the mucous membrane turn red with irritation upon drinking coffee sweetened with sugar. John Yudkin said in his 1972 book “Pure White and Deadly” that sugar may alter “the numbers and proportions of huge numbers of different microbes that inhabit the intestine. … The sorts of food that have been eaten will … affect the proportion and numbers of the intestinal microbes.”

Recent evidence is showing that an unhealthy Gut Microbiome could be to blame for ADHD and Autism in Children as well as Alzheimer’s and general “Brain Fog” in people of all ages. One way in which sugar affects your Gut Microbiome specifically is by facilitating the growth of the problematic candida. Candida is a type of fungi, a single celled member of the yeast family. An overgrowth of Candida can lead to problems like Fatigue, Weight gain, Bloating and Gas, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Constipation. Like other types of yeast, the preferred food for Candida is sugar.

As the numbers of Candida increase, it is suspected that they can directly cause sugar cravings as this is their preferred source of energy. This doesn’t sound so far fetched when you consider the fact that we have a network of 100 million neurons lining our guts. This network is so extensive that it’s nicknamed the “second brain” This second brain is thought to have a significant impact on your mood and overall health.

One thing you can do to speed up the restoration of a healthy gut, as well as quitting sugar of course, is to eat fermented foods and take prebiotics and probiotics.

The last problem, which for some people may be the easiest or hardest to address, is your family and friends. Pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig noticed that “A sugar addicted parent, similar to one who is drug addicted, will act as an “enabler,” “codependent,” or “apologist” for her child.” By the same token, your friends and family who frequently consume sugar will most likely prefer that you continue to eat what they eat. They might accuse you of having become a health nut or tease you and claim that sugar isn’t “that big of a deal.” Ever tried to hang out with your friends at the bar when you were cutting back on alcohol? You immediately have to offer up a good reason for not drinking, otherwise be constantly badgered about getting a drink. I’m guilty of doing this to friends in the past myself.

This doesn’t need much advice as most friends are kind enough to leave you be after you’ve politely refused sweets long enough. Where this can get tricky is when your friends or family bring up certain points about sugar to justify why it’s OK. The most common argument I’ve heard is “Sugar can’t be that bad because it’s in fruit.”

This is where one of the most effective actions comes in: simply read as much as you can about the topic of sugar. This not only allows you to respond to any questions and concerns you’re presented with, but will further strengthen your resolve towards quitting. Whatever reasons you had for quitting sugar initially, you’ll have much more reasons to quit the more you read about what it does in your body.

(Oh and By the way it’s the Fiber that makes fruit OK.)

A properly done atkins diet works and a properly done plant based vegan diet works, but one is high carb low fat and another is high fat low carb. The traditional Japanese diet, the Mediterranean diet, the Ornish diet and the Paleo diet all work, but the first three are high carb and the Paleo diet is low carb. What all of these have in common is that they restrict processed foods and refined sugars. All the data points to restricting processed foods and especially restricting refined sugars being conducive to good health and proper weight management. This is the fight that is worth fighting and high carb versus low carb can take a backseat for now.

If you liked this, make sure to subscribe and check me out on Patreon. I’m putting out videos on all kinds of topics as frequently as I can.

Why Sugar is as Bad as Alcohol (Fructose, the Liver Toxin) [Transcript]

Transcript of my video about how fructose is metabolized in the liver similar to alcohol, causing all sorts of health complications.

We’re all familiar with the dangers of alcohol and the fact that frequent alcohol consumption can fry your liver. Anyone who has had alcohol before will not doubt that it is a toxin, even if they are not familiar with what it specifically does inside your body. This is because you can experience the immediate or “acute” effects of alcohol exposure in a single night after just a few drinks. You might not notice your heart rate becoming irregular, your blood vessels dilating, or your loss of fine motor control, but you will notice something is different as you become “drunk” or “intoxicated”. Then if the pleasant feeling of being drunk had you doubting whether or not alcohol is a toxin, the hangover that comes the next day will surely confirm that it is. So you don’t really need much education or convincing about whether or not frequent consumption of alcohol has some potentially serious effects on your health.

The reason you can feel the effects of alcohol right away and get “drunk” is because a little bit of the alcohol is metabolized by the brain. Actually what goes to the brain is less than 10% of the alcohol. The majority of it- about 80% gets metabolized by the liver. This is why you can develop all sorts of serious liver issues quite quickly if you’re drinking on a daily basis. However, your liver is a very powerful organ that can handle various toxins relatively well, so one night of celebrating your birthday at the bar isn’t going to have you trying to get on the liver transplant list.

But what if we could make an alcoholic drink with a special type of alcohol that didn’t get metabolized in the brain, so you wouldn’t experience the acute effects of alcohol toxicity? You could have several beers at lunch and still be sharp as a tack during the company meeting at 2PM. Maybe you’d even be allowed to drink and drive because it wouldn’t impair your motor skills. Companies might even get away with marketing this special alcohol to kids. “I present to you… kid beer” Hey I mean if the kid isn’t slurring his words and falling down, it should be OK right? …Of course not, no parent in their right mind would give their kid alcohol simply because they don’t appear drunk.

So here are the immediate health effects, and the long term health effects that come with alcohol consumption. How would you feel about a substance that doesn’t get metabolized in the brain, so you get none of these and you only have to worry about 8 of these 12 problems from frequent consumption? …Still not OK that, I’m guessing.

Well we already have a substance like this that is consumed on a daily basis. Like alcohol, it’s not necessary for any biochemical reaction in the body, you don’t need it to survive. It’s not metabolized in the brain so it doesn’t get you drunk, but like alcohol and other toxins, it’s processed primarily in the liver. And frequent consumption of it leads to all sorts of health problems. This substance is fructose. Table sugar, sucrose, is made up of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose. Fructose is in honey, it’s in fruit juice, it’s in high fructose corn syrup – it’s what makes the really sweet stuff sweet.
“Okay, now you wouldn’t think twice about not giving your kid a budweiser. But you don’t think twice about giving your kid a can of coke. But they’re the same.”
This is Robert Lustig, he is one of the biggest factor in bringing the detrimental effects of sugar to light. At first, he can sound a bit over the top when talking about sugar- “Sugar is a poison, it is a chronic, dose dependent hepato- liver toxin.” However, he can back all his statements up with more than 16 years of medical research, academic discourse, policy analysis, data analysis, a whole lot of patient care and maybe most important: the biochemistry of how sugar is processed in the body.

There’s all sorts of compelling statistics we could talk about, but the actual mechanisms that cause sugar to have such bad effects on the body paint a much clearer picture. Once you understand how it is processed in the body, it leaves very little debate as to whether or not sugar could be considered a toxin, and you start to see how a lot of modern health issues are caused by sugar.

Let’s look at how sugar is metabolised,But first we’ll look at glucose or “starch” to see how a non-toxic carbohydrate is metabolized.

By the way, it’s not necessary to remember all these specific terms that come up. Just pay attention to how glucose flows through the cell so we can see how it’s different from alcohol and sugar.

So here is what’s happening in your liver when you eat something like a slice of white bread. First off, only 20% of the glucose you ate will actually hit the liver because the other 80% is metabolised by all the other cells in your body. Before glucose can get into the liver cell, it needs to stimulate the pancreas to make insulin. The insulin will stimulate this insulin receptor IRS-1, which causes a series of reactions to then stimulate SREBP1 and activate this enzyme called glucokinase. Glucokinase takes glucose to Glucose 6-Phosphate which mostly gets stored in the liver as Glycogen. Glycogen is a good thing because it acts as a reserve tank of energy that your body can access when necessary. This is why runners will “carb load” before a race- to completely fill up their glycogen stores and have more energy during the race than what is just sitting in their gut.

What doesn’t go to glycogen gets metabolized down to pyruvate. Pyruvate enters the mitochondria, Mitochondria is like the coal furnace of your cell because it converts the Pyruvate to Acetyl-CoA then burns that in the TCA cycle to produce a bunch of energy in the form of ATP. Not all of this is gonna get burned off so a little bit may be left over as citrate. The SREBP1 from before activates these three enzymes start a process called de novo lipogenesis. De novo “new” lipo “fat” genesis “making”. So the cell is taking this leftover citrate and converting it into fat. The liver really doesn’t want the fat sitting around inside it, so it gets converted down to something called VLDL which is stored in your fat tissue. Not only can this make you fat, but VLDL is actually a big contributor to heart disease.

While this might sound bad, it’s actually not that big of a deal because remember: only 20% of the glucose made it to the liver, then half of that went to glycogen, then alot of that is burned off for energy, so maybe 1/50th of what you ate will actually turn into VLDL. So could a farmer whose eating rice and vegetables at every meal die of a heart attack? Maybe. But it’s gonna happen when they’re about age 90, so that’s not too bad.

So now let’s look at ethanol, which is “drinking alcohol” to see what makes it so different from glucose. Here’s what happens in the liver when you have an alcoholic drink.

As you can guess, ethanol is not necessary for any biological process, so a majority of is processed like a toxin in the liver. 10% will get processed in the stomach and intestines and another 10% gets processed by the kidneys, muscle and the brain. This is the first big difference between glucose and ethanol, the liver has to work 4 times as hard because it processes 80% of the ethanol that comes in. Ethanol doesn’t need insulin to get into the cell, it just diffuses in there and is converted to acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde generates something called reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species damage proteins in the body, can cause cancer and are thought to be the key factor in aging. This is how anti oxidants are supposed to combat aging, because they deal with these ROS’s.

The acetaldehyde then gets converted to acetate and goes into the mitochondria like last time. With glucose, only 20% of the substrate went to the liver and then maybe half of that went to the liver mitochondria because the rest went to glycogen. So what alcohol is doing is overloading your mitochondria.

So A bunch of acetate comes in, goes through the TCA cycle and you’re left with a ton of citrate. The same three enzymes start “new fat making” are stimulated and you end up with a lot of bad fat. This will go to your fat stores, primarily your visceral fat. This is the stuff that causes a lot of health issues and surrounds your organs, giving you a big gut. This is why people get “beer bellies” because that’s the area that gets filled with the fat produced by alcohol.

So the liver has all this fat being produced that it doesn’t want sitting around inside it so it will also export some of the fat out in the form of free fatty acids. These can get into the muscle, causing muscle insulin resistance which is very problematic. Some of it won’t even be able to get out, so you have a fat droplet sitting around in the liver and now you have your alcoholic fatty liver disease.

So the excess of Acyl-CoA, the ethanol and the ROS species activate an enzyme called JNK1 which is the bridge between metabolism and inflammation. This ends up further damaging the liver and it promotes insulin resistance within the liver by inactivating IRS-1, that insulin receptor from before. This means your pancreas has to work a lot harder and pump more insulin out to do its job.

Now let’s look at sugar. Sugar is made up of equal parts glucose and fructose. Fructose is what causes the problems so let’s see how it’s metabolized very similarly to ethanol. Here’s what’s going on in the liver when you have a glass of something sweet like orange juice.

So first off – like Ethanol, Fructose is not necessary to the body so it’s treated like a foreign substance and almost 100% of it is processed in the liver. It comes in, gets metabolized down to pyruvate and enters the mitochondria. Now we have the same situation where everything goes straight to the liver, does not get stored in glycogen and overloads your liver cell’s mitochondria. The pyruvate goes through TCA cycle, produces a bunch of citrate and that gets converted down to VLDL. This leads to increased risk of heart disease and visceral fat accumulation. Now you’ve got a “soda belly”. Like before, it exits the cell as free fatty acids leading to muscle insulin resistance. Not all of the fat can get out of the cell so fat accumulates in the liver and you get non alcoholic fatty liver disease. The same JNK1 gets stimulated which promotes inflammation and JNK1 acts on the same IRS-1 insulin receptor causing insulin resistance in the liver.

All of this is actually illustrated really well in the movie “That Sugar Film.” Damon Gameau goes on a diet with plenty of low fat and so called “healthy” foods like yogurt, whole grain cereals, fruit juice and fruit smoothies. The aim is to eat foods marketed as “healthy” while reaching the average sugar intake of a typical Australian which is about 40 teaspoons. His results demonstrate all of these biochemical processes we just talked about. He gained 8.5kg and an extra 7% total body fat mainly in the form of visceral fat, his heart disease risk went up, he’s developed insulin resistance and after only 18 days he developed non alcoholic fatty liver disease. What I thought was interesting was that he didn’t change the amount of calories he was consuming yet he packed on such a significant amount of fat.

Actually there’s another element to fructose metabolism that makes it generate so much fat. Fructose forms something called Xylulose 5-Phosphate, and this further stimulates the de novo lipogenesis enzymes, leading to even more fat making. That explains the obesity epidemic.

Also, when it’s getting converted to Fructose 1-Phosphate it produces Uric Acid. Uric Acid raises your blood pressure and now you get hypertension too.

Oh and Coca Cola still wants to pretend that obesity is all about calories and a calorie is just a calorie no matter where it comes from.

One thing I should mention is that fiber helps prevent the sugar in fruit from becoming a problem. Fiber reduces the rate of intestinal absorption meaning your liver can easily handle the steady stream of sugar from a piece of fruit. The fiber will also fill you up. So 4 apples might be actually a lot of food to take in in one sitting, but you can get 4 whole apple’s worth of sugar delivered to your liver in a few seconds from one glass of apple juice.

One night of tequila shots isn’t going to cause your liver to explode, but having a shot of whiskey with every meal and for a snack would do some serious damage. By the same token, having a big piece of cake with ice cream at a birthday party isn’t that big of a deal, but most of us are loading up on sugar all throughout the day without noticing it. We’ll have a breakfast of cereal and juice, then a starbucks pseudo-milkshake thing on the way to work, have a sandwich with low fat yogurt for lunch, a granola bar for a snack, then some pasta with a salad for dinner. But we’re not realizing that that the yogurt has as much sugar as candy, the granola bar has as much sugar as a package of oreos, and even your pasta sauce and salad dressing has sugar pumped into it. 80% of the 600,000 packaged food items on the market have added sugar in them. By the way, they’re not gonna have any of that protective fiber you find in whole fruits or vegetables. The fiber has been removed to improve shelf life of the products.

The average American child sees 30,000 TV commercials a year advertising fast food or candy. While something like kid beer sounds joke-ish-ly evil, maybe it’s not all that different from these fun, colorful sugar packed items kids have access to wherever they go.

“Alright, I’m hanging up.”
“You know what’s the most destructive force in the universe?”
“Sugar?”

Why sugar is addictive and in 80% of foods [Transcript]

Transcript for my video about the addictive nature of sugar.

You might have read something lately about Sugar being 8 times as addictive as cocaine. This piece of information probably didn’t do too much for you unless you are already anti sugar. Considering everyone has eaten sugar at some point, how could this be alarming? I mean, logically if Sugar was 8 times as addictive as cocaine, this statement would feel either entirely obvious or totally unrealistic. That is- for most of us it sounds unrealistic, but If you’ve stabbed someone in the past 6 months for a piece of cake, then the information comes with little surprise.
And what does that mean 8 times as addictive? Do you get hooked 8 times faster? Are the withdrawal symptoms 8 times worse? Would you kill 8 people to get some sugar, but only kill 1 person to get cocaine?
Well, a study from 2007 presented rats with the chance to choose either a sweetened water solution or a cocaine water solution 8 times a day. They almost always picked the sweetened water. Other studies have shown that Rats, even when already addicted to cocaine, will quickly forget about the cocaine and work much harder to get sugar, even when it means walking over a panel that will repeatedly shock them.
But what are the implications for humans? And should you even care? If you were experiencing sugar addiction, you’d surely know it by now, right?
Several recreational substances exist in nature without needing much processing, like dried tobacco leaves, beer from fermented barley, or even the sap from the opium poppy plant. The closer you remain to the natural state of these things, the less dangerous and problematic they are. While smoking tobacco in any form is of course harmful to your health, it usually takes continuous use over a long period of time for it to truly damage you. It’s very rare that someone would drink beer or wine to the point that they get alcohol poisoning or become seriously addicted to alcohol. You could even argue that opium was never a problem in human populations until it was conceived of as a problem by british colonial policy makers. Italian aristocrat and actor Dado Ruspoli had supposedly smoked opium for over 45 years without it having severe repercussions on his life.
Substances like this only become truly hazardous to your health and terribly addictive when you extensively refine them. Around 1810, morphine was derived from opium and was available in the US from the mid 1850’s to be used as a painkiller by doctors. Due to injuries sustained during the Civil War, many soldiers were exposed to morphine, and suddenly you had tens of thousands of morphine addicts. Then in 1874, Heroin which is derived from morphine, was marketed as morphine’s non addictive substitute and since then, the heroin addict has been ever present in American culture.

Another example is the very dangerous and very addictive cocaine, which is also a product of refinement. The refinement of coca leaves. These leaves had been chewed by farmers in the Andes for hundreds of years for a boost in energy, and the worst they got from constant chewing of the leaves was maybe bad teeth.
Alcohol too doesn’t get that bad until you refine it, or distill it. People who have become alcoholics will skip the weaker fermented alcohols like beer, wine or cider and stick to the hard distilled stuff like Whiskey, Gin and Vodka. Have a couple beers and you might be kind of a jerk, but for most people it’s not until they start doing shots that they’ll make a real ass of themselves, black out or end up in the hospital.
In each of these examples, the result of refinement is a higher concentration of a particular ingredient that will have an effect on your brain’s reward system. What happens is the substance either occupies your dopamine receptors or causes dopamine to be released and it makes you feel good. That is- you get more bang for your buck. Distilled alcohol means you get drunker for a lot less liquid, and cocaine and heroin give you way more of the feel good effects from just a tiny bit of the substance.
This brings us to sugar, another substance which also affects your brain’s dopamine system, and is also the result of a refining process. With sugar, you’re getting more sweet for your buck. And compared to other tastes, sweet activates your reward center even more- that is, evolution programmed us to seek sweet foods in particular. One of the reasons is that sweet foods in nature are very rarely poisonous.
Another fun thing about sugar is that it actually has a small opiate like effect. When newborns are to be circumcised, they are given a pacifier dipped in something called “sweet ease”- which is just a concentrated sugar solution. The sugar activates the endogenous opioid system, providing enough analgesia for the baby that the procedure can be completed without too much fuss.
And then, how much something is refined should give you an idea of how intense you can expect the effects to be. For example, 100 kilograms of coca leaves will get you about 300 – 1200 grams of cocaine. That is – the resulting material is about 100 times stronger than what you started with. When it comes to sugar, for a good yielding sugarcane, about half the weight of one stalk is juice, and 20% of that juice is actual sugar. So the result of the refinement process is a material that’s around 10 times sweeter than what you started with.
The average American consumes about 82 grams of sugar per day. To naturally consume this much sugar, they would have to chew through about 2 lbs of sugarcane. This is 2 lbs of fiber rich plant material that our bodies would normally expect to come along with all that sweetness. The fiber in there slows the rate at which the sugar is released into your system, so without the fiber the sugar is absorbed very rapidly. This is another parallel to cocaine.
Your body could probably handle chewing through a 100 grams of coca leaves because the active ingredient is released very slowly into your system… However if you slam that amount of active ingredient instantaneously via your right nostril then it’s gonna be a shock to your body.
OK, so sugar has some parallels to narcotics, but how is it actually addictive? In animals at least, sugar addiction has been thoroughly proven. However, establishing addiction in people is a little different. According to the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 3 of the following 7 criteria need to be met.
5 of these criteria are considered psychological and they are: Bingeing on the substance, a desire to quit using the substance, craving or seeking the substance, the substance interfering with your daily life, and continued use of the substance despite negative consequences. The other two criteria are considered physiological, which makes them the most important in establishing addiction. They are Tolerance and Withdrawal.
Tolerance is easier to establish objectively since you can use neuro imaging to actually see it. What’s happening in the brain when you become tolerant to something is that the dopamine receptors in your brain get downregulated, so more dopamine is necessary to get the same effect – essentially you need more of the substance to get the same amount of pleasure. If you take a look at a cocaine addicts brain, you can see that the cocaine has clearly downregulated their dopamine receptors. Then, if you look at the brain of someone who frequently over consumes sugar, you see the exact same thing in their brain. This is tolerance.

And what about withdrawal? People who try to quit sugar consistently report symptoms like lightheadedness, headaches, anxiety, mood swings, muscle aches, general fatigue, and physical tremors or “the shakes”. If you’ve seen Morgan Spurlock’s “Supersize me!” you may remember this scene: “I was feeling bad, in the car. Feeling like shit. Started eating – feel great. Feel really good now. I feel so good it’s crazy.” So what’s happening here is he’s having withdrawal symptoms until he gets the food again. And what is almost every one of McDonald’s products loaded with? Sugar, or High fructose corn syrup which is chemically almost identical to sugar. In this documentary “That Sugar Film” Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau goes on an experimental high sugar diet for 30 days. Despite consuming the same amount of calories and just upping his sugar intake, in these 30 days alone he gained 8.5 kilograms (19 lbs) And by the 18th day he already had developed fatty liver disease. When he finally goes off the diet, he talks about his withdrawal symptoms: “Frankly, it didn’t feel that different from giving up cigarettes. I had headaches, I was moody, and my sleep patterns were terrible. Woke up, very early, and as soon as I was awake I kind of.. I’m craving sugar.”
As paracelsus said, “the dose makes the poison.” So if you’re not someone who’s eating candy or drinking soda on a regular basis, you might not be worried about all of this. However, the real issue is that a lot of people could be over dosing on sugar without even realizing it. Ever since the low fat craze, our food supply has become more and more overrun with added sugars and now 80% of our food has sugar added to it. One of the reasons is that if you take the fat out of something, it tastes like garbage. If you’re a food company looking to maximize your profit, your product needs to appeal health conscious consumers and it needs to taste good. So, you take the fat out of the product so you can market it as low fat and then you put sugar in where the fat was so it still tastes good.
In fact, food companies found out that you can make almost anything taste better by putting some sugar in it. The “Bliss Point” is a term the food industry uses to describe the point at which a product is most likeable for the majority of consumers. And the majority of consumers like more sugar than less. So the Bliss Point is going to be the point at which the maximum amount of sugar has been added before the product becomes too sweet. This includes anything from bread to pizza sauce to salad dressing.
Sugar used to be way more expensive than it is nowadays – way back in 1319 it sold for about 50 dollars a pound, but as sugar cane and sugar beet cultivation improved and the refinement process became more advanced, sugar became significantly cheaper. Then things got really cheap with the advent of high fructose corn syrup, which again is almost identical to sugar. Because of the way subsidies are managed in the United States, we end up with a massive amount of corn. In 2010, 32 percent of the world’s corn supply, 63.9 billion dollars worth, came from US farmers. That’s a lot of corn. No wonder this corn derived sweetener is in almost everything.
High fructose corn syrup and sugar have built up a bad reputation over time, but there’s 54 other names for sugar that the food industry can use to have us feeling better about their products while keeping the sugar in.
This is how even the more health conscious people can end up consuming more than twice the daily recommended intake of sugar without even knowing it.
And now we have the question: are you addicted to sugar? If you’re like most people, you’re fulfilling your cravings at almost every meal without even knowing it, so how could you tell? With something like caffeine, you can take a pretty good guess about whether or not you have some dependence on it. You can just go without a coffee for a while and see how you feel. However, with sugar, it will take some deliberation and careful label reading to properly cut it out from your diet.
But I really recommend you do trying cutting it out so you can know how you feel without it. It’s important to know whether or not you are dependent on this stuff, because as I’ll discuss in my next video, sugar has some particularly negative effects on your health.
“Disease doesn’t happen with one meal, but it happens with a thousand. But that’s what we have because now sugar is with EVERY meal.”

Everything wrong with the “System” (Trust yourself) [Transcript]

The transcript for my video about some of the perils of accepting conventional practices without question.

In the Movie “Catch me if you can,” Leonardo DiCaprio’s character plays the role of Frank Abagnale – a fugitive who is running from Tom Hanks’ character, an FBI agent. There is one scene where Tom Hanks finally gets to the hotel where Leonardo DiCaprio is staying, and instead of running, Dicaprio pretends to be a secret service agent who actually just caught Frank Abagnale. Hanks doesn’t believe him at first but DiCaprio confidently hands him his wallet as proof that he is indeed a secret service agent. Tom Hanks accepts the wallet and takes it as reason enough to believe DiCaprio. After a while he decides to actually open the wallet and he sees it’s just filled with random soft drink and condiment labels.

So… What this channel is is an invitation to open up the wallet. And to explain what I mean by that and what this has to do with taking the time to research things by yourself, let me tell you the story of Jeff:

As per conventional practice, Jeff’s life starts out with his mother lying on her back attempting to give birth to him. The position she’s in makes it harder to push Jeff out so she’s having a lot of difficulty with the birth, is in a lot of pain and an epidural is recommended. The epidural relieves her pain but makes it even harder to actually give birth. It’s getting pretty late in the day and this whole process is taking far too long so a C-Section is recommended. The surgery is completed without complications, and Jeff comes out a healthy baby boy.

A little while after the birth, he is to be circumcized, and since you can’t give a baby anaesthetic, Jeff has his first taste of sugar in the form of a pacifier dipped in a concentrated sugar solution called “sweet ease” . This activates Jeff’s endogenous opioid system, providing an analgesic effect and the procedure is completed without too much fuss.

At home, Jeff’s mother takes great care of him, and after 6 months puts him on Nestle’s good start baby formula. When he begins to eat solid foods, his Mom makes sure it’s a low fat diet with plenty of heart healthy whole grains as recommended by the USDA. His usual breakfast before school would be maybe an egg, some toast, yogurt, cereal (but not the sweet cereal), and a glass of orange juice- which Jeff will get refills on.

While Jeff is a pretty good kid at home, he can’t quite behave and focus properly in school so his teacher tells his Mom that he may have ADHD. They have all these commercials for Ambien, Celebrex, Lamisil, Mirapex, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Paxil, Rozerem and Crestor that all end with “Ask your doctor about…” [Ask your doctor, ask your doctor, ask your doctor, ask your doctor, ask your doctor today, ask your doctor, ask your doctor] so she decided to ask her doctor about Jeff’s ADHD, and he gave her a prescription for him. At the pharmacy she picks up adderall for Jeff and some Oxycontin for her back pain.

Thanks to the adderrall, Jeff’s behavior and grades improve and he quickly develops a skill for rote memorization and keeping information in his head just long enough to pass the standardized tests. Come senior year of high school he is told he needs to decide on what he will be majoring in college. He’s informed that this decision will ultimately determine the path of his entire adult life so he needs to consider it thoroughly. This is a little bewildering considering he spent the past 10 years learning that disobedience means punishment, and that authority figures should make the important decisions for him. So during 3rd period, he raises his hand to ask permission to go to the bathroom and think about this in private.

After high school, the cost of college is steep but he needs an education to get a good job, so he takes out some loans, gets a part time job and he even got a grant, so it works out. Although he is kind of pissed that half of his classes require the newest edition of each textbook which cost more than a hundred dollars each. There’s barely any difference between the newest one and the 4 preceding editions which are less than half the price, but the class requires the new edition.

College was tough but he got through it and he even landed a reasonable job. Adult life isn’t too bad, he’s making enough money to handle his student loans and live comfortably. He meets a great girl, saves up for an engagement ring and proposes to her. Now that he got that step out of the way, he has to figure out how to finance the wedding. He doesn’t quite understand why it has to be so expensive, but it’s a very special occasion so he tries to make it as extravagant as he can.

“Meet Vicki Howard – she’s the author of Brides Incorporated and an expert in wedding commercialization. Weddings used to be simple affairs but then bridal magazines encouraged brides to marry like the wealthy. It was the birth of an entire industry and now the cost of weddings keeps sky rocketing. The wedding industry systematically overcharges young couples, just because they can. One study found that a majority of flower shops, photographers charged more for a wedding than they did for a birthday party of the same size.”

Over time Jeff gains a bit of weight so he starts counting calories, makes sure to reduce the fat in his diet and he even picks up jogging. He had been hearing that he should reduce his sugar consumption, so he avoids sodas and candies. “Much of the sugar we eat is hidden in foods we don’t necessarily think of as sweet. This oatmeal, 3 and 3 quarter teaspoons of sugar a bowl. You can find sugar added to bread, soup, all kinds of condiments, hot dogs…” He loses a little bit of weight, but he feels hungry and tired all the time. He sticks to it, but isn’t losing weight as fast as he’d like so just in case, he checks with his doctor about any health risks coming from his weight. Jeff’s cholesterol is not super high but his doctor recommends he take a statin just in case. Jeff says “Yea sure doc, give me the Lipitor”

“all of the long term data on the statins show that you will die sooner if your cholesterol is lower, particularly if you are over 55 if you are female or male. There is no benefit to the drugs. The sickest people I have ever seen in my 32 years of practice were people who’s cholsterol was too low. Without enough cholesterol in your system, your immune system can’t work properly.”

A couple weeks later his wife complains about his performance in the bedroom so he gets some viagra for that.

“What is one of the major side effects of cholesterol lowering drugs? Impotence is one of the things that is complained about most frequently. Well guess what the same manufacturer’s number 2 selling drug is that makes lipitor? Viagra. Viagra! Heyyyy!”

He’s also feeling a little foggy in the head so he consults his doctor and his doc reassures him he’s just getting a little older and probably just under stress. The doctor finds out Jeff used to have ADHD as a kid, so he recommends Jeff to get back on some ADHD medication. He gives Jeff a prescription for the ADHD and a painkiller for some pain in his back from slipping on the stairs the other day. Jeff swings by the pharmacy to pick up his ADHD medication, the oxycontin, a refill of lipitor and some Listerine for his Halitosis.

Jeff was then getting a lot of relief from the pain killer, but he started to worry about becoming dependent on it. On the weekend he met up with his friend Tony who said he got off the Oxycontin and started using Marijuana to treat his pain instead. Jeff was very wary of illegal drugs, courtesy of Nancy Reagan “say no to drugs.” and the 1987 egg in a frying pan commercial. “this is your brain on drugs, any questions?” When Tony started talking about how Oxycontin is essentially legal heroin and substances like Marijuana only became illegal to benefit Richard Nixon’s political campaign, Jeff politely changed the subject.

“He said quote: The Nixon campaign in 1968 and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: The antiwar left and black people. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Later Jeff and his wife have a beautiful son Jack, who has an upbringing similar to Jeff’s. In primary school, Jack’s teacher tells Jeff that his son has trouble focusing so medical attention may be necessary. Jeff recently had gone off the ADHD medication and the Oxycontin because it was making him feel weird and he didn’t want his son to have to go through that. He starts doing some research and learns that Jack’s ADHD may stem from a couple things, one of them being Jack having been delivered via C-Section. Apparently the procedure doesn’t allow the healthy bacteria in his mother’s vaginal canal to be transferred to the baby, making it hard for Jack to develop a healthy gastrointestinal microbiome. This sounded a little cooky to Jeff but it would explain his own difficulties with ADHD as a child. Considering the recommended treatment to improve Jack’s GI microbiome was just to make some changes in his diet like adding fermented foods and probiotics, he figures it’s worth trying before giving his kid prescription methanphetamine.

“The drugs that the doctors are giving us are the same as the drugs being sold on the streets? Take adderrall and ritalin which are made from the same stuff as meth. So basically, those pills that you have your children popping are street legal meth.”

A while after changing Jack’s diet, Jack’s teacher mentions to Jeff that his focus had noticeably improved. They continued Jack on the diet and he kept getting better little by little without any bad effects at all.

At this point Jack is kind of pissed off that he didn’t learn things like this earlier as it could have saved him a lot of trouble as kid. He starts to question other things like whether or not he really needs to be on the statin. Some articles he read suggest that his low fat diet and the sugar in all these things he’s been consuming virtually ever since birth could be causing his weight troubles and some other health problems. The calories in calories out thing never really quite worked for him so he gives that low carb thing a shot even though he’s worried about heart disease. Then he starts to lose weight without feeling like crap and his bloodwork actually shows better numbers. He starts to think that all these potential diseases linked to being overweight are certainly not prevented by and could even be caused by the USDA dietary guidelines.

Later, his son Jack seems to be frustrated with school despite having good grades. After seeing the kind of homework he has to do, Jeff starts to think he might as well save his kid 10 years and a just teach him how to use an Encyclopedia. Then he finds out he doesn’t technically have to have Jack in public school and there are other school systems like ISD’s or Montessori School or Sudbury schools or Charter Schools that are actually more conducive to creativity, critical thinking and better financial achievement later in life.

What Jeff realizes is that more often than not, organizations don’t always have the best methods, and are just saying and doing whatever best suits their interests and their profits.

“In 1971, then president Richard Nixon began the war on drugs. Since then, the war on drugs has cost the US over 1 TRILLION dollars. And the prison population has risen over 700%.”

“But in 1996, a company called Purdue Pharma released a new drug: OxyContin. Purdue spent hundreds of millions of dollars to convince doctors that OxyContin was safe and not addictive.”

“Just yes or no, do you believe nicotine is not addictive? I believe nicotine is not addictive, yes. Mr. Johnston? I don’t believe that nicotine or our products are addictive. I believe nicotine is not addictive. I believe that nicotine is not addictive. I believe that nicotine is not addictive. And I too believe that nicotine is not addictive.”

“You know, there were imminent scientists of the time saying this is nonsense, there is no good scientific evidence that either fat or cholesterol y’know is at the root of heart disease. And I have pleaded in my report and will plead again orally here for more research on the problem before we make announcements to the american public. I would only argue that senators don’t have the luxury that a research scientist does of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in.”

“Does the money that students put into their tuition, do they actually get it back? A lot of this extra money that students pay for tuition is not going into the classroom to improve their education but is going for administrators.”

So… Back to Catch me if you can. In that scene, Tom Hanks could have looked inside the wallet DiCaprio gave him much earlier, found that it was filled with a bunch of garbage and catch Frank Abagnale on the spot. So this is what I am encouraging people to do: be like Jeff. Take the time to look inside the standard systems, conventional practices and mainstream products we’ve been asked to buy into, because you may start to find that most of them are filled with random soft drink and condiment labels.

Why your Body makes you Fat AND Hungry [Transcript]

The bare transcript for my youtube video of the same title. Explores some of the biological processes (namely insulin function) that affect weight gain

This is the bare transcript for my youtube video of the same title

Growing up in Texas, I thought that the weight gain of people around me was just something that naturally happened. Though, I didn’t realize how big us Texans were getting until I saw Morgan Spurlock’s “Supersize Me!” and he mentioned how 5 of the fattest cities in America were in Texas. This was surprising, but I was chubby when I was younger and then in high school I exercised and slimmed up. I thought what to do to lose weight was obvious, so I unfairly figured people in Texas were just lazy. Then in 2010 I went to Japan, and when I came back 3 years later I realized people were significantly bigger compared to when I was young – If there was an obesity epidemic then I was looking at it. At this point, I started to think it couldn’t be just a matter of not trying hard enough. Because that would suggest that we really have an epidemic of is not caring.

Maybe what actually happened is that the advice we’d been given for losing weight doesn’t work. This may be hard to believe considering 80% of the USDA’s $140 billion budget goes to the Food and Nutrition Service program, but hear me out.

In my previous video, I talked about how weight regulation isn’t just calories in calories out, which is justified mainly by bad Physics. As Dr. Blake Donaldson suggests in his 1962 book “Strong Medicine,” : Continuous success in any line of endeavor, including weight reduction, demands rigid adherence to biological laws.”
It is Biology, not Physics that will help us to understand the human body, and that when your body is properly fed, it will not choose to store fat in excess nor make you hungry all the time.

First off let’s say you wanted to make an animal fat. What would you feed it? If you want your cows produce steaks with more fat on them, you feed them corn and grain instead of grass. To make Foie Gras, they force feed ducks primarily corn. In this study, they found the best way to fatten up rats was to give them a diet with ample amounts of cookies, cereals, chips, crackers as well as some processed cheese and meats.
Of course, Animals are not the same as humans, so let’s look at a population of humans that intentionally try to get fat. Japanese Sumo wrestlers pack on as many pounds as they can in order to be able to push their opponent out of the ring. According to the Sugahara Institutes’ examination of Sumo wrestler’s diet and lifestyle while in training camp, the wrestlers, as expected are eating massive amounts of food. Some days they are hitting as much as 15,000 calories. But what macronutrient do they rely on to pack on the pounds? They’re getting more than twice as much carbohydrates as they are fat or protein.

It may not be surprising that carbohydrates drive fat accumulation, considering low-carb has been a pretty big thing since 2002, when the New York Times Magazine published a cover story entitled “What if Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat?” What may be surprising is that “low carb” is not new in the least. For almost 200 years, reducing carbohydrates for weight loss was a common practice.

In 1797 the Scottish Military surgeon John Rollo successfully treated a diabetes patient with a low carbohydrate diet. Jean Savarin published a book in 1825 called “the Physiology of taste” in which he talks about his patients not being happy that they need to reduce tasty things like flour, sugar, bread, and potatoes and cookies in order to lose weight. In 1844 Jean Dancel published a book called “Obesity, or Excessive Corpulence: The Various Causes and Rational Means of a cure” that recommended to avoid carbohydrates and eat meat in order to “cure” obesity. There are dozens more examples I could list going up to the late 1900’s, but let’s jump to 1971. This is when Charlotte Young released a study showing that “With fewer carbohydrates and more fat in the diet, greater weight loss and fat loss would be observed in subjects”

So for a while obesity was relatively under control, if people needed to lose weight they knew what to do. That was until around 1977, when something interesting happens. Any graph you pull up on the obesity trends, you can see a very noticeable change around that year which shows a clear increase in weight gain which leads ultimately to our current obesity epidemic. 1977 is the year when the USDA put out the new dietary recommendations to cut fat and replace it with “heart healthy” starches, bread, pasta and other carbohydrates. I guess it’s not that big of a surprise that when you bury a method that worked for 200 years for reversing obesity and controlling diabetes, that you get an obesity and diabetes epidemic.

The history paints a pretty good picture, but it’s important that we understand the biological mechanisms behind this. To save you the suspense, it’s not total calories, but your hormones that cause weight gain. Particularly one called insulin, which you’ve surely heard of. It’s known as the fat storage hormone. Where there’s insulin, there’s fat. And When people have to routinely inject insulin in themselves, they experience something called lipohypertrophy – the site at which insulin is injected has a clear accumulation of fat.
So how does insulin work in the body?
As you know, your blood glucose or blood sugar rises when you eat carbohydrates, particularly ones low in fiber. This then causes insulin to be released so the insulin can carry the glucose into the cells that have an insulin receptor, which then allows the cells to break down the glucose and produce energy in the form of phosphates. So far so good.

However this process can only happen at a certain rate, so glucose needs to be put somewhere else. In the form of glycogen, you can store about 200 grams of glucose in the muscle and 70 grams in the liver. When those are filled up, insulin receptors decrease on those cells so glucose can’t go in. But the glucose still needs to go somewhere because if it sits in the blood stream it will bind to proteins in a damaging process called glycation.

Glycation is a process where sugar in the bloodstream mucks onto proteins, creating something called advanced glycation end products or AGE’s for short. It’s the cellular equivalent of pouring maple syrup on your keyboard. One example is a banana. As it gets more ripe, you see some brown spots on the peel and if you peel the banana you can see some dark spots which are particularly sweet. The same thing happens to your skin over time: proteins in your bloodstream get sugar stuck on them and the resulting AGE’s damage your skin internally, creating age spots. You also see these spots from external damage from the sun. Where these things become a real problem is in diabetics who have trouble controlling their blood sugar, and end up with a large amount of AGE’s. This is why diabetics can lose sight in their eyes and may even end up having to amputate their toes because these are the places with very small capillaries where it’s easy for these AGE’s to get stuck and cause serious damage.

So back to the glucose processing: Your muscles and liver have stored as much glucose as they can, and your body really does not want glucose overloading the cells, so it decreases the insulin receptors on most cells preventing the glucose from getting in. Then, glucose is broken down and stored as triglycerides in the only place where insulin receptors are actually increasing- your body fat.

So this is how carbohydrates and the insulin response cause you to get fat.

A couple years back before I learned about intermittent fasting and this low carb business, there was an all you can eat Yakiniku- Japanese barbecue place that I’d sometimes go to. It’s common to always have a bowl of rice to accompany the meat when you’re eating, but one day I decided to skip the rice and just focus on the meat. The next day I noticed something new: I felt stuffed the entire day and I didn’t want to eat until dinner. Whereas when I usually had the rice with my meat, I was already starving for breakfast by morning.

Now, I finally understand what was going on. To use the energy within our fat tissues, fatty acids are taken out of the tissue to be broken down for energy. Which obviously would make you shed fat. But when you have a high serum insulin level from eating too much carbohydrate, you cannot break down your fat tissue because the enzyme that allows that – hormone sensitive lipase, is sensitive to insulin, which will not allow the fat to be broken down.

So you then have this situation where insulin won’t let you use your fat for energy, so when you’re low on energy, you’re going to feel very lethargic and hungry until you get new glucose. This is how high blood sugar and insulin keeps you fat and keeps you hungry.

People don’t get fat because they want to eat all the time, they want to eat all the time because they’re getting fat. So then, are people staying fat because they don’t exercise, or do they not exercise because they don’t have any energy available to do so? I would argue the latter.

So the diet and exercise recommendations we’ve been getting the past several decades ignore basic endocrinology and something natural to all animals: the desire to keep their biological processes balanced and remain in homeostasis. For example: Your body always wants to stay at a constant temperature, so when it’s too hot, your metabolism slows down so you don’t overheat from the inside. When it’s cold, you start to shiver so the glycogen stored in your muscles breaks down and produces heat to maintain your body temperature. Your body will also auto regulate your blood pressure, as well as your sodium and other mineral levels.

Physiologist Edward F Adolph back in the 1940’s found that however he tried to trick his lab rats, he couldn’t get them to take in more nutrients than usual. He would dilute their food with water and they just drank more of it until they got the same amount of nutrients, and he would even pump food into their stomachs and they would then just eat less.

So why would we humans, the smartest and most evolutionarily successful creatures on the planet, have to expend willpower and consciously regulate how much we eat? The simple answer is that if you feed your body properly, it will regulate consumption for you.

In the 1960’s Ethan Sims conducted experiments where he took prisoners from the Vermont State prison and tried to overfeed them with either carbs or fat on top of their normal diet. He could get them to eat an excess of 7000 calories in carbs per day, yet getting them to eat 800 calories of fat, about 1 stick of butter, took a heroic amount of effort. It takes willpower to overeat if you are on the right diet, but it takes even more willpower to not overeat if you are on the wrong diet

This is the issue. Humans have not had time to adapt to the massive amount of low fiber carbohydrates recently introduced to our diet. The low fiber aspect is important because Fiber reduces the rate of intestinal carbohydrate absorption, reducing the insulin response, and essentially preventing all these problems I just talked about. Way back when we were hunting and gathering and before the cultivation of sweeter and juicier fruit, we were getting about 100 to 300 grams of fiber a day, whereas today the average is more like 15 grams.

So no, the people of Texas and others struggling with their weight are not just lazy, we’ve just had the wrong food and the wrong advice pushed on us the past 40 years. By the way, remember how I said I slimmed up by exercising when I was young? That wasn’t really me, it was my hormones. I went through a massive hormonal change called.. puberty, which slimmed me up and gave me the energy to exercise- not the other way around.

★Credit for some of the information in here goes to Albert Lehninger’s principles of Biochemistry textbook, Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories Bad Calories,” his other book “Why we get fat”, Robert Lustig’s book “Fat Chance” and Johnathon Bailor’s book “The Calorie Myth”

Stop procrastinating, Get Creative work done & use the Flow Loop

A specific strategy I use when I’m at my desk, staring procrastination in the face and I just need to start working.

cup-of-black-coffee1
Drink coffee, duh.


How can we be more productive?
Simple: Drink coffee, take smart drugs, use the pomodoro technique, break your project down into smaller tasks, listen to classical music (specifically this song), remove distractions from your workplace, meditate, listen to isochronic tones, use transcranial stimulation, and just don’t procrastinate.

What about that last part?

You know how you’ll have everything laid out, your textbook is open, or you have those meeting notes you need to compile in front of you, or you have all your ideas and references for your paper ready… but you just for some reason can’t open up Microsoft Word? For me, I can feel the exact moment when the rational part of my brain is trying to push me to get started and I feel an actual physical pain- and I just can’t open the damn word processor. Then I’ll open up Netflix and let out a sigh of relief. That’s the thing you don’t want to do.

Maybe not everyone has that strong of an Instant Gratification Monkey (copyright – Tim Urban) ruling their brain, but I’m sure everyone has experienced some degree of this, and maybe wrestles with procrastination on a daily basis. So how can we get ourselves to get stuff done without waiting for the Panic Monster© to kick us into gear? Here’s what’s worked really well for me:

Do two pushups or squats and take a shower.

hurley-what
It’s more like “Do two pushups or squats when you are distracted, and take a shower when you are lacking creativity.” This has been really effective, so give me a moment to explain why it works. If we’ve learned anything from Simon Sinek, it’s that unless we know the “why” behind something, we probably won’t do it.

The combo
Ever since I can remember, I loved combos. Whether it be in Dance Dance Revolution or some fighting game, flappy bird or even a game like Zelda where you combine the use of multiple items to get through the quest- everyone has to love combos.

Those are all examples of combos within a realm of unproductivity, and in another article I talked about the unproductivity combo dealt upon you by the internet’s “hook”. This a concept from Nir Eyal’s book “Hooked“. Basically the hook is comprised of 4 parts: a trigger, behavior, reward and investment and it explains why it’s so difficult to peel yourself off of Twitter or Facebook or Imgur or Reddit once you’ve invested a little time into it.


This article is about the flip side of that coin: how to put yourself into a loop of enhanced productivity rather than just trying to keep yourself from being unproductive. The “combo” in this productivity hack productivity tip lies in the 5 ideas behind it (since when did everything become a “hack”?)

1) Use mindfulness to catch the monkey in your brain
The first step is not actually “do 2 pushups”, it’s to notice that you are becoming distracted. While it sounds simple and almost like a non-step, this first part is the most important, and it comes from something I picked up from Psychiatrist Judson Brewer. He gave a talk called “a simple way to break bad habits” where he talks about how you can use mindfulness to stop cravings that lead to bad habits. Judson described an incredibly successful experiment designed to help people abstain from cigarette smoking. People were instructed to simply be curious about their smoking cravings when they appeared. The point was to analyze and understand that craving. To not focus on “oh my god, I need a cigarette.” but to focus on “Oh I suppose I’m a little tired or irritated with my slow internet, so I am expecting a cigarette would release me from this uncomfortableness.” Just by taking a moment to really understand the craving, the participants had much more success with abstaining from smoking.

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Like Vision said about that thing on his face: “I wish to understand it. The more I do, the less it controls me.

I gave this a shot and started trying to analyze what was going on in my head as I was becoming distracted. Usually it was something I could put my finger on: I was irritated with how slowly I was progressing in the project, or I couldn’t get my mind off of something someone said, or I just really wanted to watch an episode of the Simpsons. Taking notice of this craving to get distracted helped way more than I expected. It was enough to be able to say “That’s a stupid reason to stop working…” and the craving would pass. Unfortunately it doesn’t work all the time. Particularly when my willpower is low and my mindset switches to “who cares, I know why I have the craving, I just want to look at this video and I’m going to do it” This is where part 2 comes in.

2) Link a good habit to a bad one
Concept #2 comes from behavior master BJ Fogg. BJ describes in his TED talk how there are 2 very effective ways to create new positive habits: (a) Change your environment or (b) tack the habit you want to create onto an existing behavior. Since we don’t want to rent a hotel every time we want to make a new good habit, we’ll use the second option. BJ talks about how he was able to get in about a 100 pushups a day by simply pairing his new behavior – pushups, with a very commonly occurring behavior – going to the bathroom. So every time he gets up to pee, he’ll do two pushups right afterwards. You might say “Why not 10 at a time, he could end up doing 500 pushups per day” – the small number of pushups doesn’t have to do with fatigue, but the likelihood of him actually doing it. For example, if you’re trying to get yourself into the habit of running every day, you’re more likely to commit to it and and successfully make the habit- if your target is 200 meters every day rather than 5 kilometers. No matter how tired or demotivated you are, a jog up and down the street is do-able. You’ll probably end up actually doing more, maybe even 1km instead of 200 meters, but the point is that day by day you’re making the habit. You can do all sorts of things with this concept like get yourself to start flossing right after you brush your teeth. I chose to do squats or pushups when I notice I am distracted or attempting to procrastinate.

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3) Why the pushups?
When I first started this, the idea was just “If I’m gonna slack off, I might as well make the habit of getting some exercise” but this ended up helping me in a way I didn’t expect- it was giving my brain a small enough boost to get me back to work.  Several studies have shown that exercise, particularly high intensity exercise increases BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which stimulates the production of new neurons. BDNF is very important to learning, memory and higher thinking. I doubt 2 pushups is going to grow me another hippocampus, but it will increase blood flow, getting more energy and oxygen to the brain, making it perform a little bit better. Better performance means better willpower, which is usually enough to make me decide to keep working instead of looking at Reddit. If not, I might be able to get myself to do 5 or 10 more pushups to get a sufficient boost.

Another thing that might happen is my desire to procrastinate will be less than my desire to not have to get up and do pushups (of course this might take a couple rounds of pushups to actually be the case.) These two situations are usually enough to keep me on task. And even when it’s not, this small practice is reinforcing my ability to be mindful. So then I can catch myself on other things. If I find myself stuck looking at Facebook or whatever for too long, I can take a moment and think “Hey, maybe I shouldn’t continue doing this and actually get some work done” and if I don’t have the willpower to get to work, I do 2 pushups.

4) Take a break and let your subconscious do the work
If the task at hand only requires the will to do it, you can continue using the pushup technique. What if you have the procrastination in check but you’re doing something that requires creativity and you just can’t come up with a good idea? That’s where the shower comes in. Surely anyone has had the experience of being in a shower and having a good idea suddenly hit them out of nowhere. The fact that the subreddit /r/showerthoughts has 8.2 million subscribers shows how common that is. While of course it’s not always an option, if you are in an environment where you can take a break and hop in the shower- great. The warmth of the shower will cause you to release dopamine, and increased dopamine flow is linked to better creativity. However it doesn’t have to be a shower – you can replace it with taking a walk, sitting in a quiet place, gardening, painting or something “slow” like that. The key with the shower is not the warm water, or the act of washing, but the quiet isolation of the shower room.

My good friend says he always gets his best ideas when he’s sitting on the plane after phones have to be switched off. When Salvador Dali needed creative inspiration, he would hold keys in his hand as he relaxed on his sofa and when he dozed off, the keys would drop and wake him up. He would then quickly jot down whatever ideas he had in that moment. Thomas Edison did something similar with ball bearings and relaxing in his chair.Albert Einstein supposedly had one of his insights about the nature of light when he was rowing a boat in the middle of Lake Geneva. So what do these and being in the shower have in common? In all of these, you’re not really doing anything. Your mind is not focused on any particular task and probably not straining itself to consciously come up with ideas.

Engineering professor Barbara Oakley has a good explanation for what’s going on here. She says there are two modes for the brain to be in: a “focus mode” where you are focused on a particular task, and another state where you are relaxed called the “diffuse mode”. You can think of these states as your brain being two different types of pinball machines. The focus mode brain has many bumpers, so once the pinball takes off it’s easy for the ball to get stuck in a certain area. The diffuse mode brain has less bumpers, so the pinball bounces much farther around throughout the machine. Being consciously focused, you are actively trying to solve a problem using thinking patterns you are familiar with. However, when you are relaxed and not straining your brain to apply itself to a certain task, your subconscious can do work in the background and play with scenarios related to less commonly used thinking patterns.

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In his book “Originals,” Adam Grant says that (the right kind of) procrastination is actually one of the traits of creative people who have original ideas. John Cleese has talked about the importance of “letting your ideas bake” and how a piece of writing he had completed, lost and then had to rewrite from memory was much better than the original. He said “I began to see a lot of my best work seemed to come as a result of my unconscious working on things when I wasn’t really attending to them.

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5) The Flow State Loop
Steven Kotler wrote a book about the “flow state” called The Rise of Superman, a state he describes as an optimal state of consciousness where you feel totally absorbed in the task at hand and all aspects of performance, mental and physical, go through the roof. If you’ve ever had the experience of doing something challenging that you love and 4 hours went by and the only reason you realized was because you really had to go to the bathroom, you were probably in a flow state. If you’ve worked on a paper with only 3 hours left until the deadline and your typing speed doubled and you suddenly had superhuman ability to recall any and all of the information necessary for the paper, you were probably in the flow state.

Steven says that in order to wilfully put yourself in that state, you need to be aware of a 4 part cycle that starts with [1] working through a phase where you really have to work hard to the point that your brain is almost overloading itself and struggling to remain focused on a difficult task. The next step [2] is to go into a “release” phase where you take your mind off the problem. Steven says in an interview with Big Think:


what happens in flow is we are trading conscious processing which is slow, has very limited RAM, the working memory can only hold about 4 items at once and it is very energy inefficient, for subconscious processing. Which is extremely fast, it is very energy efficient and has pretty much endless RAM. So to do that, you have to move from struggle, you have to stop thinking about what you were trying to think about basically, take your mind off the problem. You go for long walks, gardening works very well, building models works very well.


The third part of the cycle [3] is being in the state of flow. After you’ve taken your mind off the problem, you come back to it and (if you’re really lucky) your brain will start to release a bunch of performance enhancing chemicals and you’ll begin to work incredibly effectively. The last part [4] is a recovery phase which is sort of like a hangover. The chemicals that enhance performance (norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, serotonin and endorphins) are also the feel good chemicals, so you go from this amazing “high” when the flow is kicking in to feeling pretty crappy once those chemicals are used up. So it’s also important to deal with that neurochemical hangover by getting the proper vitamins, minerals and some sunlight. Then you’ll want to get up the willpower to get back to step one of the cycle, the struggle phase, so you might need to do something like …a couple pushups perhaps.



Reinforcing the loop
The best thing about this process is that you can get better at each step. The more you practice mindfulness, the more you can be mindful of your cravings. Every time you anchor the squats or pushups to your distraction, it becomes more of a habit. After a while, the minimum number of pushups or squats you do goes from 2 to 5 or 10. Steven Kotler says you can even get better at identifying what specific routines can put you into flow to the point that you can start to consistently invoke it.

Of course pushing your brain to the point where it goes into overdrive performance isn’t all that easy right off the bat. This process I’ve described is set up to encourage flow, but it’s not a sure thing. For me, I notice I can get into a mini-flow if I’ve cycled between grinding really hard and getting my mind off the task a couple times in the span of 2 or 3 hours.

What’s really important is making sure you’re taking your mind off the task in the right way. Steven Kotler says that one of the only things that you can’t do during the release phase is to watch television, because it will actually change your brain waves in a way that blocks flow. It took me a while to notice that if I worked on something, then took a break by playing a game or watching Netflix, I didn’t get those creative ideas appearing in my head. This doesn’t mean you have to absolutely bar yourself from browsing the internet until you finish the entire project, you just need to set that type of break for after you’ve gotten some ideas from your subconscious mind.

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This makes me wonder how many creative insights may have been denied by people being constantly stimulated by smart phones. Most of us can’t even cross the street without replying to a text or scrolling through the Twitter feed. I wonder if Einstein would have been able to have those insights about the nature of light if he had a smart phone to look at on his boat, rather than the clouds above.

 

Eating Once a Day: Questions

There were several questions about the “One Meal a Day” post, so I thought I’d answer a few

A bit more than a month back, I made a blog post called “Longevity & Why I Eat Once a Day” and posted a video version of that post on Youtube, which unexpectedly took off. It was awesome to see that so many people found the video interesting, and I had a lot of fun reading the questions and comments. I tried to answer what I could but obviously I can’t write a response for all 1700 comments. Since several questions were asked multiple times, I thought I’d take a minute to give some simple answers to some of those questions. I will be expanding this as more comments come in, or correcting some information if necessary.

Do you still do this?
Yes, but I’ve been playing around with it lately. I’ve been experimenting with eating once every other day not specifically to lose weight, but just to see if it’s do able. Also trying eating 2 days then not eating 2 days. It’s surprisingly not that big of a difference in terms of effort, and more surprisingly: hunger bothers me less and less than I would think.

How can you stand to be hungry all day? I don’t even want to live longer if I have to force myself to suffer all the time.
This is a very reasonable concern and it’s sort of hard to get the point across unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. The point being: It’s really not that bad. Sure, the first week I felt a bit hungrier than I would have liked and I even would go on reddit to gawk at the /r/food pictures when I wasn’t eating. But after the second week it didn’t bother me too much. By the third week hunger rarely crossed my mind and I would even go an hour or two past my usual eating time without noticing.
I think we have the ability to addict to nearly anything, so it’s very understanding that the idea of “giving up” food sounds so terrible. Some people even mentioned “How can hunger be good for us if it feels so bad, and eating feels so good?” Not to be extreme, but then shouldn’t heroine or cocaine be incredibly good for us? Trust me, you adapt to the hunger much faster than you’d expect. (Assuming you’re not eating a bunch of low fibre high carb junk)

Have you noticed any changes? In mood / energy / sleeping?
Energy levels are much higher and much more stable. Since I feel better, I’m generally in a more positive mood throughout the day. A big thing I noticed was needing less sleep. I used to have to sleep at the very least 8 hours to not feel like a fat labrador retriever in the morning, but now 6-7 hours tops is enough for me and I don’t need an alarm clock. 

Weight Loss? Do you workout? Can you maintain muscle mass on this?
Weight loss isn’t a goal for me but I’ve lost maybe 4 kilos of total weight since I’ve started this. After getting more serious about my workout (while continuing the one meal a day), my muscles have gotten bigger, more defined and I feel stronger.
I mainly do calisthenics-y exercises: pullups, handstands, L-sits, kettle bell swings, pushups, squats. Try to make sure to get a full body workout every other day and on the other day, I regularly do pushups and squats throughout the day to keep me focused after working at the computer so long. Sorry I don’t have any specific body fat stats or  squat / bench stats, but I can do more pullups/pushups & longer L-sits et cetera if that tells you anything. I’m not worried about losing muscle mass. Could I build muscle faster on more calories and more meals a day? Sure, probably.
A lot of people were pointing to the Nun Amen Ra video (eats once a day, bodybuilder) and he’s pretty jacked.

What do you eat? How many calories do you eat? What’s the macronutrient ratio?
I’m not much of a gif maker, but I gave making one a shot to show what I eat. It’s usually a variation of that- some berries, fruit and vegetables blended up + eggs, avocado and some meat or fish or maybe both. The total in that gif is probably around 1500 calories tops and lately I eat probably around 1200 calories. While I don’t know the specific ratio, you can kind of guess that it will be Fat > Protein > Carbohydrates. Fat, Fiber and Vitamins & Minerals are top priority for me. Protein comes second in priority, and poor carbohydrates get somewhat shunned.
(In the gif, it’s kind of confusing and I think I made it look like I ate a plate of veggies, a smoothie, a plate of eggs and meat and a second plate of eggs and meat. The plate of veggies is just what’s in the smoothie and the first plate is the same as the second plate, just unprepared.)

Low carb high fat? Enjoy your heart disease. (I have a video addressing this:)

What time do you eat? What’s your window for eating?
I used to eat right before bed because the food would get me real sleepy. I heard your digestive system works best around noon somewhere so I gave that a shot. Felt a lot more light in the morning when I ate at noon compared to eating at night so I stuck with it. I try to keep my window down to 1 hour. If you need a longer window than that to get down all the food you planned to eat, you’re probably eating too much (unless you have some athletic goals).

Do you drink anything during the fast?
Sure – I have plenty of water, maybe 2-3 cups of coffee a day and some ごぼう茶 (Gobou Tea) if I have any. The tea was recommended by Yoshinori Nagumo, the author of that book 空腹は人を健康にする (Hunger makes you healthy). I try not to go over 3 cups of coffee because I get sorta jittery. Coffee is an excellent hunger suppressor too. Go ahead and drink whatever teas you have, I’m sure they’re fine or maybe even better than the coffee. Too much caffeine may make you feel pretty crappy though.

Is the Japanese book you mentioned available in English?
Not yet, sorry. Available in Japanese and German only it seems

How can you say carbs aren’t necessary?
Because… they’re not necessary for survival. I wouldn’t recommend a zero carbohydrate diet or try to argue that it’s particularly healthy but… you’re not going to die and might not even have any particularly bad ailments if you don’t eat them (assuming you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals etc.)
Someone brought up fibre and it made me realize I should have at least made a sidenote about it. My explanation regarding how carbohydrates and glucose can really screw up your metabolic engine failed to mention fibre. Fibre is wonderful in mitigating that spike in blood sugar that results from high glycemic load foods like candy, bread, low fat snack bars etc.
So no, I am not suggesting carbohydrates from veggies and fruits will make you fat or that they are bad at all.

What do you think about a vegan diet?
If you’re doing it for moral or environmental reasons, that’s great – no debate there. Is it healthy? Sure (assuming you’re not eating junk and are supplementing properly). Is it the healthiest I’m not convinced that it is. Sure, veganism can keep you very healthy and I’m not surprised that a lot of vegan people look great. But you’re gonna have a tough time arguing why it is the best diet. I won’t get into it too much here, but it’s too restrictive: you’re cutting off access to some wonderfully nutrient dense foods. You also need to be careful with supplementation to make sure you’re getting everything the body needs to run really well. Among other points, one really big thing for me is getting enough DHA (fatty acid found in fish).
DHA is pretty huge for us, it’s widely understood as the key nutrient to our evolution as a species. It’s very important for the brain and it’s even more important for in utero babies. When pregnant mothers aren’t getting enough DHA, their babies are shown to have less cognitive ability and visual acuity compared to babies whose mothers that were getting enough. If you’re vegan make sure you’re supplementing with it (there are vegan grade supplements out there). If  your vegan sister/wife/cousin/coworker is pregnant, please encourage them to supplement DHA as well.

The X people of Y location eat like Z and frequently live to be 100! Athletes eat 6 times a day and are super ripped and look great! This has to be wrong.
This line of thinking sort of misses the point I was trying to communicate in the video. Think about it like this: There’s a beautiful woman on a remote island and suddenly a foreign looking man comes out of the forest and says “Hello there young lady! Surely you would like to spend the night with a master navigator like myself! I came here on a Kayak, the best method of travel. Obviously this method is best because as you can see, I am now here on the island.” then another man comes out of the forest and says “Wait just a moment, sir! She should spend her time with me, for it is I who is clearly the master navigator and used the best method- canoeing to get here! Obviously this is best because as you can see, I am here” Then a third guy busts in trying to sell her on how sailing is the best and the woman decides to leave.
The point is, there are many ways to be healthy. This is one of them. You can be very healthy on one diet while someone else is very healthy on another diet. If you have different goals or ideas of what is “healthy”, then it makes sense that you might want to lend yourself to a specific diet. Maybe you want to get jacked, or be a power lifter or a sprinter, then sure, you’ll want to have a different diet.
The point is – Methods for being healthy don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Sure the Okinawans ate a high carbohydrate low fat diet and lived to 100 – which isn’t the same as what I’m advocating in the video, but that doesn’t nullify the idea that this way of eating can be healthy or other ways of eating for that matter.
By the way, forget about the high carbohydrate intake: What about the Okinawan’s fibre intake? Or the fact that they’re eating so many awesome fermented foods that promote GI microbiome health? They’re also practicing calorie restriction: they have a phrase 腹八分 harahachibu, meaning “8/10th stomach” or “eat until you’re 80% full“. There’s so much more to health than just macronutrients.

What about gastrointestinal distress? Wouldn’t the stomach get too acidic?
If the question was whether the stomach would start to eat at itself without food to apply the stomach acid to, then I would say that’s not quite how the stomach works. The epithelial cells in your stomach will still secrete mucus and bicarbonate to protect itself from the acid even if there’s no food. Actually your stomach will probably get less acidic because there’s no food coming in, the stomach isn’t prompted to secret any extra acid to digest it.

Shouldn’t you snack or eat multiple meals per day to keep your metabolism up?
I saw this a couple times in the comments and wasn’t quite sure what part of metabolism people were referring to, whether it be anabolism or catabolism.
The idea of eating more meals per day doesn’t make much sense unless your aim is to eat a lot of food. If you’re a body builder and you want to get in as much food as possible, you’re going to have to eat multiple meals a day because you simply can’t fit all the food an athlete like that needs in your stomach at one time. In this case, I guess you really are “upping your metabolism” because your body is in more of an anabolic state.
If you’re referring to needing to keep your blood sugar up, I explained why this is unnecessary at 6:05 in the video.
If your goal is to lose weight (upping catabolism), then this makes even less sense, because your body starts to burn your body fat after you deplete your glucose stores. So unless your snacks are pure fat, then you’re having your body re-starting and re-stopping protein and glucose metabolism and it doesn’t get around to breaking down the fat in your body.
Unless you’re taking a dump every interval between snacks, your body is probably still processing the nutrients you took in since the last time you ate. So your body might not even be able to tell the difference between 3 meals a day or 6 meals a day.

Alcohol? No Thanks!
I was kind of confused when I saw a couple comments about alcohol. I don’t recommend alcohol consumption at all, when I mentioned it I was just trying to make an analogy. At most, I’ll have some beers maybe twice a month.

What about the cons of this way of eating?
It does take a while to get used to the hunger. For a while it was sort of a big deal for me, but that goes away if you’re patient enough. (It’s 8PM now and I haven’t eaten since yesterday, but just thought of my hunger as I am writing about it now)
No health complications that I’ve noticed, I haven’t passed out on the train or anything like that. I was doing a 4 day fast recently, and on the 3rd day I felt lightheaded after standing up when I had been sitting down for a long time. This passed in about 40 seconds and didn’t come up again. (I can see how that would worry someone though)
Social Life – At first I thought weakened social life was going to be a big thing that would deter me from doing this.
However, it’s not like I eat breakfast lunch and dinner with someone every day. If I have plans with a friend, I’ll just make the meal that I get with them my main meal. If I have to stretch my eating window out a little bit to make sure I get enough nutritious food it’s not that big of a deal. Even when I was a recruitment consultant trying intermittent fasting and doing multiple meetings a day, I’d just get a coffee and politely say I already had something to eat. As long as you’re not staring at the person while they eat it’s not a big deal.
I can definitely see how this would still be a hamper on some people’s social life, but there’s nothing wrong with switching it up here and there. Sometimes I’ll eat 2 or 3 meals a day on the weekend with friends, no big deal – I just go back to one meal a day the next day.

How do you recommend I start?
You might want to try just reducing your eating window. If you usually eat breakfast at 9am and then dinner at 8pm, try to have your dinner at 5pm. Then try skipping breakfast or having dinner even earlier. Baby steps are best, you’ll ease into the feeling of hunger. If you are able to, sure you can just straightaway cut down to one meal a day, but chances are this will make you way more hungry than you’re used to and you’ll be turned off to the idea.

Oh yea this is why starving kids in Africa live so long. This is such bullshit
Har har. Obviously I’m not saying less food = more health ad infinitum. You want to get enough food and enough nutrients of course, though what you really need might be a lot less than what you think you need.

■Hope this clears some things up! I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’ll share what I’ve learned as best I can. Thanks for reading. Will expand this as I can when more good questions come up

Why anti-Fat is completely misguided (and the mess it put us in)

The whole concept of anti-fat anti-cholesterol has no science to back it up

You can also check out the video version of this post!

Ancel Keys’ hard work to make us healthy
Let me tell you the story of how one man accidentally gave us the obesity epidemic, soaring rates of cardiovascular disease, made billions for the pharmaceutical industry and programmed us to be afraid of fat and cholesterol.
 All the benefits from Skim milk, low fat Snackwells, and cholesterol lowering Cheerios that were sold to you are based on  hypotheses made by a man named Ancel Keys.

The idea that we should avoid fat and cholesterol at all costs comes from Keys’ “Diet-Heart Hypothesis” and “Lipid Hypothesis”. These ideas come from him analyzing the data from 7 countries which showed that when you plotted incidence of heart attacks against fat consumption you see that the countries that ate more fat had more heart attacks. It was simple, you could draw a  straight line through the data points which showed more fat equaled more heart attacks. Pretty straight forward, you eat more fat, you get fat, your cholesterol rises, arteries get clogged, and you have a heart attack. Ancel Keys got this accepted by the USDA, the American Medical Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association and off went the anti-fat anti-cholesterol movement.

Keys Cholesterol

A serious lack of evidence
The only catch here is that there weren’t only 7 countries for which data was available, there were 22 countries. When you factor in the remaining countries there is no straight line to be drawn. You could select 7 different countries and make the claim that more fat meant less heart disease. Maybe Keys had access to the remaining data, maybe he didn’t, but he sure worked fast to have his recommendations put in place. The lack of good evidence didn’t go unnoticed: Dr. George Mann, one of the researchers on the Framingham study which was actually supposed to bolster this cholesterol theory, said, “Dietary fat is not the determinant of either high cholesterol or coronary heart disease” and ‘”the diet heart hypothesis is the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the American public.“  By the way, it’s still called “hypothesis” because it’s never been proven.

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You might be up to date with recent health information and even on board with a low carb diet, but chances are you’re still a little cautious of fat. After all, we’ve been programmed to associate saturated fats with “Artery Clogging” and we’ve seen the commercials where they do something like clog a drain with bacon fat. Also Butter, Lard and Coconut Oil solidify at room temperature so it’s pretty easy logic that those solid fats clog your arteries; which makes vegetable oil the better choice because it stays liquid.

The only problem with that is those saturated fats will melt easily in your hand, not to mention inside your body; and the thing that clogs your arteries resulting in a heart attack is not an accumulation of fat. Fat doesn’t even stay intact in the body- it is broken up into small droplets by the bile in your stomach and then wrapped inside carrier molecules called lipoproteins. Fat is never technically even in the bloodstream, it’s always transported inside a lipoprotein shell.

Why fat is important to us
I mentioned before how if humans needed to be so selective with their diet, we would not have gotten this far. Our choices were to eat whatever was in the environment that had calories or be dead. When you look at health from an evolutionary standpoint, the concept of engineering fat out of our foods for our health is completely ludicrous. Our brains, which is what got us so far, are the most metabolically expensive organs we have: consuming 25% of the adult and 75% of the infant metabolic budget. To adjust for the high metabolic cost of a large brain “…shrinkage in gut size (another metabolically energy expensive organ) was a necessary accompaniment. … A shorter human gut, had evolved to be more dependent on nutrient and energy-dense foods than other primates. [A smaller gut] is less efficient at extracting sufficient energy and nutrition from fibrous foods and considerably more dependent on higher-density, higher bio-available foods that require less energy for their digestion per unit of energy/nutrition released.” (from “Man the Fat Hunter” – Public Library of Science)

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This receives some coverage in CARTA’s video “The Evolution of Human Nutrition

And which macronutrient is the most calorie dense? Fat comes in at first place at 9 calories per gram. For around 190,000 years of our existence we did not have agriculture and thus we couldn’t expect to eat every day. So fat would be a very valuable macronutrient that we would get as much of as our environment allowed. There is even evidence that suggests homo sapiens would eat all the fat on an animal before eating any of the meat- most of the time leaving a good portion of the meat behind if they already had their fill. Protein, while important, only provides 4 calories per gram and requires a lot of energy to digest making it a less efficient macronutrient.

Sure we have plenty of fruits and vegetables that have been cultivated to be more nutrient and calorie dense and we spend much less time moving around, so ravenously eating fat is hardly necessary. However it’s not very plausible that a macronutrient that used to be so important to us is now killing us in hordes.

Timothy Olsen showcases the efficiency of fat in spectacular fashion. He holds the record for the Western 100 Endurance run, a 100 mile ultra distance race in California that includes an 18,000 feet climb and 23,000 feet descent. He said he used to consume dozens of sports gels throughout his races to keep him going, but switched to a low carb high fat diet for more stable energy; he preferred not having to empty his stomach out in the woods multiple times during the race.

You might have stopped and thought “How can fat not be the problem? I ate a plant based diet and reversed my atherosclerosis!” I live in Japan and am well aware of how healthy a high carbohydrate diet can be, especially a primarily plant based one like the Okinawan people’s who frequently live to be 100 while less than 8% of their calories come from fat. Don’t worry, we’ll get to this.

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Okinawa is well known for being a longevity “Blue Zone”


Despite our bodies preferring the energy dense fat, this idea that saturated fat and cholesterol needs to be reduced at all costs became medical dogma. However, not only does our body
want fat, it doesn’t want to reduce cholesterol. Cholesterol is incredibly important: we need it for the membranes of our cells, we need it to make brain cells, we need it to make several important hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. 

Enter inflammation
Cholesterol is actually the thing that comes in and
helps with arterial damage. The process leading up to a heart attack starts with an inflamed, damaged arterial wall. The body sends cholesterol to mend that damage, as well as other substances like calcium, and a substance similar to collagen called fibrin. Blaming cholesterol instead of the inflammation is like blaming the fireman instead of the fire.

Back to the Okinawan people: they have such a low incidence of heart disease because they’re not eating foods that cause inflammation so atherosclerosis never develops. Of course they live long: they eat locally grown, organic, fiber rich vegetables designed to nourish them, not optimized for profit and laden with pesticides. Keep in mind that the saturated fat our homo sapien ancestors were getting was from wild (cage free,organic) animals, not from highly processed ham slices in Kraft Food’s “Lunchables” , and certainly not from the butter of cows pumped with hormones while living in cow jail and eating processed corn scrap. Also they were getting their unsaturated fat in the form of omega-3’s from fish and omega-6’s from nuts, not mostly from Canola seeds that had to be washed in hexane solvent & sodium hydroxide, bleached and then steam injected.


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In the book “The Great Cholesterol Myth”, Dr. Stephen Sinatra and Dr. Johnny Bowden cover this topic very extensively. Here’s an excerpt regarding the effects of a lack of cholesterol:

“The emphasis on lowering cholesterol as much as possible is not only misguided, but also dangerous. Studies show that those at the lowest end of the cholesterol spectrum have a significantly increased risk of death from myriad conditions and situations unrelated to heart disease. Including but not limited to cancer, suicide and accidents. … You need cholesterol to make brain cells. A cholesterol level too low around 160mg/dl has in fact been linked to depression, aggression and cerebral haemorrhages.”


 

Total cholesterol’s irrelevance and the real “bad cholesterol
But what happens if you consume too much cholesterol?
Nothing. “The Framingham Heart study found that there was virtually no difference in the amount of cholesterol consumed on a daily basis by those who went on to develop cardiovascular disease and those who did not.”

What if you have too much cholesterol? It doesn’t matter. Dr. Johnny Bowden explained in this video that in the Lyon Diet Heart Study they had a group of 605 people with high cholesterol and a very high risk of heart disease. In one group they put them on the Mediterranean diet and in another they recommended they cut saturated fat, reduce cholesterol intake to 300mg per day and follow the “healthy” western diet. The results? Cardiac death and all cause mortality on the Mediterranean diet was significantly lower than on the low saturated fat diet. After explaining this, Dr. Bowden says “So here’s the question, what do you think happened to the cholesterol of the people on the Mediterranean diet? Their cholesterol didn’t budge. They just stopped dying. Cholesterol had nothing to do with it. Whatever their cholesterol was at the beginning, it was pretty much the same at the end.”

OK so knowing total cholesterol is not helpful. What about the HDL “good” cholesterol and the LDL “bad” cholesterol? This concept is also outdated. You can have bad “good” cholesterol and you can have good “bad” cholesterol. What you would want to know is particle size. You don’t want to have a high concentration of the small LDL particles. One of the key things that increases these smaller particles is refined carbohydrates and sugar. The science around cholesterol is much too complicated to explain here, but the point is that the standard metrics for understanding your heart disease risk and judging whether something is healthy or not are seriously outdated and have surprisingly little to do with fat consumption. You can learn more on Dr. Peter Attia’s blog.

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When I got to this point in my research I was dumbfounded and outraged. Cardiovascular disease kills 610,000 people in America every year, yet the guidelines we have to avoid it are utterly worthless? I immediately threw away my 1992 collector’s edition Snackwell cookies.

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I trusted you, Snackwell’s.

 

The mess confirmation bias put us in
Possibly the worst part is that it wasn’t like nobody knew that low fat diets had virtually zero science to back them up. British physiologist John Yudkin wrote a book in 1972 “Pure, White and Deadly: The Problem of Sugar” which correctly warned that the consumption of sugar is dangerous to health, an argument he had made since at least 1957. The final chapter of the book lists several examples of attempts to interfere with the funding of his research and to prevent its publication. It also refers to the personal smears that Ancel Keys employed to dismiss the evidence that sugar was the true culprit of heart disease. 

This excerpt of ABC TV Australia’s broadcast “Heart of the matter” explains: “In 1977, the U.S. Government stepped in. Senator George McGovern, an advocate of Ancel Key’s theory headed a committee hearing to end the debate … Eminent scientists at the time disagreed with the [Keys] report.” In the clip, you can hear Dr. Robert Olsen saying: “That’s why I have pleaded in my report and will plead again orally here for more research on the problem before we make announcements to the American public.” George McGovern’s rebuttal was simply: “Well I would only argue that senators don’t have that luxury that a research scientist does of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in.” It didn’t matter how illogical or misguided McGovern’s response was, he came out on top.

What’s happened since then? Hospitalizations for Heart Failure went straight up and heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the world.

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In fact, when it comes to weight gain, the data suggests people started gaining weight immediately after the guidelines came out.

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Image Credit: gnolls.org

 

 

We now understand that:

1) Knowing total cholesterol is irrelevant to your health
2) Knowing your so called “good” and “bad” cholesterol is irrelevant because you can have bad HDL particles and good LDL particles; and the bad version of these particles are caused by more complex issues than just fat.
3) Heart disease is primarily due to damage to the arterial wall caused by inflammation, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and insulin levels and stress.
4) The more key things to limit to avoid heart disease are sugar and processed carbohydrates.

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Despite all this, the “Heart Healthy” guidelines encourage over-consumption of inflammation promoting vegetable oils and processed carbs that keep our blood sugar high.  Maybe even worse than that is we’re still being prescribed Statin drugs, whose harmful effects are a constant testament to how important cholesterol is for the body.

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The billion dollar toxin
You might be thinking “Hey but my doctor said I should be on a statin…” if so, go ahead and ask your doctor what the number needed to treat for statin drugs is. In this video, Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explains that the NNT is the number of people that have to take the drug before one person benefits from the drug. He says: “… you’re thinking, what kind of crazy statistic is that? The number should be one. My doctor wouldn’t prescribe something to me if it’s not going to help. The number needed to treat for the most widely prescribed statin, what do you suppose it is? How many people have to take it before one person is helped? Three hundred.  300 people have to take the drug for a year before one heart attack, stroke or other adverse event is prevented.  So for this particular drug, the side effects occur in 5 percent of the patients and they include terrible things – debilitating muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal distress. 300 people take the drug, right? One person’s helped, five percent of those 300 have side effects, that’s 15 people. You are 15 times more likely to be harmed by the drug than helped.

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Duane Graveline MD wrote a book called “Lipitor, thief of memory” after experiencing “Transient Global Amnesia”- a type of memory loss where your wife is in the same room as you and you don’t know who she is. By the way, remember how I said cholesterol is important for producing sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen? What do you think the second highest revenue prescription drug is for Pfizer after Lipitor, which is the #1 prescribed statin? Viagra comes in right after Lipitor. Also, it’s not like Viagra just happens to be the next biggest revenue stream there’s only an 8% difference between the two. 

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Surely you’re thinking “this is a terrible situation, how come the diet guidelines haven’t been changed?” Well it’s almost as unlikely for the medical industry to come out and say “Looks like we were wrong. Sorry.” as it is for a pastor to say “Hey, y’know this religion we’ve been following all our lives? I think it might be the wrong one, sorry about that.” Australia’s leading lipid expert David Sullivan demonstrated (maybe on accident) pretty well that admitting the recommendations are useless might put some people out of a job. When asked whether they should be giving people dietary advice when they don’t have enough evidence to back up their advice he saidWe are particularly keen to give some dietary advice because otherwise what do we offer people?

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Time admitted they were wrong, why can’t the medical establishments?

What we should really  be paying attention to
I would like to lay out the complete details of how to really avoid heart disease, but I recommend you start by reading “The Great Cholesterol Myth” or at least Dr. Bowden’s article on “The Four Horsemen of Aging“. For now, let me leave you with one rule of thumb you can use to pick out your food:

Just think about how much something has been screwed with before you make the decision to eat that.

For example: coca Leaves in their natural state are quite harmless, the farmers in the Andes have chewed on them for hundreds of years for a small boost in energy. However, when you process the hell out of them, you get cocaine. Eating a lot of sugar beets probably isn’t so bad for you, but if you boil them in water to make a crude syrup, then wash that solution with calcium hydroxide and proceed to refine it with 6 different boilers… maybe the resulting white powder isn’t the best thing for you. You can apply this idea to anything from processed cheese and meats to packages of “whole wheat bread”.

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Good ol’ Stearoyl-2-Lactylate

This goes for fats too. If Jack the cow just had to walk around and eat grass, his butter is going to be better than Byron the cow’s butter if Byron had to be given growth hormone and a specifically designed rapid growth promoting feed. Canola oil requires a lengthy industrial process to wrench the oil out of the canola seed, but you can get a decent amount of fat from nuts just eating them as they are.

I’m not here to sell you any one diet or macronutrient ratio for now. However, I can tell you for certain that this granulated sugar and processed crap that’s been marketed to us in place of what we had been eating for centuries is not what we should be eating. Sometimes we have to dig way past spiffy marketing, guidelines from big establishments, and our own doctor’s advice before choosing what to eat.

 

Longevity & Why I eat once a day

You don’t need to eat three meals a day, and when you do, you’re missing out on a whole host of health benefits.

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Just use your body like it’s designed and you won’t need to fix it all the time.
You can also check out the video version of this post!

Nutrition & Our Hybrid Body
In the 1950’s, my friend Bill was a very gifted Engineer who made an extraordinary car. It looked very similar to a Chevrolet Corvette, but the insides of the car is what made it so unique. It wasn’t the first Hybrid car, but it was much more practical and appealing than its predecessors. There was one snag: it never took off because he couldn’t get people to use it properly. The car’s main fuel source was electricity, and gasoline was to be put in whenever available. It was fine for the car to use gasoline every other day or so, but the problem was that people ran it on gasoline nearly 90% of the time. This resulted in the car breaking down frequently, to the surprise of the owners. Everyone was giving each other advice on how to run the car smoothly, all the while Bill was trying to tell people “Just use it the way it was designed!” Despite his advice, people continued to theorize about how to properly use the car. Bill went bankrupt and left the Automotive industry soon after.

This situation my poor imaginary friend Bill found himself in is quite like our modern Health Environment.  How did eating get so complicated? Most of us just want to feel good, look good and live a long life. You would think by now there would be a straightforward consensus on what our eating habits should look like, but we’re faced with countless trains of thought on the topic. Maybe we’re supposed to be doing the ABC diet or XYZ diet or something in between? One of the first “diets” was proposed by a man named George Cheyne in 1724. Now, on Amazon you can find over 50,000 different books on the topic.

Like Bill’s car, surely there is a simple way we should be fueling our bodies that is most suitable for its design. Obviously we’re not engineered, but we Homo Sapiens emerged around 200,000 years ago and the majority of that time, the food environment could not have been anything like today’s food environment. Agriculture didn’t even exist for a good 190,000 years of that time. Not even the fruits and vegetables we have today would have been similar as we hadn’t cultivated them to our liking.

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Just 700 years ago here’s what a banana would have looked like.
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This is a painting of a watermelon from 1672
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Or maybe you’d like a 10th century carrot.

So what way of eating did we adapt to? The environment would have chosen our diet rather than us. Your choices would have been to eat what was available or be dead. The idea that our body must have adapted to a certain ratio of macronutrients available in the environment is not novel; and recently has become quite well known due to the “Paleo Diet”. However, what I’m getting at is our body would have also had to have adapted to how often the food was available – there should be a natural frequency of eating that promotes health and longevity.

Where to start?
The logic would be that more nourishment, more food would make you healthier and live longer. But let’s take a look at this from the First Principles method as described by Elon Musk: “It’s kind of mentally easier to reason by analogy rather than first principles. First Principles is a Physics way of looking at the world. And what that really means is you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say ‘OK what are we sure is true?’ and then reason up from there. That takes a lot more mental energy.”

So what do we know about longevity? Other than exercise, the word “superfood” might come to mind. Maybe more Omega-3’s or some Red Wine or making sure to take supplements and drink less alcohol. There are a lot of things that contribute to longevity, but there is one method accepted by science that you can use to consistently increase longevity. Whether a yeast cell, a mouse or a rhesus monkey, research shows that calorie reduction will almost always increase longevity in animals. We had been seeing results like this since the early 1900’s. Depending on the animal, a 30% reduction in overall caloric intake can result in a 30% increased life span. Let’s reason up from here.

For some time, the conventional wisdom has been that you need to get 3 balanced meals a day to stay healthy. Ever since I was a kid, “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner” seemed as natural as sleeping or going to the bathroom. Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, I needed a healthy lunch to focus the rest of the school day and being sent to bed without Dinner was child abuse. The situation is basically the same in Japan where I now live, as with the rest of the world. If we want to reduce caloric intake to increase lifespan, the only choice then is to eat less at each meal, because we need 3 meals, right?

But where did this 3 meals a day idea come from? As Abigail Carroll suggests in her book “Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal”: Eating three meals a day was basically invented due to culture, not out of biological necessity. It goes back to Middle Age Europe when they would eat a light meal before going out to work, then a heavy meal in the middle of the day, then another light meal at night. When European settlers got to America, they found Native Americans were basically just eating whenever they felt the urge to, rather than at specified times. The Europeans took their lack of defined eating times as evidence that they were uncivilized and had them change. In short: The 3 meals a day paradigm is not based off of our biological needs.

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Daniel Everett swimming next to a Piraha

How our environment designed us
In a Hunter Gatherer culture it wasn’t surprising at all to feast on a big catch, then survive on very little or no food for an extended period of time until they were in need of another big source of fat and protein. In fact, the environment up until now would suggest that if we could not do that, we probably wouldn’t be alive to be reading about dieting. The Pirahã people, an indigenous hunter-gatherer group of the Amazon Rainforest was extensively studied by an anthropological linguist named Daniel Everett. He found they  do not eat every day or even attempt to do so. They were even aware of food storage techniques yet never used them except to barter with Brazilian traders. When questioned about why they do not store food for themselves they explained  “I store meat in the belly of my brother”.

Until the advent of Agriculture, eating 3 meals a day and in some cases even eating every day was a near impossibility. Some of you may be pointing to the fact that the life expectancy in the Paleolithic era was much lower than now at around 33 years, as a sign that our modern eating habits are healthier. However, infant mortality rate was a big factor in bringing that number down. You have to understand that one of the effects of modern civilization and technology is that you can be unresourceful or made up of weak genetic material and not die. As Doug McGuff explains: “[Life expectancy] didn’t really have anything to do with anabolic catabolic balance or long term health benefits because there were older survivors and the fossil evidence of those older survivors based on ligamentous attachments and bony assessment and bone mineral density was: they were extraordinarily robust.” 

Glucose Metabolism & How “conventional wisdom” screwed us
The common misconception is that a stable blood glucose is necessary for survival, which would biologically justify 3 meals a day. Bear with me through a bit of Biochemistry to understand why constantly consuming Carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose is not only unnecessary but can be a detrimental and vicious cycle.

This is the CliffNotes of Doug McGuff’s presentation, make sure to check out the video of him explaining it in depth

After you eat some carbohydrates- Bread, Pasta, Potatoes, Candy et cetera, Glucose enters the bloodstream and insulin is secreted to distribute the glucose properly. Via an insulin receptor, glucose enters the cells and a chain of enzymes act on it to produce energy in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). This process produces a waste product called Pyruvate which is shuttled through the Mitochondria, “the powerhouse of the cell”. Mitochondria processes the Pyruvate through the Kreb Cycle which produces much more ATP.  A waste product called Citrate is produced in the Mitochondria and when enough stacks up it blocks an enzyme called PhosphoFructoKinase in the enzyme chain creating a roadblock so excess glucose doesn’t harm the cell. When the process can’t continue downward, 70 grams is stored in the Liver, and in the Muscle 200 grams. So you have your morning bagel and  some Frappacappa thing and you’ve stored all the glucose you can store. After that, glucose can’t be converted to ATP in the cell, stored in the Liver or in the Muscle.

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Your body really doesn’t want glucose overloading cells or stacking up in the bloodstream because like pouring pancake syrup on a car engine, it can muck up the machinery in there. This is a harmful inflammatory situation called Glycation where glucose binds to proteins and inhibits their functions. So your body continues to secrete insulin to deal with the glucose. The insulin receptors on your cells become resistant to insulin everywhere, except on your body fat. Your fat cells do not have as complex machinery as other cells, so this probably the safest place to store it. As well as an energy storage depot, your body fat is protecting you from that Glycation damage.

The problem here is that if your energy levels start to wane, you can’t tap the energy out of your stored body fat because the Hormone that does that – Hormone Sensitive Lipase is sensitive to insulin. Insulin will not allow you to tap body fat for energy. If you have an elevated serum insulin and you need energy, you’re going to get ravenously hungry and will need to jack your blood sugar up short term with a snack to raise energy levels.

This is why if you’re following the recommended American diet, you’re usually going to be stuck in this loop of wanting to eat every time your blood glucose drops and 3 meals a day will feel very necessary. Even Medical Doctor Peter Attia fell victim to this: “Despite exercising 3 or 4 hours every single day and following the food pyramid to the letter, I gained a lot of weight and developed something called ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ “

Ketosis to the rescue
There’s another source of energy in your body that is a lot more efficient and stable than glucose. Ketone bodies are produced by the liver from fatty acids to produce energy, when you have depleted your Glycogen stores (which takes 10 to 12 hours depending on your activity level and body composition) ★Glycogen is the stored form of glucose. Ketone bodies can enter the aforementioned Kreb Cycle like Glucose to produce energy in the form of ATP.

You may have heard of this Ketosis state referred to as “Starvation Mode” in school, but this by no means suggests you are about to starve. I particularly dislike this term because it suggests that glucose/carbohydrates is our body’s primary fuel source, when in fact it is possible to live entirely without carbohydrates. Case in point: A 456 pound 27 year old man in Scotland fasted an incredible 382 days consuming only water and vitamin supplements. He lost 276 pounds and completed the fast with no ill effects. He was technically in “Starvation mode” this entire time and his body was using his stored body fat for energy.

Quick note: Ketosis and Diabetic KetoAcidosis are NOT the same.

Several years back, when I first heard about low carb diets, I was skeptical and frankly when I heard my close friend’s mother was trying the Atkins diet, I was worried for her. However, after doing a lot of research and finally properly understanding glucose metabolism, I started doing the ‘Paleo diet’. I felt great in general, had a better physique with less effort and much more stable energy levels. The downside was it got kind of annoying to have to plan my meals, so I would cheat a lot here and there.

The Benefits of Fasting
Even after people were in environments where they could eat much more frequently, the concept of fasting for health benefits has been around for some time. An Egyptian Pyramid Inscription from around 3800 B.C. reads “Humans live on one-quarter of what they eat; on the other three-quarters lives their doctor.” Plato apparently fasted for greater mental efficiency, the “Luther of Medicine” Philippus Paracelsus called fasting “the greatest remedy” and Mark Twain suggested fasting to be more effective than any medicine. The Romans even found that they cure people who were possessed with demons (actually poor misunderstood Epileptics) by shutting them in a room without food.

To simplify an incredibly complex process, aging in essence is the result of cumulative damage to your DNA. Professor of Genetics, David Sinclair and his team found that not eating stimulates the Sirtuin proteins which are directly responsible for DNA repair.  Mark Mattson, a professor of Neuroscience at John Hopkins University, gave a speech at TEDxJohnHopkinsUniversity talking about the extensive benefits of fasting for your brain and body. In particular fasting stimulates the production of Neurotrophic Growth Factors, BDNF and FGF which promote the growth of new neurons in the brain. This explains why fasting has been linked to the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

This information got me excited about Intermittent fasting. With intermittent fasting you’re not eating for 16 hours of the day which gives your body time to deplete the glycogen stores and start burning fat as well as reap the benefits discussed above. So many sources are pointing to the key being that whether you are doing extended fasting, intermittent fasting or simply eating less, you are giving your body a chance to deplete its Glycogen stores and dip into ketosis, leading to many health benefits. Check out these two studies: “Ketones Keep Neurons Alive” and “The neuroprotective properties of calorie restriction, the ketogenic diet and ketone bodies” I was keen on the fact that I could get similar effects to Paleo with more leeway in my diet. The problem with Intermittent Fasting was I found with myself craving food outside of the 8 hour eating period, and I still had to be somewhat strict with what I ate (although not as strict as my 3 meals a day regimine)

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Upton Sinclair who was born in the the late 1800’s and lived to the swell age of 90, published a book in 1911 called “The Fasting Cure”(click here for full text). The book was inspired by the personal accounts of 250 people who cured some ailment with extended fasting. The ailments ranged from colds, headaches and constipation to arthritis, valvular heart disease and cancer. Dr. Alan Goldhamer spoke about how in 2012, a 42 year old patient cured her cancer (stage 3 follicular lymphoma) with a 21 day fast. Nowadays you can find personal accounts of people on Youtube who have cured some ailment of theirs with an extended water fast (consuming nothing but water).

My journey to one meal a day
“The Fasting cure” was one of the first materials that opened me up to the health benefits of more prolonged fasts. I had a lot of inhibitions despite all the incredible personal accounts in there, but once I learned about the Scottish man (mentioned above) who fasted for 382 days, I figured surely a week couldn’t be that big of a deal. I tried a week long fast and gave up around the 4th day even though I didn’t feel particularly bad. While I missed my goal and I didn’t really feel all that different afterward, over the following days I started to notice I didn’t have as much interest in junk food. I used to enjoy eating some delicious refined sugar crap while doing intermittent fasting since it was within my 8 hour eating period, but that fast had reset my eating preferences.

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Dr. Nagumo in his later 50’s

Around this time I came across a book called 「空腹が人を健康にする」”Hunger makes people healthy” by Dr. Yoshinori Nagumo which provides an incredibly compelling argument for limiting yourself to one meal per day. It touched upon many of the things I’ve talked about, some things I didn’t and it dispelled some worries I had like malnutrition and whatnot. (Also, It was easy to trust him since he’s 30 years older than me and looks younger than I do.) I decided to try eating once per day for 2 weeks.

For 3 weeks prior, I had been showing my little sister around Tokyo while eating basically anything and everything that looked good. I started the Nagumo plan the day after she left and the first three days were definitely the hardest. When the clock hit around 11AM, I realized I wasn’t getting the joy from eating that I was used to around this time of day and started really wanting to eat. My stomach didn’t particularly hurt, it was the equivalent of not being able to play video games when getting home from Middle School. Around 4PM is when I was convinced that I really was hungry and needed to eat. Waiting another 30 minutes until 4.30PM to eat was like pushing through a last set of squats. The next two days were slightly easier, and come the 4th day I realized I wasn’t looking at the clock thinking “Only X more hours to go!”.

I decided to test the diet a week later and do a 50 kilometer bike ride to Atsugi from Tokyo. I hadn’t been working out all that much and a usual bike ride for me was about 3 kilometers. It was unsurprisingly difficult, but I never felt physically weak. I had hunger pangs earlier than normal, but I didn’t feel like I had less strength from lack of food. This made me decide to stick with eating once per day. It’s been a month since I started and I feel great in general, my energy levels are very stable, tolerate less sleep better, I feel more focused and surprisingly I have less problems with hunger compared to Intermittent Fasting. It’s not until an hour or 2 before my usual eating time that I start thinking about food and if I’m focused on something I might even eat an hour later than normal. 

Even if I don’t eat the healthiest meal I can now feel confident that my body will have more than enough time to empty out whatever excess glycogen or toxins I ingested. (The only time I do crave unhealthy food is when I’ve had some alcohol.) Looking back, it’s hard to imagine having to pile so much food into my stomach throughout the day. 

Other than the health benefits, one other reason I do this is the same reason Steve Jobs wore basically the same thing everyday: It makes choosing easier and frees my brain up to focus on other things. (See “Decision Fatigue”) 

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For myself, the amount of new information I get only changes my behavior by a small factor. For example if I increase my knowledge about the detriments of alcohol by 60% maybe I’ll cut my intake by 30%. With this article alone I’m not expecting you to suddenly start eating once per day, but hopefully you can start giving your body a break and eat when you need to, not when the clock says you should.

 

 

How the internet ruins your productivity by design

So far, all brain research points in only one direction: Constant novelty at a click can cause addiction and harm your capacity for focus.

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Content hubs are designed to keep us accessing them as frequently as possible. It’s hard to notice this can lead to addiction-esque symptoms: eroded willpower and decreased ability to concentrate.
The age of mental “peak performance” 

The big trend lately is for people to be in business for themselves. According to upwork.com, more than 1 in 3 workers in America are earning a living from freelancing. For some it’s a result of the 2008 economic shock, others just don’t feel challenged at their workplace. In either case, chasing your ambitions requires better efficiency and more productivity. “Peak Performance” is a term that’s being used not only for athletes’ physical performance, but for people just trying to get ahead at their work place, and more so for those working on their entrepreneurial endeavors.  With a lot of popular books like “The Four Hour Work Week” popping up, people are becoming more aware of the fact that doing a 9AM to 5PM job for 40 years is a shitty deal.

 

One new way to get ahead is by using cognitive enhancers, known as “Smart Drugs” or Nootropics. Nootropics are “are drugs, supplements, or other substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.” For most people, Ritalin or Adderall would come to mind, but there are many new substances, all with different types of positive effects on concentration, willpower and creativity- which work very differently on the brain with little to no reported side effects (yet). Some with a bit of red tape around them and some that you can easily get without a prescription. Nootropics span from artificially synthesized substances like “Modafinil” (Benzhydrylsulphinylacetamide) to the naturally derived “Huperzine A” which comes from firmoss.

In the aggressively competitive world of silicone valley, Nootropics are seen not just as a pick me up, but sometimes as a necessity. Tim Ferris painted a good picture of the situation in his interview with CNN Money “Let’s just say you’re a 24 year old start up co founder, just got a seed round of funding from a big venture capitalist. Kind of bright eyed busy tailed, ‘holy shit I’m in silicon valley’ and you feel intense pressure to compete against the half a dozen other companies that are trying to do the same thing. Just like an olympic athlete who’s willing to do almost anything, even if it shortens their life by 5 years to get a gold medal, you’re gonna think about what pills and potions you can take because the difference between completely failing, losing all your money and going home with your tail between your legs, making a million dollars and making a billion dollars is right up here” (Points to his head)

Some silicone valley folk have gone as far as taking very small doses of Lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD, to enhance their productivity and creativity at work. These “Microdoses” of acid are having very profound effects on the user’s output without any hallucinatory distractions.

Most of us aren’t at the level of seeking out illegal substances to amp up our game. For myself and a lot of people I know, it’s not so much of “Holy shit I need to write 20,000 lines of code by tomorrow morning or I’m fucked”, but something like “OK It was 45 minutes ago that I woke up and I’m still in bed looking at reddit. What the hell is wrong with me?” There are some days where I wonder if I’m hitting even average performance, much less peak performance.

Too long to read the whole post right now? The video version of this blog post is now available!
The internet and our brains

It’s being suspected that some people’s inability to concentrate or lack of willpower is caused by the internet and the near constant stream of novel information they’re accessing all the time. In Gary Wilson’s TEDx Talk he explains that several studies about “Internet Addiction” and its detriments have been popping up since 2009. Gary says “So far, all brain research points in only one direction: Constant novelty at a click can cause addiction“. It wasn’t until after I saw Gary’s talk that I thought the way I use the internet could be harming my productivity.

Until recently, I was a recruitment consultant in Tokyo for 3 years. This was one of the most educational, exciting and competitive times of my life. I met all kinds of fantastic people, but this environment really makes you start to evaluate yourself as a person based on how much you can output in as little time as possible. I wanted be at the top of the scoreboard, and some days I was five times as productive as I ever was in college, but sometimes I couldn’t focus for more than 20 minutes. I was always looking for the magic pill or trick that could improve my performance, but I didn’t know that how often I checked my Facebook feed could be affecting my performance in a bigger way than just the time I lost by opening up the app.

Unsurprisingly, this addictive nature is actually designed into most apps. Nir Eyal explains in his book “Hooked” how websites, apps, platforms et cetera need to be designed in such a way that the product is addictive for the user or the company won’t have a competitive edge.

This technique to magnetize users to the content is called “The hook”. In this video book summary narrated by Nir Eyal, he explains that  the hook is an “experience designed to connect the users problem to a company’s solution with enough frequency to form a habit“. The hook has 4 parts- a trigger, an action, a reward and an investment. All the hooks start with an external trigger like “Click here!” or “Swipe right!” or an internal trigger. The internal triggers are what is critical to the user of forming the habit of using the company’s service. “Internal triggers are things that tell us what to do next, but where the information is not contained in the trigger but instead formed through an association or a memory in the user’s brain. So what we do when we’re in a certain place, situation, around particular people, taking part in a routine and most frequently when we experience certain emotions dictate what we do next. The action that we turn to with little or no conscious thought. It turns out that the most frequent internal triggers are these emotions, but not just any emotions but they’re specifically negative emotions. So what we do when we’re feeling bored or lonesome or lost or fearful or uncertain or confused dictates the technology that we turn to next with little or no conscious thought.

As I wrote out the previous paragraph, I experienced this first hand. I couldn’t quite think of how to phrase one sentence and I felt a slight sense of uneasiness as I struggled to think of what words to use. Right away I opened a new tab and typed in “reddit.com”. This all happened in under two seconds without deliberation.

Actions are influenced by triggers, but what constitutes an action? Behavioral scientist BJ Fogg describes an action as “the simplest behavior in anticipation of a reward,” which for me was a click on reddit, but it could also be a swipe on imgur or tinder, or even a scroll on Facebook or twitter. Pretty simple process then: A trigger [I feel bored] arises, so I take a simple action [open up reddit] in anticipation of a reward [a funny image or video].

When discussing human behavior, most of us have an inkling that the neurochemical dopamine influences our actions. This, for the most part is correct. However, dopamine is widely misunderstood as the neurochemical that makes you feel good because you did something. Actually, as Standford lecturer Robert Sapolsky explains in this excerptdopamine rises in anticipation of a reward rather than in response to the reward itself. Not only does it rise in anticipation of a reward, but it spikes when you are uncertain of whether or not you will get the reward. Dr. Sapolsky talks about an experiment in which they had monkeys pull a lever in anticipation of a reward. When the situation went from ‘You will get a reward after every 3 pulls’ to ‘maybe you’ll get a reward after a couple pulls’ you see a massive spike in dopamine. As he put it, “it’s one of the biggest rises in dopamine in the brain, short of cocaine.”

This is very important because it means that a company’s content doesn’t even have to be good to get you to keep coming back. It just has to be designed in a manner that keeps us anticipating and searching for rewards. For example, take a look at the feed on Facebook. Is that cute girl from high school posing with a Starbucks cup that interesting? How about the picture of someone’s lunch that comes next? Neither of those probably interest you, but the new tech article your best friend posted that comes afterward might be. The feed is taking advantage of that spike in dopamine that we experience due to the anticipation of a possible reward, so we keep scrolling and scrolling, excited at the possibility that something good will pop up.

“It’s addictive, but I’m not addicted

“Addiction” is thrown around in contexts like “Oh gosh this is so addicting!” all the time. However, hearing someone say “I need to get treatment for my addiction” has a completely different nuance. Using it that way would suggest the “addiction” is affecting their lives and needs to be fixed. Why people turn to drugs despite the social and legal repercussions is complicated, but it can boil down to the fact that the users aren’t satisfied with their lives.  It may even be that they’re not satisfied with the current year, the month or the moment that they are experiencing. People pursue success in business, fitness or relationships mainly because they are anticipating some reward – usually a good feeling that comes with achievement. “But why work towards these types of fulfillment for so long when you can invest a couple seconds snorting cocaine or taking some pill?” Surely a terrible mindset, but not completely different from getting the rewarding delicious flavor of a donut immediately, rather than chasing the great feeling of women complimenting your hard earned six pack? Or even swiping through a couple profiles on tinder to feel excited when you see a sexy girl versus investing a couple more minutes to read a chapter of that book that you like. When you look at it like this, the idea of not just substances, but behaviors being addicting is more plausible.

How are we to notice that the internet could be affecting us? I mean I’ve had high speed internet ever since I was in High School. David Foster Wallace told a joke at his commencement speech for Kenyon College class of 2005 that went like this: “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way who nods at them and says ‘Morning boys, how’s the water?’ and the two young fish swim on for a bit and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’ ” Gary Wilson also mentions the fish situation in his talk to show how hard it is to realize how the internet is affecting heavy users. He explained how the only symptom that did cause internet porn loving men to realize it was having an effect on them was Erectile Dysfunction. Young men are being diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD, Social Anxiety Disorder and depression due to symptoms like less interest in day to day activities, lowered ability to concentrate and eroded willpower. They are going to psychologists and psychiatrists to treat these symptoms, but don’t realize it could be alleviated by simply changing their behavior.

One study in China shows how Internet Addicts have impaired executive function control ability. Executive Functions are “a set of cognitive processes – including attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, as well as reasoning, problem solving, and planning – that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals.” Having an impaired attention control, inhibitory control and ability to “select and successfully monitor behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals” would definitely explain my unfinished to do lists.

 If you have enough willpower to right away stop continuously swiping, scrolling and clicking then great. But for myself and a lot of people, it’s not so simple to get out of the habit. The idea is not to immediately stop using all these platforms, but to pull yourself out of the ‘hook’ inherent in their design. There’s nothing wrong with taking a 10 minute break from work when you need to and doing something that you enjoy. When you’re unconsciously spending more time than you intend to, then there’s an issue.

Getting out of the hook
The good news is that understanding how your brain is being manipulated by this “hook” was the first step towards avoiding it. In his TEDMED talk, Judson Brewer describes a two part technique that several smokers have used to successfully kick their smoking habit. The idea is for the participants to just be mindful about smoking. That is – to be aware and really think about what the experience of smoking is like – feel the heat of the cigarette as you take a drag, to smell the smoke and taste the tabacco. One subject used the method and quickly realized smoking smells bad and tastes like shit. She started to become disenchanted with her behavior. The other part of the technique was to be mindful about what the craving felt like when it came up. They’d crave a cigarette and then notice their body was a little tense, heart rate maybe sped up a little bit, and some noticed they were fidgeting in their chair. By simply being mindful about these aspects, subjects were able to step out of the craving and realize what exactly it was and let it pass. Next time you feel the urge to check twitter, take a moment to think why you’re doing that. Maybe you’re a little bored or frustrated with the task at hand. Maybe you’re hungry so your concentration has waned. Then, think about the experience of twitter itself. Scrolling through that feed for more than 5 minutes, is it really engaging you in a fulfilling way? Are you really happy that you’re 10 minutes in and still spending your time scrolling through all those tweets hoping a good one will pop up? It will take a bit of time and practice, but you’ll quickly learn to catch yourself and reel yourself back in.

You could always Louis C.K.’s method if you’re getting impatient: