I Just Am

Photo: WFMFT

Photo: WFMFT

This shadow of mine ripples along the bumps and cracks of the asphalt next to me, like a companion that gives me the freedom to think without the need to converse. The image projected waves a slightly different silhouette from the years previous, it's undoubtedly wider, especially having more girth in the shoulders, not to mention what I call "an expanded midsection". The shadow holds no actual weight but boasts an extra 22lbs visually from when I last saw it in this form. I can clearly see the kink in my left arm, right at the elbow joint when the sun is glaring down over my right side; accentuating the injury that brought an end to my competitive days on a bike. It makes my position on the bike now look unsymmetrical – the irritation of which causes an alarming amount of insecurity. I keep looking down at the dark projection, not as a reflection of me, but as a shadow that I don't recognize. Besides the lack of visual familiarity is the strangeness of the physical orientation, the speed at which I move is slower than I recall, and the breathing intensity much more severe when the road slants slightly up. The only thing that spurs a recognition is the road. The bumps and potholes must be engrained in my subconscious, as I'm not actively or consciously driving the bike, it seems to be swerving on its own, like the road is brail and my front tire is a gentle finger finding recognition in all of the little bumps and cracks, reacting in a way that I taught it to almost a decade ago with hundreds of passes over this very route. I instinctively still “bunny hop” the sewer that once caught me off guard, making me flat many years ago – the landing of the jump has me question the integrity of my wheels and reaffirms my hesitation in calling myself a cyclist. My body reacts predictably to the hard inclines and the desire to pedal faster, but I am not the same person, perhaps just a ghost using this vessel. The pain, it seems, is not physical; the task isn’t about pedaling but in understanding who is pedaling.

 

"What we do, and how well we do it", is all that it takes for us to recognize ourselves, says, Jonathan Pietrunti, who posted a provoking video detailing the thought, and providing a statement that summed up what I have found to be true over the decade and a half that I’ve thought about my own identity. The point is that when our identity is dictated by our actions in a given sport or activity - or in my case separated from years of practice in it - it can severely inhibit the progress that participating in these activities can lead to – self-awareness. I called myself "a competitive Cat-3 cyclist" or an "endurance athlete" for so many years that mounting a bike now has me cringe at the thought of not bearing the trademark tan lines that only the most dedicated to the sport wear. My legs are no longer smoothly shaved because there is no longer a vascular network showing the hard earned "blood roads" that are a trademark of heavy volume and hours spent in the saddle. The actionable signatures of belonging to a group reaffirm our own deep inclination to identifying ourselves amidst the pretenders - those that short cut the experience of which we consider ourselves lifelong participants of. The badges held rarely intensify ability, but we wear them regardless as a way to silently affirm what it is we do and how well we do it.

 

Photo: WFMFT

Photo: WFMFT

 Instead of just pedaling I worry about an abstract comparison to what could be a totally different life. I am so far removed as a competitive cyclist that I could be the reincarnation of one from a former life, and that heritage would assist me in the exact, non-beneficial way that my flirtation with the sport did 10-years ago. Identity at some point will have to step aside – at least in terms of progression – and allow action. I don't need to race, rather, I need the time on the bike for clarity, for sanity. It is when I did my best thinking, and so I return to it only to be dismayed at how much care and focus I put on the details of riding, metrics that are deterring my goal of using it as a meditative tool. I'll pore over the average speed and cadence, remarking for the first 90-minutes of my ride what it was once like to be sort-of skilled at riding a bike, I'll pass another cyclist on the road and know they don't question whether I am a semi-pro or not, I just know I am not, and I exist in a world that obsesses about what I am, and how well I do it... because I obsess about it.

 

This problem is not limited and it is not just an association with sport; it has its roots deeply embedded in our social lives. Identity to some extent helps dictate hierarchy. Therefore, if we esteem to be further along in the pecking order, it is the easiest way to establish who we are, and what we want. To start down a path of identifying with an activity can help to educate and, in fact, it is most certainly the only way to do so, at some point the starting line must be identified. This so carelessly becomes a parable, where as soon as we identify what it is we do, the danger becomes attaching to the very thing that will hurt our progression: categorizing.

 

Photo: WFMFT

Photo: WFMFT

Identity is important, socially, tribally, and in discerning our place in the world, but it is especially so when it is used in distinguishing who is a friend and who is an enemy. We do this by the same process, categorizing what someone does and how well they do it. It gives us a clear picture of our allies, who may, in fact, become our competition, our foes, and our antagonists. What we might not realize or, at the very least want to admit, is identifying parts of ourselves that are the enemy, assessing how much risk we might pose to ourselves. This seems to be the only articulate way to use identity as a continued asset beyond finding a group and a starting point. This exercise is strange because we all secretly believe we are in fact the "good guy" especially in the context of living in a way that is "best" for us. But statistically it is impossible for all of us to be the hero, and at some point, we are excusing our plight of antagonism as something positive that others just can't see; we are freedom fighters, NOT terrorists. Yet most of our lives are in fact constructed by collateral damage, we are a byproduct of consequences; we just describe the rubble as home and the explosion as the percussion of our orchestration. As it seems with most factors of self-improvement, the contingency is based upon honest self-assessment.

 

We categorize and assume, only so that we can move as much thinking to our brain's autopilot as possible. Driving, eating, and social interacting become habits so that consciousness can be procured; it's just a matter of resources, and protecting against waste, or so we have evolved to behave. But we may have become so efficient at living that we have lost the ability to control our actual lives. We auto-engineer our own narrative, we identify our friends and ourselves so that we don't have to question who is with us or against us, and by our mid-twenties, most of us have identified who we are, who our friends are, and how well we both do what it is that we do. We have put ourselves in a category that we won't contend with until we aren't the people that we said we were, or dire circumstances do it for us. When injury interrupts the "how well we do it" part, or when the desire to do the task we once described as "us" falls to the wayside, then everything else that was built on that platform falls as well - which most times includes our self-respect. The foundation for who we think we are is usually the stable ground that also dictates what we do and how we do it, but this is the big glaring mistake with our identity. What our identity should establish is how we go about any task in any given subject; this may seem arbitrary but the difference can save heartache and frustration. For example: identifying as someone who does their best as opposed to someone who identifies as the best at a given subject, permeates the limited confidence found in being a one trick monkey. It establishes an internal struggle with an external force, as opposed to an external identity holding an internal hostage.

 

The subject of identity, or perhaps more precisely, the subject of Self is an ancient one. It breaches the realm of questioning whether the Self of our youth is even the same as the Self of our present. We are separated by a lack of atoms and molecules that have all but changed, the neural network and proclivity of cells of a decade previous made decisions to participate in activities that most of us choose not to today. If I choose to shave my legs today, they would be a different set of legs that I shaved all those years ago. The belief that we once had, of what we did and how well we did it, will outlast the physical parts of our bodies that performed the actions with what we identified as. Therefore, we might contend that our Self is but a relic of our personal history, one that we attach to because our physical body cannot.

 

Personal identity poses a host of questions that are, in addition to being philosophical and abstract, deeply personal. It is, after all, one’s very own person that is revealed as problematic. How much more personal can it get?” – Alan Watts

 

 

Years of searching for a group led to a search for myself among all of the groups. The action of searching - by using participation of a physical sort - gave me a result in a spiritual sense; it also gave me a belief that will outlast the physical body that enabled the search in the first place. I can't say whether it was the right way or even a waste of time, but I do know that the search for real identity had nothing to do with whom I associated, what I wore, or what activity I did. I’m able to look at the various trophies and pictures that are a vivid image of participating in events that once held the pieces of who I thought I was, and know that performing well in them had little to do with wanting to perform well as the person that I was at the time, but instead, a pressure internally from wanting to do my best at whatever it was that I did. The relics of a past life are but mere shadows that I pass in my hallway or where they are scattered in a closet. The shadow that follows me now may seem like it is concerned with the details of my ride or the specifics of a performance, but it is only a side effect of what I really want to identify as, which is a person that gives my best. If you no longer need the label as a starting point, then ditch the designation and confines of its use. It may take some years to get used to the systemic loss of self. It will follow patterns, conversations, and friendships that seem to overshadow the importance of NOT identifying, but in the end, will give meaning to what you actually accomplished and what you are practically capable of.

I used to identify as a nerd until I met real ones, who not only played Dungeons and Dragons but also understood quantum physics, and then I was just a board game enthusiast. I identified as a martial artist until I was knocked out by a real martial artist, who used his own identity to make mine clear to me and everyone else. I was a Cyclist, a Crossfitter, a Weightlifter, and a Triathlete. I was a Teacher; more importantly, I was a Student. I was a good guy on good days, and on bad days I was the worst of them. I was all of these and I was also none of them. I couldn't to this day tell you if I am the bad guy, I just am, and not a very good one at that.

Post-Script

Writing in the best case can shape our world, in its worst it leads to the illusion of change because reading the words alone can give the perception of understanding, and has the habit of hiding real growth. It is a goal of mine to not only express new ideas but to also follow them up with actionable practices. I think a physical lesson can back many of the claims that we make, if only we are willing to give into that practice. For this piece the thesis was that our identity (being based on what we do and how well we do it) will negate much of what we can learn by just doing something, anything. There are endless ways to interrupt our identity and test the boundaries of our comfort, for the most part it is about removing the costume, and ensuring that we are playing the role of whom we wish to identify as. This could simply mean removing metrics, uniforms, and associations with the practices that we now relate to. It could also very well just mean starting something new, injecting ourselves into new environments, alien worlds with different languages.

My persoanl stretch of this practice led me to a class that was dedicated to the art of breathing. With it came the hippy-hysteria and the emotional exploitation from which I excused my ignorance of the practice before. The acceptance of grief, the persuasion by way of emotion, and the hint at the supernatural had me biting my tongue for most of the preamble, but when the discomfort really hit - in the realization that I have been missing something by inducing hyper-oxygenation and controlled CO2 tolerance - the emotion came with it, albeit in a fit of anger at a world that I misidentified. I now make it a practice to implement small amounts of identity discomfort in everyday life, I ride without GPS, run without a watch or direction, squat in jeans, refuse to chalk my hands for a WOD, whatever it is, testing the boundaries with which we are uncomfortable makes us, eventually, more comfortable, at least with our Self.

 

 

 

The Roamist

 

It shouldn't be a surprise that I am attracted to the idea of being a roaming student. There is a nomadic affection I have for the stories that carry a plot line of one who searches the earth for meaning and purpose. I was 14, working in a Japanese gift shop in a downtown Salt Lake City mall when I stumbled on a book that was the first of its kind to shape how I viewed the world. Reading Musashi supported the idea that life should be lived on the road and learned in the duals that face one dedicated to a craft. Although it is a highly dramatized, figurative interpretation of one man's life and the art of sword fighting, Musashi embedded a notion that a linear educational path was not in my future. Stories, movies, and TV shows depicting the lone warrior as a student of the world, embody almost every martial arts movie, and TV series, like David Carradine's Kung Fu; they make the premise wildly obvious that a life spent learning and traveling could lead ultimately to enlightenment, and yet we close these books, turn off our TVs and return to a life that doesn't match the stories we cherish, returning to days centered around formal education and predictable life experiences.

Later, maybe in my mid-twenties but not far removed from my obsession with swords, I was observing a good friend of mine that had learned the art of tattooing through travel and exposure to artists he respected. He traveled the world sharing what he had learned and also learned new skills and ideas that he would return home with as a new toolbox. He was anything but humble, but when it came to the art his eyes would peel to the side revealing the etch of wrinkles that came from the tireless wonder of being a traveler and a beginner. It dawned on me that the support for such a system was lacking in most industries. We could get into the defensive nature and territorial reaction that some might have to the idea of allowing another craftsman into their workshop, but it's my hope that I don't have to argue the absurdity of the negatives, that the sole beauty found in the process should overwrite anyone's hesitation when considering participating in either the hosting of, or acting as a traveling craftsman. 

My own journey was not a planned one. I, for the most part, resisted learning even though I could largely articulate the importance of being exposed to new ideas. My education was an accident, a byproduct of traveling the world to do a job, the side-effect was a bludgeoning of forced ideas, a confrontation with the reality that I don't have all the answers. The world no matter how bleak it seems at times does have the orchestration to nurture what we need, even as starry-eyed, round-cheeked adults looking to ignore millennia of tradition.

In my travels, these ideas became more clear, despite my stubborn resistance to them, and eventually led to finding others who largely believed or who were at the very least open to the idea of shaping the industry that better reflected the growth of human culture. One of these people was a man by the name of Kenny Kane. Kenny is a lifetime coach, but even more, he is a craftsman, an artisan of the human spirit. He has created an atmosphere like nothing else that I have experienced, so naturally, I was attracted to his small space that he has nurtured in Southern California, just off of Santa Monica Blvd. His gym has carried an ethos for continual adaptation and testing of ideas. He was one of the first gyms to implement cyclic intensity to group training, psychological development  (beyond positive projection), and adopted breath training far before its popular affectation. His accolades are the least of why I consider him a leader in the industry, as anyone who has had the pleasure to meet him would comment that he is of the warmest, most welcoming, and most genuine people you will ever converse with.  

What we are attempting is – to the best of my knowledge – the first of its kind. I will be standing in for Kenny in his absence for the next month, exchanging ideas with his coaches, sharing the craft with his clients, and testing the idea that a traveling artisan still has a place in this world. The learning curve for something like this is sharp, - paying tribute to swordsmanship, being that the consequences for not getting it right are humbling, but the stage is set to do something that benefits all involved, and I will be eternally grateful for those involved who are also assuming the risk. 

If you want a closer look at what we are doing, or want to participate in the process, and are in the area, feel free to reach out. The dates are June 17th – July 8th at CrossFit LA in Santa Monica, CA.

 

 

 

Training For The Apocalypse

People love to talk about the apocalypse. Maybe it's a useful way to sort out the important issues, the non-starters and non-sequiturs. Perhaps it helps them to think critically and objectively. Some even go so far as to say they are “training for the apocalypse." They say it as something between a half-hearted joke and full-bore paranoia.

For the purpose of determining how functional and transferable your fitness is, we are going to use the proverbial zombie apocalypse, despite its glorification and unlikeliness. Besides, both the CDC and the Department of Defense have used the apocalypse to evaluate their preparedness and structure, so I think it's fair to run hypotheticals using it as well.

So how do you train for the apocalypse? It may shock you to find out that after all the years and copious hours you've spent trying to attain the most impressive 1-rep max numbers known to mankind, you're no more fit for survival than you were when you started.

 

Your Big Bench Press Won't Save You

Let's start big and kill this notion first: "Being stronger makes you harder to kill." No, it does not. A person with a 300lb deadlift and another person with an 800lb deadlift both encounter the same mortality when a 7.62mm round from a high-velocity rifle canoes their heads. If strength truly made you harder to kill, our military elite would train exclusively at Westside Barbell (they don’t).

Most people would agree, if caught in an epic, end-of-the world, Mad Max, zombie-eating-faces scenario, they would appreciate help from some hard-hitting CAG operator, Navy Seal, or SAS, and that having them around would increase the chance of survival. When looking for optimal models of survivability, few could surpass elite military operators. 

Elite units recognize the importance of strength training, especially in context of strength-endurance. But they all recognize a far more important physical ability when they have to load an 80lb rucksack and trek for twelve hours before engaging with a target. That ability is efficiency. A large majority of military training is spent making soldiers efficient. They run, ruck, swim, and do hours of calisthenics on very little food and even less rest. The training environment allows soldiers to adapt, so they are ready when “being harder to kill” really matters.

At no time during selection of the world’s most elite fighting forces do they suit up a double ply, belt, and wraps and test who has the highest 1RM back squat.

I’m not trying to demonize strength training. A basic level of strength is required for most endurance activities. I also believe that chasing large 1-rep maxes outside of specific sport preparation is a lousy definition of functional strength training. Even on the rare occasion that maximal strength becomes relevant in the real world, you're unlikely to encounter a handy 28mm knurled diameter that works perfectly for your grip. In this respect, I commend those who know their own ability when it comes to farmer’s carries or fat bar deadlifts. At least these lifts serve a function, even if they are still contrived and artificial.

At some point early on in our hypothetical zombie outbreak, the need to eat will arise. If you take your nutritional advice from the experts of Instagram, you're probably not going to make it. A common trend among athletes is to consume more and more calories in order to get lean. This is the exact opposite of efficiency.

Consuming food in abundance to fuel specific efforts may improve top-end performance, but it also makes our bodies expensive metabolically. 

All the time you spent “stoking the engine” and “feeding the machine” will have turned you into a pathetic waste when it comes to survival. You have all but turned off your body’s ability to conserve energy, and in doing so reduced the amount of work you can do without fuel. Survival is dependent on limiting exposure to nature, finding water and food sources, and rationing that source for as long as possible. Survival is rarely about confrontation with an opponent. That illusion is only true if you realize the opponent is yourself. In this respect, survival and training for physical fitness are the same.

 

Get Small, Go Far

Endurance is key to surviving the apocalypse. Being able to travel far, fast, and on little fuel could be the difference between making it out of a crowded cannibalistic city and watching your stomach skin get turned into a lampshade by a depraved, diseased roommate. 

 

If your goal is to be harder to kill, you should weigh less, consume less, and try your hardest to remember that splint wrap technique from your sophomore sports medicine class.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the average male special operations somatotype is around 185lb. If you need more convincing, consider this: the strongest humans are usually some of the biggest, which means they require the most food and the most time to move. A slower target is an easier target. Bigger people are also an inconvenience when they are injured. It seems really cool to be the “big guy” until you twist your ankle and the group responsible for carrying you starts debating on how important you really are. Should they use a crockpot or an open spit to roast your well-developed glutes?

 

Survival Is Not a 6-Minute AMRAP

Someone will no doubt throw out, “CrossFit trains you for the unknown and unknowable!” I have no problem with this idea, except that I’m pretty sure our species never survived the past 200,000 years because of their ability to do butterfly pull-ups.

Shocker: Survival efforts are sometimes longer than eleven minutes, which is the length of an average CrossFit workout.

You can probably count on one hand the number of times the CrossFit main site has prescribed efforts over ninety minutes in the past decade. If the unknown is a 50km trek with weight, the average CrossFitter might have hedged their bets incorrectly on overhead weighted pistols.

 

The Slowest One Gets Eaten

The biggest question to answer in determining your chances of surviving the zombie apocalypse is this: How much of your training is actually functional, and how much of it is a joke? 

This is not a defense of “cardio bunnies,” nor an op-ed to bash strength training. What it might be is a fantastical look at the most basic human movement: the ability to run far, fast, and efficiently. When you consider the functional aspects of training that are also major constituents to survival, it becomes obvious that running is one of the biggest. No other human ability enables you to escape the terrifying attacks of deranged mega fauna.

So next time your friend or gym partner complains that running hurts their knees and they are opting for the elliptical or a Venice Beach-style workout, you can smile and know there will be one more piece of human fodder that can be put between you the approaching zombie horde. You don’t have to be the fastest, but you sure as shit can’t be the slowest.

 

When Diets Jump the Shark

 

“Hooray!!!” This is the reaction I imagine when people find out I’m releasing another article on diet, my fabrication of exuberance might be the only way I can motivate myself to write about such a ridiculous topic. In reality, it is the last thing I want to ponder, it causes the most amount of hostility; the debate of nutrition is usually held up by various straw-man arguments, and it becomes a reason to take offense, an excuse for outrage. My disdain to still cover the basics shines through somewhat, only because humans have an innate ability to be fucking stupid, especially when designating what a threat really looks like. If you want to fear solely by the numbers, ISIS and other terrorist organizations have killed approximately 28,000 people last year and 186,000 over the previous decade; this is a tragic consequence of almost impossible to know factors, and very few options to minimize. Consequently, why we are busy taking our shoes off at the airport, deaths incurred by risk factors associated with Type II diabetes and heart disease (influenced heavily by nutrition) have killed millions - and thats just counting this year!

Jump the shark is a term referring to the absurdity that a television series must rise to if it is to forever enthrall it's viewers, ironically coming from an episode of Happy Days where "The Fonze" attempted to jump a shark on water skis. This most commonly happens in the third or fourth season, and is a reaction from the impossibility of keeping the viewer interested in an unresolved narrative that can never wrap up a conclusion with the antagonist, hence it would be the end of the series, and the end of paychecks for all involved. In our idiocy, we treat our news as entertainment,  we seek enemies that news outlets or media are more than happy to provide to us, but we are reaching the sixth season of our proverbial narrative of nutrition and we have all along been unable to identify the bad guy - that bad guy is us, the consumer, the reader - the lethargic waste of human who can't even identify the real threat to their own safety, the same animal who thought the 4th season of Dexter was good.

meet thine enemy

There is an unending assortment of diets that will in some way or another tell you how to eat in order to achieve x, this could be anything from losing weight (possibly the most popular), gaining weight (second most popular), curing a disease (most likely bullshit), improved sex life (can a salad be tantric?), increased spirituality (no comment), and there are hundreds of thousands of other claims in between. What they should sell you is a diet book named by its real power, The Diet Diet Book: ‘make cult-like friends, alienate those that disagree, make this author some much-needed spending money, and learn absolutely nothing about nutrition’.

Diet books are masterful in their marketing, persuasive in their sales-pitch, and utterly worthless in their content. The media promotes them on the basis of being controversial, to increase intrigue, and fear mongering that can be summed up in a 3-minute morning cable news spot. They get away with this for the most part because you (the consumer) are stupid and don’t want real usable information, you want fucking cliff notes that are repeatable at cocktail parties and help you sound ”revolutionary”. We don’t want information, we want a story, a fairytale that allows us to wash our previous sins and blame our previous misunderstanding of a topic on an international conspiracy- a big bad wolf. If you wanted a real education then you would pick up a textbook and fucking read. The basics of sound nutrition are so fundamentally well understood that it makes any attempt at repeating them seem asinine, but in the unlikely circumstance you missed it the first time around here is a review:

Calories fucking matter. You’ll notice I don't say they are the only thing that matters, but they are the most important, as in you cannot overwrite the importance of a calorie balance. I don't care how messed up your thyroid is - bitch, if you don’t eat, you are going to die. More than 7 and a half million people die every year from starvation, do you really still want to use the excuse that calories don’t matter? "But hormones!" some asshole will scream from behind his phone screen, someone else might mutter to his friends that quit listening "what about food quality?", this is what we call putting the horse before the cart, they are ingredients, they matter, just not in the order that makes you think a liberal portion of sweet potatoes can cancel out the caloric load because you declined bread at dinner. I still hear from even somewhat respectable people in the nutrition world, that they admonish ”calories in calories out” - maybe for good reason, pointing to its association with a neurotic approach to diet, a risk factor in extremely rare cases of eating disorders, but this is a mistake - not one intelligible person believes that all calories are equal, that is not what cals in cals out means. No one is saying they don’t influence very powerful hormonal fluctuations, what we insinuate is that there is an amount of calories that influences weight gain and weight loss, to deny this is to deny the cause of death that almost equals the death toll of the holocaust each and every year.

Beyond this, there is a healthy amount of minimally required fats and protein that needs to be consumed in order to stay alive, there are also essential vitamins and minerals that need to be present not in just delaying death but a specific amount individually required to live optimally, but instead of acknowledging that proper micronutrients that are specific requirements on an individual basis, diet gurus and the hordes of morons that follow them want to bastardize education, and pigeon hole the argument on blame "IT'S SUGAR THAT'S THE ENEMY!!!! AAAHHHGGgghhs".

Ketogenic is the New Gluten-Free

Carbohydrates are NOT essential for staying alive, neither are iPhones, but telling people they don’t need them, and trying to organize the government based off of bogus studies to tax them is going to make people angry and makes you look like an asshole for doing so. The data showing how carbohydrates can enhance performance and optimize the human body is robust (to say the least). I totally respect your choice in abstaining from an entire food group, but please quit trying to make me feel bad for eating a donut or enjoying a candy bar after a full day of training, and in reality its not that I care that you tell me, but that you spew vitriolic garbage to those that don't know any better. We really are so happy that you decided in your 40's and 50's to quit eating like a toddler, but that doesn't mean we appreciate your newfound passion, and self-appointed position of dietary police. Contrary to your recent actions, Facebook is not the perfect place to spread that PubMed study that you haven’t actually read (let alone understand). Sugar isn’t anywhere near as toxic as your social media behavior, nor is it as addictive as the likes you get from posting that same fucking recipe of a bacon wrapped avocado.

perception is a mother-fucker

Pay attention very closely - nutrition is not a cure; it is a form of therapy. It is the first line of defense against obesity and other all-cause mortalities, but it is not a dip in the river Styx. This is important in understanding the larger picture because your sporadic relationship with food is based on the false idea that you can permanently influence your health with a temporary intervention; health is not a destination, it is a jug of milk, influenced by its circumstances and perishable. Even in rare scenarios where nutrition highly effects the outcome of a malady or disorder like Epilepsy (in which case a ketogenic diet may be appropriate), it is because it is therapeutic, it needs to constantly and consistently be addressed in order to provide any benefit, this is just the same as preventing or reversing obesity and Type II diabetes. But unlike a specific drug protocol, nutrition has vastly different tolerances, the vacillation and consequences are not always immediate, therefore any idiot can tell you to pump coffee up your ass and it will take years of research to negate the advice, by that time he has long cashed the check based on your belief in a nutritional cure - to be honest I am not even sure it can be considered “nutrition” once a food item becomes a suppository, at any rate, it doesn’t change the cycle of highly profitable diet faddism.

diet is not a description of what we should eat; 

diet is our reaction to what we eat.

The next step of properly approaching nutrition is to stop associating a plan with a list of foods that are “miracles of nature”. Instead, describing and eating in a way that labels your personal reaction to food will help keep the term “health foods” in context. The goal of nutrition is to optimize our health, increase performance, and eventually extend the longevity of our deteriorating bodies, this does not happen by just eating foods associated with health, but by eating foods that we have a healthy reaction from, this difference is not just semantics, it is the art of programming intelligent nutritional practices, the best in our industry do this subconsciously, knowing there is nothing special about an acai bowl, or putting butter in your coffee.

There are pretty specific parameters associated with health (no, it isn’t a six-pack). There are biomarkers that indicate a high incidence of risk factors, there are also certain food combinations that are negatively associated with these, namely a high occurrence of saturated fat and abnormal intake of sugar. This, however, does not make either of these food items "bad", it means your reaction to them is. Individually, we have responses to food, 50g of sugar might wreak havoc in an individual prone to insulin resistance; however, it may increase very desirable attributes associated with recovery in others who have earned the metabolic right to consume it. There is a trend among the best of the best in nutrition to no longer label diets, but to promote a state best associated with health, longevity, or the ability to accomplish a task. Sometimes this is described as an average blood glucose level with mitigated fluctuations; this comes from a healthy reaction to food not an adherence to a specific food itself. 

 

Nutrition lives on a U-shaped curve, in other words, sound nutrition is a balancing act of getting enough but not too much of any one thing that pushes us over the curve of optimum. Knowing this will make the sensationalism often found in articles selling fear and conspiracy even more frustrating. Yes, it is true that in the 70's there was indeed some shady political bullshit that led to the government recommending a high amount of carbohydrates, it is also true that they fear mongered the intake of fat. Often when this example is given as the sole cause of the obesity epidemic, it is conveniently left out that the past 50 years have been anything but low fat, in fact despite the recommendation to abstain, Americans on average only shifted their dietary fat intake down 4%, but shockingly increased their overall intake by 20%, that is a net gain of dietary fat intake. The exact opposite scenario is now playing out before your very eyes. Fat it seems is now a “super food”, its rise to power as a nutrient demi-god is the pendulum of idiocy swinging to an opposing side in search of a simple answer. Now the fear should be a reaction that will most likely end up killing quite a few people prematurely. As the demonization of sugar spreads and the glorification of eating coconut manna becomes more and more common, you will see an increase once again in obesity, not because fat is bad but because people never actually get rid of sugar or highly refined carbohydrates while increasing "healthy fats", and they certainly as a general rule don't limit their total amount of food.

 

And yet “experts” still blast the same message, “you don’t need to count calories, just choose these magical items, fear these foods, listen to my morning show interview, and buy my book”. Anytime the discouragement of more detailed information is promoted as an ideal, anytime you are disparaged from learning more about the elements of your own diet, you should be very weary. If we promoted the same behavior in finance people would lose their minds, and consequently their freedom, because any practice that encourages ignorance is not a successful one. The more you know about your personal nutrition then the more control you will have over your reaction to it. Tracking food is not easy, reading the dry nature of textbooks that have unbiased information on diet isn't fun, but doing so gives you a real defense in a world that in all honesty doesn't give a fuck if you are healthy or not. I guess in a sense, not giving into the sales pitch of a fad diet, understanding nutritional basics, and practicing a healthy dose of skepticism could be considered an act of rebellion, you could be a freedom fighter of the food industry, a lone hero whose sole mission is to stop the evil uprising of corporate greed, the spread of false narratives, and to brave extreme odds in order to truly find themselves in the 4th season with no other enemies but their own desire to eat a donut. Better yet, educating yourself with the basics just makes you a better human being, one that has control over their own personal journey, and doesn’t feel the need to repost that fucking recipe of the bacon wrapped avocados.

I realize that I just made the argument for what might end up being more work, more attention, and a higher level of accountability, just in order to get your nutrition under control. Get over it. Our goals in this life usually require education, developing skill, and mastery of skill, anything that posits differently should be called The Fairytale Diet.

 

 

The Boy Who Cried Nazi, and Other Tales of Word Fatigue.

 

Recently, Sam Harris proclaimed with some profundity that our language has a very important consequence to our actions. During a Q&A he acknowledged that his presence on a talk show had the backlash (like it usually does) of people proclaiming that he was a Xenophobe, a bigot, a racist, and a Nazi. The importance of this escapes most people, as Sam explained if you think that he is of that sort simply because you disagree with his opinion, then what language do you reserve to describe the actual threat that is fascism, racism, or heaven forbid a Nazi regime?

 

This isn’t a political rant, what Sam brought to light is a problem that we have with vocabulary. We as a 21st century people have given into the placid numbness that high stimulus media and word fatigue can cause. In our effort to be noticed individually, to gather attention, whether, in likes, views, or even just recognition, we have found that we have to sensationalize our language, we have to have a call to arms, a reason for people to listen, even if it is to only bring attention to a picture of our lunch, or we might otherwise be left to the swipe of a thumb and the blur of a scroll - lost forever in the infinite abyss of 0s and 1s.

 

The above example can even be plainly seen in most news outlets as an attempt to gather clicks and momentum within social media, with it comes a very real backlash effect - but we know this. The boy who cried wolf might have never happened, but the effect of the fable is most definitely present today, as we see an abundance of shiny words seeking our attention. We now don’t know what reaction to have, when to be aghast, when to take up a healthy public discourse, or when to resort to bearing arms and defending everything we know and love. What we didn’t learn in a clichéd lesson that most of our parents tried to program into us for crying too often as children, we will almost certainly reap the consequences of through a divided in-group, if not an entire civilization.

 

Receiving language is one way our brain interprets information; it then can detect a threat based on the inflection of those words. The intent can describe and assign importance, what words we choose to use or NOT choose and how we say them have the power to motivate our actions, comfort our indiscretions, and possibly burn every relationship we have to the ground. In the age of the smartphone, we all have most certainly felt the consequence of poor language choice by way of improperly inflected text messages, the simplest sentences can wreak havoc on the strongest of relationships. It is why as a rule of thumb my wife and I agreed to settle debates through face-to-face confrontation, or at the very least through the use of Skype or FaceTime, but never text messaging, because the written word when undertaken carelessly has the power to do more harm than good, it breaks before it fixes; it is a master-less power, made more powerful through our own naivety and carelessness.

 

It is of little to no coicidence that the use of emoji's have yet to settle a debate.

 

Language isn’t always negative and doesn't have to be in order to generate the problems associated with word fatigue. Positive language can also cause fatigue, and a weariness to take people serious these days. For one, companies, businesses, and the sort need to stop using the term “family” when describing their employees, customers, or communities.  Perhaps people can derive different meanings or levels of importance given the word, but taking a dramatically useful term and relegating it to that of common marketing speech will again displace what terms we use when something is of actual importance.

 

Family – to me - is a time-honored traditional term referring to a specific member that beholds value that money and all but the worst disagreements or betrayal can separate. To call someone family means that I put my own finances, health, and safety on the line when called upon, because I know they would do the same, and I also know they would do everything possible to avoid asking me to do such a thing in the first place. I would also return the honor by not requesting it of them unless absolutely necessary. Someone is not "family" because you like the same music, you play the same sport, or you have matching T-shirts, you can certainly call on these people when the situation arises, but don't be disappointed with the word when these people fail you, be disappointed in yourself for misidentifying such people because of your disregard for the meaning in language. Sometimes, even blood relation doesn’t reflect what the term family actually means. There is a dull thud I feel when someone aggrandizes the use of a term to emphasize a relationship that doesn’t exist, it lets me know just what that individual or company really perceives as a family, which is usually a bond of the monetary sort and not the one respected by a code of ethical value. The use of the term is strategic from a marketing standpoint, it lowers our defenses, much like a call to action might raise them. Friend, brother, buddy, and mate all have these same consequential values, but so do the terms enemy, foe, and hate.

 

Language is befitting to how we decide to use it, but it is useful only in the context of how much truth and meaning are insinuated by its use. If words become meaningless and warnings start to lose their frequency, then communication becomes impossible. The fuse that gets lit upon our desire to embellish our words and attract attention is in fact attached to an explosive nature of truth, the fact of which is just our inability to correctly use language. An accusation or a rallying cry may very well bring men with guns to your door, it is our inflection and purposeful language that will decide whether they are friends or foes.