Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How To Get A Lean Strong Waist

That’s a snapshot of my waist this morning.  It measures about 31.5 inches in circumference.  Here’s what I’m doing to keep it lean and make it progressively stronger:

First, to get and stay lean I eat a whole foods plant-based macrobiotic diet consisting of whole grains, legumes, seasonal vegetables (mostly cooked), sea vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.  I haven’t eaten any animal flesh, milk or eggs for 5 years. 

Many cuts of animal flesh are calorie-dense,  so it is easy to over consume calories when eating meat liberally.  In addition, eating animal protein can increase your insulin response to meals to favor fat storage.

You don’t have to completely eliminate animal products to get or stay lean, but limiting animal food consumption to a maximum of 15% of calories will help you get and stay lean.  If you eat animal products, we recommend wild or sustainably farmed fish or poultry as the best choice.  This chart from my book Essential Macrobiotics shows how much lean animal flesh constitutes 15% of calories at various calorie intake levels.
Note that I suggest this as the upper limit for animal protein intake based on research (discussed in Essential Macrobiotics) indicating that adverse effects of animal protein consumption may occur when animal protein exceeds 10% of total calories. 

Second, I fast for roughly 16 hours every day, and only two meals daily both within an 8 hour feeding window.  I eat a large breakfast, generally between 8 and 10 a.m., and another meal between 2 and 4 p.m. 

In my book Intermittent Fasting I discuss research that suggests that if you want to get lean, it is best to eat a most of your food early in the day, as food eaten late in the day triggers lipid storage mechanisms favoring body fat gain, insulin resistance, and elevated blood lipids.  This same research indicates that most people feel less hunger and more satiety when they eat more of their food in the early part of the day rather than in the evening. 

Diet is the key to getting a lean waist.  Resistance training is the key to getting a strong waist.  You should train the waist musculature with progressive resistance.  You can train the waist fully with 2-4 exercises.  For full training your routine needs to include each of these movements once or twice weekly.

 Waist flexion for the rectus abdominus
 Waist extension for the erector spinae
 Waist rotation for the obliques

Here's an example of how I have fit the waist-strengthening exercises (in bold) into my full-body routines.

Day 1
  1.  Handstand holds
  2.  Hollow body holds (rectus abdominis)
  3.  Shoulder bridge (erector spinae)
  4.  Weighted Cossack squats
  5.  Weighted supinated chin-ups 
  6.  Dips in L-sit  (rectus abdominis)
  7.  Ring rows
  8.  Windshield wipers (rectus abdominis and obliques)
  9.  "Jefferson curl" deadlift  (erector spinae)
Day 2
  1.  Feet-supported crane pose
  2.  Straddle V-ups (rectus abdominis)
  3.  Shoulder bridge (erector spinae)
  4.  Weighted Cossack squats
  5.  Chin-ups in L-sit (rectus abdominis)
  6.  Weighted dips
  7.  Ring rows
  8.  Twisting back extension (erector spinae and obliques)
  9.  "Jefferson curl" deadlift  (erector spinae)
In these routines, the Jefferson curl deadlift is done with a very light weight for improving mobility and flexibility.

I do only one set per exercise, training to fatigue or close to it.   Day 1 involves 3 direct sets for the rectus abdominis, 2 direct sets for the erector spinae, and 1 direct set for the obliques.  Bear in mind that the obliques are also trained indirectly in all movements for the rectus abdominis.  Day 2 involves 3 direct sets for the erector spinae, 2 for the rectus abdominis, and 1 for the obliques. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Do You Need Single Joint Exercises for Strength or Hypertrophy Training?

Weighted dips for pectorals, shoulders and triceps.  © Don Matesz 2016

Do you need single-joint exercises (such as barbell curls, tricep extensions, leg curls, and leg extensions) in a strength training program, or can you get the same results using only multi-joint exercises (such as squats, chin ups, dips, rowing and overhead press)?

Gentil et al. assigned untrained males to train the elbow flexors (biceps, brachialis) with either shoulder-width supinated grip barbell curls (a single-joint exercise, SJ group, n=15) or pronated wide grip lat. pull downs (a multi-joint exercise, MJ group, n=14).  Both groups also performed leg press, leg flexion, trained twice weekly for 10 weeks, using 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with maximum effort (i.e. to failure).  They were supervised and instructed to perform the lifting and lowering phases of each repetition in 2 seconds each phase, with no pause between repetitions.  They rested 1.5-2.5 minutes between sets.  If necessary, weights were adjusted for each set in order to keep repetitions in the 8-12 range.  Before and after the 10 weeks, they tested the subjects elbow flexors for peak torque (PT) and muscle thickness (MT).

At the end of the 10 weeks, the MJ and SJ groups had increased elbow flexor MT by 6.1% and 5.38% respectively, and PT by 10.4% and 11.87%, respectively.  These differences were statistically non-significant.

L-sit pull-ups with a supinated grip. © Don Matesz 2016
I find it this study particularly interesting because the MJ group used pronated grip pulldowns, and the pronated grip places the biceps in a mechanically disadvantaged position.  The biceps are the largest of the elbow flexors and they can exert more force when the wrist is supinated, so that people can handle more resistance in a supinated barbell curl, pull-up or pull-down than in pronated grip versions of these exercises.  This study suggests that the biceps are loaded just as effectively by pronated pull-ups as by supinated barbell curls.  In fact the subjects who did only pronated pull-ups had slightly greater bicep hypertrophy than the subjects who did only supinated-grip barbell curls.  The take home message is that it probably does not matter whether you use a supinated or a pronated grip for pull-ups.

de France et al. found that adding SJ movements to a resistance training routine composed of MJ movements for 8 weeks did not improve results in individuals who had a minimum of 2 years training experience.  This study involved training upper body pushing movements (chest, shoulders, triceps)on Mondays and Thursdays, upper body pulling movements (back and biceps) on Tuesdays and Fridays, and lower limbs, low back, and abdomen on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Here's the selection of movements used for the upper body training:

 All exercises were performed for 3 sets of 10 repetitions except during the "shock" weeks which involved 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions including assisted post-fatigue repetitions.  The MJ only routine took only 35 minutes to complete, the MJ+SJ routine took 50 minutes to complete.  The training program was periodized as shown in Table 1.

Table 3 displays the results:

There was no significant difference in results between the group that used SJ movements and the group that did not.  Once again, the addition of single joint movements did not provide any additional benefit.  Over the course of 8 weeks, the MJ+SJ group spent 8 hours more time training (an extra 15 minutes per session, 4 times weekly, for 8 weeks), without any additional compensation.

Twisting back extension.  © Don Matesz 2016

These are just 2 examples of studies of this topic.  Gentil et al. conducted a review of 23 studies of the acute effects and long-term adaptations of SJ and MJ exercises in resistance training.  They found:

1. "For the upper and lower limbs, analysis of surface electromyographic (sEMG) activation suggests that there are no differences between SJ and MJ exercises when comparing the prime movers."
2.  For the lumbar extensors, the evidence supports including a SJ exercise (i.e. back extensions vs. deadlifts).
3.   "Long-term studies comparing increases in muscle size and strength in the upper limbs reported no difference between SJ and MJ exercises and no additional effects when SJ exercises were included in an MJ exercise program."
4.  Only one study directly compared the effects of MJ and SJ on recovery and its results suggest that SJ exercises produce increased muscle fatigue and soreness.

In short, the evidence to date indicates that, unless you just have time to burn and like working more hours for no additional compensation, you should build your routine of basic multi-joint exercises like squats, pull-ups, dips, rows, overhead presses, and limit your inclusion of SJ exercises in your strength training routine to those that address the lower back (back extensions), and possibly the neck, calves, and forearms, except in cases where an SJ exercise may be needed for rehabilitation. 

Weighted Cossack squats train hip and thigh strength and flexibility.  © Don Matesz 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat

I learned of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why Its So Hard To Think Straight About Animals by Hal Herzog through reading several of his blog posts online at Psychology Today.  Herzog is one of the world's leading experts on anthrozoology, the study of human-animal relations.  He is a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University.

I was interested in reading his book because I have had some trouble "thinking straight" about animals myself, and I have noticed that few if any people – including animal rights advocates – seem to me to have straight thinking on this topic. 

Herzog discusses the many ways people get caught in odd contradictions with regard to their attitudes or ethical principles towards non-human animals.  For example, while not eating meat myself for the past 5 years, I have taken care of several cats.  Cats eat an average of two ounces of meat daily, which adds up to 50 pounds of meat in a year.  Since there are 94 million cats in America, en masse they consume nearly 12 million pounds of flesh, the equivalent of 3 million chickens, every day.

So why are there so many vegetarians who keep cats?  They could save 3 million chickens every day by humanely killing all cats (euthanasia).  But we don't hear vegetarians calling for this approach.  Why not?

According to Herzog, surveys show that 60% of Americans believe that animals have an intrinsic right to life, yet they also believe that people have the right to eat animals.  Why are people so inconsistent?  Herzog wants to find out. 

Throughout the book Herzog discusses gender differences in attitudes toward animals.  In the introduction he tells the story of one Judith Black, a women who at the age of 12 decided that it was wrong to kill animals for food.  The interesting thing is that this woman, who went on to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology, decided at that age that while cows and pigs were animals, fish were not.  So for 15 years she called herself a vegetarian while regularly enjoying "smoked Copper River salmon and lemon-grilled swordfish."

Her taxonomy served her well until she met Joseph Weldon, a biology graduate student and meat-eater, who tried to convince her that since fish are vertebrates, she was wrong to treat them differently from birds and mammals.  She did not agree, but this did not prevent them from getting married.  The discussion continued for 3 years before Judith gave in.  Faced with deciding whether to stop thinking of herself as a vegetarian, or quitting eating fish,  Herzog says she "joined the ranks of ex-vegetarians," but this is not correct.  She never was a vegetarian, she just thought of herself as such, and lied to herself about fish to make it so. 

Reading Herzog's book, one gets the impression that this is in fact what all ethical vegetarians and animal rights people do.  They tell themselves lies about reality in order to boost their moral certitude and signal their "advanced virtue" to themselves, if not to observers.  

Herzog tells of a dilemma he encounters himself.  A series of events led Herzog to adopt a boa constrictor.  He had a friend who was deeply involved in rescuing kittens who heard through rumor that he was feeding kittens to the boa constrictor.  She called him up to confront him.  It was not true, but it led him to thinking about the issue.  Cats kill songbirds, and cats eat a lot of meat requiring the killing of many animals.  As reptiles with low metabolic rates, boas need must less meat than cats; a cat consumes 10 times more meat in a year than a boa constrictor.  Animal shelters euthanize and cremate 2 million unwanted cats, many of them kittens, every year in the U.S..  Herzog thinks it through:
"Wouldn't it make more sense to make these carcasses available to snake fanciers?  After all, these cats are going to die anyway and fewer mice and rats would be sacrificed to satisfy the dietary needs of the pythons and king snakes living in American homes.  Seems like a win-win, right?

"Yikes...I had inadvertently painted myself into a logical corner in which feeding the bodies of kittens to boa constrictors was not only permissible but morally preferable to feeding them rodents.  But while the logical part of my brain may have concluded that there was not much difference between raising snakes on a diet of rats or a diet of kittens, the emotional part of me was not buying the argument at all.  I found the idea of feeding the bodies of cats to snakes revolting, and had no intention of hitting up the animal shelter for kitten carcasses."
Emotion allowed to trump reason.  Is it really morally preferable to breed and kill more mice and rats to feed to snakes, then to feed the animals we already have killed, even if they be kittens, to the snakes? And why is there so much more emotion around kittens, than around mice and rats?  Herzog answers:  its the 'cuteness factor.'

He reports that anthrozoologist Stephen Kellert of Yale University has consistently found that women are more concerned with protecting animals than men, yet also 3 times more likely to have fears of certain animals (e.g. snakes or spiders).  On the other hand, men are much more likely than women to know more about the biology and ecology of other species, and to appreciate animals for what Kellert calls "practical and recreational reasons" i.e. for profit, food and fun.  

Women far outnumber men among vegetarians and animal rights activists.  Herzog writes:
"According to Donna Maurer, author of the book Vegetarianism: Movement or Moment?, the typical vegetarian is a liberal, white, well-educated, middle- or upper- class female who is less likely than the average person to adhere to traditional values."

"Women dominate nearly every aspect of grassroots animal protection.  They make up 85% of the membership of the two largest mainstream animal protectionist organizations in the United States, the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States.  Among dog rescuers, women outnumber men eleven to one, and three times more female high school students than males call the National Anti-Vivisection Society's dissection hotline each year because they want to opt out of biology dissection labs for reasons of conscience.  And more women than men give up meat for ethical reasons."
One might even interpret both of these movements as anti-male movements.  They attack specifically male values and behavior.  The irony is that these male values and behavior evolved to protect and provide for the survival of women, children, and elders.

Imagine life 200,000 years ago.  It is late fall, and plant food is scarce.  The women and children of the tribe are hungry.  A man has to choose between killing a deer and watching his spouse, progeny and parents die of starvation.  If he hunts and kills an animal his family lives, if he is paralyzed by 'compassion' for the animal, he and his family die.  The latter would be pathological altruism.  If men were not men – primarily rational not primarily emotional, women and children would die.

Imagine the tribe is holed up in a cave for the winter.  A bear discovers the cave and attempts to enter to take it from the family.  The man has to choose between certain death for himself and his family, or killing the bear.  He breaks down in tears, unable to bring himself to slay the bear because its "cruel" to do so.  Would humanity still exist today if this is what men were made of?

In this light, disgust for men and their capability for cold, calculating rationality toward animals seems inseparable from hatred for humanity.  Do women really want men to abandon rationality in favor of sentimentality?  Do women really believe that, after millions of years of evolution selecting for men who are more rational than emotional, which served women's interests, things have changed so much that now women's interests are better served by opposing men in favor of animals?

It is worth noting that these vegetarians and animal rights advocates are "well-educated" and "less likely to adhere to traditional values."  Since the 1960s, "well-educated" means having a university degree.  Many of the elite intellectuals at American universities are so-called cultural Marxists who are actively hostile to "traditional values" which means European values.  Whereas Marx aimed for a classless society, cultural Marxists consider distinctions between the sexes, races, and species to be the "socially constructed" roots of oppression, and they aim for eliminating what they see as oppression by eliminating the idea that there exist meaningful differences between the sexes, races, and even species.

 Cultural Marxists believe that race, sex, and even species are "social constructs" with no biological components.  They believe that the white race – that is, the European race, or European culture, particularly as manifest through "socially constructed" European males – is the main source of oppression.  Therefore, they have a mission to destroy European culture and its "social constructions" of race, gender, species, etc.  For example, Noel Ignatiev of Harvard University says he is inspired by Marxists and writes:
"The goal of abolishing the white race is on its face so desirable that some may find it hard to believe that it could incur any opposition other than from committed white supremacists."
"Make no mistake about it: we intend to keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as 'the white race' is destroyed—not 'deconstructed' but destroyed."
Such individuals can only be considered openly hostile to European people and culture.  Their stated goal is to destroy white culture, which means European culture, and even the (allegedly non-biological) white race itself.  They hide their desire to genocide Europeans behind a laughable claim that the European race is only a social construct.  They aim to accomplish this genocide by denouncing European men, creating conflict between European men and European women, reducing European reproductive success through "sexual revolutions" and discouraging Europeans from mating with other Europeans, and teaching people to abandon traditional European values and habits, including diets, so as to disintegrate European culture and thereby European power.  In this way the hostile elites get European youth to rebel against their own culture and kind, to destroy the European race from the inside out.

It is well worth noting that whites – Caucasians, Europeans – dominate the vegetarian and animal rights movements.  Not non-whites.  Europeans don't eat dogs, but Asians do.  Europeans want to save the whales, but Japanese refuse to stop because "whaling is an ancient part of Japanese culture, fishermen have caught whales for centuries, and Japan will never allow foreigners to tell its people what they can and cannot eat."

Did you get that last part?  Japan will never allow foreigners i.e. non-Japanese to tell its people what they can and cannot eat.  Japanese resist foreign control of their habits.  Further, Japanese also resist foreign control of their homeland by strictly controlling immigration – only 1.75% of people living in Japan are non-Japanese.  Japanese describe Japan as being a nation of "one race, one civilization, one language and one culture."  This is in fact the correct definition of a nation.  The word nation comes from the Latin nasci- meaning "born" and nationem meaning "birth, origin; breed, stock, kind, species; race of people, tribe."  The Japanese clearly believe that there are very meaningful differences between Japanese people and non-Japanese.  Unlike the Japanese, Europeans (including the Caucasian American population) have been convinced that they must let foreigners control their habits and their culture and even take over their homelands, in order to have a moral high ground and avoid the charge of "racism." 

 Europeans also fill the ranks of the organized environmentalist movement.  Some people blame this "lack of diversity" in these movements on the whites, but that's odd, as if its the fault of Europeans that non-Europeans aren't as likely to have a personal or professional interest in vegetarianism or environmentalism.  No one is stopping non-whites from taking an interest in animal rights, meatless diets or environmental issues.  Would we blame Africans for the relative paucity of white people interested in performing rap music?  Per Occam's razor, it may simply be that Europeans have a greater inclination to have this feeling for animals and nature, and hence these concerns, which is evident in the contents of European literature and folk tales.

Herzog points out that the animal liberation movement is like religion in two ways. One, animal liberation movements offer people moral meaning and purpose.  Two, "Animal rights activists and religious fundamentalists are alike" in that "they see moral issues in terms of black and white rather that shades of gray."
"Shelley Galvin and I gave animal activists a psychological scale developed by the social psychologist Donelson Forsythe to assess individual differences in people's ethical ideologies.  Seventy-five percent of animal activists (compared to only 25% of a group of college students) fell into the 'moral absolutist' category.  People with this ethical stance believe that moral principles are universal and that doing the right thing will result in happy endings."
So most animal activists believe that they have the right to tell other people what to do because they (the activists) believe that they have the moral high ground.  This is how so-called liberal values lead to totalitarian sentiments, such as when a vegan advocate states on video that meat-eaters don't deserve to live and everyone should be forced to be vegan to save the planet.

Since I am totally opposed to totalitarian control such as advocated by this dimwit,  I have been tempted to eat meat just to rebel against their kind.    She illustrates how mentally imbalanced people can become when intoxicated with so-called liberal values.   I agree with Thoreau:
“If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I would run for my life.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden
For it is those who are most convinced of their righteousness that do the most harm in "doing good" to others.

Herzog discusses the heavy price that animal activists pay for their moral vision and absolutism.  Their allegiance to animals can alienate friends, family, and lovers.   People go bankrupt for donating all their money to animal rights organizations.  They become terrorists who attack and even bomb humans to save animals.

People who take the animal rights arguments to their logical conclusions end up producing impossible ethical standards.  For example, Herzog discusses Joan Dunayer, who in her book Speciesism, takes ethical equality to mean that all creatures who can experience pleasure and pain "should" be treated as equals.  So, if we have to choose between saving a dog and saving a child from a burning building, we are perfectly justified in choosing the dog, perhaps by flipping a coin; and, duck hunters should be charged with murder. 
"The problem for animal liberationists is that Dunayer is right.  If you take the charge of speciesism literally, if you refuse to draw any moral lines between species, if you really believe that how we treat creatures should not depend on the size of their brains or the number of their legs, you wind up in a world in which, as Dunayer suggests, termites have the right to eat your house."
And mosquitos carrying West Nile virus have a right to eat your blood.  And you don't have the right to stop them.  
Imagine if your immune system followed the anti-speciesist rule.  Instead of identifying pathogenic foreign invaders as not self, and destroying them, it lays back on the principle that these viruses and bacteria and cancer cells have as much right to life as your normal healthy cells.

You'd be dead within a day.

No species can survive by the standard of speciesism.  Anti-speciesism is a variant of pathological altruism, involving the sacrifice of oneself, one's family, and one's nation to enable some foreigner, even one that threatens one's own existence, to survive and thrive.  Anti-speciesism is a death wish.

Who has this death wish?  Caucasians.  Why?  Well, first of all, these animal-rights ethical theories are products of Europeans.  Non-Europeans have faith-based rules of conduct, like the Ten Commandments, but Europeans have lead the world in the development of rational theories of ethics.  The idea of speciesism is attributed to Peter Singer and Tom Regan, both of Anglo extraction. 

Second, it seems to me that white people have been told that they are the bane of existence.  White people are popularly blamed for genocide, colonization, slavery, environmental disaster, and many other crimes against nature and non-European humanity.  Anti-Europeans pretend that non-Europeans have all been angelic, never having committed any of the crimes pinned in Europe. Their willful ignorance of history is appalling.  Contrary to the moral and legal principle that no one can be held responsible for the evil actions of his or her ancestors, there is a popular perspective, promoted by certain special interest groups, that white people alive today must pay for the crimes claimed to have been committed by unrelated white people in the past.

Perhaps as a consequence of this, some whites have come to the conclusion that white people must be eradicated from this planet.  We must put ourselves out of existence, and we must do it by sacrificing ourselves for the good of others.  We must stop eating animals, we must stop reproducing, and we must give everything in our possession to others less fortunate than ourselves.

Some think we are commanded to do so by the Christ of the New Testament.  Turn the other cheek.  Walk the extra mile. If he asks for your coat, give him your shirt as well.  Consider the interests of others to be above your own interests, or you are selfish, a hater of the others.

Meanwhile it is perfectly acceptable for those others to take advantage of you, to use you and spitefully persecute you.  Do not resist your own dispossession and destruction or Yahweh will burn you in hell for evermore.  This is "morality."  

I learned many things from this book, including:

Dolphin "therapy" is a scam.
It is generally true that dog owners look like their dogs.
So-called dog people and cat people are different.
Childhood animal cruelty is not as strongly linked with violence as I had thought.
Research shows that animal rights activism is motivated more by emotion than logic.

You will find Herzog taking you through other lines of thought he has entertained in his effort to understand the moral issues surrounding animals.  For example, he recounts an inner dialogue wherein he tries to understand how one would decide when it would be "right" to kill people who use animals for scientific or medical research, by comparing it to how one would decide when it would be right to bomb people holding other people hostage in an war-time internment camp, such as is usually attributed to Germans in WWII.  

And more.  I highly recommend this book to vegans, vegetarians, animal rights activists, and people who want to understand these people and their movements.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Christoph Hufeland's Macrobiotic Diet Recommendations, c. 1842

Christoph Hufeland.  Public Domain,
Many people seem to think that the idea that a diet low in animal foods promotes health and longevity emerged only in the 20th century as a component of what they consider a scientifically unsupported lipid hypothesis.  They imagine that prior to 1900, physicians were promoting low carbohydrate diets because they were so advanced in their understanding of the "fact" that eating carbohydrates makes the body fat and sick. 

Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland (1762-1836) was the most prominent physician of his time in Germany.  He was physician for Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Johann Gottfried von Herder, Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, and Christoph Martin Wieland.

He wrote 11 major works on medicine, including one in which he introduced a term he invented – macrobiotic:  Macrobiotics:  The Art of Prolonging Life.  This is from the introduction to this book:

Among the practices Hufeland advances as beneficial for prolonging life, he has this to say about diet:

John Wesley was an Anglican cleric.  In describing animal flesh as heating, stimulating, and richly yielding blood and nourishment, Hufeland is in resonance with the Oriental medicine view that animal flesh is more yang than plant food.  Basically, he maintains that animal food accelerates metabolic processes, resulting in acceleration of aging. 
"We find that it is not those who lived on flesh, but on vegetables, pulse, fruit, and milk, who attained to the greatest age."
If I remember correctly, Vilhjalmur Stefansson noted in one of his works, I think it was Cancer: Disease of Civilization, that Eskimos had significantly shorter life spans than Canadians eating mixed diets, and he also wondered whether the highly stimulating effect of a high meat diet was responsible for this.

In any case, Hufeland was not indoctrinated by a modern lipid hypothesis.  The observation that people who live on more plant-based diets tend to have longer life spans is not some 20th century fabrication from the lipid hypothesis.  This was observed at least as long ago as ancient Greece, as evidenced by the fact that Socrates suggests the same in Plato's Republic, Book II.  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Macrobiotic Mindset: Self-Responsibility

By Frontispiece drawn by “Sonnem.” (? hard to read, left bottom corner) and engraved by “MB” (bottom right corner). Image scanned by the John Adams Library at the Boston Public Library. Image slightly improved by Aristeas. -, Public Domain,
Epictetus was born a slave in the Roman Empire about 55 A.D..  He discovered a passion for philosophy in youth, and he got permission from his owner to study Stoic philosophy under the master Gaius Musonius Rufus.  He obtained liberation from slavery after the cruel, tyrannical Roman emperor Nero died in 63 A.D..

Some time after this, Epictetus began to teach philosophy.  In 93 A.D. the emperor Domitian banned philosophers from Rome, so Epictetus moved to Greece where he established a school of Stoic philosophy.  One of his students was Marcus Aurelius, who went on to become the emperor of Rome.  Though born a “slave” he made himself into a great man, remembered and revered to this day, by taking control of himself, accepting and yet rising above his accidental circumstances.

Epictetus taught that if you are unhappy, it is your own fault.  He is reported to have said:
"To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete."
Blaming others makes you a slave to things beyond your control.  Epictetus emphasized that slavery of the soul consists of trying to control things outside oneself, but failing to control things that are within one's own power:
"That alone is in our power, which is our own work; and in this class are our opinions, impulses, desires, and aversions. What, on the contrary, is not in our power, are our bodies, possessions, glory, and power. Any delusion on this point leads to the greatest errors, misfortunes, and troubles, and to the slavery of the soul." 
This world is full of beauty and opportunity.  If you are not happy, if you have not attained your potential, it is your own fault.  Self-responsibility is a key practice of macrobiotic mindset, necessary to self-mastery, freedom and greatness of the soul.  You can liberate yourself from slavery by taking responsibility for your thoughts, words, and deeds.  Easier said than done, but possible and worth more than you can imagine. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ecological footprint, war and refugees

The Global Footprint Network has produced maps of the ecological balance of all regions of the world.  Red means the region has exceeded the carrying capacity of the local resources; green means the region has a surplus of resources.

The ecological demands of the U.S.A. exceed its biocapacity by 120%, in India demand exceeds capacity by 160%, in China by 260%.

Put otherwise, all of these regions, and all other red and pink regions on the map, are overpopulated. 

The map directly above depicts the total demands placed on the biosphere by the local populations.  The darker the color, the more demand.  Who puts the most demand on the biosphere?  Here are the top nine consumers of natural resources.

China tops the list, with more than double the ecological footprint than the U.S.A. in second place.  India is very close behind the U.S.A.

I often see people from India and elsewhere blaming "the west" for their poverty.  It is claimed that "the west" looted other nations to sustain itself.

The non-European nations can't blame Europeans for their population sizes.  Neither Europeans nor Americans caused their populations to grow to unsustainable levels.  There is good reason to believe that the practice of polygamy in some of these nations strongly contributed to their overpopulation, and that the traditional monogamy and sexual ethics of Europe played an important role in keeping the European populations smaller, enabling Europeans to maintain higher levels of per capita wealth. 

Moreover, the map below shows the biocapacity of the various regions of the world:

Brazil tops the list.  China has a biocapacity greater than the U.S.A..  India's biocapacity is greater than that of Canada and Europe.  Despite claims that Europeans "looted" India and Africa, as a matter of fact, India has a greater biocapacity than Europe and Africa has at the very least a biocapacity similar to Europe on a hectare by hectare basis. 

 The relative poverty in non-European nations is at least in part – probably a very large part – due to the simple fact that those nations had sexual and marriage norms that caused their populations to grow far more rapidly than European nations, resulting in higher ratios of people to natural resources, which per force results in lower wealth per capita.  The U.S.A. once had (I emphasize had) a small population and a large biocapacity, which resulted in a low ratio of people to natural resources, which naturally results in greater wealth per capita. 

Here's how much the ecological demands in the U.S.A. have been in excess of the biocapacity of the region between 1961 and 2012 – the green line indicates the biocapacity, the red area shows how much the region is in excess of capacity.

As you can see, due to damage, the biocapacity of the U.S.A. (represented by the green line) has been declining steadily since 1961.

Prior to 1965, the U.S.A. had limited immigration, but in 1965 the Hart-Celler act was passed, which greatly increased the number of immigrants entering the U.S.A..  Since immigration means more people putting more strain on the country's natural resources, immigration into the U.S.A. is accelerating environmental damage and the rate of progressive ecological collapse.

Here's the ecological footprint of India:

India is no ecological paradise.  This photo gives some indication of the Indian approach to environmental protection.

By meg and rahul - Flickr, CC BY 2.0,

Here's the ecological footprint of China:

Back in the 1960s China was more or less living within its carrying capacity, but since then it has consistently lived beyond its carrying capacity.  Chinese have not shown much concern for environmental preservation; 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China.


Chinese factory. By High Contrast - Own work, CC BY 2.0 de,

When a population starts experiencing resource shortages, individuals in the population may start fighting over what resources remain, or simply leave their depleted region in search of greener pastures.  Here's the ecological footprint for Syria:

Ecological demands far exceed the biocapacity of the region.  Same for Libya, deeply in the red:

Afghanistan is also living beyond its means:

As long as population demands on resources exceed carrying capacity, people are going to suffer and we are going to see progressive environmental degradation, increasing conflict between people, and mass migrations which will lead to more conflicts.    Be prepared.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Plant-based Strength Training Update

Another month of progression.  Still gaining, still eating only plant protein.  Some highlights (not everything I do):

Tuck planche:  5s x 6 reps
Cossack squat:  12.5 pounds x 20 reps (10/side) with 5 sec pause at bottom
Chin up:  almost full L-sit, 4 full slow reps pulling chest to bar
Dips: semi L-sit, 4 slow reps
Back extenstion: 3 pounds x 6 reps with 5 sec pause at top
Straddle V-ups: 7 reps with 5 sec pause at top
Stiff-leg deadlift stretch: 46 pounds x 6 reps (at speed shown in video below)
Floor "windshield wipers": 7.5 pounds on ankles x 20 reps (10 to each side, as in video below)
Wrist flexion:  66 pounds x 10 reps

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Study: South Indians but not Europeans have a specific genetic adaptation to vegetarian diet

This study by Kothapalli et al. got a lot of press some months ago when it was first released. However I am not aware of any reports that discussed its importance for understanding genetic differences between ethnic groups that influence how well an individual may adapt to a vegan or vegetarian diet. 

Kothapalli et al. studied the SNPs that determine an individual's ability to convert plant-source linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) into, respectively, arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Unsupplemented vegans depend on this pathway to get adequate AA and DHA.  This study showed that a majority of people of European descent have a quite limited ability to perform this conversion, whereas people of South Indian descent have a specific genetic adaptation that facilitates this conversion.

Production of the enzyme FADS1 necessary for endogenous synthesis of these fatty acids is controlled by the insertion/deletion (indel) genetic variant rs66698963, of which the deletion is the minor allele.  Thus, individuals who carry D/D (deletion/deletion) genotype should have a reduced ability to produce AA and DHA from precursors than I/I (insertion/insertion) genotype individuals.

Kothapalli et al. found that the D/D genotype predominates in people of European descent, while the I/I genotype predominates in people of East Indian descent.  D/D is 14 times more common among Europeans compared to Indians, while I/I is 3.75 times more common among Indians as among Europeans.

In graphic form:

The long practice of vegetarian diet among Indians would exert a positive selection for I/I high-converter genotype among them.

Kothapalli et al. found higher frequencies of I/I in not only Indian but also African populations.

Notice that D/D frequency is highest to lowest thus: Europeans (25%), East Asians (16%), Africans (5%), South Asians 1.8%.  D/D plus I/D frequency from highest to lowest:  Europeans 83%, East Asians 70%, Africans 47%, and South Asians 30%.

Experiment showed that people with D/D and I/D genotypes are much less efficient converters of LA to AA compared to I/I genotypes:

Kothapalli et al. found evidence that the higher frequency of I/I was positively selected by generations of widespread practice of vegetarian diet in India. 


This data suggests that individuals with African and South Asian ancestry are more likely than individuals of European or East Asian ancestry to be able to adapt to a vegan diet without supplementation of long-chain polyunsaturated fats such as DHA. 

Individuals with I/I genotype will be prone to accumulate an excess of pro-inflammatory AA when eating diets rich in LA from vegetable oils, which may increase their risks for chronic diseases involving inflammation, such as heart disease.  

Individuals with D/D and I/D genotype will, as Kothapalli et al. point out, be protected from excess conversion of LA to AA, but, on the other hand, D/D and I/D individuals – that's about ~83% of Europeans and 70% of East Asians – probably have a dietary requirement for DHA and perhaps also AA, particularly during pregnancy.  


Europeans do not have a tradition of generations of widespread practice of vegetarian diet.  In addition, unlike Africans, Europeans and East Asians have 1-4% uniquely Neanderthal genes, and Neanderthals lived for ~300,000 years in Europe independently of Africans, at a time when vegetarian diets were impossible for Europeans.   A diet providing AA, EPA and DHA from fish and meat selects for D/D genotype, to prevent the accumulation of excesses of these long-chain fatty acids, which can have toxic effects.

This provides evidence that in respect of endogenous production of AA and DHA most Europeans and likely most East Asians are genetically poorly adapted to an unsupplemented meatless diet whereas majorities of South Asians or Africans are better suited to meatless diets.

In Powered By Plants I cited Carlson and Kingston who argued against a human dietary requirement for DHA on the basis that there have existed millions of individuals around the world, including adherents of several religious doctrines that emphasize abstention from animal consumption (Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism), which form a significant proportion of modern populations, who have produced children with normal brains:
“In the case of these vegetarians, many have maintained such a restricted diet for generations. Neurological impairment under generational deficiency of DHA should result if dietary DHA is essential for neural function. Given that these populations experience normal brain growth and development in the absence of dietary DHA, it seems reasonable to question the nature of our dietary requirement for n-3 fatty acids. If preformed DHA is essential...the expected outcome of a vegetarian lifestyle is the failure of neural growth and development. On the other hand, there is no evidence to suggest that the capacity for DHA synthesis in vegetarians is limited...A logical explanation involves the sufficiency of LNA from the dietary intake of plants to provide sufficient DHA for the neural development of these populations.”
What Carlson, Kingston, and I neglected to consider was human biodiversity.  We were operating under the assumption that no significant genetic differences exist between different ethnic groups exposed for thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years to very different environments and diets.  This assumption is incompatible with the theory of evolution which predicts the evolution of genetic differences between ethnic groups produced by many generations of exposure to different environments placing very different demands on the inhabitants.

In other words, the fact that some isolated ethnic groups of humans appear to have the ability to produce healthy children 'despite' generations of subsistence on vegetarian diets doesn't serve as evidence that all humans of all ethnicities have the same ability.  On the contrary, from an evolutionary perspective these groups have this ability not despite their having lived for generations on restricted diets, but because they have lived for generations on specific diets. 

This research shows us that we can no longer make general statements about the nutritional requirements or abilities of the human genus or species.  On the contrary we should assume not that all ethnic groups are metabolically alike, but that each ethnic group has distinct genetic, physical and metabolic characteristics due to having been geographically isolated for sufficiently long periods of time. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Study: Plant-based diets linked to reduced inflammation.

Plant-based diets linked to lower levels of markers of inflammation.

Note that it appears that in this study "plant-based" does not equate to vegan or vegetarian, but to diets which provide the majority of energy from plant sources.