Monthly Archives: May 2013

5 Helpful Analogies for Understanding Complex Health Issues

Another great article from Mark’s Daily Apple today. This seems to clarify many of the ideas that have helped me in my path.
5 Helpful Analogies for Understanding Complex Health Issues

1. Insulin is a Doorman at a Fat Cell Nightclub
Insulin is not a switch that goes from fat burning to fat storing. Fat is always going in and out of the fat cells. Insulin just makes it easier to get in.

2. The Crowded Restaurant
I don’t like explaining weight loss using “calories in, calories out” — it is just TOO simple a model to be helpful. If a restaurant is crowded, and you want to know why, and someone says “It is because more people are entering than leaving” — well, it is precisely true and completely unhelpful.

3. LDL: Cars and Passengers
More vehicles (LDL particles) means more traffic jams and accidents (hardening of the arteries), all else being equal. A reading of 100 people on the road could mean you’re dealing with a hundred compact cars, each carrying a single driver, or it could mean you’ve got four buses carrying 25 passengers each. Or it could be a couple buses and the rest cars. You simply don’t know how bad (or good) traffic is until you get a direct measurement of LDL and HDL particle number.

4. Digging a Hole to Install a Ladder to Clean the Basement Windows
Everyone knows you need a ladder to clean outside windows. So for the basement windows, naturally you would need to dig a hole for the ladder, right? It’s an example of trying to apply a solution to a problem you don’t have–you will eventually solve it but it’s a lot more work.

5. What Would You Feed a Lion?
Lions evolved eating meat, so that’s what they should eat. What did humans and pre-humans eat while we were evolving? This explains why I think “processed food” is a “fad” and “paleo” is rediscovering something we already knew. Sure, it is *possible* to invent better foods, but based on the recent trend to obesity, heart disease, and other terrible health outcomes, we should not assume that processed foods, low-fat foods, refined starches and sugars are better than our evolutionary diet.

More thoughts about “motivation”

So much of the weight loss self-help literature is about “motivation” and visualization and thinking positive and not losing hope and… and… and… A lot of these plans are very thin on PRACTICAL and USEFUL advice, other than just “Eat less food”. So if the plan is “Eat Less, Move More” and it’s just wrapped in a different flavor of motivation/positive attitude, it is really the same plan and will fail for the same reasons.

For some people, calorie counting works, but most people will ultimately fail. I think counting calories doesn’t help us fix the balance… we are adjusting the overall amount but not the mixture. We are not addressing the root cause of why we are so hungry.

Instead, the diet program vendors want us to believe that we “just” have to eat less and if we can’t follow that “simple” instruction then we are defective people and it’s our own fault that we’re obese and sick.

So if “Eat Less, Move More” has failed in the past, don’t blame your lack of motivation. It is just not a great plan.

Yes, it is hard to make changes, but you cannot make changes based on positive attitude alone. You have to have a good plan to start with, and it has to be the RIGHT plan for you. That is why I always say, work hard but also work smart. And it works best if you find a plan that has you working hard for 2-3 weeks and then coasting the rest of the time, because that is how our motivation works too.

If you feel like you stalled and ran out of motivation, it is NOT a failure of motivation… it is because you haven’t discovered the right plan for you and learned the skills to make the plan sustainable. It has to be sustainable to the point where it works even if you are not paying attention.

You NEED to get psyched up in order to make important changes. You NEED that motivation. But don’t spend your hard-earned motivation on a rehash of the same plan that failed before. If your plan was not the right plan for you, try something different. Work smart AND work hard.

What is the right plan? That will be different for everyone. I had to try dozens and dozens of plans, and then mix and match and do some really hard thinking and studying. You will too… you will try a dozen things before you find out what works. But I’ll tell you for sure what won’t work… trying to do what’s already failed multiple times before. Try something NEW this time.

Experiment on yourself!

Of course I’m a big fan of low-carb. But I discovered something even more important: Experiment On Yourself. You will have to try dozens and dozens of things before you find the “recipe” that works for you. Keep track of what you’re doing. Ask others what they did, and try it. Keep track of how you feel. Find things that work and keep doing them. Fine-tune your plan as you go.

Nutrient balance is a good place to start.  Look at your nutrient balance each week, and decide where you want to go with it in the coming week.  (Of course this means logging what you are eating using LoseIt or similar tool. Lots of things are required for good health: vitamins/micronutrients, water, sodium. potassium, lots of good sleep, water, exercise. But I know this for certain: None of that matters as much as your nutrient balance. You can do literally everything else perfect, and have the wrong nutrient balance, and you can still be miserable, obese or worse. Even exercise is not as important as macronutrient balance. Find the right balance for you, and you are 80% of the way through. Do the other stuff whenever and however you want… just get your nutrient balance right for you FIRST. It helps to read up on each nutrient and the role they each play in your body. But experimenting with different levels (try for about 4 weeks at each level) is the only way to be sure if it’s right for you.

Motivation: Four weeks at a time

I posted this on Lose It but wanted to post here too.

If you are making a life change (like let’s say, losing weight for example), that will be hard for the first FOUR WEEKS. But, if it is the right change, if it makes your life better, it should get easier, and it should be its own reward. So give your plan a fair chance and stick to it faithfully for four weeks. Reach into your reserves and pull out the stops during this time. Distract yourself, drink more water, write in your journal, sing to yourself, get psyched up, kick your own ass, and tell all your friends to kick your ass for you too.

Then after four weeks, really examine your results. Not just are you losing pounds, but is it sustainable? Is it getting easier, or do you still need to psych yourself up to follow it? Are the cravings disappearing? Can you really honestly say you want to live the rest of your life this way? Because that is exactly what you need… a plan you can keep doing forever. If your plan is not that, if you’re not feeling “THIS IS THE NEW ME” then change it up. Take a week to think about how to adjust your plan, or find some totally new plan to try. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If the right plan is out there, you will need to try a few different things before you find it.

So often I see messages from people who have been on the same plan for 3 months and their motivation has mysteriously failed. I think to myself, of course your motivation failed, because you are following the wrong plan for you. If you are getting psyched up to follow your plan every day for three months and it still hasn’t got to the the magic “THIS IS THE NEW ME” stage, you will fall off. You will get distracted by a trip or a birthday or just not wanting to go to the gym at 5:30 am for a few days, and the next thing you know your plan is forgotten, it’s two weeks later and you’ve undone five weeks of progress.

If this has happened to you, it is NOT YOUR FAULT, it was a bad plan. Think of it this way, if your plan is fragile enough that it just takes a couple days of distraction and it’s out the window, how do you think the plan would hold up to a REAL challenge? Like let’s say you hurt yourself and you’re not able to exercise at all, or you have to take care of a sick family member, or you lose your job? Your plan will go right out the window. That is because your plan CAUSES you stress, instead of giving energy back.

So, work hard, but also work smart. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so do your homework, be prepared, and experiment until you find the right plan. Keep what works well, rotate out what doesn’t work well. Read up, study hard, think of 10 new things to try, and then try them, until you find the plan that sings to you. Find the plan that you would never think of giving up, because it has become part of you, and you will have already won the race…

Then something else magical happens… not only do you have the strength to keep going forever, now you also have the strength to give someone else a hand up. If you get to where you are effortlessly jogging, and someone else is struggling along, now you can give them a hand up.