Chaos and disorder

During my recent road trip my finely-tuned pattern of sleep was annihilated. It’s one thing to have simplicity forced upon you; That has some benefits. But once my sleep was off the rails, everything fell apart. It wasn’t quite Escape-from-New-York-level chaos. It was close though. On one day, I wasted an hour, driving all the way to an entirely wrong address because, the night before I didn’t feel I had 2 minutes to spare to doublecheck.

I’m often viciously critical of myself if I’m still up even a few minutes beyond my desired go-to-bed time, or if I’m still in bed after my get-up time. None the less, for the 10 days of my trip, my sleep times were all over the map. On the one hand, I didn’t die and things got done. On the other hand, it was reminiscent of the old days before I got my sleep sorted out.

Sleep, (when, quantity, and quality,) and daily planning, (what am I doing, when and where,) are related. Back in the day, I cut the Gordian knot by setting a consistent sleep schedule. In a return to Primary School days, I gave myself clear and unchanging go-to-bed and get-up times. Then, arranged around those times I can schedule a specific “plan the day” session. (I’ve tried both “plan for tomorrow” just before bed, and “plan for today” fairly soon after getting up.) With improved sleep and some basic daily planning—which can be literally to simply sit on the beach all day—my life took a serious turn for the better.

But after my recent experience I’ve given this another prolonged bout of thinking and I’ve had a new [to me only, I’m sure] idea: Sleep and planning are not just related, they are circularly dependent on each other.

Here’s a sample pass around the circle: Today’s been busy, and I’ve some things I’d like to finish before sleeping. What time should I go to sleep? What time do I stand up and excuse myself from the current goings on? I need to know how much sleep I’d get if did that at different times. So what time do I have to get up tomorrow? I don’t know. What am I doing tomorrow? I need to spend some time planning for tomorrow, but that’s best done as part of my “alone time” as I’m winding down to sleep… And I cannot simply leave it to luck tomorrow morning. If I have to drive an hour, be some where at a certain time, a shower would be smart too…

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Vitality

Brett McKay: But how can men maintain that vitality, even when they have those responsibilities they have at home?

Vic Verdier: I personally use two strategies, if you want. The first one is very easy. It’s to read books, books and biographies, novels, books of adventures, books of people taking risk. I’m thinking Hemingway, Jack London, but also biographies of great leaders who took risks, and thanks to you, Brett, I learned more about Theodore Roosevelt and the way he reinvented himself all the time, challenging himself. And when you read those books, you realize that you don’t really have anything to lose by trying new things all the time. So that’s my first strategy, getting some inspiration from reading. The second strategy for me is to, on a weekly basis, to do some kind of self-assessment, meaning every week I’m thinking about my life and what I’m doing, and when I start to settle down, I know it’s time to do something different. Do you remember this movie, Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray is repeating the same day over and over again?

Brett McKay: Of course.

Vic Verdier: I think… If I live twice the same day, somehow I wasted one day. So I try to have some diversity in my life, and every time I think that I fall into some kind of routine, I know I have to explore something else or go somewhere else or do… Take another course or learn some new skills.

~ From https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-stay-fit-as-you-age/

slip:6b2a.

This wide-ranging conversation with Verdier touches on everything from his military and deep diving careers, to Parkour, MoveNat and general ways to stay fit and healthy. Worth a listen, and doubly-so if you’re a dude over 40. (Or know one.)

There’s an embedded player on that page, or find episode 704 of The Art of Manliness podcast, How to Keep Your Edge as You Get Older.

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A mover’s mindset

It’s become clear, that somewhen in the last few years, I’ve lost a certain spark— some urge that used to be the initial impetus that got me moving. Out. And about. Moving and playing. It’s probably, simply age.

Efficacy is the power to produce a desired effect. Recognition of your own efficacy means that you have recognized your own potential for continued success and growth. Your choices of actions at this point are not based on concerns about current limits of your ability or understanding. Instead, your choices are guided by what skills, practices, and accomplishments will give you the most enjoyment, make your life better, increase your skills, or broaden your knowledge. Your experience in life changes from asking “What can I do?” to asking “What should I do to make my life the best it can be?”

~ From https://forum.moversmindset.com/t/discovery-reflection-efficacy/614

Where once I used to simply begin each day, and sooner or later I’d realize I’m doing something active, now I find that most days were going by without doing something active. I don’t like that trend. I went over everything in my environment and, quite honestly, little has changed—certainly nothing that would have sabotaged my being active. If the problem isn’t without, then it must be within.

And so, I’ve made a small change: What am I doing tomorrow? …then make a plan for that to happen.

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How to die sooner and get Alzheimer’s

Sleep is primarily seen as a neurological phenomenon, and yet when deprived creatures die, they have a puzzlingly diverse set of failures in the body outside the nervous system. Insufficient sleep in humans and lab animals, if chronic, sets up health problems that surface over time, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. But those conditions are not what slays creatures that are 100% sleep deprived within days or weeks.

~ Corey Brickley from, https://www.quantamagazine.org/why-sleep-deprivation-kills-20200604/

I’ve said it many times here, and I will keep saying it: Sleep is the single most important thing. In your life. Literally. If you are not sleeping well, and long—like, 8 hours per night, long—you have a serious health issue; not sleeping well, and sufficiently is a serious health issue.

Listen to this podcast, Matthew Walker, Ph.D., on sleep – Part I of III: Dangers of poor sleep, Alzheimer’s risk, mental health, memory consolidation, and more.

Yes, insufficient sleep—not, “I don’t feel sleepy,” but not getting sufficient sleep—if you don’t feel sleepy… if you are not sleeping 8 hours… you have other problems which are affecting your sleep. Insufficient sleep has direct causal relation to Alzheimer’s. Scared enough to fix your sleep yet?

Listen to the podcast, then buy the book, Sleep Smarter. It’s an easy introduction to how to fix your sleep. Or, don’t sleep well, die sooner and get Alzheimer’s; it’s your choice.

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Fasting

Fasting is nothing more than intentionally restricting what, or when, you choose to eat. Over the years I’ve posted a good bit about fasting. If this is new to you, start with my post, Ten years and About that diet.

In my battle with depression, I’ve become convinced that inflammation is a causal factor; being over-weight is generally inflammatory and then eating inflammatory foods can tip me over into an acute episode of depression. To be clear: I’m literally saying that if my weight is up, and I eat the wrong food, the following day will be a shit-show of depression.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about—AWESOME. I’m so happy for you. (That’s not sarcasm.)

…okay, you’re still reading. Here’s something new [as in: I’ve not posted this URL on my blog before] from Pilon:

I’ve found stats saying it’s the 4th leading cause of disability worldwide and that mood disturbances including depression will lead to an epidemic of disease in the 21st century in the western world. It’s clear that depression needs to be addressed more often than it currently is in the mainstream and health and fitness media. I find depression particularly interesting because of the connection with inflammation.

~ Brad Pilon from, https://bradpilon.com/weight-loss/intermittent-fasting-and-depression-an-inflammation-link/

Curious, it’s almost as if what I eat matters…

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Daily steps of weight tracking

My weight fluctuates a lot during the day, and day-to-day. So I picked a consistence time and procedure. I try not to over-think it, and simply do the same thing each time, generally, in the morning after I go to the bathroom.

After doing this for a few years, I no longer care about the fluctuations. The whole point of this is to get a handle on the trends. The individual jumping around of the numbers is irrelevant. Once you see the numbers jump all over the place for a few weeks, you learn to stop caring about what the scale says on any given day.

My scale measures in 2/10’s of pounds. So I can get “123.4” or “123.6”. It’s digital, has huge numbers, and it lives right in the open in the bathroom where I can just step on it at any time. This is important as it removes all possible “friction” to weighing myself. I don’t even need to slide the scale out to step on it.

Next to the scale hangs a tailor’s tape measure. I use the metric scale on the tape since that gives me centimeters and tenths. (If I used the inches scale, I’d have to convert the 1/8’s of inches into decimals, so it’s easier to get 4 digits from the metric side.)

I step on the scale and grab the tape measure. By the time I look down, the scale is done deciding my weight. I step off scale and measure the largest circumference. This requires honesty, but is very easy to do once I did it a few times: I just relax, let it all hang out, and slowly let the tape measure slip longer as I try to slip it down around my waist. (I suppose, that some day, when I have a “waist” in the proper definition, I’ll have to tweak my method. That will be a great problem to have.)

I might get 232.8 pounds– I just remember 2 3 2 8.
I might get 110.7 centimeters– I just remember 1 1 0 7.
…and I walk out of the bathroom mumbling, “2 3 2 8 1 1 0 7”

In subsequent posts I’ll go into what I do with the numbers in terms of math, spreadsheets and why the units are irrelevant. But for now, that’s the data capture that I try to do every day. It’s fast and easy. Step on scale, measure “waist”, and record eight digits.

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Ten-years and About that “diet”…

(Part 72 of 74 in series, My Journey)

Recently a friend of mine emailed me and asked, “Hey Craig, tell me about that diet you went on a few years ago.” He was referring to what I did from ~2008 to ~2016—the photos above were taken in 2008 and 2016. Below is my response and this just happens to all coincide with the “ten year challenge” currently all over social media.


I did a few things. Each of these took a few months of trying/fiddling until they felt comfortable.

I tried to avoid refined carbs like the plague; I tried to eliminate all added sugar, all refined grain (bread, pasta, etc), and even eliminated granola which was a go-to breakfast staple (with plain yogurt). What really happened was that it forced me to become aware of the carbohydrates I was eating. I still ate pasta and bread and even sweets, but by focusing on, “I am the type of person who eats fish, meat and veggies,” I was able to shift my diet significantly. I started to make choices such as, “if I’m going to eat pasta, I’m not eating shitty pasta, I’m going to my favorite Italian restaurant so I really enjoy it.” I did not count calories. This was not fun as I [in my opinion] was addicted to the blood sugar spikes from eating a lot of carbohydrates. Shifting my dietary balance had the effect of changing my energy metabolism; it caused changes in my liver function and cellular mitochondria performance.

After many months of that, I next worked on my addiction to eating. I started intermittent fasting. (Without consulting my doctor I just jumped all in.) I did (and still do, many years later) “16/8” intermittent fasting; meaning I’m fasting 16 hours-a-day, and permit myself an 8-hour “feeding window.” (Aside: What I now call ‘normal human eating.’) The way I like to do this is to aim for consuming no food after about 7:30pm. That makes it easy to have a normal dinner, including social eating which is super important to me. Then I basically don’t eat breakfast. Around 11:30, (16 hours after 7:30 the previous day,) I have my break-fast while everyone else is calling it “lunch.” Most people never notice I’m doing this. I could talk for hours about intermittent fasting. BE CAREFUL with this; you can faint, or have low-blood sugar problems depending on how wacked your metabolism is.

It’s important to note that I did the above things separately, one after the other. My reading indicated that reducing carbohydrate intake would force my cells to up-regulate all the cellular processes for burning fat—my own pre-installed fat. So my “lower carbohydrates” work was in preparation for the intermittent fasting work. If I was planning to not eat for 16 hours, my body will have to switch to mobilizing the fat from fat cells; the liver has to be able to put glucose into my blood stream from stored-like-a-battery glycogen in the liver, and from glucose created chemically from other substrates. Those in particular were cellular processes that I was hardly using for decades, when I was always-eating and eating lots of carbohydrates.

So the big picture for me was to change my energy metabolism—to recover my [natural, normal, hey humans are awesome] ability to run on various fuels, (be that carbohydrates, protein, or fat I put in my face, or the pre-installed fat.) I did that by first reducing carbohydrates, and then starting to fast.

I’ve written some of my thoughts up on my web site, but it’s all scattered about. Let me know if you want more information on any of the above and I can give you more and point you to specific resources. If you want to learn more, start with my health or self-improvement tags.

All that said…

I’M INSANELY HAPPY I DID ALL THE ABOVE.

I can train like a machine all morning, not having eaten—in fact, if I eat I feel worse when I try to work hard. I’m considering using longer fasts (days, even up to a week) because there are long-term benefits seen in some studies; fast for a week, have improved blood markers for months. But this is definitely out in the land of, “I’m experimenting on myself.” (If you want to learn about long-term fasts, check out Peter Atia’s podcast, The Nothing Burger, it’s a long discussion of a one-week long fast he did with insane amounts of medical science.)

Finally—this is subtle but important—I did not intentionally increase my physical activity. It was not, “I’m exercising to get in shape.” My activity level spontaneously went up in response to feeling better. “I feel like running 2 miles,” is a thought I now have [sometimes] and now I can go run just for fun. It’s a virtuous cycle though; I feel better, I feel like more activity, I feel more better, I feel like more activity, …

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Holobionts?

https://www.quantamagazine.org/should-evolution-treat-our-microbes-as-part-of-us-20181120/

The tighter the integration, the more closely intertwined the fates of host and microbe become. For such holobionts, Bordenstein says, you can’t understand the evolution of either the host genome or the microbial genomes in isolation because the community of organisms as a whole shapes the traits of the individual. “We need to understand what the microbes make, what the host makes and potentially how those products work together,” he said. The holobiont, he argues, adds up to more than the sum of the host and microbes. Out of their interaction emerges a coherent entity that natural selection might act on alongside other units of selection, like the individual or a gene.

~ Jonathan Lambert

I’m am fascinated by the reality that there are countless microbes which coinhabit our body.

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An open door policy

Aware of this research, my housemates tested their air quality and got levels between 1000 and 3000 ppm, around the level of the worst high-CO2 conditions in the studies. They started leaving their windows open and buying industrial quantities of succulent plants, and the problems mostly disappeared. Since then they’ve spread the word to other people we know afflicted with mysterious fatigue, some of whom have also noticed positive results.

~ Scott Alexander from, http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/08/23/carbon-dioxide-an-open-door-policy/

I thought this was going to be an article about fossil fuels and global warming. No it’s much worse. It’s about how some people have measured levels of CO2 in their bedroom that exceed the OSHA workplace safe-exposure limits.

Now i’m wondering if one of the reasons I sleep better in the winter, is the difference in ventilation. Our A/C is a closed system—it only circulates the air in the house. But the wood stove lowers the air pressure slightly and that draws outside air in from the peripheral areas of the house. Tiny cool drafts come out of all the wall outlets and light switches in the winter providing fresh air ventiliation.

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Advice on losing weight

Truth be told, if I really wanted to help people lose weight I would increase the price of Eat Stop Eat to 100 dollars per book. Far less people would buy it, but those who did would be invested heavily in making a change in their lives. They wouldn’t just read about fasting and weight training, they’d actually practice it.

~ Brad Pilon from, https://bradpilon.com/weight-loss/what-do-you-do-when-a-friend-asks-you-for-advice-on-losing-weight/

Call it wisdom– Call it Imposter Syndrome— whatever. The more I learn about health, the more I’m convinced I know nothing.

For me, the solution to my unhealth was to change my life. Not, “more exercise,” but “rediscover moving.” Not, “eat better,” but “listen honestly to my body.” Not, “lose weight.” — there’s no, “but…” on that last one; The weight loss just happens the more I change my life.

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