Long Overdue Updates

I have not posted anything in a couple of months, and for good reason. Figured I should get something up to let everyone now how everything is progressing.

The book has taken a back seat the last few months due to multiple demands on my time. I work full time, raise two young kids (1&3 years old), have a wife who works full time, and for good measure I am simultaneously building two houses. My life consists of either being at the firehall, or not being at the firehall and yelling at contractors, then yelling at kids, then yelling at contractors, then hugging kids, then ordering supplies, then yelling at kids, then phoning contractors to warn them I am going to yell at them, then playing with kids. I also have to find time to cook top notch meals and cure bacon. Hopefully at the end of the day I have time and energy to spend with my lovely wife who is my absolute rock right now.

Also just got over a week long flu combined with insomnia. It was kind of like Disneyland if Disneyland had no rides, just long lines and people in motorized scooters driving over your feet.

All things are in a big crunch right now trying to get the exteriors done before we go into deep freeze any day. But both houses are about to start being drywalled which means things will simplify greatly. 

So with the sickness gone, the houses starting to come together, and some incredible help and insight from Mike Kesthely at Dynamic Nutrition, the end is in sight. Mike did a bunch of lab work for me in regards to my adrenals and diagnosed a few things and offered some great supplementation tips that is doing wonders for me right now. Mike is a brilliant guy who fuels many top athletes, but also does great work with average people. If you need individualized dietary advice (and most of us would benefit from that) contact him and let him work his magic.

Despite the fact that I am not writing or editing at the moment, it does not mean that I am not researching. Still reading a ton and learning more everyday. Much of what I have learned that last few months has led me to a newer approach on my recommendations and stance on diet. Sifting through endless heaps of vegan propaganda and bullshit has wound me up and made me realize that I need to be taking a harder stance, one that will definitely be more polarizing. I do not care what diet people decide to eat, but there are an inordinate amount of vegans who want to ram their beliefs down your throat. Meat eaters need a voice, a reason to stand up and be proud that they follow the natural order of life. Organic matter; all forms of it; must be broken down and reused in order for life to continue. Life follows death. All organisms, both plant and animal, must follow this. We have to stop peoples’ misled consciences and political leanings from clouding our thoughts and leading us to poorer health. We need to start a movement that makes it clear to all people the healthiest diet for a human being, one that leads to the highest level of function as a human, is one that involves meat. I may piss off every vegan in the world, but I want to make meat eaters proud for being what they are. I want to create strong, healthy, and motivated men and women. I want my 65 year old men to be able to hand a 25 year old vegan his ass.

High quality vegetables is still the central part of the diet, but meat will be the focal point of my message. Embrace your omnivorousness.

So as things settle down in the next few months there will be a lot more activity. Book will be completed soon and website will be launched. At that point we will start trying to change the world, or at least infuriate every weak, overly vocal plant based advocate. Hopefully it will culminate with a large “China Study” book burning while Campbell and Ornish get publicly stripped of their MD’s. 

Trials are still ongoing and I still have people contact me on a regular basis to start up. If you know of anyone who would be interested, have them email me.

For those still ongoing with the trials, drop me a line if I have not heard from you in a while.

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The Separation of Food and Science

I have long believed that you can pinpoint the moment when true knowledge on any topic begins. As you read and learn more on any subject you begin to sense you have a good understanding of it. As you delve deeper, you gain a sense that you have wrapped your head around it and are near a full understanding, or mastery, of this topic. And then all of a sudden it happens: you step outside of the small structure you have been stuck in and notice the huge expanse outside that represents the scope of the topic and you say to yourself “I don’t know a fucking thing about this”.

That is the moment when true knowledge begins.

This is where the science of nutrition is right now.

There are some very good nutritionists out there, some incredible doctors, and brilliant individuals with little or no formal training who can coach you on your food intake. They tend to be the ones who accept that we know very little on the topic and will never accept government or ruling body advice blindly. It takes a certain level of awareness and commitment to look beyond the veil of conventional dietary wisdom, when you do this the results are shocking.

THE CURRENT STRUCTURE OF NUTRITION

Let’s use the United States as an example. The American Dietetic Association is” the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals” according to their website. They are the accrediting agency for educational programs and individuals looking to act as dieticians. They are a huge agency with a lot of pull, with a tremendous amount of responsibility. Their recommendations ultimately form the recommendations that reach the public. They claim to be “your source for trustworthy, science-based food and nutrition information”. So where do they get their funding? Here is one of them: ADA’s list of corporate sponsors (seriously check this link out; it will blow your mind). That’s right; your trustworthy recommendation source of healthy eating is funded by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Hershey, Mars, Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Cargill among others. There does not appear to be any sponsorship from broccoli growers or grass fed beef producers.

The dieting stance of the ADA is essentially the calories in/out model, which they believe is best treated through moderation. Moderation fits their sponsors well because then you can be advised to continue purchasing their products as long as you use moderation. Or, failing moderation, you can purchase their fat-free products without guilt. If they were to support a high quality, nutrient dense food model, their sponsors would be unable to fill that need. I am not a big fan of Marion Nestle (though she is very intelligent) but she had this to say of the ADA: “one of its basic tenets is that there is no such thing as a good or a bad food”.

So the ADA, with donations from large food processors, forms the opinions that are the mandated form to educate new nutritionists. They fund a significant amount of food studies. Their advice on food, however that may be achieved, will ultimately form the bulk of the advice that the American public receives on healthy eating.

Conflict of interest is arguably the most common theme found in dietary confusion.

THE PROBLEM WITH MEDICAL NUTRITION STUDIES

One thing that truly upsets me is the amount of scientific research that is released to the public. Television news reports, magazines, blogs, and newspapers consistently report the latest findings. The problem is that the average person cannot or will not decipher what they are being told. They do not look into the source of funding, how the research was done, or how the findings were interpreted. I always recommend to people to completely ignore new findings and let the experts sift through the bullshit and come up with recommendations based off of it. If you do not know the meanings or differences between observational, double blind, randomized, or controlled (among many others) do not pay attention to them. The main problem is that it seems many professional researchers do not understand what those words mean.

Think about why these studies are done. One reason is true interest in improving human health. Unfortunately, a major reason for performing studies is profits. Studies are used on a frequent basis to support eating one thing or not eating another. People trust science and scientists. We want to believe that it is unbiased and absolute. We picture these brilliant, morally pure, scientists who find answers that are undeniable and can be seen with the eye. The reality is that scientists are normal people with normal problems. They can be narcissistic, delusional, and greedy. They are not without biases. And more than anything, they need to know where the money comes from. If you perform a study that can help support increased profits from a large food manufacturer or supplement producer, you can probably bank on more funding.

Here is a simplified version of how many of these studies are performed: an experiment is set up and raw data is acquired. Now their job is to interpret that data. Bias can creep in, without awareness, at any stage but it is especially prevalent at the interpretation stage.

Dr. John Ionnidas has made a name for himself just by questioning medical research on a whole. He has published some famous papers calling into question the reliability of the studies we use to determine good health. According to him up to 90% of published medical information is wrong.

And it seems to be particularly flawed when it comes to food studies. Gary Taubes writes that “nutritional epidemiology business is a pseudoscience at best”. In his article “Science, Pseudoscience, Nutritional Epidemiology, and Meat” he explains how most epidemiologists will only pay attention to a 3 or 4 fold increase in risk, but that in food studies they will focus on as little as a 0.2 fold increase in risk.

There is money to be made by using studies, but most of it is in food processing and supplementation. People who stand to gain from this are very aware of its effectiveness and use it all the time. The public is very swayed by science. This is reflected in the beliefs that most Westernized societies hold in regards to food and how to eat.

OPTING OUT OF THE ESTABLISHED ADVICE

Governmental endorsements are not points in your favour… they are strikes against you” – Mark Sisson

In Bill Bryson’s book “A short history of nearly everything” he covers most significant scientific discoveries made in the last 500 years or so. A recurrent theme becomes apparent and is, in my opinion, the single greatest lesson to be taken from the book: anytime a new discovery is made it is first denied by those in power. Next it is acknowledged but deemed irrelevant. Eventually is it recognized as important and the wrong person is credited. Most significant scientific discoveries go against an established belief. There is an entire industry built around that belief, and with that money and power. When new information comes along that threatens that industry, the people in power will take drastic steps to protect themselves. They will attack the messenger or the message, but often both. A good example is how Dr. Atkins was ridiculed for his findings.

The established advice right now, as is supported by the ADA, is to limit fat intake, eat high amounts of carbohydrates, and control weight through caloric balance. Anyone who questions this modeled is not taken seriously by people holding authority and is met with indignancy.

The more government and industry backs a belief, and the more they question opposing beliefs, the more concerned you need to be about their reasons. Food advice is driven primarily by industry interests.

WHAT LITTLE WE KNOW AND WHAT TO BELIEVE

You are always your own best advocate, so the best thing you can do is research it yourself. All information sources out there are biased, including mine. The biggest names in food are not necessarily the biggest because they are the most intelligent, but because they are very convincing and know how to market themselves. The single greatest, unbiased source I can recommend is “In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto” by Michael Pollan. He does not push towards any style of eating, he only does a great job of explaining food, our place in the food chain, and the flaws of what he calls “nutritionism”.

If you go for advice from a professional, look into their background and ask about their beliefs. If they are certified by a government board, and strictly follow the government and certifying board’s recommendations, run, don’t walk, in the other direction. If they push or sell supplements, run further. Supplements are a great tool, but which ones you need and from which source can only be determined by someone who has a full understanding of it. You are best off dealing with an expert on this topic.

A few basic rules to follow based off of what we DO know:

–          Food quality trumps all.

–          Source of food comes next. Local and fresh.

–          Eat a ton of vegetables.

–          Eat real, whole foods. Your foods should be alive and in the process of dying. If your food does not rot it is not alive. Regardless of your stance on grains, breads and pastas are not whole foods, they are processed.

–          Dietary fats are essential and nutrient rich. Saturated fats are completely misunderstood in conventional dietary wisdom.

–          Fruits are a good source of food, but they are inferior sources of produce compared to vegetables.

–          Avoid grains and legumes. If you must have them, make sure they are properly prepared (grains sprouted and legumes soaked)

–          Soy is not health food.

–          If a package is telling you the food is healthy, it probably isn’t. Plus, it’s in a package.

–          Food should not come in a package.

–          Never trust the government or any of their regulating bodies (FDA, ADA) with your health. Approval of a food additive does not mean it is safe, it just means it has yet to be proven harmful to your health.

–          Learn to decipher scientific studies and sift through the garbage, or ignore them completely.

–          When someone you do not know offers you food advice, especially if they are selling supplements, question their motives. (Mine is to get rich, just haven’t figured out the “how to get paid” step yet).

The Disappearance Of Men

About ten years ago a disturbing trend appeared that has continued since. The “Metro sexual/Queer eye for the straight guy” movement was in full effect. All of a sudden guys were getting big into self-grooming, drinking Shiraz, hitting the spa, and using beauty products. Being a lumberjack was no longer cool. Men’s Health magazine became the go to source for lifestyle advice. High testosterone levels began to be demonized for any negative male behaviour and health problems. The problem is so much of this advice we received did not mesh with a lifestyle that supports men being men. The result, stemming from several factors, is the decline of men.

Everyone will have their own definition of what being a man is. We do, however, see common traits. Most people know someone they would refer to as “a man’s man” and they tend to describe them similarly: assertive, decisive, energetic, strong, alpha, responsible, leader, disciplined. There usually tends to be similar physical traits; they tend to be muscular and lean, are usually physical in nature, and are hairy. They also tend to have a high sex drive. The traits of a properly functioning male will manifest themselves in any number of ways due to personality and social norms, but these traits tend to be noticeable over time and in their own ways.

The problem, which has been increasing over the last 50 years or so, is that there are less men behaving this way. “The flower of America’s masculinity”, as Joel Salatin calls it, is wilting. Men in their 20’s are consistently obese, unmotivated, and unaccomplished. They refuse to make significant decisions, commit to anything long term, have low energy levels, and lack motivation. They fail professionally. When they are faced with interpersonal problems they are more likely to play games or gossip than to confront the problem directly. They are taking erectile dysfunction drugs at younger and younger ages. This continues on to fatherhood where unfortunately the same problems that caused this situation are passed onto the new generation. This is a serious problem because it is throwing our relationships and culture out of whack. Our family and societal structures evolved alongside our genome for a few million years, and everyone has their role to play in it. Men are failing in their role.

The culprit is low testosterone (T) levels. Testosterone levels have dropped around 20% over the last 40-50 years depending on which source you look at. High testosterone levels trends a person towards the “Man” traits listed above, low testosterone levels trends a person towards the current males we are all seeing.

The reasons we have low testosterone levels are both environmental and behavioural. The problems began with the baby boomer generation and have worsened since. As people started believing in “better living through chemistry” and became more sedentary due to technology, we began to lose our way as men. The advice they received as to what healthy living was believed to be at the time undermined us. My generation has taken the ball and ran with it.

Traditional male roles tend to support higher T levels. Going out to hunt, with other men, to provide for a family is the most common one. Performing hard physical labour is another example of traditional male roles. I am not suggesting every male need to go kill an animal and build a shelter; but this role can be emulated. Men should be working hard to provide and be motivated to always accomplish more. Men should also be lifting heavy things regularly. A man should be looking to establish himself in a leadership role in some area of his life.

As much as our behaviour will increase or decrease T levels, they are more often a result of high T levels from environmental factors. Our diet and daily cycle has a much higher impact on T levels.

EATING TO BE A MAN

Health advice over the last 50 years has crippled our ability to create testosterone. The precursor to testosterone, or all of our steroid hormones for that matter, is one of the two most demonized substances in the food industry: cholesterol. Arguably your bodies preferred substrate for cholesterol to act upon to create testosterone is the other one: saturated fats. This article is not nearly long enough to explain how the science backing low fat diets was poor, and how cholesterol and saturated fats are actually very good for you (if they come from a high quality source). Read my book or any other information out there on the subject for more information on that (Gary Taubes is highly recommended on this topic).

So our bodies want to produce more testosterone. The problem is that the path from cholesterol to testosterone is littered with distractions, and our current lifestyle increases the likelihood of that the testosterone never gets produced.

It begins with lack of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. Your liver will be unable to produce enough cholesterol to meet your needs. Second, excessive physiological stress levels will divert cholesterol for cortisol production. Third, high levels of environmental or dietary estrogens will hijack the cholesterol to increase its levels, or suppress the testosterone. Finally, the majority of testosterone that gets produced can be rendered inactive by Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG).

So you need to do several things:

–          Eat high quality and sufficient sources of cholesterol and saturated fat

–          Sleep. 9-10 hours EVERYDAY in COMPLETE DARKNESS. A properly maintained circadian rhythm does wonders for boosting T levels

–          Avoid phytoestrogens (estrogen boosting foods) and anti-androgens: Foods known to be high in phytoestrogens include grains, legumes, and many nuts and seeds. Soy and flaxseed are two of the worst culprits

–          Avoid environmental estrogens and endocrine disruptors. Anything from beauty products to fertilizers can do this. These are major problems. The list is too long to put on here. Most synthetic and petroleum products have some endocrine disrupting traits.

Once your endocrine system is back up and working properly your behaviours will begin to right themselves. Motivation will kick in and the video games will be left behind. You will stop worrying about how much your skin is glowing or how good your eyebrows look and worry more about accomplishing something.

TESTOSTERONE LEVELS IN WOMEN

While testosterone is mostly linked with men, it plays a significant role in women as well. Women have been just as heavily affected by lowered T levels over the years. A sign of this is the disturbing trend of young girls entering puberty at younger and younger ages. Women today tend to have excessively high estrogen levels that are suppressing T levels. Leaner body composition, more stable moods, increase muscle and bone density, higher sex drive, increased energy levels, decreased risk of many cancers, and prevention of osteoporosis are just some of the many benefits of increased T levels.

Why I hate nutrition but love food

I just finished up a module for a firefighter peer fitness trainer course titled “nutrition”. Typical for any exercise or medical based training, food is put in as an afterthought. I was dreading this module. I expected government recommended, food pyramid based information; I was not disappointed. The same rhetoric that has been rammed down our throats for years was presented, only this time with math. By the end of the module, I realized what the problem was: “nutrition”. I despise the word and everything it stands for.

 I don’t believe in nutrition, I believe in food.

Nutrition talks about calories and macro-nutrients for 90% of the time, and then briefly mentions the importance of micro-nutrients. It talks about macro ratios and recommended daily values. Nutrition holds calories in, calories out as god like.

Nutrition focuses on the components of food, rather than the whole machine. Nutrition assumes that we have the scientific ability to fully understand food, our bodies, and the interaction between the two. The problem with that approach is that every time we discover something that does not mesh with nutritional advice, backers of nutrition must scramble to adjust their beliefs. Trans fats anyone?

If you believe in nutrition you teach people to flip the package over and use the nutritional information label. You learn to use a calculator to take the caloric and macro amounts to figure out what percentage of your daily values you are taking in. When you believe in food, you teach people to turn the package back over and say “Holy shit, this is KD. This is not good food.”

If you believe in nutrition, you could tell me the total calories in a can of soda. If I asked you the caloric value of a cup of broccoli, you would not be able to tell me. You might even tell me that it doesn’t matter. You would be right. Calories do not matter when you believe in food.

If you believe in nutrition, you would say “it is great that fast food companies now have to provide nutritional charts for their food.” If you believe in food, you would not be able to decide what the worst part of that statement is.

If you believe in nutrition, you would say things like “chocolate milk is the perfect post-workout fuel”. If you believe in food you would say “chocolate milk is never a good choice” because you would not be easily misled by clever marketing campaigns.

If you believe in nutrition, you praise the low saturated fat qualities of soybean oil. If you believe in food you wonder how the hell you get oil from a soybean, and then you wonder should you get oil from a soybean.

If you believe in nutrition you treat caloric excess. This approach fits in wonderfully with current medicine; treating the symptom. If you believe in food, you recognize caloric imbalance is only a symptom, and you treat the cause.

Nutrition believes in scientists, food believes in pastoral farmers.

Nutrition requires establishment buy-in. Food requires opting out.

If you believe in nutrition, you believe in quantity. If you believe in food, you believe in quality.

All of these discussions came up during the 90 minute module; a slide for each one and some discussion on the beliefs. Occasionally the instructor would ad-lib his own dated beliefs on dietary advice. Talk about how salt will raise your BP, or how lower carb diets only decrease your water retention and are dangerous because “all that cholesterol just plugs up your heart”. At one point he even went down the road of how caloric balance is all that matters, and even went so far as to say “you could eat a diet of only Snickers bars and still lose weight’. This stuff all blew my mind; I always assumed that people who gave advice like this were just urban myth. When you read about this stuff the people saying it are always just referred to as “they”, I did not think that people like this actually existed. Advice like this is still given in this day and age, and is recommended to people who are expected to give dietary advice.

The makeup of the class was split. One group was the traditional Muscle & Fiction readers who loved the presentation, except when the instructors recommended against supplements. The other group is the more modern, functional group. We read books rather than magazines, we know how to perform a snatch, we understand what work capacity is. At one point an argument broke out in regards to chocolate milk as a post-workout drink. On one side were two well muscled guys who were covered in significant body fat. On the other side were myself (33yrs, 6’ 205, 8%BF) and my friend who is one of those weird hybrids that are starting to pop up (the muscled triathlete, 6%BF). It got a little bit heated, and we just agreed to disagree.

After the class a couple of guys came up to my friend and I to talk about the chocolate milk thing. They said the most glaring thing in the argument was the difference in body composition. They asked us to tell them more about food.

Unfortunately, I am not allowed to give food advice to my fellow firefighters, I can only give nutritional advice. It is the only mandated form, and I must stay within my scope of practice. Fortunately, the day was over and we were off the clock; so we talked about food.