“A sound mind in a healthy body.”

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 8.43.17 PMThere’s a well known Latin quotation, which has been said to me countless times, by my father, as it was recited to him, in his youth, by my grandfather. “Mens sana in corpore sano,” translated, roughly, means, “A sound mind in a healthy body.” 

We exercise and eat well for many different reasons.  Whether the goal is athletic performance, better health, or good looks, regular physical activity also demonstrates a capacity to permeate the depths of the physical body, and improve one’s cognitive and emotional state.

Drawing upon my personal experiences with melancholia and emotional disquiet, and by observing the not-so-subtle improvements which occur in my clients, I’ve become convinced that we possess a wellspring of healing power, within each of us.  Just as exercise can be used to prevent and treat many physical ailments, so can it bring about profound changes in mood and well-being.

How does it work? A physically challenging activity can immediately trigger potent neurochemical changes. Stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol are diminished. At the same time, a soothing release of endorphins, which are the body’s built in pain-killing, mood-boosters, floods the brain.  Studies have also shown that exercise can stimulate the growth of new brain cells. Some of these young neurons are specifically designed to release the neurotransmitter GABA, which hushes squirrely brain activity. In effect, these are calming neurons which prevent anxious states of mind.

How long until I feel better? Similar to pharmaceutical antidepressant therapy, exercise therapy can take several weeks to kick in. This is one, of many, reasons why the occasional clanging of weights or monthly spin class is of little value. Consistency and committed dedication are of the essence. In other words, you are what you do each day. Be that as it may, I regularly enjoy an immediate improvement in my disposition, during, or as the result of, a well-executed workout. As a strength and conditioning specialist, my most rewarding moments aren’t found by having someone heave mountains of iron onto their shoulders. They’re found while provoking a client’s innate ability to improve his or her emotional orientation. As their body temperature rises, and respiration quickens, the corners of their mouths turn upward, and their brow releases its hold.  This response is predictable, observable, and reproducible. The client leaves the session, metamorphosed, with altered mental energy, brighter eyes, and an invulnerable grin. I am, in a neurological sense, a drug pusher.

How to? If you’re feeling bottomed-out, and struggling with tricky emotions, a good first step is to add a mental health professional to your team. For many people, the optimal approach to exercise therapy, is to do so, while taking advantage of standard antidepressant therapy and counseling.  Just like medication and counseling, each person has unique needs, in terms of their personal exercise protocol.  In my opinion, and based on professional experience, a conservative approach, with measured increases in intensity, works best. In spite of my obvious personal bias, I believe that investing in an experienced personal trainer is as valuable as any investment one can make.
Good trainers listen. They know how hard to push you, and when to reduce intensity. If your trainer says, “No pain, no gain,” run away. FAST.  A great trainer is fiercely observant, and pays attention to everything.  They watch joint angles, breathing and heart rate, facial expressions, and even changes in facial skin color. They write programs specific to each client’s goals, ability level, and past fitness experience. Just like physicians, good trainers are hard to find. I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best in NYC, and I’m overjoyed and proud to be sharing my expertise with WNY.

How else does exercise benefit the mind? Forget about the intricacies of neurology for a moment, and imagine how you would feel, in the possession of a powerful body, with lower body fat, and upright stature. Imagine feeling fantastic after ascending three flights of stairs, rather than panting and feeling nauseated. Picture yourself fitting into your favorite outfits, perfectly. How would that make you feel? Pretty good, I think. Coupled with consistently healthy dietary habits, commitment to physical training can also be of benefit to cognitive performance.
In addition to frequent exercise, getting enough good, deep sleep is critical for mental health. It’s also important to look into relaxation techniques and stress-management strategies. For many people, some type of devotion to spiritual practice can make a significant difference.

Is exercise a replacement for psychotherapy? I don’t think so. No matter how fast you set your treadmill, you can’t run away from your worries and troubles.  No man has built his chest muscles to be bulletproof enough to protect the delicate essence of his heart. Training can provide a tremendous advantage, but like all other modes of therapy, it is limited.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can benefit from exercise, my personal email address is

High Bar vs. Low Bar Back Squats

High Bar vs. Low Bar Back Squats.


Every day, my personal training clients ask for advice about their assorted pains, strains, aches, cramps, and twinges. I’ve been involved in athletics and fitness long enough to have had them all, so, although I’m not a physician, I almost always have some helpful guidance. Recently, a client asked for advice regarding pain near his heel. From our brief discussion, it appeared that he was suffering from chronic relapsing Achilles tendinitis.

The Achilles tendon’s job is to help your calf muscle pull your heel, so you can rise up on your toes and push off when you walk or run. Some people get Achilles tendinitis due to lack of flexibility and mobility at the ankle joint, as well as overpronation at the ankle.

Tendinitis is defined as localized inflammation, typically caused by overuse. I’ve had loads of tendinitis, mostly in my elbows and rotator cuffs, and I know from experience, that, even in mild cases, it can take MONTHS of rest for the tendon to fully heal. If you suspect or have been diagnosed with tendinitis, you mustn’t start back up until you’ve been cleared by your physician or team doctor. At the first sign of symptoms, the best thing to do is rest, start a cycle of anti-inflammatory pain medicine, and do gentle stretching exercises. To prevent tendinitis from happening again, a proper warm up is extremely important, before athletic performance. Although stretching and strengthening are important for maintaining healthy, pliable tendons, they can be weakened by over-stretching and inflammation.

Some physicians and exercise physiologists will suggest a shoe with a soft, thick heel to support your run. I’m more of the mindset that you should use a minimal shoe, which will encourage proper mechanics and strengthening of the foot. In any case, I suggest seeking the advice of a medical professional. My Physical Therapist, Chris, at PhysioFitness, is an expert at sports injury rehab, and has been helping me by implementing Active Release Technique.

If you have joint pain, muscle pain, or any other exercise-related issue, please give Chris a call.  His hands are powerful, and his brain is loaded with great physio technique.

Guest Blogger: Melanie Bowen on Exercise and Cancer

In a perfect world, each of us would be spared the difficulty and misery of cancer.  As I’ve briefly touched on, HERE, my family has been walloped by cancer’s sinister fury, time, and time, again.  Ideally, we should attempt to avoid cancer with preventative means.  Nutrition, exercise, and right psychological/spiritual practices can help. If, unfortunately, it becomes not a matter of prevention, but treatment, exercise is still a powerful ally.  Keep reading for more from our guest blogger, Melanie Bowen.

Exercise can be a vital aid during cancer treatment. As a result, physicians often recommend exercise to improve patients’ prognosis. Even walking three to five times per week can have several benefits for patients fighting various different cancers, from breast cancer to mesothelioma. Here, we discuss some reasons patients should exercise during cancer treatment.

Exercise Increases Survival Rates in Cancer Patients
Research indicates that exercise improves energy balance and reduces fatigue.  Studies also show that women who walked three to five hours per week at an average pace, after a cancer diagnosis, have greater survival rates than sedentary women. This is particularly true of women with hormone responsive tumors. Increasing exercise will manage insulin and leptin levels.

Cancer recurrences are also less likely in people who exercise more. When cancer patients recover from surgery and chemotherapy, they should exercise as much as possible within the boundaries set by their physician. Exercise before surgery can greatly assist the healing process, as it potentiates several immune factors.  A robust immune system is vital to quick recovery.

Exercise Improves the Psychological Welfare of Cancer Patients
Exercise releases feel-good endorphins and mood-boosting neurotransmitters. As a result, women who had been previously sedentary, were able to recover faster from early stage breast cancer when they were physically fit and in good spirits. Patients in a good mood tend to be more receptive to treatments and can take advantage of more natural procedures to aid recovery.

Exercise Improves Prognosis in Certain Special Populations
Studies have shown that by being more active, the risk of developing cancer can be reduced in vulnerable populations. These vulnerable populations include African American women, rural communities, obese people, cancer survivors, and working poor populations. People who are more active and eat a nutritious diet are less likely to develop cancer.

Exercise is Important in Any Cancer Regimen
Exercise should be a part of any cancer regimen. Patients should speak with their doctor to determine how much exercise is beneficial for their condition. During cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, daily exercise can be difficult due to side effects like fatigue, but a good physician can provide guidance on when to resume.  If you are in treatment for cancer, talk about exercise with your doctor. It might make you heal faster, feel better, and prevent recurring episodes.

This is a guest post by Melanie Bowen, who blogs at

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Debunking The Paleo Diet

Please take a look at the following video before reading my response.

Most advocates for healthy dietary guidelines will agree with most of what this speaker is saying here. I do, and I think she presents some useful info for people involved in the diet debate.

While I appreciate her compelling commentary, and what she adds to the conversation, she describes a complete misrepresentation of what modern “Paleo” means.  Perhaps she has succeeded in debunking the pop version of Paleo, but certainly not my version. To me, and to other people who mindfully attempt to mimic a pre-Neolithic diet, it’s obvious, and borderline dogmatic that the vast majority of our food must come from plants.

Speaking of plants, her description of the human digestive tract as wholly herbivorous, is not accepted by most experts, as we have several evolutionary adaptations for eating and digesting meat. Humans are on a unique evolutionary branch of the vertebrate tree, so comparisons to other animals’ evolutionary adaptations are not always appropriate.  Instead of evolving razor sharp canines and claws, we have dexterous thumbs, capable of fashioning spears and razor sharp cutting tools. (See homo habilis) Rather than possessing wings, we possess a cerebrum which is has the imaginative and cognitive capacity to achieve flight. (See SR-71 blackbird, voyager probe, etc).

Her statement that humans used grains and legumes before the Neolithic is, of course, valid. However, her data comes from only 30,000 years ago. The Paleolithic era goes back 2,500,000 years! At 30,000 years ago, yes, our ancestors had been processing some amount of grain, in simple stone grinders. I think it works to call this the grey area where the shift was occurring between paleolithic/neolithic.  Today, modern wheat is a man-made, gluten-loaded hybrid. It didn’t exist until 10,000 years ago. Furthermore, today’s wheat has been completely modified in the last few decades.  Grains like wheat and corn (another hybridized aberration) are cultivated in such vulgar quantities, that their availability and consumption are exponentially higher than any pre-Neolithic person could have accessed.

She mentions tomatoes as having been bred from older, more toxic nightshades and therefore shouldn’t be on the Paleo diet. Tomatoes and other nightshades are forbidden under the strictest Paleo dietary rules.

Her critique that Paleo food sources come from distant foreign countries is applicable to veganism, vegetarianism, and the modern western crap diet. 3/4 of her presentation is a critique of veganism.

Mainly, she has illustrated the differences between modern cultivated foods and their Paleolithic/wild counterparts. It’s important to know these things…that our food is not the same as Paleolithic food. No intelligent Paleo dieter would make that assertion. The goal is to approach a diet where macro/micronutrients are SIMILAR to those from antiquity.

She mentions soda and sugar at the end. What Paleo practitioner drinks soda? Again, she is lending credence to the Paleo plan!

This video is not a debunking of Paleo. She has succeeded, however, in debunking an erroneous, bastardized version of Paleo, where people (mostly men) eat red meat as their primary food source. For me, and for many science-literate followers of Paleolithic nutrition, this Ted talk is an extremely elementary introduction to the most basic science comparing modern and ancient food.  Ms. Warinner is far more scholarly and intellectual than this Ted talk would suggest.

The title: “Debunking The Paleo Diet,” is an unfortunate and sensationalist choice. It should be entitled, “Clarifying The Paleo Diet,” or, “Debunking The Modern Western Diet.”

Paleo, by definition, should be an attempt to find the perfect, healthy matrix of foods and behaviors which lead to optimal human wellness. Unlike veganism or other diets, the guidelines of Paleo are constantly changing, as science develops. It’s the only food plan that I know of that’s obligated to evolving with new findings in science, and exists as a spectrum of foods, so that many people can reap its benefits.

Robb Wolf: What Is The Paleo Diet?

Here’s a quick intro to eating in a manner more consistent with our bodies’ requirements.  By Robb Wolf.

What Is The Paleo Diet?.

Eat Meat?

There are countless approaches to eating which are based on visceral, feelings-driven, and even imaginary sets of beliefs.  Fruitarians eat nothing but fruits, nuts and seeds, without meat, vegetables or grain. Some fruitarians believe this was the original diet of Adam and Eve from the Bible, thinking that a return to the food of Eden will in turn lead to a perfect life.  This didn’t work out so well for Ashton Kutcher, as he prepared for his role as Fruitarian, Steve Jobs.  Believe it or not, Breatharians claim that food and water aren’t necessary, that it’s possible to live merely on sunlight. There have been no properly documented successes, and many have died trying to prove it. Nonetheless, there are many famous breatharians with a dedicated following. Perhaps the most unnatural and unhealthy, is the modern processed food diet.  While DailyFitCoach advises replacing processed food with nutrient dense vegetables and meat, still another set of rules applies to those who practice veganism.

The DailyFitCoach community is, by design, a science-based community.  We look for evidence from preagricultural/prehistoric time, to better understand the physical, biological, and chemical conditions that presided over evolutionary adaptations in humans and their most recent hominin ancestors.  In addition to the fact that our current genome was forged, largely, prior to recent (≈10,000 years) changes in diet and physical activity, a boundless heap of science validates the idea that some pre-Neolithic behaviors, when put into practice, conspire to prevent modern disease.  This should not suggest that we have stopped evolving, nor that all modern foods should be avoided, simply because early man didn’t eat them. The notion that there is one ideal diet, is largely illusory. In fact, the ideal diet exists as an exhaustive array of food combinations, and is quite adjustable, as food tolerances vary from person to person.  Someone sensitive to nightshades or peanuts will have to abstain from these things in order to avoid allergic or inflammatory response. There’s no such thing as a pure Paleo diet, because many foods from that period are no longer available.  Additionally, foods like grubs, lizards, insects, and bark aren’t much desired any more.  What we’re essentially trying to accomplish, is a dietary macro/micronutrient profile, that uses available food sources and promotes optimal health.

It’s argued (mostly by vegans) that veganism is a highly compassionate and healthy approach to the human diet. To them, the practice of killing an animal for food is unacceptable and wrong.  That belief, although in direct opposition to the observable arrangement of nature, may be a healthy plan, if only for the adherent’s conscience.  It’s clear that veganism, when practiced intelligently, surpasses the typical processed foods diet, in terms of wellness and disease prevention, but is it really compassionate?  Is it compassionate to demand the import of so much Quinoa that the Bolivian and Peruvian communities that have farmed this grain-like seed for generations are forced to eat cheap processed foods?  Affluent Americans are, “compassionately,” driving the prices up, with their aberrant cravings for food sources that attempt to replace meat.  Quinoa, like most seeds, was NOT a large part of our ancient diet, as it contains inflammatory saponins which must be removed to make the seeds edible.  Soy, another vegan favorite, is likewise, inedible unless processed first.  The Natural World/Universe/God has provided a straightforward source of amino acids, and it comes with healthy fats, Vitamin B12 and K2.

Unfortunately, these food sources, like us, have big eyes, which give the impression that they’re conveying sadness, grief, and other emotional reactions.  Like us, they vocalize, in order to keep their young nearby and to signal danger.  Like us, they scream and flail when they are provoked or traumatized.  Be that as it may, they do not consider their place in the world, like we do.  They don’t dream of a future, gilded with awareness and adorned with Universal peace, like we do.  No, most vertebrates are running on pure instinct. They lack the large neo frontal cortex which has blessed/cursed humans with the egoic notion of, “Me.”  Their suffering, while neurochemically, and symptomatically similar to ours, is not the same.  For a cow, there’s no regret at not having lived a rich, full life.  A chicken doen’t experience a flash of childhood memories, nor images of its children’s faces, as it is escorted to the guillotine.  I don’t mean to diminish the realness of an animal’s pain, when it is slaughtered on a ranch, dispatched in the woods, or savagely torn to pieces by a predatory animal. Pain is an unpleasant experience for any creature with pain receptors, and evolution has made it clear that pain (and death) should be desperately avoided.  I think it’s important to understand, however, that they likely experience the suffering of that pain differently than we do.  To assume their experience is the same as ours, is to arrogantly and egotistically (remember that neo frontal cortex?) anthropomorphize an animal, and, in doing so, we exhibit a failure of human perception.  The fallacy occurs when humans transfer the human experience of grief, despair, misery, onto the animal’s experience of pain, discomfort, and distress.

Vegan = Compassionate?

Is it compassionate to clear vast fields for agriculture, while killing, maiming and displacing hundreds of small rodents, snakes, etc? In Australia:
At least 100 mice are killed per hectare per year (500/4 × 0.8) to grow grain. Average yields are about 1.4 tonnes of wheat/hectare; 13% of the wheat is useable protein. Therefore, at least 55 sentient animals die to produce 100kg of useable plant protein: 25 times more than for the same amount of rangelands beef.  Is there some way to compare the value of sentient creatures?  In my opinion, my bodily health and that of my fellow humans is of equal (if not greater) value to a mouse or a cow.  Perhaps I’m exhibiting a clannish species-bias, but, hey, I’m only human.  Certainly, the meat-production industry is no shining model of our humanity, and in reality, is among the most savage industries to have ever existed. Even as millions upon millions of insects, rodents, rabbits, birds, reptiles, toads are sucked from their natural home and maimed, mauled or killed by a tractor combine, the vegan response, here, is typically, “We’re not killing them intentionally.”  This is an undeserved presumption of innocence and another human logic fallacy.  As long as there can be a denial of guilt, the outcome doesn’t matter.

As a young boy, I caught, killed, cleaned, cooked, and ate a brook trout.  I didn’t enjoy killing the animal, but it made sense.  I was simply taking life and turning it into new life.  The fish suffered very briefly, and my family and I received life-giving nourishment. It was a sacred exchange that is as old as time, itself. At around the same age, I unintentionally rode over a snake with a lawnmower. It survived, its once smooth, lithe body, now mangled and angular, bleeding and writhing. I killed it quickly to end its pain. (I did not eat it.) The similarities to harvesting fields of vegetables should be obvious, as a nice looking grass yard was gotten for the cost of a sentient vertebrate.  I imagine it would have been a more emotionally casual experience, had someone else been paid to cut the lawn and handle the snake situation. This is just as we prefer to maintain an air of ignorance, while farmers do the foul, dishonorable  acts involved in cultivating animals for meat.  I realize that I’ve demonstrated a certain amount of what appears to be self-contradiction, in this article, but matters such as these are seldom cut and dry.

There are as many beliefs about nutrition and wellness, as there are about religion and politics.  Often, such deeply held belief systems are reinforced by tradition, collective consensus, and emotional conviction, rather than science.  Basically, we ignore facts and overestimate the value of our feelings.  I admit that, although I make every effort to avoid it, I am as susceptible to confirmation bias as anyone.  My intent, however, is to unravel and share science-based information regarding human disease prevention.  I try to be very careful about giving suggestions that originate in sentiment or emotion, and wherever possible, use my own life as my experimental laboratory.

I can’t tell you how to feel about taking animals as food.  I can only share my experiences and research on the topic. The fact is that, as omnivores, by definition, we should be open to the idea of eating plants AND animals.  As intelligent, health conscious folks, we should follow Michael Pollan’s advice, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”  As conscientious, spiritual beings, who hope to heal ourselves, each other, and this world, we must continue to search the depths of our hearts and minds for the wisdom and guidance to live, in accordance with our highest self.  Only you, in moments of clarity and prudence, know which path to follow.

For more information, please visit some of these links.

Meat Consumption Not Linked to Mortality.

Science: Beef Good, Bacon, Not So Bad

What If Bad Fat Isn’t So Bad?

Eat Your Heart Out

Red Meat Will Kill You, And Other Assorted Fairy Tales

Science, Pseudoscience, Nutritional Epidemiology, and Meat

Evidence Points to Dairy Products Not Being Inflammatory After All

Red Meat, It Does A Body Good

The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat

The China Study: Fact or Fallacy?

Longer Life For Milk Drinkers, Study Suggests

What Everyone, Especially Vegetarians, Should Know About B-12 Deficiency

Challenging Vegans & Vegetarians

Wellness And Awareness

The purpose of this blog is to explore modern trends in health science and investigate how you and I can benefit from them. Which physical, mental, and spiritual habits lead to suffering and disease? Which ones will help us gain bodily vigor, a peaceful mind, and a warm spirit?

We can approach optimal health, wellness, and ultimately greater cognitive and emotional well-being by reintegrating some principles from our ancient ancestors’ lifestyles. When looking at Paleolithic nutrition, movement, mental and spiritual practices, we should adapt a modernized version if there’s substantial evidence of an advantage over the status quo.

The greatest challenge in my quest to understand and share this information has been the application of it in my own personal life. My path to health and mindfulness has been marked by significant difficulty in my physical, emotional and spiritual bodies. Injuries, overindulgence, laziness, self-pity and mindlessness are my baneful traveling partners. The very presence of these difficulties should provoke a compulsion to convert them into wellness and awareness, but they frequently beget themselves. There are moments of pure clarity, where I surrender to a kind, wise voice inside, and I’m guided through this conversion. I hope to increase the frequency at which I enjoy states of wellness and awareness, and avoid states of disease and aggravation. My intent is to not only cultivate knowledge about how to reach these states, but to share my process of applying it.

When I was 9 years old, I experienced, for the first time, the heartache and mental upheaval brought by the death of a loved one. I still remember my grandfather as a colossal and sturdy, but sweet and gentle man. Tragically, he encountered something so ferocious that it, without hesitation, transformed all of his blue-collar brawn to an infant-like frailty. Ravaged by cancer and chemo, and living with one lung, the whole 6’4″ of him withered to a sticklike 95 pounds. “Big Baba’s,” disintegration was, perhaps, the most impactful lesson he gave me. Nearly 25 years ago, I began to puzzle over why we must suffer the pain and grief brought on by illness. Diseases of affluence have relentlessly ravaged my family during my lifetime. I’m not speaking solely of my direct line. I mean to say, our whole human family.

I have, since, adopted an attitude shared by many, if not most, folks of my mindset:

In many cases, prevention is the cure.

Another influential experience appeared during my involvement in romantic love. My college darling, an unusually gifted pianist, mentioned some abnormal peripheral nerve symptoms. I remember my sensation of dread as she listed her seemingly minor, but clearly indicative symptoms. Her fingertips, tingling and a little bit numb after a warm shower, could have suggested any number of problems, but the demonstration of, “Lhermitte’s Sign,” a sudden sensation of electricity down the posterior body, while touching the chin to the chest, verged on diagnosis, in itself. My 19 year-old sweetheart and dearest friend would begin IV treatments shortly after MRIs and lumbar puncture confirmed she had Multiple Sclerosis, as we feared. Much of my attention, as a result, went to studying autoimmune disorders, their causes, and their prevention. Close to 15 years later, she shows almost no signs of the disease, and is considered to have achieved a neurological repair that’s seldom seen.

She owes her healing to a strict protocol of avoiding processed foods, using organic whole foods, and adding certain others. Evening Primrose oil is the first and most important addition. Evening Primrose oil contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid (EFA). Interestingly, this omega-6 fatty acid has anti-inflammatory properties, whereas most omega-6 are pro-inflammatory. Inflammation is at the root of many autoimmune disorders, as well as most other modern diseases. She also uses flax seed, avocado, and walnuts to supplement her intake of EFAs. Like me, she is an avid green juice/smoothie enthusiast, and gets mega doses of nutritious plant compounds, which are desperately lacking in the typical modern diet. She avoids saturated fats, immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, all dairy, alcohol, refined flour and sugar.

Beyond nutrition, she cares for her mind/body/spirit by aiming to practice yoga every day and prioritizing sleep.  Most of these lifestyle changes are congruent with prehistoric behavior/lifestyle.  Where she has succeeded in putting herself into a healing state, many of us often fail.  Our bodies aren’t as quick to show such obvious signs of illness, but over time, they arise, as in the example of my grandfather.

There’s little debate that obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, autoimmune disorders and cancer can be alleviated or avoided with proper nutrition, fitness, and psychological/spiritual practice. Many experts believe that some of these diseases are coded for by our DNA, and that we are born, predisposed to them. This is partly true, however, findings in the field of epigenetics are showing us that we can tilt the scales in our favor by swaying the expression of our genes. By applying certain principles and practices, we can change our genetic future. Not surprisingly, many of these practices share congruence with those typical of humans and earlier hominins living during the vast Paleolithic era.

Human evolution is not yet complete, and we have the ability and duty to consciously steer toward a well and aware future. Let’s, together, raise our level of consciousness by inviting balance into our lives, and into this world.  An old African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  We are the children of the global village.  There is no way to attain true wellness and awareness, unless we encourage one another to walk a nourishing and mindful path.



6 reasons you should be pumping iron

Each new year brings us a new set of fitness fads. From maniacal workout DVDs to extreme slim-down organic herbal enemas, there’s no shortage of snake oil in the fitness industry. While some of these approaches produce results, oftentimes, the effects fade quickly. A science-based approach encourages the addition of multi-joint strength movements to your exercise program. The broad term for this type of exercise is, “resistance training.”

Do you even lift?

1. Resistance training can help prevent sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss):

After age 30 (yikes), our muscles start to wither at a rate of 3-5% per year. Lifting weights can reverse this sign of aging in the body, so you end up looking like this instead of this. Weight lifting, therefore is the preferred treatment for sarcopenia. Muscle loss increases the risk of injury and disability in older people, so I like to think of resistance training as a gift to my future self.

2. It helps build bone, by slowing the mineral loss associated with Osteoporosis:

Bones are living, growing tissues. In some people, the bones of the hips and spine can start to rapidly lose density. As muscles pull on bone, during weight lifting, the resulting stress increases bone density, making it stronger. Bones are also strengthened by the compressive forces of being under load, during weight-bearing exercises and from impact during jogging, dancing and jumping.

3. It can combat high blood pressure:

Resistance training causes increased circulation and bloodflow throughout the body, and dilates blood vessels. This results in a lowering of systemic blood pressure, a major risk factor for several life-threatening disorders.

4. It reduces body fat by raising your resting metabolic rate:

When considering which movements or exercises should be included, keep in mind that the biggest muscles in your body burn up lots more calories than smaller muscles. For example, your glutes, when engaged in a lift, have a far greater metabolic demand than your biceps. So, a squat is, arguably, more beneficial than curls. The calories consumed by glutes and other large muscle groups, if unused, would otherwise be stored as fat. It’s patently false that you can turn fat into muscle, or vice-versa, but you CAN tell your body what to do with the food you consume. (Use it to rebuild muscle, or store it as chunks of body blubber.)

5. It can drastically alter your hormones:

Virtually every part of your body is connected to your brain via the nerves of your peripheral nervous system. Although the brain is not a muscle, it tells every muscle in your body what to do. The communication from muscles to brain isn’t a one-way street. When under stress (heavy lifting) the skeletal muscles of your legs, arms, and trunk send messages directly to the pituitary gland (which lives smack in the center of your brain) triggering the release of human growth hormone and testosterone. In the female body, this flood of hormones acts as a powerful ally for fat loss, increased muscle tone, and powerfully shapes the butt and legs. Results in men can be even more dramatic, as these particular hormones are critical for muscle development, strength, and elevated mood.

6. It improves insulin resistance:

Another increasing health risk, in modern, Western populations, is insulin resistance. Consumption of high-carbohydrate foods like grains and sugars lead to dramatic spikes in blood insulin. When this happens too frequently, cells begin to lose their sensitivity to insulin, and rather than use the sugar as fuel, they store it as fat, for later use. This can result in a host of metabolic disorders like obesity, high cholesterol, and ultimately, Type 2 Diabetes. Simply eating low-carb isn’t enough. A weight lifting program which emphasizes large muscle lifts can increase your insulin sensitivity and steer you away from these illnesses.

In hunter-gatherer societies, people’s bodies were challenged to build shelter, forage, hunt, and perform day-to-day errands and tasks. Today, the adage, “Use it, or lose it,” has, sadly, proven true, as an increasing number of people spend their days indoors, without much physical exertion. The genius of modern labor-saving devices and modes of transportation have contributed to a scenario where exercise is not a part of life unless it’s deliberately sought out. Lack of physical activity ranks high as a risk factor for development of disease and early death. With proper resistance training, we can improve our health and appearance, as well as feel a sense of connectedness to our bodies, a sense of achievement, and an increase in emotional and psychological well-being. When your body feels strong and healthy, something analogous happens to your spirit. I’ve always been fond of the following quote, where the Bible points to the importance of bodily maintenance:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Cor 6:19-20

Brace Yourselves, This Post Is About Booze

Physiologically, we’re nearly identical to humans of 20,000-10,000 years ago. Today, though, we’re changing more than ever, as it’s likely that we’re in the midst of a radical civilization-generated genetic revolution. Urban environments with never-before seen pressures for adaptation and a world polluted by synthetic compounds drive our DNA to mutate more than ever before. These environmental changes are occurring at a rate, faster than which, our DNA can keep up. For example, the modern shift to a processed food-based diet has clearly contributed to an epidemic of metabolic disorders and modern disease, simply because we haven’t had enough time to evolve a gut that can handle it. For the vast majority of us, herbage and critters are a far healthier source of nutrition.

There’s one more family of processed fare which has long been both maligned and exalted (sometimes in the same breath). The first beer and spirits were made from grain, so should we be concerned that eating healthy, like a caveman, might not include beer pong and keg stands? Did our Paleolithic kin-folk get hooched up on the weekends and ashamedly wake up in the loving, hairy arms of a thick-browed Neander-damsel?

Until about 10,000 years ago, humans would only have come across extremely small amounts of alcohol in rotting fruit. They, like some wild animals, today, were able to feel its intoxicating effects, but only very rarely. Believe me, it takes several decaying, fermented plums to catch a good buzz. In due course, some smarty-pants mixed a container of grain with water and let it sit. The grain’s enzymes converted starches into sugars and airborne yeasts turned the sugars into alcohol. The resulting brewski was very low in alcohol (approximately 3%) but loaded with nutrition and calories. It’s presumed that early cities could not have been built had workers not had access to this hydrating, nutritious brew. Even more astounding is that researchers have found large doses of tetracycline embedded in the bones of ancient African mummies. This antibiotic drug wasn’t known to science until its “development,” in 1949! But…but…but…HOW?

It appears that the grains used to make the beer were contaminated with a strep bacteria which produces tetracycline antibiotics to kill off other, competing bacteria! HOW SICK IS THAT!

The desire for and importance of early versions of beer persuaded people to plant vast fields of grain. This is one factor that paved the way for the birth of agriculture. As the first simple breads made their debut around the same time, we, for the first time ever, had enough food to shift away from nomadic life. By developing agriculture and civilization, we ushered in the Neolithic era.

These days, beer and spirits play a no less substantial role in our cultural celebrations, social affairs, and relaxation. When compared to teetotalers, there are even a handful of health benefits which are correlated to low-level drinking. Generally speaking, enjoying 1-2 drinks per day has been linked to improved blood cholesterol ratio, less weight gain, reduced risk of diabetes, improved resistance to dementia, and reduced gallstone formation. Researchers are still putting together the pieces of how this all works, and many links between alcohol and health improvement are sketchy. Some of the benefit likely comes from alcohol’s sedative effect, whereby, it becomes a potent reliever of stress (a major component in the development of virtually every modern disease). All seemingly beneficial effects are reversed, to an alarming degree, once alcohol use increases beyond a drink or two per day.

Severe detrimental effects are seen in chronic alcohol abusers, and long-term use of alcohol in excessive quantities is capable of causing damage to every type of tissue and system in the body.

alcohol effects

It’s important to understand that, in science, correlation does not imply causation. As in the sedation/stress-reduction model, there may be other factors that explain how alcohol has been linked to health benefits. In fact, cancer specialists vehemently disagree that any dose of alcohol can be of benefit. Additionally, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London agrees that alcohol is toxic in any amount and should not be used.

From a societal standpoint, alcohol is immensely damaging. According to a chart from The Lancet, alcohol is the most damaging drug, in terms of harming others. Prevalence of assaults and accidents is statistically linked to alcohol use.

The loss of control over our mind and intellect is also of concern to those of us who seek to live a healthy and clear spiritual existence. Negative thought patterns, resulting from alcohol’s depressive effect, infiltrate our consciousness. Even a single drink is enough to sway some of us away from our path toward light, and into a subtle romance with a dark state. A regular relationship with alcohol may also divert attention, concern and closeness from relationships with loved ones. The very name, “spirits,” is a reminder of that alcohol is a counterfeit version of our innermost, essential part. Where my opinion counts, I advise people to be extremely wary of using alcohol, no matter how steeped in family or cultural tradition, and no matter how fully aware they may be of their relationship with the drug. Alcohol is a processed chemical, not prevalent in the natural world, and it is acutely toxic to humans. Because it has been used for the past 10,000 years, does not mean it hasn’t worn out its usefulness. Because it was not used prior to 10,000 years ago, it is a toxin to our bodies. Because you’ve read my whole article, I humbly suggest that you earnestly inspect your relationship with alcohol, as I continue to do with mine.

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