Archive for December, 2017

I haven’t exactly been a posting machine these past few months, but nonetheless it’s time for me to call it a year.  I need to make tracks on the film version of Fat Head Kids, plus I’ve got my annual end-of-the-year project (a DVD of family memories) to start soon.  Jimmy and Christine Moore will be popping in for a few days as well.  Weather permitting, we’ll get in a few rounds of disc golf. I haven’t had a disc in my hands since a couple of weeks before the surgery and I already feel a bit weaker from the lack of exercise, so this may be Jimmy’s chance to kick my butt out there.

Anyway, I’ll see you again in 2018.  In the meantime, here’s a holiday post I wrote some years ago.  Relative newcomers probably haven’t seen it.  I wish you all a wonderful holiday season.

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Twas the night before statins, and all through the land
Our lipids were lethal, as we’d soon understand.
Our eggs were all stacked in the fridge with great care
In hopes they’d be scrambled, or fried if we dare.

The children were calm and well-fed in their beds,
While visions of sausages danced in their heads.
The dads, mostly lean, and wives often thinner
Had just settled down for a porterhouse dinner.

When out in the world there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their plates to see what was the matter,
And what on the cover of TIME should appear,
But an arrogant scientist, peddling fear.

Cheers and belief from an ignorant press
Gave a luster of truth to the new, biased mess.
So away to the doctor we flew in a pack,
In hopes of a plan to end heart attacks.

He was dressed in all white from his neck to his butt
(which conveniently hid the size of his gut).
He sat us all down for a well-meaning chat:
“More carbohydrates — avoid all that fat!”

So sugars and starches we passed through our lips,
Only to wear them on bellies and hips.
Our hearts with their plaques continued to swell,
We grew diabetic and weren’t feeling well.

The doctor announced it was likely our fault —
We were, after all, still eating salt.
“But there’s no other option,” he said with shrug,
And pulled out his pad to prescribe some new drugs.

“Now Crestor! Now Zocor! Then Lipitor next!
Now Lipex! Now Lescol, and best take Plavix!
To the depths of the liver! To the artery wall!
Force it down, force it down, foul cholesterol!”

Our appetites crazed, we soon looked like blimps.
Our children lost focus, our manhood went limp.
The doctor examined joints now wracked with pain
And concluded the patients were old or insane.

He chose Celebrex for muscles that ache,
And added Cialis to the drugs we should take.
“Now stick to your diet, and be of good cheer,
If this doesn’t work, I’ll do lap-band next year!”

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I suspected my post about the real Inuit diet would draw a few howls online, and I was right. There are people in the low-carb world I think of as vegans-in-reverse: instead of insisting that humans aren’t designed to eat meat, nobody actually needs meat, and eating any kind of meat is bad for you, they insist that humans aren’t designed to eat plants, nobody actually needs any plant foods, and eating any kind of plant food is bad for you.

Sheesh.

If you’re on all-meat diet and it’s working for you, great. But it’s one thing to say an all-meat diet works for you and quite another to insist that our paleo ancestors didn’t eat plants and therefore nobody – absolutely NOBODY, you understand – needs any plant foods to be healthy. When I commented on Facebook that many plants provide micronutrients we need to be healthy, someone even labeled it as an excuse to eat carbs.

An excuse to eat carbs? Seriously? We don’t need an “excuse” to eat whole, unprocessed plant foods that contain carbohydrates any more than we need an “excuse” to eat meat. That’s what I mean by the vegan-in-reverse mentality:  in the eyes of some people, eating any plant foods at all is apparently a moral failure.  Give me a break.

Short of building a time machine and zipping on back to paleo times, I don’t suppose we can prove what paleo humans ate or didn’t eat. But I’m convinced Paleo Man included plants in his diet. Here are a few reasons:

Our nearest relatives

Humans share about 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees. We’re not directly descended from them, but according to the genome project, we almost certainly split off from a common ancestor. Vegans like to insist that chimps are vegetarians, and therefore we should be vegetarians too. That’s wrong, of course. Chimps hunt and eat meat. But they’re still omnivores who get most of their calories from plant foods.

Eating meat allowed us to develop bigger brains and become human. But I find it difficult to believe that after evolving from plant-eating apes, we rejected plant foods entirely once we became proficient hunters, and then suddenly started eating plants again 15,000 years ago. It seems a wee bit more logical to assume we added meat to a diet that continued to include plants.

Hunter-gatherers

More than 200 hunter-gatherer societies were discovered and studied in relatively modern times. These were people who hadn’t previously been exposed to civilization and were living a stone-age lifestyle. They all ate meat or fish or both. They also gathered and ate plants – even the Inuit ate certain plants when they could find them.

According to Loren Cordain’s studies, carbohydrates made up 20% to 40% of the diet in most hunter-gatherer societies. Good luck doing that eating nothing but meat. So once again, I find it more than a little difficult to believe that Paleo Man ate no plants whatsoever, but people living essentially a paleo lifestyle in modern times did.

Yes, yes, yes, I can hear the reply in cyberspace already: yeah, but humans only ate plants when they hunted the big game to extinction and ran short of meat!

Sorry, but that is simply not true.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was fascinated with Native Americans for years and read a ton of books about them. I still read one now and then. A book I read a couple of years ago described how the buffalo-hunting Sioux would get together with their Eastern cousins and trade buffalo meat and hides for foods like pumpkins and squash.

If you’re trading away meat for squash, it means you want the squash.  It’s not a meat-shortage survival strategy.  Until the “civilized” buffalo-hunters came along and nearly wiped out the herds, there were a shootload of buffalo living on the Great Plains. I doubt the Sioux ever ran short of meat. I’ve also read that the buffalo-hunting Sioux ate wild berries, spinach, turnips and potatoes. No meat shortage, and yet they ate plant foods.

One reader on Facebook suggested I watch a speech by Dr. Mike Eades, claiming it provides slam-dunk evidence that early humans lived on an all-meat diet. So I watched the speech, which was excellent, of course. But the evidence Dr. Eades presented (much of which focused on analysis of stable isotopes) only proves that early humans ate a heck of a lot of meat, both from herbivores and carnivores. It proves they were top-level hunters. It doesn’t prove – and wasn’t intended to prove – that they stopped eating plants.

In fact, in one section of the speech, Dr. Eades talked about a study of Native American skeletons found in Kentucky. One group of skeletons came from hunters who lived nearly 3,500 years ago – 3,000 years before Europeans showed up. Another group of skeletons came from agriculturalists who lived 1,500 years ago and ate a lot of maize. The hunters were healthier in all kinds of ways – watch the speech if you’re interested. But what struck me was this slide:

The hunters ate a variety of meats, but also gathered and ate grapes, acorns, blackberries, sunflowers and hickory nuts. Again, I sincerely doubt they only gathered those foods when they ran short of meat, because I doubt they ever ran out of meat.

Kentucky and Tennessee have similar weather and terrain. Even with the encroachment of civilization, we have plenty of deer and other animals tromping around our area year-round. Heck, we hit a deer recently while driving home. Lots of people around here end up with damaged vehicles because of deer collisions. Just this week, Chareva spotted three deer carcasses along the highway near our home. And as you know if you read my farm-report posts, there’s no shortage of raccoons around here.

In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes describes how early European explorers described much of the planet as a “paradise for hunting,” with large and small game present in almost unimaginable numbers. I’m pretty sure that applied to the dense forest that’s now Kentucky. The Native American hunters in that area didn’t eat grapes and blackberries because they ran out of meat. They ate them because of …

Our taste buds

If you’ve seen Fat Head, you may remember this line: Mother Nature isn’t stupid. She didn’t make human beings the only species on earth who prefers foods that will kill us.

The whole idea behind paleo diets is that we have to eat the kinds of foods that Nature, through evolution, designed us to eat. We put it this way in the Fat Head Kids book:

The Nautilus was programmed to choose the right fuels and building materials automatically. Inside the FUD hatch, special sensors send messages to The Brain that say This is what the ship needs. You experience those messages as This Tastes Good.

When humans hunted and gathered their food, this app worked perfectly. Our taste for sweets told us to eat fruits and sweet-tasting vegetables like carrots and squashes. Our taste for fats told us to eat olives, nuts, eggs and meats. Our taste for salts told us to eat meats and seafood. Our taste for spices told us to eat plants that were full of vitamins and minerals.

Those are the flavors we naturally seek: sweet, fatty, salty and spicy. Good luck finding sweet and spicy flavors in an all-animal-foods diet. We like sweet and spicy foods because in a natural environment (not a processed-food environment), those tastes lead to us foods that provide micronutrients.

Here’s a slide from a lecture by Chris Kresser on the nutrient density of foods:

Yup, meats – especially organ meats – are nutrient-dense, which is why we should eat them. But please notice that herbs, spices, nuts and seeds are more nutrient-dense than beef, seafood and wild game. Many vegetables are more nutrient-dense than pork, eggs and poultry.

When I mentioned our natural desire for sweet and spicy foods, a reader on Facebook retorted with something along the lines of, Well, we only like fruits and other sweet foods now because we bred them over the centuries to be bigger and sweeter than they were in paleo times.

So let’s think about this …. you’re Paleo Man, supposedly a pure carnivore with no inborn desire for sweet foods. And yet you decide to breed fruit to contain even more of a flavor you don’t naturally like. How does that make any sense?

Humans don’t eat tree bark because it’s not a natural food for us and therefore doesn’t have a flavor we naturally enjoy. Would we start eating (and perhaps over-eating) tree bark if someone bred trees that grew really, really big and chewy bark? I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t. We bred animals to be fatter because we naturally love the taste of fat, and we bred fruit to be sweeter because we naturally like sweet foods.

Yes, the makers of processed foods have hijacked our taste for sweet foods to sell us donuts, candies, sodas, Pop-Tarts, Frosted Flakes, Twizzlers, gummy bears and countless other junk. But you can’t hijack a desire that doesn’t already exist.

My cat is an actual carnivore. He wouldn’t touch a donut if I offered it to him. Heck, even though he loves meat, he won’t touch spicy meats like pepperoni. Why? BECAUSE HE’S AN ACTUAL CARNIVORE. His brain tells him not to bother with sweet or spicy flavors, which come from plants.

Someone pointed out that his cat will eat dry cat food made from grains. Yup, so will mine. But only because the food-taste scientists managed make grain-based cat food appeal to a carnivore’s taste buds. If you don’t believe me, take a bite of some dry cat food. I promise it won’t taste sweet or spicy. You could fill my cat’s plate with bananas, berries, potatoes, bread sticks, tomatoes and broccoli drizzled with butter and he wouldn’t eat any of it. He wouldn’t eat gummy bears either, even though they’re super-sweet. Once again, you can’t hijack a desire that doesn’t already exist.

If Nature designed humans to be pure carnivores, we wouldn’t like sweet and spicy foods. And yet we do. And therefore it makes no sense to insist that paleo humans wouldn’t have gathered and eaten plant foods that were available, tasted good, and provided nutrients.

The AMY1 gene

All humans carry the AMY1 gene, which enables our bodies to digest starch. Some people have just one copy of the gene, while others carry up to 15 copies. The average among humans is six copies, whereas the average among chimpanzees is two. If we share a common ancestor with chimps, but then evolved into our human form on plant-free diets, why the heck would most humans carry more copies of the starch-eating gene than chimps, who live mostly on plant foods? That makes no sense.

Research strongly suggests that people with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene are more likely to have blood-sugar problems and gain weight on a starchy diet. Fair enough. That’s evidence that some of us have to limit our intake of starches. But if we’re all descended from paleo ancestors who lived on meat-only diets, there’s no logical reason we’d carry the AMY1 gene at all – and certainly no reason for some people to carry 15 copies.

If the reply is something like Well, humans probably only started carrying more copies of the AMY1 gene after we started farming, then it means our bodies were reprogrammed rather dramatically in the past 15,000 years. The whole idea behind paleo, of course, is that we’re virtually the same as our paleo ancestors and therefore need to eat like them.

Can’t have it both ways. Biologically, we’re either nearly identical to our paleo ancestors, or we’re not. If we are, then Paleo Man carried the genes to digest starch. If we’re not, then what Paleo Man did or didn’t eat doesn’t matter all that much.

The effects of zero-carb diets

Some people do well on zero-carb diets. But other people don’t. They get the symptoms Paul Jaminet described in his Perfect Health Diet book. They get dry eyes. Their thyroids slow down. Their cortisol levels go up. Their production of sex hormones declines.

I didn’t read the back-and-forth debate between Jaminet and Dr. Ron Rosedale on safe starches until a few years ago, but when I did read it, I found Jaminet’s arguments more convincing.

Rosedale, for example, doesn’t deny that a glucose deficiency can slow down the thyroid, but offered this explanation:

Glucose scarcity (deficiency may be a misnomer) elicits an evolutionary response to perceived low fuel availability. This results in a shift in genetic expression to allow that organism to better survive the perceived famine…. As part of this genetic expression, and as part and parcel of nature’s mechanism to allow the maintenance of health and actually reduce the rate of aging, certain events will take place as seen in caloric restricted animals. These include a reduction in serum glucose, insulin, leptin, and free T3. The reduction in free T3 is of great benefit, reducing temperature, metabolic damage and decreasing catabolism.

So yes, your thyroid may slow down, but Rosedale insists that’s good for longevity. Hmmm. If you’re struggling to lose that last 50 pounds, a “healthy” slower thyroid isn’t going to help. Neither is the reduction in leptin. Losing weight requires being in a catabolic state, so you can guess what “decreasing catabolism” means as far as weight loss.

As for the reduction in sex hormones, Rosedale replied with this:

If we evolved in a certain way and with certain physiologic responses to the way we eat, it was not for a long, healthy, post-reproductive lifespan. It was for reproductive success. The two are not at all synonymous, in fact often antagonistic.

Just roll that one around in your brain for a minute. Rosedale doesn’t deny that your sex hormones will decline, but insists it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for longevity. Jaminet does a good job of disputing that lower-is-always-better when it comes to glucose and longevity, but that’s not the point. If long-term, drastic restriction of glucose doesn’t support “reproductive success,” it can’t be the diet that allowed us to win the game called Survival of The Fittest.

If we’re all descended from and virtually identical to paleo ancestors who lived on all-meat diets, then almost nobody would suffer ill effects from a zero-carb diet – which, of course, is what an all-meat diet is. And yet many people don’t do well at all on a diet that includes no plants and no carbohydrates.

That’s because their paleo ancestors ate plants and at least some carbohydrates. Jumping up and down and insisting that anyone who doesn’t feel awesome and healthy on all-meat diet just isn’t doing it right! is thinking and acting like a vegan-in-reverse.  That doesn’t help the cause.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go enjoy a dinner of beef, broccoli and roasted squash with onions … but if you happen to have any buffalo meat, I’ll trade you some squash for it.

 

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I’m working on a longer post that’s related to my previous post about the real Inuit diet. That’ll come later. A chunk of my time today was taken up with a follow-up visit with the surgeon. Since some of you asked for an update, here it is:

According to both the surgeon and the physical therapist, I’m healing as expected. The day-to-day pain level has dropped almost off the charts. I get an ache in the shoulder or bicep now and then, but it’s nothing an ibuprofen and a cold pack can’t handle.

There are exceptions.  Twice in the previous week I woke up with a stronger, throbbing pain around the bicep and had to pop a Percocet to go back to sleep. I suspect that’s just the result of me struggling against the sling while I sleep. The surgeon wasn’t at all concerned when I mentioned it.

The good news is that I can start removing the sling when I’m working at home. I just have to remember not to actually lift anything with my left arm. He suggested I still wear the sling when I leave the house, partly to restrain my own movements and partly to signal other people not to bump into me.

The really good news is that I no longer have to wear the damned thing while sleeping. Hallelujah. Trying to get a decent night’s sleep has been one of the worst parts of the whole experience. If you videotaped me sleeping normally and sped it up for playback, I’d look something like a fish tossed ashore. I turn and roll and flop into different positions. (Chareva’s worse. She also kicks and steals blankets.)

Turning and rolling and flopping was apparently a real threat to the reattached bicep tendon at first, so for the 30-plus nights since surgery, I’ve had to sleep sitting up, surrounded by pillows to keep me in that position, with my arm pinned to my side in the sling.

I didn’t have any trouble sleeping like that when I was still knocking myself out with Percocet before bed, but it’s a different story now that I’m off the painkillers. I sleep for a few hours, wake up feeling stiff and cramped and wanting to just roll the hell over already, get out of bed, utter a few curses known only to weekend hobby farmers who’ve had surgery, crawl back into bed, re-assume the sitting position, then try to sleep again.  I’m usually awake for at least an hour.

No sling tonight. No sitting up in a pillow throne. I don’t remember the last time I looked forward to crawling into bed this much.  There was probably lingerie involved.

I already feel a bit like the Pillsbury Dough Boy from the lack of exercise, so I asked the surgeon what I can and can’t do at this point. I’ve got the green light to work my legs at the gym, but that’s it. No upper-body exercise at all.

Dangit. That’s what I expected, but dangit anyway. The physical therapist told me that after surgery for a torn bicep, it’s a very slow buildup to exercise. It usually takes about a year to return to full strength.

Sheesh. I’ll be turning 60 in just under a year. I guess that will be my birthday gift: a return to full strength.

I went through this with the last shoulder surgery 15 years ago. By the time I could really start working out again, I had the muscles of an adolescent boy. If I remember correctly, I even started laughing at booger jokes again.

The difference between now and then (besides being almost 60 vs. being almost 45) is that I know a helluva lot more about what constitutes a good diet. I can’t avoid getting weak, but I can avoid getting fat and weak.

In the meantime, since outdoor work on weekends is a no-go, I’ve been focusing more on composing music for the Fat Head Kids film, which is one of the last remaining creative tasks before post-production work.

Composing and recording tools these days are, to put it mildly, simply awesome. With all the digital stuff, it’s gotten to the point where if you can hear it in your head, you can get it into your song. I haven’t been able to play guitar for obvious reasons, so I had my iPad strum the chords for one of the songs I’m recording. Blows my mind.

I wish I’d had these toys back when I was writing songs for my band in my twenties. We spent a lot of money to record in a studio that had a mere fraction of the tracks and effects and processors that now live inside the Logic Pro software on my Mac. I can even export a song-in-progress to my iPad, go sit in my comfortable recliner to do more composing, then pull the new tracks into Logic Pro. Again, it blows my mind.

So despite being physically sidelined and missing the joys of working myself into a state of Dog Tired Satisfied on the farm, I’m feeling just fine. For a time at least, my brain will have to do the heavy lifting.

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