Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hobo Health – An Observation

Riding back from the Catskills the other day I observed a homeless man walking along the highway dragging his cart of things. Since traffic was slow, I had time to notice that his face was reddish brown, his bare arms were deeply tanned and he sported a full shock of hair. Other than his clothes, he looked kind of good actually. He was probably in his late 40’s or early 50’s.

Years ago, I used to see a particular homeless man on the Upper West Side of Manhattan all the time. I would always wonder what in the name of all that is holy is keeping this man alive. He smoked, drank, ate from garbage cans and clearly took drugs of all sorts. Yet, he lived for years like this. As I recall, he too had a full head of thick hair, thick beard and tan skin.

In the summer in NYC near where my gym is, I often see a particular shirtless homeless man walking around on Broadway. He’s in such good shape that he’d win a trophy in an amateur body building contest if he entered. He too has a full head of hair.

What is it that keeps these people alive – and with heads of hair to die for? (O.K., so I’m a little obsessed with head hair.)

Today it dawned on me (mind the pun) – it’s the sun. Yes, good old vitamin D.

These homeless men are outside all the time. They probably get more quality sun time in a week than many of us do in a year. And I don’t have to tell you how important vitamin D is for your immune system and overall health. Just read through the link I provided above or this link to find out all about how important vitamin D is and how deficient most people are especially vegetarians since they eat little fat and oils.

Experts today suggest that our serum vitamin D levels in our blood should be at least 40 ng/ml. A few clients of mine who I suggested have their vitamin D levels checked due to frequent illnesses were below 20! That is not good.

Cod liver oil is a good source. So too is salmon and mackerel. Beef or calves liver, eggs, sardines are also decent sources. Cheese contains little if any D. Ready to eat cereals are fortified with D, but you don’t want to put that sort of garbage food in your temple just to get some.

Vegetarians and especially vegans should take a D3 supplement in olive oil. From what I have read, D3 is better absorbed than D2.

But everyone should get more sun – sans sunscreen of course. You don’t need to slather on sunscreen when in the sun unless you are walking through the Mohave dessert. Talk about an industry that has freaked people into putting on a coating of chemical goo just to go to the park for a few hours. The best sunscreeen I know of is called a tree.

Lack of sun could have been the reason the Bubonic plague and other plagues took such a toll on people. Think about the dress of the 14th century – take a look:

14th century dress

14th century dress

Nary a drop of skin was exposed. How did they absorb any vitamin D?

Just thinkin’…

Do you know what your level of vitamin D is? You should. Here’s a nifty way to test it.

Now, go get your shorts and tank tops on and get thee to the park!

What we Ate on Vacation

Don’t get jealous now.

I thought I’d share some pix of the food I ate while vacationing in Paris, Barcelona and London. All low carb/sugar and all so very tasty! Let’s start with Paris…

Here is what I avoided!

Here is what I avoided!

Bunless burgers! Georgia was eating some sort of meat and cheese fondue thingy. This was in the Mouffetarde area.

Our first day in Paris - Good eating! the kids tempered their fry intake but they were cooked in duck fat so it was hard!

Good eating! the kids tempered their fry intake but they were cooked in duck fat so it was hard!

My favorite meal in Paris. there was so much duck fat I figured the taters glycemic load was pulverized. Still I didn’t eat all of them.

Duck leg confit and taters swimming in duck fat.

Duck leg confit and taters swimming in duck fat.

Here we are awaiting our meal at...jeepers I forget!

Here we are awaiting our meal at Chez Fernand Christine

We shared a nice pate plate:

So good!

So good!

This wine was outstanding!

This wine was outstanding!

Bone marrow to die for!

Bone marrow to die for!

Linda had a beef stew that was luscious - like beef cream soup.

Linda had a beef stew that was luscious - like beef cream soup.

My brother in law had some sort of sausage medley.

My brother in law had some sort of sausage medley.

And what did I choose as my main? You guessed it!

Yeah, low carb gets so boring. Same old, same old. I miss my pasta. NOT!

Yeah, low carb gets so boring. Same old, same old. I miss my pasta. NOT!

Georgia ate well too as you can see.

Veal chop heaven! She went easy on the taters.

Veal chop heaven! She went easy on the taters.

Creamy creme brulee for dessert. We all shared.

Creamy creme brulee for dessert. We all shared.

Though I don’t eat much dairy, this place sure had some seriously amazing stuff!

Say cheese!

Say cheese!

We took two Fat Bike tours – one in Paris and one in Versailles. Great trips!

Fat Bike tour in Paris. Amber was working off her carbs!

Fat Bike tour in Paris. Amber was working off her carbs!

Onto Barcelona…

Our first meal in Barcelona. Mussels and chicken paella on the way.

Our first meal in Barcelona. Mussels and chicken paella on the way.

As I ate my food, this was the image to my right. Talk about waiting for the ball to drop!

As I ate my food, this was the image to my right. Talk about waiting for the ball to drop!

We ate at a very nice seafood place by the sea and drank many a Tinto Verano. The drink is a light alcohol wine mixed with bubbly water and various citrus fruits inside. Very refreshing! Hat tip to Mike Eades my co-author for the heads up on this drink!

Here was my meal:

The little tiny cockles were fantastic!

The little tiny cockles were fantastic!

Amber was hooked up with a hunk of sirloin:

Amber's steak. It was like butta!

Amber's steak. It was like butta!

In front of 4Gats - Picasso frequented this eatery.

In front of 4Gats - Picasso frequented this eatery.

Linda is about to feats on rabbit shoulder stew:

Sorry bunny but...

Sorry bunny, but...

Steak with foie gras on top. Yes, eating low carb is so bland and limiting:

The portion was too small!

The portion was too small!

Amber’s steak was so thick she got a helping hand from the kind waiter:

Why thank you!

Why thank you!

Our last lunch in Barcelona. We were almost dragged in by the manager. He talked a good talk and when he said the restaurant was also gluten free certified we were in! Take a look:

The label in the center certified them as a gluten free providing eatery.

The label in the center certified them as a gluten free providing eatery.

Believe it or not, gluten free rolls and a pitcher of Tinto.

Believe it or not, gluten free rolls and a pitcher of Tinto.

A huge chunk of fatty meat:

This meal was delicious. And the sauce was gluten free too!

This meal was delicious. And the sauce was gluten free too!

OK onto merry olde England!

The food was not as good on average in the U.K. compared to Paris and Barcelona. But we did find a few places that were as good like a little gastro-pub in South Kennsington called Bumpkin.

025

We stumbled upon this fantastic gastro-pub called the Crown and Goose. A must visit eatery when in Camden.

We stumbled upon this fantastic gastro-pub called the Crown and Goose. A must visit eatery when in Camden.

This dish was scrumptious:

Wild pigeon! (I hope...)

Wild pigeon! (I hope...)

Dinner at Trullo. Fantastic. We read about this place an article by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Dinner at Trullo. Fantastic. We read about this place an article by Gwyneth Paltrow.

All that hen for me?

All that hen for me?

I neglected to take a pic of my dish or Linda’s.

Saying goodbye:

Last breakfast in the U.K.

Last breakfast in the U.K.

I hope you enjoyed this gastro-post. We certainly enjoyed eating it all!

The moral of this story is, low carb never gets boring or tasteless no matter where you go.

Mark Sisson’s Exercise Errors

Mark Sisson has become a very popular paleo promoter and I like a lot of what he has to say. His book is pretty good and I hate him for all the hair he has on his head. I wish it were true that going paleo was good for hair re-growth but its not.

As good as his nutritional info is, I came across a blog of his that has some inaccurate exercise information. Since he is so popular (WAY more popular than I am), and can influence many, I thought it was necessary to address these errs as they are both misleading and potentially dangerous.

I am not saying that Mark purposefully puts forth exercise recommendations that he knows are harmful. Nor am I suggesting that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So don’t anyone think this is a Mark Sisson bashing blog. It is not.

In the blog Mark says:

…the idea that muscle significantly boosts resting metabolic rate is pretty much nonsense.

Well, it’s actually not nonsense. I suppose we have to define “significantly.” It seems to me that any increase in resting metabolic rate above 100 calories a day is significant.

Here is an article by Dr. Wayne Westcott that I think is a very good explanation of why and how weight lifting does indeed increase RMR significantly.

From the article:

However, if the strength-training program adds 3 pounds of muscle tissue for a total of 65 pounds of skeletal muscle, and if each pound of trained muscle now uses 7.2 calories per day at rest (a 1.5 calorie increase), then the new contribution to his resting metabolism is about 468 calories (65 pounds of muscle x 7.2 calories per pound = 468 calories).

This represents about 115 additional calories expended each day at rest (353 calories to 468 calories = 115 calories), which increases his resting metabolic rate by approximately 7 % (1,600 calories per day x 7 % = 112 more calories). This metabolic increase is consistent with the research findings by both Campbell, et al., and Pratley, et al.

The key here is not just the added muscle tissue, but the totality of the trained muscle. So in my opinion, it is somewhat misleading to say that an increased RMR attained via resistance training is nonsense.

Even though Mark correctly downplays the role of aerobic activity for fat loss, suggesting that resistance training does nada to help increase fat loss might lead people to believe they do indeed need to add aerobics into the fray to burn more calories and this is almost always a fat loss faux pas.

The other err Mark puts forth and the one I think is the worst offender is the following:

How does one get increased muscle mass? Why, by lifting heavy things.

Well, yes and no. It is one way – so long as you lift heavy things to complete muscle fatigue or “muscular success” as we call it at Serious Strength – or darn near it. But it is a dangerous way to be honest.

Dr. Ralph Carpinelli wrote a very good paper on why the heavier is better idea is nonsense. This does not mean that very light weights will work either. But to suggest to people that you must lift heavy objects to build muscle is, in my opinion, a tad on the side of “uh-uh.”

From the paper:

The size principle states that motor units are recruited in an orderly manner from the smaller (lower threshold) to the larger (higher threshold) motor units, and that the recruitment is dependent on the effort of the activity. Greater recruitment produces higher muscular force. However, the pervasive faulty assumption that maximal or near maximal force (very heavy resistance) is required for recruitment of the higher-threshold motor units and optimal strength gains is not supported by the size principle, motor unit activation studies, or resistance training studies. This flawed premise has resulted in the unsubstantiated heavier-is-better recommendation for resistance training. [ J Exerc Sci Fit • Vol 6 • No 2 • 67–86 • 2008]

What this means is, you don’t need to lift heavy things to gain added muscle and strength. And since you don’t, you shouldn’t as the heavier the weight is, the closer you come to injury.

My suggestion is to choose a weight or resistance that allows for at least 50-60 seconds of effort before muscular success occurs. This ensures that the load is not too heavy. But your behavior matters too of course. Yanking, thrusting or heaving into a light weight can also cause harm. Slow and steady wins the muscle!

As the Hippocratic oath states: “Do no harm.” This is a good oath. Don’t endanger yourself by lifting very heavy things and don’t pound your joints to dust in the attempt to burn the extra calories that resistance training supposedly doesn’t provide.

As Mark would undoubtedly agree, eat fatty, wild caught proteins and some locally grown plant matter only. Drink fresh water.

But lift moderately heavy weights slowly and infrequently. Forget calories entirely but know that your weight training is doing you great metabolic good.

And Mark, keep up the great work!

My Friend Alec

Alec McCowen and I at his home in South Kennsington, U.K.

Me and Alec McCowen at his home in South Kennsington, U.K.

I’m going to take a break today from blogging on health to indulge both you and I with a blog about a dear friend, Alec McCowen.

Alec is one of the world’s greatest living actors – an icon of the stage and screen. He’s 86 now but still had the blazing eyes and wit of a 20 year old. He never obtained the same star-fame as Lord Laurence Olivier or Sir John Gielgud (nor was he ever knighted), but when you mention his name in theatrical circles, all bow their heads.

In 1990 I had the pleasure and honor of being his stage manager for his self directed, one man masterpiece St. Mark’s Gospel at the Lamb’s Theater on Broadway. We took it on national tour as well. The show was a remarkable depiction of the story of Jesus according to Mark that contained a myriad of emotions and incredible humor. If you found Mark a stiff read in bible class, Alec brings the tale to life. I never once tired of watching him perform it. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy it.

Since then we’ve kept in touch sending holiday cards to each other every year for 21 years. So when I knew that we were making England part of our vacation, I wrote to him to see if he would be in London when we were there. Luckily, he was!

So, we went to visit him on August 4th, our second day in the U.K. after a trip to Harrod’s department store. Amber, a lover of doll houses, was in heaven!

Amber found her home!

Amber found her home!

Harrod’s was a mere few miles from his home so we hopped in a cab and went to see him for tea. As we approached his home in South Kennsington, I felt very nervous to see him again after 20 years. I knew he had aged a lot and was, it was rumored, suffering from the loss of a foot due to diabetes. Thankfully the rumor was just that.

We walked up the stoop of his 4 story townhouse (no pic for privacy purposes, sorry!) and rang the bell. A few seconds passed without an answer. Georgia was very excited to meet him and became a bit worried that perhaps he wasn’t there. I said “He’s old honey, give him time.” Then, from the intercom we heard the unmistakable trumpet voice of the great actor:

“Is that Amber?” It sounded like she was being called to the podium to accept her diploma from Harvard.

I gestured to Amber to come closer to answer him. “Yes it is!” she said.

“Is that Georgia?” “Yes it is!” Georgia replied.

Is that Linda?” His voice softened with a tone of rememberence. “Yes Alec.” she said smiling. We were all smiling like Cheshire cats at this point.

Is that Heathcliffe?”

When we were touring, we discovered that we both had the same favorite movie – Wuthering Heights with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon.

Heathcliffe was played by Olivier and we would toss quotes from the movie out at each other all the time, wherever we went. I love the movie so much that, if I recall correctly, I was actually able to out quote the masterful thespian.

“Why isn’t there the smell of heather in your hair?” “Why are your eyes always empty, like Linton’s eyes.” “Kathy, you’re still my queen!” “I cannot live without my life. I cannot die without my soul.” “Why do you think I’m here tonight? You willed me here. You willed me here across the sea.”

Stuff like that.

You gotta watch it. Make sure to bring two boxes of Kleenex when you do.

Here’s a snippet:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igaRpWIoFaw&w=540&h=390]

OK one more:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puxz9xNgtXQ&w=540&h=390]

Though you can’t see it, behind Alec and the girls in this picture is a picture of my girls that he put in a special holder.

Alec and my girls. Between Alec and Georgia's head is one of their holiday cards proudly displayed.

Alec and my girls. Between Alec and Georgia's head is one of the holiday cards they created proudly displayed.

Alec had never met my girls before we went to visit so showing off my beauties to such a great man was a real thrill. Linda was beside herself.

In the background on the walls you can see artist renderings of Alec as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. Judith Dench played Juliet. He is known as the quintessential Mercutio.

In the background on the walls you can see artist renderings of Alec as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. Judith Dench played Juliet. He is known as the quintessential Mercutio.

I wish I could tell you all the stories he told about Katherine Hepburn, Sean Connery, Dame Judith Dench (his close friend) and many others but this blog would go on for hours and hours. Georgia and Amber have recently become fans of the James Bond films. When I told them he played ‘Q’ Algy in Never Say Never Again they were dumbfounded.

Alec told us the story of how they changed the NSNA script the day he got on the set. He had studied the script for months before and had the scenes set in his mind. Connery didn’t like the director much Alec told us and when he discussed the script change with Connery, the big man said in his rough Scottish voice “Don’t worry about the damn script Alec. Do the scene the way you want to do it. I’ll take care of Kershner.”

It was great to see Alec again. Tea was wonderful and he told us all about his home by the sea and how he was happy living as a retired actor.

One more photo:

This picture means a lot to me.

This picture means a lot to me.

I hope I’ll have the opportunity to see him once again. Life is short and we must all relish in the relationships we cherish.

An Ongoing Success Story

I love getting these emails:

Hi Fred!

I am a 64-year-old post menopausal (obviously) obese woman who is on a mission. (I am also a mother, grandmother, artist and wife, among other things.)

Starting in January of this year, I belatedly started turning my life around. I FINALLY got the right information on diet and a good scare to give me the motivation. It started with Jorge Cruise, and then via Gary Taubes and a bunch of other low-carb pundits, I am now on a self-directed Eades/Atkins/Paleo way of eating, which has helped me make remarkable changes in my life. I am now on an ongoing quest for health and fitness and am tweaking all aspects of my life in the process.

In early January, I was a 5’6-1/2″, 235 pounds (actually down from a high of almost 250,) insulin resistant, sedentary, very low energy, depressed woman. I was fat, miserable and unhealthy. In mid-January, I cut out all grains (including corn and rice,) legumes, and processed carbs. Since then, I have settled into a 20-30 grams of carbs daily, moderate protein, good fats diet which works for me.

Today, August 8, I am still 5’6-1/2″, but at 203 pounds. I am undoubtedly still insulin-resistant and metabolically challenged to a degree, and still pretty sedentary, but I have a lot more energy. I’m also thinking much more clearly and I’m not depressed. I have lost 13″ around my apple belly and a total of 40-something inches over all. All this without exercise.

Realistically, I figure I am about 30-35 pounds from my appropriate weight and a long way from where I want to be in strength and flexibility. I know the missing component in my personal transformation is exercise. Smart exercise. (Other things I need to work on are: reduced alcohol, caffeine, and dairy and more sleep.)

Somewhere along the line, I discovered Fred Hahn. I bought your book, your iPhone app, your videos. I believe in your method. It syncs right in with everything I have read and experienced since January. Intuitively, I know you’re right. I know this will work for me. I have tried doing this on my own. I’m having difficulty. I don’t understand some things. I don’t know if I’m doing other things correctly. I have been sedentary for a long, long time. I need to do the most modified versions of everything. I’m struggling. I desperately want to do this.

My son lives in Brooklyn. We are going to visit in October – probably around the 6th-9th. Is there any remote possibility of setting up an appointment with you around that time for a training session and consultation? I could change my visit around those general dates if there is a chance of seeing you.

Thank you for considering this. Please let me know as soon as possible. We need to make travel arrangements shortly.

Most sincerely,
Hope S.

Fantastic. And strength training will indeed help boost her progress. I will, of course, help her all I can.

I hope this story helps others get the process going!


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