When Will Your “Moment” Be?

I really love this wonderful autobiographical story from internet entrepreneur and software geek Chad Fowler (as reported by Tim Ferriss).

It reminds me of my own “moment” decades ago, when my false self-image was destroyed by a single honest look in the mirror.

The story reflects a larger impetus, more valuable than just a weight loss push, to becoming a whole self, for self-striving yielding self-fulfillment, self-confidence, and self-respect.

Mr. Fowler:

“Why had I gone 10 years getting more and more out of shape (starting off pretty unhealthy in the first place) only to finally fix it now?

I actually remember the exact moment I decided to do something.

I was in Tokyo with a group of friends. We all went down to Harajuku to see if we could see some artistically dressed youngsters and also to shop for fabulous clothing, which the area is famous for.

A couple of the people with us were pretty fashionable dressers and had some specific things in mind they wanted to buy.

After walking into shops several times and leaving without seriously considering buying anything, one of my friends and I gave up and just waited outside while the others continued shopping.

We both lamented how unfashionable we were.

I then found myself saying the following to him: ‘For me, it doesn’t even matter what I wear; I’m not going to look good anyway.’

I think he agreed with me.

I can’t remember, but that’s not the point.

The point was that, as I said those words, they hung in the air like when you say something super-embarrassing in a loud room but happen to catch the one randomly occurring slice of silence that happens all night long.

Everyone looks at you like you’re an idiot.

But this time, it was me looking at myself critically.

I heard myself say those words and I recognized them not for their content, but for their tone of helplessness.

I am, in most of my endeavors, a solidly successful person.

I decide I want things to be a certain way, and I make it happen.

I’ve done it with my career, my learning of music, understanding of foreign languages, and basically everything I’ve tried to do.

For a long time, I’ve known that the key to getting started down the path of being remarkable in anything is to simply act with the intention of being remarkable.

If I want a better-than-average career, I can’t simply ‘go with the flow’ and get it.

Most people do just that: they wish for an outcome but make no intention-driven actions toward that outcome.

If they would just do something most people would find that they get some version of the outcome they’re looking for.

That’s been my secret.

Stop wishing and start doing.

Yet here I was, talking about arguably the most important part of my life — my health — as if it was something I had no control over.

I had been going with the flow for years.

Wishing for an outcome and waiting to see if it would come.

I was the limp, powerless ego I detest in other people.

But somehow, as the school nerd who always got picked last for everything, I had allowed ‘not being good at sports’ or ‘not being fit’ to enter what I considered to be inherent attributes of myself.

The net result is that I was left with an understanding of myself as an incomplete person.

And though I had (perhaps) overcompensated for that incompleteness by kicking ass in every other way I could, I was still carrying this powerlessness around with me and it was very slowly and subtly gnawing away at me from the inside.

So, while it’s true that I wouldn’t have looked great in the fancy clothes, the seemingly superficial catalyst that drove me to finally do something wasn’t at all superficial.

It actually pulled out a deep root that had been, I think, driving an important part of me for basically my entire life.

And now I recognize that this is a pattern.

In the culture I run in (computer programmers and tech people), this partial-completeness is not just common but maybe even the norm.

My life lately has taken on a new focus: digging up those bad roots; the holes I don’t notice in myself.

And now I’m filling them one at a time.

Once I started the weight loss, the entire process was not only easy but enjoyable.”

If you haven’t had your “moment” yet, what will you have to face about yourself to make it come about?

Common Food Additive Decreases Intestinal Pathogen Barrier And Nutrient Absorption

A 2012 study from the University of Arizona (1) found titanium dioxide in virtually every food and personal care product it evaluated.

Titanium dioxide is a common additive to processed food products such as prepackaged meals, candy, gum, and bread, and to personal products like toothpaste, sunscreen, and deodorants.

Research reported in February 2017 from SUNY Binghamton (2) revealed extensive impact from chronic titanium dioxide exposure.

Investigators tested the effects of an equivalent multi-day exposure on a cell culture model of the small intestine.

They found that the intestinal pathogen barrier was significantly decreased while reactive oxygen species and pro-inflammatory signaling increased.

Titanium dioxide also generated a decline in the microvilli in the epithelial cells of the intestine.

This in turn led to mineral and fatty acid absorption below normal levels.

Additionally modified gene expression for nutrient transporter proteins indicated fundamental adaptations.

Just in case you believe government regulations protect you, titanium dioxide is an approved additive.

 

(1) http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es204168d

(2) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.impact.2017.01.002

Post-Exercise Protein Requirements Vary With Muscle Usage, Not Lean Body Mass

How much protein is needed after a strength training workout?

Current recommendations by sports nutritionists, including the American College of Sports Medicine, is that 20-25 grams is sufficient for maximal muscle building (protein synthesis), independent of the amount of lean body mass (LBM).

However this recommendation is based on research that utilized only single lower-body movements.

In that case post-workout protein consumption exceeding 25g did not induce increased protein synthesis in populations of strength trainers with either lower or higher levels of LBM.

Scientists from the University of Stirling decided to investigate how LBM influenced protein synthesis using whole-body resistance training and varying amounts of protein (1).

Two trials were done with two groups of resistance-trained individuals, one with lower LBM and the other with higher LBM.

In one trial both groups performed full-body strength workouts and consumed 20g whey protein post-workout.

During the second trial the two groups performed the same workout but upped the whey protein to 40g afterwards.

Protein synthesis was measured after each workout using metabolic tracers and muscle biopsies.

The researchers got two distinct and significant results.

In full-body strength training individuals possessing higher LBM do not need greater amounts of protein post-workout than do lower LBM trainers.

But both the low and high LBM exercisers benefited from higher amounts of protein when the using the greater amount of muscle groups stressed during whole-body strength work (versus just one lower body exercise).

In both testing groups greater protein synthesis was stimulated with 40g post-workout supplementation versus the 20g trial.

However, the researchers were unclear about extending the results beyond resistance-trained young men.

(1) http://physreports.physiology.org/content/4/15/e12893

Exercise Has Anti-Aging Effect On Cardiac Tissue

 

A team of researchers investigating the adaptive response of the heart to endurance exercise found anti-aging effects in cardiac tissue.

These benefits add to the well-known cardio-protective effects on blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol.

In a report in Experimental Physiology (1) they found that cardiac telomeres were positively affected by a long-term practice of endurance workouts.

Telomeres are segments of DNA at the end of chromosomes that prevent the chromosomes from getting tangled or degraded.

They are a biomarker of aging – they shorten as we grow older.

If the telomeres are too short it often indicates damaged DNA and possibly malfunctioning cellular division.

Short telomeres are associated with tissue disfunction – in cardiac tissue they are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

But endurance exercise reduces the telomere shortening in cardiac tissue due to aging.

The researchers found that exercise turned on genes that maintain and stabilize telomere length.

 

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28166612

Turn Failed Resolutions Into Successful Habits

My gym has been pretty empty lately.

I’m years-deep into my exercise habit so it’s easy for me to show up.

When the new year rolled around all sorts of new people joined me.

They vigorously ran and cycled (and appeared to suffer through every second of it!).

Now it looks like they and their resolutions’ luster has faded away.

According to researchers over 90% of resolutions fail.

Google “why resolutions fail” and you’ll find a multitude of them.

And that’s too bad because making them is a positive thing.

It’s a fresh start at an optimistic view of our future selves.

But notice I called my habit a “habit”.

A resolution is some activity we want to perform or an end-state we’d like to achieve.

The idea is usually not well-formed and often lacks a plan.

Amorphous intentions like “get in shape” or “go to the gym more often” have failure built into them.

But a well-thought-out habit can provide the structure and meat-on-the-bones your resolution needs.

Habit Conception

The first step of habit creation is to simply ask if the goal is realistic.

Not everybody can look like the models on the covers of fitness magazines.

And you want to be doing it for a good reason.

If it’s not compelling you may find your motivation disappears after the initial phase.

Please don’t decide to go for it when you feel a strong emotional tug towards a new resolution.

Deciding not to ever drink again is best done several days after a porcelain-hugging night.

Play to your strengths and avoid clashes with other parts of your life.

A vision of trail running at 6am may be energizing.

But if you have a hard time waking up early and your knees are bad it may be better to shoot for the stationary bike after work.

The best habits are complementary.

Getting enough sound sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly each reinforces the others.

The easiest route to success with habits doesn’t have an endpoint, such as “run 5 miles” or “drop 20”.

Rather habits based on participation (“walk 5 times each week”), or themes (“fitness”), or identity (“I do healthy things”) are open-ended and often polymorphic.

As long as you consistently perform the habit(s) you can deem yourself successful.

What will you give up to fit your new habit in?

Replacing a bad habit will give you a two-fer.

Will anybody in your life dislike your new direction?

Plan a reasonable way to deal with it before you begin.

Finally, fully commit to taking consistent action and being successful.

Be sincere – if you don’t really feel it, you might as well quit now.

Habit Design

Every successful habit has multiple steps, including the actual sequence of steps:

Prepare
Trigger
Take Sequence of Steps
Evaluate and Adjust

Let’s say you want to walk 5 times each week before work.

The preparation is just what it sounds like.

Choose the time, decide on a route and a distance or duration, find appropriate clothing and footwear, and make sure the attire is clean and laid out in advance.

The trigger is just the event that notifies us to begin taking our sequence of steps.

An alarm is the most obvious one, but you can tie the trigger to something you are already doing.

As soon as you put your coffee cup in the sink you put on your walking gear and head out the door.

The sequence of steps may seem too obvious for consideration, but two key aspects bear noting.

Take the smallest step!

Take the smallest step you can think of.

You may be envisioning an hour-long power walk and you can work towards that over time.

But to begin walk at a moderate pace for 1 minute away from your house and then walk back.

I’m not kidding!

Establishing the habit is the most difficult thing and you want to make it as easy as can be.

Don’t even think of increasing your distance until 3 or 4 weeks have passed – no matter how easy or silly it may seem.

Reward yourself each time you complete your steps.

Pat yourself on the back, praise yourself, close your eyes and smile, whatever.

But positively reinforce your acting on your good intentions (and no, no pie!).

Managing Your Habit

Once you have established the habit, consistently responding to the trigger, taking the steps, and rewarding yourself, you can begin to increase duration and intensity.

But go slowly!

If the habit is really worth incorporating into your life you will ideally be doing it for decades, so what’s the rush?

Moving too quickly may make it seem too hard, damping any enthusiasm you may have generated (probably why my former gym-mates are history).

Take some time every now and then to evaluate how the habit is working out.

Do you need to allocate more time? Add or remove or improve steps?

Make whatever adjustments you need to make.

But find a way to succeed! (Remember that commitment you made?)

Beware of your resolve weakening after an initial period.

Sometimes it won’t be easy but a little discomfort usually doesn’t harm you.

And don’t miss too many times.

If you falter, review your reason for doing the habit in the first place.

Does it still make sense?

You can also take a peek down the road.

If you do consistently perform your habit what will your life be like in 5 years? 10 years? 20?

What if you don’t?

Don’t beat yourself up if you misstep.

Forgive yourself for matters outside of your control like illness, injury, etc.

What about the seemingly ubiquitous interruptions?

If the habit is well-established and you haven’t been away from it long you can restart at an advanced point.

Otherwise it may be best to begin again with the smallest step.

Final Thoughts

With thoughtful design, creating and adding a habit to your life doesn’t have to cause angst and upheaval.

In fact it should be easy and not be a source of unacceptable discomfort.

Choosing an open-ended form such as participation or theme has a greater chance of success than one with a specific endpoint.

It does take some repetition for a habit to take hold, so begin slowly and progress slowly.

Don’t try to do a complete overhaul of your life.

Work on one habit at a time until it is fully established.

What if you still “fail”?

If you treat all habit adoptions and adjustments as experiments the worst thing that can happen is you’ll learn something more about how to operate your body and mind.

Then every attempt is a success and the only issue is its magnitude!