Thursday, 6 December 2012

Que sais je?

This was today’s Daily Mail many more across Europe, I’m sure.  Detailing the new research from the Netherlands Centre for Human Drug Research, and just published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology...another example of ‘bad science’....just like steroids don’t work (see reviews in Wilson, 1988; Elashoff et al., 1991; O’Connor and Cicero, 1993; Friedl, 2000).  And eggs will kill you (again The Daily Mail).

And - along with the following sequencing of events - it was the inspiration of today’s post. there such a thing as evidence?  Even Über-scientist, Dr. Stuart Phillips admits the limitations of scientific research, comparing the results of reams of scientific inquiry into intensity, effort, intent, volume, and sequencing of loading to a hopeful guess.
In perhaps the first of its kind, Twitter yesterday was kind enough to host a ‘Stutrifecta’ discussion on the  proof - or lack thereof - offered by the research that optimizing load, intensity and sequencing is an important part of the performance process.
Professor Philips has a point.  To a point.  Do any of the reams of literature really prove anything?   No - it is NOT evidence....but is it supposed to be?  
Besides suffering from various personal and professional biases and preferences, statistic limits, population specificity, straight-up errors, and misinterpretations, the linear-causal mechanistic, and reductionist simplicity of the typical scientific investigation - double-blind, placebo-controlled, etc. - frequently just does does not fit into the complex, ever-changing, interdependent, chaotic sports-world where multiple, poorly-understood cause-effect  interactions are the order of the day.

The athletic world works through complex mechanisms operating simultaneously, that cannot be reduced to simple, single-condition research.

Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, addressed this issue in an editorial titled, The Precautionary Principle: “We must act on facts, and on the most accurate interpretation of them, using the best scientific information. That does not mean we must sit back until we have 100% evidence about everything...”. 
Discussing the current condition of medical science - not sports-science per se - Horton continues “Application, synthesis, and reflection—these are my personal wishes for a renaissance in clinical medicine. It is not concerned with hierarchies of evidence; it is not dependent on up-to-date literature alone as the arbiter of clinical decision making; it does not proselytize a bottom-line approach to the reading of new research. Rather, it is about preferring interpretations to conclusions, external validity to internal validity, context to the highly controlled—and artificial—experimental environment.
Dr David S. Jones, in the Textbook of Functional Medicine,  opines that at the very best, research makes us uncertain.  And - in the face of uncertainty - we must take a broader view.  Step back from the canvas of individual studies, and view the landscape of scientific inquiry as a whole.

“The paradox of the clinical trial is that it is the best way to assess whether an intervention works, but is arguably the worst way to assess who will benefit from it”

So until medicine can transcend Newtonian mechanics, and become truly biological, incorporating evolutionary and organismic biology into its molecular scheme.  Until science and researchers  better understand the organization, interrelationships, and interconnections of the self-organizing and self-regulating complex system. Until we can believe and confidently apply the research we read...

...good coaches will use an epistemological method in developing a training philosophy - constantly asking themselves “what do I know?” - “why am I doing this?”.  Within this, we can choose to take a rationalist or an empiricist approach; most often, combining the two.  (i.e. we use both reason -deduction- and experience -induction- to guide us).

Our rational selves use the ‘narratives’ provided us by ‘scientific research’ to first deduce a ‘thought experiment - eventually playing itself out practically as part-whole of our program.  We use this practical experience to inductively support or alter any subsequent gedankenexperiment, and thus program.  

Relying less on top-down planning - instead adopting a rational Bayesian decision framework - we continue in this manner, combining research narratives and personal experiences (of both coach and athlete(s)) - both feedforward and feedback processes - all the while being careful not to stifle our inner bricoleur, remaining open to the individuality and daily fluctuations of the athlete dynamical system. As Nicholas Nassim Taleb would put it - “...exposing ourselves to the envelope of serendipity”.  

We will monitor, assess, and adjust constantly. By monitoring the correct variables, patterns will eventually form.  We can then begin to more accurately predict adaptation.  We will adapt our training methods to the athletes, not vice versa.   We will question ‘knowledge’, and respect introspection and a willingness to admit to uncertainty. We will not be emotionally tied to our plans. We will learn to adapt on the fly.  To improvise.  
And we will continue to read.  And to learn.  And even to respect the scientific works of researchers such as Professor Phillips.  

"Que sais je?" - Michel de Montaigne

Thursday, 25 October 2012

I don't like fatties - part three...

In parts one and two, I wrote about why I don't like fatties, and explained a little about the advancement of evolutionary medicine.  Today, I will touch on three topics that may help us understand our addiction to sugar: evolution, our biochemistry, and hormones.

Sugar has not been a part of humanity’s diet throughout our history.  In fact, it is only during the last 200 years that refined sugar has been available at all.  Our ancestors’ only exposure to the type of sweetness we take for granted in most of our foods today was the occasional seasonal availability of honey (apparently, fruit was nowhere near as sweet back then).   This scarcity forms the thesis of the theory that many paleo proponents promote today. 

From an evolutionary standpoint, it is thought that perhaps some folks were better able to handle the occasional sweet treat, such as honey or the occasional sweet fruit, and would be better able to store the excess carbohydrate energy as fat, so to tide them over in periods when food was less available. *

Similarly, we can divide today’s population into two groups when it comes to sugars: those who  can metabolize carbohydrates normally (termed insulin-sensitive), and those who cannot (insulin-resistant).  Those who cannot generally have difficulty using fat as an energy source, so they are more likely to store any excess fat calories in their fat cells.  The toxic effects of this excess stored fat reduces the capacity of the muscles and liver to utilize glucose from the bloodstream, resulting in excess insulin production from the pancreas in an attempt to drive the glucose into the muscles and liver.  This is especially prevalent after eating refined carbohydrates.  Ultimately, this toxic glucose-fueled environment can lead to either pancreatic exhaustion or the liver and muscles become completely resistant to the action of insulin.  Either way, we’re on the road straight to diabetes-ville.

Which is something we’ve pretty much known for almost 100 years.  As long ago as the early 20th century, we had a pretty good idea that refined sugar led to increased insulin production, and it was this that led to higher incidences of diabetes.  Canadian medical scientist Frederick Banting shared the 1923 Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin and its effect on diabetes (by the way, Sir Frederick was a cousin of British undertaker William Banting - perhaps the first to expand on the virtues of the low-carb diet via a series of letters and entries into his journal; and the pre-cursor to low carb diets decades later, beginning with Dr Robert Atkins. Banting’s experimentations were prescribed by his surgeon, Dr  Harley Street.  In 1861!!).
The culprit is insulin.  Always has been.  Insulin is released in proportion to the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream.  Carbohydrates - especially simple carbohydrates - raise insulin levels at a much greater rate than do fat and protein.  The faster insulin is raised, and the longer it stays elevated, the more, and the longer, we crave sugar.  Avoid sugars - especially simple sugars, and this hormonal cascade is avoided. SO what’s the problem?  Well - here’s where our addiction problem comes in...

So how is sugar addictive?  Is there evidence for this?
Most people define addiction based on three criteria: desire, tolerance, and withdrawal. We need to want something for it become addictive. Tolerance implies the more you eat, the more you want to eat; and withdrawal is the tendency to feel terrible when you can't get your 'fix.' 
Any of this sound familiar?  
I know this is the pattern I personally go through whenever I slide down the sugary slope. 

Addiction is related to the actions of two chemicals: serotonin and dopamine.   A study performed by McBride proved that alcohol elicits a response from both of these neurotransmitters and are correlated with addictive behavior (McBride, 1991).  A study done by Gessa showed that marijuana elicits a response from cannabinoids, our neurotransmitters that control cravings, and that these cannabinoids regulate mesolimbic dopamine (Gessa, 1997).  Cigarettes have also been proven to elicit a response of serotonin and dopamine (Staley, 2001).

So how does this apply to food?  Sugar also elicits a response from both serotonin and dopamine.  Carbohydrate consumption - acting via insulin secretion and the ‘plasma tryptophan ratio’ - increases serotonin release; while protein intake lacks this effect (Wurtman, 1995). A 2008 study also showed that sugar elicits a response from dopamine in much the same way as cannabinoids (Avena, 2008).  Because serotonin release is involved in functions such as sleep onset, pain sensitivity, blood pressure regulation, and control of the mood, many people overeat carbohydrates - particularly those also rich in salt and/or fat - such as potato chips, candy bars, and pastries.  Researchers in 2011 showed that brain images of those addicted to drugs were strikingly similar to those who were constantly over-eating (Gold, 2011). Noble (1994) showed that obese individuals had the same dopamine gene markers as alcoholics and drug addicts. 
When the brain "is excessively activated by sweet food or powerful drugs," says Bartley Hoebel of Princeton, "it can lead to abuse and even addiction. When this system is under-active, signs of depression ensue." (from Good Calories, Bad Calories - Gary Taubes)

So,with an understanding of the potential addictive properties of carbohydrates, along  with the plethora of positive low-carb research over the years - beginning with William Banting, continuing through various researchers and nutritionists throughout the years up until the present day successes of the low-carb Atkins Diet, the Zone, and South Beach Diet, etc., why is it people are still fat?  That’s always been my question.  

We know this.  Carbs. Make. People. Fat.  Don’t we?

USDA Food Pyramid
Maybe I’m being presumptuous.  Maybe. Being in this industry, I’m privy to this information.  I’ve read the studies. I own the books.  I’ve experimented on myself often. Problem is, most people don’t, and they don’t get much help. Fooled by ridiculous high-carb, low-fat recommendations by their governments (such as the USDA’s ‘food pyramid’, which was the US Government’s official recommendation guide for meals for 20 years, starting in 1992), and tricked by the even more ridiculous claims made by the food industry (for more information on this, check out David Kessler's excellent book, The End of Overeating - where he reveals the depths to which food industry scientists have gone to determine the exact amounts of salt, fat and sugar to layer food products with so that they will become as addictive as possible), is it any wonder why the issues continue.

The sad thing is that this has been this way for a while; it is no better today than it was in the early 60s, when Yale biochemist Robert Kemp wrote: “This is undoubtedly a battle for the mind where unfortunately the patient is completely unsettled by the confusion of advice offered from both professional and lay sources.”  This was 50 years ago!

So perhaps ignorance can be blamed for much of the obesity problem.  But what about those who are not?  Those who know that the way to lose and maintain lost weight is to reduce carbohydrate consumption? Those who have tried a number low-carb diets?  And failed.  Or even those who have worked with trainers and coaches, who have put them on plans incorporating all the latest research on fat-loss?  And still failed.  

Why is it so seemingly difficult to stick to a plan? 

And is there anything we can do about it?

Maybe because with sugar, excess is the norm; the more sugar there is in our foods, the more we want.  The more we want, the more the food industry provides.  The more they provide, the more we buy.  The more we buy, the more the food industry spins the research to keep us spending.  It’s a ball that is nigh on impossible to stop once it gets rolling. 

The important thing is that people don’t just throw up their hands in frustration, and give up; blaming their ‘fat genes’, or citing lack of time to exercise.  In part four, we’ll explore some options on how to slow down the sugar momentum, some ways we can actually change our genes, and some strategies to avoid the sugar addiction altogether.
*As an aside, Dr Paul Jaminet, author of Perfect Health Diet, has an alternative view:  he proposes that our sugar cravings are actually not sugar cravings at all, but fatty meat cravings. He suggests in our paleolithic environment - with plenty of tubers and the occasional not-so sweet fruits - our sweet teeth drove us to eat calorie-dense, nutrient-rich fatty meat!

Monday, 22 October 2012

you must leeaaarrrrn...

Developing a philosophy is a process that most of us do sub-consciously; the lives we live, the experiences we experience, our innate morals and ethics, and the relationships we develop all help us in this.  Many business leaders, teachers, and politicians develop philosophies as a necessary part of their careers.  ‘Life-coaches’ are now recommending the process of personal philosophy development to their clients; books are being sold; conferences are being sold-out.  Personal philosophy is big-business...

...and while it is a good and useful thing for all, it is a requirement for a coach.

A coach develops a philosophy to help guide their planning.  Without understanding your methodology, how can a coach even begin to put together a program?  How can he justify the program to his athletes once it is developed?  How can he know what to change if something goes wrong?  Justification of a personal or coaching philosophy should be a constant , on-going, and consistent process.  This is the ‘natural’ part of our development as coaches - the part we don’t really cognitively think about, be we do and experience on a daily basis. As well as these daily developments, we should set aside periods of structured justification.  I try to to this at least once a month, and have done it as often as daily, when our strength group used to meet on a daily basis to discuss certain concepts. The process could be just me sitting alone in a coffee shop, and questioning some of the things I do.  Or it could be more formal meetings with athletes, support staff, and other coaches.  Or anything in between...

The biggest systematic part of the evolution of my coaching philosophy occurs once a year during the break between competitive seasons. Each year, as part of my debrief protocol of the season prior, I do a bit of a ‘spring clean’: a large reassessment, where I review the previous year - what went well - what went not so well - why this was so, etc. - and begin to prepare for the upcoming season.  This year, I took it back a couple of steps further, and I studied my justifications of everything within my system - from the most basic to the most complicated. It has been a very enjoyable process, which has allowed me to really zero in on what is important, and led me into more study into the science of philosophy.  

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to write a little about this synthesis process, but today - just a little background on how I feel the philosophy development process seems to work (at least for us coaches):

I see it as a four-step process:

1. Exploration: Without much information or experience, we slowly begin to find our way - taking influences from large varieties of sources and inspirations, we begin to explore many different information avenues, and begin to find which of them we can best use to find our own way.

2. Information: As our passions rise, and our energies soar, we begin to collect information like it’s going out of style.  It is through this early part of our lives and careers where mentors can be especially important in guiding us through what can be an overwhelming process.  Especially in the present age, the amount of information we have available can be intimidating.  It is this step where I feel most coaches get a little lost, and begin to struggle.  Overwhelmed by information, they never really develop a succinct philosophy, and without guiding principles, we have nowhere to turn when things go wrong.  Basically, it becomes an ever-lasting series of ‘blow it up and start agains’.   Conversely, rushing through this step - trying to develop a philosophy without the requisite information is also problematic: this is where we see a lot of average coaches.  Examples are the coaches who cling steadfastly to what they have always done - perhaps what worked for them when they were athletes; dogmatic in their beliefs, but lacking the basic information necessary to convincingly justify their positions.  Our guiding philosophies, at this point, are usually very heavily influenced by others.  Opinions are not strong, and can be quite fluid in form.  We must not be afraid to  experiment freely - it is important that the information we gain is practical; and the most successful in this process are usually the ones that have failed often in their practical application of their principles. 

3. Knowledge: as we develop more breadth to our information base - giving us additional perspectives, we simultaneously begin the process of synthesis.  Some information may not fit with our admittedly malleable philosophies, and we quickly dispose of it.  Through this process, we begin to become knowledgable.  We develop a certain expertise.  Opinions are now predominantly our own, and are usually not borrowed from others.  Our outlines of our programs don’t change much from year to year; details often do, but our methods remain constant.  We don’t change guides half-way up the mountain.

4. Wisdom: As we develop our information base; as we begin the process of information synthesis, we to continue to learn - but a majority of new information comes from subjects outside of our particular area of expertise - where we begin the four-step process again - just in a field that others may not see as necessarily related.  It is this ’lateral thinking’ that gives perspective and breadth to our knowledge, and it is when we begin to synthesize a variety of different subjects together where we develop true wisdom.  We began our careers, and our adult lives, as generalists - not having enough information to have specific opinions on any one topic, we form general opinions on many.  Throughout the course of the development of our philosophies, we became specialists - zeroing in on specific domains - what was important to us, and the impact it had on our lives.  Through this final process, we again become generalists - we acquire sufficient knowledge to be seen as ‘experts’ in a number of domains, and it is how we link these varying domains together that truly define our legacies.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

I don't like fatties, part deux...

Firstly - for those who may have been a little confused by my last post:  
NO - I am NOT a FASCist.  I am a FATist.  

fas-cist (fash-ist)
  1. a person who believes in or sympathizes with fascism
  2. a member of a fascist movement or party
  3. a person who is dictatorial or has extreme right-wing views

fat-ist (fat-ist)
  1. a person who holds  discriminatory views on overweight people 

Right then, now that that is out of the way...

In part one, I admitted by impatience with fat people.  I also admitted that, despite my superior brain to these obviously lazy folk, even I have had no luck in helping to lose weight, get healthy - and stay that way.  

And perhaps this fact led to my growing feelings of empathy for these unfortunate folk and my decision to look at things from another view... 

...and I came across quite a few folks who were looking at things a little differently: basically blaming the ‘obesity epidemic’ on an addiction to sugar. 

And it’s not like this is a new thing.  Fairly new to me maybe, but apparently folks identified food addiction at least as long ago as 1947, when Theron Randolph described it as  a “specific adaptation to one or more regularly consumed foods to which a person is highly sensitive - producing a common pattern of symptoms descriptively similar to those of other addictive contrast to the ordinary conception of food sensitization, the food addict is 'picked up' temporarily after a meal containing his addictant, but is 'let down' subsequently by the delayed recurrence of withdrawal effects or hangover-like symptoms...the addiction cycle, or the time elapsing between meals and the onset of the hangover, depends on the individual's degree of sensitivity and the phase of adaptation to the specific excitant or excitants."  In 1963, British biochemist Robert Kemp, in a series of studies, went further, identifying carbohydrates as the specific macronutrient that is most addictive. 

American researchers Richard and Rachel Heller outlined this concept in their 1991 book The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet. They have since expanded upon their work in a number of articles and further books. 

But why would carbohydrates be addictive?  Isn’t it a necessary macronutrient?  Why would a biological requirement be addictive?  To answer to these questions, we must understand a little about evolutionary medicine.

Evolutionary Medicine can be described as the “synergistic meeting of anthropology and medicine” that probably began officially with work by Dr. Boyd Eaton and Dr. Melvin Konner, who in 1985 wrote a paper called Paleolithic Nutrition: A consideration of its nature and current implications, exploring how evolutionary concepts could shed light on modern health problems.  It proposed that the selection pressures faced during the long evolution of primitive species to humans could tell us things about the diseases - particularly chronic degenerative diseases - that we face today.  

Criticism of the traditional medical model as mechanistic, materialistic, reductionistic, linear-causal, and deterministic led frustrated scientists to begin looking at medicine and human health from a new perspective, believing the structure and function of an organism cannot be understood until it is studied against its historical background. (Delbriick)

*from this perspective, the roots of evolutionary medicine (and my introduction to the construct) can be traced back to work by Russian geneticist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, who wrote a ground-breaking paper in 1973 titled  “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” which argued that without the binding thread of evolution, biology (and its related ‘biosciences’ such as anatomy, physiology and molecular biology) is just a collection of miscellaneous facts, with nothing to link them together.*

Evolutionary medicine proponents argue that the portion of the human genome that determines basic anatomy and physiology has remained relatively consistent over the past 10,000 years (Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1994; Cordain et al. 1998). Thus, most of the current human genome probably evolved in the physically active hunter–gatherer environment and remains unchanged to this day (Cordain et al. 1998). Anthropological study of hunter-gatherer cultures show that so-called ‘western diseases’ - the 35 major non-infectious, non-communicable diseases we currently take for granted - are extremely rare in these populations.  That recognition forced inquiry - aided by the sciences of genetics and molecular biology - into the differences in diet and activity between Western civilization and hunter/gatherers. 

Around the same time, evolutionary biologist George C. Williams and psychiatrist Randolph M. Nesse came together in 1991 to publish a paper titled The Dawn of Darwinian Medicine, a pioneering work that outlined methods for applying evolutionary biology to modern medicine. They described Darwinian Medicine as the enterprise of trying to find evolutionary explanations for vulnerabilities to disease.  Williams and Nesse expanded on their work, and wrote a ground-breaking book in 1995 called Why we get sick: the new science of Darwinian Medicine.

By now, I’m sure you have figured out that the current ‘paleo movement’ was spawned from these advances in medicine, and this new perspective. It is from the work of a number of the new ‘Paleo’ authors that sheds additional light on why eating copious amounts of sugar may not necessarily be a great idea....

The paleo authors’ basic argument is thus:  the best food for the human species would be the kind of food that was available throughout the majority of our evolution, rather than those that were introduced long after the construction of our physiology. 

Our primate ancestors have been consuming fruit, vegetables, nuts and insects for 50 million years or more. Meat was successively added, with a probable increase around 2 million years ago. Underground storage organs (roots, tubers, bulbs, corms) possibly become staple foods 1-2 million years ago (Lindeberg).

Quick aside on paleo: no one can say with absolute certainty what we have adapted to eat.  It is highly dependent on the era and area studied. When and where do we draw the lines?  i.e. is ‘paleo’ what we ate on the plains of Africa 50,000 years ago, or is it what the ice-dwellers ate 500,000 years ago? Or both? The bottom line is it matters less what our ancestors ate, than what selective forces were at play and how we adapted to them.  There is ample evidence, for instance, that - despite the insistence of many paleo authors to the contrary - that the last 40,000 years have seen the fastest evolutionary rates in history, and we are far more capable of generational adaptation than previously thought.  An example is our relatively recent adaptation to the digestion of lactose (milk sugar).  Historically, humans only produce lactase (the enzyme that is produced to break down lactose) for the first few years of life, as an evolutionary strategy to digest breast milk; however, it is clear now that much of the world’s population maintain this ability throughout their lives.  We also use ideas and technologies unique to our current population to adapt to our environment and to help shape our evolution; an example being how we use technology to make grains and legumes much healthier. Rather than wasting so much of their energy on demonizing a great many ‘neo-lithic non-foods’, paleo leaders would be better suited joining in the real fight: the one against the processed industrial food industry that churns out nutrition-less crap designed to be addictive with no consideration for human, animal, or environmental welfare (McEwen). 

That being said, I have greatly enjoyed reading many of the works of these authors, and would absolutely recommend the books of Cordain, Sisson, Wolff, Taubes, the Hartwigs, and Gedgaugus.  Sisson’s and Wolf’s websites are also quite excellent, and I especially enjoy listening to Wolf’s podcasts.  Despite seeming to be a ‘Crossfitter’, he’s undoubtedly a smart dude.  

My take-away: recognize our shared evolutionary history; be more skeptical of the foods I eat - especially those that are not a part of that history; and through a series of self-experiments,  pay very close attention to how my body reacts to the fuel it receives.

In part three, I’ll break down the science behind why we eat sugar, and why we go back for seconds...and thirds.  And then, we’ll learn how chimps and elephants can help us stay skinny.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

I don't like fatties - part one...

So, I'm a bit of a fatist. 
I don't really like fat people. 
For a variety of reasons, really...

But it's basically just an extension of my priggish personality. Projected onto the plump, portly, and pudgy...

The way I see it, nobody should really be fat. It really can't be that much fun, surely?  

I mean, you can't really play with your kids for more than a few minutes at a time.  You've got to vaseline the insides of your legs because they chafe when you walk.  You can only live in bungalows or first floor apartments, as you cant walk up a flight of stairs without an oxygen mask. You toss and turn all night, keeping your wife awake with your grunting and snoring. You have to buy two seats on an international flight. People think you're a goth, because you only wear black, as you think it makes you look 'slimmer'. You get embarrassed at the beach, so you wear a t-shirt over your bathing suit. And you have that general feeling of being a lazy, fat, slob, being looked down upon by folks like me.  

Yeah, I'm a bit of a fatist.

The fat really have no excuse to be fat.  The rules have been in place for decades basically.  We all know them. Eat less and exercise more. Its that simple.

And don't talk to me about genes.  About how you're just 'big-boned'.  

Its just a matter of being disciplined.  Of having a little will-power.  

Because epigenetics tells us that will-power overrides genes.

Look - I'm as lazy as you are.  And I guarantee I like food more than you. And I'm skinny. So what's the deal?

...and then we get older.  And hopefully wiser.  We begin to cultivate this quality called empathy (yeh - pretty new one for me). We begin to understand more. Perhaps we begin to see that maybe the entire universe doesn't revolve around me. 

"As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation." - Adam Smith

I don't really have a ton of experience working with the non-athletic population, but what experience I DO have, I have had close to zero success in helping them lose weight, get healthier, and maintain this over a consistent, sustainable period. 

No - not close to zero success.  

Actually ZERO. 

And in fact, with the athletes I have worked with who have struggled with weight issues, I haven't done much better. And they’re athletes. Discipline and will-power shouldn't be an issue here, right? 

So what's the deal?  What am I missing? What am I doing wrong?

It's not like I don't know what I'm doing.  I've got a pretty decent understanding of it all, actually.  I’ve read a ton.  I've experimented a ton more - on both myself and my athletes.  I'm good friends with some of the top people in the nutritional  industry, and I've written nutritional and supplemental programs for all my clients and athletes going back over 15 years, mostly really successfully. 

So what gives?  Why is it that with some of them, it just doesn't matter what strategies we try.  What approaches we take.  they just don't seem to stick. 

My rubicon crossing came about when I started looking at these problem people as addicts. Sugar addicts. Once I begin to see it from this perspective, my entire understanding of food, fat people, and the food industry in general changed. 

Next, we'll look at why these folks may get fat in the first place, and why - even with so much information out there telling them what to do and how to lose the weight - they continue to have so much trouble losing weight. 

...and maybe I'll stop being a fatist...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

It's not whether you win or lose, but...

Having worked with athletes in Canada, the United States, and Britain, I have often spoke of the difference in the development of high-performance in all three - and specifically, the differences in the philosophy of participation vs winning at young ages. How sport is approached at the younger age-groups is often a remarkably good predictor of the types of athletes that are produced at the top-end.  
Aron McGuire - a former decathlete and National Team Bobsled athlete for the United States is well-suited to discuss this topic.  As the Associate Director of Championship and National Teams for USA Track and Field, Aron has vast experience in all levels of sport in the United states.  Like me, he questions whether there is too much emphasis ‘participation’, and not enough on ‘winning’ - a construct that has recently begun creeping more and more into the US system...

It's not whether you win or lose, but...
a guest-post from Aron McGuire
Over the next month, the Unites States presidential candidates will participate in series of four debates. President Obama will debate Mitt Romney in arguably the most anticipated events of the campaign season. It will be critical for each candidate to influence voters, sway public opinion and connect with the masses with topics which will include foreign policy, unemployment rates and local economics. President Obama and Mitt Romney will need to be prepared to present their plans and opinions, as well as react to the other candidate’s comments.
Preparation is essential for winning the championship game, getting an A on a final exam or landing a dream job, but knowing what and how to prepare play a greater role to a successful outcome. Keeping score is something we all experience at an early age and, most often, keeping score and determining winners and losers is associated with sports. Everyone knows who won the World Cup or the Super Bowl. Several years ago, a trend of not keeping score at youth soccer leagues and baseball games started becoming popular. Perhaps the organizers want to encourage kids to have fun and exercise without the stress of focusing on winning or losing or parents want to spare their child hurt feelings of losing the game. Despite the intention, these organizers and parents are depriving the kids of an opportunely to develop one of life’s most critical skills – the ability to evaluate preparation.
One of the best things of sports at an early age is the development of life skills. We learn teamwork, goal setting, respect for others, hard work, etc. These life skills, if taught correctly, become valuable assets throughout our lives. Preparation is one of the key factors that influence successful outcomes, but more importantly, possessing the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of preparation is critical life skill that leads to future successful outcomes. Preparation is important but knowing what and how to prepare is critical. The earlier this skill is learned the sooner it can be used. Feedback is needed to evaluate preparation and develop the ability to evaluate the preparation. There are very few situations in life which provide immediate feedback better then the score of a game. The score lets us know if the training and practice we’ve been doing has been effective. Have we run enough miles, taken enough shots on goal or spent enough time in the weight room?
Possessing the ability to evaluate our preparation isn’t limited to sports. Let’s take look at a job interview. Most job interviews involve many applicants applying for one position. Basically, there is one winner and a bunch of losers. We provide the company with our resume, research the position and interview with someone or a group of people from the company. If we are fortunate to be the one winner and receive an offer for the job, we can determine that our preparation was effective. If we aren’t so fortunate and receive the disappointing form letter from HR thanking us for our time, we can conclude that we may need to update our resume, spend more time researching the position or work on our interview skill before applying for the next job. 
As President Obama and Mitt Romney prepare for the upcoming debates, they will spend many hours preparing themselves on global economics, health care and the role of the government. How effective their preparation is will play a key role in their success. Although the winner of the debates in unknown at the moment, perhaps one indication may be who played the most sports as child and did they keep score?