Eating in New York. Caveman diets and caveman policies.

18 01 2010

I read two articles related to diet today.  The first was a very interesting piece on fairly extreme paleo dieters and exercises who live in NYC.  See: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/fashion/10caveman.html?pagewanted=all

Personally I hope this movement is growing although I can immediately see fundamental points of disagreement between my ideas and this crowd.  I suspect these “cavemen” may believe something is good for you simply because it is primitive or from the caveman era.  Similar to those who believe tradition is good in of itself.   

Anyway, why is this interesting to me?  Because I have been a low carb eater for at least 2-3 years now.  I was having some IBS type symptoms a few years back and found that reducing total carbohydrate content (yes, I think the low GI crowd have got it wrong too eg/ see this article) yielded the best results.  The gasteroenterologist told me there was nothing I could do about my (relatively mild) symptoms apart from trying fibre and probiotic supplements.  However higher fibre loads definitely made things worse in my case.  And I never noticed any improvements from probiotic supplements even though I tried a few brands, a few different bacteria combinations and also attempted to source the highest bacteria counts possible. 

I heard some news about both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (more serious conditions than mine) being treated with low carb diets and I decided to try it out.  I have never looked back.  I felt better and I also started discovering what it is to really enjoy eating.  Energy levels improved and apetite reduced.  Gone were the days of slamming half a litre of coke and a packet of potato chips and then 30 min after my sugar splurge, I’m once again craving something sweet and struggling to concentrate due to a slight feeling of malaise. 

My approach was to simply limit my total carbohydrate count to less than 72g a day – the advice dished out in the book “Life Without Bread“.  This isn’t easy for a beer drinking chocolate loving man like myself, but it’s doable and it’s definitely been worth it in my case. 

At this point I should also recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.  Taubes is a science journalist and his book is excellent in that you can quickly determine that Taubes is someone interested in knowledge and certainty itself.  Taubes wants to find out, how can we be sure of what we think we know? (applied to the field of nutritional science).  In addition Taubes discusses the political interference in the areas of nutritional science and education.  He effectively (although it’s not the aim of his book) demonstrates the negative effects on society that necessarily follow from government intervention. 

Basically, I simply think the hypothesis that our bodies have evolved to eat certain food types to be very compelling.  I don’t believe 10,000 years or so of agriculture is enough time to adapt the human disgestive system over to grain based eating – especially considering that evolutionary type pressures are reduced in modern human societies. 

When I exercise (not nearly enough) I also adopt a similar approach.  I’m very sceptical of what I call the Rocky IV bad guy approach (Ivan Drago as played by Dolph Lundgren).  Rocky IV’s Soviet nemisis had all the latest training equipment and Soviet reasearch behind him as opposed to poor old Rocky who had to do it tough, Jake La Motta style.  In the movie, Dolph uses weight machine (ie: not even free weights) isolation exercises. 

Personally, I believe weight exercises like the bench press to be unnatural movements that are not optimally tailored for how our human bodies were built.  I generally think that most muscle gains through isolation, machine weight training will not result in functional strength gains even if they do increase muscle size. (some weight exercises are better than others of course)  Additionally, I think weights junkies are basically risking tendon and bone injuries for the sake of looking good.  (I should also note that I believe muscle mass to be largely governed by genetics anyway).  eg/ The myostatin deletion in Belgian Blue cattle    

Functional strength is what is important for your daily activities and health.  Both body builders and marathon runners are not optimally healthy.  Marathon runners look terrible with very little muscle mass.  On the other hand, body builders (if my suspicions are correct – based on word of mouth combined with Matt Furey’s ideas) are generally useless against their own body weight (eg/ push ups, chin ups) and useless at intense aerobic activities (eg/ A few minutes flat out on a punching bag).  Both these types of athletes have higher rates of heart attacks for example. 

I prefer exercises like short sprints, push ups, chin ups, bridging, hand stands, burpees – that type of thing.  I also think aeorbic training is over-rated. 

I think Cross fit training, the Tabata method and Matt Furey amongst others are on the ball in terms of evolutionary friendly exercises to get the most out of human bodies. 

Both these two lifestyle choices that I have adopted, (ie: my low carb eating plan and my preference of body weight calisthenic type exercises as opposed to going to the gym) are minority positions.  Low carb eating is not recognised as being healthy due to the fact that when you lower carbohydrate intake you almost certainly raise fat intake (something that doesn’t concern me in the slightest).  To live my life as I wish to live it, I need to be free to choose the food I want to eat.  The freer I am to look after my health the better for me and for everyone in society.  And everytime the government steps in whether it be through propaganda, industry protection, increased taxation, regulation, or outright bans (my state already controls school cafeteria menus), my choices become more time consuming and more costly to enact. 

So to my dismay, immediately after my interesting read about the cavemen in NYC, I read another article on the plan to forcibly”encourage” NYC restaurants to cut salt in their dishes.  I mean come on!  NYC already banned trans fats and requires calorie counts on menus.  Nanny Bloomberg doesn’t seem to understand or care about freedom.   

See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/business/11salt.html  “Citing Hazard, New York says Hold the Salt”

It is simply not the role of the government (a monopoly agency of destructive force) to tell the populace what to eat.  As soon as this is attempted politically, the government necessarily violates its duty to protect its citizens from force by initiating force itself.  There is no way around this no matter how you tweak the regulations. 

When governments initiate force, human lives necessarily suffer because humans cannot operate at full capacity without freedom to act out their thoughts.  And the costs of government initiation of force will always outweigh the benefits.  Physical initation of force against another is wrong full stop.  It’s wrong because initiating violence is harmful to human life (Human life is the ultimate standard of morality in Objectivist ethical theory).  It should be eliminated from society as much as possible (there’s no happy medium like so many people want to believe).  Governments while being the agency entrusted to achieve this goal as much as possible, are still no exception.  They too shouldn’t be allowed to initiate force.  When they do, even in small amounts, there will be negative consequences. 

As the second article I read today demonstrated, it’s all too easy to find many examples of how ever greater applications of state force are occuring and negatively affecting human life on this earth. 

In politics, there’s one simple fact that surely we could all one day agree on.  Socialism and fascism failed!  The 20th century proved beyond a doubt just how big a threat statism is to human life and prosperity. 
Wake up world, your government won’t save you.  It will kill you. 

In the meantime, I’ve just learned that Stalin and Hitler apparently got a bad rap according to that typical lefty idiot and Chavez-o-phile Oliver Stone.  He’s making a miniseries to put these thug leaders “into context”.  My initial thoughts are that he will fail badly and that he should instead read The Ominous Parallels by Peikoff.

Update:  One day later and I’ve been alerted to (H/T Oactivists email list) this article in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper:  “Ban butter, to save our hearts”  (I believe the lipid hypothesis is definitely false unlike the doctor quoted in the article).  Anyhow, looks like I could be buying my butter on the black market soon the way the world is going!

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