Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 241
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 241
Going to a sibling’s funeral certainly makes one take stock of one’s mortality. My brother, Phil, and my neighbor, Kim, are both dead now. We were The Three Musketeers in a thousand adventures saving the world from all kinds of nefarious villains. Our swords were sticks, Christmas wrapping paper tubes and Easter lilies.
My mom always got mad when we used the Easter lilies. She felt they should make our garden more lovely; we thought we needed them to keep our enemies at bay.
I have a fairly extensive “to do” list staring at me right now. As I mentioned last week, my daughter is getting married this Saturday. I have had more than a few people ask, “How are you going to do it?” Well, I have friends and family stepping up and I may need some help getting through the Father of the Bride speech. I still have to make sure the house is in order, my dog is taken care of and a dozen details (the first case of under-hyperbole in my life) are done.
In 1996, I wrote in my administration newsletter my three-point success formula:
1. Show up.
2. Don’t quit.
3. Ask questions.
I always liked to think I invented it, but, like anything valuable in life, I had it handed down to me. This truth hit me in the face when I buried my brother. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote a lovely tribute to him and his volunteer work written by Lizzie Johnson.
How much of Phil’s death can be attributed to the trauma of the fire, no one knows. But many people can’t imagine Paradise without him.
That is, in part, because Phil could be conned into anything — collecting cash at the ticket window before high school football games, dyeing his hair silver for his roles in the spring ballet, volunteering his time or his car or his movie collection. He did it, he said, because he loved his town. He would mutter and complain, so you knew it was a sacrifice, but he always showed up.
If you committed to something, you followed through. Phil believed in that.
(See the full article here: He tried to make Paradise all its name implied: Long after the Camp Fire, resident’s death opens wounds)
I come from people who “showed up.” When the country called, they volunteered. When the neighbors had a project, “we” had a project.
I swear half my victories come from the fact that I “showed up” and competed.
It’s easy to say “Show up” or post on the wall or make a meme of it. In life, it can be hard to do. Showing up means you get out of your comfy bed and spend a day pushing, pulling and picking up loads and loads of stuff up and down flights of stairs like my friends have done for me over and over. Chris Long and I used to joke we were “Dumb and Dumber Moving Company” long before the movie by that name came out.
You show up. Friends show up. Families show up.
And, if you are like my brother Phil, when you die, a thousand people show up to your “Celebration of Life.”
Because that’s what good people do. They show up.
(In my brain, I can’t think of a way to segue into what I read on the internet…so imagine a brilliant transition.)
This article is just for fun.
Watch for changes and communicate concerns: For many children, fire is a harmless, pleasant addition to their lives. But for some it can become an all-consuming passion. If your child seems to be growing unhealthily attached to the fire, don’t wait to talk to him about it. A few common fire-obsessed behaviors to look out for include:
• Distraction: ignoring people when they are in the same room as fire
• Preoccupation: talking or thinking about fire, even when there is no fire present
• Deception: going off to secretly find/make fires; lying about fire usage when confronted
• Anthropomorphization: talking to/interacting with the fire as if it were a sentient being, which the elders we consulted say is highly unlikely, though they have yet to entirely rule out the presence of powerful magical beings within the inferno.
The discussion on walking seems to meander all over the place (attempt at humor), but I like this simple and doable article on this basic human activity.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a brisk pace as being able to talk but not sing while you walk. That’s about 100 steps per minute for most people, according to one recent study. Based on Lee’s research above, that means 44 minutes per day of shuffling along—around the house, at work, or on an evening stroll—to get the health benefits seen at 4,400 steps.
Federal health officials say adults should get at least 2.5 hours weekly (21 minutes a day) of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, plus do some muscle-strengthening exercises. Children and adolescents should get at least one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. Such activity improves everything from mood and energy level to sleep and cognitive abilities, along with blood pressure and other physical health measures, according to the American Heart Association.
Problem is, the vast majority of Americans, young and old, don’t achieve the minimum standards.
Read this. Ruin your day.
But in the ’60s, the SRF became aware of “flowing reports that sugar is a less desirable dietary source of calories than other carbohydrates,” as John Hickson, SRF vice president and director of research, put it in one document.
He recommended that the industry fund its own studies — “Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors.”
The next year, after several scientific articles were published suggesting a link between sucrose and coronary heart disease, the SRF approved the literature-review project. It wound up paying approximately $50,000 in today’s dollars for the research.
One of the researchers was the chairman of Harvard’s Public Health Nutrition Department — and an ad hoc member of SRF’s board.
I teach religious studies and absolutely love the field. The problem with religion, and this is nothing new, is…like Soylent Green…”it’s people!” This article is just a fascinating look at breakfast, God, and the road to fatsville.
During the early 19th century, most Americans subsisted on a diet of pork, whiskey, and coffee. It was hell on the bowels, and to many Christian fundamentalists, hell on the soul, too. They believed that constipation was God’s punishment for eating meat. The diet was also blamed for fueling lust and laziness. To rid America of these vices, religious zealots spearheaded the country’s first vegetarian movement. In 1863, one member of this group, Dr. James Jackson, invented Granula, America’s first ready-to-eat, grain-based breakfast product. Better known as cereal, Jackson’s rock-hard breakfast bricks offered consumers a sin-free meat alternative that aimed to clear both conscience and bowels.
While Jackson’s innovation didn’t appeal to the masses, it did catch the attention of Dr. John Kellogg. A renowned surgeon and health guru, Kellogg had famously transformed the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan into one of America’s hottest retreats. Socialites from the Rockefellers to the Roosevelts flocked to “The San” to receive Kellogg’s unorthodox treatments. But shock-therapy sessions and machine-powered enemas weren’t the only items on the agenda. Kellogg also stressed such newfangled ideas as exercise and proper nutrition. It wasn’t long before he started serving bran biscuits similar to those of Dr. Jackson—only now with the Kellogg name on them. To avoid a lawsuit, he changed the name of the cereal by one letter, dubbing it “Granola.”
By 1889, The San was selling 2 tons of granola a week, despite the fact that it was barely edible. The success inspired Dr. Kellogg and his brother, W.K., to produce more-palatable fare. After six years of experimentation, a kitchen mishap by W.K. yielded the breakfast staple known as cereal flakes.
In many ways, the cereal flake is the perfect consumer product. It’s easy to produce, easy to sell, and surprisingly lucrative. To this day, cereal comes with an eye-popping profit margin of 50 percent. These merits became clear to Charles Post, a failed suspender salesman who moved to Battle Creek in 1895. Post began selling knock-off versions of Kellogg’s products with a twist of his own—advertising. At the time, advertising was associated with snake-oil salesmen and con artists. But Post, who had a background in sales, didn’t mind drizzling a little snake oil on his product. He published pamphlets with titles such as “The Road To Wellville” and claimed his cereal, Grape-Nuts, could cure appendicitis, improve one’s IQ, and even “make red blood redder.” By 1903, he was clearing $1 million a year.
I wrote something about this years ago and I regret some of my snarky comments: The History of Dieting and Take Home Lessons.
I’m a firm believer that “sleep is the answer” to so many things. This article does a nice job making it easy to see the great need.
The hormone pathway has been one of the important recent discoveries in sleep research. This research shows that sleep is closely related to our appetite and other hormones. The authors of the recent JAMA Internal Medicine paper, for example, suggested that light exposure at night might nudge people towards weight gain by interfering with melatonin levels that our brains produce to help regulate our sleep cycles. Disrupted melatonin levels, in animal studies, reduce sleep quality and increase eating.
Sleep research in humans also indicates that several metabolic hormones are disrupted. A pair of appetite hormones called leptin and ghrelin – regulating our feelings of fullness and hunger, respectively – are affected by sleep in precisely the way that you’d expect to cause weight gain. Ghrelin levels increase with poor sleep, producing more hunger. And leptin levels reduce, requiring more food to feel full. Even our body’s response to insulin changes in response to sleep. Poor sleep forces our pancreas to secrete a larger amount of insulin to metabolize food compared to when we are better rested. A combination of less melatonin and leptin and more ghrelin and insulin is a disaster for a person concerned about their weight.
This is from Kevin Mass’s mother. Kevin trains with me often…he is a good friend…and I was floored when he shared this article about his mom. It’s heartbreaking.
In the early months of 1942, six-year-old Amy Iwasaki would wake up each morning and go to the front door to see if her father’s packed bag was still there.
Her father had bought a leather satchel just big enough to hold belongings for a short trip. It loomed large in Amy’s life.
Genichiro had packed the bag and placed it by the door of their home in East Hollywood in case the FBI came to take him away. He was not guilty of anything other than being an immigrant from Japan, but in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, he was a potential spy in the eyes of the U.S. government.
“I woke up each morning afraid that he was gone,” Amy told a government commission some 40 years later.
The trauma of not knowing if her father would be taken away while she was asleep became a permanent childhood memory.
So, by the time you read this, I will have boxes and bags and gowns packed up to move from here to there. Next week, I will have memories and photographs. That’s the way of the world.
And, until then, keep on lifting and learning.
For your quick access link, here’s Dan’s full OTP page, including all of his articles, books, lectures and videos, all in one place.
The Sword in the Stone, Part 95
“See,” he said, and began stroking it from the head downwards: a touch which the poor creature tried to evade but soon accepted, in its ceaseless efforts to pour and pour away.
“Everybody kills them,” said Merlyn indignantly. “Some by-our-lady fool once said that you could tell an adder because it had a V on its head, which stood for viper. It would take you five minutes to find the mark on an adder’s head anyway, but these helpless beauties with their bright yellow black-bordered V get bashed to death in consequence. Here, catch hold of him.”
The Wart took the serpent gingerly into his hands, taking care to hold it well away from the vent from which the white smell came. He had thought that snakes were slimy as well as dangerous, but this was not. It was as dry as a piece of living rope, and had, like rope, a pleasing texture to the fingers, on account of its scales. Every ounce of it was muscle, every plate of its belly was a strong and moving foot. He had held toads before, and they, the fat, philosophical warty creatures, had been a little clammy on account of their loose flesh. This creature, on the other hand, was dry and delicately rough and liquid power. It was the same temperature as the ground in which it basked.
My issue, as always, with the 1958 version of our book is that it dropped out some of these brilliant sections. T. H. White’s description of simply picking up a snake brings me deeply into the scene.
For those of you who know what is going to happen (Spoiler Alert!), when young Arthur pulls the Sword from the Stone, our snake friend here will sum history and strength training together as he urges Arthur along:
A Snake, slipping easily along the coping which bounded the holy earth, said, “Now then, Wart, if you were once able to walk with three hundred ribs at once, surely you can co-ordinate a few little muscles here and there? Make everything work together, as you have been learning to do ever since God let the amphibian crawl out of the sea. Fold your powers together, with the spirit of your mind, and it will come out like butter. Come along, homo sapiens, for we humble friends of yours are waiting here to cheer.”
White’s description of our ropey, muscled snake has always stood out to me:
“Every ounce of it was muscle, every plate of its belly was a strong and moving foot.”
It would be nice for me to be described like that…I’ll pass on the doughnuts today!
We are in for one of the great transformations; Wart becomes a snake. The dreams and stories that we find are some of White’s finest insights on history and humanity. As a child, my favorite scene was the fish transformation…as I age, I embrace our snake more and more.
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