What is Healthy?

In a series of videos starting with the one below, Paul Chek, advertising for his company C.H.E.K Institute, makes the point that you shouldn’t take health advice from someone who couldn’t teach you in their underwear ie don’t get health advice from unhealthy people.

He has a point though clearly the logic isn’t completely sound. Over the years I’ve had a number of personal trainers that had the bodies of gods and didn’t know the first thing about health. Likewise there are undoubtedly those who understand the mechanics of health but don’t necessarily opt to practice what they preach.

But generally I’d agree that the apple shaped doctor telling you to cut fat out of your diet is not a convincing authority figure.

However the hidden message seems to be that being bulky and ripped is the same thing as healthy as we have no other way of sizing Chek up.

Is this the case? I’m suspicious that huge muscle mass is not a marker of natural health. But when virtually everyone follows a modern diet that has detrimental effects, do we even know what healthy looks like nowadays?

Coincidentally, today I stumpled across a collection of photos of the Tree People of West Papua which was recently published on the web. It makes for an interesting comparison.

These people could probably teach us a thing or two in their gourd sheaths…

Tree People


What Makes You Apple Shaped

Via Fat Loss Nutrition:

Some of the factors associated with increased upper body fat in women are low physical activity, depression, smoking, low vitamin C intake, low calcium intake, low dairy intake and high fat consumption. The strongest correlations found were for low physical activity and low vitamin C intake.

You Can’t Burn it Off

Despite some recent reports that strength training can reduce body fat, there is a growing consensus that exercise has no impact on weight loss.

New York magazine reports on science’s growing realisation that there was never a scientific basis to the belief that exercise can promote weight loss.

The problem, as he and his contemporaries saw it, is that light exercise burns an insignificant number of calories, amounts that are undone by comparatively effortless changes in diet. In 1942, Louis Newburgh of the University of Michigan calculated that a 250-pound man expends only three calories climbing a flight of stairs—the equivalent of depriving himself of a quarter-teaspoon of sugar or a hundredth of an ounce of butter. “He will have to climb twenty flights of stairs to rid himself of the energy contained in one slice of bread!” Newburgh observed. So why not skip the stairs, skip the bread, and call it a day?

When we exercise our bodies compensate by making us hungrier. We eat more and weight tends to remain stable. Worse still, when we stop exercising, our appetites are slow to respond causing a tendancy to gain weight.

This does not mean there are no reasons for exercising. There are plenty: improvements in fitness, potential longevity and reduction in cardiovascular disease. But to enjoy these benefit exercise should be a life-long pursiut and should not be relied upon as the basis of a weight-loss programme.

The improvements in muscle mass and body composition caused by exercise may help you cope with dieting better, but the bottom line is that if you want to lose weight, you need to EAT LESS than you burn. Period. Furthermore, if you are genetically predisposed to a higher body mass index, you should be prepared for the reality that to maintain the “new slim you”, you may have to be constantly be in a state of slight calorie deprivation and thus hungry.

Endurance Training Can Age You

Training is no guarantee of health – Mark Sisson at slow twitch

Thinking of doing aerobics for the rest of your life to get in shape? The experience of endurance trainers is a useful guide:

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Endurance training is antithetical to anti-aging. So it amazes me when guys in their 40s and 50s who are training for a marathon or Ironman suggest that doing so will keep them young. It won’t. You may feel like a stud now with your shaved legs and your magic marker biceps tattoos, but endurance training speeds up the aging process almost as fast as watching TV, drinking sodas and eating potato chips. Actually, in some cases, it speeds it up even faster.

There appears to be two pathways to adrenal exhaustion (which was discussed in the recent post on insulin resistance) – through consuming high GI meals (the way of the fat) or by endurance training (the way of the lean):

(…) not only does training and racing tend to produce [cortisol], but even the training meals can produce it. A meal high in sugar and other simple carbohydrates can cause a dramatic rise in cortisol (as part of an insulin-adrenaline cascade). That’s one reason why sugar is known as a powerful immune suppressor.

Chronic high-level training naturally depletes glycogen, which causes the body to release the adrenal hormone cortisol to cannibalize muscle tissue in order to help make new glucose (gluconeogenesis). Besides tearing down valuable muscle, chronic cortisol release carries with it a litany of negative effects. It suppresses immune function, which opens the door not only for short term upper respiratory infections, but may leave the door open for longer term, more serious issues (asthma, cancer, heart disease [which we know has a strong inflammatory component]). Chronic cortisol release also reduces calcium uptake by bones, and it’s not surprising that so many runner/triathletes — especially women — have low bone density. Anti-aging experts will tell you that among elderly, low bone density is a pretty accurate predictor of mortality. Break a hip bone when you’re older and your chances of dying skyrocket.

OK heavy stuff. So what does the author recommend as an ideal fitness program?

I prefer hiking, sprinting and weight-training today.