Well, here’s good news for human beings. The MS Business Insider opines that market forces in women’s underwear are shifting away from pencil-thin models toward healthy and more normal looking women. They cite as evidence strong upticks in sales of lingerie at stores such as Adore Me and Aerie who market primarily to the non-waif crowd. It seems that curves are in. Or at least getting there.
Part of this certainly issues from the fact that we – Americans primarily – have grown fatter over the past few decades. Once anything becomes a norm within a culture, it cycles back onto itself as the de facto standard. In this case, it’s mostly a good thing. People are coming to reject the marketing mantra that you must look like this or be shaped like this to be happy and attractive. And exercise research reinforces what is intuitive: fit and strong, as opposed to wan and weak, are important components of a healthy lifestyle for all adults.
The Insiderties several marketing moves into the explanation including Sports Illustrated’s editorial decision to include different body types in their swimwear issue and a backlash toward Victoria’s Secret for putatively moving their catalog offerings toward soft-core porn. They note model Iskra Lawrence as someone who is ‘curvy’ as having success in modeling and speaking out against the unhealthy lifestyles of models forced to adhere to the ridiculous standards of advertising executives.
Keep a grain of salt handy. Popularity and fashion do and will change. What makes a healthy lifestyle doesn’t. There are controversies about diets and health and sales people like Dave Asprey will always prop up something new as an essential for what-ails-you. But the science of health is steady: good food, moderate and consistent exercise, and meaningful relationships are what make you healthy and happy.
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I have a penchant for short, pithy explanations to things that people – mostly people selling things – try to make complicated. My favorite example is Michael Pollan’s “Eat food, less of it, mostly plants”. There’s a whole lot of health and wisdom wrapped up in those seven words. Along those same lines, I like the advice offered by Runner’s World magazine for The Healthy Runner’s Diet. It lists six rules applicable to anyone interested in health and longevity:
1. Eat seeds or foods made from seeds
2. Eat five different colored fruits and vegetables daily
3. Eat plant foods with their skins intact
4. Drink milk and eat milk products that come from animals
5. Eat foods that come from cold water
6. Eat meat, poultry, or eggs from free-range or grass-fed animals
There are no calculations here and nothing to write down. And you don’t have to be a slave to every word. You won’t sprout hair on your palms if you forget your five colors a day. These are guidelines and not commandments.
I will add another three:
7. There are no forbidden foods. No food will make you die tomorrow. Observe moderation
8. There are no superfoods. No food will impart immediate health and longevity
9. Anyone who tells you to avoid this one food! or to eat this one food! is selling you something
Stay healthy and, as always, please share tips.
Good advice here from Monica Reinagel, The Nutrition Diva
Nothing new under the sun. Then why don’t we do it?
Copyright Dennis Mitton
I admit that I’ve been wrong. I’ve long argued that people know what healthy habits are and that we just don’t do them. So I was shocked, recently, when a friend told me that he traded his cake and candy snacks for a jar of peanuts each day. “I’m trying to eat healthy”, he says. “Huh? You’re eating a jar a day?” “Yeah”, he said. “Better than donuts, right.” Now he was shocked. “Probably not,” I said. “Good gawd. Do you know how many calories are in a jar of peanuts? Probably more calories than you need in an entire day. Dude, you’re going to end up weighing 300 pounds.” He didn’t believe me and grabbed the jar. Sure enough, the suggested serving size was one ounce or ‘about 29 peanuts’. That amount conferred 170 healthy calories. Multiply that by sixteen servings in the jar and you are inviting serious health issues. So don’t imagine that everyone knows the things that Agus writes about. They don’t. And few who do know what healthy means actually live by it.
We need good health advice but where to find it? The fact that my local Barnes and Noble bookstore reserves about fifty feet of shelf space for books offering conflicting advice isn’t a help. So when I find a book offering sane advice consistent with other sane advice, I’m happy to endorse and recommend it. A Short Guide to a Long Life is such a book.
The book isn’t sexy and makes few promises. You will not be a skinny rich movie star pooping golden eggs after reading this book. But, even better, if you choose to do so, you can embark on a path to increased health and longevity. The book is small and short and this bothers some reviewers. I like that the book can be read in a couple hours. It makes it easy to grab from the shelf for a quick reminder o the path you’re on. In it Agus lists sixty-five tidbits under three headings: What to Do, What to Avoid, and Doctor’s Orders. I’m sorry but there is nothing new, novel, or earth-shattering here. No magic pills or secret Chinese bulbs that will keep you in perfect health until age 150. What you will find is very excellent advice in all areas of health and well-being. Advice that is time-tested and accurate. Advice that actually will help you live longer and happier.
There is a good bit of Grandma’s advice here – grow a garden, don’t skip breakfast, have children (!) – but lots of new stuff, too, like scheduling your life on computer or getting a DNA screen. I especially liked the What to Avoid section where he slays a host of health myths: forget juicing (“Does your body really need ten carrots all at once?”), ignore `detoxes’, and no, GMOs are not going to kill you and your children.
I think this is a wonderfully handy little guide that makes a useful reference. Two thumbs way up. Read it all the way through or read a chapter and then work on it for a week. Either way will lead you to better health.
Last night, after the kids were down and the dishes put away, I plopped down onto the couch with my wife and watched fifteen minutes of the Bachelor opening. For those lucky souls who don’t know what this is, it’s another reality show where lots of high-drama people are tossed into a pot and stirred until said drama ensues. It’s predictable, silly, and mindless and no doubt contributed to the rise of The Donald.
During the season opener, most of the lovelorn wannabes are given a couple of minutes to tell their story as they stroll through the streets of their town. One woman was from small-town Arkansas (what else is there in Arkansas?) and talked about her boutique and about how dreamy the bachelor is and then said something interesting: she capped her introduction by saying that life, for her based on her small town Arkansanian roots, revolves around ‘the three F’s of faith, family, and football.
It sounds like a cliché but I wonder how many of us could funnel what’s important to us down so succinctly. And just how powerful it is to be able to lay it down with a slap on the table: this is what I stand for!
What do you stand for?
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Copyright Dennis Mitton
I talk to my children a lot about luxury and the lives that we live as everyday-run-of-the-mill Americans. I don’t want them to imagine that our lifestyle is anywhere near normal for most people of the world. And though we are able to mask the effects of our luxurious lifestyle using drugs, we suffer from high rates of ‘luxury diseases’. These are ailments that appear to stem from our diets and lack of exercise. The number varies, but it’s commonly said that up to eighty-percent of aging American’s health issues are related to weight and diet.
I thought about this while I lolled on the couch watching the television show Mountain Men last night. My favorite is an old fella named Tom who lives in Northern Montana. It’s been a cold winter in Montana, and Tom’s meat stock is low. He sets out for a hunt, and to use as much of a deer as possible, he hunts with a homemade bow and arrow. A rifle, he explains, destroys much of the meat of an animal while it explodes through the body. But an arrow, if shot correctly, kills as quickly and makes the entire animal usable. I have my own qualms about hunting (cf here) but this attitude is refreshing compared to people who hunt elk or antelope for trophies from a mile away using high-powered rifles. On the day of the hunt, Tom drives into the woods, loads up his pack, and walks into the trees looking for deer tracks. There is fresh snow so he is able to follow the tracks easily. Finally, he comes upon a group of does and tracks them for a mile until he spots a buck. Just like humans, he laughs: when there are fertile females around a stag won’t be far behind. He approaches the buck, takes his shot, and then tracks the animal until he finds it dead. He ends the day back at his house butchering the deer in the dark as the temperature drops to less than zero.
Evolutionary psychologists refer to the EEA or Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (cf here at Wiki under Evolutionary Psychology). There is controversy about the environment that humans evolved within but it certainly includes much of the lifestyle that Tom enjoys. His day begins with splitting wood for warmth and for cooking. He walked miles in the snow and cold hunting a two hundred pound deer which he then drug out of the woods. Not bad for a seventy plus year-old man. His waking time, just like our ancestors, is spent burning calories – it’s easy to see why the body wants to hold on to fat.
Do you live like this? I don’t either.
And that’s why I exercise. I spend my working days in an ergonomically adjusted chair at a desk with no sharp edges. I force myself to get up to talk to people rather than use instant messaging all day. I buy fattened cow at the grocery store where they give away free cookies just for gracing the front door. My wife and I prefer clean and healthy food but our schedules often make it easiest to cook up something from a box that is laden with fat, salt, and sugar. Nothing in my evolutionary history has prepared my body for this onslaught of luxury.
It’s no wonder that we suffer from such high rates of heart attacks and cancers and obesity disorders. And without opting out of the normal rat-race I see no organic way to circle around this. (cf here for a book review of someone who did opt out – good stuff!)
So try to mix in a little physical hardship in your day. Do something that makes you sweat. Push the mower. Carry the garbage can to the curb instead of using a cart. Chop some wood. It’s how you were made to work and your body will respond with a thank you of pleasantly achy muscles.
Starting a new workout program? 10 steps for success.
Copyright Dennis Mitton
Fitness50 is a blog series focusing on old folks like me who is interested in health, longevity, and the good life. Sign up to follow and receive updates as to when new posts are published. Thanks!
If you are a twenty-year-old bathing suit model who runs half-marathons in your spare time for fun you can probably just keep moving along. If you are like almost every other human being on the planet, and if you are just now starting a fitness program, here is some well- earned advice offered in an attempt to deprogram you from some of the silly and potentially harmful exercise advice many of us have bought into:
For starting out:
It’s said all the time and most people will ignore it: check-in for a check up. You probably need one anyway and your doctor will be impressed with your efforts at better health. Really. They will probably give you permission to start slow and that will comfort you on your first trot around the block. Get the blood-work done, too, and save the results. When you return for next year’s check-up, compare the results of your blood work. You’ll be surprised with how your work has paid off. You will look better and feel better but these results prove that you actually are better. On the inside.
Do not ignore stretching and warming up. Prep your body for the work ahead. Warm up slowly and ease into stretches. Ignore this at your peril. I will tell you from experience: it is stupid to lose a month of training time while you recoup after tearing a muscle because you couldn’t spare five minutes to stretch. If you only have twenty minutes and can’t get your full workout in then focus on stretching. You can run tomorrow. The earth will still turn.
Wear good shoes on a forgiving surface. My preferred gym is my garage when it’s ninety degrees outside. I wear heavy running shoes and have a sturdy carpet on the concrete to cushion my legs and feet. If you are doing more weights than cardio then consider a pair of heavier gym or cross-fit shoes. They will give you a solid foundation and help hold your ankles in place. They don’t have to be expensive but be sure they are of good quality.
Most guys won’t be able to do this – we’ve simply been too brainwashed about what it means to be manly – but if your program uses weights, I highly recommend going through the first day or at least the first set without the dumbbells. Learn the movements. Your body is used to doing everything in a straight line. The very best way to hurt yourself is to get excited about losing forty pounds, grab a fifteen-pound dumbbell, and start swinging it sideways. I can almost guarantee that while the weight goes in one direction, your lower back or your hamstring, which hasn’t made a turn like that since the fifth grade, is going to stay right where it is. When one part of you moves and the other doesn’t? Not a good day. You can still work up a good sweat without the weights so start in easy.
For the mind:
“No pain, no gain” is stupid. Pain means that you are doing something wrong or moving something too far or aren’t ready for the movement. I’m not talking about soreness or the feeling of pushing yourself. I’m talking about that feeling of having an ice pick jammed into the side of your left knee when doing a squat. Quit immediately and adjust if you feel pain. It took you fifty years to mold the body you have today. It’s okay to take some time to bring it back into a healthy condition. Working through real pain will only set you back as you take the time to recover from your dopey and misleading belief.
Remember that the people featured on those videos you are watching are fitness
models and fitness professionals. While true that you can reach their level of fitness, you probably don’t have six hours a day to exercise while a professional chef waits in the wings to cook your meals. Be nice to yourself and take some time. Learn to enjoy feeling your body improve.
Don’t worry if you can’t work at an 110% or 50% or 10% effort through the entire workout. Keep at it bit by bit and you will finally do it. Maybe next week. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. But to rush because of false expectations only invites injury or frustration and both will detract from your efforts and goals. Feel free to rest for a set or just to take a few breaths. Enjoy the workout! It’s not a punishment.
If you want to lose weight then you’ve got to do some kind of food plan. It’s becoming more and more clear that while exercise promotes fitness and health it does not always equate to weight loss. Eating less equates to weight loss. I really, really, like the container system used by the Beachbody programs. It takes away the guessing and calorie counting and tracking. You’ll be hungry sometimes and that’s okay. Find a program that suits you and your personality. I know that I won’t stick to anything too complex to explain to the nearest third grader. The simple fact is that if you want different results then you need to cultivate different habits.
Avoid eating at least a half-hour before your workout and avoid heavy fats or protein. In time, you will learn what your body likes. I feel best and do my most energetic workouts in the morning before I eat anything. I don’t use pre-workout shakes or meals though many people enjoy them. I doubt that they provide any real boost but experiment to find out what you like.
Do nibble on or drink some protein after your workout. The efficacy of protein for
post-workout muscle repair and replenishment is one of the very few sports nutrition guidelines that you can trust. Your muscles are hungry after a workout and as our bodies age we have a more difficult time metabolizing protein. So you want to replenish what you have burned and add a buffer for building new muscle.
Don’ t be stingy with the water. It’s free out of the tap and is the single best ‘nutrient’ to can put in your body.
You can always forget about exercise altogether. Running around the block in silk shorts while you sweat like a dog isn’t the only path to a better life. Some of us like to do this stuff. I do. But if you don’t there is golf, gardening, walking, yoga – any kind of movement will improve your health. For more on healthy living without spandex read here and here.
In The Boy Who Played With Fusion Tom Clynes writes an interesting, albeit somewhat creepy, biography of young Taylor Wilson. Taylor is different. He is an obsessive child except obsessive doesn’t capture the bonfire of his drive. He is immovable. He is an arrow shot that never quits until it hits its target. He is single-minded to the point of forgoing food, safety, and friends. He is the youngest person to have built a nuclear fusion reactor. To say that he would be a handful to raise is an understatement.
Clynes braids together three stories. One is the biography of an agonizingly obsessive and catered-to youth, another is a story about ‘extreme parenting’, and another is a story about academic giftedness. Strewn throughout the book is the breadcrumb trail of Taylor’s brother Joey. Joey is gifted, too, but is overshadowed in almost every way by the loud light of his brother. This book is about Taylor and not Joey, but any exploration of parenting and giftedness should have included more on the younger brother who was continually lost in his brother’s shadow.
The story of Taylor is a good one. It’s well written and interesting. The boy is demanding and obsessive from the womb. As a child, he jumps from interest to interest like most kids do except that Taylor jumps in with both feet and drags the family with him. Any boundaries that he bumps into are punctured by his parents for their own sanity. That he is catered to is understandable. I have a child like this myself. You give in or the entire family pays the price. At around ten, Taylor finally settles into nuclear physics and begins collecting gadgets and throw-aways and builds a makeshift ‘lab’ where he conducts experiments. From here Clynes details the story that leads to Taylor developing a fusion reactor in the basement of the University of Nevada. I applaud Taylor for much. When other kids were putting playing cards in their bicycle spokes, Taylor was collecting radioactive rocks and selling them on eBay to support his habit. If an equation stood in the way of his next step he hunkered down and learned the math. Though there is some darkness to the story, Taylor deserves what he has earned.
Interspersed within the story of Taylor’s fusion project are the other threads of the story and they aren’t as bright. Taylor finally lands at an experimental high school in Nevada (The Davidson Academy) for exceptionally intelligent children where he has the same struggles as every high schooler. He stumbles a bit with girls and friends. He crosses lines that he hasn’t been held to in other schools where he was given free reign to roam. But normal teen angst seems exaggerated here where every child is exceptional, preened, and hand-selected. For most of the kids attending this is the first time that they have had to compete for excellence or for attention.
‘Extreme parenting’ is another theme drawn out through the book. If ‘extreme’ means excellent then I’m not sure that I’m on board. From Taylor’s first interests, the Wilson family becomes a business enterprise for keeping Taylor happy. Dad or mom spend weekends driving around the country to placate Taylor and family life revolves around talks, experiments, and the budding celebrity of their oldest child. The younger boy, at least in this book, is left almost entirely in shadows and is often found alone in his bedroom. Gifted too, his interests nor his personality are as loud or spectacular as his brother’s. There is an imbalance here fraught with potential for future problems.
I don’t know Taylor and am guessing that as a young adult he is adjusted and kind. He seems to have a genuine sweetness and is incapable of guile. His effusive love of science, and especially of physics, overrides any boasting or childhood pettiness. The book closes with Taylor’s decision to accept a Thiel Fellowship that comes with a $100,000 grant and the requirement to drop out of school to pursue ‘other work’. It’s not the decision I would have made. There are things he would learn in a university setting that he won’t otherwise. Living at school, reading Spanish peasant lit, competing and collaborating with other people as accomplished as you are, and befriending people from outside your culture and habits are things we rarely pursue on our own. And each is as valuable for health and happiness.
A good weekend read with lots of food for thought. 7e(-0.693(10)/20) stars.