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What follows are my honest conclusions after many hours of study and my own health experience. I’m not a doctor and this is not meant to substitute for medical advice. Some resources to do your own research and to get started are listed at the bottom of this post.  I wish you the very best health and success being your most beautiful self, inside and out.

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Calories in, calories out?  You are not an automobile!  You are a wondrous, amazing chemistry lab, in which insulin, ghrelin, leptin and other hormones regulate what your body does with the calories you eat and the calories you store.

In my past, I have done the calorie restriction + exercise method to get my weight under control and I can tell you my experience: it’s very hard, it will leave you in a continual state of hunger, it takes forever, and it can really mess up your metabolism. Honestly, I think it sucks!

There is another way that is so much more natural, easier, healthier, and faster! If you promise you won’t run away screaming, I’ll say it. High fat, low carbohydrate diet.

Most people will admit sugar is not healthy. But did you know that all carbohydrates turn to sugar by the time they reach your bloodstream? Even whole wheat grains, potatoes, and apples — they are all converted to sugar when digested.

“A calorie simply is not a calorie. I’m not saying the laws of thermodynamics don’t apply–they do! But they only apply when the hormones are balanced correctly. If the hormones aren’t balanced, the calorie hypothesis isn’t valid.”— Dr. Adam Nally

The amount of sugar that a human being can tolerate in the bloodstream at any given time is only about one teaspoon.  Just 4 grams of carbohydrate. A large Fuji apple contains the equivalent of about 4 teaspoons of sugar. Since high blood sugar will kill a person, your body makes insulin. Insulin’s job is to store sugar as fat, and keep it there.  It’s a great mechanism for fattening up in late summer for a long hard winter of deprivation, but not so much for the modern human being fitted for a wedding gown.

The three “macronutrients” of diet are fat, protein, and carbohydrates.  In terms of percentages, if you lower your fat intake, the other two must necessarily go up. If protein goes up, you soon hit a limit of useful protein because the body can only use a certain amount at one time and the rest goes into… fat storage (and urine). If carbohydrate goes up, you end up with massive amounts of insulin running around trying to lower your blood sugar levels and locking up your… fat storage. If fat goes up (and the other two go down), your hormones and enzymes do a wonderful little readjust called the adaption period and voila – your chemistry lab now gives you less hunger, more energy, clearer head, clearer skin… and so many other benefits.

People used to know this about sugar. Before the 1970’s everyone knew that to slim down you must avoid sugar, not fat.  But then politics and lobbying got involved and the “amber waves of grain” needed a little marketing help. And ever since the low-fat lie took hold, Americans have become heavier and sicker, just as many scientists predicted we would.

Let’s say it is cold and you have a fireplace. If you fill it with little sticks and paper, it’s going to burn very fast, very hot, and then need more fuel very quickly. That’s the “eat every 3 hours” nonsense that a high carbohydrate diet requires. But if you burn big logs, they just keep going and going. That is what it feels like to live on a high fat diet. Be a fat burner!

Becoming fat adapted is not always a smooth transition. They used to call it “Atkins Flu” or “Keto Flu.” The slump many people experience comes because at first you do not have the right hormone and enzyme balances and your body is crying, “where’s my sugar?” Most experience a transition period of 3-10 days, though it can take longer for some.

Random thoughts and suggestions for going forward:

  • Stop eating cereal, sandwiches, and “easy” food. Sorry. You’ll be glad later though.
  • Saturated fat is not bad for you. In fact, when you lose weight with any method, you are living on a high saturated fat diet. That is, your own body fat.
  • Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. You are not obligated to eat it.
  • Drink high quality salted broth while transitioning to a high fat low carb diet. Many people have reported that salted broth diminishes the transition discomforts.
  • Avoid basing your new high fat diet on seed oils (canola, safflower, corn, etc.) They are highly processed Omega 6 bombs that will cause inflammation and interfere with weight loss. Instead, eat egg yolks, avocados, grass fed meats, butter, macadamia nuts, and olive oil.
  • Old Atkins vs. New Atkins… eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables!! I cannot stress this enough.  You will feel great if you do this and many of the vitamins in your veggies will be better absorbed with a fatty diet.
  • High/full fat dairy only. I don’t tolerate milk, and even whole milk has a lot of sugar in it, but I love cream, whole milk plain yogurt, butter… Note: if I cannot get pastured dairy I usually choose not to eat it at all. Pasture raised meat/dairy/eggs, have more omega 3, more nutrients, and more flavor. Plus, unpastured animal husbandry is generally inhumane in my opinion.
  • Pack your lunch. Pack snacks. Don’t leave home without it!
  • If you drink… Everyone’s different and I don’t presume to be the expert here, but I find it best for weight loss to limit drinking in several ways. 1) No alcohol the first 2 weeks of your weight loss project. 2)  Thereafter, only drink once or twice a week. 3) No sweet drinks, and rarely wine (spirits in club soda is a good option). 4) If you are going to drink, do it early, enjoy every minute, and then switch to water, tea, or other harmless beverages. Drinking later interferes with sleep. 5) Take a B complex vitamin before drinking. 6) Throw away all the rules (except the one about driving) on your birthday.
  • Stop believing that “fruits and vegetables” are a food category.  Fruit doesn’t share a category with kale, it shares a category with Snickers. Get a reliable carb counter book or app and learn how much sugar is in your food.

Although I support your desire to be more slender with all my heart, I feel obligated to say that your long term health is the most important part of this goal. There are ways to get thin that will mess. you. up. The good news is that this isn’t one of them! It’s fast and it’s healthy and you won’t be hungry all the time. The price is our beloved carbohydrates. And you may find social gatherings challenging. If you can pay the price, you will succeed.

In conclusion, I wish you the very best in achieving your weight loss goal. I myself am not “naturally thin.”  I still fight temptation and sometimes fail. It doesn’t matter. Keep moving forward. Work hard to understand why you make certain choices and you will always find a way to do better. Write to me if you have specific questions I might answer.

Please also check out my older blog post on avoiding sugar and grains, here, where you can find even more motivation and details about this way of eating!


RESOURCES (these are just a few – tons out there!)

Podcasts

Reading

Watch

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This post goes out to my sisters, my cousins, my daughter, and my female friends, and to the men who care about them.  And as often happens, this post has nothing to do with playing the harp. Or does it? Recently I found a new podcast that I like (The Model Health Show), but it has dumped a big ol’ paradigm shift on me. I have to catch up on episodes because the podcast has been around a while so I’ve been picking an episode here and there.  TMHS #003 (The Truth About Breast Cancer) and #021 (Dressed to Kill) have got my head spinning.

I already knew that the “cancer care” field is a multi-billion dollar industry that has no interest whatsoever in putting itself out of a job. I already knew that cancer prevention will never be given the grant dollars that the lucrative cancer drug and treatment ventures receive.  But oh, what I didn’t know! Enter the podcasts.  Here are just a few of the omg moments:

  • Only about 5% of cancers occur because of genetic causes.  95% are caused by environment and lifestyle. Having a genetic marker for cancer is not a death sentence.
  • Statistically speaking, “normal” treatments (surgery, chemo, radiation) decrease cancer survival rates.
  • Everyone has cancer cells in their bodies all the time. It is normal. Our biology has a system for getting rid of them. We either overload or sabotage the system, hence the disease.
  • The lymphatic system (crucial to cancer prevention) does not have a pump, like the circulatory system has the heart. It relies on the free flow of lymph (no constricting clothing) and the movement of the body to do its job.
  • Among bra-free women, breast cancer rates are about the same as they are in men. In other words, minuscule! (The Fred Hutchinson cancer’s study citing no connection between bras and cancer did not include any non-bra wearers in the study. Looks like a smoking/cancer study that doesn’t include non-smokers.)

Which brings me to… bras.  Most women in our culture wear a bra. We don’t want to “sag.” We don’t want to bounce and “have stuff show.”  We don’t want men staring at our torsos and forgetting we have heads.  We are not all charismatic, trend-setting Kate Hudson. We are not all brave.

Questions and choices dance a ring around me right now. Is this truly like the situation of corsets, which were terribly unhealthy for women but nevertheless worn for hundreds of years? Did the women who first said “no” to corsets feel afraid? Would ditching my bra make me feel like one of those human advertisements, a person in a pizza outfit jumping around on the corner, only my outfit would be a giant boob? And most vexing of all… having grown up in that 60s pre-women’s-lib era where men could slap women on the behind with impunity, having seen the most prurient side of men, having the suspicion that any image of a female breast will stop most men in their tracks and turn off their brains… what oh what do I advise my daughter to wear?

I hate reading/hearing anything about cancer because, like most people, it scares me. Both of my parents had cancer, and one died from it. We all know someone who has it, or who died from it, or who has had a “cancer scare.”  But I am fanatically proactive about my health, and I do not want to live in fear. Is this the choice then: fear of cancer or fear of body exposure? (For further exploration.)

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and nothing in this blog is intended as medical advice. The following information is autobiographical. The pronoun “you” is employed as a narrative tool to express my own experience. I do not claim to know the cause of others’ pain nor the remedy others should pursue. I do not mean this post as a denial of the reader’s personal medical situation. Although I hope that someone will find guidance by reading my story, I do not believe my experience can be applied to everyone. 

Starting in 1996, I was in pain every day for 7 long years. I saw many doctors and tried many treatments.  Back pain, hip pain, and foot pain took turns ruling my life, except when they all popped up at once. Occasionally other body parts chimed in. The shifting cloud of diagnoses that hung over me included IT Band injury, Neuroma, Greater Trocanteric Bursitis, Shin splints, Metatarsalgia, Sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and Degenerative Disc Disease.  Today I just call it Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS).

I give credit for my discovery of TMS to Jeff Galloway, whom I met at his Tahoe running camp in 2003.  I was a bit of a mess. Galloway listened with earnest sympathy. Then he said, “There is a book you might want to read.” (Healing Back Pain by Dr. John E. Sarno.)  He would not tell me more, and now I completely know why. No one talks about TMS. TMS is “weird.” It makes people edge away.

Having been pain-free for so many years, it is hard to dig up this story and retell it. So hard that I’ve been trying to make myself write this for over a year. But a lot of people suffer needlessly, and I am sitting on a story with a truly happy ending. Perhaps what I learned will help someone, so here are some things I know about TMS:

1. Your brain can open or close capillaries in response to psychological events. We all know that an embarrassing thought can lead to blushing.  Likewise, your brain can repress an undesirable emotion by distracting you with pain. The mechanism used is the same one as for blushing: the autonomic nervous system.

2. Certain kinds of people get TMS more often than others. Typical TMS sufferers are conscientious, hard working, and  “good.”  Of course you can be all those things without TMS, but TMS finds good people like bees find flowers. Deep inside our minds, being good means “no anger allowed,” which causes repression.  Anxiety, frustration and fear are also candidates for repression, but anger is the least tolerated emotion  from our earliest age. (More about that in a moment.) Repression of negative emotions is the reason TMS exists.  Some other typical tendencies and experiences of TMS victims include: child abuse or childhood trauma, perfectionism (by which I mean having an attitude of “the right way, or not at all”), driven work ethic, overly generous, and seeking of approval.

3. TMS hops around. One body part hurts, but then a different one hurts. If you are seeking treatment or going through some physical therapy, it can feel like some kind of whack-a-mole game. But this tell-tale shift in location helps you spot TMS and distinguish it from physical injury.

4. TMS does not produce physical evidence other than pain and does not heal with time. True physical injuries produce redness, swelling, bruising, inflammation and other physical evidence. And then they heal with time. A broken femur will heal in 6 weeks and be stronger at the break point than ever before. (A corollary of this point is that cold packs will make a true physical injury feel better but will aggravate TMS. The capillaries don’t need another excuse to stay constricted!)

5. Resting a TMS “injury” does not heal it, but movement and resuming regular activity does.  In the early stages of my “cure” period, one way I knew a pain was TMS was that resting for a day or two made no difference. The part of your brain that is masterminding the disability must be told: No more. I’m not buying it. I’m going to stand, bend, run, whatever. Most importantly, I’m going to think that thought, remember and that dreadful thing that happened, or look that demon in the eye.  The cure for TMS is a mental process. Without its mission of distracting you, TMS loses its reason for being and vanishes.

6. TMS is open to suggestions. A while back, everyone had Tennis Elbow. Years later lots of people wore little wrist braces for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. More recently I have heard a lot of people suffer from Plantar Fasciitis. I am not saying those diagnoses are invalid. I am saying that my experience with pain included new pains popping up when I heard about other people’s pains.  I often wonder if TMS is to blame for what appear to be injury “fads.”

7. TMS is stupid. Let’s just anthropomorphize TMS for a second while we imagine him sitting up there in the control room saying, “Uh-oh. We’ve got an Unthinkable coming in. What have we got? Foot pain! You’re up! Get in there!”  And you happening to be running so you figure, “My foot is injured! Oh no!”  But the next day you run with a friend and chat about life and feel great. That night, the pain comes back while you are just sitting around watching a movie. TMS doesn’t know that it should only use that one while running, and always while running. So the pain comes and goes without rhyme or reason.  TMS wants to fool you to make the distraction work, but isn’t clever enough to follow the activity. It follows the thoughts. So why do we believe it? Because we live in a culture of injury.  It is considered normal to get injured. We may be horrified at the sudden pain, but we are not surprised. The statistics on running injuries alone are astounding. The species that lived for millennia by their legs and their wits alone cannot be so fragile.

8. TMS relies on a part of your mind that is sometimes called Child Primitive. It is a bit like your inner child, only way more “inner” and way more destructive. Child Primitive can generate of lot of anger that the adult You must repress. Do you get pain right before an important event? Or perhaps pain upon waking up to face a new day? Child Primitive is rolling on the ground in full tantrum mode: “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to have my worth/skills/strength (insert one) tested! I hate this job! I hate having no power!” TMS may put Child Primitive in a time out, but she is still there, raging.

9. You do not have to solve one single problem in your life to get rid of TMS.  TMS is not about being a happy person. It is not even about stress, though it certainly appears that way sometimes. TMS is about distraction. Curing TMS is about thinking the unthinkable. “Whoa. What was I just thinking about when that spasm of pain came on?”  I asked myself and answered that question many times until “poof.” No more pain. It was that simple. Not easy, but simple. Here is more good news: sometimes you do not even need to get a mental grip on the thing Child Primitive is raging about. It is repressed and often hard to find. Sometimes you only have to allow your mind to “think rage.” Free floating rage. Like joy and love, it spreads to where it needs to go.

10. The single most difficult thing to do with TMS is to take this leap of faith: the pain really is TMS and you really can get up and resume physical activity. The only way I could do this was to start with the psychological work. When I saw myself described to a T in the aforementioned book, and when I felt less pain just by concentrating on emotional issues, I took the next step and went for a run. Things were going well until a seemingly innocent thought flitted across my consciousness and I was instantly in pain again. But that just helped me know that I was on the right track. Psychological, not physical. And believe me, once you see that the wizard is just a man behind a curtain you are ten times harder to fool again. Within two weeks I was living pain free for the first time in years.

11. TMS is not “all in your head.” It is real, physical pain. But nothing is “broken.” Like a headache or menstrual cramps, it can hurt like hell without any physical injury present.

12. TMS loves props. TMS wants your attention focused on physical disability so it can do its job: to repress The Unthinkable. I had heel lifts, back cushions, cortisol shots, special ice packs to put on my hip, special pillows for my car, my chair, my bed… Physical aids, doctor appointments, and therapy exercises keep your mind far away from the real cause, and keep TMS going.

13. TMS is trying to help. This seemingly sadistic mechanism is meant to protect you. The need to protect you begins in early childhood. All small children have an involuntary reaction to their parents’ displeasure, dating back to the dawn of humankind: it is the species-preserving concept that rejection from my parents equals death. What good brain wouldn’t work on an early prevention plan for that?  When you were about 3 years old and felt fear, did your parents praise your smarts for being afraid of potential danger or did they deny your reaction with “nothing’s wrong, go to sleep”?  When you were very angry, did your parents say, “Good job! When I see those Cheerios all over the floor I am so glad that you are fully experiencing your emotions!” Small children express emotions with actions more than words — unacceptable actions.  Thus they learn that certain emotions are dangerous, and their wondrous brains learn to protect them.

14. TMS can catch a ride on the back of a true injury. This particular characteristic is not something I personally experienced, but heard about from others. The sufferers had a “real” injury that seemed to heal, and much later started hurting again.  In these cases, it seems TMS just found a nice, believable story to tell them.

15. TMS will gladly cooperate with your doctor. (And vice versa.) When people are in pain, doctors must come up with a diagnosis and a recommended course of action.  TMS loves this validated focus on the physical. If you don’t respond to PT or cortisol or whatever therapy is recommended, another is tried. There is no null hypothesis in this game, no possible proof of falsehood in the assertion that “where there is pain there is injury or illness.” And so we continue to pour our money and our hopes into physical remedies. Over 70% of back surgeries fail to provide relief. But they continue to be performed.  Blood letting was practiced for 3,000 years before people would admit that doctors were hurting people.

16. When someone discovers that all their suffering has come from TMS, it is extremely embarrassing to tell people that you are suddenly OK.  I made so many drastic life changes because of the pain I was in, and I shared it with so many people. Then I was pain free, seemingly overnight.  Friends who saw me limping just last week would ask me how I was doing. Telling someone you have a running injury is a whole lot easier than telling people, “my pain was caused by repressed negative emotions but now that I’m facing my inner rage over childhood trauma, things are really looking up!” Not exactly the kind of thing you want to put in your annual Christmas letter.

Am I really cured of TMS? Yes, with a “but.” I am completely free of chronic pain. I live an active life. I have trained for and run 22 marathons without injury. Nor do I worry about injury. I lift heavy objects without bending my knees, I run as far as I want to in minimalist shoes that are far beyond their recommended mileage limit, and I practice my harp or knit for hours with nary a thought about tendonitis.  But… every now and then when a particular kind event comes into my life, I can feel my TMS trying to “trigger” a pain in one of my old familiar spots. My happy ending is that I now can easily detect and stop TMS. It takes less than a minute. Far from being the Great and Powerful Oz, or even a simple man behind a curtain, TMS has become more like a naughty cat trying to get the food cupboard open.

Recommended reading: Healing Back Pain by Dr. John E. Sarno. He has written a number of books but that one remains my favorite. And you can insert any body part name instead of “back” – it’s all the same to TMS.

2/1/2017 Update: There is a new voice in this field, and I couldn’t be happier that TMS is still being studied and addressed. Please visit Dr. David Hanscom’s site: www.backincontrol.com  His book is the same title as his website, Back In Control (which I think is an absolutely brilliant book title for this subject if you think about it).

June 2017 updates: First, the great Dr. Sarno has passed away at the age of 93. His work in the field of mind-body medicine shows what a huge difference one person can make in the world. Thank you, Dr. Sarno, and rest in peace.  Second, a documentary has been made about Dr. Sarno’s work, the trailer is here.

Online help:

 http://www.mindbodymedicine.com/

http://www.tmshelp.com/

http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Recovery_Program

Local health practioners:

http://www.seattlebiofeedbackpsych.com/

 

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Did you know that it kinda hurts if you walk around grinning for too long?  Oh well. I can take it.

Things move fast in L.A.  Last week I blogged about Vinnie Tortorich’s podcast, and today I am on the show!  http://vinnietortorich.com/2013/10/angriest-trainer-191-cynthia-kuni-bs-fitness-devices/

That’s two separate topics, by the way: 1) cynthia-kuni and 2) bs-fitness-devices. I am the last person you’d want to interview about bs fitness devices, unless you just want to listen to growling.

It was a great experience — so much fun!  Vinnie and Anna are hilarious and they were both so nice.  I am really better at writing than speaking, so I am thrilled that I did not (I think) say anything stupid.  I enjoyed their questions, their banter, Anna’s Bart Simpson Squirrel imitation, and their sincere interest in my little life.  I had a blast!

As promised, part of my follow-up is to recommend Vinnie Tortorich’s book, Fitness Confidential.  A combination of fitness wisdom and autobiography, it is a fun and informative read. Also, I pretty much love any book that makes me laugh out loud.  Fitness Confidential is very different from other fitness books because Vinnie Tortorich is so different. The life he has led and his experiences are unlike anyone else.  Get the book!  🙂

 

For anyone who noticed I was preparing for a marathon all summer, I have a follow-up on that too: “Discretion is the better part of valor.”  I reported in September that my long runs were not going very well, and that I thought it might be the unusual heat we’ve had this summer.   A week later a had a pretty horrible long run in fairly cool conditions.  I am insanely optimistic sometimes, but I am not insane.

Facing reality, I switched to the Half Marathon.  That was the slowest half I have ever run, which made me think, “good call.”  On the other hand, I ran hard, and did very well from an Effort point of view. I passed runners continuously after mile 5 and pushed myself hard enough to still be sore today, three days later.  My two main requirements for an event are 1) have fun and 2) finish strong (on the same day I started).  Check, check.

I now have a special message from the part of my brain that is dedicated to full-time worrying.  Someone is going to read about my running “problem,” or hear me discuss it on Vinnie’s podcast, and they are going to say, “Oh, see? You lose the carbs and your endurance falls apart.”  That is what we call a Belief Based Solely On Wishing.  I have been low-carb for much longer than I have been experiencing a problem.  There is too much personal information for me to try to express what I think is happening, so let me just share my last six marathon finish times with you.   Eating gels and sugar:   4:38,  4:48,   4:21.  Eating nothing:  4:21,   4:25,   4:21.  I believe this is the part where Vinnie would say, “So go f—  ”  I mean, “Have a nice day.”

Next up, Seattle Marathon?  I might be ready, I might not.  But my half-m gave me a lot of motivation and Vinnie & Anna inspire me and keep me smiling.

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We interrupt our regular Harpist’s Output of Sweetness & Light to bring you:

  • explicit language
  • unpleasant truths about what you probably ate for breakfast
  • an unpopular point of view on exercise
  • stuff I like about one guy who is saying what I already knew but with more blushing (me, not him)
  • lots of bullet point lists, exclamation points and italics! Sound fun? Let’s go!

The Background:  I’m not sure I have ever mentioned this, but I have strong opinions about what I eat.  I switched to the Paleo Diet in 2006 and added low-carb to it a couple of years after that.  The benefits I have experienced from this switch could take up an entire post. “Eat this way!” is at the top of the list of things I would tell my 18 year old self if I could go back in time.

I will admit that I have not been completely faithful, because you do not walk away from decades of consuming something more addictive than cocaine overnight.  I struggle. I fall and get up again. But I have no doubts.  Like Gary Taubes says, “Just because it took me 19 years to give up smoking doesn’t mean the body ‘needs’ cigarettes.”

The Discovery: So there I was, Low-Carb Paleo True Believer, running down the street while listening to podcasts, and I hear this guy, Vinnie Tortorich being interviewed.  To be honest, my first reaction was not positive. His macho-Italian voice made me think unkind thoughts.  But everything he said was brilliant and I soon shed the prejudice.

Another day, another run, another interview on a different podcast I like – there he is again!  This time I’m listening well right from the start… more good advice and sound reasoning.  Now, I spend a lot of hours running (yes, without sugar), and I am always interested in new books or podcasts to occupy my mind.  That afternoon I subscribed to Vinnie’s podcast and downloaded a number of the older episodes as well.

Before I continue, if you are sensitive to bad language, crude and vulgar jokes or you’re just easily offended in general, this is not a show you will enjoy. Or a blog post for that matter.  Don’t apologize; I respect your sensibilities and often feel that way myself.  Stick with Jimmy Moore or Robb Wolf  and you will get a lot of the same information without the hot sauce.

I often want to swear and tell people off myself.  But I was raised to be a lady.  By the way, it is said that one of the foulest mouths belonged to one of the world’s finest harpists ever, Alice Chalifoux.  I sat across from her during lunch at a conference once and heard her refer to a group of people as “those bastards.” Mild, for her I’m told. She was in her 80s at the time.

Getting mad: Vinnie (may I call you Vinnie, Mr. Tortorich?) is  “American’s Angriest Trainer.”  He calls himself that because “your good intentions have been stolen from you.” So true.  Ask me about an entire year spent being hungry every day on Weight Watchers, long ago.  Or the fat I gained trying to eat like Ornish.  Or the “cheat foods” I tried to work off by running.  I had good intentions too.

Vinnie rants a lot.  Honestly, I love the rants…  Biggest Loser starvation nonsense, clueless “trainers” at gyms, the tip jars at Starbucks, and whatever pisses him off — I love it.  The INTJ in me craves truth and justice, and I sometimes wish I could say “go fuck yourself!” like Vinnie does, but for the aforementioned lady-like upbringing.   Vicarious venting, that’s what it is.

Anna: Anna Vocino, Vinnie’s cohost,  gets me laughing so hard with her vocal impressions (she does a great Paula Deen).  She contributes in so many ways, keeps Vinnie on track (or tries to), and looks up information on the fly during their discussions.  And how cool is it that her name is “Vocino?” Doesn’t that mean “shout” in Italian? Go, Anna!

Content: Vinnie knows his stuff — except for the moments when Anna has to look it up.  Just kidding – he is a well-educated man and has decades of experience coaching people.  But unlike 99.9% of the coaches you meet, he questioned the low-fat, low-calorie paradigm, that monster born of the McGovern commission’s decision to put wheat profits above human health in the early 70s.  Vinnie was taught that dogma, but he eventually questioned it, and he embraced an unpopular truth – with bared teeth.  There is a great value in the polite, scientific voices you will see in my bibliography, but Vinnie is the first bulldog, in-your-face, you-wanna-piece-of-me? warrior for the cause.  Bravo.

By the way, if you are scratching your head over that reference to McGovern, take a moment to watch this:

Here are some of the things you will learn about on Vinnie’s show.  If you just want read about these things without the vitriol, see the bibliography at the end of this post.

  • Successful weight loss will come from 95% diet, 5% exercise.
  • Avoid sugar and avoid grains. (Personally I also avoid potatoes, legumes and other high-carb foods, but most people will experience a dramatic change in their health if they only do these 2 things.)
  • “Put life into living.”  Occasion treats will not harm you if they are really occasional.  Total deprivation doesn’t work well for most people.
  • You cannot undo the damage of whack-load of sugar with an hour or two at the gym. Hormones (insulin, leptin, ghrelin) rule.
  • Cutting carbs is important, but what people really have a hard time accepting is increasing the fat in their diets.  Not seed oils.  Olive oil and saturated fat (especially from pastured animals) are good for you.  The cholesterol theory of heart disease is founded on politics and economics, not science.
  • There are no fitness shortcuts.  No gadgets, no 20-min-a-week programs, no pills that will make a lasting difference to your fitness.
  • Sometimes people aren’t right about fitness. They just seem right because they are young, or “naturally thin.” Ask yourself whom they have helped and how long the help lasted.
  • There are right and wrong reasons to exercise.  Which reason you choose is going to determine your success.
  • Juice is worse than soda. Don’t make it, don’t buy it, don’t drink it.
  • Skinny does not equal healthy.
  • Getting older is no excuse for poor fitness.
  • A “cheat day” is a bad idea, if you haven’t already figured that out.
  • Olive oil, yes. Energy gels, no.
  • A very small percentage of the population can sustain an extremely-low-calorie diet for life. Very small.

Connections:  Vinnie, on the off chance you ever read this, I want to explain the real reason I love your show (besides the ranting) and eventually came to feel like you were a close personal friend: connections.  (Yes, more bullet points!)

  • Los Angeles – I love hearing you mention places in LA, around where I grew up. Not that I ever want to live there again!
  • You are an endurance athlete. I’m not sure if you know this, but among the Paleo-diet crowd there is sometimes a bit of an anti-cardio attitude.  They call it “chronic cardio” and blame various health issues on running, while completely ignoring the fact that the running culture is a sugar culture.  Although you are not advocating the Paleo diet, what you say is pretty close, and I am always so happy to see those two worlds “collide.”
  • You are over 50! I am over 50!  [Insert secret handshake here.]   How many role models can I look to for inspiration, when it comes to staying fit and feeling younger than my years? Damn few.
  • Ok, this one is just jaw dropping to me.  You talked about Dr. Sarno’s book on your show.  Nobody talks about Dr. Sarno!  I even stopped mentioning him to people because I got tired of being unjustly pitied as some kind of quack-follower.  Someday I’m going to write a blog post about my experience with TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome), but for now let me just say that this information saved my running and changed my life.  It is real and true.  I am living proof.
  • You are friends with Genie Francis!   No, I am not also friends with Genie Francis.  But long ago, for a short time in my life, I was her double.  I lived in West Hollywood, and I could not go anywhere without someone asking me for an autograph.  In spite of repeated correction, the two elderly Russian women next door ambushed me almost every time I came out of my apartment. They would take my hands and pat them and gaze at me, smiling, muttering to each other in Russian.  “I’m not Genie Francis.”  “Yah, yah…”

Here are some pictures. You be the judge. And tell Genie “Hi” from me.

A younger me, looking like Genie Francis

A younger me, looking like Genie Francis

Young Genie Francis, looking like me

Young Genie Francis, looking like me

You can find Vinnie’s podcast on iTunes under “Vinnie Tortorich”, or at his website: www.vinnietortorich.com

Almost forgot the promised bibliography!  I have decided to borrow one, which you will find here, because 1) it has a lot of the books I would have listed, and 2) he has a really cool site you ought to see.     Update, December 2016… I see my link no longer works. I have written a new bibliography in this 2016 blog post which you will find at the very bottom of the post.

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