Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Glycation: it's role in diabetes

I've just come across a biological process that's new to me that's related to diabetes in particular. when sugars combine with protein or fat without the help of enzymes. This is considered a reducing reaction much like oxidation and has been linked to certain diesaes such as diabetes

Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs) are basically the products of glycation which is described above. they can either be formed outside the body, form example while roasting food the Maillard reaction encourages the sugars, proteins and fats to form AGEs which we then eat and absorb through out gut into our bodies.

Why am I reporting this?

To tell you the truth it's because I just read about it. I was researching the temperature require for the Maillard reaction and found all this out. It sounds pretty detailed but I've yet to find out how it stacks up against other research etc. I just wanted to log it for later research.

Should I worry about this?
Well it's just explaining a little more about the processes involved in the development of diseases. It hasn't actually changed anything it's just, for me, a fresh approach that fills in some of the gaps if it is true.

For me I still feel much of the attention is going into explaining causes of diseases such as diabetes getting worse. That's cruical don't get me wrong.

 However I feel that our body also has plenty of it's own mechanisms to fix these diseases that it's developed over millenia and all that's happening is that our current way of life doesn't help these processes. This isn't a new concept. It's what I believe it happening in the treatment of cancer.

Basically many of the intensive procedures unfortunately harm healthy cells as well as diseased ones and so open the body to secondary infections that wouldn't be the case with other treatments.

New methods are working with nature more closely and enhancing and utilising the strengths that our immune systems already have to combat the cancer using the rules and laws that the body need to adhere to.

I'm just advocating this for the study of lifestyle and would like to know if anyone has evidence of natural ways to help coronary heart disease development

Understanding individual uniqueness and complexity is the only true way to finding permanent solutions

That's a pretty bold statement and yet for me it's always the one that's always held true. My career of the last 8 years has basically revolved around fixing all manner of problems. Some large, some medium and many small. Many times the best fix for a big problem to solve the little problems. Afterwards the big ones often solves themselves over time.

When it comes to understanding my own life and gaining my own happiness and balance within my diet, my day and my life I've found the same approach works wonders. I obsess about small problems because I know that the knowledge and experience I gain from addressing small problems like how to have just one meal in the day that is wholesome at all levels:
  • Mind: I love its tastes and texture so I am feeding my craving for good foods and experiences. It's easy to make and quick so I don't get frustrated or bored
  • Body: It's nutritionally balanced and has a great balance of fresh less processed foods with maybe a few processed ones for speed and ease so it doesn't take too long to make
  • Soul: I feel like I'm indulging myself yet I know that's it's actually the best thing for me so no guilt, just pleasure.
By proving it's possible to have just one meal that's just right and only having it once a week I then know that in time I'll use what I learnt to improve more and more of my meals. I can now take my time and feel confident because I always have this one meal that proves that I can do it.

Right now roasts, certain soups and other dishes all come into this category for me. I've learnt lots of little skills that add up to a solid base to make lots of meals exciting, wholesome and filling

How did I solve this one problem. I looked at my life as a whole.
  • I'm a busy guy. Sometimes because life forces it on me i.e. busy at work, changing job, commuting etc sometimes I force it on myself playing lots of tennis, lots of socialising, helping some one out.
  • Resource: I don't have the time or money to just buy all the pre made food and to be honest I don't always like it best.
  • I like to cook: Yep i do. Not everyone does but I used to cook a lot of desserts with my mum so I associate it with good times and I like putting ingredients together and trying the end result
  • I like to learn: That's me. I can easily take it too far but if I keep that in check and just learn simple things like soups, roasts, mashed veg etc that don't take so much skill or time that's great. I can learn difficult things when I feel the need
  • I get bored very quickly: I'll be obsessed with anything for a short period, say a month or two, then I'll get bored really quickly. That's just the way I am. I'll come back to it in time with renewed vigour but I have to accept this and only make short term plans
Ok there's obviously lots more I could describe about myself but hopefully I made the point that I am the way I am. To find a permanent solution to a problem I need to accept that I will be half of the problem and so I must take myself and my lifestyle into account when trying to fix the problem.

Solve problems daily
Again on projects I've found the easiest way to get the job done well is to just get used to solving problems on a regular basis often daily. Each problem may be completely unrelated to the next, the point is that the general skills involved in fixing skills as what will help you in the long term and they really are worth learning and keeping honed.
  • Step back and see the whole issue: You need clarity of mind to see what needs to be done
  • Keep calm: When you're frustrated, rushing or angry you never see things for what they are so you never fix problems quickly
  • Be ready to learn and seek advice, preferably from an expert: Some times you can't see the problem or solution because your knowledge and experience aren't enough. I didn't know why my roasts weren't 'roasting' until I read about the Maillard reaction that only occurs above around 160 degrees celsius. Once I learned that I fixed the problem
  • Be patient: I have the few that I haven't found anything I can't fix, I just haven't had enough time. It sounds funny but I've learnt time and again that if I'm persistent I'll get there eventually
  • Be prepared to drop it: Some times you're too close, you've been working too long with out a break. Walk away and do something else for a while, maybe for a day. Come back with a fresh mind. So often I've just come back and fixed the problem there and then
  • Be prepared to try lots of solutions: You don't always need to but don't get fixated on one approach. I've gotten used to trying all sorts of ways and I've learnt how to do this quickly. It pays off in the end since I always find an answer
Again I could go on but I don't want to overwhelm. I've really been doing this all my life I've just been doing it professionally for 8 years. I just find this probably the most useful single skill I have because it complements all others and it means I have the confidence that I will get there eventually no matter my starting point.

Understanding the whole
So why have I focused on problem solving. Well perhaps the best way to explain it is that losing weight, getting healthy, finding out which lifestyle is going to make you happiest and healthiest is the problem many people set themselves. The real problem is that it is a massive task that pretty much lasts your whole life. There's no clear answer and you only know you've got it right by the time you've popped your clogs. Not good odds and there's an overwhelming amoutnb of info out there to help (confuse) you and how are you supposed to figure out what to go with?

Yep that's about the size of it. When I came to this conclusion I thought sod all the info then. There's just too much. Bearing in mind I have A levels a degree and a bunch of experience in the area and I still learn all sorts of new things daily I don't know how anyone else makes sense of it.

Well in terms of my project work I still have to deliver. Just like we still have to eat and drink. So I've learnt that you can only do the best you can at any given time. If you were off sick for two weeks during a project you can't ask the client to extend his deadlines. No you have to find a way to deliver so you either
  1. find a way to deliver all the features on the date yourself
  2. get help but incur the cost
  3. persuade the client to accept slightly fewer or features or features with less functionality
those are basically your options. That';s what it can be like professionally. That's life isn't it. Many times I've chosen option 1 and just thought of it as a learning challenge. With the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention I have repeatedly surprised myself to find that I do find a way to deliver the same level of features to the client on time even though I genuinely didn't believe I could.

How did I do it?
OK, I put a little more time in sometimes, others I didn't, each time though I just got better professionally. As a programmer I searched out faster ways, I always wanted to learn these ways but I'd always put them off. I had the fire and energy in that short space of time to revolutionise the way I worked. It's often not a complete revolution. Now that I've been doing it so long it's more a small evolution.

So you're saying work your arse off and keep learning?
Not quite. I did work hard on that particular project yes. But the following projects were easier than I'd ever imagined because my process had improved and I was a better professional. I'd be say 75%-95% faster and so I had effectively found a way of hitting deadlines sooner.

You can set your goals
The great thing about diet and lifestyle for the majority of us is that we can set our goals and timescales because we are the customer. Unfortunately some of us already have illnesses or don't have much time left to make changes. But I like to remind myself that if I haven't found a perfect diet this year I can still look at how I've improved. Am I smiling more, have I got better memories from this year compared to next. Has my knowledge improved, have I gained more experience.

This leads to the final key point. Always look to move forwards and remember these achievements. So many diets I come across simple focus on what you haven't done. You haven't lost weight, achieved your target weight, stuck to an absurdly rigid way of eating. The list goes on. All that's going to do is make you feel bad. I touched on 'smarter goals' in a previous post and that's the only way I know to truly manage and track achievements.

Always find a way to be positive. I feel so much happier with myself now that I keep reminding myself how busy I really am, how busy most of us are. So yes it's taking a long time to get where I want to be but I should really be enjoying the journey. Sure I'm still eating plenty of crap but then I'm eating less crap than I did a month ago and a year ago. And I've been doing that consistently. I'm more active I'm consistently trying new things and finding new ways that are making my life easier and healthier and ultimately happier.

So no I'm not there yet and, of course being human when I do get to the promised healthy land, I'll just find another patch of grass that's greener. I'm enjoying the journey, I'm on my way I don't quite know how far it is but I was only crawling a few years ago. Now I feel I'm either running or taking the car and I'm certain that soon I'll find out how to take the train or a plane and get there much faster.

So overall I'm pleased with myself and my life.

How did I get to this state? I took the time to understand the whole of my life and who I am. Then I've begun finding solutions that fit me and my life so that they add to it and don't take away. Because they enrich my life I stick with them and I'll keep them until I find something that makes me even happier. Until them I'm better than I was before.

Ok, typically I started this post thinking it'll be a short one and it just went on. Thankfully I've covered some topics I've had bottled up for a long time. I hope it was interesting to read. It was interesting to write.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Is Crossfit designed by friendly people?

I'm really interested in and impressed by what I have read so far at the modernforager website. I like the approach more than anything. The style is to present information and allow feedback. To accept that this is their view but others may have different opinions is something I welcome.

Now I'd heard them rave about Crossfit and thought I better check it out. I've only read one article so I don't know how it all stacks up but once again I really like the style. I read the article and was suitably impressed by the positive and supportive approach which I think is just right to get people into enjoying activity rather than feeling they 'have to do it' to stay healthy.

Let me know what you think

The Molecular Basis of Insulin Resistance

In answering a forum post on insulin sensitivity I found these articles. They are pretty heavy going but they also get to the nitty gritty of the issue and explain specifically how glut 4 is an important insulin receptor inthe body and how it works.

This article from 2001 explains how the disruption of the GLUT 4 mechanism can affect glucose transport inside skeletal muscle. I feel it may be a few years old, all the references are of 1999 so the current knowledge may have moved on but I wanted to record it here as an interesting report on glut 4 and other insulin receptors.

Learn more about reversing insulin resistance

The Molecular Basis of Insulin Resistance

In answering a forum post on insulin sensitivity I found this article

Phew. I've just got through reading it. Very interesting if you're a bit geeky on this subject like me. I don't know the actual date the article was published but it reviews a bunch of research studies which are all dated 1999 so it's around 9 years old at a guess. Worth knowing sicne it means it's not too old but this is a relatively new area or research so a lot has been learned since.

Anyway what it does do is confirm that at that point research was uncovering a link between the GLUT 4 glucose transporter and insulin resistance. I've talked about this in previous posts. I just wanted to show some of the evidence that I've come across.

Learn more about reversing insulin resistance

Does your lifestyle make you thrive?

Does your lifestyle make you thrive? has been re-produced at my new blog Cell Your Sole.

Similar to the previous post. Here I want to talk about the whole of your lifestyle defining how you look, feel and are.

I want to explain that you can't explain everything just by diet or exercise. There are many more things to consider.

I've got research showing there are many ways to train well and eat well. They all work and they're all good for you as long as they are followed correctly and you understand what strengths and weaknesses they have.

For diet there are high carb, low carb, high protein, low protein and lots more. Societies have lived well on all of these. They key is always that they have found out how to make sure they get what they need from their diet given the challenges it presents. High grain > phytate problems either the body adjusts and gets better at absorbing vitamins or they ferment the grains to make them easier to digest.

Each diet has become well adapted over centuries as each culture learnt what does or doesn't work.

So it's often not the diet itself it's more about understanding what you need to do to make that diet work for you. With this view in mind you may see that the western diet is just a new form of diet that's possible in the 20/21st century that wasn't possible before. Therefore to live well on it you just need to understand it's strengths and weaknesses and adjust it to make sure you get what you need.

The same can be said for the western lifestyle.

The Health Equation
Find out what the lifestyle does/doesn't do. Find out what your mind, body and soul need. Find out what you can do to adjust your lifestyle to match your needs.

Is diet and exercise king?
Some say diet or exercise is the most important thing and that it's easy to be healthy, just follow the right diet and exercise routine. Really!! let's see.

For the project manager who's near the end of a big project that's been running for say 4 months that may not be the case. He's been eating and exercising really well for the last few weeks but it's not been so easy lately. He's spending more time at work as the deadline approaches. More time at the office means he gets less time to relax and so he's thinking about work more and more. This is making it hard to sleep at night because he finds it hard to switch off. His nervous system is taking a pound as he's always stressed. The constant surge of adrenalin is making it hard to sleep. The lack of sleep and high adrenalin levels are making it hard for his body to recover from each day. Over time weeks of essential maintenance is outstanding and the body is just getting by as best it can.

Feeling so tired, he finds the healthy food just doesn't have the flavour it used to. There's nothing wrong with it it's just his taste buds don't like it. He's drawn to comfort foods and quick fixes as that's the only thing that tastes good.

OK I'll stop there. Any one recognise this scenario. I've been through it many times when I'm in a busy and stressful period. I've even found times I've followed the diet and exercise regime but still felt crap. That's because the lack of sleep and the drain made on the body by the nervous system being 'always on' is such a drain on the body good diet and exercise just isn't enough.

The lifestyle is out of balance. The only way I have found to get round this is to deal with the stress and lack of sleep. It's often simple. sort the sleep, sort the stress, all becomes well. Change the diet no joy.

This is just one example and I'm using it to point out that diet and exercise is not the answer in all situations. Just because a lot is known about these areas doesn't mean they're always the solution.

Just like if some one is stressed because they're about to be repossessed or someone they love is in hospital. Eating well and exercising will help but it won't restore the balance they need in the life. Other things are needed. So we need help in dealing with more things than just diet and exercise.

What do I want? How do I get it?

When I left Uni I wanted a career in the health industry but at the time I learnt that these were hard to come by. Most people left the industry in their late twenties or early thirties because they'd reached as far as they could. They took their skills to other industries where they could go further. That coupled with low wages and poor hours made me think I'd hold out a while and maybe come back in when I'm more experienced.

With thatin mind I thought it'd be useful to learn a different trade to 'fall back on' and also so I could actually see what it's like on the other side. I found that when you're living and breathing health and fitness you don't always have experience of what it's like for the guys you're advising. At the time I had never worked as a manager with meetings all day and little chance to control my diet or exercise until outside work hours. I also hadn't commuted to work so I was always able to fit in the gym or a bit of tennis. I wasn't so understanding of the need to just get home and veg out. So I thought I should see this world for myself.

So I temped for a while until I found a job in it support and things went from there. That was about 8 years ago. Right now I'm a software developer managing several projects. I've learned heck of a lot abut myself, about business and about getting things done. That's probably the most useful and relevant skill. Doing project work for other people is about finding out what they want and delivering it when they want it. The principles I've learnt are what I put into my health plan and I'm becoming pretty successful at it.

What do I want?
  1. look gorgeous - not that bothered, I would like it but it's not that crucial. In truth I want to be gorgeous to my wife not any one else. I've been quite skinny recently while perfecting my weight loss approach but she doesn't like it and to be honest neither do I. She's got some picture of my shortly after we met and we both like those best so I'm happy to take one for the team, eat a little more and fill out a little. I know, I know I'm always sacrificng myself.
  2. happiness: This is a priority. just wake up each day and be happy. Tough to achieve but worth it. I'm think life is short and you only get one short. Those that believe in reincarnation can try again. I don't so I can't. Every day I'm not happy is a waste to me so let's get it sorted.
  3. Live long: That would be great but I cannot be sure what my genes allow and life doesn't always work out that way.
  4. Live well: This one I can do more about. For each year of life I have I want to be able to live it to the max. At age 70 I'm not expecting to run a marathon in 2.5 hours but to run one in 4-5 ours is possible and is my aim. Also climb stairs, play catch. There are millions of senior people still doing what they want not just what they can and I want to be part of that
How do I do it?
So how am I going about this mammoth task?
  1. Set everything up so you keep succeeding. Success breeds success. Failure breeds failure. learn to set goals well. Be honest about how much time, motivation and skill you have and set appropriate goals. Build yourself up over time and you'll be amazed at what you achieve over a short period.
  2. learn to make choices that add to your life. For example while reducing the quantity of what you eat increase the quality including flavour, texture and nutrients. Then you'll be feeding your mind body and soul together. this'll make you happier so you'll want to do it more. But don't expect too much. Be happy with a few changes in a month and just bed them in.
  3. Make small changes often. It's comon to overwhelm yourself with change thinking that to achieve large goals you must make huge changes. I've learnt that to deliver big projects on time and budget I actually just
    1. get clear about whatis required.
    2. research the area regularly. Focussing on clear concepts. don't get too focused on how it'll get done e.g specific diets, exercises etc. Care more about the general principles in a holistic fashion. What stresses you/relaxes you. What adds to your life what takes away. When you have achieved things before what worked and didn't work and what is appropriate for now
    3. plan well and early.
    4. expect regular small changes
    5. review things regularly and be prepared to adjust if required. Only rarely do I make major changes though unless I really started out on the wrong track or if there's been a big change in my life or circumstances.

Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.

I'll try and make a quick point this time. Let's see if I can.

The jury's out on whether you should ban things from your diet or lifestyle. So often I hear people talk about things they ban for the slightest dietary infraction. Take chocolate. Apparently you can't lose weight if you eat chocolate. It's just impossible. The same goes for alcohol, sweets, desserts, the list goes on. To be blunt I say BULL.

The second I ever try and cut something from my diet is the second I find it almost impossible to think of anything other than eating or doing it. And boy once I've started thinking about eating chocolate or having a beer or something then it's only a matter of time before I do have it. You can guarantee that.

You see it depends on your personality. In fact I'm told I have tremendous will power but that's because I really need to control my self if I want to get some thing done. But to control it 24x7 for months on end. That ain't gonna happen and we all know it.

So the only thing that's worked like clockwork for me is to focus on reducing the things I don't want or should restrict and emphasising those I do want or should have. The gentle massage approach keeps me happy. I just distract myself with something fun like playing a game, reading a book or whatever just something to take my mind off things. Sometimes I do snack, obviously I try low fat things, healthier things.  Other times I just have what I want but I use strict portion control. Say I have a cake. I cut off exactly what I need, I actually cut a few slices from the portion I'm giving myself cos I find that it takes longer to eat and 3 slices seems like more than 1 slice even though it's the same amount.

So that's my answer. To ban something is to put it on my most wanted list and I feel trapped. To say I want to reduce it means I hardly notice and I'm happy to try replace it with other positive things to take my mind off what I am losing. So I don't feel trapped with a big list of things I can't have. I just try to add to the list of things I can have.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

How I conquered my mouth ulcers?

Any one who suffers from mouth ulcers knows that trhey are literally a pain. So I thought I'd add my two cents about how I feel I've conquered them.

I get lots of ulcers. Or atleast I used to. I've got one now but I haven't had one for a long time, maybe christmas was the last time. Yet I used to get them all the time. I often had one or two on the go at the same time.

So how did I conquer them? Did I take medicine? I did for ages but I found it just dulled the pain. My favourites were rinstead pastilles but I tried all sorts of things. Thgey said they'd speed recovery but I never actually let an ulcer just run it's course with no treatment so I didn't really know.

Then about a year ago I had a brainwave. I'd always noticed that during the day the ulcer seemd to heal a bit, by the evening it was a lot better then after I brushed my teeth (or there abouts) it got worse. (Light bulb moment) I realised that my ulcers were generally cuts in my gums because I chewed really fast. So I've slowed down how fast I eat. That's helped loads. The biggest help in actually helping an ulcer heal was to put my finger over it when I brush my teeth so the brush doesn't make it worse. Then I make sure I sleep well. This works like a charm. I've had a couple of ulcers since but they've not got serious and have gone really quickly.

The one I have now I'm certain it's down to not sleeping to well and chewing too fast. Why, well we've just got a little puppy. Eight weeks old, the cutest thing you've ever seen. Of course it's thrown my routine out the window and my bodies knackered. I genuinely feel that it's like builders who haven't finished. You're body marks what work is left to do but it has to shut down healing until a later time because it can't complete it during busy hours.

So I feel I'm not paying much attention to my chewing cos I'm watching the puppy, as you do, and I know I'm not sleeping so well cos I'm knackered. Guess what I get most ulcers at christmas when my daily routines go out of whack so I don't sleep and I eat so much food so quickly I'm bound to bite my gums.

Any way the point is that I'm eating fine. I haven't changed my diet yet I hardly get any ulcers. I have improved my sleep, stopped chewing so fast and found ways to protect the ulcers. but I havne't spent any money doing so I've just been practical and let my body deal with things in its own way and helped it along the way by sleeping well.

Ok I can tell I'm ranting but it feels good:-).

How crucial is your diet to your health?

I find most things in diet and exercise aren’t as cut and dried as they’re first presented. So I’m generally not really bothered by it all. Just eat the best you can, be as active as you can given your workload etc and make sure you have enough time to recover. I think I could put money on there being a relationship between increased risk of diseases of affluence and increased pressure as markets become more and more competitive and competition for jobs increases.

Basically as we exercise less and have less time to kick back and recover then our bodies just build up damage. I haven’t thought it all through but that’s where I’m leaning because so much of the research has been based on correlations for so long and I’m not sure that we’re that much closer yet to understanding our bodies properly. I’m thinking maybe another 50 – 100 years

So I'm not going to completely answer the question that started this post. The purpose of asking it is to inspire debate and also ask
  1. do we know enough about diet yet to know what's perfect for us?
  2. is diet the be main thing we should be worrying about?
Question 1: Do we know enough about diet?
I don't think so. I do a lot of reading around and I've also tried out lots of different approaches and theories to see for myself. The only thing I've learnt is that as long as I'm eating enough and I get enough unrefined foods, that's not to say they all have to be un-refined, then I feel pretty damn healthy. I do however read all sorts of things that contradict the 'known' and accepted wisdom. What's important to me is that these studies or theories hold weight, even if it's just that they can't be disproven at this point, I'm prepared to wait for the dust to settle but that's going to take years.

Right now I can tell you about many things that haven't required good nutrition to fix. Which is why I'm convinced diet is only part of the solution and it may not be as big a solution as many people indicate. For example in Scott Kuses article he points out that high cholesterol or specifically ldl levels may be the bodies response to heart disease rather than the cause. That's an interesting point and I feel a wise insight. I don't know if this holds up yet given other evidence but I've got a good feeling about it (How scientific is that).

So do we know enough about food to know exactly what we should be eating. My logic is that if we don't 'know it all' then I'm just gonna be happy doing the best I can rather than spending all day worrying. There are more important things in life.

Fundamentally I feel no we don't know enough. We've only just decoded the genome but we don't yet know what it all means. For every answer we're given there are many criticising or questioning it's validity with research to back up their claims.

Question 2 Is diet all we should be worrying about?
We often focus too much on one thing because it's so complex to consider diet as part of a wider picture. I feel we have to accept that this is the case whether it's difficult or not and find ways to analyse these multiple factors at the same time.

I just feel our bodies have been keeping themselves healthy for thousands of years. Modern science, understood correctly has helped enormously in treating specific diseases and provides a valuable insight into our bodies and minds. I feel the greatest benefit comes when you combines a knowledge of food and diet, with daily rhymns and their importance including sleep, activity, work. Bascially we aren't isolated beings. We live in societies we have demands placed on us and we place demands on other people. These things can and do affect us and can have a greater impact than diet.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Have you tried a Paleo Diet?

Ok, so I've just heard about the 'Paleolithic Diet' and started checking it out for reference . Very interesting. I like the concept. I'm not really one to say we should all go back to the way things were and assume it was all perfect back in the day. On the other hand though I like to understand history and learn from it because it's always useful in our modern world.

In searching for a philosophy that describes the way i think this seems to have potential. I never fit exactly into any stereotype and in this I expect to focus on merging it with the moderns things I love. My argument will always be that we are designed as omnivores and we can adjust to many things. All we need to do is listen to our body and use the fantastic knowledge that's now available to the human race and we can figure out what'll work relatively easily with a little playing around and common sense.

I look forward to checking this out further, if I get the time that is :¬)

Monday, 19 May 2008

Django Djumpstart

I'm thinking of getting into python and the framework Django that's based on it since I've heard lots of good things about it. Particularly that you spend more time getting things done than rewriting the wheel. I've found a good intro at one of my favourite web techie sites

Does retirement mean retiring your body?

Ok, here's another one. Where is it in our ~DNA that say's when we're past 50 we just can't do what we used to do? I'm serious. I haven't found one scientific article or even one person that I've met in the gym or elsewhere that proves to me that our DNA first of all knows how old we are and second has a hard wired date that it's gonna give up on us.

No, as I've said before I've met enough people who are just as capable at 60 or 80 as they were when they were twenty. in fact I've read of several people who are fitter.

Now to qualify that, Paula Radcliffe, the olympic long distance runner is not going to post medal winning times when she's 50 (atleast not against runners of 20 or 30 years old) but who cares. What most people care about is being able to live life to a high standard.

That means getting up stairs, driving a car, walking or even running after your grand kids and playing with them. No ones really bothered about winning medals at that age.

I've been wanting to post on this for a while but making a comment on inspired me. I still remember working in a gym where you see this day to day and all I ever saw in people was that your body is willing to maintain itself at any stage of life (assuming there isn't an underlying illness) it's just about whether you know how to work with it.

What do I mean work with it?
Well as I mentioned earlier about osteporosis, just like the saying that you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink, your body is the same about most things. You can give it calcium, doesn't mean it';ll absorb it or put it into strong bones, it may just pee it out. You can give your body protein, it might just pee that out too.

What it needs is a stimulus. You need to make it want to take things up. The body has inbuilt patterns to adjust to events, you just have to trigger these patterns. Basically by getting active or making sure you don't stop or reduce your activity too much you make sure your body still has a need to absorb the calcium for the stronger bones, the protein for strong muscles, and more calories meaning more nutrients and fibre all round.

The most common thing with aging is a self fulfilling prophecy. This means that we are told to relax when we are older and as a result we retire so that we can 'take it easy' and so we don't expect as much of ourselves as we used to which means we don't challenge ourselves as much as we used to.. The problem is that our bodies don't care because retirement is not part of natures plan, It quite literally is not in our DNA and so the principle, use it or lose it, still applies to our abilities and health. The result is that most people lose their ability to move a lot because they don't move a lot. The detrimental impact this has on health is now becoming clear.

So I asked the question whether there is any part of our DNA that actually makes us less healthy and capable as we age. Though I know of nothing specific it is clear that over time our body makes less and less effort to keep itself maintained. That doesn't mean it loses the ability to maintain itself it is just that when you are younger your body maintains itself for you with out much help from you to be honest. When you're older the onus seems to be much more on on you to encourage your body to maintain itself properly. A big part of this is to say hold on a minute I still want to do things and to make this happen.

So don't let retirement get tthe better of you. Be active to stay active. Tell your body every day that it needs to be stronger tomorrow. That is the only way of ensuring the maintenance systems within your body are kept in order and will keep you at your best.

The only question is what types of activity make you smile? do more of those.

Is juice good for you?

I've just commented on a post over at I've been itching to talk about this myself for some time.

They're pointing out that there are generally as many cals in fruit juice from a carton as there are for the same amount of a fizzy drink. The only difference is that one has vitamins and minerals.

They're right which is a shame but does that mean you shouldn't drink them. In my view no. That's because I don't like to cut stuff out, I like to find a way to include it. Why? because life is to be lived and I like drinking juice. I'm willing to compromise and sometimes I prefer to change it a little anyway. For example I generally think it's too thick straight out of the carton, to be technical I feel the osmotic load means that it may not hydrate me as much as it should because it's too concentrated. No problem I just add some water to it and it's fine.

Need a bit more convincing? well eat an orange, I love oranges, they're sweet if you get a good one and they're a good drink if you get enough juice. What's the juice like, running, like water with a like extra added in. What's it like from the carton? much thicker. I think it does well because not only is it very sweet but do to this osmotic load (it's very concentrated) it doesn't actually stop you being that thirsty. I'ts the same for many drinks that are common. If you don't come back for more then they won't make enough money. Sorry for being cynical but sometimes when products do their job well then the company that makes them can't make enough profit to survive in a highly competitive market. It's just a fact of life.

Solution. I just add a little water to it. It means I get a bigger drink or I save more for later so it's cheaper, yey, and even though it's not quite as sweet or thick I get used to it. Just like when you reduce you sugar or salt intake but one or two spoons, you soon adjust and you're better for it.

You see juices are good because they contains a bunch of vitamins and minerals. Each fruit contains a different type and it's important to get a balance. You dont need to worry about the exact balance because your body is designed to filter out whjat it needs. I use fruit juice because
  • tasty: the most important thing. If it doesn't taste good then is it worth it?
  • They contain lots of vitamin c and that's important because it's water soluble so needed daily and it's easy destroyed by
    • heat: well juices are cold. You lose the vit c from much of your cooked veg because of this
    • it gets destroyed by sunlight: if it's in an opaque carton you're onto a winner
    • many vitamins don't get absorbed because there are other elements in the food that inhibit their uptake. The tannnin in tea for example inhibits iron uptake in food that's eat at the same time as you drink tea. fruits have evolved to supply us with what we need, honestly the tree's need us to eat the fruits and pass the seeds they contain into the soil so they've made this especially for us and it fits our needs
  • It's a quick sugar fix in two ways, a few calories if I need them in liquid form, great if I'm playing tennis or running but also since I have a major sweet tooth. Apple or Pineapple juice is my fave, no wait grape or pear, no wait....:-) I love them all
  • better than plain watter:getting back to osmosis, back in my days as a student on a sports science degree we learnt that plain water isn't the best thing to hydrate you. It doesn't create the right osmotic gradient. That's why sports drinks are important. Juices are important in this as long as you dilute them enough
  • portable: you can get a carton o fit just about any size
  • quick to prepare: just pop it in your babg. It'll last all day if necessary
  • lasts ages: the vit c content'll go down but since there's none in most other drinks you're still better off. and many of the other vitamins and minerals won't be affected
  • cheap: I'm not loaded so cost matters. If you get the right one's then they work out.
  • variety: the amount of flavours there are means I never get bored
So there we go a quick ramble on juices. I could obvious go on but I stopped myself.I hope this helps. It's nice to get it down in writing. I don't like that people are put off juices because they offer so much and they're accessible to everyone. I haven't heard of any one who's allergic and they're totally safe drunk within date.

Top Notch Ethical Food

I just remembered that a couple of years ago, during my day job as a web developer, I worked on a web site for a food company dedicated to sustainable food production. The site was and they're still going strong. I got to try some of their food and it was absolutely divine, a real testament to the values of quality ingredients from quality farms creating tremendous food.

Granted, it's a bit pricier than shopping at ASDA but that's not the point. You're paying for quality and for their values and you get top notch produce for your money. So just thought I'd give them a little help and give any one reading this a pointer as to where to get great food that's ethically produced if that's something you're interested in.

I also found a bit more about them in

Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes

I took these notes from the TED lecture given by Richard St. John at

I have to say that when I look back I can say that each success that I've had owes a lot to the things Richard talks about. He put's it so clearly and precisely I just had to note it for reference here.

8 secrets of success:
  1. Passion: Do it for love not money
  2. Work: Nothing comes easy but I have a lot of fun. Work a frolics
  3. Focus: Focus on one thing
  4. Persist: Through failure, CRAP:
    • (C)riticism
    • (R)ejection
    • (A)ssholes
    • (P)ressure
  5. Ideas: Have a great idea
  6. Good: Be good at it
  7. Push: Physically, mentally, address fears. It's not always easy.
  8. Serve: Make it a privelege e.g. It was a privilege to be a doctor
Adopt these habits:
  • Listen
  • Observe
  • Be Curious
  • Ask questions
  • Solve problems
  • Make Connections

Friday, 16 May 2008

Can I become a tennis coach?

So I'm looking to get qualified as a tennis coach because I love the sport and I need a little extra money. It's also something I'm considering moving into at some date.

The problem is that at this point I haven't got qualified. I have a degree in PE, sports science and management from Loughborough Uni. I learned some kick ass things there and I focused on tennis in all my practical areas so there's a lot I have been taught. Problem is it was a while ago and I didnt follow it up in the accreditation side. Shame.

Anyways I've been playing for a long time now and I've definitely learnt a lot about training others. I've taught my wife to drive for example even though I'm not a driving instructor. She passed first time so I'm pretty darn proud. I've taught a bunch of my friends to play tennis I just need to take the next step.

So I've read a lot about the RPT program of tennis instructor courses. They're supposed to be very progressive but don't break the budget. I checked out . It's more than I can afford at the mo but it's a target to achieve. It's inspiring to be thinking of getting into sports again, I loved working in a gym when I was at uni. It's great helping people.

Is it possible to keep evolving without sex?

In a previous post I put forth the idea that viruses or other organisms that have the ability to inject their DNA into cells may do some good for their hosts and not just bad. Maybe we only hear about the bad ones for example. I then went on to suggest this may help us evolve because it could be a way of passing genetic code between species with the virus as the carrier. So as one species gains a beneficial mutation other species gain this mutation as it is passed by viruses.

This is all conjecture at this point but it's certainly an interesting thought. Well... I mentioned it to a colleague and he sent me this link of an article about a species of fish that reproduces asexually, meaning it doesn't mix it's dna with another set to encourage variation.

In most species that this happens the lack of variation hinders evolution and often leads to extinction. But not in this case. The article suggests there may be some genetic 'trick' these fish have that allows them to gain DNA from other fish. Apparently the females of this species interact with males of another species to trigger reproduction just not sexually.

Whether or not a virus is used is not the point for me as it's not the idea of a virus perse that's important. I'm really just wondering if maybe there are other ways of transferring DNA changes from one species to another or even within the same species. I just don't know if there's been any research in this area.

So to answer the question in the title of this post. I'm not sure exactly how much this species is evolving but the evidence indicates that it's not devolving which is what would be expected with standard asexual reproduction.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Could lack of sleep increase risk of heart problems?

It's just a thought. I have an inkling that lack of sleep could be a factor in these illnesses and I think I can pull together some of the things I've learnt to make a case for it. Let's see how I go.

It's well documented and understood that we need to sleep to allow our bodies to repair. For example there's a huge release of human growth hormone during sleep. This is a natural steroid that promotes an environment that supports cell repair.

The general explanation for the cause of heart problems is build up of fatty plaques called atheroma in heart tissues, along with a reduced elasticity of heart muscle.

the accepted reason for this is a high fat diet means lots of fat gets caught in breaks in the walls of the blood vessels. Well that's fine there's mounting evidence that it's safer to be big and fit than thin and unfit in the heart disease stakes. Ok well exercise is a common thing to be measured but sleep isn't so common or atleast I feel it isn't as fashionable in our society.

the question for me is why don't the blood vessel walls just heal themselves in the first place. If they did then the crisis would be averted. this is where I think decent sleep would help. I don't think it would be the be all and end all but I think it could help a lot. If you don't sleep well you're body doesn't finsih of it's repairs for the day and has to leave it to the next day. This can build up for a few days but as long as you can up with your sleep the repairs catch up too.

Problem is that your body just tries to letyou go about your day and if you consistently lack sleep you'll adjust, your mind won't necessarily tell you that you're deprived of sleep because it assumes you've got more important things to do. If I'm correct then this could over time mean that you're just suffering from a serious form of not doing repairs. After a while though it's too late. The clots will have formed sufficiently and can no longer be removed by simple healing. Maybe they then grow over time. Maybe the body has mechanisms we don't know about yet that can clear up the clots. Soudns stupid. Well it doesn't when considering that an obese person at the age of 20 with a high risk of heart problems in the future can bring their risk back to normal by losing the weight and becoming active so that by the time they're 40 they have the same rtisk as anyone else of heart problems.

i say this because I feel it might give people hope and that it's what I can taking from the research and stories that I read

What factors make us kick the bucket?

What factors make us kick the bucket? has been re-produced at my new blog Cell Your Sole.

I hear so much about what risk factors there are to make us die sooner and all the things we should do or not do but because I like to research both sides of the story I always find things that contradict each other.

I'm coming round to the view that the overall risk really depends on where we are in our lives at any particular time. I don't know if I can put this concept across well enough but I'll try.

Basically I see or hear about people who contradict the prevailing health advice all the time. People who smoke and drink all their life and make it to 80. People who eat terrible foods and are fine all the way until they pop their clogs. I also hear about people who are so 'healthy' that they die from hypersensitivity to some aspect of modern life such as antibiotics or pain killers.

There is a constant debate over anti oxidants and oxidants, the prevailing wisdom is that high cholesterol particularly HDL (High Density LipoProtein) is bad, that saturated fats are bad. Yet, as a couple of the previous posts show, there are still critics of this view. I've even heard of government organisations having to change their message when it offends important markets. That's certainly not the voice of reason. The same is for science. when you critique the prevailing view you'd better be on guard because you often get shot down.

My point is just this, it's all so confusing because I don't know who to trust and what ultimately to believe. It also leads me to believe that in terms of our understanding of our bodies we're nowhere near the understanding physics has of the basic laws or what chemistry has of the bonds between molecules.

Fundamentally what holds us back is that biology is essentially the study of living things and physics and chemistry are the study of dead things. We need to have fantastic technology which we're only developing in this age (things like being able to document DNA and genomes) before we can begin to put it all together. However this is only just the start. In comparison with physics we may not even have reached the point where Newton described gravity. Maybe we aren't even at the level Copernican physics.

What I'm getting at is that in all that I've learnt I'm still often confused in as many areas as I'm confident. What I see and what I've learnt does point me to one possible general conclusion though.

Maybe the strength of our genes determines a basic strength of the body and mind we're given. I include the mind because I do feel we get something of our mind from the way we're put together. You've also got to add up the effects of the environment, the food you ate when you grew up, the support you got, the happiness and stress you've had. All those things and others.

Basically consider yourself like a car. If you analysed a car you'd check it's make and model so you'd know roughly what to expect. You'd know roughly how many miles the car should do before it will first break down and then ultimately be scrapped. But not all cars reached their full lifetime. Many are scrapped early.

Some, because of accidents. Some because they haven't been taken care of. Some because they're stolen. Some because the country they're in wears them out quicker. Others last longer for the opposite reason.

For those cars that aren't stolen, or crashed and just get to live out their lives. What gets them scrapped. Well cars are made up of lots of components but they're generally designed for that particular car barring the brake pads and tyres etc. So it doesn't have to be the car as a whole, more likely one or two major components like the clutch, engine, or gearbox.

For each different make and model of car, experts often tell you what components generally will fail more than others. It's often different for each manufacturer and model. but it also depends on the type of driver and where they do their driving.

The same goes for humans it depends what components we get, some have strong hearts but weak lungs, strong kidneys but weak livers. Some treat their body like a temple, some like a toilet.

All these things naturally have an impact on how long a car or a body will last and what point it will give out. But the key question is, at what point does the drastic event of death or serious illness occur.

Well just like many cars these days, our bodies are designed to survive no matter what they're put through. we can survive famines, deserts, the Arctic and all other places. But quite often a number of events occur close to each other that ultimately create the chance for a serious event to occur.

You drive to work on the motorway each day. You develop a small crack in your exhaust from a stone chip hitting it at high speed as it's thrown from your tyres. It's in winter and there's a sudden cold snap freezing your exhaust very quickly and making it brittle. You always drive early because your shift starts early so it's much colder. On the coldest day your exhaust cracks and you break down. this event wasn't bound to happen but it had high probability. If you were a gambling man you'd put money on it.

I feel it's the same with risk factors for heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis etc. Some of us have a greater chance than others not just because of genes but because of the way we lead our lives. But why does each individual succumb. I think it ends up down to a set of events in each case. I think most of us get that. But is it that all this builds up and finally gets too much for us when we're old? Possibly but I'm not convinced. I don't think that our DNA defines an exact age to die, I do think that as we get older our cells receive less 'motivation' to take care of themselves. By this I mean I think it takes more effort to keep yourself fit and healthy.

But is it destiny that we're so fragile in our senior years or is it that we just need to take better care of ourselves at that time?

I've seen 80 year olds fit as a fiddle, off on their skiing holiday. I've seen many others like them. They weren't all fit when they were 20 and 40. They may have gotten fitter when they were older. There are plenty of epidemiological studies showing that fitness, health, weight etc around time of death say the 10 - 15 years leading up to it is more indicative than these factors earlier in life. Smoking for example, if you haven't smoked for say 20 years apparently you have the same risk of cancer as others your age not greater.

So I just feel that when you're young your body is much better at surviving. If you have the genes, environment and lifestyle that'll get you to older age then when you get there you need to learn how to gamble. Learn how can you hold a strong, winning hand every day rather than a losing one.

Eating well is great but sleeping well is completely ignored. Reglar quality activity isn't so well appreciated either. Eating gives you the nutrition, the raw materials, activity gives your body the impetus to build itself up and keep itself well maintained. Sleeping is where you body repairs itself. Is it not important to note that hours and quality of sleep reduce as we age. We also get less active as we age. Length of sleep and amount of activity have some correlation. I've also seen research that highlights that the symptoms of old age are very similar to the symptoms of years without much activity.

A side note that makes a point is that during my degree I studied the latest research on Osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) where unfortunately many senior people are at much greater risk of bone fractures because their bones aren't so strong any more. In terms of preventing the condition the evidence showed that people could have excellent nutrition but still have the disease. When regular activity was included the disease wasn't as severe. When more intense activity was included particularly things that put a load on the bones and create impact, remeber these are elderly people so we're not talking step aerobics or volleyball here for those guys that aren't so nimble, climbing stairs, running was better than jogging which is better than walking. Bascially it appeared to be the impact the activity placed on the bones. that had the greatest protective effect.

What does this tell you. Well it told me that you can give your body fantastic materials (nutrition) to build itself but without the motivation or requirement (activity) to strengthen or maintain then it just won't bother.

As regards sleep, apart from the research that's out there I've got a personal example that's worth sharing. A few years back I was getting a pain in one of the bones on my ankle. I know I have a small amount of bone chipped off in there and I was worried this was rubbing against my ankle and slowly building up scar tissue and stuff that would eventually cause problems. A bit of a hypchondriac I know but it went on for weeks and I couldn't shift it. I made sure I ate brilliantly, loads of fruit and veg etc and I rested. I didn't do any sport for weeks. I was bored as hell. But it didn't get better at all.

I'd been sleeping just 6 hours a night for many years now and felt fine. I used to get 7-8 hours but even at weekends when I didn't need to get up I still woke up early. So I thought I was fine. For some reason during this period when I had a problem with my ankle I suddenly became able to sleep for longer periods. I was getting a nice 7-8 hours sleep and felt better rested than I had for years. I remember it being a time when I was free of much of the pressure I was under the previous few years and I could feel my body and mind relaxing.

What amazed me was that within 2-3 days the problem was virtually gone. It was nothing to do with eating well or resting by not playing sport. It was entirely due to just sleeping better. Can I explain this with current theory. Yes. I've know for years since my A levels and bio psychology that the body recovers during sleep and takes longer in general than the mind. The mind takes around 5 hours or so I was told but the time the body takes depends on how much damage there is. That's probably the same for the brain but it's just a small organ compared to the entire body and it's not that differentiated.

Now for the last few years I hadn't really been that active but at this poiint I was playing tennis almost every day. And I play pretty intensely. So the damage would probably be a lot.

From this point on recovering from injuries and general stress of the day became so much quicker and easier because I realised I needed to adapt my recovery and repair (sleep) to my lifestyle. If I don't give my body long enough to repair then it's just like any thing else the holes get bigger and bigger until they're great big gaps and sometimes the damage is irreparable. However if I just keep a regular pattern of good sleep I'm right as rain through anything.

I'm rambling a bit but that's because I like to explore this topic. I hope I've got part of the concept across. It may not be revolutionary but for me it's very freeing. I do believe strongly that regular quality activity and sleep have a massive impact on our ability to maintain our bodies, (assuming we eat well enough but plenty of people are championing that). I just can't put down all I've learnt about it at this point.

So I'm suggesting we die because our body, or one of it's components, at that particular moment is unable to overcome the challenge it faces and that as we age our body finds it progressively harder to overcome what it faces.

Take a heart attack. A heart attack is generally caused when a blood vessel supplying the heart is blocked. They're usually small vessels and the damage is related to the vessel blocked and what part of the heart it supplies. The larger the area the more the damage. So how can a clot form? Basically the blood vessels can become rigid and fail to repair themselves. Blood may clot in the cracks that can form. These clots can build up over time. This may be happening all around the body. Suddenly one of these clots breaks off and starts travelling the body. It could do it for years. At some point the blood clots on the heart blood vessels and the blood clot travelling in the blood get large enough that they form a blockage when they collide. That's the standard explanation and it brings it right back to the mechanics of the body.

When you look closely though it may not be until the blood vessel becomes truly rigid that the clots are dangerous. This may happen later in life because either the body isn't maintaining itself so well and so the vessel become less elastic. It has been shown that older animals have more collagen in their muscles than younger ones which makes them less elastic. That could be true for blood vessels. It could be that the reduced activity led to less flexible blood vessels increasing the risk of a clot.

Either way it's just useful to break the body down in this way. Anyway I've rambled long enough so I feel I'll end it there.

Scanning Barcodes to understand and track what you eat

Wouldn't it be fantastic if you could find out what's in your food by scanning it's barcode and being taken to a web site where you can see the information you need. It's just a thought but I think it would make it so much easier to be knowledgeable about what you eat.

Why would this be useful?
Basically because it's really difficult to put a lot of information on any packaging that's on food. Even if you did then that would just mean that some food would have lots of info and others would have none.

You could use it to :
  • figure out what's in your diet
  • easily track what you eat by scanning it
  • find out background info about the food,
    • find out the best prices and prices for similar items
    • where it came from
    • how it's manufactured
    • how it's stored best
    • other places to find it
  • Help you in the kitchen
    Who's website would host this?
    , maybe the manufacturers but preferably an independent organisation responsible for the quality of it's information,

    What if I don't have a Barcode scanner?
    I'd expect to be able to do a standard word search in this web site, the barcode would just be a lot quicker and easier and are quite cheap and easy to use this days. I also think a supermarket or store should be able to email you a receipt of your purchases.

    They're already beginning to include them!!
    I've just read an article detailling what is to come in terms of the mobile environment. In it I read about trials in Asia of Quick Response (QR) bar codes taking pictures of barcodes using a phones camera. the phone then reads the barcode from the image and reads the instruction. See it in action

    So actually it seems like the technology is already there. All we really need is for manufacturers, wholesalers, supermarkets etc to start putting these barcodes on their products and then providing pages to go to to view the info.

    It'll cost to much. Why bother?
    I could imagine each company asking why they should bother because there's a significant investment required.
    • If the company designs the barcode to go to one of their own web sites then they can easily place ads and other 'me too' content on the page that the person browsing may be interested in. For example if you scanned a pot noodle then you could see apage giving info on that pot noodle and you could also be told about other flavours you might like, new offers, local stores also stocking the pot noodles. All those kinds of things. The benefit for the company is that now you are in their store with no other distractions
    • If you're a regulator or say a government body and your intention is to help the consumer understand what's in their food then you'll need an initial investment to setup a site, desgin a standard set of information you will show and a standard approach. Once it's set up however you'll now have a very simple standard way of educating people across the board. You can be certain that they'll visit this site regularly and you'll be able to adjust your approach rapidly as our knowledge and experience improves
    I think it could work very well and would make it so much easier to find out what really is in the things we eat and so much more about the food such as where it has come from. How it is packaged. It gives companies a much better place to compete. Not just on the shelf but in the virtual shelf of the internet. A single apple could therefore compete equally with a carton of apple juice which has a large surface area on whic to promote itself. The apple is just an apple but with a sticker bearing the barcode you could suddenly find out where it came from, how long it took to get from picking to the store, its nutritional content etc, etc

    The Omnivore's Next Dilemma

    I love ted talks and here's one from Michael Pollack with another talk on The Omnivore's Diet. I believe in symbiosis. Us working with nature, nature working with us. It follows the concept of recycling. everything in balance as nature has worked out for so many years

    The Omnivore's Dilemma

    Wow, I just listened to a really interesting talk given by Michael Pollan author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. It was just fascinating to hear about the history and political context of where food comes from.

    Granted this is based on America but the same thing is true here. I just like the discussion he gives.and I like the way he likes to get into the detail of how the food industry has evolved and determines where we are now. This is so important to understanding what kind of food is available and also what fits each of our lifestyles.

    while I feel diet is important. I really don't think it is the only thing to worry about. I think it's crucial to understand so many other aspects of our lives as well. How well we sleep, how happy we are on a daily basis and how educated we are about what our bodies really need.

    getting back to diet I thinks it's so important to understand how things have got to the way they are.

    If you wanted to learn more about this's_Dilemma has some info

    Is there any free accounting software?

    I always wondered if there is simple software out there for managing business accounts. Sage and it's ilk are just too expensive and you don't need that complexity early on. any way I was checking out and found a recommendation for I haven't actually used it yet. I'm really blogging it so I've got a record of it so I can come back and try it when the time comes.

    Tuesday, 13 May 2008

    A different view on cholesterol

    A different view on cholesterol has been re-produced at my new blog Cell Your Sole.

    I love reading about other peoples opinions. Especially when it goes against the grain. I just came across the blog of Scott Kustes at He's got some interesting ideas on cholesterol. I haven't had a chance to read through all he says but it's interesting to hear a different side to the debate. I certainly agree it's not a good idea to focus only on cholesterol. I believe strongly that humans have simply adapted to the diet that was available to them over the years. That means our bodies are designed to need certain things and be treated in certain way. All we've got to do is learn about what these things are and we'll find health just comes along naturally. s

    I've learnt a lot about cholesterol. I've learnt that there are many kinds Chylomicrons, VLDLs, LDLS and HDLs , not just the famous two HDLs and LDLs. They transport fats around the body, that's a big part of their role. My understanding is that they're actually mainly the same except they have different amounts of fat on them. Wikipedia gives a pretty damn in depth overview of them but my basic understanding is as your diet begins to have more fat in it you will have more ldls and less hdls than you used to have because ldls have more fat on them compared to hdls. It's just hdls becoming ldls and generally ldls. So naturally as your diet increases in fat intake or if you eat too many calories and your body converts these calories into fat, then you'll have more ldls. That's all I really take from these correlations.

    The problem I feel is more down to your whole lifestyle rather than just eating too much, having too high cholesterol or any one factor. It's lots of factors together. For example many people who eat too much often don't exercise enough to compensate. Saying that lack of exercise itself can lead to significant health problems.

    Body Rhythms: Hunger

    Another thing I've noticed a lot is how our bodies have their own rhythm and sometimes the key to getting your body or mind to do what you want is to understand and learn to manage these rhythms.

    Hunger for example. I find that's controlled by rhythm. The time in my life that I've had a regular routine. I've always felt hungry just before I'm about to eat. When the routine changes, say at the weekend or on holiday, it takes my body a few days to adjust.

    Understanding this has really helped me when I want to control my hunger and my weight. If say I want to gain control of my weight then I gain control of my rhythms. Say after Christmas when I've just spent a few weeks eating what I like when I like. I find my body begins to think it needs food all the time and that it needs more at each meal because that's what I've been giving it. So the rhythms have adjusted to the larger amount that I'm eating and my hunger follows suit. So really quickly after a meal, say a few hours I'm really hungry again.

    Well in January when I need to stop gaining weight and start losing what I've added. I go few a couple of days of re establishing rhythms that are going to help me lose weight and in the process I gain control of my hunger again. All I really have to do is get my body used to eating less food again. All it takes I find is around 3 days on a new routine and it settles down. I normally find the first day pretty easy, the second day is the toughest. I really crave a bunch of snacks then but I know that by the third day I'll be getting used to it and the rhythm will be adjusting and I'll be less hungry. So on the fourth day I'm fine. I get hungry at the right time and I feel full when I've eaten enough. I don't have to eat too much to feel full any more.

    It sounds easy because it is as long as you have faith in it and stick to it whilst you're training your body to use the new routine. One thing I've found is that snacking actually makes me more hungry not less in the long run. To get technical it seems to stimulate my body to digest food quicker which means my stomach gets empty sooner and thus I get hungry sooner. So I am quite strict with myself about snacking for these few days. Keeping myself busy and not thinking about food is paramount during this time so I just like to have a bunch of fun things to do.

    Once the routine is established I just let myself be. Sometimes I snack a little
    , other times I don't. This way I don't feel trapped so it's easy to just let life go by and watch the weight fall off slowly but surely. I don't have to change what I eat at all. I go out for food often, I eat all the things I like. I just make sure that what I eat day to day adds up to less than it used to but the quality in terms of vitamins, minerals etc is still high.

    Googe Web History and Google Docs saved the day

    So I was taliking to a friend of mine and it came out that he's interested in learning a programming language I've been interested in. I researched it a little through google a few months back and naturally wanted to pass on what I'd found.

    It's so long ago I don't have records of it and was wondering how to track it down. It all became easy when I checked out the web history feature of Google. ( I just searched there like I would normally within google and a minute later had all the links. Or at least the starts of the trails that I went down. Fantastic.

    I also saved a few things in google docs. So again I just search all my docs in one swoop and quickly got the stuff I needed.

    It's just nice to know that in this day and age it's getting easier to find just what you want

    Thursday, 8 May 2008

    Should we exercise our minds as we age?

    There seems to be a growing acceptance that the brain must be kept fit just like our bodies. For me it comes down to a standard principle that I feel humans and other species have to adhere to. Use it or lose. Basically every thing that you can do is something you're body has to build and maintain during famine or feast. Your body is in a constant state of preparing for a famine whilst keeping you in the condition that you need.

    Take this article I came across

    My experience is that your body won't make a part of you strong unless you do something to push yourself close to or beyond your current limits. Take running for example. To be able to run further you need to challenge the parts of your body that limit how far you can run. Some people feel they just need to run further each time they run but that gets tough once you get over say 10 miles.

    As I've blogged about earlier understanding how glut4 influences your ability to ran far helps you understand better how to train.

    While we are young it doesn't seem to take much stimulus to get our bodies to improve or at least maintain themselves. A game of tennis every couple of weeks can be enough to keep some fitness and a few things that tax your mind, a quick presentation or applying for a loan might tax your brain enough. Even playing a video game may help if it gets the right parts of your brain working.

    What I see in people more senior is that when you age it gets harder to trigger this response but it's still there. I've seen 80 year olds pop in to the gym for a quick work out in preparation for their ski-ing holiday who appeared and were as alert as many people 20-30 years young than themselves. I've seen the same in 60 year olds and what has always stood out is that they exercise both their mind and their bodies regularly. Don't get me wrong they know how to relax too. They aren't all work and no play. But they realise they need to keep their mind body and soul active now if they want to be able to stay active in the future.

    Saturday, 3 May 2008

    Enjoyment is the way to go

    Adding enjoyment to my life is a main theme for me at the moment. I like to find a fun enjoyable way of doing whatever it is I want to do. Be it lose weight, cut down on red meat, whatever. The reasoning is that most of us, especially me respond most to things we like. If we have to do something but we don't like it then it takes a certain amount of will power to force ourselves to do it. Say you try to eat less. The whole concept is negative. It's like you're taking away the amount of food and giving nothing back. What if you change it to think that I'll eat less food but everything I do eat from now on has to be high in flavour.

    I've used this approach and it worked really well for me. I decided to experiment a little more to discover foods I didn't know I liked or I'd forgotten I like. Turns out there are a lot:
    • Angel delight
    • tinned strawberries, pears, fruit salad
    • condensed milk mmmmmmm!!!!
    • cheap biscuits like digestives, ginger nuts, nice biscuits
    • fresh fruit; grapes, satsumas, melons, apples, pears, bananas
    • fresh veg; cucumbers, carrots, parsnips, peppers, onions, swedes, spinach
    The list really goes on.

    I also remembered that my mum taught me some basic cooking skills years ago and I enjoyed it. So I tried it again. I learnt simple things like making soups, doing roasts, making mashed veg, fruit crumbles. Nothing fancy whatsoever and using every cheat there is like buying pastry if I don't have time. The point is I was having fun. By the end of this, I think it was 1 year to 18 months I was having a great time, I'd learnt loads but most of all I was eating more healthily. It wouldn't look it given the list above but that's missing the detail. I was eating less and enjoying it. I really didn't mind having smaller portions.

    My hunger and routine had adjusted, and crucially, I didn't have any niggling feeling in my subconscious that I was losing out on anything. Now, I really look forward to eating yet I have fresh fruit more regularly, fresh veg more regularly. The profile of my diet had improved so much. In hindsight it wasn't about having a perfect diet. I just needed better diet than I had before.

    Ok so what's the point of all this. Mainly that for me it was the enjoyment of what I was doing that made it so worth while and actually meant it guaranteed it's own success. If you enjoy something then you'll make an effort to keep doing it and it won't seem like hassle.

    So could you measure this and keep track of it? Can you record and track enjoyment or fulfilment to figure out how happy you are with something now and check it in the future? Then you can see if you're happier. I like the idea of using this kind of value to help push you on because it switches the weight loss mentality from always being negative and having to keep up with tough goals, to being really positive. How happy are you today. Not very, well lets see if we can change that for next week. What was your happiest week. What made you enjoy it.

    There is a scientifically validated psychological measure of exertion that's used to measure how hard you're working with out using wires and things. It's called Rating of Perceived Exertion and is really simple to use. I'm just wondering if there's anything like this particularly for enjoyment.

    The reason I say this is because, referring back to the smarter goals post before this, if you can't measure the state of something then how can you measure how much it's changed. Basic logic you see.

    Smarter Goals are key to successful weight loss

    This post has been reproduced at as keys to weight loss: smarter goals

    I've done a lot of soul searching recently, wondering about what I've acheived, what hasn't worked out. One thing that stands out to me is that I've really embraced the principle of Smarter goals. As I've matured I've simply focused more and more on the principles of smarter goals in a sub conscious way. Over time it's become clearer to me that a big reason many of us find it so difficult to achieve the balance in our lives that we crave be it, work life balance, the right body weight or something else, is that there is so much pressure to get this nirvana now.

    'Smarter' goals is actually an acronym which stands for
    • S - Specific
    • M - Measurable
    • A - Achievable
    • R - Realistic
    • T - Time Based
    • E - Exciting
    • R - Recorded
    To find out a bit more check out!&id=92418.

    So how do smarter goals help?
    Lots of reasons really and each person will find a different way to use them. For me I use them a lot to break down huge tasks that seem impossible into smaller ones that I feel I can achieve. The goals can be things like losing 2 stone, like being fitter than I've ever been or getting a much better job.

    There is so much I can say on this topic because I've been doing this for so long but it's probably best to just let this come out in separate posts over time. For now I want to talk about the insipration for this post and that is about how this can be so useful for people trying to gain control of their bodies. Those who aren't happy with their lifestyle or weight. I can't promise to fix everything but I do feel so much more in control of things these days than many years ago and I want to share some of what I have learned.

    So why is it such a difficult thing to control our own weight?
    Well I think the first thing is that it's really difficult at times. Not always but often we have periods where everything becomes too much. At these times it's really difficult to focus on controlling our weight because we have too many other things to deal with. Secondly it's not something we're taught at school. We learn to read write, do maths and how the solar system works but we learn next to nothing about how our bodies work.

    There's plenty of information out there about how we gain weight, what we can do about it and how it fits our lives but we don't get to learn any of this at school, so we have to learn it outside. We don't know who to trust and a lot of it conflicts with itself. So it get's pretty overwhelming.
    Finally I feel there's been a huge change in the last hundred years. Humans have evolved to hunt and gather food. For millenia humans have had to go and find food, prepare it and then eat it. Much of the evidence indicates that we were just designed to be good at doing this but that we actually need it to function properly and stay healthy. Well these days, particularly in western cultures we just don't need to. If we so desired we can even spend entire days without leaving the house, ordering all food in. The hunter gatherer process isn't needed.

    Many of us, including me have spent a long time in this new way of life and you get used to it. We don't know any other way because we don't need to. We do realise it's not the best thing for us but it's fun. There are so many other things to be doing than walking around supermarkets and actually buying food, so many better things to be doing than going for a walk in the pouring rain and getting soaked.

    Turning my own life around wasn't actually that hard it just took time for me to figure out the way I wanted to live it and what choices were right for me. I'm still learning but enjoying the journey for what it is. What frustrated me for a long time and what made me feel isolated was that every health guru I spoke to or every set of experts seemed convinced that there is only one way to become healthy and that involved eating around ten tons of fibre and a gallon of water every hour. Not exactly the most exciting thing in my view and deep down I never felt I could stick to this very rigid view of what being healthy is and how it brings about weight loss.

    As a quick side note this is part of the reason I went and got a degree and did 'A' levels in this field. I like to know how things work and I had this burning desire to understand the body well enough to decide for myself how to make my body and my lifestyle work for me. I'm glad I did because now I have many years of experience behind me that has made me a lot more confident in blazing my own trail. I am now at a point where I can explain the reasons behind what I see and feel which is very comforting.

    So to put it simply I often feel the concept of losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle is presented as such a dramatic and extreme process that I can only 'keep up' with it for a few months until I'm burned out.

    So what did I do. To apply smarter goals I had to address the idea of perfection. I had to accept tt's not achievable, at least not now. It's too big a change. Let's break it down into smaller goals that are acheivable. Why not just figure out what I eat right now and what exercise I do and then spend say three months trying to be a little better. Not completely change my life, just a bit better. Atleast if I do this for three months I have a realistic chance of sticking with these changes for the rest of my life. So any improvements I do make I'll keep. Rather than making all sorts of changes and then just falling back into my own ways. This inspired me because it felt realistic. I wasn't going to completely change my life in a crazily short space of time. I was going to make a few changes over a realistic time and hang onto them.

    That's what I've been doing for many years now. I've tried all sorts of different fads, simply as a learning experience. The point was not to change myself completely but to learn from them the good and the bad so that I know much more now than I did then. I've gotten used to having lots of short, simple goal, things I want to achieve.

    Like finding distractions. One of the biggest barriers to losing weight is the constant temptation to eat. Some people are fantastic at not eating but then they aren't generally the ones who put weight on so that's great for them. For me once I start thinking about food it's just a matter of time before I do eat something. The nature of hunger is unfortunately that once you start eating you can trigger your hunger cravings in just ten or twenty minutes. Then also you'll starting up a daily cycle of being hungry at that particular point in the day. So how do you break this cycle. My answer, find lots of things I love doing that don't involve food. If they take place away from food like playing tennis or walking then all the better. Why does this work. Well thinking about food is the start of the problem. So why not get yourself interested and excited about something else. That way food then has to compete with something genuinely exciting. Sure you could both eat and walk or whatever it is you're doing but that's when you need to be strong. The thing is you're enjoying what you're doing so it gets easier. Particularly if you're not able to get to food because then there's no option. You quickly find that the craving goes away and you forget about it. And forgetting about needing or wanting to lose weight and remembering to spend your time doing the things you love is the best thing I have learned to do these past few years.

    Ok so I said i could waffle on on this topic and I certainly have. So I'll leave it there and no doubt return to it in due course.

    Friday, 2 May 2008


    I've always been interested in coaching. I love to teach people things that I know and I love to help people improve. I've joined a yahoo group plan for a balanced life and was reading a post and liked what the lady was saying. I'd read a few of her other posts and kept liking what I heard.  I checked out her blog and was still fascinated. I looked for her site and ended up at I didn't realise there are now sites that offer coaching online.

    That's what I'd love to do. It's obvious to think about it that this site would be there. At least now I have another area to look into
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