Hey Sweetie, I Made You Breakfast

My breakfasts this week so far have included all of the following unusual, some might even say weird, “breakfast foods”:

  1. Mashed potatoes
  2. Salad
  3. Sauerkraut
  4. Pan-fried scallops
  5. Steamed asparagus

Why did I have these foods for breakfast? It’s simple: I enjoy these foods.

If you’re making a yuck face, I get it; most people do. There’s an expectation in our culture that breakfast is supposed to be sweet. Most of the acceptable “breakfast foods” are sweet: pancakes with maple syrup, oatmeal with raisins and honey, Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs, granola, smoothies made primarily from fruit, toast with jam, etc.

You might really like salad, scallops, and asparagus, just not before 12 p.m. It makes sense. Since before you could walk, you were eating sweet foods for breakfast and saving savory foods for lunch and dinner. Your palate has been primed for decades in this fashion.

So what’s my stink with sweetness? Nothing in the absolute. I deeply enjoy all of the flavors of food. And the sweetness built into real foods like blueberries, mangos, and pineapples is wonderful.

But sweetness balanced with other flavors has faded away for many people and turned into exceedingly sweet breakfasts. In addition, much of the natural sweetness like we enjoy in blueberries has turned into the processed sweetness of Nutri-Grain bars. And these super-sweet breakfasts have ramifications. When a person eats a sweet breakfast, they tend to:

  1. Feel less sated.
  2. Have greater fluctuations in blood sugar and energy throughout the day.
  3. Be hungrier and eat more throughout the day, especially at dinner and in the evening.
  4. Crave and eat more junk food throughout the day, especially at dinner and in the evening.
  5. Store more excess body fat.

Does any of that resonate with you? Do you find your energy crashing in the afternoon? Do you find yourself reaching for junk food in the evening? If you struggle with this issues and you’ve been mainlining fructose and sucrose for breakfast, you can remedy that with savory breakfasts. Here are a few of my actual breakfasts from this past week to show you it’s possible.

Photo 134--Savory Breakfast 1

This is a salad made of mixed greens, red cabbage, sauerkraut (fermented green cabbage) and olive oil on the left and a scramble made of eggs, white onion, and Swiss chard on the right.

Photo 135--Savory Breakfast 2

This is steamed asparagus, scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes made from local heirloom potatoes with some olive oil and Swiss chard mixed in.

Photo 136--Savory Breakfast 3

This is a mixed-greens salad, pan-fried scallops, and mashed Yukon Gold potatoes with some olive oil and white onion mixed in.

You don’t need to eat these foods to “go savory”. The sky is the limit. Basically any savory foods you typically eat for lunch and dinner make great options. And you don’t have to avoid sweet foods altogether to get the benefits of savory breakfasts. I often include sweet foods in my breakfasts. This weekend, I’ll be picking my own strawberries and they’ll surely be part of my breakfasts next week, for example. In essence, I eat breakfasts that are just like my lunches and dinners. I eat a wide variety of whole, natural, real foods I enjoy. I don’t specifically target savory foods and avoid sweet foods. I’ve simply dissolved the “prejudices” that breakfast should be sweet and that salad and fish are for later in the day.

Our palates change with exposure. There are dozens of foods I never ate growing up that I now love. Avocados, broccoli rabe, garlic, and oysters to name a few. Our palates aren’t set in stone. And there’s nothing about us anatomically, physiologically, or any other way biologically or scientifically, that makes us averse to “lunch and dinner foods” in the morning.

The best judge of what ways of eating help you feel your best is you. I invite you to play with a little more savory and a little less sweet in your breakfasts. Pay attention to how you feel and calibrate accordingly. Some great savory foods to include in your breakfasts are vegetables, meat, eggs, nuts (and nut butter), seeds (and seed butter), and avocados. Bon appétit.


When Is It Okay for You to Thrive?

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
–Seth Godin

Did anyone ever tell you college will be the best time of your life? For me it was, in fact, a truly remarkable time. I absolutely loved school, especially my physiology-related classes. I loved going to class, studying, taking tests, writing papers, all of it. I also enjoyed layer upon layer of amazing community and friendship. I had ample time to do everything I wanted to do. I worked out with friends often. I ate meals with friends daily. I studied with classmates all the time. (I even won, with my friend Matt, our school’s annual horseshoe tournament. Now I’m just bragging, and rubbing it in to all my classmates who’ll read this article and, um, didn’t win the way Matt and I gloriously did that day.) Writing about this time brings a big smile to my face.

What makes me frown like a champion, however, is the thought that they were right! Was college truly the best time of my life, of anyone’s life? Is it all downhill after that? Or is it possible to flourish that way throughout life, or at other times anyway?

Society offers one answer: Retirement. When you retire, you’ll have time to do what you love, to travel, to spend time with your family, to really take care of yourself. Retirement is a construct created by the masses for the masses to keep people from completely giving up on life when they’re far from thriving and wondering, “Is this it?” Instead of really looking at themselves and their lives, and considering how they could really live, many people comfort themselves with the fantasy of Retirement. They accept their lot and use the analgesic of dreaming of playing golf, traveling to Europe, or opening up a cute bed and breakfast (many years into the future, of course) to ease their pain. All the while, they muck and mire away, putting their better days down the road, far down the road.

Retirement is just one costume Someday wears; there are others. Take Heaven. Many people believe the life of their dreams awaits them after they die. I’m a “disciplined” person in many ways and land on the strong side of the bell curve of delayed-gratification skills, but heaven seems like too far off of a reward, even for me. Then there’s Vacation. Vacation is micro-heaven—less singing angels, more fruity drinks. It’s a potent pacifier. These false gods can be very powerful, but they’re not good friends. They’re enablers that suggest we forgo thriving, and opt instead to expect mediocrity, or worse, from life and from ourselves. But do we really live in a world where college, vacation, retirement, and heaven are what we live for? Is the rest just passing time?

I don’t buy it and I don’t want you to either. I offer up a very important proposition for you to consider:

Would you like to really live now?

Photo 133--Sunset

Take a moment, as long as you like, and reflect on this possibility. Imagine living with great vitality and fitness. Imaging living with fulfilling work and fulfilling relationships as part of the day-to-day fabric of your life. Imagine loving your life. Imaging feeling amazing. Now. Not in the future, because as Dave Mathews Band wisely sings to us in their aptly named song Cry Freedom:

“The future is no place to place your better days.”

What would it be like for you to thrive now? What can you do today to make this your reality?



President Trump Spouts Unexpected Words of Exercise Wisdom!

Donald Trump recently said some pretty silly things about exercise that have been all over the news. He’s also quoted in this same GQ article saying something that’s pure exercise genius, in line with recommendations made in prestigious scientific and medical journals, and yet lost on most personal trainers, sports coaches, physicians, and others we’d all like to believe are in the know regarding exercise.

From the GQ article:

“When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, ‘You are going to die young because of this.’”

Donald Trump’s words again:

“You are going to die young because of this [training for an Ironman triathlon].”

Among the sea of truly ridiculous statements he’s made (not just about exercise), it’d be easy to disregard this comment as nonsense. Add to this the fact that exercise has been touted as nothing short of a cure-all and fountain of youth, this could sound truly crazy.

The truth: This statement could save lives! (That’s why I’m choosing to expound upon it.)

In fact, wellness expert Dave Asprey says almost exactly the same thing in his popular TED talk Hacking Yourself:

“So if you think you are going to be hedge-fund manager and an Ironman triathlete at the same time, you probably can do it, and it’s probably gonna take years off your life.”

The truth: Moderate exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Being sedentary and doing excessive exercise are equally deadly. Yes, deadly.

In a study article published in the American Journal of Cardiology (1), the authors state:

“In this prospective, observational study, which included 1,098 healthy joggers between 20 and 86 years of age who were followed up for 12 years, we compared the long-term all-cause mortality rates of light, moderate, and strenuous joggers with the long-term mortality rate of sedentary nonjoggers. We found a U-shaped association between jogging and mortality. The lowest mortality was among light joggers in relation to pace, quantity, and frequency of jogging. Moderate joggers had a significantly higher mortality rate compared with light joggers, but it was still lower than that of sedentary nonjoggers, whereas strenuous joggers had a mortality rate that was not statistically different from that of sedentary nonjoggers.”

The key line:

“…strenuous joggers had a mortality rate that was not statistically different from that of sedentary nonjoggers.”

This might be a shock to you since you’ve been led to believe athletes and fitness enthusiasts are the pillar of wellness. It just ain’t so. In a study article published in Sports Medicine (2), the authors state:

“While the words ‘fit’ and ‘healthy’ are often used synonymously in everyday language, the terms have entirely separate meanings. Fitness describes the ability to perform a given exercise task, and health explains a person’s state of well-being, where physiological systems work in harmony. Although we typically view athletes as fit and healthy, they often are not.”

Excessive exercise has become a significant enough public-wellness problem that physicians are recommending upper limits on exercise. I know it seems out there, but it’s happening. In a study article published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (3), the authors state:

 “On the basis of multiple studies, it might be prudent to limit chronic vigorous exercise to no more than about 60 min/d [minute(s) per day]”.

“A weekly cumulative dose of vigorous exercise of not more than about 5 hours has been identified in several studies to be the safe upper range for long-term cardiovascular health and life expectancy.”

The Donald isn’t so crazy after all (on this issue). Excessive exercise can, in fact, lower your life expectancy just like being sedentary can. Imagine a scene where a few really fit people are talking with a few really sedentary people. The fit people are disgusted by the sedentary people and telling them they’re killing themselves the way they’re living. The sedentary people believe the fit people are just plain nuts for exercising the way they do and have no hesitation saying so. It turns out, both crews are equally right.

People have become increasingly sedentary since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1700 C.E. The subsequent lack of nourishing movement in people’s lives has been, without a doubt, a major factor in the development of lifestyle diseases (a.k.a. non-communicable diseases) such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, dementia, cancer, and related diseases. The development of exercise has been an intelligent response. The development of extreme-exercise movements like triathlon, all endurance sports, many other sports, and many fitness movements, however, hasn’t been so intelligent as the science reveals in no uncertain terms.

Creating dangerously sedentary lives isn’t the only wellness-diminishing fallout of the Industrial Revolution. It’s also taken people out of nature, and more so out of their nature as people. It’s turned people into factory workers. Today, most people, whether they’re putting tuna in cans or performing appendectomies, work in factories. Yes, some people are very well paid, have elaborate vocabularies, and work in workplaces that don’t look like factories, but they live like factory workers. That is, they do one very specialized job over and over and they do it a lot: most of the day, most days of the week, and every week of the year minus only a few. The Industrial Revolution has also changed how people relate to themselves. They no longer relate to themselves as beings, but rather as doings. As producers. Ask people in your life at the end of the day how their day was and notice how often you hear something like, “It was good. I got a lot done.” Getting a lot done has become a primary definition of a good day, of a good life. Getting stuff done is important, no doubt, but when being industrial becomes of utmost importance, it tends to crowd out other needs which keep us well like sleep, rest, and fulfilling relationships, to name a few.

Photo 132--Smiling Man

Getting really fit by exercising a shit-ton isn’t the antidote to the problems caused by the Industrial Revolution. Living a live that meets all of your needs is. I offer some suggestions of how to truly be, to truly come back into the balance of your being that’s been knocked off center since the advent of industry, and to truly thrive:

  1. Do moderate exercise you enjoy, or better yet, absolutely love. As the science makes clear: No pain, no gain is bullshit.
  2. Do non-exercise movement. This is the only movement people did before the Industrial Revolution. Walk or bicycle to work or other destinations. Garden. Dance. These are incredible ways to move that also keep you in touch with art, food, nature, and others.
  3. Get outside. The Industrial Revolution brought us inside. Most people live their lives inside homes, offices, cars, stores, and other buildings. Get outside in ways that fill you up. Immerse yourself in nature.
  4. Get plenty of sleep and rest. If you relate to yourself as an industrial production machine, sleep and rest probably feel like a waste of time. Sleep and rest are underappreciated in our culture, yet big keys to wellness. To up the ante, I introduce one of my favorite ways of being: lingering. When’s the last time you had a meal with someone and you didn’t feel like you had to rush off and do the next thing? When you lingered there and enjoyed every bit of the experience? You can linger in the shower, on a walk, while having a chat, or doing almost anything. The essence of lingering is doing something fully, something that feels really good, for as long as you want, without feeling like you should be getting something done instead.
  5. Find out who you really are. Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been increasingly trained how to fit into and be a cog in society. In the present day, children go to school from about five (or younger) to about 17 (or older), and are taught how to be. Such intensive training during such a formative time creates adults who have no sense of who they really are. So it’s not an odd question to ask yourself at 30 or 50 or 70: Who am I? What do I really value? When do I feel most alive? Doing some personal reflection around these questions can do a great deal to boost your wellness.

There’s more to being well than doing a lot of exercise. Being well goes hand in hand with living well.

(1) Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2015, 65(5), 411-419.
(2) Athletes: Fit but Unhealthy? Sports Medicine, 2016, 2(24), 1-4.
(3) Exercising for Health and Longevity Vs Peak Performance: Different Regimens for Different Goals. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2014, 89(9), 1,171-1,175.

Author’s Note: I don’t identify as a Democrat or Republican. I’m an unenrolled registered voter. I registered as a Republican in 2008 so I could vote for Ron Paul for President of the United States in the Massachusetts primary. I registered as a Democrat in 2016 so I could vote for Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the Maine caucuses. Otherwise, to this point in time, I’ve remained unenrolled. The present pick-a-side-and-argue political game is both dysfunctional and boring. I prefer heart-centered discussions on how we can live well together, both locally and globally.


Flavor Is Nutrition

When I say “rice and beans”, what does it evoke for you? Easy? Inexpensive? Perhaps “bland”? These are all common responses to this question. Hardly anyone ever says “delicious”, “flavorful”, or “amazing”. Rice and beans is a dish firmly entrenched in the “practical” category, not the take-your-breath-away sensory-delight category.

I recently shared a meal with a few vegetarian acquaintances (I personally eat as an omnivore) who wanted to have rice and beans. One of them brought a recipe and we went with it. Well, wow, my first bite was, in fact, amazing! Delicious! So full of flavor!

All in one bite, I enjoyed the luxurious flavors of cilantro, coriander, cumin, various chili peppers, garlic, the juice of a lime, and more.

It wasn’t the rice and beans that were so good, it was these spectacular seasonings. With each bite, the flavors increasingly mixed and played off each other. It was a true sensory, sensuous, sensual delight. In retrospect, even preparing the meal was a party for my senses. We used very fresh seasonings. Cilantro we diced that evening. Coriander and cumin seeds we toasted and then ground up in a mortar and pestle. Several different kinds of chili peppers we roasted and diced ourselves. Garlic from our local farmers’ market also freshly diced. My kitchen became the canvas for the artwork of these beautiful colors, shapes, textures, aromas, and eventually tastes.

I’ve enjoyed these seasonings before, of course, but this evening they really stood out with rice and beans as their background and my expectation of a somewhat bland meal. Granted, I’m not talking about the years-old spices your grandmother stored in the back of her pantry, the ones with dust on the jars. We used very fresh foods as our seasonings, foods that had so much life in them. And not only was this meal super tasty, I felt great eating it and afterward.

Could these hyper-tasty foods also be good for us? It would certainly make sense, but it’s not what many people have come to believe in our culture. I know many people who believe with every fabric of their being that:

1. If it tastes good, it’s bad for you.
2. If it tastes bad, it’s good for you.

Could this really be nature’s design? Would nature really put all the flavor into foods designed to give us cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, cancer, and other diseases? That wouldn’t seem an intelligent design. What if all the things that were good for us felt terrible? What is sleep was exhausting? What if sex was annoying? What if nourishing food was tasteless? It just doesn’t make sense.

Science confirms that herbs, spices, and other seasonings, foods that add so much flavor to our dishes and meals, are potent sources of life-giving nutrients that boost our wellness (1):

“Herbs and spices have been used since ancient times to not only improve the flavor of edible food but also to prevent and treat chronic health maladies. While the scientific evidence for the use of such common herbs and medicinal plants then had been scarce or lacking, the beneficial effects observed from such use were generally encouraging. It is, therefore, not surprising that the tradition of using such herbs, perhaps even after the advent of modern medicine, has continued. More recently, due to an increased interest in understanding the nutritional effects of herbs/spices more comprehensively, several studies have examined the cellular and molecular modes of action of the active chemical components in herbs and their biological properties. Beneficial actions of herbs/spices include anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-hypertensive, gluco-regulatory, and anti-thrombotic effects. One major component of herbs and spices is the polyphenols. Some of the aforementioned properties are attributed to the polyphenols and they are associated with attenuating the metabolic syndrome. Detrimental changes associated with the metabolic syndrome over time affect brain and cognitive function. Metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. In addition, the neuroprotective effects of herbs and spices have been demonstrated and, whether directly or indirectly, such beneficial effects may also contribute to an improvement in cognitive function.”

Antiinflammatory, antihypertensive, antioxidant, antithrombotic, glucoregulatory, and delicious—now that makes sense! It turns out, flavor is nutrition.

Another element had our rice and beans really singing that evening—guacamole! “Holy guacamole” is one of the most well-crafted catch phrases. I can’t think of anything more holy than guacamole and the guac we made to go with our rice and beans was as good as life gets. Rich, creamy, a little bit chunky—wonderful.

Photo 131--Guacamole

And full of fat. Most of the energy in an avocado, the main ingredient in guacamole, comes from fat.

Now, if you’ve been under your desk since the 80s hiding from the communists, you might still think fat kills. I grew up deathly afraid of both the Russians and butter, so I get it. I drank the Kool-Aid too: Fat makes you fat and sick. But back to intelligent design, why would nature make avocado trees that bear avocados as fruit, make this fruit delicious, and load the fruit with poison? The same goes for olives, another fruit, and nuts and seeds, all full of fat. Many animal foods contain fat as well. Did nature put these foods here as toxins to keep those of us who enjoy the flavors of these foods from winning swimsuit competitions and living past our 50s? It just doesn’t add up.

Science, again, reveals a great deal:

“Avocados have a high content of phytochemicals especially antioxidants with potential neuroprotective effect. Aging is the major risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. A large body of evidence indicates that oxidative stress is involved in the pathophysiology of these diseases. Oxidative stress can induce neuronal damages and modulate intracellular signaling, ultimately leading to neuronal death by apoptosis or necrosis. There is evidence for increased oxidative damage to macromolecules in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, antioxidants have been used for their effectiveness in reducing these deleterious effects and neuronal death in many in vitro and in vivo studies. The critical review results indicate that compounds in avocado are unique antioxidants, preferentially suppressing radical generation, and thus may be promising as effective neuropreventive agents. The diverse array of bioactive nutrients present in avocado plays a pivotal role in the prevention and cure of various neurodegenerative diseases.” (2)

Go avocados!

“Frequent nut consumption has been associated with better metabolic status, decreased body weight as well as lower body weight gain over time and thus reduce the risk of obesity.” (3)

“Thus, findings from cohort studies show that increased nut consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality (especially that due to cardiovascular-related causes). Similarly, nut consumption has been also associated with reduced risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal, endometrial, and pancreatic neoplasms.” (3)

“Nuts therefore show promise as useful adjuvants to prevent, delay or ameliorate a number of chronic conditions in older people. Their association with decreased mortality suggests a potential in reducing disease burden, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive impairments.” (3)

That’s nuts!

“An intervention with MedDiets [Mediterranean diets] enhanced with either EVOO [extra-virgin olive oil] or nuts appears to improve cognition compared with a low-fat diet.” (4)

“Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.” (5)

Wow, fat is looking pretty good, right?

“Randomized trials are the preferable method to evaluate the effect of dietary fat on adiposity and are feasible because the number of subjects needed is not large. In short-term trials, a modest reduction in body weight is typically seen in individuals randomized to diets with a lower percentage of calories from fat. However, compensatory mechanisms appear to operate, because in randomized trials lasting >or=1 [sic] year, fat consumption within the range of 18% to 40% of energy appears to have little if any effect on body fatness.” (6)

“Moreover, within the United States, a substantial decline in the percentage of energy from fat during the last 2 decades has corresponded with a massive increase in the prevalence of obesity.” (6)

“Diets high in fat do not appear to be the primary cause of the high prevalence of excess body fat in our society, and reductions in fat will not be a solution.” (6)

Well, there you have it, these delicious fatty foods are also life-giving foods. And not according to the tabloids, according to the likes of The New England Journal of Medicine. This makes sense, of course, since they’re whole, natural, real foods. Fat is a nutrient, just like protein and carbohydrate. And nature is smart, wicked smart as we say in New England. Flavor is nutrition. High five, Nature! That’s intelligent design.

(1) Beneficial Effects of Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants on the Metabolic Syndrome, Brain and Cognitive Function. Central Nervous System Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 2013, 13(1), 13-29.
(2) Avocado as a Major Dietary Source of Antioxidants and Its Preventive Role in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Advances in Neurobiology, 2016, 12, 337-354.
(3) Nut Consumption and Age-Related Disease. Maturitas, 2016, 84, 11-16.
(4) Mediterranean Diet Improves Cognition: The PREDIMED-NAVARRA Randomised Trial. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 2013, 84(12), 1,318-1,325.
(5) Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. The New (6) England Journal of Medicine, 2013, 368(14), 1,279-1,290.
Dietary Fat Is Not a Major Determinant of Body Fat. The American Journal of Medicine, 2002, 113(S9B), 47-59.


A Powerful Wellness Lesson from Our Past

I had a spectacular conversation with a friend recently. It went roughly like this:

Me: “What’s up Hip-Hop? How are things on the Waterfront?”

Hip-Hop: “Great, man. I love it here. I love the smells of the ocean, the breezes, the people. It reminds of the time I spent in Greece. How are you? What’s new?”

Me: “Well, I have lots of exciting stuff going on. But, first, I really want to ask you about the study published in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association recently. The one on drugs. Have you read it? (1)”

Hip-Hop: “Oh, the trends in heroin use?”

Me: “No, prescription drugs.”

Hip-Hop: “No, I haven’t seen that one yet. Do tell.”

Me: “This is big, Hip-Hop! They studied prescription drug use here in the United States. In 2000, 51 percent of adults in the United States were on at least one medication. In 2012, it’s up to 59 percent, an eight percent increase in those 12 years!” (1)

Hip-Hop: “Yikes! Something isn’t right; you people aren’t very well.”

Me: “What do you mean ‘you people’? You’re one of us now.”

Hip-Hop: “You know I’m just visiting, brother. I’m content to stay in the spirit world for a while longer and keeping checking out Earth to see what’s going on these days.”

Me: “But you’re still planning to come back, right? You can’t remain a ghost forever.”

Night Walk Man Alleyway Scary Alone Ghost

Hip-Hop: “Yes, like I told you last week, I’m in the process of filling out my reincarnation application, but it’s going to take me a little longer, then I still have to see if I get accepted.”

Me: “Hip-Hop, we need people like you. I’m sure you’re going to get in.”

Hip-Hop: “Thanks for vote of confidence, J. I’m certainly doing my very best.”

Me: “We could use you, and, personally, you know I’d love to spend some time with you in your flesh, so to speak.”

Hip-Hop: “I know. I appreciate your friendship too.”

Me: “So what do you make of this dramatic rise of drug use we’re experiencing? Use of antihypertensives increased from 20 to 27 percent, use of antihyperlipidemics increased from seven to 17 percent (more than double), and use of and antidepressants increased from seven to 13 percent (almost double) in that time.” (1)

Hip-Hop: “What do I make of it? Your hearts are broken for one; the numbers don’t lie. And the ways you’re living aren’t in harmony with nature, so you’re creating all this disease. It’s obvious: You need to take better care of yourselves and one another.”

Me: Yeah. “For sure. That’s what I’m working on, you know. It’s my life’s work.”

Hip-Hop: “Stick with it, brother. Keep facilitating the self-care movement. Help people thrive. You know that’s how it works. People who thrive don’t get sick. Those drugs have their place, of course. It’s how heavily you all are relying on them that’s scary. It’s a canary in a coal mine. Something isn’t right if the rate of drug use is increasing that fast. People really aren’t meeting their needs.”

Me: “It gets worse. One of the other startling results from the study was the increase in polypharmacy.”

Hip-Hop: “That’s a thing?”

Me: “Yeah, it was new to me too. You’re considered polypharmic if you’re on five or more prescription drugs. In the 12-year study period, polypharmacy increased from eight to 15 percent (almost double).” (1)

Hip-Hop: “Yikes, I guess the poly lifestyle isn’t for me. There’s nothing sexy about being on five medications.”

Me: “No, I wouldn’t say so, Hip-Hop, you smart ass.”

Hip-Hop: “So much can be done to prevent disease. It’s all in how you all are living. I see it every day. Even the people here on vacation look stressed. You’ve got to get back to basics. Enjoy moving around, eat from this ocean and this land, get plenty of sleep and rest; you know what I’m talking about.”

Me: “You’re preaching to the choir, Hip-Hop. I’m working on this with everything I have. I’ll be back at it tomorrow.”

Hip-Hop: “I know you will, my friend. I know you will.”

Hip-Hop: “Hey, speaking of living well, we’re getting together for oysters Friday, right?”

Me: “Yeah, you’re on. I can’t wait. Catch you later.”

Hip-Hop: “Catch you later, bro.”

Hip-Hop: “Goot, wait. I forgot; I’ve got a gift for you.”

Me: “Really? I like gifts.”

Hip-Hop:” I made up these t-shirts and I have one for you. Here.”

Me: “Oh, I love it. It’s so you. Thanks, Hip-Hop.”

I put on my new t-shirt right away and headed off empowered by some of my friend’s favorite sayings.

On the front of my new t-shirt, it read:

“Walking is man’s best medicine.” (circa 300 B.C.E.)
–Hippocrates of Kos (“Father of Modern Medicine”)

On the back of my new t-shirt, it read:

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” (circa 300 B.C.E.)
–Hippocrates of Kos (“Father of Modern Medicine”)

(1) Trends in Prescription Drug Use Among Adults in the United States from 1999-2012. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2015, 314(17), 1,818-1,830.


Is “Life” Getting in the Way of Your LIFE?

“I want to exercise more, but I can’t seem to find the time. Life keeps getting in the way.”

“I get together with my old friends once a year. I miss the days when I had great community and friends in my life, but life makes it really hard.”

“I know I should sleep more. Ugh, life is so busy.”

“I’d really like to move into work I love to do, but life takes priority right now, you know what I mean?”

Not exactly. What’s this “life” you speak of? Can you hold it in your hands? What color is it? What does it smell like? What does it sound like? How does it feel on your skin? Can you show it to me?

It’s a construct you’ve made up, that many people have collectively made up and you’ve agreed to. It’s no more real than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. It’s not a very benevolent construct. Its primary role is to tell you what you can’t do. Specifically, it tells you that you can’t do the things you want to do because it’s the priority.

Is “life” really a thing? Does a person show up at your home in the morning wearing a Patriots jersey with the name “Life” on the back above the number 44? Does this person handcuff you and drag you to a job you hate? Does this person make you live where you live? Does this person crush your desires and intentions? Does this Life character control you?

It might seem this way, I get it. But I don’t accept it. Because this “life” you’re letting control you, is stealing your LIFE. The LIFE you feel when you’re engaged in work your love. The LIFE you experience when you’re with your close ones. The LIFE you experience when you’re full of vitality and fitness. That’s LIFE.

Photo 129--Two People Laughing

That’s the gal that shows up at my home each morning, “LIFE” tattooed boldly on each of her forearms. She opens her arms wide and asks, “What do you want to do with me today?” I’m learning to say yes more and more. You?

Unfortunately, more people today than ever are living in Thoreau’s “quiet desperation” and accepting “life” like helpless balloons blowing in the wind. I offer up instead William Ernest Henley’s approach to life from his poem Invictus:

“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

Take the wheel, my friend. Take the wheel.


It Feels Really Good, It Costs Nothing, and It Sheds Bodyfat

Can you guess what it is?

It’s something you love to do. It’s absolutely free. You do it literally every day (I missed one day in my life; that was a special day).

It boosts your wellness and it’s a great way to lose excess bodyfat (or prevent the accumulation of excess bodyfat).

It’s not an exercise program. It’s not an eating program.

A study article published in the interdisciplinary medical journal Science Translational Medicine (1) has the answer: sleep.

In the study, subjects spent five weeks getting normal sleep and three weeks getting 5.6 hours of sleep per night. Measures of blood-insulin levels, blood-glucose levels, and resting metabolic rate were taken from the subjects. Lack of sleep was associated with lower blood-insulin levels, higher blood-glucose levels, and lower resting metabolic rates.

That glorious Sunday morning feeling when you linger there. That delicious feeling when your head hits the pillow and you cozy up under the covers after a full day. Oh, how good it feels to sleep.

Photo 126--Sleepy Feet

And just how good for you is it? Let’s ask the researchers:

“The robust changes we observed with exposure to chronic and concurrent circadian disruption and sleep restriction have potential relevance to the millions of people who experience these challenges on a daily basis and who are more likely to develop the metabolic syndrome and diabetes.”

“Findings of particular clinical relevance for exposure to chronic sleep restriction with circadian disruption include a 32% decrease in insulin secretion in response to a standardized meal, a very large effect that led to inadequate glucose regulation: glucose levels were higher for a longer time and rose to pre-diabetic (type-2) levels in some participants.”

“Finally, the 8% drop in RMR [resting metabolic rate] with sleep restriction and circadian disruption, assuming no changes in activity or food intake, would translate into ~12.5 pounds [sic] increase in weight over a single year (120 kcal/day X 365 days / 3500 kcal of fat mass), which has clear clinical relevance as chronic sleep restriction with circadian disruption is endemic in our society.”

Three weeks of lousy sleep led to a pre-diabetic metabolic state in the subjects and lowered their resting metabolic rate by an amount that would result in 12.5 pounds of bodyfat gain in a year if they continued their sleep-deprived ways.

It’s good and it’s true: Sleep makes you well and lean. Sweet, decadent pleasure can be very good for you.

Wellness isn’t a no pain, no gain game. In wellness, exercise and eating are the cool kids in our Puritan culture. When it comes to wellness, sleep is certainly not a cool kid; it’s one big outcast. Tell your friends you get eight or nine hours of sleep per night and they look at you like you’re a jerk. With exercise, you can push yourself to the point of exhaustion. With eating, you can deny yourself the sensuous enjoyment of food and the satisfaction of a fully belly. Pushing and denying are gods in Puritan culture. Pleasure is about as big a sin as you can commit. That’s why most people who get feedback from a physician that they’re on the road to type-2 diabetes or who’ve got that 12.5 pounds of excess bodyfat hanging around don’t turn to sleep as part of their solution. Science tells us they should. If art is more your thing, so does William Shakespeare:

“O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frightened thee?” (Henry IV)

“Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber.” (Julius Caesar)

(1) Metabolic Consequences in Humans of Prolonged Sleep Restriction Combined with Circadian Disruption. Science Translational Medicine, 2012, 4(129), 1-19.