Some Interesting Nutrition Findings

Experimental Biology 2007 by Mike Roussell of talks about some of the findings presented at this years Experimental Biology conference in Washington, DC.

Of particular interest was the review of Dr. Barbara Rolls talk:

1) People given either 500 grams or 1000 grams of macaroni and cheese. The ones who received the larger portion ate 33% more calories and reported the same levels of satiety and hunger compared to the people given the smaller portion. These findings did not differ between lean and obese people.

2) 69% of chefs are responsible for the portion sizes served at their restaurant. How they determine the portion size is dictated by the following (in order of importance) — presentation, cost of food, customer expectation, calorie content.

3) Restaurants serve 3 times the recommended amount of all types of food except fruits and vegetables.

4) When people were provided all their food (in caloric excess) for 11 days, they ate 400 calories more per day than needed and consumed more of all types of foods except fruits and vegetables.

5) Drinking water with a meal won’t decrease energy intake, but if you add the water to the meal (i.e. to make a soup or stew), then you’ll consume less calories.

6) Eating a small salad before a meal leads to a decrease in total energy consumption for the entire meal.

7) How much people eat is determined by how much the food weighs not how many calories are in the food.

I found it very interesting that people will eat more if more food is made available to them but will tend to report feeling just as full as they would if they ate less. It is also unusual that soup or salad before a meal lowers over all calorie consumption but water alone does not – I wonder if it has something to do with flavor?

I didn’t find it surprising that people will tend to NOT over eat fruits and vegetables. I don’t believe that these foods serve a survival function, at least not from an evolutionary point of view. They do improve the quality of life but animal flesh and sugar rule the day when dealing with energy storage. The antioxidant qualities of green leafy vegetables are of no significance to a creature that is about to enter the food scarcity phase that winter tends to facilitate.

A Conscious Experience Described

A few of my recent posts have left me wondering how other people experience reality and consciousness. It’s a dreadful thing to think about because I first assumed “exactly like I do” and then realized I haven’t been able to put that into word. I’m house sitting at Des and Sarah’s house. I’m in the basement, in front of the computer sitting on a chair. So I’m going to try. It’s probably futile but we’ll see.

Lets deal with the sensory input and it’s impact on consciousness.

Visual: It’s like a huge movie screen and what I can see very clearly is a small portion of the field of view. I am aware of everything that is in my field of view, I may not know what it is, in fact, all of it is just stuff until I actually move my eyes to look directly at it. For example, there are two speakers, one on each side of the monitor. When I’m looking at the screen, I can sort of see them in the periphery but I’m not really able to think about them clearly until I look at one of them directly and then it becomes something real. But I’m immediately much less aware of the monitor. In the same way, I have very little awareness of the key board, but I know it’s beneath my fingers and I know I’m hitting the correct keys because the letters are appearing on the screen. When I look down at the keyboard, the monitor shrinks in importance and I’m almost completely aware of only the key board.

It seems that when my eyes are open and there’s enough light to see by, my conscious awareness is based almost completely on what is in the very center of my field of view. What the internal voice says in response is varied. It may say “speaker” when I look at it, it may point out a feature, it may announce the function of something, etc… It is as though the understanding of speaker is created in my consciousness and this starts my brain looking for memories that are somehow related to the understanding of speaker.

The memories go two ways, one is about these speakers the other is about speakers in general. I’m thinking about some of the songs I’ve heard Des mix here and I’m also thinking about being at a rave and the wall of speakers they had.

Seeing not just the speaker cone, but the casing, I start to think about how they make the casing, how would they test the speakers, how many people were involved in making and shipping these particular speakers, and if the blue power on LEDs are going to give me a headache?

My eyes are moving though, they are jumping all over the place, scanning and keeping me aware of what is in the room. It’s like the eyes scanning keeps an information buffer filled with an understanding of what my immediate environment is like. E.g. after a few minutes of looking at the screen, I stop being aware of the speakers. I need to actively think about it if I want to remember. However, if my eyes keep scanning, I’ll always know that they are there. It’s like there is 15-30 seconds of a situational buffer that allows me to be aware of stuff without actually sensing it. But it empties very quickly. I know there is a drum set behind me, a TV, a dart board, a chair and a couch. But I have no idea where any of that stuff is. Any mental map I made containing this information has dissipated a long time ago. I’m keenly aware of what is in front of me, but clueless as to what exactly is behind me.

I’ve covered my eye and stopped visual input to see what happens to my understanding of the room.

Okay, I seemed to hear more, sound grabbed more and more of my attention the longer my eyes remained closed. Also, I went from knowing what the room was like to understanding what the room was like. The monitor, speakers and keyboard stopped being something that I was aware of and I felt that I was at a desk using a computer, not this desk or this computer but a desk and a computer as tools or ways to get something done vs. being things that actually exist in this basement. It seems that things quickly stop being a sensation and start being a memory. The sensations feel a little more tangible while the memories are abstract and exist as understandings of what something is.

I’ve covered them again.

Yes, my awareness of what I am hearing increases dramatically after about 10 seconds as my awareness of what existed visually fades into an understanding of what exists. With my eyes open, I hear only the computer fan, but with them closed I think I can hear the fridge in the kitchen. Without visual input, the situational buffer becomes saturated with auditory information that would normally get displaced by visual information. Maybe it’s able to work with a particular amount of energy and with the eyes closed, it amplifies the input from the ears to achieve this level.

The computer fan and the possible sound of the fridge are not creating any verbal thoughts other than my initially thought “what am I hearing, is that the fridge?” Knowing it’s a computer fan maintains an understanding of a computer as a tool but not this specific computer, the same applies with the fridge.

I’m not really sure of what to make of all this so I’m going to sit on it for a while to see what my brain does with it. Suffice to say it was a worthwhile exercise because I hadn’t thought of any many of these things before.

Celebrate Your Failures

Yesterday someone I work with told me to celebrate my failures. He said it because I didn’t connect with a potential client properly and it ended up costing me a sale. I didn’t take the time I needed to be to recognized the next day. I didn’t make an impression because I didn’t care enough to make a good one.

He had a smile on his face when he said it because he knew it was a lesson. His point is valid if you are able to put your ego to the side and accept that you screwed up.

I learn more quickly when I accept that I have made a mistake, work to understand what I did wrong and moved to figure out how to avoid repeating it. By telling me to celebrate my failures, he was reminding me to hold onto my humanity, smile and improve my self-awareness. Great advice that I followed.

Today was better. I don’t think anyone I met today will forget me so I’m kicking my feet up and celebrating my lesson.

Stimulus -> Response? No It’s Stimulus -> Moment -> Response

Des once told me that there is a moment between stimulus and response and how we use that moment will determine what type of people we are and the quality of choices that we make. He said that once you realize that there is a period of time, you can then work to expand it and make more logical decisions instead of emotional reactions. That was a few years ago. It made logical sense at the time but it making practical sense has been long time in coming.

Well, yesterday I caught myself almost getting angry and in the moment when I realized the rage was building, I stopped and asked myself the question “why are you getting angry about this?” I was boiling water for tea and left the kettle in the kitchen. When I came back a few minutes later, I didn’t realize that someone had used the water and just turned the kettle on again to make sure the water was hot. If you didn’t know, it’s better for kettles if they have water in them when they are on. Nothing bad happened but I was told that you need to make sure there is water in the kettle before you turn it on.

I don’t know why, but having someone tell me this really got under my skin. It bothered me so much that I actually took the moment to try and figure out why it bothered me. My internal reaction was so strong that my initial guess what that I felt that someone was attacking me personally and unjustly. I asked myself what I was afraid of and why the words “you need to run it with water in it because it’ll break otherwise” caused such a visceral response. As I talked myself through it I realized that my interpretation of the sentence was what was causing the problem. I heard a lot of stuff that wasn’t said and I had started to react to that. I made assumptions about what the person was implying and didn’t stick with just the facts.

The fact was, I ran the kettle with very little water in it and that will ruin a kettle.

What I took out of the comment “you need to run it with water in it because it’ll break otherwise” was a negative value judgement about me and my intelligence. The person was saying that I didn’t know how to use a kettle, that I was too stupid to figure it out and that I always did that type of thing. I don’t think my response would have been out of line if I had actually been told that I was stupid but, that wasn’t what was said. The other person stated a fact because they saw me doing something that didn’t make any sense. Which is fair because they hadn’t seen the other person slip in and use the water while I was out of the room.

What was odd about yesterday was how quickly I stopped the anger from building and tracked down its source. Normally the reaction takes hold and I’m left to let it run its course, only to figure it out later. This time I KNEW the rage feeling wasn’t appropriate so I checked out of the process and took a moment to identify what I was feeling, why I usually feel that way and how I took what was said to me as I did.

It was kind of cool because I stopped the emotional reaction dead in its tracks. It’s one of the first times that I’ve been able to grab hold of it mid process, engage it and take corrective actions to stop it from continuing. I’m also very happy to have identified my reactive tendency towards taking neutral comments as criticisms. Taken together, it’s a big step forward in my awareness of what is going on unconsciously in my brain.

Des was right about the existence of that moment of time, now I start to work on lengthening it.

Blink Experienced – Seeing The Big Picture

I went to Ottawa last weekend. Deb and I left after my 8:30 AM class on Saturday and we got there around 4:30 PM. I didn’t speed very much because there were so many police along the 401 – 4 or 5 radar check points on Saturday and 3 or 4 on Sunday on the way home. They got a lot of people, I get the feeling they paid for one of their nice new cars this weekend. People broke the law and they got caught, that’s all there is to it.

Deb doesn’t drive but she’s a great passenger. She has a skill for reading the road for potential problems. She seems to know when there are police around. It’s a weird skill, but it became very clear this weekend what is going on. We happened upon a blink moment were the world made sense. Her’s is a skill that we all can possess but most fail to take advantage of.

Deb is very bright and since she doesn’t drive so she has to entertain herself other ways. I’m pretty bright, but I’m distracted when I drive because I have to focus on not crashing the car or driving off the road. My role is basically to keep the car and the passengers safe. I focus only on what can potentially harm us which means the east bound lanes if I’m driving east and the west bound lanes if I’m driving west. But Deb is free to look at whatever she likes and she does. She picks up on patterns that I have to ignore. Specially, as it applies to keeping the police away, she does look at the other side of the road and she notices when the cars slow down.

There is an order to the way people drive. When traffic volume is low and allows for people to drive how they choose, as you find along the 401 between Toronto and the 416 cut-off, people generally drive a particular way. There is a normal distribution of car speeds much like the curve associated with IQ scores with most cars travelling within 15 Km / h of the speed limit. There are a couple of things that will lower these speeds consistently, one is a car crash the other is a police office with a radar gun or manning a speed trap.

Like a car crash, the speed trap will only slow the drivers down for a short period of time – we habituate the threat rapidly and return to our normal driving speed within 3 or 4 Km. However, a speed trap will slow down traffic on BOTH sides of the road not just the side that is getting monitored. What this means is that if you notice a sudden decrease in the speed of on coming traffic, there is likely a police office around.

Sure enough, this is what we noticed. There is a decrease in the speed of oncoming cars as you near a speed trap. It is subtle, but it does exist and it makes complete sense that one would be able to pick up on it. Deb is open to this piece of information because she doesn’t have to focus just on the traffic in the lanes in front of her. She is able to see the big picture and create an understanding based on these extra pieces of information.

Regardless of our ability to predict speed traps based on the behavior of other drivers, you shouldn’t speed because it’s dangerous.

Muscles for Athletes Part II by Christian Thibaudeau

Muscles for Athletes, Part II The Hypertrophy Methods by Christian Thibaudeau of T-Nation is mandatory reading for athletes and training professionals who want to keep their clients at the front of the pack and on the podium. It covers a variety of topics including concentric, ballistic, eccentric and isometric muscle contractions as they apply to athletic performance and functional muscle development. Christian also includes exercises, instruction and periodization cycles to maximize your gains.

I do not pretend to understand everything he is writing, but I will say this, when I have followed his advice before, I have seen improvements in my speed and times on the trails. His advice on isometric training mirrors exactly the advice Rachel gave me a couple of weeks ago – I’m not surprised by this given her immersion in the athletic therapy field and Christians track record with training performance athletes.

If you are going to be racing against me this year, DO NOT read his article.

New Starts and Falling in Love With The Future

I’ve taken a couple of day’s off from blogging to find myself again.

I wasn’t as lost as I was over the last 3 decades, but I’m starting a new job today and tend to find my mind wondering on all the possibilities of what it could become. I am a dreamer and I love to dream, even when I’m awake and particularly when I start something new.

I’m not sure how the new job is going to impact what I write, or how much I will write, but I know it’s going to influence things. New experience delivers us to new knowledge and if you keep your mind open, eventually to wisdom. I’m hoping to learn a lot and nurture a new level of self-awareness.

I’m happy about getting the job. I got the lead from an old friend I reconnected with on Facebook – so already there’s some new wisdom as I’m going to have to edit my unpublished draft of my article what Facebook is good for to include helping you find work.

You could say that I have that falling in love feeling again because I’m filled with optimism and excitement. There are a bunch of new experiences waiting for me in the next couple of months and I’m probably going to lose myself in a lot of new challenges. There’s the usual apprehension I have when I’m about to start something new, but given what I’ve learned about myself since taking the RPM training in February, I know I just need to take a deep breath, exhale and walk through the door. I can’t predict the future so I’m not going to try. I’ll be successful and right now I have no idea exactly what that will mean in this circumstance.

What will be will be.

Socialization 101

My world made more sense when I realized the following things:

  • Things are the way they are because the environment favored those who possess the traits we presently possess. Natural selection favors the best suited and these traits get passed along to their off spring. All human beings have these traits.
  • We possess the traits of human beings 10000 years ago and they are best suited for survival in that era. However, technology has increased so dramatically since then that our environment is no longer then same but we have not adapted to the changes yet.
  • The goal of the individual is to survive.
  • Before society an individual could not survive on their own, they needed to be part of a group.
  • Before society, human beings were somewhere in the middle of the food chain. They needed to be cautions and afraid all the time in order to survive.
  • The world makes a lot of sense when we are older and looking back at development, but it does not make sense looking forward. When we relate to children we need to remember that they have very little concept of the future.
  • Classical and Operant conditioning work with human beings more effective when they are young and before they are able to think about the world in an abstract way (e.g. formal operational stage).
  • The brain does not treat thought and reality as different things – functional mri scans indicate that only the motor cortex shows a decrease in activity when someone thinks about something vs. them actually doing it.
  • Human beings are very effective at encoding and matching patterns.
  • Thinking about a conditioned stimulus will evoke the conditioned response.
  • Most often we are unaware of the conditioning therefore it is an automatic response.
  • Reconditioning takes more effort than initial conditioning.
  • We create survival rules to increase the likelihood that we’ll survive.
  • Once we notice a pattern and form a survival rule concerning it, we rarely test the rule because historically to do so increases the chances of dying.
  • Emotions serve to draw our attention to a particular moment.
  • Adaptively emotions will alert you to a pattern in the environment that you have encoded before. Action may be required.
  • Mal-adaptively emotions can become conditioned responses to unrelated things.

How I Learn My RPM Choreo

Once every 3 months I receive new music and choreography for LMI for the RPM Group Cycling program I teach. I have about 6 weeks to learn the release and be ready to teach it for the class. It’s a standardized program so I have to teach it a standardized way. That means there is a right and a wrong way to perform the release so it is very clear when I don’t get it right.

My challenge is to learn 9 songs in six weeks. If I do it, I get to lead successful classes and if I don’t, the class is more stressful and a lot less fun.

How do I do it?

1) Listen to the music over and over again so I know the songs inside and out. I need to be able to start hearing a song mid way thought and know exactly how people should be riding the bike. If I’m working too hard, my head can get a little spacey so it helps to know your way through the music. I listen to the music in the car, when I’m riding outside, when I’m working out in the gym and sometimes when I’m writing.

2) Know the profile of each track and of the class. The class profile is always the same so song 4 is always going to bring you the same sort of experience, although the timing of the hills and the racing sections is going to be different. There are patterns within the tracks and once you find them, the profile starts to make sense and becomes very easy to remember.

3) Learn the level of exertion that is required for each track. I only needed to learn this once because it is fairly stable between releases.

4) Practice the release with the music playing through speakers in front of a mirror and verbally cueing and coaching until it flows out of me. Perfect practice makes perfect. I can’t stress enough the impact of an elevated heart rate on ones ability to perform tasks that require thinking. Once it goes above 165, I’m pretty useless at novel tasks.

5) Continue to practice older releases as well because they reveal patterns for particular tracks. Also, it takes a lot to learn them and very little to keep remembering them.

6) Attend as many RPM classes as I can. I’ve noticed that other instructors add different things to the performance of a release, things that I may not have picked up on or things that I may never have been able to think of. Whenever one of these things presents itself to me, I usually remember it because it is so different from anything I’ve thought of.

Admittedly, learning the choreography for RPM isn’t as difficult as it would be for an LMI program like Body Jam or Body Flow, but when you’ve never had to learn choreography for anything before, it can be challenging. It comes down to understanding what you are supposed to do and knowing the music inside and out.

We’re All Equally Alive And Aware, And The Same

I am constantly forgetting that everyone has a unique experience of consciousness. What exactly that is may be the same, but each individual feels as alive and aware as I do. It’s so easy to forget because I’m the only perspective of my conscious experience. It’s hard to believe sometimes but the other people I interact with are not part of the movie I’m watching. They have the same potential for pretty much everything that I do – joy, sadness, learning, injury, cognitive distortions, hunger, dreaming, etc…

Each one of them is as real as I am and they feel too.

When I’m not forgetting that they are real, I am forgetting that they are very similar to me. One of my university professors claimed that all human beings are almost genetically identical to each other, that any diversity we see is the result of differences in a very small percentage of the genetic code, he said less than one percent. That means there’s a very good chance that many people will respond to certain stimuli the same way I do, that we’ll think in similar terms and that we’ll have similar abilities. Why then is it that when someone bumps into me with their shopping card I concluded that they are probably stupid but when I bump into them it’s because I wasn’t able to navigate through the tight aisles? Because of the fundamental attribution error.

The fundamental attribution error is the tendency for us to explain behavior in terms of internal disposition, such as personality traits, abilities, motives, etc. as opposed to external environmental factors that may have impacted the individual. We don’t judge ourselves like this because we have an understanding of our external environment which clearly explains our behavior. But this understanding doesn’t help us explain someone else behaviour and since we don’t have their understanding we manufacture one that usually has them being a sub par human being.

It works both ways though. Sometimes people will be so taken by another that they are unable to see their internal traits in a negative light and blame the environment for all negative outcomes. The experience of first love can be like this as it is all consuming and often at odds with reality. Another example is the person you know who is just really unlucky and has all the bad things happen to them. At some point it becomes evident that they are making some poor decisions that are leading to very predictable outcomes that they attribute to bad luck. In this case, the fundamental attribution error would not be an error.

Why would it be our tendency to make guesses about others character based on their behaviour instead of the environment, as we do with ourselves? Obviously this tendency kept our ancestors alive through out history. I think it has something to do with magical thinking and our desire to gain an advantage over others. Attributing other’s behavior to their underlying character allows us to determine the motives of others that will help us make predictions about them, these predictions with help us save energy by eliminating the need to think.

I make this claim because it works with both negative and positive behaviours – we will assume someone who does nice things is a good person regardless of any environmental influence. For example, how many times have you heard someone play down their heroic actions by saying “I did what anyone would do in that situation”? Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong, but the sheer number of people who act like selflessly in crisis situations does tend to lend support to their notion that people act with kindness and caring when they are faced with difficult environmental conditions.

It would seem that in our quest to stay alive, we conserve energy in whatever ways we can. One of these ways is to compartmentalize our understanding of people by eliminating the potential role the environment plays in their behaviour. And this makes sense because the environment is ever changing, creating an understanding of others that is static makes interacting with the world that much easier. But, it doesn’t change the fact that others are exactly as we are, alive, aware and full of humanity.