Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 107

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 107

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The snow is coming down steady here in Murray, Utah. Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone and my house is ready for Christmas. We put up Christmas on Thanksgiving Friday and then shop for Christmas online.

I like to be proactive in most things. I work with people who enjoy putting things off until the last minute. My friends who venture with me to Ohio know of someone who seems to love waiting for the last second to do something. Or beyond.

What I notice about people who put things off is that they are rarely successful long term. Every time you make a customer wait or feel uncomfortable or angry, you tend to lose that customer. Moreover, it seems you lose everyone within that customer’s shouting distance.

So, I prefer “too early” over a moment late. I call this “Shark Habits,” from a lecture by Robb Wolf. It just saves so much mental space. Open an email; answer the email. It simplifies life. Say “yes” or “no” and never ask to think about it.

I am working on some changes in my life (for the positive). I like to do my New Year’s Resolutions on December 1st to give them a little warm-up before I commit on the New Year. In this edition, you will find a fair share of diet information which seems to be very popular around the first of the year. If you commit to something now, you might find you don’t need to change much when 2017 roars in soon.

This first article from Jim Wendler really relates to this concept. “Just one rep” is good advice for a lot of things.

“So what did I take from this?  The first step was a good base program – 5/3/1. I already bought this and had been following the powerlifting template for a long time with great success. What I didn’t then do is decide I would go on StartingArguments.com forum and find out how to completely ruin it by ignoring the book and doing the “variation on 5/3/1” that Nathanial no Nutts had just posted. No big changes. I made the small changes. I thought about the kind of things that I could make a small difference to, for little effort or money. It went like this: I sucked at chins/pull-ups. I added in 1 set of these at the end of every deadlift and pressing session. Just one set. I aimed to increase by 1 rep each session. Now I’m banging out multiple sets and will soon be adding weight. All I added was a rep. Just one rep a session. I work crazy hours. Cooking food requires time I have to fight to get. So I bought a slow cooker and I cook big roasts in it overnight which will feed me for a day or two. This involves the incredibly difficult process of placing meat and veg in the cooker and pressing the ‘on’ button. Now I don’t need to eat lousy food from take outs or eat rubbish for convenience sake. I have also improved my physique as a result. I make double the amount of porridge in the morning and freeze the leftover for the next morning. I sit long hours at work. My hips get tight. I made a small PVC pipe roller which fits in my work bag and I aim to do 50-100 total rolls on sore spots in my office each day, whenever I can. I have a pair of wrist wraps which I love. I bought three pairs. I keep one in the car in case I forget to pack them in my gym bag. I have a t-shirt which feels great when I squat. Not too baggy, not too tight, nice cotton. I bought three more of them. I always squat in this shirt.”

This next T-Nation article supports something I believe, therefore this must be science!

“In a 2012 mortality study of 400,000 people printed in The New England Journal of Medicine, coffee drinkers had between 6 and 16 percent fewer deaths. Likewise, in a Japanese study printed in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, coffee drinkers were 24 percent less likely to die during a 19-year follow-up.

“The sweet spot seems to be three to four cups a day of regular or decaf, but one study involving six cups a day saw a 33 percent reduction in diabetes diagnoses. Other maladies positively affected by coffee include liver cancers, fatty livers, alcoholic liver disease, heart disease, stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.”

Bert Herring is the founder of Fast-5, one of the early intermittent fast proponents. He doesn’t get enough credit for his insights, but his materials are often the most quoted. This article really makes a key point: getting fatter AFTER dieting is an intelligent response from the metabolic system.

“The participants went into the competition after years of excess intake during which their bodies received few, if any, indicators of a need for efficiency. It was okay if their digestive process and intestinal absorption worked poorly. It was okay if their cellular powerhouses (mitochondria) ran inefficiently and leaked energy as heat. It was okay if their blood pressure and heart rate ran high. Their bodies were operating in a fuel glut and energy demands were low. No worries!

“Then came the Biggest Loser competition. The all-day (and part of the night) exercise replaced the participants’ mostly sedentary behavior; scant portions replaced generous food intake. Mr. Cahill lost weight, most of it fat, at a rate greater than a pound per day. From the body’s perspective, fat is precious. It’s the currency of survival when things get tough, and from the body’s perspective it’s good to have about 20-25% of body weight in the fat bank in case of famine. The participants began losing their fat reserve at an astonishing rate. Imagine how you would feel if your life savings started disappearing at a rate of two percent per week, as Mr. Cahill’s fat reserve was. If you started with $100,000 on New Year’s Day, you’d be penniless before Christmas.

“To Mr. Cahill’s body, starvation looked inevitable, with death only about 3-4 months away if the same rate of loss continued. The primitive control systems in his brain did not know this was a time-limited contest. Mr. Cahill’s body engaged systems to slow down the loss. Absorption from the intestines probably increased. The efficiency of his body’s energy use increased, and by the end of the contest, his resting energy requirement had dropped by about 200 calories per day.

“The story’s headline says ‘their bodies fought to regain weight.’ Their bodies were not fighting to regain weight, they were preparing to survive a similar threat in the future. They increased their efficiency to better insure survival when faced with a future Biggest Loser event, which their bodies, including their brains’ primitive parts, interpreted as a seven-month famine requiring tremendous physical exertion to acquire meager food intake. The brain’s primitive automatic protective systems have no way of knowing another contest will not happen again. It happened once; it can happen again. By trimming energy needs, more fuel can be stored so that the next time Mr. Cahill faces a Biggest Loser scenario with a tremendous demand on activity with a sparsity of food, he’ll survive in good shape just as he did in 2009.

“Let’s take a moment to recognize that the body’s ability to reduce its fuel requirements in times of scarcity is just plain amazing. The human body can be very thrifty when it needs to be, and that’s a good thing. When this happens, metabolism is not broken, it’s improved. The body is not fighting; it is responding to its environment in the same way that made it a worldwide success over the last 100,000 years. It is preparing for survival against threats that Mr. Cahill and the other contestants will hopefully never see.”

Josh HIllis continues to be one of the most interesting reads in fitness, diet and life. I loved the point of this article.

“If it takes 120 credits to graduate, and you take 15 credits per semester, you graduate in 8 semesters, or 4 years.  Sometimes you can’t get classes or whatever, and it takes 5 years.

“If, on the other hand, let’s say you really want to graduate.  You’re like so motivated.  Plus, you haven’t gone to college in a while, so you figure you need to make up for it.  So you take 120 credits in one semester.  You get burnt out, you fail everything.  You’re so demoralized you don’t even really try for another year or two.  That would be how you do college like an a-hole.

“Most people approach college the first way: 15 credits per semester.  This appeals to your values, like: Moderation, patience, consistency, intentionality, and planning.  It’s the consistency of doing the 15 credit work, day in and day out, that gets you to graduation.  Plus, the practice of moderation, patience, consistency, intentionality, and planning, makes you a better version of yourself.

“Most people approach weight loss the second way: 120 credits per semester (aka, like an a-hole).  They try to do literally everything at once.  The fail, because it’s impossible not to fail this way.  It’s too much for any human.  They destroy themselves, fail, and then they don’t learn from the silliness of how much they took on…  because next time they do the same thing again.  Even worse, because they are practicing taking on too much, short-sightedness, impatience, and perfectionism, they’re making themselves worse versions of themselves.  They’re rapidly becoming a-holes.”

Phil Maffetone has been writing a lot recently. This small point about weight loss is often missed by many.

“The MAF weight-loss method may work so well, it may not even result in actual weight loss since you may lose fat while gaining muscle. Even if a good amount of fat is burned off the body, only a few pounds of weight might be lost. But adding a bit of muscle, gained through better physical activity, can offset the loss of scale weight.

“Being overfat means you have enough excess body fat to impair your health.”

James Clear writes a nice piece here on travel. I am a one bag traveler, too, and we match up on a lot of things here. I wish I could do my work on my phone, but I need my computer for my college classes. The first three points are true about life, too.

With this in mind, there are 3 rules that drive my ultralight travel philosophy.

1.  Carry less stuff. I strive to ruthlessly eliminate items that are not essential to my enjoyment on the road. In my experience, packing light allows me to spend more time focusing on the things that make travel great — the people, the places, the food — and less time worrying about what I’m carrying.

2. Reduce weight, not usefulness. I refuse to carry things that are not useful. When faced with two useful options, I will select the one that is lighter or better designed. Whenever possible, I opt for items that have multiple uses because this reduces weight and complexity. I try to carry items and wear clothes that are flexible enough to cover a variety of situations.

3. Optimize for comfort and design. After following the first two rules, I optimize each item for comfort and design. I’m not interested in wearing a 10-zipper pant or a 15-pocket travel sweatshirt. I want to wear clothes that I feel comfortable in and that look good. I’m not interested in melting deodorant into chapstick tubes in the name of packing light. I want to use everyday items the way I would normally use them. I don’t need many things, but I love the look and feel of each item I carry.

Well, until next week, keep on lifting and learning. I will not be traveling this week and I hope to finish the audio for my next book and get way ahead for the coming of the New Year.


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