The “New” Canada’s Food Guide – A Brief History and What Is Missing – Part Two

It is not the sweetness that we find rewarding, it is the reward chemicals that we find rewarding and we learn that sweet things cause a release of these reward chemicals. The same applies to things that are high in fat and sugar. While these foods serve a survival function given that they promote body fat storage, this is not the reason why we eat them. We seek them out because they cause a massive release of reward chemicals and not because we enjoy them directly. These reward chemicals serve as the motivation to take specific actions, actions that played a role in ensuring that our ancestors survived while those who did not seek out high calorie food did not.

This is the second part of this post. If you have not already read or listened to The “New” Canada’s Food Guide – A Brief History and What Is Missing Part One, check it out as this one is simply a continuation of that post

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The next version of the guide was released in 2007 as Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide and it did contain most of the information that wasn’t included in the 1992 guide. The number of servings of grain products was reduced in general. However, the guide serving recommendations are broken-out by age and gender. This change gave the guide more prescriptive power that reflected the specific and changing needs of each gender throughout the course of their life. In general, males burn more calories and, as a result, their need for vitamins and minerals is slightly higher.

This guide is also more detailed, 6 pages vs. 2, and includes a lot more online features. It is clear that it is an attempt to create something that is more useful and that will appeal to a much wider audience. It includes more information about exercise, both in terms of frequency and intensity, along with the potential outcomes you might experience as a result of engaging in an exercise program.

The 2007 guide represents the first real steps towards “mindful” eating. For example, it invites people to limit certain foods that are high calories, sugar and fat, along with limiting trans-fat. It asks people to “read the label” in order to become aware of what is in the food they are selecting to eat. While these are important steps in the right direction, they are too late for a lot of people given the poor advice that was provided 15 years before. People had free reign for a decade and a half to eat too many servings of grain products and would now find themselves in a less than ideal place as a result of it. Worse still would be the lasting consequence on any of the children who had been subjected to this bad advice – primarily higher levels of body fat and the deeply stored incorrect wisdom inside their brain caused by 15 years of conditioning.

Here’s the problem, while human beings are genetically coded to find certain things rewarding, they are born without any knowledge of just what there things are. Over time they learn how to trigger the reward chemicals and with enough practice and exposure they will develop the exact behaviors needed to release these chemicals. However, if they never get exposed to the things that cause the release or if their exposure is limited or conditional, they will never cultivate the level of refinement that is required to develop compulsive overeating.

It important to step out of this conversation at this point to consider why human beings find sweet things to be enjoyable and why they find fat and sweet combination irresistible. At first thought the answer seems obvious, we like sweet things because they are sweet and we seek out and over-eat food that are high in fat and sugar because they are high in calories. But these explanation are not accurate, or at least, they are incomplete. We enjoy sweet things because our brains release reward chemicals in response to consuming them and with enough practice, we learn that we will release reward chemicals in response to eating sweet things. It is not the sweetness that we find rewarding, it is the reward chemicals that we find rewarding and we learn that sweet things cause a release of these reward chemicals. The same applies to things that are high in fat and sugar. While these foods serve a survival function given that they promote body fat storage, this is not the reason why we eat them. We seek them out because they cause a massive release of reward chemicals and not because we enjoy them directly. These reward chemicals serve as the motivation to take specific actions, actions that played a role in ensuring that our ancestors survived while those who did not seek out high calorie food did not.

Let this sink in.

Now consider the fact that drugs like cocaine and amphetamine do exactly the same thing. When we consume these types of drugs, our brain responds by releasing the same reward chemicals that are released when we eat sugar and sugar and fat combinations.

Now we move on to the 2019 version of Canada’s Food Guide. This version is very different from any that came before it in that it makes no recommendation about number of servings. It is, in fact, a guide in the purest sense of the word. While each of the previous versions doled out recommendation about how much food a person should eat, 5-10 servings of vegetables and fruit in the 1992 guide for example, this version does not. The quantities approach that was taken by all that came before has been replaced with a qualitative method that satisfies a need to educate. For this reason it is better and worse.

It continues to build upon the mindful eating approach that was launched in 2007 and encourages people to prepare more of the meals and to eat with other people more often. It invites people to consider the experience of eating in terms of pace, fullness of flavors, smells, and textures, the amount of chewing a food requires, and their motivation or reasons for eating, etc. All are important considerations in generating any level of awareness about ones eating habits and behavior. However it doesn’t ask people to reflect on how the food made them feel, which is arguably the most important aspect of mindful eating. For example, if someone eats 4 cookies after eating a large dinner and upon reflection realizes that they were not actually hungry for the cookies and did not find eating them to be satiating, it may raise the questions about the function of the cookies and the person’s relationship with ending a meal with something that is excessively sweet. Once asked, it isn’t a very big step from there to realizing that a lot of their food choices have nothing to do with immediate necessity and everything to do with preparing for a time when the food supply is cut off.

The guide is better and worse for the same reason. It’s better because it tells people how to eat and how to approach their food and worse because it doesn’t tell them what or how much of it to eat. It starts off with the assumption that people will do the right thing if they know what that is, and then sets off to tell them what the right thing is. While this is a noble goal, it is based on a mostly false assumption. Most people already have a very good idea what they should and shouldn’t be eating. Almost everyone knows that vegetables are better for you than cookies or chips will choose the cookies or chips over the vegetables. Sure, there are some outlier who do not know the difference between these types of food and will, upon receiving the education that the 2019 guide offers, stop eating cookies and chips and start eating vegetables, and there are people who choose to eat more vegetables while avoiding the other things, but most people are not outliers. Most people have a very good idea and still choose to eat too much of the things they shouldn’t and not enough of the things they should. The guide does not address the fact that knowledge is not sufficient because gaining it does not consistently or predictably change behavior.

The 2019 guide is a step in the right direction in terms of shifting the focus onto food as a thing that is more than just a source of nutrition and energy. The efforts to point out that it is also a source of many different experiences is helpful. While this has always been the case, it didn’t really need to be said before because people spend more time preparing food and eating meals with other people. 50 years ago, a nightly family meal was the norm, with the adults preparing it and the children cleaning up afterwards. Going out for a meal was rare because it was expensive and there wasn’t as much money being earned. Adequate amounts of high quality and highly nutritious food were available. These foods were effectively straight from the farm to the store and did not go through much processing. Things spoiled quickly so people bought only as much as they needed and they had relationships with the people who sold them the food. There was a community aspect to the entire food chain because things were smaller in scale with many local suppliers.

This is not how it is today. My local grocery market just finished renovating the store to add 4 different meal replacement sections to the front portion of the store and these tend to be much busier than the produce section. In fact, many of the people who “shop” at the store only make use of the first 15 meters. While this initially reduced the flow of people though the rest of the store and made the check-out lines run faster, they have reduced the number of cashiers in response to the decrease flow so it now actually takes longer to checkout. It is clear that the changes have increased profits because they charge a premium on the meal replacement items and these sections are always busy; I’m sure that it is only a matter of time before they begin to remove the other sections of the store to replace them with more profitable offerings. I’m not suggesting that the food is bad, it is very tasty. They use high quality ingredients, their recipes are good and it is well prepared. But it isn’t the same experience as selecting the raw ingredients for a meal, buying them, and bringing everything home to prepare. The premiums you are paying for are the convenience of having someone else prepare the meal and the time saving the service provides. So, depending upon the value of your time, it may actually work out to be cheaper to buy it from them as opposed to taking the old-school route.

It doesn’t matter how accurate the information is in the 2019 Canada food guide, a lack of knowledge is not the reason why people choose to eat in a way that does not serve their best long term interests. This occurs because we now have the choice to eat effectively or to eat conveniently. And this brings us to the final thing that needs to be discussed.

Remember that we have the genetic programming to seek out, consume and over-eat high calorie foods in an effort to store energy. Now consider what else we might be programmed to do / not do in order to ensure that there is energy for use later. If you spend the time to consider the possible answers to this statement you’ll notice the irony. If you didn’t take the time and spend the mental effort to generate the answers, you’ve actually modeled the answer perfectly. We are genetically programmed to avoid spending energy doing things that are unnecessary. This includes but is not limited to choosing to avoid thinking about things that do not pose an immediate survival threat and to avoid doing things that will cause us to take physical and mental action whenever possible. Human beings are not lazy per say, we are just not motivated to burn off energy for no reason. When faced with the choice of taking action or not taking action, we’ll favor doing nothing, and when we are faced with two possible actions, we’ll tend to choose the one that has us spend the least amount of energy.

The narrative truth is the human beings are programmed to seek out and consume as much energy as they can and to do this as efficiently as possible with the goal of storing energy for use at some point in the future when food is not available. When we walk into a store, possibly hungry, and are faced with the choice between buying a ready-made meal or buying the items we need to make a meal at home, our programmed desire to save energy will probably kick in and have us standing in line to pick up our meal replacement, one that is larger than what we need and contains more sugar and fat than is necessary. And we’ll go home and eat the entire thing and feel good physically because our brains will release the reward chemicals that come from a good gorge.

Knowing that eating too much will make us gain weight will not change our nature because it IS out nature. Getting fat IS the goal. The genes that would have coded for a different outcome did not get passed along because those who had them died during one of the thousands of famines that hammered our ancestors throughout history.

As well intentioned as the 2019 version of Canada’s Food Guide is, it cannot do very much to overcome millions of years of evolution and “selective breeding” that food scarcity shaped. At best, and it seems like it hit the mark, it can encourage people to take a moment before eating something to consider their motivations for doing what they are about to do. And to maybe, in a moment of mindfulness, make a different choice, one that will ensure a better future, even though it causes the brain to rebel and trigger the negatives emotions associated with the historic and antiquated concern about an impending famine. Will-power and mindful effort towards doing something other than the automatic, something that doesn’t feel as good, but is a step towards full nourishment and sustaining a dietary energy balance.

While it doesn’t come out right and say it, being healthy isn’t natural. It may be somewhat automatic for younger people but it is something that we grow out of as we age. What is natural for us is to sit as still as we can and stuff down our throats as much as we possibly can. This is where the guide comes-up short, and this is understandable because it’s a hard fact to wrap your head around. The fact that it doesn’t even try is what I find so problematic. When this is paired with the fact that guide has a history of offering up bad advice or stating things that are completely wrong, my skeptical nature comes out to play.

Here’s my thinking about the topic of advising an entire population on how to eat:

The Food Guide is doing its intended job at a better than average level. By knocking on the door of mindfulness, it is suggesting that there might be a lot more going on than just what we have been paying attention to.

Crappy food advice and education and going along with the demands of the food industry has created a situation in which only those with money and free time or those who do not have enough money get to remain lean and healthy looking – those with money and free time get to buy the best food and spend time working out / exercising to create a false famine while those who do not have enough money loss weight simply because they are enduring a real famine. The poor do not have a voice and are effectively ignored; which is a shame because the strategy of remaining hungry for longer periods of time is very effective. A voice is given to those in power, the very people who have both money and time, and they get to do the very things that are needed to actually be healthy. Then they get onto their high horse and judge the rest of us for being lazy, which we are, and for overeating, which we do. We are fat and unhealthy because we make bad choices while they are lean that healthy because they make good ones. Surely if we weren’t so flawed we’d say no to the junk food, yes to the vegetables and be moving around more.

But this is nonsense. We are not flawed. We are perfect. We over eat and under-move because our genes motivate us to over-eat and under-move. We don’t think much about it and when we do, we don’t really know why we ate two servings of dessert and didn’t feel like getting onto the rowing machine for a 2000m workout. The fact is eating shittie food is rewarding because our brain rewards it. Burning off extra calories isn’t immediately rewarding and it takes the body a while to learn how to notice that it can feel good. The only thing that we have going for us, when it comes to eating more healthfully and exercising an appropriate amount, is the vision to see it happen and the willpower to do it. But until we understand and realize that eating right and moving more are not a part of our code, we’ll continue to wonder what is wrong with us when we don’t find it easy to live better.

It isn’t easy because it is hard. It burns energy that our body does not want to burn, we have to eat things that offer no immediate release of reward chemicals while avoid eating the things DO cause the instant release of these chemicals. It is suffering and sacrifice and there is almost nothing we can do to have it be anything but that. However, it is only suffering and sacrifice, it is not pain or death. We go without a little reward and overtime we teach our brains how to reward other actions. Asparagus or broccoli will never cause the release of dopamine but the thoughts we have after eating them can cause the release. Walking 10000 steps in a day is not the most effective way to cause the body to release reward chemicals, but the knowing that you walked 10000 steps can become a reason for releasing them.

Mindfulness is the tool we can use to identify and understand the problem and it is the tool we will use to the quickly create the new processes that are needed to actually make living better something that feels better. With sufficient training and practice, you can teach your brain to reward the very things that right now feel like suffering and sacrifice and you can become a person who is chemically motivated to eat right and move more.

Your nature is only your nature when you allow it to remain so. When you pay attention to it and take an active role in shaping who you are, what you do and the choices you make, you will create a new nature. The old one will remain, it’s been shaped over millions of years, but there is plenty of room in your brain to create a second way of operating. It takes effort and practice, but fortunately not the millions of years that the unmoving overeating baselines took. Use your brain, pay attention, be curious and accept the cost and spend the energy, and you are bound to be successful.

The “New” Canada’s Food Guide – A Brief History and What Is Missing – Part One

Body fat is stored energy and the process of storing it when we eat too much and burning it when consumption drops below the levels needed for maintenance represents livings beings best efforts at dealing with periodic food scarcity.

This is the first installment of a post that talks about the new Canada’s Food Guide, its history, and some interesting facts about human beings that make us resistant to the efforts of the government to nudge our eating habits in a more positive direction.

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A few months ago the government released the 2019 Canada’s Food Guide. This is something that they do every decade or so with the goal of helping to further educate the public about what they should and should not be eating. It’s the government so it’s important to take their advice with a grain of salt because, in spite of their best intentions, they have a country to run so there is a big disincentive to making a very specific claim about the healthfulness or its direct opposite about any particular product given their reliance on the tax revenue generated by Canadian businesses – it would be very unwise to state that “meat is bad for people and should be avoided” even if it is true, which it isn’t, because the meat industry in Canada is huge. This means that the guide is going to be a combination of facts, some speculation based on science and marketing based on the needs of special interest groups and industry lobbyists.

When we look at the first version of the food guide – the Official Food Rules released in 1942 – we notice a single serving of potatoes per day as the recommendation as was a serving of whole grain products along with 4-6 slices of Canada Approved Bread. Milk was recommended for everyone with children drinking twice as much. It appears below:

These are the health protective foods. Be sure to eat them every day in at least these amounts (use more if you can).

MILK- Adults- 1/2 pint. Children- more than 1 pint. And some cheese as available.
FRUITS- One serving of tomatoes daily, or of a citrus fruit, or of tomato or citrus fruit juices, and one serving of other fruits, fresh, canned or dried.
VEGETABLES- (In addition to potatoes of which you need one serving daily) – Two servings daily of vegetables, preferably leafy green or yellow and frequently raw.
CEREALS AND BREADS- one serving of a whole grain cereal and four to six slices of Canada Approved Bread, brown or white.
MEAT, FISH, etc. – One serving a day of meat, fish, or meat substitutes. Liver, heart or kidney once a week.
EGGS- at least 3 or 4 eggs weekly

Eat these foods first, then add these and other foods you wish.

Some source of vitamin D such as fish liver oils, is essential for children, and may be advisable for adults.

It’s important to keep in mind that this was released during the WW2 and while food scarcity wasn’t necessarily a problem in Canada, it was not a time of plenty for most Canadians and the primary reason why organ meat was recommended. Plus, it was also 70 years ago meaning that the availability of particular types of foods was seasonal. Canada is large and it has definite seasons meaning that very little grows in most of the country for 6 months of the year. The robust transportation systems we enjoy presently did not exist meaning that fresh or fresh-ish vegetables from South America or California were simply not available. Flash frozen or canned vegetables were about the only types of garden vegetables that would be available for a large portion of the year.

The food supply chain was very different and much of what we presently have access to did not exist. Sugar was glucose from tropical sources and not sucrose, which is a combination of glucose and fructose, which is primarily sourced from corn. And it was very expensive so it wasn’t used very much. Boxed cereals and boxed anything were not as abundantly available as they are now and the chemical industry, while it did exist, was not such an integral part of what we consider the food industry. It was a simpler time, with fewer choices and with local foods contributing to the overwhelming majority of what was available to buy.

This is not good or bad, just different. The eating habits of people had less to do with food preferences and more to do with what was actually there to be eaten. People would go hungry because of a lack of availability and would find that what they ate would be more connected to the time of year or the seasons than anything else.

The Food Guide was the government’s effort to ensure that the people would receive adequate nutrition, and it didn’t have a lot to do with big business because big business wasn’t really a thing that had much of a foot hold in the food supply chain. Potatoes were recommended because they store well, so Canada had a lot of them. They didn’t grow nearly as much corn or grain as they do now and many of the things that flour allows us to make spoil very quickly without the chemical preservatives that presently exist, so these things would only be made as required.

In the years and decades that followed the introduction of the Food Guide, things changed dramatically. Spoilage stopped being a concern, food processing allowed for the creation of things that would last for months or years, and the things that human beings find palatable or irresistible, became cheaper to grow and manufacture. Food science became a thing and the chemical industry contributed their part to the creation of low cost, low nutrient, high energy foods that have an extended shelf life and trigger all of the reward centers of the brain that were historically only stimulated with rare, hard to find and scarce food. For example, ripe fruit and honey were available seasonally and then not at all. Food science put an end to this scarcity meaning sweet high calorie food stuffs were available year round.

Food choice and preferences took over. We no longer needed to be content with simply satisfying hunger, we could now begin to focus on satisfying a craving for a particular thing. The canned apples or peach jam were replaces as the winter time source of sweetness with things like boxed cookies, candy, or low cost chocolate. Say what you like about the health effects of eating too much fruit, or its relatively low nutritional content, but when given a choice between preserved fruit or modern candy, our species will get more nutrition and less energy out of things that grow than things that are manufactured. Again, this is not good or bad, it is just a thing that is true. Small amounts of manufactured and boxed candy is fine for healthy people, it just isn’t as beneficial as a similar amount of grown food.

The reasons for this are very straight forward. In order to put something in a box for consumption at some point in the future it cannot spoil and it cannot change form. Spoilage is prevented by adding things that prevent it or by removing the things that cause it meaning that preservatives are added or minerals are removed which result in novel combinations of chemicals that have never existed in nature before, let alone been consumed as food by anyone. These products maintain their form though the creative use of stabilizing agents that were discovered by the chemical industry. The traditional oils that were used to make things like bread and cookies were replaced with chemically altered oils that are solid at room temperature meaning the bread and cookies look and taste the same for months. These solid oils or fats are man-made creations and completely new to human beings – we have no evolutionary history with them meaning we have no idea how they will impact our bodies or what role they will play in gene expression.

In this case, this is bad, and for a few different reasons. The first is that adding hydrogen molecules to fat to make it more stable is, in essence, the creation of a new chemical. While it is safe to say that swallowing an individual hydrogen molecule or a few thousand of them along with each mouthful of food will be harmless to human beings, when these molecules are joined to other molecules to form a solid, they are no longer the same thing. Hydrogen is an element and an important gas that becomes a solid at -260 degrees C.

But when combined with other elements, it will help the resulting compound to form a solid at higher temperatures. Our species and anything that is alive on the planet now, only has an evolutionary history with hydrogen containing solids that exist in nature and only in the amounts that occur in nature. The manufacturing of trans-fats to create more stable oils artificially manipulates the ratio of their availability and it makes it available in a way that does not exist in nature – dairy and meat does have some trans-fat, but it also has other things that manufactured trans-fat does not, things that might work synergistically with the trans-fat to reduce or eliminate its harmful effects. The fact is that we KNOW the impact of too much trans-fat on human health, it is bad.

The second reason why adding hydrogen molecules to fat to create a more stable fat can be bad is because of how it will impact the brain. Fat is high energy (calorie) so our species has developed a taste for it because any members of our species that were motivated to eat it would seek it out and consume it whenever they could. This would mean they were consuming more energy than they were burning, and would lead to weight gain in terms of increased body fat. This extra body fat would be used when food was scarce giving these individuals a better chance of surviving a famine. Over time this survival advantage would be passed onto the following generations resulting in the tendency for human beings to find eating fat to be rewarding. By the same token and method, we also find eating sweet things to be rewarding and in a way that is proportional to the level of sweetness. When paired together, sweet things that are high in fat are almost completely irresistible to human beings. We learn very quickly that high fat sweet things give us a reward and we begin to seek out and consume these things. Sweet and fat have existed for as long as there have been people, but the combination of them, or the ease of access to things that contain a combination of them, is much more recent. Manufacture fats ensured that the food industry could supply these types of foods, in a stable form that will not spoil, in a constant and uninterrupted supply.

The food scientists have used our genes against us and created a food that we are almost powerless to say no to. Factor in the health damage that the manufacture fat causes to us and the size of the problem becomes evident. Narrative speaking, we are programmed to seek out and over eat the very things that will, in the long term, destroy our health and hurt our well-being.

For the sake of keeping this on track and because it isn’t entirely clear that GMOs and fertilizers are harmful to us, or as harmful as overeating trans-fat and sucrose, I’m going to return to the topic of the most recent version of the Canada Food Guide after stating that today, thanks to technology and the development associated with corporations and capitalism, we have access to an abundance of food, and year round access to almost everything that we are able to eat. Seasonal eating is no longer a thing that we have to stick to. While local foods will be cheaper at certain parts of the year, these food will be available year round if we have the money to buy them. This means that a lack of availability can no longer be cited as the reason why someone does not follow the Canada Food Guide – a lack of money to buy imported fruits and vegetables remains a reason but, as I will outline, it isn’t a valid reason for most of Canada’s population that live in larger and more populated areas.

A big change with the most recent version of the Guide is the elimination of a recommended number of servings. The previous version still provided a number of servings of each of the 4 food groups broken down by sex and age and it seemed to be geared towards getting adequate nutrition and adequate energy. Be aware, these two things are not the same. Nutrition is the vitamins, minerals and protein a food provides while energy is the stuff that the body will metabolize as fuel to power all of the physiological processes required to sustain life. For example, the body needs a certain amount of vitamin B12 to function optimally and it will get most of this vitamin from the meat you eat. Without the B12, things begin to breakdown and the body will start to direct any available B12 to the most critical processes. This means that a deficiency in a vitamin leads to reduced functioning of specific processes and not a global failure; this is a very good survival approach and is one that is used by most living things because it sustains life giving the organism the opportunity to seek out and consume the missing molecules. Your hair may fall out or your digestive system may become less effective, but you are still able to think and move – to hunt – and find some meat to replenish the B12 levels.

Energy is different from nutrition because it is the fuel for the metabolism. You need to consume energy fairly consistently to keep things going. When your food does not provide sufficient energy, your metabolic rate will begin to slow down and certain physiologically processes will begin to go off line. Non-essential processes will be first to drop off, things like hair and nail growth, followed by muscle repair and replacement of dead cells. Given long enough, the body will begin to consume its own tissues for energy – wasting diseases like AIDS and various late stage cancers are examples of this. However, unlike disease, if someone finds and starts to eat food, the body will start-up these processes and attempt to repair whatever damage was done and take care of whatever needs to be taken care of.

Body fat is stored energy and the process of storing it when we eat too much and burning it when consumption drops below the levels needed for maintenance represents livings beings best efforts at dealing with periodic food scarcity. You can be sure that within the genetic material of all people are combinations of DNA that code for this process and, as a result of the natural selective breeding that periodic famines caused, all of us are exceptionally good at storing body fat. Our potential ancestors who did not have the good genes for storing body fat died off during times of food scarcity leaving nothing but people who were uniquely coded to store fat.

The distinction between nutrition and energy is important because allows for a clear understand for the existence of malnourished people who are obese. The opposite can also be true although much less common given the huge difference between energy and vitamin requirements; one group of people who have a tendency towards adequate nourishment but insufficient energy consumption are those who are trying to extend their life through intense calorie reduction. This group eats large amounts of garden vegetables while refraining from foods that contain carbohydrate, fat and excessive protein. They will still desire to eat more as they will be hungry, they will just choose to not eat and, over time, learn to ignore food cravings and become accustomed to being hungry.

For everyone else hunger serves to motivate us to eat and it does not necessarily reflect our actual needs. It serves our survival needs.

Think about it this way: our genes have coded over-eating into our operating system because historically, those who over ate survived to reproduce. This means that we are coded to do the very thing that causes an increase in body fat. This tendency manifest itself in many different ways, or exists for a few different reasons, one of which is a latency between the time when we have eaten enough in terms of food volume and when the stomach sends the signals telling the brain that it is adequately filled. Rough estimates put this latency period at between 10 and 15 minutes; the exact length of time is less important than understanding the consequences to this phenomenon. The outcome is that we continue to eat past the point at which we should stop if replenishing our energy was our actual goal. This only makes sense IF overeating was in fact the goal for human beings.

Another powerful mechanism, one that I have already mentioned above, has to do with motivation. Human beings will have a tendency to do things that they find rewarding, and we find eating sweet or fat foods rewarding and find eating things that are a combination of sweet & fat to be incredibly rewarding. And it doesn’t take very long for us to figure out what we like and then to go after consuming it. Once we have uncovered it, we will over eat it at any opportunity and will often find ourselves continuing to eat it will after any reasonable amount of calories have been consumed. Some of us will, in fact, ignore the body’s “I am full” signal and continue to eat, and eat, and eat.

This makes sense given the relative scarcity of sweet and fat things in our ancestral past. It was better to gorge when the opportunity presented itself because it would usually only happen during the harvest season when fruit would fully ripen and when animals had enjoyed an abundance of food throughout the summer. Remember, all mammals have a significant amount of their genes in common, so they share the mechanism of storing body fat through over eating with us. Animals have more body fat at the end of fall / beginning of winter than they do at any other time, so they will contain more of the stuff we have learned to crave at this time of year. Coupled with an abundance of ripe fruit, we are going to be highly motivated to eat as much as we possibly can and to overeat, during harvest feasts. This allowed our ancestors to store the maximum amount of energy in the shortest period of time, which helped them get through the winter when food was scarce.

All of this worked perfectly, as evident by our species survival. Historically, we were able to get through the tough time because we over ate during the good times. Those who didn’t over eat, didn’t survive long enough to pass along their genes. While we rarely sat down to eating massive amounts of highly nutritious food, we were probably adequately nourished because the large amounts of higher energy food we did eat contained enough vitamins, minerals and protein for our bodies to function effectively. And it is worth considering the slow burn that nutrient deficiencies have on our ability to function, particularly when compared to the rapid onset of the negative consequences associated with a deficiency in energy consumption.

However, it works too well and it is now a major problem for modern people simply because we are running the identical code that we were 15000 years ago before farming of any type afforded us the freedoms associated with the elimination of food security.

Take a moment to consider what life would have been like before farming. We would exist in small groups and would have to follow the food. We’d eat as much as we could whenever we could, and then go periods of time when there wasn’t enough to eat. We’d live off of our body fat and we wandered around looking for animals to hunt and collecting whatever plant stuff we could that would provide us with anything useful. Life would be hard, a lot of our energy would go towards generating heat to maintain an appropriate body temperature and most of the rest would go toward finding our next meal. There would be very little specialization of labor because there wouldn’t be enough food to free some-up anyone from having to hunt or gather. There would be constant hunger separated by the occasional moments of gorging.

In a world were this was the norm, the ability to store energy when possible and the motivation to do the very thing that was needed to create a caloric surplus that storing energy required were essential.

Fast forward to 1942 when the first Canada Food Guide known as the Official Food Rules came out. Sure, we were running the same code that had us seek out and overeat high calorie foods and to overeat whatever food we had available, but we were not living in an environment of abundance. While it wasn’t necessarily a place of constant scarcity, given that farming existed and we had learned how to preserve enough things to make them available during the winter when nothing grew, it was not a place where there was unlimited food available to everyone. The more affluent did have improved access and they had higher body fat levels as a result, but in general, people looked more or less the same as they had for thousands of years; although there is some evidence to suggest that we were slightly taller and slightly bigger in terms of muscle and bone structure. Obesity was a very, very rare thing and being undernourished in terms of a deficiency of vitamins or minerals was more of a problem.

There was enough energy to go around but there would be seasonal droughts in terms of nutrients. This was not great, but it was a much smaller problem than having your population starving. So the government set out to solve this smaller problem and created the Official Food Rules in an effort to combat it.

Take a look again at these rules and notice how little food is actually being recommended in terms of servings, the language “when available” with reference to cheese and “at least these amounts” and the second last line “eat these foods first, then add these and other foods you wish.”

In my life time, I do not recall there ever bring a shortage of cheese, it has ALWAYS been available as far as I can tell. Regardless, they wanted to make sure everyone got enough calcium and believed that dairy was the best source of it. Next, they believed that if you were able to consume ONLY the outlined food that you would receive adequate nutrition in terms of vitamin and minerals. Finally, you had free range over what you ate AFTER you consumed the outlined food. You were fine to eat other things, like cookies or chocolate, and probably beer, but to do so only after you had eaten the other prescribed items. They are not limiting what you eat, they are saying eat at least these things before you eat other stuff. This form of languaging paints a picture that, as they viewed it at the time, did not include a significant number of people who were eating way too much. Obesity statistics are hard to find for this period of time and, while not statistically sound to say this, the lack of easily available statistics coupled with the available statistics of ~10% 1970, it is probably safe to conclude that obesity wasn’t much of a consideration let alone a problem.

The guide continued along in this fashion for about 3 decades until the 1977 Canada’s Food Guide when it began to take on a more graphical / metaphoric form. There are a few reasons why a flat text list of rules was no longer deemed sufficient enough to capture and maintain the attention of the population, like the availability of colour television, leading to a need to make things entertaining. The colour wheel that featured a smiling sun that was licking its lips is more playful and has pictures of specific food items of each type or category. It is easier to look at and is presented as two sided with more specific textual information on the back.

The name and number of recommended servings per day for two of the categories changed between the 1982 Canada’s Food Guide and the 1992 Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating. “Breads and cereals” was changed to “grain products” and the recommended servings increased from 4-5 to 5-12 as “fruits and vegetables” was changed to “vegetables and fruit” and the number of servings increased from 4-5 to 5-10. These changes reflect an increase in the availability of both grain and fruit along with a refocus on the importance of getting enough vitamins and minerals as indicated by the re-ordering of vegetables before fruits.

I remember this guide very well. It came out the year I graduated high school and it was what was in use when I took a nutrition class at university. It was also what was around when I first got exposed to the Atkins diet – an extremely low carbohydrate eating approach that causes people to enter a state called Ketosis meaning they are burning fat for energy vs. sugar. According to the recommendation in 1992 Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, it would be impossible for someone get into ketosis if they followed it, even if they only consumed the lowest number of recommended grain servings. We were taught, and I believed, that ketosis was a dangerous state to be in and that it should be avoided at all costs. What wasn’t clear to me at the time was that ketosis was a completely natural state to get into and it was, in fact, the very state that we used to go into every time our food supply was reduced and we began to burn body fat for energy.

For what it worth, 5 servings of grain is a considerable amount of carbohydrate, while 12 servings is a massive amount and much more than most people should be consuming. According to the guide, one serving is 30 grams of cereal which has an average of 20 grams of carbohydrate, or 80 calories. This means that they recommend people eat between 100 and 240 grams of carbohydrate per day or 400 to 960 calories of carbs per day. Eating this amount of well above the threshold for ketosis. While ketosis is not the only way people will burn body fat, it is the most effective way, and the way in which our ancestors would have gone about it given that is what happens when the food supply is interpreted.

While there had been a trend of an increased number of servings of grain products in the newer versions of the guides, 1992 marks a huge increase from a max of 5 to a max of 12, while offering very little in terms of justification for eating more or less of them other than suggesting that teenagers should eat more while adults should eat somewhere in the middle.

The significance of this is very important and it has had a big impact on the number of people who are considered obese in the country. The early guides offered minimums and a suggestion that you could eat more AFTER you ate all of the recommended food, the 1992 guide gives vague advice and doesn’t explain the consequences of eating too many serving. This is a problem because there was no longer any food scarcity. There was an abundance of food, particularly grain products, which are high energy, and a massive selection of refined or processed grain products, which have a lower amount of fiber and therefore a higher percentage of calories that the body will metabolize for energy. Without clear instructions, with a higher recommended number of servings and a lack of food scarcity, people would just eat more because the guide said that they could or should.

Demystifying Depression Article – The Cumulative Effect Of Stress

A number of years ago my brother sent me an article called Demystifying Depression – Part I by Name of Feather – Name of Feather is the username under which the article was originally posted in May 2005 . Over the years the article has disappeared and reappeared on a number of occasions as the websites it was hosted on have changed owners or simply just shut down.

The major thesis of the article is that depression is a physical disease and, more specifically, a disease that is the manifestation of an inability to recover for the day to day stress of being alive.

In general, human beings have a finite ability for cellular repair and depending upon the amount of stress, stimulation and tissue damage they experience they will require a specific length of time to fully recover. For example, a person may have the ability to repair 48 units of damage per day, or 2 units per hour. If they have an easy day that causes 12 units of damage, it will take them 6 hours to recover. A much tougher day that causes 48 units of damage, will, assuming no further damage occurs, require a full 24 hours to restore things to normal.

Something that is less than helpful is the nature of recovery. Unused potential simply evaporates and cannot be stored. If it was not used when it was available, it is just no longer available. Which is a problem when we consider the following example: Someone has an exceptionally stressful day and generates 96 units of damage, mandating the need for 2 full days of recovery. Not a problem, so long as the time is taken to recover and allow the body to return to baseline, the individual will be fine – think about someone taking it easy on the weekend or going to bed a few hours earlier for a couple of days. Now what happens when to the recovery queue when, on the day following that 96 units of damage, the person has an average day of 48 units?

96 – 48 + 48 = 96.

After a full day or recovery they remain in an un-recovered state; effectively in the same position there were in when their day ended yesterday. It is this cumulative characteristic that creates the possibility that the recovery queue will grow larger and larger over a period of days and weeks.

The body is generally able to keep going for a while when it is over stressed or overworked. This resilience is a survival trait allowing us to push hard when we need to and recover once the work is done. In fact, our ancestors lived in a time that alternated between scarcity and abundance, which favored individuals who were able to carry-on under suboptimal circumstances. Sooner or later things would improve and the opportunity for recovery would present itself. Baseline functioning would be restored after the required period of time.

Human beings run into problems when the opportunity for recovery is never given or not sufficient enough because our ability to continue to function normally is dependent upon the ability to spend adequate amounts of time in a fully recovered state. When this does not happen there are metabolic and physiological consequences. Initially the negative impact is small – a person might have a more difficult time regulating emotions, maintaining skin health, falling or remaining asleep, concentrating or recovering from physical exercise – but after a short period of time the effects will begin to grow – changes in body composition, personality changes, increased susceptibility to infection, or reduced cognitive functioning – and eventually the body will begin to shut down impairing digestion and immune functioning allowing disease to take hold, which will eventually lead to death.

The article outlines all of this, but most importantly it details how to avoid it from becoming a problem in the first place and how to adjust your behavior in the event it you have dug too big a hole to recover from with a few days of rest, some extra sleep or a couple of weeks vacation.

This to me is the most valuable part of it. So much is known about optimal or normal physiological functioning that it is very easy to miss some of the more critical parts of it. The experience of anxiety and its associated stress response are completely normal and very predictable BUT only as long as the processes that support them have the adequate opportunity to recover. The moment they start to get impacted will mark a change in how the organism will handle any stress. These impairments will have a cascading effect on seemingly unrelated systems, which will cause further negative effects. The example recovery potential of 48 units per day will, once a threshold has been crossed, begin to drop and will not be restored to normal levels until the body has the chance to fully recover. It becomes 47 units, then 46, and it continues to drop until the person consciously takes recovery, breakdown occurs which forces recovery, or the person dies.

The dose is the poison here. The higher the stress, the longer the recovery. The longer one spends in a non-recovered state, the greater the level of physiological impairment and the longer it will take for normal functioning to return. In fact, it is both possible and likely that extended periods of time spend running at a diminished capacity will result in permanent changes to many metabolic functions including the ability to recover from stress.

Consistently receiving nominal amounts are fine, as are occasional periods of time with very large amounts as long as there is the opportunity to completely recover. The potential problems begin when recovery capacity is not able to keep up with the damage and when this damaged state is sustained for periods of time. At this point, the individual will begin to show diminished capacity and this will include their long term resilience.

Which brings us to the actual problem with stress. We handle it very effectively and for a while, until we don’t, and at that point it is already too late. We have created a lot of damage that we need to recover from, and some of that damage is to the recovery processes and to the processes that create stress resistance. But we are blind about this simply because dealing with stress is so natural and doesn’t have a lot of symptoms.

If you haven’t read the article before give it a read and consider making a copy and saving it on your computer. It is very useful and given its tendency to disappear without warning, there is no guarantee that it will always be available to you when you need it the most.

Working At It For Years – Disease Or Health

We are born as perfect as we will ever be. With rare exception, we have our greatest potential the instant we arrive into the world. From there, our environment begins to chip away at our possibilities and over time we suffer from the outcome of our decisions or the decisions that were made on our behalf. With each breath, we either maintain our potential or it is reduced slightly.

I have trained a couple of people who had suffered heart attacks and then subsequently made the decision to correct as many of their bad habits as they could. They eat better, exercise more, reduce their stress and stop over indulging in alcohol. They, like many people who have suffered a heart attack, make reference to their heart attack as both an ending point and a place of new beginnings; “my health was fine up until that day” is something that I have heard which reflects their understanding of what was going on. But it doesn’t reflect what actually happened. Their health had been suffering for years BEFORE the heart attack and the heart attack was only the latest in a series of escalating symptoms; even if it was the first symptom that registered that there was a problem.

You have been making yourself sick for years – everyone has been. At best, you are doing everything you can to achieve your potential – eating appropriate amounts of whole food, getting an appropriate amount of sleep and exercise, etc…. but in a world as polluted as ours, the chances of you not consuming toxins is very low. The clean life that you may be living likely isn’t as pure as is needed to reach the highest level of health. In all probability you aren’t getting enough exercise, eating the right amounts of food or getting sufficient rest to recover your vitality and enhance your constitution for health.

This doesn’t mean that you are going to die of a heart attack at 50 or cancer at 55. But it does mean that you are damaging you body and diminishing your ability to recover from this damage with each non-ideal choice you make. It also means that if you do end-up with a disease, there is a very good chance that you have been working at it for the last 20-50 years and not just during the few weeks preceding the diagnosis.

The human body has a remarkable ability to recover. There is ample redundancy so a lot of stuff can break down before their is critical malfunction. But there are limits and one needs to be mindful of them as they move through life. With each less than ideal decision that is made, you move one step closer to the cumulative consequences of these choices.

It’s About Changing State

In talking to more than a 1000 people over the last 10 years a few facts about nutrition have become clear.

First off, the education system is doing a good job at teaching people what they should be eating. I’ll fill-in some blanks about how the remarkably adaptive way the body operates, but I’ve yet to talk to someone who doesn’t know that eating more vegetables, less sugar, fewer processed products and drinking more water and less pop is a more effective way to eat. People know what they should be eating in order to improve their health and functioning so they suffer from obesity and reduced vitality for reasons other than education.

Next, many people comment that it is hard to eat correctly. On one level this is true, given that living things benefit from eating unprocessed food that rots quickly. Shopping twice a week is a necessity if you are going to eat real food because you will not have the “luxury” of buying food that doesn’t spoil because it is loaded with preservatives. And you need to prepare that food which is going to take time – peeling vegetables, cutting meat and removing bones or fat/skin and then cooking the meal requires time. But this only seems like it takes more time when compared with opening a box and heating something in a microwave or ordering a meal and waiting for it to arrive.

The other comment I hear consistently after an optimal nutrition conversation is that eating for health and vitality is boring. My thoughts about this one is that this is the biggest reason why people do not live optimal lives with an abundance of energy, clarity of thought and emotional contentment. Good quality food doesn’t provide the instant state-changing experience that the high sugar, high fat, high chemical food-like stuff delivers. Good quality food doesn’t do very much to your immediate state; it really shouldn’t because there isn’t anything in it that will have a quick impact on the brain or body. Real food impacts the body slowly, over time and in many ways by doing nothing at all.

People like or become addicted to food-like stuff because it has a very quick impact on the brain – it changes their state almost immediately and in a predictable way. Feeling sad? Eat some sugar, get a release of dopamine and feel better. Feeling some pain somewhere? Eat some ice cream and get a release of opioids to numb the pain. Eat fat and sugar together and feel good immediately. The happy / feel-good chemicals will be released and you will get a little high from it.

You don’t get this state change from eating salad, beef, chicken or fish. Eating these things may not even make you feel full. They have been shown to be better for you, but their immediate impact is low and almost perceivable, and given the distance from the consequences of a poor diet the instant reward is what many choose.

But as time passes, and the consequences begin to take hold on a person – addiction, obesity, disease, loss of energy, loss of circulation, impaired thinking, etc…. the state change is all that remains in terms of any conceivable positives. But then it’s too late to do very much about it. A 40 year sugar habit is tough to break. Dropping 100 lbs is close to impossible and only successfully undertaken by the most remarkable of individuals. Once cancer takes hold, the body has a very tough time fighting it without medical intervention. Clogged blood vessels don’t suddenly clear-up simply because the person stops eating crappy food. Make no mistake about it, the consequences arrive and they usually stay forever.

Real food does very little to our immediate state and it does very little to our bodies; which is what one should look for in their food because the body has a remarkable way of repairing itself.

Their Lies Will Kill You, Your Lie IS

You have been lied to and the quality of your life is lower because of it. So is your life expectancy. As is your vitality and in many ways your constitution for health is also diminished. Some of the lies were not malicious at the time, but they are now, and you really should start to pay attention to them and how they impact your spending habits.

What am I talking about?

The crappy food you eat, the reason you give for eating it and commercialization of “Food” and “Health”.

You eat a lot of really low quality food. It’s loaded with sugar, it has a lot of the fat processed out of it and it last forever on the shelf because almost everything else that made it food has been removed. It’s created and perfected in a lab, then manufactured and distributed to the masses in much the same way a smart phone finds its way into your life. And you buy this food, week after week, feed it to yourself and your children, and move forward telling yourself that it isn’t harmful because Health Canada wouldn’t allow big companies to sell poison and because big companies wouldn’t sell something dangerous to their customers.

Before you pull your head out of the sand, you may want to eat a few mouth fulls because it’s a lot healthier than what you have been eating.

Food in this country is, for the most part, about profit. It is about creating more wealth through increased market share and decreased production costs. The people who sell you the food had nothing to do with its production. Most food sellers work for corporations, not farmers. They are part of the massive industry that maximizes profit by selling the most food possible at the cheapest possible rate. It is in the interest of profit to create foods that people will eat, that won’t spoil and that can be shipped anywhere in the world cheaply.

Health Canada doesn’t care about food being harmful, they care about it being safe and big corporations will sell you anything you’ll buy that they are allowed to sell – tobacco, highly addictive pain killers, and untested chemical creations that “enhance” flavor and sell-ability. So long as the products don’t make you sick immediately and there is enough time between consumption and illness, Health Canada won’t get involved. They’ll rightfully shutdown a meat plant and recall tons of beef because of E. coli that sickened 17 people, but they’ll give high sugar foods a green light because the illnesses they cause take years to develop and are in many ways the result of personal choices.

It’s daft. Vexingly stupid actually. Obesity crushes the life out of people and the stats tell a sad tale about wasted potential. Sugar causes heart disease and fat gain. It causes cardiovascular disease because the inflammation associated with sugar consumption destroys the blood vessels. Omega 3 fatty acids, when taken in the right amount, improve health; yet they are being removed from food because of an antiquated notion that cholesterol is the cause of heart disease.

But the food is “safe” and it is keeping you from dying from starvation; although you likely suffer from a strange kind of malnutrition never before seen in the history of our species. I encourage you to notice how you feel after eating a boxed meal, a bowl of cereal, or a meal replacement bar. Notice how much different you feel when you eat a fresh salad. Pay attention to the different levels of enjoyment you get from the “food” and the food. Notice which one creates more cravings and be aware just who benefits from this need to eat more.

You’ve felt it for a long time, that what makes up most of your diet isn’t food at all. It’s a Frankenstein creation of things that seem real but would never spontaneously exist in nature. And when you eat it, it’s shortening your life. To believe otherwise is to continue to lie to yourself.

“No, You’re Not Entitled To Your Opinion”

“No, you’re not entitled to your opinion” by Patrick Stokes is a very interesting read that tackles the notion that people are entitled to their opinion. He isn’t saying that you are not free to hold whatever opinion you like, he’s just saying that when you don’t know what you are talking about or cheery-pick the evidence to bolster your opinion, you should probably keep your mouth shut. To do anything other than that is intellectually dishonest at best and dangerous at worst.

He is speaking about the anti-vaccination movement and to some of the untrained people who spearhead the movement. The article is well thought-out, presents a clear point of view and is supported by enough evidence to make this POV compelling enough to consider.

His point is clearly demonstrated in the comments. One of the anti-vaccination advocates makes a statement to the effect of “you bring your evidence and I’ll bring my evidence and we can debate the issue.” This is a little frightening given the abundance of research that has been done on vaccination over the years how there is no link to autism – Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 study linking MMR to autism and bowel disease has been shown to be fraudulent and it has also been show that he has a conflict of interest when publishing the releasing the study.

The numbers don’t lie, vaccinations are safe and societies that have the highest uptake of vaccinations have the lowest incidents of the diseases that they target. And make no mistake about it, the measles, mumps, rubella, small pox, diphtheria, pertussis and lockjaw are serious and potentially fatal. Reducing the incidence rates for these diseases is not a bad thing regardless of the growing number of immunized people who don’t want their own children immunized from them.

When someone is spouting off about things they don’t know anything about without being clear that they don’t know anything about it, they have forfeit their right to have an opinion and should stop talking about the topic.

I am pro vaccination and pro science, and I believe the world is better off preventable diseases that cause suffering.

What Neuroscience Says About Over Eating

Doctor Daniel Amen does a lot of research with the brain. Along one of the paths, tracking brain injuries with football players, he uncovered some very interesting things about the human brain:

As weight goes up, brainpower goes down. The size and function of the brain diminishes as BMI goes up….the larger people were, the smaller their frontal lobes were, and that’s a disaster because the frontal lobes run your life! Not only are we finding that overeating and overweight cause changes in the brain, but we’re seeing that brain patterns can influence how we respond to food.

It goes both ways. If you have low frontal-lobe activity, as is common with attention deficit disorder (ADD), for example, you’re much more likely to be obese. The frontal lobes are critical to making decisions such as food choices…

Consider the ramifications of this two way street. We’re born magnificent, capable of developing to our full potential and living a long illness free life. Our prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop until we’re in late childhood / early teenage years and grows throughout puberty – if we make it through most of childhood, there is a very good chance that we can have it all.

But along the way we get fat. It could be that our folks are too busy to cook healthy dinners, they didn’t know what to buy and cook, you were a picky SOB, whatever, you ended-up fat. As a result, your prefrontal cortex does not develop optimally and your brain in general is smaller than it would have been had you remained lean and optimal.

Moving through life, with a smaller brain, you suffer the consequences of having reduced executive functioning. Your working memory isn’t as good, your will power is compromised and your ability to anticipate the consequences and deal with the future just doesn’t hit on all cylinders.

Staying fat is easier because you don’t have the tools needed to think your way out of it, or at least, control your behavior out of it. You may never see a healthy weight again.

I don’t mean to scare you because you do have options here, but if you are over weight or have a tendency to over eat, you may need to consider enrolling an expert in helping you gain the skills needed to reverse the path of destruction you are on. Let them be your proxy until your brain repairs itself and can anticipate and plan for a better future.

10 Things That Will Boost Your Progress

Intelligent people want to be living a life that is moving forward, growing towards something greater than that which already is. It could be a part of human nature, part of how we were raised or part of our specific genetic code, but intelligent people are on the move, forward and upward. Progress is the unit of measurement, the currency of driven people, and we like to fill our banks with lot of it!

Below are ten things that will speed-up your progress; not just your body transformation or your athletic pursuits, but in all areas of your life.

  1. Realize that effort alone doesn’t work. Many business owners perform all the roles of their company and their business say small because of this. The 20 hour days don’t yield the same results as a well thought out 10 hour day at enrolls other people in doing some of the work. Effort is kind, up until a certain point, then it becomes a joker.
  2. Know your motivation. Be moving towards something very important or leave something behind that needs to be left behind. Or both! There needs to be a compelling reason for WHY you are trying to progress. Progress for its own sake is good, progress for a higher purpose is GREAT. Focus on this purpose and enjoy the boost in efficiency. Most people do not know their motivation for doing things and this is a huge limiting factor with their progress. Have a compelling MUST have reason and notice what happens in your life to help you get it.
  3. Learn from EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. We learn from experiences, not from sitting around. Be open and wise to the fact that you don’t know everything. Progressing forward is about acquiring new knowledge and converting it into wisdom, and this will only happen when stuff goes in. This applies to both the things to do and the things to NOT do – there is a reason why someone lost their job which is usually not the inverse reason why someone keeps their job. Learn from both and maximize your progress.
  4. Choose proof over theory. Some things look great on paper but don’t pan out as predicted while other things seem doomed from the beginning but turnout to be not just the best way to accomplish a task but the ONLY way to accomplish it. When you are looking for progress, go with what works. When you are looking to innovate, go with theory.
  5. Take a few small actions each day. Success is made-up of 1000’s of small things. Progress is about attrition against the odds. While it is unlikely that the small thing you do today will lead you to the victory you are looking for, not doing the small things is usually the reason for a lack of progress. If it takes a few minutes and you have a few minutes, just do it. It will get it out of the way and make action your method of operating.
  6. Set many small and achievable tasks. 10’s or 100’s of these tasks will make-up a goal. Setting-up goals as being the combination of many small things makes achieving them more likely as they won’t overwhelm or discourage you. This way you will always be making progress, everyday and with almost every action.
  7. Find someone to be accountable to who you WILL be accountable to. Sadly, many people get into the habit of not being accountable to themselves as there is a temporal processing issue with it – how do you be accountable to the you of the past? The finest way to overcome this is to enroll someone else to help you stay on track. Engage someone who will be dogmatic about your objectives and who will press you hard when you present excuse as reason.
  8. Track your results to make sure you are staying on track. Consider enrolling someone else as the tracker of your progress – ideally your accountability person. When you do not achieve your results, you need to uncover the cause of your breakdown and eliminate the offending behavior. The objective opinion of an outsider can be the difference between a slow or light speed progress. They only have a vested interest in your results, not your emotional reasons for not acting in a goal achieving way.
  9. Focus on behaviors, not outcomes. Being progressive is about acting in a progressive way, not about achieving a progressive thing. If you do the right things for long enough, the outcome is an inevitability.
  10. Become part of a success orientated group. Successful people need to be surrounded by other successful people and there can be a magnificent synergy between group members. It is usually true that many minds are better than one when it comes to seeing solutions so engage others and enroll them in your journey. This will boost your accountability and it can dramatically increase the intellectual resources that work on an issue, problem or task. You never know what or who other people know, so connect with others and share unconditionally; both your quest and your wisdom.

Antiquated Coping Strategies – Smoking

NOTE – I don’t know the person in the image above but her story is available here. I use this image because it is reminiscent of my dad’s last few days and because those last few days were like NOTHING I have ever experienced. Take a look at the Poo bear on the table and the pictures of her loved ones. Read her story and the final words from her husband. I could be her in a few years and the post below outlines what I need to do to stop that from being my future.

I started smoking again. I had the choice to not start but I convinced myself that I DIDN’T have a choice and set-out believing that it was a fine coping strategy.

It was embarrassing to lie to my father about it. “I’m going out to work on something in the workshop” was what I’d say, and I’d do something, but it was really a trip out there to smoke. The lie made him feel better, like I was finally taking ownership of my life and working hard to build the panel business and it allowed me to avoid disappointing him in his last weeks here. He was proud that I had turned my life around after Natalie’s death – stopped smoking, started eating correctly, got back to exercising, became a personal trainer, started teaching cycling classes and effectively stopped doing most of the things that were destructive. I was glad that my dad was happy and once I slipped, and it was evident that he was getting sick, the smoking habit took hold because I didn’t want to stop out of fear of what it might be like. I also didn’t want to rock the boat given his terminal diagnosis.

Now I have quit. I left everything as it was until I was able to deal only with the death of my dad and the impact it has had on my self-awareness. This was a request of my family to just try and keep things normal until you know what you are feeling and are ready to make the changes. Strangely, the thing that actually clued me into the fact that it would be fantastic idea to stop was a realization about my girl friend at the time. She’s an amazing women and I think we both knew that the relationship would be a 2 part thing if it was to last at all. There was not going to be continuity in it, a separation / break-up was going to be absolutely necessary because of WHO I am and where I am in my life. BUT, my time with her was good and I realized that I actually wanted to live for as long as I can. There was something about the relationship with her that helped me realize that you can feel connected to someone and this connection can help you see things about your behavior that aren’t working. I needed to stop for myself, not for her, my dad, for anyone. I tabled the stopping until after my dad died.

I don’t want to die. I want to live forever, floating through the universe with a smile and love in my heart. But I will not live forever, and if I don’t fix my bad habits, I won’t live for much longer.

Below is a list of the positive changes that occur when someone stops smoking. I like this list because there are benchmark to achieve and it tells a story about recovery. The body will heal itself from a lot of damage if you do the things to promote recover, but only if you stop the damage as well.

Last smoke plus …
  • 20 minutes
  • Your blood pressure, pulse rate, and the temperature of your hands and feet will all return to normal.
  • 8 hours
  • Remaining nicotine in your bloodstream will have fallen to 6.25% of normal peak daily levels, a 93.25% reduction.
  • 12 hours
  • Your blood oxygen level will have increased to normal and carbon monoxide levels will have dropped to normal.
  • 24 hours
  • Anxieties peak in intensity and within two weeks should return to near pre-cessation levels.
  • 48 hours
  • Damaged nerve endings have started to regrow and your sense of smell and taste are beginning to return to normal. Cessation anger and irritability peaks.
  • 72 hours
  • Your entire body will test 100% nicotine-free and over 90% of all nicotine metabolites (the chemicals it breaks down into) will now have passed from your body via your urine.  Symptoms of chemical withdrawal have peaked in intensity, including restlessness. The number of cue induced crave episodes experienced during any quitting day will peak for the “average” ex-user. Lung bronchial tubes leading to air sacs (alveoli) are beginning to relax in recovering smokers. Breathing is becoming easier and the lungs functional abilities are starting to increase.
  • 5 – 8 days
  • The “average” ex-smoker will encounter an “average” of three cue induced crave episodes per day. Although we may not be “average” and although serious cessation time distortion can make minutes feel like hours, it is unlikely that any single episode will last longer than 3 minutes. Keep a clock handy and time them.
  • 10 days
  • 10 days – The “average ex-user is down to encountering less than two crave episodes per day, each less than 3 minutes.
  • 10 days to 2 weeks
  • Recovery has likely progressed to the point where your addiction is no longer doing the talking. Blood circulation in our gums and teeth are now similar to that of a non-user.
  • 2 to 4 weeks
  • Cessation related anger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, impatience, insomnia, restlessness and depression have ended. If still experiencing any of these symptoms get seen and evaluated by your physician.
  • 21 days
  • Brain acetylcholine receptor counts up-regulated in response to nicotine’s presence have now down-regulated and receptor binding has returned to levels seen in the brains of non-smokers.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months
  • Your heart attack risk has started to drop. Your lung function is beginning to improve.
  • 3 weeks to 3 months
  • Your circulation has substantially improved. Walking has become easier. Your chronic cough, if any, has likely disappeared.
  • 1 to 9 months
  • Any smoking related sinus congestion, fatigue or shortness of breath have decreased. Cilia have regrown in your lungs thereby increasing their ability to handle mucus, keep your lungs clean, and reduce infections. Your body’s overall energy has increased.
  • 1 year
  • Your excess risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke has dropped to less than half that of a smoker.
  • 5 to 15 years
  • Your risk of stroke has declined to that of a non-smoker.
  • 10 years
  • Your risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer is between 30% and 50% of that for a continuing smoker (2005 study). Risk of death from lung cancer has declined by almost half if you were an average smoker (one pack per day).  Your risk of pancreatic cancer has declined to that of a never-smoker (2011 study), while risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and esophagus has also declined.
  • 13 years
  • Your risk of smoking induced tooth loss has declined to that of a never-smoker (2006 study).
  • 15 years
  • Your risk of coronary heart disease is now that of a person who has never smoked.
  • 20 years
  • Female excess risk of death from all smoking related causes, including lung disease and cancer, has now reduced to that of a never-smoker (2008 study). Risk of pancreatic cancer reduced to that of a never-smoker (2011 study).