Pandas, Poo and You

In my last blog post I put forward the Discordance Theory of disease (specifically modern degenerative diseases such as type 2 diabetes, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular disease) and introduced a rough timeline of change that humans have faced over the past 10,000 years. These changes are wide reaching and affect every element of the Four Pillars of health (Sleep/photoperiod, food, movement, community). It’s fascinating to me that many people find the Discordance Theory and associated concept of Ancestral Health to be incredibly informative and helpful for everything from orienting research to making clinical decisions, while other people dismiss both concepts out of hand and find no value in anything other than reductionist, symptom-based medicine. I’m of the opinion that we will not untangle chronic degenerative disease without some nod towards the Ancestral Health template. I might be wrong about that, perhaps there is a magic bullet waiting that can “fix” poor sleep+bad food+inactivity+inadequate social interactions….but I both think that is unlikely AND I’m not waiting around for that fairy tale to come to reality.

I’ve thought about this Discordance subject a lot and I have to admit: it’s a more nuanced topic than what I’d first thought or suggested. In the early days of the Paleo Diet movement, anything that was considered “non-paleo” was held as suspect. Salt, coffee, tea (to name a few items) have all been dismissed as “non-paleo” by the few folks who have turned paleo into a religion. Unfortunately these same folks seem to have missed all the research indicating reasonable amounts of the aforementioned substances are likely beneficial. So, we seem to have a few different competing concepts here:

1-The Discordance theory suggests that too rapid a change may produce deleterious health effects.

2-Some people interpret the above as meaning ANYTHING that is “evolutionarily novel” is inherently bad, somehow ignoring “the rest of science” (coffee for example).  

3-Some of the people who dislike the Ancestral Health concept rightfully point out that some not insignificant genetic change has happened to humans since the paleolithic.

4-Despite point #3, we still see far more degenerative disease than what I think anyone would like. And as I mentioned in the previous post, those metabolic changes are of sufficient severity that the associated diseases (type 2 diabetes, CVD, neurodegeneration, certain cancers)  are poised to cripple our economy and overwhelm our medical systems.

The trite advice of “eat less move more” and “everything in moderation” (the singular message we seem to receive from the medical world, particularly mainstream dietitians) is, let’s face it, an epic failure. My wild suggestion, dripping in nefarious ulterior motives, is that we really do need to think about modern, degenerative disease from the perspective of the Discordance Model, but we can’t turn the implications of that theory into religious doctrine like the Orthodox Paleoites have done. We need a governing theory to direct our inquiry, but this must be coupled with good clinical outcome based medicine and the studies these clinical outcomes inevitably generate.

So, we are about 500 words into this mess and you may be wondering “Hey Robb, this is all nice, but the title of the article is about pandas and poo…what gives?” This build-up is likely attributable to equal parts senility and a borderline obsessive need to provide Framework and ContextI want to look at a critter we are all likely a bit familiar with, the Giant Panda, as this cute, iconic Ursid is actually an interesting example case study of the Discordance Theory but with some interesting subtleties. Giant Pandas evolved from ancestors which were, like most bears, omnivores. For as yet unknown reasons panda ancestors likely started eating some amount of bamboo as part of their mixed diet, eventually shifting to a diet almost completely composed of bamboo. Estimates of this transition range from 2-5 million years ago, which is a decent period when considering evolutionary change. What this would suggest is pandas should be quite well adapted to their new dietary approach and in some ways they are. Pandas have evolved a kind of false thumb (derived from a wrist bone of all things) which helps pandas to grasp and pull down bamboo.

But recent research looked at panda digestion and the findings were fairly surprising as they suggest that pandas are not that well adapted to their current diet of bamboo. Whether in the wild or captivity, pandas display a remarkable amount of GI problems. They are almost the IBS poster animal given how many problems they have. The GI physiology of the panda is quite close to that of a carnivore, with none of the specialized GI structure we see in animals that digest cellulose (fibrous plant material). Some cellulosic fermentors use multiple stomachs, some use a larger cecum to provide more time to ferment this plant material, coupled with more surface area to absorb the short chain fatty acids produced by cellulose fermentation. Most of these animals have a symbiotic relationship with certain strains of bacteria which possess the enzymes to degrade cellulose, yet pandas are interesting in that they seem to still, after 2 million years of mainly consuming bamboo, possess a gut microbiome that looks virtually identical to that of a carnivore. The panda is a potentially confusing critter! As interesting as all this might (or might not) be, what does it mean for you?

1-Despite 2 million years of evolution on it’s current diet, the giant panda still has serious digestive problems. Problems which are sufficiently severe as to limit panda reproductive success.

2-Even though the gut microbiome of pandas looks a lot like that of a carnivore, there MUST be something more to this story. Although the efficiency of converting bamboo cellulose to energy appears to be rather low (compared to the efficiency of say a cow converting grass to usable energy) clearly the panda is getting SOMETHING out of the bamboo. It may be that they are relying more on the protein and fat content of bamboo to make their living. It’s also possible that although the microbes they harbor are not typically associated with cellulose fermenters, that does not mean these bugs have not acquired the genes to do so. Bacteria are remarkably promiscuous little bugars and they appear to be able to swap genes at a rate that until only a few years ago was thought to be impossible.

3-Given point #1, if we see a chronic disease (in humans, pandas or sand flies) it might be helpful to start asking questions using the Discordance Theory as a means of orienting our thinking. This is not the end of that investigative process but may prove to be a critical beginning. 

4-Given point #2, we need to be cautious in how we interpret and promulgate the Discordance Theory. Of particular note I think we need to be very careful in how we treat the topic of the human microbiome. Despite a relatively short period for evolution to occur on the human genome (10,00 years since “the paleolithic”), there is a remarkable amount of time available (in bacterial terms) for a symbiotic organism to develop or obtain the genes necessary to help it’s host organism (that’d be us). We are in the absolute infancy of understanding this story, so I think we need equal parts caution and optimism in how we approach this material. In my next blog post I’ll look at some human symbiotic bacteria which have proven to be remarkably helpful for a very pesky condition.

I am one of the folks that really went whole-hog into the Discordance Theory and unfortunately did not see the details and caveats to make that model work better. Time and pain have been good instructors and have hopefully moved me a bit down the Dunning Kruger graph.  In my second book Wired to Eat (available for pre-order everywhere books are sold, release date March 21) I do my best to talk about these subtleties and to provide a path for you to find your own truth with regards to health. I lean heavily on the Discordance model as so far it has provided what appears to be an unfair advantage in unraveling complex degenerative disease. I do however try to temper that message with an honest appraisal of what we do and do not know, what we can only discover via self experimentation.

ALSO!! If you pre-order Wired To Eat I have several fantastic bonuses here.

 

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140: Killer Kale Theory

On this week’s show: Coca-Cola strikes back; junk food in the checkout lane; food manufacturers insist on keeping trans fats; the killer kale scare; spicy foods linked with increased longevity; and more bad news for Vitamin D supplementation. Plus: a documentary recommendation, an audiobook recommendation, growing and raising food at the Coppola home; a Moment of Paleo (Consistent Time in Nature) and an After the Bell (Minimalism) segment, too.

Links for this episode:

Purakai.com – Shop for Organic Clothing from PuraKai – Use coupon code “latest in paleo” for free shipping!

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Paleo Radio Bites 65 – Steve Sashen: The Barefoot Maestro of Xero Shoes

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Steve Sashen has always been an energetic, athletic, and entrepreneurial guy. In high school he was an all-american sprinter, and while studying film in college, he did stand up comedy on the side. After graduating with his masters in film, he went on to develop word processing software for script-writers that became industry standard.

Steve stayed active throughout his life, trying things like circus acrobatics and competitive jump roping, but nothing really scratched his itch until he rediscovered his passion for running, and specifically sprinting. A friend introduced him to the world of Masters Track and Field, and for a time, he was having the time of his life.

Eventually, a string of devastating injuries forced Steve to pump the brakes, and while searching for a solution he found himself going on a completely bare foot run with the Boulder Colorado barefoot running club. As the miles ticked by, Steve explored the information his shoe-free feet provided, and in doing so, altered his gait and mechanics such that he didn’t even realize that he had run farther than he ever had in his life.

That very first barefoot run lit a spark that changed the course of Steve’s life forever and on today’s Paleo Radio Bite, we discuss how.

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Thai Fish Cakes

Weeknight Paleo hits store shelves tomorrow. We’ll be having a little celebration at the house tomorrow night for this most joyous occasion and our fish cakes are on the menu. These little buggers make a tremendous appetizer and can scale up to a full serving of protein for your meal. If you’re pantry looks anything like ours, there are likely a few cans of tuna lying around. Feel like going fancy shmancy? Replace the tuna with crab meat for those extra special moments.

Thai Fish Cakes

Ingredients:
Two 5-ounce cans wild-caught tuna
3 green onions, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 large egg
1/2 cup cooked yuca root
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1/4 cup coconut oil
Dipping sauce of your choice or sambal oelek

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine tuna, green onions, lemongrass, jalapeno, ginger, parsley and egg. Use your hands to combine well and then fold in the yuca.
2. Shape into patties and season each one with salt and pepper, then dust with coconut flour. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to allow them to set.
3. In large skillet, heat the coocnut oil over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the cakes until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the cooked cakes to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.
4. Serve with sauce of your choice.

Note: to save time, make the cakes through step 2 a day ahead and have them ready to serve in no time when guests arrive.

We hope you enjoy this party favorite for our household. Check out our newest book for a boat load of tasty ideas to tickle your culinary fancy.

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141: Moore & More

On this episode of Latest in Paleo: Best drug ad ever; Jimmy Moore’s new Keto cookbook; Paleolithic diet included carbs according to new study; the fat vs. carbs study; and the Danish butter study. There’s a documentary series recommendation, a book recommendation, a Shinrin Yoku Update, a Listener Question about restoring gut flora after antibiotics, a Moment of Paleo, an After the Bell segment about what your doctor won’t disclose, and a bonus clip at the very end! Enjoy!

Links for this episode:

Sponsored by eMeals (Visit emeals.com to sign up for the Paleo meal plan and make sure to choose “Podcast” from the drop down in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section to help support the show).

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Can you keep up with change?

Hey folks! I think I’ve mentioned that my 2nd book, Wired To Eat is available for pre-order and will be released March 21. I’m excited (and a bit nervous!) to hear what y’all think of the book. I put a lot of work and thought into the project and it is a bit of a beast. It’s about 400 pages (which is beefier than the publisher really wanted) but I was hard pressed to get the story told in a way that was much more concise. As it is, we had to cut quite a bit of material and some of it is pretty good, so I’ll occasionally drop some of that on the blog and social media. This post is material that appeared early in the book, laying some basic foundations about how rapidly our world has changed in the past 10,000 years. In the book I make a case that the Four Pillars of Health (Sleep/photoperiod, food, movement, community) are critical, non-negotiable elements of human health. I make the case that although there has clearly been genetic change in humans since the Paleolithic (lactase persistence and sickle cell anemia are but two examples) that change may be inadequate to allow us to be healthy when we are exposed to modern hyper-palatable foods, altered sleep schedule, inadequate exercise and a paucity of social interactions. There is some indication these problems are reaching such a fever pitch that metabolic issues may be delaying or altering puberty in teenagers. That’s a pretty big deal. Many of the folks who dismiss the paleo diet or ancestral health concept and who cite the genetic changes like those I mentioned may find themselves in a bit of a moral and intellectual pickle. For natural selection to occur, you either need something that makes one adaptation highly beneficial, thus conferring a survival advantage, and/or you need a stress that is so profound that you cull members of the species before they can reproduce. It is not unlikely that one could select a breed of humans that can survive on junkfood, altered sleep cycles, little exercise and a non-tribal social network. but to get that “beneficial adaptation” we need folks to be so sick that they cannot generally reproduce. Only the folks who can handle this new world will make the reproductive cut. Along the way to that dystopian future, we have a massive amount of death and illness, to say nothing of staggering medical and societal costs. Dealing ineffectually with diabestiy related issues has, for the past few decades, produced an exponential increase in medical costs:

Diabetes

The “real world” does not tolerate exponential growth well. Not for long. While certain medical and health experts dismiss the potential inherent in the Ancestral Health template, the Western world is goose-stepping towards a number of intractable situations. In general, to fix a problem, one needs to understand the mechanism of causation. Without this understanding one is operating with at best luck, but luck is scarce when the process of dealing with a problem has a fundamentally flawed orientation. This is the story of our current approach to chronic degenerative disease. Symptoms are suppressed, which inevitably leads to worse problems. Without an understanding of the significance of an overly rapid pace of change (The Discordance Theory) all that we can hope for is reactionary symptom chasing. We will ultimately adapt to this situation. We will see either cultural adaption in that we adopt something approximating an Ancestral Health perspective (running in parallel with a modern technologically rich world) or the adaptation will be foisted upon us, and at staggering cost. It is as yet unclear which route we will take.

My purpose in life is to help as many people as possible and to that end I’m reasonably convinced that we need to both understand and implement the concepts implicit in the Discordance Theory. For the folks who dismiss the Ancestral Health model I’m going to start demanding a viable alternative. The current model is not working, “everything in moderation” is not working. To the degree we can get buy-in with something that looks a bit like the ancestral template, one which considers sleep, food, movement and community in a synergistic fashion, that stuff works. As you read through this piece I’m sharing today think about the implications of a rate of change that may be too rapid for us to properly adapt to. Next week we will look at an organism that was formerly an opportunistic omnivore (like us) that embarked on a new strategy for survival. For this critter, things are not going so well as the need for species specific change in this case is not yet at a level in which the organism can truly thrive. Bonus points for the folks who guess which critter I’m talking about!

Sleep, Light and circadian rhythm.

Every organism on earth with a reasonably complex central nervous system undergoes a process that looks like what we’d call sleep. Even plants who lack any type of central nervous system follow a circadian rhythm with periods of greater and lesser activity. No one really knows why we need sleep but given that nature has had billions of years to develop a work-around it appears sleep is a pretty important process. An organism is never more vulnerable than while sleeping, so the cost benefit story of sleep is clearly quite compelling. What we do know about sleep is that it appears to play a critical role in growth, repair, and cleansing. It is during sleep that toxins accumulated in the brain during daily activity are removed. It is in deep sleep that damage to our tissues from exercise and normal wear and tear are repaired. When we consider pre-industrial societies we notice that these people tend to sleep much more than folks in Westernized societies. Recent research indicates disordered or inadequate sleep can dramatically increase our propensity for diabetes, autoimmunity, neurodegenerative disease and certain cancers. Another significant change related to sleep is the amount and timing of light we are exposed to. Even on a cloudy day the light intensity we might be exposed to outside is significantly greater than indoor light. Conversely, in the evening we tend to be exposed to light levels much higher than we would have seen in the ancestral environment. In essence, we see neither the highs nor lows in light intensity which govern our circadian rhythm, sleep, and health.

 

Food — Simple might be better

Non-westernized cultures tend to consume relatively simple, wholesome meals which although tasty, are in stark contrast to the hyper-palatable foods which typify the modern junk-food centric meals which are so common today. Palatability refers to how tasty something is. A rock is generally “not that tasty” ie- it’s a low palatability item. Chocolate ice cream with toffee chunks and salted almond sprinkles…well, that’s pretty damn palatable! We will talk a lot about what exactly palatability is and how it can derail our eating in Chapter 2. It’s a reasonably intuitive concept but has received little attention in mainstream nutrition circles. In general, whole, unprocessed foods tend to be if not low in palatability (grass fed steak and sweet potatoes cooked in olive oil and rosemary are damn tasty) then “appropriate” in palatability, relative to junk food, for which there is no “off” switch. Whole, unprocessed, tasty foods can also be described another way: they are highly satiating. They make us feel full, but not in a bloated, “OMG, did I just get thrown out of an all you can eat buffet” sort of way. Lean meats, seafood, fruits and vegetables tend to be highly satiating and it’s remarkably tough to overeat these foods. As amazing as modern cuisine is it has a downside in that our meals tend to have a remarkable spread in flavors, textures and scents. Add to this the fact that refining certain foods (milling grains to make flour) makes them more palatable and we have a very tough situation to navigate. The folks who tell us to “just eat less” are largely correct that yes, we generally need to reduce our calories to lose weight and reverse many of the health conditions overeating can cause, but what is missed is that telling folks to “just have a little chocolate ice cream with toffee chunks and salted almonds” is great in theory, but almost a guarantee of failure.

In addition to the amounts and types of foods changing rapidly in recent years, how and when we consume these foods has also changed. Most organisms on the planet experience periods of “feast and fast” and this is certainly true of humans up until recent times. The term “fasting” is usually associated with woo-woo topics like “detoxification” and “cleanses.” I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is the notion that throughout most of our past humans had a decent amount of variability in how often and how much they ate. The “norm” was not three square meals per day, with snacks every 45 min, mixed liberally with sugary coffee drinks. Although a contentious topic, it is likely that our genetics are expecting bouts of both feast and famine. In this program I’m not going to suggest that you starve yourself, but part of the program entails training your metabolism to not need food the way an emphysemic needs an oxygen bottle.

Exercise

Most critters (people included) display some amount of movement or activity. Even plants tend to shift leaves to track with the sun, although we’d be hard pressed to call that “exercise.” Until quite recently humans moved to survive. We had to gather food, firewood, and water while shifting encampments based on weather and the season. Anthropologists have estimated that hunter gatherers walked 6-10 miles most days in the course of their daily lives. This may seem like a lot but modern cultures who do not rely on cars for their primary transportation frequently hit these levels through the course of their day. Exercise, although not strictly essential to life, does appear to improve the quality of the life we live. Modern, sedentary living has reduced our activity dramatically. Where once we routinely walked miles (while also running, jumping, carrying and climbing) many of us now walk less than a half mile every day as we shuffle from house to car to office.

Community

Humans are social animals. We appear to have evolved in small groups and this process has literally altered our genetics to “expect” certain amounts and types of interaction with not just other people, but the natural world around us. Social isolation is recognized as a huge stressor and appears to be a key piece of addictive behavior, including overeating.

Another facet of community that has largely been overlooked until quite recently involves the trillions of microorganisms which live in, on and around us. These microbes appear to be critical in everything from plants extracting nutrients via their root systems to human health. The development of antibiotics, refined foods, cesarian sections and hyper-clean environments appear to have altered the bacteria which play a critical role in our health.

These are the broad brushstrokes of the factors governing our health and waistlines, let’s look at each of these topics from the perspective of a timeline so we can gain an appreciation for the scope and rate of change in each of these areas.

10,000 years ago

Most people shifted from a foraging or hunter gatherer life-way to a settled, agricultural approach. This GENERALLY meant a reduced variety of foods (until very recently) and a host of ailments are well documented with this transition. Living in close proximity to larger numbers of people as well as animals appears to have posed a significant immune challenge for our early agricultural ancestors. Reliance on starchy, low-nutrient foods such as grains also appears to have posed a significant challenge with regards to growth and nutrient deficiencies. From the perspective of sleep and circadian rhythm we still tended to go to bed not long after the sun went down and got up when the sun came up. In general, we got a lot of sleep and downtime. Although the shift from small groups to villages and cities was clearly a significant cultural shift, people still had the advantage of extended families and tight social units. Social isolation and loneliness were a few thousand years in the future. Given the lack of antibiotics and other hygiene practices it is unlikely our gut biome was negatively altered by the shift to agriculture, but the exposure to infectious agents as well as malnutrition from an unvaried diet appears to have been quite tough on the folks living through this time.

200 years ago

Most people began a shift from working on farms which required significant amounts of physical labor, to factory and urban life that was a bit less strenuous. Gas lighting was limited to the large urban centers, so the amount of additional “day time” people could experience via artificial light was not remarkably different than 10,000 years earlier. Although many aspects of culture had changed relative to our foraging ancestors, sleep was not that different than 10,000 or even 100,000 years earlier. In general, food variety appears to have increased around this time, which began to unwind some of the deficiency diseases common in earlier times. Social networks and extended families continued to be relatively strong as although mobility allowed people to follow work opportunities, people tended to move the whole family vs the fragmentation we see today.

100 years ago

Thomas Edison (and a number of other folks around the world) invented a long lasting, electrically powered, incandescent light bulb. This made lighting relatively cheap, ubiquitous and democratized a number of things like learning and entertainment. Where only the wealthy could previously afford significant amounts of artificial light, now almost everyone could partake of this miracle. This opened up whole new ways of doing business and dramatically changed industry. Factories could run all night, the concept of shift work was born, and human innovation exploded. As good as all this was for most of humanity, we began sleeping less — and this set the stage for one of the most profound changes in human history. Antibiotics were only a few decades in the future and although these wonder drugs would save millions of lives, the unintended impact on our gut microbes (and health) would not be well appreciated until the beginning of the 21st century.

30 years ago

The explosion of microprocessors and innovation ushered in the internet, 24/7 commerce and dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of cable TV channels. If we wanted entertainment, education or distraction, it was only a dial-up phone connection away (or the smart phone in your pocket now.) We work much more and sleep much less than we did even in the 1980’s, about 2.5 hrs less on average for most Americans. This change in not only sleep but also our constant exposure to artificial light (which affects every body system you care to consider) is perhaps the most profound change humanity has experienced. I’d ALMOST say that sleep and circadian rhythm are more important than proper nutrition. The only caveat I’d put on that is that if you are a shift worker, a new parent or in a similar situation in which your sleep is continually disturbed, keeping an eye on your food may be much more doable — it’s likely not feasible to quit your job as an ER nurse or Cop and there’s no way but through for the folks in the new parent category. As we will see in subsequent chapters, our food system began to rapidly change, shifting us away from largely traditional, home cooked meals to grab-n-go options as well as an avalanche of processed junk foods. Our gut microbiota likely underwent a profound change due to antibiotic use, modern medical procedures and an increasing focus on products like hand sanitizers and antimicrobial soaps. It’s worth noting that changes in the gut tract strongly with increasing rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease and neurodegeneration. In a later chapter we will explore how alterations in the gut can play into these conditions. On a social level the past 30 years have seen the most profound changes in all of human history. Our highly mobile, information based society has been a boon for work opportunities but an unintended consequence has been a profound increase in social isolation, particularly in the elderly. Although epidemiological in nature, studies have indicated that inadequate social connectivity increases early death potential as much as a pack a day smoking habit.

 

My Second book, Wired To Eat is available for pre-order everywhere books are sold and will be released March 21.

Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf

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30-Day Challenge Analysis Part 2: Abusing The System – How We Screw Up The Process & Ourselves

screw up

We’re human and let’s face it, we are REALLY good at f#%@-ing things up. It doesn’t matter what it is, someone, somewhere is going to figure out a way to make it a complete FAIL. 30-day challenges/transformations are no exception to this ‘fail phenomenon’. Yeah, we’ve figured out a way to take something that’s meant to change health and lives for the better and basically turned it into something about as useful as a “Thighmaster” – I don’t care what Suzanne Somers says. It’s hard to say how things got so out of control, but they did, and its escalated past the point of isolated individual fails to large groups all ‘failing’ at the same time.

What am I talking about? (As if I wasn’t going to tell you…) We talked about the general pros and cons of 30-day challenges in Part 1 of this series, so if you somehow managed to sleep through that post, I would highly recommend reading it before you proceed here – you know, background information. Always helpful, always. For those of you that are up to speed, let’s talk about the ways we screw up both the 30-day challenge process and ourselves at the same time.

The Goofed-up Group/Gym Challenge

First I’m going to call out all the gyms that run these ‘Paleo’, ‘Whole-30’, ‘Body Transformation’, etc. challenges. Most of these 30-day throw downs start with an initial assessment, which basically means the participant/victim gets weighed, body comped and measured. They are then given a list of food and/or exercise rules and set free for 30 days. At the end of “30 days of Hell” (Seriously, I’ve had a client refer to it as exactly that. I can’t make this shit up.), they are once again subjected to the scale, calipers and tape measure to see how they did. I’ve even seen some gyms that have folks record all of their food/exercise in a shared Google doc and then they award and deduct points based on the contest “rules”.  All that may leave you wondering why anyone would willingly sign-up for a “month of misery” (phrase used by aforementioned client…) and the answer to that question – there’s money involved (and glory too, of course). Yeah, folks PAY to play, and a portion of what they invest goes into a pot that, when it’s all said and done, the winner takes home. In the words of Jerry MacGuire, “Show Me The Money!”

Where these contests and challenges fail (and I mean BIG TIME BOMB…) is that most provide little to no instruction, education, support, or direction about how to go about this transformation process in a healthy, sustainable, habits for life kind of way. It’s basically 30 days of “I hate my life, but there’s money and I want to see my abs…” So, you gut it out and maybe you find your abs during the last week of the thing – but come day 31, you ‘refuel’ by eating enough to feed a family of four with two teenaged boys. And by the end of the week, those 6-pack abs you had more closely resemble a pony keg…

Another fairly common practice in the 30-day gym challenge circuit is the ‘pre-contest prep’. This basically means, you stack the deck in your favor going into the contest by GORGING yourself for several days prior to the initial measurements being taken. Can you say water retention, food babies, and skewed data?? Yeah, CHEATING. It’s not only unfair, but it’s unhealthy and STUPID. A few words of advice: DON’T BE AN IDIOT! That advice applies to both gym owners/coaches and to all eligible participants. One more time – everyone together: DON’T BE AN IDIOT!

Messing up the “I’m doing this for me.” Challenge/Transformation

This part is for everyone out there that’s laughing and saying to themselves, “I would never do one of those stupid group challenges. I’m doing this for me.” While your intent may seem superior to that of “Group Challenge Greg”, don’t fool yourself. You’re not above falling victim to the f#%@-upedness that these 30-day transformations can become. Oh no, we’re equal opportunity idiots “up in this humpy bumpy” – no one is exempt, no one (and yes, that includes you…). In the event you’re having a hard time following me, I’m going to go ahead and elaborate (surprise, surprise…).

You’re fired up. Seriously, READY. TO. GO. You’ve completely cleaned out your cabinets and refrigerator. There’s not a food in your house that didn’t or can’t live, rot, grow, and/or die. That’s right, hardcore – only REAL food for 30-days. You’ve done your first week of meal prep and your slow cooker has just seen more action than a bed in a pay-by-the-hour motel. You are set and this is gonna be awesome. The End.

You fly through that first week with your pre-packed Tupperware breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. You’re thinking – “That was a cinch, like total cakewalk (well, maybe not cake…). There’s no way you’re turning back. You’re feeling good and it was SO EASY. Then the weekend hits and your friends are like, “Hey, let’s go out for dinner and/or drinks”, and you’re all, “Sure, let’s hit the same place we did last week.” Conversation ends. And then it hits you – there will be no drinks and the food situation is going to be tough to swing too. No burger and fries for you. So, you make up some excuse as to why you can’t go and dodge that bullet for this week. You’re okay with it because you’ve got some serious grocery shopping and meal prep plans anyway.

Well, somehow the weekend gets a little busier than you’d planned and the only meal prep you manage is to boil a dozen eggs. Come Monday morning, you’ve got nothing for the week but 12 sad, lonely boiled eggs and a couple cans of tuna. To say the next week is gonna be rough would be an understatement. There’s probably going to be a lot of salad, a lot of tuna and a lot of no fun. And by the end of the week you’re likely going to be pretty much over it. It’s at this point that you start to realize that this “life changing” stuff is a lot of work, and it’s not just a matter of revamping your eating habits, but it’s like your entire lifestyle. It’s possible that the next few weeks go a little better. You probably manage to do the meal planning and prep because there’s no way that you’re going to subject yourself to another week of living off of eggs, tuna, and salad. But when day 25 rolls around you’re starting to think about all the food you get to eat on day 31… Binge planning, yeah, that’s healthy…

If you’re not planning your ultimate destruction, you’re likely contemplating what exactly life is supposed to look like when this whole 30-day thing is over. Where do you go from here? Is there a place for your old favorites, or do you need to keep it hardcore ‘clean’ for the rest of your life? I mean, sure, you feel better, but for the past month your world has pretty much revolved around food, and we won’t even talk about your social life – mostly because you didn’t have one… How the heck are you supposed to make your new habits part of a normal life? Is that even a thing? The end is coming FAST and you’ve got ZERO idea and no plan for what needs to happen on day 31 to keep this going. Sure, you’ve learned a lot about food and how it makes you feel over the past 30 days. You’re fairly certain that you don’t want to go back to what you were doing before but, ultimately, this all-or-nothing approach isn’t going to work forever. There’s got to be a balance.

So, day 31 comes and some of you completely give up the ship – back to Burger King and frozen pizza with an occasional salad thrown in for good measure. I mean, hey, you did learn a little something, and Ranch dressing is awesome, right??? #facepalm. Same habits, just 30 days later. The rest of you slowly start adding a few things back to “test the waters” – but soon, you find that you’re pretty much right back to where you were before you “Whole30’ed” to health. You’re not really sure how you got back to that point, but you’re already planning your next 30-day elimination to get back on track – and the cycle begins. Sure, there are some folks that find their happy balance – and if you’re one of them, that’s freaking awesome BUT keep in mind, you are the minority.

Ultimately, the sudden onset and rule-based restriction of these ‘life changing’ 30-day challenges/transformations and of any and all ‘diets’ make it incredibly easy (and likely) for us to slip back into old patterns. It’s a cold turkey approach to eating – one day (usually day 1 of the ‘challenge’), you just stop eating the foods that used to be your go-to and/or favorite options. In a lot of cases this is a recipe for failure – there’s no instruction or guidance as to how to incorporate your new habits into your life for the long haul and let’s be real, complete avoidance and restriction FOREVER is not an option for pretty much all of us. Seriously, life without ever being able to have pizza, ice cream, or a drink – JUST WHY???

If you go into your ‘detox’ with the mindset that you’re only in for 30 days and then it’s back to business as usual until the ‘next round’ – you’re doing it wrong. But alternately, if you go in with the idea that the rest of your life needs to be one of complete “against the rules food” abstinence – you’re doing it wrong too. Ultimately, to make this work for the long haul your priorities need to change and it’s going to take commitment. But you’ve got the strike a balance that works for you, your life and both your physical and mental health. You’ve got to have a plan for what life looks like after day 30 and if you don’t you’re setting yourself up for disaster.

So now that you are well versed on the pros and cons of 30 day challenges (Part 1) and you have some pretty good ideas on how you can screw them up (this post), in the next nail-biting installment of this series we’ll talk about how to get these things right and quite possibly, ‘change your life’ – for real.

Coming soon – The Grand Finale:

30-Day Challenge Analysis Part 3: Changing Your Life For Real – Let’s Do This Right

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Why Large Deficit Deadlifts are Great for Improving Mobility

Written by: Kevin Cann

I chose to work with Boris Shieko as my coach for a couple of reasons. For one, he is the most decorated coach in the sport of powerlifting. Another reason is how different they do things in Russia compared to here in America. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and learn some things for myself.

One of the different pieces of a Shieko program was his use of deficit deadlifts. If you do a search for deficit deadlifts on the internet you will mostly likely find information saying that no more than an inch or two is necessary.

You will also find some articles vilifying deficit deadlifts. This is most likely due to the difficulty in maintaining a neutral spine with the greater range of motion. Here in America there are not too many things we fear more than rounding our spine.

The problem with this is that our spine is meant to be round. We possess between 40 and 60 degrees of lumbar flexion, depending on the source. Under submaximal weights and creating as much intraabdominal pressure as possible, we can keep our lower backs safe when lifting things.

Many lifters, both experienced and novice, have a hard time getting into the proper deadlift position. To fix this issue many lifters and coaches will work stretching the hamstrings and rolling on a foam roller to loosen up their thoracic spines. They do this only to get under the bar and have the same position as they had before.

Often times the issue is not a mobility issue, but a motor control issue. Even if it was a mobility issue, we may not be strong enough to hold that position under heavier weights. In order to fix our deadlift start position, we need to stress that position enough to overload the nervous system as well as get stronger in that position.

For these reasons, Sheiko prefers using a larger deficit. He recommends a deficit of 10cm which is roughly 4 inches. At this deficit height, the back will round a little. The goal is to make the athlete fight hard for a good position. We are using this to fix the start position for the competition lift.

The one to two inches is not enough to make the athlete have to fight for a better position. We talk about the overload principle for volume and intensity, but it also matters for motor control as well. One to two inches is not enough to overload the system to improve positions.

Under submaximal weights and creating intraabdominal pressure (bracing), a rounded back is not dangerous. We have to round our back to pick up uniquely shaped objects. The deficits are to improve technique, so the intensity should be between 60% and 70%. This is usually done for four to five sets of two to three reps.

Under these conditions risk is still relatively low. The 10cm deficit applies to both conventional deadlifts and sumo deadlifts. It seems many more will argue against the larger deficits, or deficits in general, for the sumo deadlift. This is due to the difficulty in the sumo deadlift breaking the floor. For that reason alone I may argue that there is greater carryover to improving the strength off of the floor in the sumo deadlift from performing deficit deadlifts.

The weak spot for the conventional deadlift is just below the knees. However, if we do not reach that sticking point in a good position, we will limit how much we can lock out. The bigger deficit also puts more stress on the muscles involved in the deadlift off of the floor. Your legs must work harder to get the weight moving, and your back needs to keep pulling through a larger range of motion.

I have heard arguments against the deficit deadlift for the sumo deadlift due to injury risk. I don’t understand this thinking. With the deficit we get increased hip flexion, increased knee flexion, increased ankle dorsiflexion, and maybe 5 degrees of increased torso lean.

This puts more stress on the extensors of all of those joints and a hair more shear force on the spine. However, this is still a high squat. Hips will still be above parallel. This makes the lower body position similar to a wide stance high squat. This does not concern me, as we squat below parallel. This is similar to a multiply lifter performing high box squats with their competition stance.

The increased torso lean does put more shear force on the spine. However, the sumo deadlift has 5 to 10 degrees less torso lean than a conventional deadlift. The 5 degree increase would only make it similar to a relatively upright conventional pull from the floor.

Many people that pull sumo prefer it because it allows them to hide their weak back strength. This is why adding deficits would be important. They can help strengthen weak muscle groups, which will only make their deadlifts better, and their squat for that matter.

If you are having difficulty with the start position of the deadlift, add in some deficits. The height of the deficit should be around 4 inches to force us to have to fight hard for a good position. Don’t worry about rounding your back, just use weights between 60% and 70% for four to five sets of two to three reps and brace appropriately. To get more bang for your buck, lower the bar under control. This will help improve mobility even more than passively stretching your hamstrings.

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Paleo Radio Bites 62 – Healing in the Aftermath of Illness with Sarah Ramsden

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Sarah Ramsden believes that “When you’re given a wake up call, you have to do something with it.” Her particular wake up call was being diagnosed with a brain tumor and multiple sclerosis all in one week, and her do something about it was leaving a lucrative graphic design career, ending an unfulfilling marriage, going back to school, and moving across the country.

Sarah is now coaching others to take an active role in their recovery from a major illness, helping them to become thrivers, not just survivors. She has been featured on The Huffington Post, The Whole 30, and House and Home and we’re happy to have her join us here today on Paleo Magazine Radio.

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SHARE YOUR LOVE FOR PMR AND YOU CAN ENTER TO WIN SOME GREAT PALEO SWAG!

Its easy, simply post a review of PMR on iTunes and fill out our quick Registration Form and you’ll be entered to win your choice of 4 great books and a Paleo Magazine vinyl decal!
One winner will be randomly chosen each week.

The post Paleo Radio Bites 62 – Healing in the Aftermath of Illness with Sarah Ramsden appeared first on Paleo Magazine.

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Paleo Radio Bites 64 – Exploring the Potato Hack with Tim Steele

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Digestive issues like gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) affect millions of people and cost billions of dollars in lost work and health care expenses each year.

In the search for relief, afflicted individuals often suffer through invasive colonoscopies, dangerous immune suppressing drugs, and even surgical removal of their colon, but what if the the answer was as simple as only eating potatoes for just a few days?

This might sound ridiculous, but according to Tim Steele, author of The Potato Hack, a short-term mono-diet of plainly cooked potatoes can strengthen your immune system, improve sleep, and even lead to weight loss by feeding beneficial gut bacteria, combating inflammation, and resetting your relationship to food.

Tim isn’t even the first person to make these claims, he got the idea for a potato fast after reading about an 1849 diet prescribed to people who were “living too luxuriously” and who became overweight and “dyspeptic” as a result. More recently, both the magician Penn Jillette, as well as an Australian man named Andrew Taylor, have credited potato fasts for helping them to lose over 100lbs each.

On today’s Paleo Radio Bite, we phone in to Tim at his home in North Pole, Alaska, to find out more about his book The Potato Hack and how the much maligned tuber might be a health food after all.

Listen Now!

SHARE YOUR LOVE FOR PMR AND YOU CAN ENTER TO WIN SOME GREAT PALEO SWAG!

Its easy, simply post a review of PMR on iTunes and fill out our quick Registration Form and you’ll be entered to win your choice of 4 great books and a Paleo Magazine vinyl decal!
One winner will be randomly chosen each week.

The post Paleo Radio Bites 64 – Exploring the Potato Hack with Tim Steele appeared first on Paleo Magazine.

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