Compound Self-Interest

The longest journey begins with a single step. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And, of course, there’s the fable of the tortoise and the hare where slow and steady wins the race. The shared idea here is that small positive action driven by consistency yields success. Tony Robbins used to preach about how the difference of a few millimeters in someone’s approach (to life, to golf, to whatever task is at hand) can make the difference between success and failure. But the opposite holds true as well: Each millimeter in the wrong direction, promoting distance between reality and ideal, is going to be compounded by the next. The result? Before long those small — and on-their-own nearly insignificant — errors begin to carry some serious weight.

If we’re talking finance, small capital investments can add up over time, with compound interest coming into play to yield significant returns. The theory is the same here, though because there isn’t some immediate financial pay-off, it’s sometimes more difficult to see how small positive decisions are to “pay off” over time. James Clear (via 99u) focuses on compounding small improvements in the concept of “The Aggregation of Marginal Gains,” relating how even the smallest of personal changes can add up over time,

Most people love to talk about success (and life in general) as an event. We talk about losing 50 pounds or building a successful business or winning the Tour de France as if they are events. But the truth is that most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse.

The idea is simple: In remaining mindful of how compound interest in our health, our self, and our future works, we’ll see the tiny results of our decisions and actions add up over time. These one percent changes will take a myriad of forms for different people, but in a week, a month, a year from now – they will begin to amount to something huge. It’s really just up to us as to whether or not that “something huge” will be a huge success or a huge regret.

DeLineations: Vol. 1

DeLine

People assume that the world is carefully regulated and that there are benign institutions guarding them from making any kind of errors. A lot of marketing drip-feeds that idea, surreptitiously. So if people see somebody with apparently the right credentials, they think they’re listening to a respectable medic and trust their advice.

This statement, from The Guardian’s Dara Mohammad, is aimed at the “detox” (and “superfood“) industry, making a case for health-over-hype when it comes to separating fads and trends from truly beneficial health advice. Beyond tossing out the idea that the Master Cleanse is a revolutionary tool for change however, this is obviously sage advice for anyone reading about most any aspect of healthy living online.

It’s with this thinking that Dr. David Katz says, “There’s either a scapegoat or a silver bullet in almost every bestselling diet book,” and in keeping with this focus skepticism, The Atlantic’s James Hamblin digs into the ongoing controversy surrounding the health risks of gluten, and what happens when a scapegoat goes mainstream. In the article Hamblin takes a deeper look at Dr. David Perlmutter‘s New York Times Best Seller, Grain Brain, dissecting some of the book’s juicier health claims, while also interviewing a wide range of health industry voices who question Perlmutter’s conclusions. One such voice is that of Chris Krusser, who elaborates on his own blog about the surrounding controversy, “While I don’t argue with the idea that refined and processed carbs like flour and sugar contribute to modern disease, there’s no evidence to suggest that unrefined, whole-food carbohydrates do.” Maybe the new nutrition secret is that there is no secret to nutrition. Though, whether they’re secrets or not, this easy to digest article of seven eating habits “you should drop now” is the blueprint for a healthier diet that includes plenty of easy-to-digest information on alcohol, “diet foods,” and good fats.

What can’t be lost in this process is the eye for the individual. If you actually have celiac disease, for example, processed or not: many carbohydrates are going to be detrimental to your health. And if your cholesterol is out of control, even a couple eggs a day might be harmful despite ample evidence that even in (relatively) high quantities, and even with yolks intact, they are really good for you. This is especially true for men as healthy cholesterol lends itself as “a precursor for the synthesis of many compounds, including testosterone.” Being low in calories, high in protein, and nutrient-rich (though like eggs, also high in cholesterol), shrimp would seem to fall under the same umbrella here. Whatever the advice it is you’re taking, the point is to make sure that the advice is not only sound, but respectful of your own individual circumstances.

Lastly, on the training side of things: Two weeks ago I started incorporating aspects of the high intensity “Bizzy Diet 21-Day Fitness Plan” into my routine, making a few substitutions including the incorporation of “Thrusters” and “Single Leg Static Lunge Dips” on leg day. Perhaps the most important aspect of that workout to this point though, for me, has been the introduction of intervals to my cardio regimen.

Gluten for Punishment

The Atlantic’s James Hamblin examines Dr. David Perlmutter‘s NYT’s Best Seller Grain Brain, which claims causation between the inflammatory properties of gluten, and the development of Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, chronic headaches, and ADHD. To combat this, Perlmutter’s recommends we dramatically change our diets,

Humans consume calories in the form of three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Perlmutter describes the current U.S. diet as 60 percent carbs, 20 percent protein, and 20 percent fat. His ideal is close to that of the Paleo diet: 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs. He allows for up to 50 to 80 grams of carbs daily, which is about one serving of fruit. The heart of the diet is “good fats like olive oil, avocado, wild fish, organic nuts and nutrient-dense vegetables.”

While it is currently fashionable to demonize gluten, Dr. David Katz (founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center) provides some fitting words of caution aimed at any such health trend claims, “There’s either a scapegoat or a silver bullet in almost every bestselling diet book.” Further, self-described “health detective” and author of Your Personal Paleo Code, Chris Kresser, disagrees with Perlmutter’s conclusions, listing a variety of cultures that enjoy carbohydrate-based diets while remaining “fit and lean with practically non-existent rates of neurological disorders and other modern chronic disease.”

“The Hadza of north-central Tanzania and the Kuna of Panama obtain a high percentage of their total calories from foods that are high in natural sugars, such as fruit, starchy tubers and honey, yet they are remarkably lean, fit and free of modern disease.” He also mentions the Kitava in the Pacific Islands, whose diet heavy in yams, banana, and papaya is 69 percent carbohydrate; the Tukisenta in the Papua New Guinea highlands, whose diet is over 90 percent carbs; and the Okinawans, whose diet is “mostly from sweet potato.”

“It’s important to realize,” Kresser continues on his blog, “that just because a low-carb diet can help treat neurological disorders, doesn’t mean the carbs caused the disorder in the first place.”

“When a person advocates radical change on the order of eliminating one of the three macronutrient groups from our diets,” Hamblin adds, “the burden of proof should be enormous.” And at this point, putting the “silver bullet” aside for a moment, it would seem we’re still better off maintaining balanced diets that include whole grains, while being mindful of the refined carbohydrates we do eat. As Kresser adds, “While I don’t argue with the idea that refined and processed carbs like flour and sugar contribute to modern disease, there’s no evidence to suggest that unrefined, whole-food carbohydrates do.”

The Eggs and I

In terms of delicious and inexpensive protein, it doesn’t get much better than an egg. This week, for example, my local grocery store has a special on eggs, pricing them at $1.25/dozen, or just over a dime for 6g of protein. What a deal! But is it possible to eat too many eggs, especially considering the high level of cholesterol found in the yolks? Despite the bang for the buck, many claims suggest an egg or two a day is all you should be eating, especially when considering that two whole eggs exceeds the daily recommended intake of cholesterol. So, what’s to be done?

Adam Bornstein recently took on this topic, examining the risks and rewards of eating three whole eggs a day. In his brief “egg-speriment,” he found that good cholesterol (HDL) went up while bad cholesterol (LDL) actually went down. Perhaps more importantly than sharing his results though, he explained the nutritional value of utilizing the whole egg, rather than just the white,

The yolk is where you find all of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) as well as the majority of zinc, calcium, folate, and memory boosting lecithin. And you can’t forget Vitamin B12, which has been shown to help with fat breakdown. While the whites still offer protein, it’s only slightly more than 50 percent of the total amount. The yolks are part of what give eggs the highest possible biological value, which is a measure of how well a food suits your body’s protein needs. So if you’re looking for the healthiest way to eat your eggs, your best bet is to keep the yolk.

Pre-existing health conditions will help dictate whether cholesterol is the breaking point for whole egg consumption, but for maximum nutritional benefit it would seem a combination of whole eggs with a few extra egg whites might well be the way to go.

Update: Bodybuilding.com‘s Jim Stoppani has added a variety of other important details surrounding the health benefits of leaving yolks intact.

We now know that fat is important in a diet. The saturated fat in egg yolks is less than half of the total fat. But saturated and monounsaturated fat, also in egg yolks, are important for maintaining higher testosterone levels. The fat and cholesterol from yolks, which was once thought of as harmful, appears to provide benefits for those who do strength training. In fact, in a head-to-head egg comparison, consuming more whole eggs was shown to help with muscle gain and strength. The magic number? Three. One study from Texas A&M found that subjects consuming three whole eggs a day while following a weight-lifting program for 12 weeks gained twice as much muscle mass and twice as much strength as subjects eating either just one egg per day or no eggs. Those kinds of benefits may be due to the cholesterol content. After all, cholesterol is converted to testosterone in the body.

No Country for Old Conclusions

In this TEDx talk, Dr. Jonathan Sackner-Bernstein channels Louis Pasteur (“chance favors the prepared mind”) in challenging famous conclusions proposed by the likes of Albert Einstein and Malcolm Gladwell, both contending that age significantly hinders the ability to turn a leaf toward greatness. (30 is the age, in particular, singled out by Einstein.) Instead, these assumptions, he asserts, serve only as excuses for not pursuing great things.

When you’re young, if you measure regret, you don’t really see much of a pattern. Some people have regret, some don’t. Certainly by the age of 30 it doesn’t seem to be a very notable type of emotion. But as we age, as we start to see this disconnect between what we aspire to be and what we aspire to do and what we’re accomplishing and what we’re being told we can accomplish, regret builds, peaking in the late-40s. There’s that pressure and human nature says we need to figure out a way to relieve that pressure, so we look for a source of information that tells us we really can’t accomplish. We go back to the idea that society presents — that it’s the young that matter — to relieve that pressure, to give up. We find those sources of information, and in fact we give up — that relieves the pressure, regret goes away, and we lose our opportunity, and we lose our drive.

(Source: Seth Godin)

Superfood or Superfluous?

The Guardian’s Dara Mohammad confronts misleading marketing behind ambiguous “toxin”-ridding products promising detoxifying and cleansing benefits as a means of rapid health-ification.

People assume that the world is carefully regulated and that there are benign institutions guarding them from making any kind of errors. A lot of marketing drip-feeds that idea, surreptitiously. So if people see somebody with apparently the right credentials, they think they’re listening to a respectable medic and trust their advice.

Discussion also veers toward negative consequences associated with the over-consumption of “superfoods” like broccoli.

Broccoli does help the liver out but, unlike the broad-shouldered, cape-wearing image that its superfood moniker suggests, it is no hero. Broccoli, as with all brassicas – sprouts, mustard plants, cabbages – contains cyanide. Eating it provides a tiny bit of poison that, like alcohol, primes the enzymes in your liver to deal better with any other poisons.

Update: “There is no scientific evidence that cleanses remove toxins from the body more efficiently than the liver and kidneys can do on their own.” —Dr. Glenn Baunstein, professor of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Hospital