Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 156

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 156

Research is a stretch for some of us. To help get us over the hump, here’s Stu McGill with a brief overview of how scientific odds ratio works as it related to injury rates.


I am sitting in a hotel room in Washington, DC, facing a nice day off. I did an HKC on Saturday and, yesterday, I shared a workshop with Tim Anderson.

Tim’s “Pressing Reset” is outstanding. Oddly, a bit of head control, a few rolls and a little movement “unlocks” me better than most of the junk I do. It’s not voodoo or scammy or culty; it is just returning the body to normal. Moreover, I can add his work into anything and any client I deal with on a regular basis.

When I got to my room last night, I watched the news regarding yet another multiple shooting here in the USA. Our official program to deal with this issue, “Thoughts and Prayers,” seems to be falling a bit short.

In Utah, we seem very concerned about porn, as our governor has labeled this our “Number One Health Hazard.” We lose ten Utahns a week to opioids, which is far more than we lose to traffic issues, and we are doing little about this problem in our state.

Now, I get it: as our population grows and wealth continues to sink more and more to “haves and have-nots,” the pressures build. It’s just hard to keep seeing these killings without any practical solutions.

I didn’t mean to go negative, but I think we can do better. Let’s at least take care of our health and fitness first and continue to meet in community.

This was a good week on the internet. I loved this article about the Italians. I know a LOT of Italians in Utah, and many of these simple ideas are NOT being done here.


4. Go on a Pre-Dinner Walk

Start taking a passeggiata—what the Italians call a daily walk before dinner—which is something of a national pastime. “It is the break between work and play, a chance to catch up with friends and neighbors, and a good excuse for a bit of exercise,” says Kennedy. “But not too much exercise. Remember: everything in moderation.”

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This is an article I wrote and I was very happy with the whole direction of it. I often write things and I don’t really think about what I wrote until later.


So, what’s the future of this industry? It seems this:

We will follow the model of fast food and junk food: the future of fitness will be crowded with many conflicting choices that make lots of claims and promises.

Save yourself now: focus on the fundamentals, the basics. Eat like an adult. Have a social life. Go for a walk. Do fundamental human movements and master them. Keep coming back.

And, soon, at a party, someone will ask how you keep so fit. You may want to follow up on “what do YOU mean by that?”

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One of the issues with poverty, both in the pocketbook and in education, is the “quick fix/easy answer” mentality. This article does a nice job layering the issues of obesity in Mexico.


Now with more sedentary lifestyles, combined with the ability to fiesta-like food every day, the country’s waistline is expanding.

Of course, there are plenty of healthier choices like broth-based soups, fresh fish, salads, vegetables and fruits.

Wealth doesn’t always bring health: Just because Mexicans are earning more money doesn’t mean they make better food choices, especially when it all tastes so good!

But for Mexicos’ poor and working class, these options tend to be pricier – plus, the stodgy, heavier food already tastes good.

Some Mexicans blame the arrival of American fast food chains coming over the border selling their junk food snacks.

Such restaurants have spread rapidly since the opening of the local economy to global marketers in the early 1990s.

Urban Mexicans stuff pizza, hamburgers and deep-fried chicken with ease.

Chips are cheap, cookies and sugary soft drinks pack the shelves of local stores.

Wealthier Mexicans have turned to healthier lifestyles.

Supermarkets offer fresher and lighter calorie food. Restaurants serving sushi, salads and the like are popular. Gyms that charge individuals as much as $200 a month are opening up.

As she sits down to eat her lunchtime tacos Ms. Neiman ponders Mexico’s situation.

‘There really is no clear information on nutritional facts in this country and people with poor education are not aware of the risks. They believe the energy a Coke or a fatty food will bring to them is beneficial in order to help them get through the day.’

Quoting an old Mexican proverb, she smiles: ‘In Mexico we say ‘Barriga llena, corazon contento’ which translates as: ‘a full tummy means a happy heart.’ If you eat something delicious you will be very happy. I don’t think anyone can argue with that!’

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Fasting continues to rise as an answer to the obesity pandemic. No surprise here, as this has been the solution for thousands of years, but this article goes a bit deeper into what happens when you break the fast.


Put simply, metabolic flexibility is our cells’ ability to switch between using glucose (sugar) or fat for energy. While we can also utilize other fuel sources for energy, like ketones, glucose and fat are our main energy suppliers.  Glucose is able to provide us with energy much quicker than fat, which is why it is our preferred fuel source for high intense activity.  Even though it’s a slower process, fat molecules still release more energy than glucose.

Metabolic flexibility can be estimated by finding one’s respiratory quotient. In plain terms this helps determine what fuel source you are burning for energy. Why does this matter? Because it can offer a lot of insight in figuring out how your metabolism is operating, are you a carb-burner or a fat-burner? Of course this will vary in terms of what type of exercise you are performing, what foods you are consuming, whether you are fasted or fed, etc. Do you know what else plays a role here? Whether you are lean or obese.

There’s an interesting study which tested the metabolic flexibility of muscle between obese and lean participants. In the fasted state, what they found was that glucose uptake and oxidation was normal or increased when compared to lean people [8]. Also, fat oxidation was lower and fat storage was higher in the obese compared to lean.

So, you eat a meal, what happens next? If you are having carbohydrates, a couple of things will happen. Blood glucose will increase which in turn should result in an insulin release to dispose of the glucose. If your metabolic flexibility is intact and functioning, your cells will begin to burn glucose instead of fat, thus keeping blood glucose controlled.

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Moreover, fasting can change you at the cellular level, according to this article.


Aging is characterized by a decline in the amount and amplitude of autophagy, which allows increased amounts of cellular damage and junk to accumulate.

Autophagy is strongly cyclical, rising and falling over periods of hours and days. Eating strongly decreases autophagy, and fasting increases it. I hope you see where I’m going with this.

If aging means less autophagy and more damage accumulation, and fasting increases autophagy, then fasting fights aging.

In fact, intermittent fasting is the most potent anti-aging strategy available.

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There is a brilliant book, Can You Go?, that argues this same issue that you find in this article.


Calculating a person’s waist-to-height ratio is the most accurate and efficient way of identifying whether or not they are at risk of obesity in clinical practice, a new study by Leeds Beckett University shows.

The research, published in the latest edition of PLOS ONE journal, aimed to improve the way that obesity is currently measured and classified by examining the whole-body fat percentage and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) mass (the fat stored around the abdominal region where most of internal organs lie) of a group of 81 adults (40 women and 41 men). It aimed to find the most accurate way of predicting this measurement in a clinical environment and set cut-points for obesity.

The researchers, led by Dr Michelle Swainson, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology in the Carnegie School of Sport at Leeds Beckett, found that 36.5% more adults would be classified as obese using whole-body fat data (one in two participants) rather than body mass index (BMI) (around one in seven participants, or 13.5%).

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So, how do you train? This article ACTUALLY ties into the tradition (I’m sure somewhere in heaven Tom DeLorme is thinking: “Didn’t I tell you this in the 1940s?”) of varying loads. The research supports what most of us know: you need deloading, lighter loading, and/or easy training sessions.

Surprisingly, the best overall results came from the HLH group. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the extra light workout triggered more muscle growth without compromising recovery. Importantly, the extra muscle also translated into functional gains. The HLH volunteers came out ahead in some measures of leg strength and were the only ones to register decreases in the physiological stress incurred by walking at a modest pace of 4.8 kilometres an hour.

Is the extra “L” workout worthwhile? “Two bouts per week are more practical for broad implementation and HH is pretty effective,” Bamman says, “However, there seems to be added value to the midweek ‘L’ day for overall functional capacity, so when feasible I would still recommend HLH.”

There are a few additional wrinkles. For arm strength, the best approach was HHH – presumably, Bamman explains, because arms aren’t weight bearing so they get more rest between sessions than legs, and can handle a higher training load. So if you’re doing three sessions a week and feel gung-ho, you can work your arms hard on the L day while taking it easy on your legs.

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In a few minutes, I will go work out and tighten up my talks for Germany this week. I also wish you and yours a safe, quiet and wholesome week.

Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


Josh Hillis is fabulous at coaching fat loss, seriously great. One of his key markers is teaching clients how to gauge weight loss progress. Here’s how he does it.

Picking up with “The Sword in the Stone” (Part XIIII)

I formally began coaching in 1979 and, not long after, began teaching. I started teaching courses as a “volunteer,” in a sense, at Utah State University. I was getting my Masters in History, but I would sit in on Ross Peterson’s survey course of American History and Norm Jones’s Western Civilization course.

Both courses were daily 50-minute lectures. In addition to my coursework, my research on my masters, my coaching and my part-time job(s), I sat in for almost two hours a day to hear the sweep of history. I loved it.

I had heard much of the material before getting my bachelors degree, but what I needed was the connections. Literally, you can miss centuries of history if you take classes on Greece and Rome and then pick up a course on the Renaissance. It’s the same basic geography, but a few things happened in between!

I realized later, as a coach, that I was practicing the Whole-Part-Whole-Part method of coaching and learning.

There is a time for detailed, deep study. But, there is also a time to step back and see the whole picture. Both are right.

One day, Norm Jones asked me if I would cover for him in his class for a week while he traveled. He asked me to lecture on Anglo-Saxon England including Beowulf and the early Viking “issues.” Obviously, I had to prep for this and I loved every minute of it.

I was 22 and many of my students were far older than me. Ross Peterson later asked me to cover a few lectures, too.

I “dived” in. There is no better way to learn than to lean over and jump in. If you are with Merlyn, you change in more ways than just your mind.

In The Sword in the Stone, Wart’s education is going to be expanded by some of the greatest Field Trips in the history of education. The first story is going to “in depth” as literally Wart will be turned into a fish (and I love the pun). Let’s pick up on the story:


The Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned. He had the glee of the porpoise then, pouring and leaping through strange seas.

“Shall we go out?” asked Merlyn. “I think it is about time we began lessons.”

The Wart’s heart sank at this. His tutor had been there a month, and it was now August, but they had done no lessons so far. Now he suddenly remembered that this was what Merlyn was for, and he thought with dread of Summulae Logicales and the filthy astrolabe. He knew that it had to be borne, however, and got up obediently enough, after giving Cavall a last reluctant pat. He thought that it might not be so bad with Merlyn, who might be able to make even the old Organon interesting, particularly if he would do some magic.

They went into the courtyard, into a sun so burning that the heat of hay-making seemed to have been nothing. It was baking. The thunder-clouds which usually go with hot weather were there, high columns of cumulus with glaring edges, but there was not going to be any thunder. It was too hot even for that. “If only,” thought the Wart, “I did not have to go into a stuffy classroom, but could take off my clothes and swim in the moat.”

They crossed the courtyard, having almost to take deep breaths before they darted across it, as if they were going quickly through an oven. The shade of the gatehouse was cool, but the barbican, with its close walls, was hottest of all. In one last dash across the desert they had reached the drawbridge—could Merlyn have guessed what he was thinking?—and were staring down into the moat.

It was the season of water-lilies. If Sir Ector had not kept one section free of them for the boys’ bathing, all the water would have been covered. As it was, about twenty yards on each side of the bridge were cut each year, and one could dive in from the bridge itself. The moat was deep. It was used as a stew, so that the inhabitants of the castle could have fish on Fridays, and for this reason the architects had been careful not to let the drains and sewers run into it. It was stocked with fish every year.

“I wish I was a fish,” said the Wart.

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We literally stand with Wart and Merlyn on the edge of this story now looking down into the water. The magic of The Sword in the Stone is the stories of the transformations. Wart’s animal friends teach him about strength and history. Every concept of power and leadership is coupled with a history lesson.

Wart is given a little bit, a part, of every aspect of being a kind, being the man who will pull the sword from the stone, but it is always put into perspective…the whole.

I love this line:

“The Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned.”

I used the insight throughout my life. Now, as I have more past than future, I continue to talk with children and teens as peers. I talk to them about books, usually books they have read. If I haven’t read a book that makes their heart leap, I read it and get back to them.

One of my foundational points is the absolute dignity of every human person. I think a lot of people agree with this, then treat children like idiots. Now, as a veteran of the high school hallway for decades, kids do idiotic things, yes…and they have an ability to do stupid things very well.

That’s their behaviors. I think we need to correct them, but treat them like people, not babies.

It’s a tough lesson for some parents!

Literally, we are about to dive into this story!