Discretion Being the Better part of Valor…

…I decided the pull the plug early on this morning’s workout.

First, let’s back up to yesterday afternoon and a near-miss wipe-out on the ol’ fixie.  Speed, heavy traffic, potholes, and the dreaded flung-open car door (i.e., being “doored” in cyclist parlance) — individually, these hazards make riding in the city…uhh…I dunno…shall we just say “interesting”, and leave it at that?  What about when these things happen to coincide within a unique singularity?  Well, we have on our hands then is  a major rut-ro moment.  Long story short, I didn’t go all the way to the ground — how, I don’t know.  Skills, maybe? (smug grin, pats self on back).  Heh, right.  Anyway, so I wound-up not leaving behind any valuable paleo hide on the asphalt, however, I did manage to tweak my lower back.  At the time it didn’t feel so bad (what an amazing painkiller adrenalin can be!), and I continued riding for a good bit longer.  In fact, I didn’t give it a second thought until…

…until I hit the gym this morning, with the intent of doing some heavy, black-banded Good Mornings.  Wrong answer.  Warm-ups and the lower-loaded/build-up sets felt fine.  Any appreciable loading, though, was a definite no-go.  Now back in my not-so-distant younger days, I would have pushed on through — and probably ended-up on the injured reserve for a few weeks following.  Not now though (older and wiser!), and not today.

Quick interlude: I just realized that I commented on my self-proclaimed “older and wiser” status immediately subsequent to a paragraph where I speak of willingly (wantonly, even!) traversing the hazards of fixie riding in the city.  Go figure.  Anyway, back to our tale…

So the moral of the story?  I pulled the plug on the workout, hit the showers early, and left the gym with my only real injury being a bruised ego.  Being active brings with it the distinct possibility of getting hurt now and again.  I’m fine with those odds, and with the risk to benefit ratio associated with my lifestyle choices.  No need to compound problems when they do occurr, though.  I’ll sacrifice today’s battle for success in the overall campaign.

But damn I was so looking forward to that heavy Good Morning session!  Ugh…

10 minutes ’till full-on fight-or-flight response…

Paleo in the Mainstream

This might be old news by now, but NPR’s The People’s Pharmacy devoted a recent show to a discussion of low carbohydrate diets in general, and  “The New Atkins” diet in particular.  Now, I enjoy listening to The People’s Pharmacy, even if it is a bit pedestrian for my taste.  For a certain mainstream demographic, though (think older, wealthier, intelligent, well-connected– and either very busy, or with plenty of time on their hands), this show is “cutting edge”; any air time, then, that low carbohydrate diets get in a venue such as this is, my opinion, a plus.  The Paleo tribe is, of course, light years ahead of the rest when it comes to diet sense — but remember — we’re talking about mainstream influence here, and more importantly, influencing a mainstream demographic with the money, clout and wherewithal to affect public policy.  Was Michelle Obama listening to this episode?  Jesus, let’s hope so — maybe she’ll rethink her dietary suggestions to the nation’s youth.

From The People’s Pharmacy show notes:

Losing weight is a challenge for many of us, and dietary advice is often contradictory. Which diet will work best? Would it be a low-fat vegetarian diet like the one Dr. Dean Ornish promotes? Or might it be a low-carb diet similar to the one espoused by the late Dr. Robert Atkins? Many fear that a diet low in carbohydrates and therefore heavier on protein and fat will push cholesterol to unhealthy levels. New data on the low-carb approach don’t support that concern, though. We’ll get the low-down on the science behind the NEW Atkins diet.

Guest: Eric Westman, MD, MHS, is an associate professor of medicine at the Duke University Health System and director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic. He is the author of The New Atkins for a New You, with Dr. Jeff Volek and Dr. Stephen Phinney.

A couple of topics came up during the discussion; the notorious China Study for one (see Richard’s thorough dismantling of this “study” over at Free the Animal ), “Vegetarian” Atkins (rice and beans make for a lousy sirloin, folks).  Loren Cordain and the Paleo diet even make an appearance (we need more studies, says the good doctor Westman.  Right…) .

All-in-all, though, I’ll take it — a pretty fair airing of the low carbohydrate (though certainly not Paleo) mindset — even with the rather incredulous tone that host Terry Greadon takes with Dr. Westman for much of the show, and with Dr. Westman’s condoning the “vegetarian” Atkins version of the diet.  Oh well…let’s keep in mind the greater, long-term good.

One small step for Paleo man, one giant step (hopefully) toward altering the nation’s relationship with food and diet.

In health,

Genetics of the Mind

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

Henry David Thoreau

Compulsion.  Addiction.  Drive.  Pain threshold.  Inherent brain chemistry (genetics of the mind, if you will) is another major piece of our individual genetic make-up that wields huge influence upon our ultimate fitness and phenotype expression.  One needn’t be a “brain surgeon” to realize that some people are just wired between the ears for fitness success, while others, unfortunately, are cobbled together in such a way that channels them toward addiction and avoidance of exertion.

In keeping with this theme, Diane Rehm recently interviewed Dr. David Kessler about the addiction aspect of over-indulgence, and about his new book, titled The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. In the interview, Dr. Kessler describes the complete endocrinological response to the human taste preference for fat, sugar and salt, and especially the combination of these macronutrients.  This is very interesting stuff indeed, in a “devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know” kind of way.  At least it provides information to ruminate on while battling the dreaded carb Jones; and it provides, as well, a scientific basis behind why a good dose of fat will alleviate that Jones — and why a Paleo diet with adequate fat intake will eventually curb that Jones to a manageable nil.  And here again, we see the genetic factor at work.  As Dr. Kessler puts it, some people would be content to take their food in pill form, while others are wired to crave the entire sensual delight of a food’s taste, smell, mouth-feel…even the atmosphere within which the food is consumed.  The point is, we’ve all come to this ride called life with inherent liabilities that we have to work with and around; that realization is step one to diet and fitness success.  Step #2 is formulating a personal plan of attack with a solid knowledge of where your weak underbelly lay.  Just as in physical training, a concentrated effort on toughening that weak underbelly will ultimately pay greater dividends than further improvement of proven strengths.  Unfortunately, this mindset runs counter to the natural human inclination toward the path of least resistance.  Hey, do yourself a huge favor, huh?, and take the path least traveled.  You’ll be so much the better for it.

I do have to warn you that Dr. Kessler — though he never comes out and proclaims it so — seems to hint throughout the interview of an anti-fat bias. He never says that it’s the sugar and salt alone that are the real culprits here, and that left to its own devices, fat would be not only benign, but healthful — and that’s too bad.

And a big reason why that’s too bad is because he’s missed a perfect opportunity to weigh-in (pardon the pun) on the national healthcare debate.  There is simply no way to achieve any modicum of healthcare reform — no matter the formulation — unless Americans take responsibility for the state of their own health.   The costs of keeping sick people limping along — while a boon for my industry (pharmaceuticals) — is simply too cost-prohibitive to any otherwise potentially viable plan reform.  Most Americans will not accept this simple truth, though.

But don’t blame this national nonacceptance on Sally Fallon.  She’s out fighting the good fight through the Weston A. Price Foundation, and most recently, this interview with Joe and Terry Graedon, of The People’s Pharmacy, covering such topics as the efficacy of hunter-gatherer diets, the benefits of raw dairy, and a whole host of other Paleo-minded topics.  It’s one of the best mainstream treatments I’ve heard touting the positives of the Paleo lifestyle.  Give it a listen, and see if you think so as well.

In health,