The Great Return Part 1 – Getting back our right relationship with Nature – A series

Is the Paleo diet just another fad diet? Is Crossfit just another fad fitness craze?

They are not – and you should not dismiss them.

They are in fact the early signs of a new revolution in human society, economy and culture. A revolution where we return to working with nature and where we accept that we too are part of nature.

Where we accept that trying to dominate nature and so each other is an idea that is taking us and much of life on the planet to doom.

For we can only abuse the rules of Nature so far and we can only abuse our own nature so far and Nature will push back. And when she does, we lose. The Natural world and our own Nature is not infinitely plastic.

Nature can take a lot of damage but a Tipping Point will arrive when we go too far. We can only take so many fish out of the sea, clog up the atmosphere with only so much CO2, lose only so much topsoil, use more water than we have.

The same is true for us as part of Nature. We can eat junk food, live in crazy circumstances and in crazy social and political systems – for a time. But when we do, nature will push back at us too.

For the planet is a closed natural system with key rules. And so are we. The closer the planet is to its interacting norms, the more it can support life. And the same is true for us.

Millions of years of evolution have set up an ideal set of environments, food, social, physical in which we are designed to be at peak health and happiness. The closer we live our lives to this set of ideal environments, the healthier and happier we will be, (Thesis #2). Conversely, the further away we live our lives from these ideals, the worse our health and our happiness.

We live today at a time when most of us live as far away from Nature and our Nature that is possible. She is pushing back harder and harder. As more of us get sick and as change to climate makes life hell for millions. we see her as the enemy but in fact, she has always rewarded those that work with her.

Our only chance as a species is to “Go Home”. To go home to working with her.

The beauty of this impending revolution is that we know how to be in this new relationship with nature and each other – for we are hardwired to do this. We have just been distracted by 10,000 years of a phase of development. Maybe we have been like teens – all about me? Maybe this is our time to be young parents and be a true member of the community of life again?

Ideally we are designed for this new/old relationship with nature and our nature – the life of a Hunter Gatherer.

Does this mean we have to go home to the caves and wear skins? No – no more than at the time of the Renaissance, we went back to wearing Togas. No it’s all about ideas and principles and mindset.

Men and women in the 15th century applied ideas that had been forgotten and even prohibited to how they lived their lives and so created the modern world. A world based on observation rather than dogma.

What I think could happen now is the same. We can and should use the PRINCIPLES of the Hunter Gatherer World to design the Post Industrial and Post Agricultural Society that will have to evolve to help us get though Peak Oil and Climate Change.

This series will explore how this is taking place – without any “Plan” or leader. The new world is naturally emerging as it should be! But what I think we can do is accelerate the process of transformation by seeing it more clearly.

For to “Get There” all we have to do is to accept that we are there – all Dorothy had to do to go home was to say “I want to go home”.

For “Home” is deep inside us. It waits only for us to say yes. All we need to know to do well in this New/Old World is hard wired inside us. All it has to be is remembered.

You and I can immigrate to this New World today.


Then the “New World” was a place.

Today the New New World is a State of Mind. We don’t have to get on a boat. We just have to see ourselves in a new light. The moment we do, we have arrived at the pier. Life will still be hard, it always is for immigrants. But few who got off at the pier ever wanted to go back to the old country.

So in this series I hope to paint you a picture of what this new country will be like. You might see that you are almost there. I doubt that many of you will be surprised. The ideas are not new they are older than us. But we have forgotten them.

So I offer you not a new book but a mirror. And at the heart of it all is the heart and love and the acceptance of our true place. We will, as Paul hoped for, have grown up.

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

Here then is the structure of the series:

1. In the next post “The Emergent New Hunter Gatherer Society”: we will see how the new Unemployed, the Under Employed and the Freelancers are not failures or misfits but are New Immigrants who are in engaged in a massive new project – to redesign our economy and food system using these principles. We are creating this new world for ourselves and for our children because we don’t fit the existing system and worse it works against our real needs.

2. “The Principles of HG Life as they are practised today”: We will extract the principles from the emergent patterns and see how they can be used as our guide for making our own choices and how they put meaning on our lives. What can each of us do to disconnect us from the old system and connect us to the new?

3. “The Principles of Real Revolution”: The full power of the old system is lined up and is already pushing back at the new. “THEY” know we have their number and they know we are death to them and they will fight tooth and nail to defeat us. So it is important for us to know how to deal with this and people like Gandhi and Havel show us the way.

4. “The Heart of the Matter – Food”: There are several factors that shape human culture. Our primary energy source, climate, our primary communication tools. So Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Web will rock the old system and make the birth of the new essential. For the old system cannot cope with these changes. But the real deal is the food system. How we get our food is THE most powerful factor is shaping human society, culture and so power. What will it be about the new food model that is the Game CHanger? Why will it set you free? Why will it change everything – where and how you live and who has power and who does not.

You and I can go home – all we have to do is to change our mind about who we are and where we are.

Here is a piece that make me cry every time I read it out loud – it says it all for me.

There will come a time when humanity will choose to go against nature, to exploit her bounteous gifts, causing a sickness across the planet. People will forget the ecstasies of communion, and life will become drab and colorless.

In these coming dark ages, though, a deep sense of loss will cause the beginnings of a Great Return. They will look at the landscape and the old temples, built to withstand the cataclysms of millennia and understand once again the sacred laws of Existence.

When this day comes, humanity will have come of age. It will consciously acknowledge its role in the creative impulse that comes from the Sun, fertilizes the Earth, and calls forth the flame in the hearts of men and women to worship Life and the miraculous forces behind Creation.

Miller, Hamish & Broadhurst, Paul. The Sun and the Serpent: An Investigation into Earth Energie

Posted in "Paleo", A New Vision, Context, Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Experimental Evolution | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Why are we so fat in rural areas – Part 4 – We don’t fit the culture

In this last post of this series, I will explore the downside and the upside of our special tribal Gael and First Nations culture in rural Canada and America.

We have seen that there are many physical reasons why those who live in big cities tend to be thinner/healthier than the rest of us who live in rural settings.

We have seen that a major factor is also status. In a city like Paris, London or New York you are part of the elite of the Industrial world. In rural areas like PEI or Louisiana we get the crumbs of this system. They tell us what we can have and it’s not much.

We have seen that a factor for why we are fat is that we are influenced by our friends and family.

We have seen that our ancestry plays a role too. Most of us are Gaels or First Nations. We are the last of the Western Hunter Gatherers and so we are the least adapted to the modern diet.

Today we are going to look at our culture. This too is a factor in why we mainly live in places outside the best oportunities in the industrial system. It is why if we have to leave to go to the big city for work, we long to come home. To come home to a place where there are few jobs. It is why we like the seasonal nature of our system.

We don’t want to make working for the man the centre of our life.

Our Hunter Gatherer culture is a powerful force that lingers on in us. Culture hard wires into behaviour. You can see this easily in dogs. A Border Collie that has never seen a sheep will still have all its cultural wiring in place to herd. Even a Pekenese will defend her owner as she was once a guard dog.

So do we. For, underneath the veneer of modernity, we Gaels and Native North Americans are still Tribal Warriors.

This is a reason why we are not well adapted to industrial life. This is why if given a chance we want to live on PEI, in Appalachia or in a tribal setting.

Not having been farmers for millennia we don’t do “clock” very well. We don’t like to be told what to do. We love working out doors and don’t like the inside that much. We don’t take well to roles that are not earned. We like to know who people really are by reputation. “Who is your father?” is not a stupid question. Nicknames based on character are common. Your name is very important. Your family is important. Your place is important.

This has meant that we make poor peons and serfs.

So our health is further compromised by poor opportunity and poor fit with the prevailing system. We remain the outcasts and the edge dwellers. We are the butt of jokes and prejudice. We have among the lowest status in our nations.

But I think that we are just the right people to get our power back when a new form of Tribal/Networked/Local/Dispersed econonmy takes over from the impersonal money based power based Industrial system.

We have the best chance to get our health back by going back to our traditional diet. And we are best suited to a new economy that is based on the personal, the trusted and the tribe.

Those who laugh at us now will find life outside their comfort zone very challenging.

That is quite a statement. So I will post a series on this next week. I will explore the new emerging reality of the new Tribal Economy where people live again, but in modern circumstances, the lives of Hunter Gatherers.

But in closing this post on Canada day weekend and with July 4th on Monday – I would like to show you how much we have in common with each other. I would like to show you what special people we are.

We love to dance.

Dance

Powwowdance

Stepd

We love music

Irish roversbetter
Drumming

Band

Our women are tough and noble

Elder

Irish president

Lady allan

My Great Great Aunt Marguerite (Mackenzie) Allan – who lost these,both her daughters, on the Lusitania, her son on his first mission and who stayed on and founded a hospital to look after wounded Canadians.

Our men are tough and noble

Indian braveregalia

Dramatoss

Highland games

We are a warrior society

Famous_Warriors_Poster

Irish brigade

Scotsoldier burial

We love our place.

Indian

Ayr

Ireland

Pei
It stirs me to see these pictures – for they remind me of who we are.

I think that our future is in remembering our past.

It is in bringing our cultures back to the fore. It is seeing the principles that embody them and in applying them to how we live our lives again.

The hunter gatherer and heroic society has been crushed by the Industrial culture – crushed but not broken.

The next economy will be Tribal – parts of it are here already. It will be possible – no essential – to master the culture of the hunter gatherer again. I don’t mean live the exact life but the DNA of that life.

A life lived where, once again, the kind of man and woman you are is your “brand”. Where your wealth is your tribe and how your peers regard you. Where none of your economic eggs are all in one basket. A life where you have real skills. Skills that can’t be learned in 3 years from a series of books but have to be absorbed by working alongside others. A life where there is no separation between work and family. An economy, where your kids grow up with you and your wider family and learn from your life and the stories of their family.

A life where the meal and sharing food is the centre of the system. Where we know where our food comes from. A life where home is a place we would die for.

Next week I will put flesh on these bones. But for now, as we take pride in our wider nations of Canada and America, let us also take pride in our tribes.

Posted in A New Vision, Ancestry, Complexity, Context, Diet, Environments | Tagged | 4 Comments

Why are we so fat in rural settings? – Part 3 – Our Ancestry!

Prince Edward Island, where I live, has a very high obesity rate. So do many rural parts of America and of cource the rest of Atlantic Canada.

We have looked at why there is an physical environmental difference between cities and the rural and we have looked at the social environment where our friends influence how we look.

But why is the rate of obesity and related illness SO MUCH worse in certain types of rural settings? Now we are going to look at who we are as people.

The issue here is in our ancestral heritage. Those of us who live in rural Canada and the rural US tend to come from a heritage that is only recently exposed to agriculture.

PEI and Atlantic Canada are settled mainly by Scots Irish. So is the large Appalachian region of the US. It is mainly here in Canada and there in thje US that obesity and related poor health is the worst. Why?

350px-Appalachian_region_of_United_States
The answer is that we are Gaels.

Gaels, are the Hunter Gatherers of Europe who got pushed to the edge of the continent by the new farmers.

Scan -  Map of Europe, Racial, 1935 Literary Digest Atlas of the World

Look at the thin sliver on the far left of Scotland and Ireland. That is the edge. We were pushed here like so many other Hunter Gatherers have been pushed to the edge where the land is marginal and not suitable for farming.

That is the edge – where the land is the poorest – where life is really tough and so are the people. It is where we come from and here is why this is important when we ask abut why so many of us are so fat today.

For the answer is this. We are the people in Europe with the least exposure to agricultural food. We are the least adapted. We are the most at risk of all Europeans to an adverse reaction to the agricultural diet.

For this diet is new when we look at evolutionary time lines. We have ALL come from a Hunter Gatherer past that extends back for millions of years.

We mainly ate meat, fish and plants. We never ate grains, dairy or beans. Imagine milking a wild auroch!

The maximum time that any human group has had to adapt to agriculture – what I call the “Modern Diet” would likely be 6,000 years ago. Here is new evidence on when agriculture began in England. In Evolutionary terms this is yesterday. Some Europeans have made a partial adaptation – but even this is lost by middle age.

The key point to bear in mind is that we are designed to be healthy and fit – PROVIDED – we live the plan that evolution has worked out with us.

Micmac5

As with all hunter gatherers, we did very well on our ancestral diet.

This engraving is of a Mi’Maq made in the 1800th century. This is what most adults would have looked like before they adopted our diet and way of life.

Kitavan

Here is a 60 year old Kitavan Chief who has never been exposed to our diet – see the similarity in body?Kitavans have no diseases of modern civilization.

Chart_watch-976440083-1251332296

Here is the late great singer Israel Kamakawi’ole just before his death. He is an example of the kind of reaction a recent hunter gatherer can have to the modern diet. He shares the same kind of Pacific hunter gatherer heritage to the Kitavan.

The closer you are to a hunter gatherer past – the more vulnerable you are to reacting badly to the modern diet. This recent exposure to the modern diet is a powerful force in why so many in the First Nations community have such a risk of Type 2 Diabetes and related illness and why the Gaels run them a close second.

So what to do?

So if you are of First Nations or Inuit heritage with maybe 150 years maximum exposure – the western diet of mainly grains, dairy and so sugar is toxic. It is also why alcohol is such a problem as is sugar – for they affect the brain in the same way. They are the same.

If you are a Gael – you are next on the list of at risk. Note the importance of sugar and alcohol in our way of life too. We are very attracted to it.

When I say Modern Diet – I mean bread/grains, dairy and legumes. The Industrial Diet is a separate category and is even more a disaster for us.

If we were to go back to eating a diet that was comprised of the traditional foods – mainly real meat and real fish and seasonal plants and fruit, we would be the ancestral groups most likely to “heal”. Even better, we stand a chance of doing what the Kitavan Chief has done. Plateau our aging in mid life.

Here is Dr Michael Rose on this great opportunity for us. Thesis 52

The irony is that while we are the most at risk – we have the best chance of reacting well to a shift back to the traditional diet.

Robfat2
Me 2 years ago – pre diabetic and a typical middle aged Gael on the modern diet.

It has taken me 6 months only to undergo a radical change for the better. For when I say “We” I am  Gael too from Ayr. I started to feel better after 3 months. I think in 5 years I will have got myself back to a metabolism of my heritage.

This then is a huge health opportunity. The First Nations and the Gaels are really suffering. Medicine has not arrested our decline. But by going home to who we are can heal us.

But there is a huge BUT. A BUT that I will deal with in my next post.

The BUT is this. We Gaels and First Nations’ Peoples have lost confidence in our culture and our tribes. We don’t fit into the Industrial World. WE think and others think that this makes us failures. We don’t want 9 – 5. We don’t want to make work the centre of who we are. We hate regimen. We hate offices – we want to be outside.

We were were never farmers and so never were serfs or slaves. We lived according to the time of nature not the clock. But of course farmers were ideally suited to becoming indistrial serfs – no change at all in how they lived.

We will explore this tommorrow. We will ask – “who is the greater fool?” – We will look at how the web and a new economy might enable us to bring back a hunter gatherer way of life in a modern context.

We will look at our tribal values and traditions – respect for our elders and for women – our love of music and the dance – our love of art – our love for our children – our deep respect for nature and sense of connection to it – our eternal view of time and see these as the values that all men and women need if our species is to survive what our industrial culture has done to us and the planet.

By Going Home we might give our kids a chance.

Posted in "Paleo", A New Vision, Aging, Ancestry, Constraints, Context, Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Physiology, Plateau, Population, The Plateau, The Science, Theses | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Why are people in rural setting fat – Part 2 – Because our friends are – It’s Social!

For reasons that we are exploring in this series, there are environmental reasons why people who live in rural settings tend to be more overweight than those living in urban settings. But there are social environmental factors as well. And I think it helps to see theses for they represent powerful barriers to change.

Fatfrie1
Imagine that this is you and your family for a moment.

Weightlossjeans
Now imagine that this is you. Your are their sister and you have lost all this weight.

Would you be popular? Would you fit in? Would you be welcomed?

Probably not. I am myself getting push back from some of my friends who now think I am too skinny and who “worry” that I may be verging on anorexia!

Our need as social primates to belong is a powerful force in shaping conformity. If people in your circle are fat – then it is likely that you will become fat and stay fat too. (Article in the Washington Post)

Obesity appears to spread from one person to another like a virus or a fad, researchers reported yesterday in a first-of-its-kind study that helps explain — and could help fight — one of the nation’s biggest public health problems.

The study, involving more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years, found that social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual’s chances of gaining weight, transmitting an increased risk of becoming obese from wives to husbands, from brothers to brothers and from friends to friends.

The researchers found that when one spouse became obese, the other was 37 percent more likely to do so in the next two to four years, compared with other couples. If a man became obese, his brother’s risk rose by 40 percent.

The risk climbed even more sharply among friends — between 57 and 171 percent, depending on whether they considered each other mutual friends. Moreover, friends affected friends’ risk even when they lived far apart, and the influence cascaded through three degrees of separation before petering out, the researchers found.

Why is this?

I think it is because, we are intensly social and tribal. If you work in finance, you wear the suit and use the “voice”. If you wore that suit and used that voice at Tim’s on PEI, you would not fit in. I have an English Toffee Nosed Accent – very hard to lose – I will never really fit in to my PEI home. Accents are also an important tribal marker. All good politicians have to sound like the people.

In Paris a 140lb woman would be considered overweight. Not only is Paris a City with physical environments that help increase activity and eating habits that reduce sugar consumption, but Paris has a powerful social environment that punishes the over weight. If you were a 140lb woman on PEI you would be considered trim – assuming you were 5.8 – but after a few months in Paris, you would be working hard to get to 125. You would feel out of place.

So this social power is no small thing in why so many of us are over weight in rural settings like PEI.

Being heavy has become our normal. This social power not only lets us off the hook and reduces our concern personally but actively encourages us to fit in.It also makes losing the weight very hard – socially.

The new thin you is felt as an attack on your friends and family.

So – What to do?

I think first of all let’s acknowledge this power and reality. Knowing this is another reason to stop this pointless yelling at each other to “Eat Sensibly and Take More Exercise” This has not worked and cannot work.

We have to explore all the powerful reasons why most of us in rural settings are over weight.

That is what I am trying to do here.

What the social part of the equation shows us that we cannot take charge of our weight alone. Our families and friends will work to sabotage this. We have to find a place in a new community that will support us.

This is why organizations such as UFIT work so well. Maybe UFIT’s most valuable asset is not the workout but the social environment that the workout takes place in. Here is a post that explains this power.

Ideally we have to be accepted to begin a big change. We have to be with people we trust. These may often NOT be our friends and family. We then have to do a lot of new things a lot in their company. We are in effect creating new habits. Then after 2 years or so – not a short time. We will become a new person.

I doubt that any serious attempt to reduce obesity in rural settings will succeed if we don’t add in a support piece.

Your don’t believe me? See for yourself.(Disclosure I have advised UFIT)

Posted in A New Vision, Complexity, Constraints, Context, Environments | Tagged

Why are rural folks fatter than urban – It’s not laziness it is environment – Part 1

Here is the lead in the Guardian – PEI’s paper of record.

Obesity rates in Prince Edward Island are among the highest in the country. Overall, about 62 per cent of Canadians weigh more than they should. The obesity rates vary from a low of five per cent in Richmond, B.C. to 32 per cent in Kings County, P.E.I. and nearly 36 per cent in the Mamawetan/Keewatin/Athabaska region in Saskatchewan. The rates were below the national average in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Clearly there seems to be a greater percentage of Canadians in rural areas plagued with excessive weight. What are the reasons for this? Is it because of less access to fitness and recreation programs?

We all know that we should be less fat as a group but other than exhort each other to eat better and take more exercise, we are lost. And anyway who knows that Eat Better and Take more Exercise means anyway. It’s not advice that works.

So I am going to play around here this week with a few ideas and insights that may help us do better.

Rural/Urban – Today I will explore with you “What are the Urban/Rural Factors Really?” – We will find that the difference has nothing to do with exercise programs or recreation. Later I will talk about:

Social Norms – How having fat friends makes us fat

Ancestral Heritage – How where your family come from has a huge affect. Why if you are First Nations or Scots and Irish (Much of PEI) you are more at risk.

Social Status and Control – If you work and live in a major city, like Toronto, New York, Paris and London you get status from that and if you live in a rural setting you lose status.

So today why people who live in Cities tend to be thinner than those of us who live in rural settings?

What do you notice about these 2 pictures? First a Paris setting.

Parisian-women-paris-france+1152_12806503633-tpfil02aw-22757
Now New York

183510-women-walking-on-street-of-new-york-city

Walking in the street is part of life in big cities. The irony is that the car plays much less of a role. So the entire design of life is to make it easy to get what you need on foot.

A huge component of why people are thinner in these cities is not that they are all in the gym – but that they are more active. It is activity not exercise that is a major factor.

In a later post we will explore explore the issue of social norms too – In New York, a 130 pound woman is over weight. On PEI she is thin. We will also explore status. In New York you have a cache that in Alberton you may not.

Now what about this typical rural setting?

Walmart

In rural America and Canada, we drive everywhere. You cannot walk if you wanted to because most streets have poor or no sidewalks. Our entire life is centred around the car. We sit all day. Again even if you did go to the gym – you do not have enough activity designed into your life.

Do gyms and programs matter much. They sure cost a lot. Now what about these kids?

Pickup007

Pick up basket ball is a feature of New York life. The costs are low and the habit is there. As is the social density.

And now these ones?

Feature_education

The New York or London kid goes back and forth to school using public transport and walking. We bus all out kids door to door.  Once we are home, we have to drive our kids to a game or a gym. There tends to be very little cheap common space. I think hockey – does every small town need a big rink? What about outdoor rinks? We could use our imagination and do better? Do the kids have to come back from school at 2.30 anyway?

Most parents are not home. Why not make the afternoon at school into the opportunity? Also get the homework done there and then and end the conflict at home.

What about this store?

Store

In big cities the zoning encourages the small and the local. People walk to their shops. In rural settings we have done the opposite. All the local stores are gone now.

What we have left is this!

Superstore

And what about this choice of food? In urban centres there is much better food on offer. It’s ironic but true.

Whole-2

versus this one – This is the Aisle of Choice in rural culture.

Junk-food-aisle
What about getting around like this – the bike is becoming the vehicle of choice in many cities. Adoption is made easier by aggressive bike programs – bike rentals, bike lanes

27a_14_cyclists_415x275

Versus this?

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Bike are just starting to make sense of use in Town – But with a good plan, we could do so much more. Gas prices are not going down over time.

So being fat in rural Canada and the US is a matter of the environment and not that we in rural settings are all lazy bums.

It does not help to sut back and feel helpless – we can look at how we might design back activity and food choice.

More tomorrow. Here is a neat article too

Posted in A New Vision, Complexity, Environments | Tagged

Trust – Part of our Biology – Dr Jonathan Shay

“The need for trust, Dr. Shay argues, comes from human prehistory. Without claws, wings or other natural weapons, human ancestors survived by watching one another’s backs. As a result, Dr. Shay argues, the need for trust is part of human biology. Trust makes us feel safe; feeling safe is good for our mental and physical health.”

Our industrial world seems to work against trust. Marketing tends to be manipulation and much of management is as well.

Here is the text of a piece by David Berreby in the New York Times – That sums up Shay’s views – that PTSD is usually the product of a betrayal of Trust. That it is not confined to war and combat. That rape and abuse is an example of the betrayal. Trust is most betrayed when authority is discovered to be in it for itself. Sums up most of corporate and political leadership today and often the power in families too.

Shay reminds us that the way home cannot be limited to the use of drugs but demands the restoration of trust itself. That can usually only come from interaction with peers. And so his work with Veterans mirrors the work of AA.

There can be no medication to restore you – only your work with others like you.

Continue reading

Posted in A New Vision, Ancestry, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Resources | Tagged , ,

Your Mind and your Health – Part 4 – Why the Tribe – Community – is the best Environment to help us

In this series we have seen how the power of how we think can affect our health for good or bad.

How then can we do the hardest thing of all and change how we think about ourselves and so what we do?

I think that we can look at the work of Alcoholics Anonymous and the work of Dr Jonathan Shay with Vets for a set of principles that might then underpin how we might use Social Media to transform health. For I think that the latent power of Social media may be the perfect fit and may allow us to make much greater progress than would have been possible without it.

The Heart of AA and Shay’s work is the Trust that comes from being in a community of True Peers. As Alan Deutschman has learned, only a tiny few of us will act on technical advice. A Vet will only really trust another Vet. An alcoholic another alcoholic. So the starting point is not to be advised BUT TO BE HEARD by a person who is empathic – who understands you and who will not judge you. Not because they are good people, but because they have walked in your shoes.

But even before this first step of being heard – there is the hardest step of all – the personal decision to get help. Each of us on our own has to be ready.

Most of us are not. How many of us would like to eat better or be more active – but give ourselves excuses for not doing anything. “Life is too short to give up bread or beer”. “My life is shit and this food makes me feel comforted” “Next Year!”  There is also huge peer pressure to not change. We must use the power of a new community to offset the power of the old one. Not just to make the change but to keep it. For those that are close to us, often don’t like the new you. You fat family, feel that your health and thin frame is a rebuke to them. Your sober wife who has used your drinking as her excuse too now finds herself exposed by you being sober.

Without the ongoing new community – the gravity of the old can pull you back.

This is why AA also offers you the opportunity to give back as a mentor. If you have been through the complete 12 steps, you can now help others. And by helping others, you in fact become even more attached to your new community. When my wife’s uncle was dying, his 2 best AA buddies were at his side – faithful until death.

So we return to Alan Deutschman who uses 3 words to describe the framework for real change:

  1. Relate – You only feel safe enough to make real change if you really trust another person. For Early Adopters this may be information itself that you trust. This is what happened to me when I met Michael Rose. But I am an oddity. I was ready to change and had a lot of motivation and I am one of those odd folks who always changes a lot. But most people need more than information from a person they trust – they need to be heard by a person they trust and they need to witness the story of that person who have made the change before them. Then they can receive the information
  2. Repeat – Real personal change takes years. It takes the establishment of new habits. For it is the establishment of a habit that rewires the brain. Changing your palate is a new habit. As a youth I drank coffee with 3 sugars and cream. It took me a decade to lose the taste for sugar in my coffee. Think of drink. No one starts by being able to drink a bottle of Scotch. We build up to this. We rewire our mind and our body to tolerate it. So stopping will hurt. So, bottom line, real change is evidenced by new habits. New habits are new actions and new responses. They take time to wire. But wire they do. Our brains set up new and deep pathways. Old triggers that would have taken us to the fridge or the bottle now take us somewhere else.
  3. Reframe – By following this process, we change our reality. We immigrate to a new world. The reframing comes late in the process. Not at the beginning. The idea of America pulled 50 million people across the Atlantic in the 19th century. But the immigrants had to wait for their kids to grow up in the new culture to become Americans. No Israelite who had been born a slave coud enter the promised land – not even Moses. Ideas do not change us – living the new ideas changes us – over time.

I think that that these principles can guide us to design the community and the supports that we all need to help each other on this journey. I suspect that Social Media will be a great help. But I am also convinced that we all will need a strong face to face component as well.

I would love to hear your views as to what you think will help.

Posted in Context, Environments, Resources, The New Science | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Your mind and your health – Part 3 – How do we change deep rooted thoughts/habits?

So how do we change? Is it as simple as knowing what is true? Not for deep change. I can hear you even from here. “But I can’t change my habits” or “Just telling me to think differently is not enough” You are correct. There is nothing harder to do than to think differently.

Alcoholics rarely stop drinking because they know their drinking is killing them. They rarely give up because their families beg them to stop. They can only stop when THEY decide to. And then only usually with a special kind of help. Here is the problem exposed and the beginning of the way home giving by my pal Alan Deutschman – author of Change or Die.

Deep real change in how we think and so our reality comes from a special process. In summary, it has to start with an act of will. Each of us has to want to change. We cannot be half hearted. So for many, we have to reach a desperate place.

Once we have made the decision to act we need something different from the expert. AA is the embodiment of the process. Here is how Alan Deutschman has summed the process up in his book Change or Die which I have found to the be the best resource for understanding this kind of change.

Reframe
Repeat
Relate – and the greatest of these is Relate

THE FIRST KEY TO CHANGE

Relate

You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope. If you face a situation that a reasonable person would consider “hopeless,” you need the influence of seemingly “unreasonable” people to restore your hope–to make you believe that you can change andexpect that you will change. This is an act of persuasion–really, it’s “selling.” The leader or community has to sell you on yourself and make you believe you have the ability to change. They have to sell you on themselves as your partners, mentors, role models, or sources of new knowledge. And they have to sell you on the specific methods or strategies that they employ.

THE SECOND KEY TO CHANGE

Repeat

The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you’ll need. It takes a lot of repetition over time before new patterns of behavior become automatic and seem natural–until you act the new way without even thinking about it. It helps tremendously to have a good teacher, coach, or mentor to give you guidance, encouragement, and direction along the way. Change doesn’t involve just “selling”; it requires “training.”

THE THIRD KEY TO CHANGE

Reframe

The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. Ultimately, you look at the world in a way that would have been so foreign to you that it wouldn’t have made any sense before you changed.

These are the three keys to change: relate, repeat, and reframe. New hope, new skills, and new thinking.

This may sound simple at first, but let me assure you that it’s not. The people who run the health care establishment still don’t understand these concepts. Nor do the people who run the criminal justice system. Nor do most of the people who run America’s major corporations.

Tomorrow we will explore how Dr Jonathan Shay uses these principles to help veterans cope withy severe PTSD. On Friday we will look at how AA works and then imagine how we might use social media to help us all.

Posted in A New Vision, Complexity, Context, Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Resources, The New Science, Tuning | Tagged , , , ,

Your Mind and your Health – Part 2 – The Power of Neuroplasticity

This is the conventional picture of the brain – a thing with discrete compartments – a thinking machine. This idea of the brain – which is also how most of us “see” the body and so organize medicine is wrong.

Our brains and our bodies are not machines made up of parts but are instead complex organisms that interact both internally and externally. Every part of us is interacting in complex ways.

This dynamic and complex interactive system – that is us – includes even our thoughts and how they interact with the structure of our brain. How we think and what we think shapes our brain so it shapes our view of reality. It therefore governs much of our health. For recall, our social status and how much power and control, we have has a major influence on our health.

Many of us have little control, or power or status in the industrial culture we inhabit  today. A reason why so many of us are ill or depressed. In this post we can see the mechanism that will enable us to think differently about this predicament and so heal. Remember Viktor Frankl knew that his captors could kill him like a fly. That they could torture him at will. But he also knew that they could never kill his spirit. In this, he had control and power and this knowledge enabled him to endure the unendurable and live.

In this post we will see how this process works. It is not new age mumbo jumbo but is rooted in science and our biology. Any of us can embark on work that can literally reinvent us and the world that we live in. The process is called Neuroplasticity. It is based on how the brain is shaped by thought. Here is a quick video introduction that showcases the work of Dr Norman Doidge.

Here is a link to a full length film on the topic that explores this in more detail.

In later posts this week we will look at what we can do to enable this process – what is remarkable about the process is how social it is. We will look at Alcoholism and AA and at PTSD and the military to see the framework. We will then look at the work of Alan Deutschman the author of Change or Die – the book that In find the most heplful resource

Posted in A New Vision, Complexity, Context, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Physiology, Resources, The New Science, The Science, Tuning | Tagged , ,

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Your Mind & Your Health – Part 1 – Overcoming bad environments

Most of us understand that if we eat better (whatever better means) and if we are more active, our health will improve. But few of us know that if we use our mind “better” that this too will help us be well. This week I will post daily about why this is so and then what we can do to make it so. Today is the why.

Viktor Frankl had refused to leave Germany even though he had a visa because he could not leave his family behind. So he found himself in a cattle car on his way to the camps. He had no idea what it would be like but he knew that it would not be good. So he set himself an experiment. He would evaluate what gave people the best chance of surviving. Would it be their physical or mental state? Would the young and the fit have the edge or would those that could not allow this terrible place to get to them too much. The answer was resoundingly in favour of those that could use their mind to stop them from giving up. In particular those who could still hear the birdsong and those that still had a sense of meaning in their lives. The book to be written – the desire to see their family once again – even being a selfless helper to others.

“On my fourth day in the sick quarters I had just been detailed to the night shift when the chief doctor rushed in and asked me to volunteer for medical duties in another camp containing typhus patients. Against the urgent advice of my friends (and despite the fact that almost none of my colleagues offered their services), I decided to volunteer. I knew that in a working party I would die in a short time. But if I had to die there might at least be some sense in my death. I thought that it would doubtless be more to the purpose to try and help my comrades as a doctor than to vegetate or finally lose my life as the unproductive laborer that I was then.” p. 69.

How we think and how we therefore react to our environment is a critically important aspect of our health. Epic tales of survival reinforce this truth – such as Shackleton’s Antarctic adventure or the 47 days of floating in a life raft in the shark infested Pacific by Louie Zamperini.

Sir Michael Marmot’s work shows us that low social status and lack of power and control have a huge impact on our immune system and so health. Robert Sapolsky shows us the mechanism for how this works. But we are not condemned by our social environment or our predicament. In many cases we cannot change it. Frankl could not and if you have to work in a large bureaucracy – you cannot either.

But we can take charge of how we think about who and where we are. For how and what we think carves neuron pathways in our brains. If you feel helpless, then these feelings will increase and deepen. So you will be stressed all the time. With constant stress, cortisol will weaken your immune system.

Tomorrow we start with the how but I leave you with two small pieces from Frankl. The first is his epiphany in the camp. The second a short video where he shows us how to “see” others.

… We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way  – an honorable way  – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory….”[2]

And now – how to love even the worst person:

Posted in "Paleo", Context, Environments, Physiology, Resources | Tagged , ,

How do you get control and power – Riot or take it for yourself?

Lack of power and control and low social status is a major factor in making us ill.

So if we cannot change the system, how can we get more power, control and social status?

This week we will look at how we might do this.

These posts will all be about each of us as individuals. For the revolution starts with each one of us and not out there. On Monday we will look at the most extreme example – how Viktor Frankl kept his power in the death camps. For he could not change his world he could only control how he reacted to it.

“I did not know whether my wife was alive, and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it ceased to matter. There was no need for me to know; nothing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of her image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. ‘Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.'” pp. 56-58.

We today are also confronted by a culture that can overwhelm us and is bad for us. It has taken us away for being human. For the centre of the Industrial Culture is “Work” and “Industry”. We ask each other – “What do you do? We tend to answer by giving our work role – “I’m an engineer” or “I work for Bell”. We almost never say “I like to garden” or I am a dad. The Question “How are you?” is usually answered with “I’m so busy!”

Work not life is what our culture is all about.

From our earliest years we are taught that paid work is the centre of life. We have to work hard at school so that we can get paid work. We have to focus at school – because we have to give the right answers to the set questions. If we do get paid work, we have to focus all the time. For it is focus on the expected results that is the way – isn’t it? We have to try and balance work and family and usually work wins. if we dont have good work and pay, we are also doomed as failures. So we cannot win.

Our industrial culture means that every other part of life than work and industry is secondary. By giving up the rest of ourselves and our world to this meme we have to get stressed because we know we are missing out on important parts of ourselves. We have next to no power or control.

So how do we get our power back?

Do we have to take to the streets? Maybe. But even then we have no power or control.

The irony is that power and control and social status does not come from outside but inside. Like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz – the way home is always in our control – all we have to do is to ask.

Here then is a simple tool that asks you the right questions – it’s a great start:

Posted in "Paleo", A New Vision, Aging, Constraints, Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Experimental Evolution, Population, Resources, The Science, Theses, Trade Offs | Tagged , ,

Crohns Disease – Typical Bad Advice you get

Here is an article today that claims to be the definitive advice from the experts of what to eat.

But when you go through it – it is totally confusing.

  • Don’t eat fat – hard to digest and makes you fat!
  • Don’t eat grains – good advice
  • Don’t eat raw – good advice
  • Be careful with beans and legumes – good advice
  • Do eat more protein – but eat smaller portions – good advice

What is missing? It is a context.

Crohns is an inflammatory condition caused by agents that inflame the digestive system. Guess what is at the heart of it? Yes the modern diet. Give up the modern diet and you will get better. This is the context. It is the grains and beans and dairy that are the root. Not the fat. The modern diet.

The author just has to hang onto the fat thing and by doing that makes their advice incomprehensible.

Posted in "Paleo", Context, Diet | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Your Baby – Bathtime – What is safe? – Novel Environments

My grand daughter Sophia when she was very little not so long ago. Bath time is the best part of the day for babies and parents. Little did I know what might have been going on.

What is in the soap – shampoo – baby oil – powder? What does a daily routine like this do as it accumulates daily?

What is safe?

I don’t know but I do know this – that babies are exceptionally vulnerable. The forces of Natural Selection are very weak for a baby. So in this context, all I know for sure is that I should do my best to keep the risk down as much as I can.

So here then is a great resource where you can look up and see the relative risks for any product that you might use.

Posted in Constraints, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Theses | Tagged ,

Diet – What you need to know based on your heritage


Thesis 50 reminds us that if you are a person with a heritage that is adapted to the agricultural diet – say from Western Europe – then you can do quite well on the Agricultural diet for a while. 30 appears to be the time when you start to lose this adaptation.

But if you are a Celt or a First Nations Person – better you avoid it all times. For those that are new to to work – Celts are the Hunter Gatherers of Europe who got pushed to the harsh boundaries such as the Highlands and Wales by the early farmers. We, I am a Scot, are the least well adapted Europeans. This may also be why so many Islanders (I live on Prince Edward Island) have such poor health as most come form the Highlands or Ireland.

The good news though is that if you are a Celt or a First Nations person – if you go back to a more traditional diet and way of life + use all the modern medicine etc – you might arrest your aging earlier than any other group. You could be the vanguard of what the health revolution is all about!

All of us should avoid Industrial food though.

Posted in Ancestry, Diet, Environments, Plateau, Population, The Plateau, The Science, Theses | Tagged

Diet – Where your ancestral heritage is important


Surely we must have adapted to agriculture by now? The answer is no and sort of yes to that question. It depends on what your ancestral heritage is or how long you have been exposed to agriculture.

Let’s take dairy.

 

This map shows the distribution of lactose intolerance. Note that the exceptions in the US are Native Americans and African Americans – whose heritage introduced them to dairy very late. If you are Asian, milk is not part of your heritage either.

This map shows the spread of agriculture in the west. It’s not that long ago.

Evolution takes time to make an impact – if at all. It must have taken a very long time for humans to evolve to eat mainly meat For instance, Chimps love meat but cannot eat much of it. If they do, they get ill. Chimps, like early hominids, have a very large digestive system that is designed to process raw veggies and powerful jaws and teeth designed to chew for hours. About 8 hours a day. It took maybe a million years for our ancestors to adapt to cooked food and meat. As a result they also changed their physiology. We lost 1/3 of our gut and all those big teeth and jaw muscles.

In the next series of posts we will explore how your ancestral heritage fits into the modern diet. In summary:

  • If you are from the Middle East you will have the best adaptation to wheat – But remember that the wheat we have today is a 50 year old modern strain with an exceptionally high gluten content. It is not the old wheat. You will also lose your adaptation in middle age
  • If you are from Northern Europe, you will have the best tolerance for dairy. But again, if you live in the US where growth hormone in cows is permitted, you are not drinking even your parents milk. You also will lose this tolerance in middle age.
  • If you are from Northern China, you will have a good tolerance to wheat with all the provisos – if you are from Southern China and Asia you will have a strong tolerance for rice. Again as you age and if you select very processed rice, you will lose this.
  • If you are from Asia and Southern Africa and America you will have a low tolerance for all dairy.
  • If you are from a recent Hunter Gatherer heritage, Inuit – First Nations – you will have no tolerance for Agriculture.
  • None of us have any tolerance for highly processed industrial food.

More here is Thesis 47

Posted in Ancestry, Constraints, Context, Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Forces of Natural Selection, Physiology, Population, The Science, Theses | 12 Comments

Are you at risk of getting ill? Yes when we get older

My son who is 31 likes what he sees in how I have changed but is having trouble with giving up modern foods for himself. Especially beer!

I told him that, as a Scot – he is a Celt and so is more at risk over time. More on why this is so for Celts later (basically Celts are the First Nations of Western Europe – Non Farmers pushed to the edge in the Agricultural Revolution).

James raises the issue of who is at most risk and why. Who is at most risk of aging poorly – developing the debilitating diseases of modern civilization – and what is it about their heritage that is so important.

So today a general rule and in the next few days I will focus on a number of key heritages and we can see where you fit. The general rule then is that even for those of us with a heritage that is most adapted to agriculture – if we persist in eating it in our 40’s and later, we will suffer. (Thesis 51)

Posted in Aging, Ancestry, Diet, Environments, Forces of Natural Selection, Plateau, Population

Aging – What is it and why you can avoid it’s ravages

What is aging? Is the deterioration we see inevitable? Are the diseases that come with age all part of the process? Is it inevitable that we get sick and decrepit as we get older?

On the surface it looks as if aging is a process that is inevitable. Most people that we know do get more and more sick and disabled as they get older.

But what Michael Rose has discovered is that this is an illusion. Before you laugh too hard think about another illusion.

The sun comes up every morning in the east – arcs across the sky all day – and sets in the west. The earth seems flat and stationary to us. But all of this is an illusion. It is real to us but none of it is true and as long as we believed that this was a true reality, we remained stuck.

The Galileo “saw” the truth – that the Earth was part of a much larger system that revolved around the sun. Then Newton was able to discover the rules that made this predictable. And then Einstein was able to understand that gravity was not a simple force like a magnet but a distortion in space time that was affected by mass. The larger the mass the greater the distortion – the greater the force of attraction.

So in Thesis 12 Michael shows us that “Aging” is a similar illusion.


That as we age, the forces of natural selection weaken and we are less protected. This is why you can party away at 20 but not when you are 50. This is why you can get away with eating crap aged 25 but not aged 50.

Illness and disability are growing risks as we age because the forces of natural selection are weaker as we age. That is why we do best to align how we live and our choices to give us the best chance of being well.

That is why it helps to know also that if we do align our life to our evolved state that we can plateau and keep fit and well until we die

Posted in A New Vision, Aging, Context, Plateau, The New Science, The Plateau, The Science, Theses | 2 Comments

Where can we find answers to the questions raised by Michael Rose? A Hack Community

Finding out how best to live in a way more attuned to our Paleo past is not a well established protocol yet. How do we give up sugar if we are addicted? What is the best form of activity to take? Where does alcohol fit?

What we need is a Hacker Community to share our questions and advice. The good news is that such a site is here.

Posted in "Paleo", A New Vision, Diet, Environments, Physiology, Resources | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The PaleoGraphic – The Story in Pictures

Paleolithic Diet Explained
Learn more about the Paleo Diet.

From Paleolithicdiet.com

Posted in "Paleo", A New Vision, Context, Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Physiology, The New Science, The Science | Tagged

Michael’s Recent Interview

Michael is interviewed by Jimmie Moore on how Evolution plays such a role and also on how diet is so important. Here MR summarizes the key factors of the 55 in a few minutes.

 

Posted in "Paleo", A New Vision, Aging, Ancestry, Context, Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Forces of Natural Selection, Physiology, Plateau, Population, The New Science, The Science | Tagged ,

Talking about Environments – carbs are novel

This is what most of us – especially our Dr’s think is the ideal start to the day. A cup of oatmeal is 60 grams of carbs.

  • The National Academy of Sciences recommends no less than 120 grams of carbs per day
  • The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 300 grams of carbs per 2000 calories (about 60% of total calories)

But Grains and the kind of carbs associated with them are not part of our Normal Diet. Here is a very helpful chart that shows what happens as we scale our consumption.  At 300 grams a day – you have to get fat.

More here from the source of this chart – Mark’s Daily Apple – and more here on the Missing Human Manual. 

Posted in "Paleo", Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Physiology | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Talking about environments – What’s in your shampoo, soap, deodorant and face cream?

I am just waking up to Michael’s warning about novel environments – here is the lowdown on what goes on in our bathrooms! If you want to know more go here.

It scares me to think of how I could have missed all of this – I have 2 grandchildren and one more on the way – guess what we will be talking about this weekend?

Posted in Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Physiology | Tagged ,

Talking about Environments – What about your mouth?

Ideally our mouths should be on the alkaline side. Before the modern diet, they were. Before the modern diet there was next to no caries.

Today we brush our teeth to give us a chance of beating caries. But what is in toothpaste? More novel chemicals such as sweeteners, foaming agents and fluoride.

Why not eat better first and to use alternatives to toothpaste that fit our body. More here.

Posted in "Paleo", Constraints, Context, Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Physiology | Tagged

As primates we need to live in the “right” social environment – much of our illness stems from a poor fit – the cure is a better fit.

A central tenet of Michael’s is that we do best in environments that fit our evolved state. Diet is a very important aspect of finding the best fit. But so is our social environment.

Practical work at one of Canada’s largest banks and at Canada’s Department for Veterans’ Affairs is shedding new light on why people get ill as a result of being at work and why so many elderly people get ill once they are institutionalized.

It’s all about role and control.

Posted in Aging, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Physiology | Tagged , ,

Michael’s Rose’s “Twin Sister?” – Dr Mary Vernon – The practical aspect of the 55 Theses

No one I have found so far explains how our metabolism works better than Dr Vernon – a GP who could not help any of her diabetic patients get well by following the “rules”. Who then became an expert in the metabolism and a leader in the bariatric field. Who now as a matter of routine and WITHOUT drugs – helps her patients (the most at risk) get well. The issue is “fuel” and how each food type is used by our metabolism.

She is disarming, self deprecating, funny and expert all in one. She has worked all of this out in the trenches of looking after people like you and me. She is not selling anything either. She wants you to be well. Here is a link to her key lecture – by starting the first video – the player loads the next 5 seamlessly. If you look below – all the slides are there too.

I was stunned also by how close she is in her world view and use of metaphor to Michael. It’s as if they are twins!

Here is part 1

 

Presentation by Dr. Mary Vernon at KU Medical Centerhttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/52474843/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list

Posted in Complexity, Context, Diet, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Physiology, The Science | Tagged

The “Plateau” – Thesis #30 in action

Here is a short video of Ruth – soon to be 100. My real point of posting her video is to remind us all that there is a plateau waiting for us as we get older. If we are not disabled by chronic disease – which we can avoid – then we will likely plateau at about 80 and remain in the same state until we die. My bet is that Ruth has not “aged” much since then and will be the same until she dies. So this is a possibility. But there is more. If you return with rigour to our Hunter Gatherer lifestyle in your 50’s diet, activity and social – then you may plateau at that point. For that is our design
Posted in Aging, Forces of Natural Selection, Plateau | Tagged | 2 Comments

The most important social environment to get right – the family

Michael Rose is clear – the closer we can live in environments that we have evolved to thrive in, the better off we will be. No environment has more of an effect on our well being than our family.

For we are not birds with most of our behaviours wired into us. We are moulded by the culture of our family. Our identity – how we see ourselves – how we understand how the world works and how we fit into it – how we will parent – how we will learn – how we will react to events – and our health – is largely set by the social and physical experience we have from inception to the age of 3.

Let me show you the power of this statement. This slide is taken from the work of Dr Doug Willms – the leading scientist in the field of culture and child development.

Here we see two trajectories. One of a child who can understand 150 words aged 2 and the other who can understand 300 words. It looks like a small difference. But it isn’t. The child that can understand 300 words is set on a trajectory of learning. By grade 10, they will operate at a 2 year university level. The child that understands 150 words is set on a very limited trajectory. They will stall at grade 10 at a grade 5 level. What has happened?

What has happened is that the 300 word children have been raised in a social environment that is close to the ideal for all human infants. There is a very high level of touch and affection. It is highly likely that the baby is breast fed – not only offering the ideal food but also the touch that all primates need to develop. The child is listened too. Parents respond. The child is cared for physically – fed, washed etc but as importantly is cared for emotionally. The child is given space but also boundaries. The child is allowed to discover the world about it but within safe bounds. She is not confined all the time. The child is exposed to lots of conversation. (Hart and Risely) By 4 the child on the better trajectory will have heard about 50 million words. This wires the neurons for language and so expression and the comprehension of complex thoughts. The baby is being cared for as we are designed to care for our children.

So what then about the other baby? This baby lives more in an instrumental world. It has much lower levels of touch. It is likely bottle fed. It tends to be confined much more and not allowed to explore. It is talked too or at. It is not listened to. It hears very few words. By 4 often only 10 million – a 40 million word difference – so the brain is wired largely for immediate and instrumental thinking. It can never catch up.

What happens to these two children that sets them on this course.

Here we come back to stress and Cortisol. All primates endure social stress. They worry about how they fit. Who is in and who is out. Who is rising and falling.

When we have these feelings – Cortisol kicks in. Primates reduce their Cortisol by Grooming. Babies that don’t get enough touch can die. Babies that get not enough touch tend to have much more Cortisol in the system for longer periods. They tend to react to events in a more stressed way and so wire not to be able to cope well with challenge. The floods of cortisol also work to damage their system.  Babies that get a lot of touch, feel safe and have a much greater resiliency. They also have much less cortisol around to threaten their system.

Robin Dunbar then makes the key assertion that humans developed language as a means of making grooming more efficient. Gossip or Conversation enables us to groom at a distance and while using our hands for work. It enables us to groom in groups. The essence of conversation or gossip is that it is a two way exchange as is physical grooming. So when a father has his son on his lap and is exploring the room with him or his body “Look Alfie here are your toes” he has taken his power down from God to equal. When Alfie’s mum reads to him aged 3 months this is not a waste of time. This is grooming.

But when a child only hears orders and in a order tone – he is not being groomed – he is being hit. His response? Cortisol. When a child is ignored – he is abandoned. His response Cortisol.

Just as Insulin is the marker for a poor diet, so Cortisol is the marker for poor social development. Dr Megan Gunnar is exploring this now.

Not the ideal parenting has become our norm today. It is largely a middle class issue.

Why?

I think that the answer is to be found in the larger culture of the industrial world we live in. It robs us of time and attention and energy. It is why we feed our kids and ourselves the wrong food. It is why we do not have the energy and the will to raise our children in the best way.

I don’t think that the way home to a better family is to be found in techniques – though knowing what I have put down here may help. I think, as with the food issue, the way home is to be found is to find a new life outside the bounds of the industrial economy. Now that so may of us are being expelled from it any way – there are millions of us around now that are being forced to think our lives anew.

Most of my posts about the “Fix” will focus on how we might  best do that. But before we go there, one last post about the nature of the industrial workplace that will show you how toxic it is and how all the issues of Stress and Cortisol apply there. For it is the family on steroids.

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We need the best fit to our ideal social status as well as to our ideal diet

America spends far more than any other nation in the world on healthcare and yet has the health outcomes of a nation like Cuba. What is going on?

Why might this be?

If you live in Louisiana you are much more likely to be ill and die young than if you live in one of the poorest states in the union Vermont. Why is this?

The quick answer is that Some nations and some states have a better social environment than others and it is this factor that has such an influence on our health.

What is “better”? Better is a better fit with the social environment that we evolved to thrive in for millions of years before agriculture.

In Vermont there is much more Social Capital than say in Louisiana. There is much stronger community. There is a smaller gap between rich and poor. (Robert Putnam is the key researcher into this field of how Social Capital affects many outcomes – crime – learning are also affected by the relative amount of social capital. And this by the overall culture. LA has a very traditional authoritarian culture of the Big Man and the dependents – Vermont is much more Yankee with strong feelings of community of mutual help and self sufficiency. So even though Vermont is poor, there is a much greater feeling of being in control and valued. Vermont could make it without the Union, Louisiana could not.

The social culture is the key. We do less well in social cultures that are top down and authoritarian than we do in cultures that fit more closely our tribal heritage of a community model. We need to have a voice and we need to be known and valued. We need to have a real role. When we have none of these factors we live in a culture that does not fit and we get ill.

Social Status is a factor in states as well. Look at the death rates in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. What happened? What happened was that the fall in National Status affected men who also felt their own status in the world fall. We see the opposite in countries like Poland whose felt that their control and status improved when they became free.

See where we are going? So let’s look at the mechanism.

This slide shows this issue of status and control more clearly. (From the Whitehall Study here is a link that will take you deep into the issues and the work ) still going on under the supervision of DR Michael Marmot. It shows deaths in the UK civil service from Heart Disease ranked by rank in the organization. The folks on the left labeled “Administrative” are the seniors executives – the A Personality Types. Those on the far right are the folks at the bottom of the pile. (More here)

Those at the bottom have a 4 times greater chance of dying early than the hard driving folks on the left. But their conventional risk factors are not 4 times worse. What is going on that makes them so much less healthy?

The answer is that this group have the least amount of control and the least amount of status. This drives a constant stress load. This is in turn releases the hormone Cortisol into the body – the hormone that enables you to shut down all your systems not needed to out run the lion. You want cortisol in a real crisis. But not as a constant. As a contant, Cortisol attacks your body and your immune system.

Here is Dr Robert Saplosky explaining this in summary and here he is explaining this in depth.

So just as the modern world has pulled us away from our ideal diet, so it pulls us away from our ideal social setting. Just as the industrial diet now is everywhere, so the industrial culture is too.

As a result, the gap between the haves and the have nots is more extreme than ever. Even well off functionaries in the system serve at the pleasure of the big man. Nearly all of us have lost control and status. This widening gap will have a huge impact on health in America.

We depend on the system for everything and most of us have no idea of what it may be like to be self sufficient. For true esteem comes not from freely given praise but from earned respect.

So I think that the way home to a culture that fits us best and that will give us our best health is not to be found in overthrowing the system. It comes from remembering the successful strategies of those that over threw the great powers such as Gandhi in India and Havel in the Czech Republic. They won by creating a better alternative to the super power.

Freedom, real status and real control is something that we earn for ourselves. It is in our own power to find. That is why in later posts we will look at how we can do this in our own work.

But next, we have to look at the central social organization that we all rely on and that shapes us all. We will look at the Family and find out that it too has exactly the same dynamics and forces as the state and the nation.

Here is a short introductory video Continue reading

Posted in Context, Environments, Evolutionary Novelty, Population | Tagged , ,

Sir Michael Marmot to expand the Whitehall Study to look at why we “age” differently

Marmot’s Whitehall Study is a longitudinal study that has studied the effects of social status on health.

He used as his sample a large number of well educated British Civil Servants – Hence “Whitehall”. A key finding has been the steep gradient in health outcomes that are formed by where you are in the power hierarchy. In short the less control and status you have – the more likely you are to be ill and even die early.

This insight fits well with Michael Rose’s research where our optimal health is found the closer we live in accordance with our evolved design. This fit is a broad one and includes not only what we eat and what we do but our social environment as well.

The way we design the industrial workplace itself is a factor in poor health just as industrial food is.

We are not “employees”.

We spent millions of years in small tribal groups that had very flat hierarchies, high personal interaction where all had a place and value. The bureaucratic norms of today represent a novel environment that does not fit our evolved design. This distance and estrangement drives high levels of social stress that releases constant high levels of cortisol. This is turn, like a poor diet that drives too much insulin, damages our immune system over time. Here is a link to Dr Robert Sapolsky’s epic lecture on how this works. If you find the science a bit dull then fast forward to the last 1/3rd where he brings in the baboons.

70% of the participants in the study are still involved and this now after so many years offers the opportunity for us to see why we age so differently. For as Marmot and Michael both know – there is no aging process per se.  Here is the outline of the work to come:

Participants in the Whitehall II study have now been followed for a quarter of a century. During this time they have taken part in nine data collection phases, five of which have included a medical screening.

Participation continues to be high at 70% of those alive. Aged 35-55 on enrolment into the study in 1985, those who took part in our latest clinical data collection phase (Phase 9 clinic, 2007-2009) were aged 58-78. Our recent publications and findings reflect this ageing of the cohort and mark a change of direction for the study.

Ageing is not characterised by universal decline. Rather variations in the speed of ageing result in people of the same age becoming increasingly dissimilar in terms of cognitive capability, mental and physical health and functioning over time.

Understanding the causes of this age-related individual heterogeneity and its distribution by social group will be the core focus of our future work.

Using some of our existing self-reported measures we have shown physical functioning to decline faster with age in low socio-economic groups, suggesting that inequalities in functioning will become an important public health issue as the population ages.

At the time of our proposed next medical screening (2012-13), our eleventh wave of data collection, Whitehall II will be optimal for studying outcomes in the elderly. Ninety percent of participants will be 65+, more than 30% 75-85, and our data will span an age range of 50 years.

By combining our existing 25 years of data on social inequalities and chronic disease with new clinical measures of cognitive function, mental disorders and physical functioning we will transform Whitehall II into a world-class, interdisciplinary study of ageing.

In addition to providing insights into individual and social differences in the development of frailty, disability, dependence, and dementia, our work will enable the determination of optimal time windows and targets for interventions that maximize the potential for healthy-ageing and independent living.

Posted in Aging, Context, Diet, Environments, Physiology, Population | Tagged , ,