My height is 6’4”, and on a good day I weigh 185 lbs. I’ve had this physique since my late teenage years. My friends used to call me “giraffe” and “beanpole” because of it, but it was never an issue. Back when I was growing up, in the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, skinny people ruled.
Every cool dude had a visible ribcage, a distinct waist, and, oh my, a thigh gap. A paunch? A chubby face? Love handles? What the hell was that? We had no idea. Those body outgrowths were for the old folks who lived in the world of old people. The young populated a different reality where thinness was the golden standard of attractiveness.
When I entered the pool of fledgling surgeons in the early 80s, I remember discussing the chances of performing bariatric surgery (procedures that treat obesity) with my colleagues. All of us agreed that the probability of it happening was zilch. There were 6 morbidly obese patients available in the entire country with about one hundred thousand surgeons eager to scrub in for the job. Arguably, we had better odds of winning that crazy jackpot than performing a Roux-en-Y bypass surgery.
FYI: Currently, American bariatric surgeons perform close to 200,000 procedures every year.
Those were the halcyon years when lean people were in the overwhelming majority, not just in Russia but in the United States as well. Slenderness was strongly associated with good health, and medical professionals consistently maintained that leanness was synonymous with healthiness. No self-respecting doctor would have implied that being overweight was better for your health. Not yet.
The situation clearly changed for the worse in the early 1990. That’s when a new obese phenotype (a set of characteristics) started to form as a result of the interaction of our genotype and the obesogenic environment.
There was a seminal and very unfortunate development in the healthcare field. The healthcare professionals, who rightfully foresaw the dire consequences of obesity, overreacted. They declared a war on obesity:
Cut portions! Cut calories! Cut fats!
The chosen strategy of restrictions forced overweight people to endure hunger, deprivation, and enormous strain. This strategy elevated the level of stress to all new heights - American nation started oozing stress hormone cortisol by the kiloton. Chronic stress is our mortal enemy, and this strategy backfired.
The increased levels of cortisol elevate insulin levels causing the blood sugar to drop and trigger cravings. Unfortunately, it is in human nature to crave junk foods, sweet foods, and fatty foods. They comfort us and temporarily reduce stress, and they make us gain weight.
The misguided war on obesity, just like the war on drugs, proved to be an ultimate failure and only contributed to the obesity epidemic.
Today, Americans find it very difficult to come to terms with the debilitating disease of obesity. There’s a certain degree of desperation in how people try to find justifications for it. We are a nation of believers, but believing in something and being delusional about something are two different things.
Creating militant myths and memes, such as body fat acceptance, body positivity, or body shape diversity, in my opinion, only contributes to the problem. One charming meme, which suggests that every self-respecting man over 40 must accumulate a certain amount of fat, eventually got the moniker “dad bod.” I am not sure what does “dad bod” channel anyway. Derision? Endearment? A mixture of these conflicting sensibilities?
Only if you are Leo DiCaprio!
This meme got the best of me in the most peculiar way. My well-wishing, endearingly derisive friends and relatives badgered me for years about my skinny physique. It’s true, my rangy body stuck out like a sore thumb in the nation where 34 % were overweight and 36% were obese. The well-wishers wanted me to look like a ‘normal’ middle aged man. Their constant nagging about adding some flesh to my bones started to wear me down, and it was only a matter of time before I gave in.
Eventually, I started eating more ... a lot more. I supplied my muscles with copious amounts of protein, fats, and complex carbs. I also didn’t hesitate to add refined sugars to my diet. Hitting 210 lbs was my goal. I wanted to swiftly placate the ‘well-wishers’ and be done with it. But simply adding fat to my frame was out of the question. I was ready to force feed myself, like a goose subjected to gavage, if I had to, but I also reserved the right to stay as fit and healthy as I could.
I like good nutritious food, and I enjoyed the huge portions at the beginning. And even when the heartburn and bloating started becoming an issue, I didn’t change the way I ate nor the portion sizes. I initially ignored the symptoms, and then I started buying over-the-counter indigestion medicines to mitigate them. Even after I had developed the entire list of GERD symptoms, I stubbornly refused to modify my eating regimen. I was a man of my word.
It took me a year to put on 17 lbs. I was still working out like crazy to keep my body fat in check, though. I didn’t want to get a full-size dad bod, but I was fine with a little bit of flab.
I was ecstatic when I finally reached the 200-pound threshold. 210 lbs goal was within my grasp! Just a few extra months of bulking would get me there. But it was around this time that I began to notice the first warnings of a serious problem.
My indigestion started getting worse and worse. What would a person with advanced degrees in medicine do in this situation? Admit he was in trouble and change his ways? Nope!
I asked my physician for stronger medicine instead. I replaced my over-the-counter antacids with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), the nuclear bombs of the antacid world. PPIs don’t just neutralize gastric juices like Maalox or Mylanta do, they knock down the very production of gastric acid itself.
When gastric acid is removed from the digestive process, you can feel it immediately. In my case, my digestion slowed to a crawl. Lumps of undigested food were lingering in my stomach for hours. PPIs had dramatically worsened the symptoms of abdominal distress. Bloating, burping, nausea, and flatulence totally got out of control.
If I hadn’t been focused on my goal, these symptoms would have forced me to stop. But I was making steady progress - the changes in my body were already visible and to my liking. I even started to appreciate the art of bodybuilding. On top of all that, the noticeable increase in my physical strength tickled my machismo.
I clearly remember the day when I topped the scales at 203 lbs. It was a momentous day that changed my life forever. “Fantastic!” I thought. “3 lbs in two weeks. Not bad, not bad at all!” I was in a great mood.
After my customary vigorous thirty minute morning workout, I felt energized and ready for a good nourishing breakfast. I prepared my usual bowl of oatmeal with crushed almonds, protein powder, and blueberries. I also planned to drink a mug of coffee with milk and a piece of cheesecake. I felt ready to tackle the day.
The trouble hit shortly after breakfast. It began with some discomfort in my chest, and then the nausea came in. Intense pain followed, which quickly became too strong to endure. But I didn’t panic. Not yet. “It’s not a heart attack… No way… I am too fit to have a heart attack”, I tried to convince myself.
My train of thought wasn’t irrational. I was 99.9% sure that the pain was related to GERD, which I’ve been living with for almost a year. So long as I waited it out, it usually went away, I reasoned.
But this time, things only got worse - the ache turned into the classical “elephant sitting on my chest” event. I started sweating profusely and my legs got so weak I could barely stand.
I tried to use deep breathing to reduce anxiety and fear. It helped a little at first but, all of sudden, I felt a sharp piercing pain… as if the elephant had pushed a dagger out of its ass that cut straight through my breastbone.
It was time to get scared in earnest. I was just about ready to pick up the phone and call 911, when, suddenly … I burped… the pain immediately lessened… I burped again… The pain vanished shortly thereafter.
I monitored my vitals for half an hour afterward to make sure that the heart was OK. As it turned out, my blood pressure, heart rate, breathing pattern, and pulse were normal and stable.
This incidence served as my wake up call. It finally dawned on me that my GERD was out of control, and I couldn’t just go on ignoring it. My body was sending me clear signals. The abuse had to stop. No more bulking. No more crazy, noxious diet. It is better to be thin and healthy, then buff and sick or, even worse, buff and dead.
According to Richard G. Bribiescas, Professor of Anthropology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Yale, women are more attracted to the ‘dad bod’, “marked by lower testosterone levels, less muscle mass and more fat.” I hope it was professor’s April Fools' Day joke. And if it wasn’t, he should be yaled…oops, he is already Yaled. If people think that ‘dad bod’ denotes something positive, they should talk to Chris Pratt. The actor became famous as Andy Dwyer in the hit show Parks and Recreation, which required him to get chubby and keep the weight on. He doesn’t mince words when he describes his ordeal with ‘dad bod’. 'I was impotent, fatigued, emotionally depressed. I had real health issues that were affecting me in a major way. It's bad for your heart, your skin, your system, your spirit,’ said Chris. According to MensFitness.com, when it comes to dad bod, “… about 50 percent of women are indifferent, only 15 percent exclusively date men with a "dad bod." And 38 percent of women want their guys in tip top shape.” Take that, professor Bribiescas!
I failed to achieve my goal, but, instead of being disappointed, I was just happy that I dodged the bullet. I stopped taking Prilosec and cut my portions in half. This step reduced the intensity of symptoms but didn’t eradicate them. I knew I had to do more to get rid of the symptoms completely. I had to find a way to counteract the impact of gastric acid on the esophageal lining (mucosa).
It took me many months to come up with a winning formula. It was a simple but very effective algorithm, which was based on the physiology of digestion and metabolism.
Shortly thereafter, I stopped feeling sick. I quickly got back to my healthy weight, and, I admit, I lost some muscle strength. However, I compensated it with an increase in stamina. I felt as if I discovered a new source of energy.
I realized I was onto something. I had found a simple and effective technique that was going to hit the disastrous war on obesity at its very core.
“If you're going through hell, keep going.”
As a plus-size nation, we are obsessed with weight loss. To achieve that picture perfect body, we have tried every possible fad diet, every magic pill, every gimmick in the book: tapeworms, zapping belts, cotton balls, tongue patches ... You name it, it’s been done.
It goes without saying that one shouldn’t expect anything from zapping belts except irritating shocks, while sharing one’s meal with 20-foot long tapeworms is obviously a very bad idea. But how about those approaches backed by science, like calorie restriction and exercising? Common sense suggests that these methods should work beautifully.
But do they?
Multiple studies indeed show initial weight loss and health improvement upon the adoption of a sensible diet and/or exercise regimen, while the results are even better with consistent professional monitoring. However, follow-up studies have consistently demonstrated that we immediately lose motivation to maintain the regimen when the weight loss goal is achieved. The consequences of this attitude are very predictable - any weight that was lost is rapidly regained. We need some sort of a proverbial Drill Instructor to keep us going.
Various quacks and confidence artists suggest that this propensity to put the weight back on is due to a variety of factors, from genetics and glandular issues to moon cycles and astrological signs.
Hogwash! There is one word for why many of us can’t keep this weight from coming back: willpower (or lack of it)! Everything else is secondary.
Some would say that willpower isn’t really relevant in this day and age, when life has become so comfortable, predictable, and organized. But, as it happens, scientific and social progress doesn’t make contemporary life less tough or demanding.
Modern life presents different type of challenges. Daily stresses and anxieties, sedentary lifestyles, and bad diets have been killing us just as effectively as sabertooth tigers, poisonous critters, and the fury of the elements had been slaying our ancestors thousands of years ago.
These new challenges and stresses seriously impair the willpower of modern people. They don’t do it in a violent manner but attack us insidiously without being clearly recognized, which makes them even more harmful. To cope with them, we have to engage our resolve not once and not even ten times a day - we must exercise willpower and self-control almost constantly.
We have to prioritize in order to survive in the world that is getting more and more complex. We need to parse through our obligations and responsibilities and select the ones that are most important.
These first tier responsibilities can’t be ignored or placed on the back burner. Most of us pick work, family, and personal wellbeing as the most important obligations. The big question is do we have the required resolve to keep them as such.
The world is full of temptations and distractions, which accost us every step of the way. In many instances, they are intentionally designed by very smart professionals to paralyze our willpower and take advantage of our weakness. On top of that, the fast pace of life gives us very little time to recharge our willpower batteries and sooner or later we are running on empty.
It is crucial that we allocate our willpower smartly and do everything we can to keep it strong and in steady supply. Being in good physical shape is one the most effective ways of achieving that - we need to keep our body lean and strong and our mind sharp and pliant.
How can we do it, anyway?
It is undoubtedly true that dieting is the most popular method of weight management and health improvement. But when we do decide to go on a diet, we intentionally put ourselves in a pickle. We find ourselves constantly fighting hunger, deprivation, and stress, combined with an unyielding craving for the food we like, but are forced to avoid.
Dieting is one of the greatest paradoxes of modern life – we are well aware that it doesn’t work, but we keep “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
According to Einstein, that’s insanity. But in this case, the genius theoretical physicist made a mistake. Doing the same thing time and again is not insanity. On the contrary, it is normality. That is how our brain works: we love to ‘fall into the same trap’ and ‘keep making the same mistakes’.
Fad dieting is an accurate example of that conduct. If there were just a few thousand of us going on a diet every year, we would probably find it abnormal and call these people idiots. In reality, there is a 45 million strong multitude of Americans, who embark on a diet knowing from the previous experience that nothing good will come out of it. Naturally, young inexperienced people behave even more irrationally - nearly one in three go on a new diet each month. Almost half of them give up after a week and another half quit within a month. The sheer numbers elevate these illogical behaviors to normality.
On the other side of the spectrum, exercising really isn’t any better. If you don’t particularly enjoy exertion and sweat, like most people, you have to allocate a big chunk of willpower simply to get off the couch and begin. And when you’re already in the process of working out, you need to keep summoning a substantial amount of willpower just to keep going.
And then there’s the post workout phase, which is supposed to be the glorious pinnacle of a job well done. We expect rewards, plaudits, even paens of joy being sung in our honor. Alas, the post exercise time is ridden with bolts from the blue.
Just when we think our suffering is finally over and we’re due some relaxation, we are in for a surprise instead. Troubles come in all shapes and sizes: electrolyte imbalances may shock us with intolerable cramps, or the lactic acid buildup will set our muscles on fire. All of a sudden, we may feel a sharp pain in the neck, or back, or any other body part – the consequences of badly executed exercises. And finally, delayed muscle soreness (DMS) will test our will again 24 to 48 hours later.
After all is said and done, it really isn’t that surprising that regular folks like you and I, soft and spoiled by modern life, don’t stand a chance at keeping the weight off. Eventually, a lot of us just give in to temptations. We let ourselves go and dump certain responsibilities. After all, some obligations seem more important than others.
Can we stop earning our daily bread? Of course not. We have to assign willpower to our gainful employment as a simple matter of survival.
Can we stop taking care of our family? Highly unlikely. Quitting on family is anathema to most of us. A big chunk of our willpower will always be allocated to supporting our loved ones, through good times and bad.
But can we stop taking care of ourselves? Of course, we can! Here are some facts to support that: “Research suggests that 50% of persons starting an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months.” And how about dieting? That happens even faster: “50% give [it] up within a month.”
When people were asked, “Would you rather lose 15 pounds or have your 401(K) balance rise 15% this year?”, most people chose the money, not realizing, however, that the financial payoff from losing those 15 pounds and consequently being healthier is much greater than any increase in their 401(K).
But that’s a topic for another conversation. First, let’s get our priorities straight: To be or not to be (on a diet)? To exercise or not to exercise (regularly)? Our health, our employment, our very futures depend on this decision!
Let’s be honest with ourselves: Do we really believe that living an unhealthy lifestyle will actually increase our chances of success at work? Do we really think that being an ailing and week person will allow us take care of our family?
We may try telling ourselves that we can survive and even succeed without taking good care of ourselves. But, deep inside, in our hearts, we know that without a healthy diet and regular exercise, there is no golden future for anyone.
Step I: Get Real
Those who fall into the slightly overweight camp are usually the first to quit. Their rationale for doing so is something like this: “I’m just barely overweight. I don’t have to work out or eat healthy just because I have a few extra pounds on me. My health is fine. What’s more, plenty of doctors have confirmed there’s nothing wrong with carrying a few extra pounds around.”
Yes, there are some doctors out there who think that there exists a “healthy overweight” category. This may sound true since there are no conspicuous symptoms of the disease yet, except for some redundant fat. It is also true that many diseases start stealthily, without obvious symptoms.
However, it is indisputable that obesity is a chronic illness, and simply being even slightly overweight represents the first stage of this malady. And no reasonable physician can ignore the fact that when an illness is not stopped at stage I, it inevitably progresses to stage II, III, or even further. This happens with every chronic illness, whether it’s hypertension, heart failure, cancer, or, in this case, obesity.
Furthermore, treating an ailment in its latter stages of development is much more difficult than treating it right at its beginning. Sometimes, it’s too late to even try.
Step II: Change The Narrative
For decades now, all our fuss about carrying extra weight around hasn’t helped us in our fight against obesity whatsoever. We need to approach this extra weight as a symptom of the disease of obesity instead. In this way, we become more motivated to get rid of it.
The superficial pursuit of a perfect body just for looks or a bikini body for a swim season are shallow. These approaches do not carry gravitas. Even when we achieve our hollow goals, it doesn’t do us any good in the long run. The frustration and disappointment, which we inevitably experience when our weight is regained, only deepens our unhappiness.
We should think strategically and long-term. That implies we should think about our health and how to make it better. Health begets more health. More health leads to healthy body and mind, not just for show or a swim season but for meaningful purposes.
When we conscientiously replace weight loss with health gain, everything falls into place. Not only is our newfound desire for health improvement good for our physical and mental well-being, it also adds years to our lifespans and delays the frailty of old age.
Step III: Face The Music
Some people say they hate exercising. Nothing unusual about that. Too much arduousness, to all outward appearances, is a lot harder on our bodies than too much lounging.
But I am convinced that if these people actually found a physical activity they enjoyed doing, their tunes would change faster than jukeboxes on fast forward.
Why is this important? Because there’s no getting around it: Regular physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle.
Currently, there is a plethora of workout routines available for every taste and ability. Granted, you might not like running, swimming, volleyball, basketball, or what have you, but there is so much more out there.
Google ‘new workouts,’ for instance. How can you not be intrigued by the results? From ‘antigravity yoga’ to ‘piloxing,’ the world of ‘new workouts’ sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel!
With ‘antigravity yoga,’ for instance, you hover above the ground in a hammock and stretch and strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the entire body. It completely removes the gravitational pressure on your joints and spine. Hence the name.
But if that doesn’t sound up your alley, there’s ‘piloxing’! A combination of pilates, boxing, and dancing, that alone sounds like an adventure just to try! And who knows, you may even like it so much that it turns into a good (healthy) habit.
Just keep in mind a few important considerations on your search for an enjoyable workout routine:
Step IV: Exploit The Good News
Eating right is an area where EatApp might just be the thing you’re looking for. If followed correctly, it will:
Does it require sacrifice and pain? Far from it! I specifically designed EatApp to avoid any sort of stress or deprivation.
So how does EatApp work? Here’s the gist of it:
Good health starts in the mouth. EatApp changes the way we eat by tweaking how we bite, chew, and process food in the mouth. It is powerfully simple and easy to follow.
EatApp does many things, but what it does not do is go against our innate physiology, like so many other weight loss methods. It does not:
EatApp does, however, achieve satiation, and with just a fraction of your usual portion.
My goal is to nudge you toward healthier food choices, but ultimately it is your decision how you lead your life. There’s no pressure on you to eat exclusively ‘healthy’ foods, but I firmly believe that you’ll end up surprised how actually eating properly will eventually change your food preferences for the better.
"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim
too high and falling short; but in setting our aim
too low, and achieving our mark."
In his beautiful song "Thinking Out Loud", Ed Sheeran makes a promise to love a girl until he's 70. When I was his age (a ripe old 25), I knew it would be careless of me to make that kind of commitment. And it wouldn't be due to lack of loving on my part; it would be due to lack of living. I simply didn't expect to live that long.
At the time, my prospects for longevity were quite humble. I hoped I would live long enough to celebrate my sixty fifth birthday. And if I was lucky, maybe, just maybe I would carry on until age 70.
And don't tell me I was setting my aim too low. You, dear reader, have no idea where I'm from. I was born in Moscow, Russia, in the year 1956. It was a remarkable year. Obviously, a great year for me since I was brought into the world. An even better year for Elvis Presley - the song "Heartbreak Hotel" became a number-one hit in the United States. But a lousy year for Hungarian people – the Soviet troops brutally crushed the anti-Communist uprisings in Hungary.
And if you are a history buff, you should know that Russia kicks ass. It's brought to heel so many ambitious men through the ages: Mamai Khan of the Golden Horde, Sigismund III of Poland, Charles XII of Sweden, Napoleon, Hitler, and Mission Impossible's one and only Ethan Hunt, to name a few. Damn you Ethan Hunt for blowing up the Kremlin!
Should you be stupid enough to attack Russia, you must at least prepare yourself by learning a thing or two about it. Here are three the most formidable Moscow's assets: heroic and selfless cannon fodder, dreadful diet, and murderous climate.
Muscovites in particular are notorious for deriding the crappy climate. Being highly educated folks, they're even apt to quote historical figures when they talk about the weather. "Nine months of winter, three months of no summer, and they call it a motherland," bitched Napoleon Bonaparte while freezing his ass off in Moscow in 1812. This is arguably the most comprehensive and most frequently quoted description of the Russian climate. And from a Frenchman no less.
In the dead of winter, warmed up by many generous shots of vodka, Russians like to sing an old folk song: "Oh, frost, oh, frost! Don't freeze me or my horse!" If you think the song alludes to Siberia, notorious the world over for its long cold spells, you're dead wrong. The poor horse in the song froze to death somewhere near Moscow. Luckily for the rider, he had enough vodka to survive and tell the story!
And how about the Russian diet? Don't get me started. I'd hate to expose you to a tedious and lengthy diatribe full of invectives. Rather, how about a nice little poem ...
Fat, fat, fat – all saturated.
Carbs, carbs, carbs – all refined.
Veggies? Mostly disintegrated.
Fruits? Nowhere to find.
But vodka, vodka, vodka galore.
Pour it on and on and on!
Vodka, makes us satiated -
Flows like the rivers of Babylon.
What a diet, huh? Exterminates bugs, creates skinny fat ruffians, and keeps Russian women happy. How can an atrocious diet make a woman happy, you ask? I'll elaborate on that later.
On another historical note, there's an interesting correlation between the Russian diet that had been cultivated by Soviet socialism up until 1991, and 'food deserts,' which are cultivated by American market capitalism.
‘Food deserts’ are areas in American cities where healthy food is simply not available. These areas were aptly named ‘food deserts’ because the only food you can buy there isn’t really food. Granted, you can eat it and survive for a while, but actually calling it food is a stretch. Real food, like apples, tomatoes, or even whole-wheat bread, requires travel to another, usually more affluent, part of the city.
When it came to ‘food deserts,’ the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had splendidly outdone the US in that regard. All of Soviet Russia was a ‘food desert.’ Can you imagine a huge piece of land, 1/6 of the earth's land surface, practically devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables? That was communism, comrade.
The main reason for that scarcity is usually attributed to Soviet-style management and policies. The Kremlin ideologues did everything in their power to keep the Iron Curtain impenetrable to alien ideas, and the abundance of fruits and vegetables seemed like a very dangerous idea for the masses to be exposed to.
As it happens, every desert has an oasis, a tiny piece of paradise. The same for the ‘food desert’ that was the USSR. Indeed, there was a place where fruits and veggies, even the exotic ones, were available year-round. This oasis was populated by a very special breed of people, namely, the small-minded, hypocritical, and corrupt old farts of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CC of the CPSU). In Soviet Russia, the longer the name, the crappier the contents.
The sole task of the CC of the CPSU was to protect the 10 Commandments of Communism from ‘rotten’ capitalistic ideology, yet the undying aspiration of its members was to guard their hold on power and privileges. Those privileges, by the way, included access to imported fruits and vegetables produced and supplied by none other than … ‘rotten’ capitalism.
The rest of the Soviet populace, on the other hand, was left with rotten potatoes. OK, OK it wasn’t that bad - they were half-rotten. However, with deft slight of hand, Russian women were capable of turning them into something quite edible. In fact, they made the most delicious french fries a la Russe by deep-frying potatoes in melted inferno-hot lard. Just thinking about it today makes my mouth water, and my arteries constrict in terror.
Speaking of Russian women, let’s get back to the subject of their happiness. In spite of the circumstances, Russian women were very content because, unlike their Western counterparts, Russian men didn’t burden them with loaded questions.
Take this example from the UK’s Fab Four: ‘Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?’ What kind of question is that? Are they implying that women can just dump their men when the poor sods reach old age? Are they saying that people can live together for 20, 30, even 40 years, and then all of a sudden, ‘Piss off!’?
Russian women would never have done that. They respected their men, drunk or not. And Russian men held their women in even higher esteem. They valued them so much that they just ... dropped dead when they were 64. Respect!
Jokes aside, the life expectancy of Russian men is incidentally exactly 64 years. Yet I’ve always been perplexed by the desire of Russian men to be older than they really are: to look older, act older, and think older. Russia’s young men want to mature so fast that they want to addressed not just by their first and last names (e.g. Vladimir Putin), but by their patronymic as well (Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin). Now that’s veneration!
And when it comes to Russia’s great leader, don’t be fooled by his bare-chested physique. Yes, he is in great shape for a 63-year-old Russki, but only because he is an extraordinary human specimen, an aberration. I attribute his good health to his two consuming passions: judo, and restoring the former glory of the Russian Empire by any means possible. These tasks require a strong, agile body, and a sharp, versatile mind. He has both, and, in spite of his small stature, his poise is indisputably regal. Some politicians in Russia even want to declare him a new Russian emperor.
Putin might be an exemplary athlete, but, on the whole, Russian society seems adverse to following a healthy, youthful lifestyle. Being a Russki myself, I was doomed by jus soli, the proverbial right of the soil. I was destined to perish at the age of 64, and I found that to be utterly ridiculous.
In the USA, the perception is that true life enjoyment really only begins at retirement. The kids are settled, the debts are paid … Nothing is preventing you from doing what you’ve always wanted to do all those years slaving away for house and home. Retirement has finally given you the time to travel, fish, and play golf. An old cliché, of course, but one worth fighting for.
Myself, I never actually planned to retire. Many physicians like me just can’t give up on their mission. And I wasn’t your typical fatalistic Russki muzhik. I refused to accept that destiny. Life is too precious, too exciting to just cut it so short. I knew there was a way to circumvent the end-of-life-at-64 statistic. I needed to devise a strategy for extending my lifespan.
They say that the best ideas in Russia come while lying on a huge Russian wood-burning stove - a perfect place for indolent musing. I attribute that creativity to the birch fumes, along with a dash of carbon monoxide.
I spent many nights in my country house lying on the stove and thinking about my future. Whoops, did I say on the stove? I stand corrected. I didn’t sleep on the Russian stove, I slept near the Swedish stove. The Swedish version, FYI, is much smaller, but otherwise pretty much the same, warts and all.
The plan I devised was simple, pragmatic, but unconventional and with serious Western influence: I decided to run the streets of Moscow in the morning and night. Rain, shine … or snow.
You might think I’m pulling your leg. But trust me, I’m not. Let me explain.
In the 1970s, there was a running boom in the US. The streets were crowded with joggers in short shorts and T-shirts. It seemed everyone, including President Jimmy Carter himself, was doing it.
Russia, on the other hand, was a conservative country with strict patriarchal rules and traditions, ironically reinforced by communist ideology. Every activity had its time and place, and ultimately required a stamp of approval by the Party.
If you’d been living there at the time like I was, you knew you couldn’t just start running out of the blue. You needed an official reason, with proper decorum maintained at all times. The Party-approved equation was something like this:
Athlete + Uniform + Stadium + Running = Ideologically Proper
If you did take the chance and decided to go out for a jog, it’s not that you would’ve been immediately arrested or anything. Rest assured, however, that Soviet police would probably have stopped you for questioning just to make sure you weren’t out-there or up to something. They’d then try to rummage through every nook and cranny in your brain for proof of dissent - stop-&-frisk, Soviet style.
That’s one big reason why I always preferred running to jogging. I would’ve been screwed by jogging since it would’ve given Soviet cops enough time to put 2 & 2 together: Semi-Naked Dude + Streets + Jogging = Not Cool. Running, on the other hand, gave me enough time to execute a simple evasive maneuver. By the time the cops sounded their alarms, I was already half a mile away.
In any case, was there anybody running in ‘70s-era Moscow at all? Not so much. When I did it, everyone gawked at me like I’d just landed from Mars. Some people eyeballed me with fascination, some with curiosity, but most just stared at me with either astonishment or condemnation.
I was arguably the only semi-naked Russian dude running on the streets of the Soviet capital. The only other guy, whom I bumped into from time to time, was journalist Vladimir Pozner. He is probably best known for his groundbreaking television work with Phil Donahue on improving Soviet-American relations.
Pozner dropped a bombshell during the mid-1980s by introducing the concept of sex to a wider Russian audience. Finally, the Russkis were informed that what they had been doing in the bedrooms and haystacks was called ‘sex.’ On the other hand, does something strictly missionary, with closed eyes, for procreation only, and lasting under a minute, qualify as sex? I don’t know. Mr. Pozner wouldn’t dare elaborate on that - the Party was watching.
I should emphasize that Pozner was a foreign transplant of Jewish-French-American origin. For him, having great sex, or jogging in London, New York, Paris, or Moscow was something quite trivial, just the conventional activities of the man-of-the-world that he was.
I, on the other hand, was straight Russian, brought up by conservative Russian parents, and I’d lived all my life in Moscow, Russia. I’d spent five years studying mandatory Marxist-Leninist philosophy, for God’s sake! Running on the streets of the world capital of communism was no small feat for me by any measure.
Anyway, I was focused on my health, not on politics, so I didn’t really pay much attention to people’s reactions. I aimed to achieve a very important goal: live longer. Every extra mile added a few days, while every ten chin-ups added a few hours to my lifespan.
I knew, intuitively, that just getting fit through exhaustive cardio routines wouldn’t be enough. I had to improve my diet as well. Consequently, I did my best to replace sausages and deep-fried potatoes with bowls of buckwheat or oats as much as possible.
Fortunately, the American dietary guidelines on fat introduced in the 1970s failed to influence the Russian medical community. According to Russian doctors and scientists, fat was good. That’s why I often started my day by eating two cups of delightfully smooth and fulfilling 30% fat sour cream, and often ended my day in a similar manner. That love for fat reduced my refined carbs consumption by roughly half.
Nowadays, I am absolutely certain that vigorous daily exercise can offset a bad diet. Look at me, I’m still alive and kicking at age 60, and I eat whatever I want.
But when I say vigorous, I actually mean high intensity. Exhaustive. To compare, the Harvard School of Public Health defines hiking as a vigorous exercise (and it doesn’t even include a 100-pound backpack), along with jogging at 6 MPH.
In my opinion, jogging is the opposite of vigorous. Jogging is lazy running. Jogging is designed for relaxation. When you come home from work exhausted and stressed out and you need to unwind, you go for a jog.
I would have died from heart attack or stroke if I had tried to stave off the effects of the typical Russian diet with that kind of vigor. How can I be so sure of that? Because I had witnessed firsthand the disaster that was the jogging-takes-on-Russian-diet experiment.
Back in my medical school days, I knew a cardiac surgeon named Alexander. Along with operating on patients, he also enjoyed hiking, camping, and singing patriotic Russian songs - a well-rounded, reliable Soviet kinda guy. Although he was a bit on the heavy side, he could perform non-stop 6-hour long surgeries as easily as a chef butters bread.
He was undoubtedly a brilliant surgeon, also serving as the head of the cardiac department of one of the USSR’s leading surgical institutions. And all of this at the ripe old age of 36.
With his reputation, Alexander was one of the few Russians the government actually allowed to go abroad. So when he got an invitation to present at an academic symposium in San Francisco, California, not only was he grateful and excited for the opportunity, but he sensed it his duty to his countrymen to go.
After just one week in the Golden State, he got swept up in the running boom that was engulfing the US at the time (mid to late 1970s). Streets nationwide were crowded with joggers, and the energy was contagious. He was mesmerized, and got hooked on the stuff.
Back in Moscow, he tried to rub some of that energy off onto others, but to no avail. Unfortunately for him, the administration of the venerable institution where he worked - and where I was studying medicine at the time - was adamant about keeping foreign influences at bay.
Then, one day, out of nowhere, we all got the news that Alexander had died, from an acute myocardial infarction, no less. I was a 3rd-year medical student at the time, so he wasn’t even that much older than me.
I was truly shocked. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that a 36-year-old cardiac surgeon had died from a heart attack. Alexander was not only an expert, he was a grandmaster of the human heart. We all thought he’d be the last to go from anything heart-related.
For yours truly, Alexander’s death was especially scary because it hit close to home. My diet and lifestyle hadn’t been that different from his: We both liked fatty foods, sweets, and the not-so-occasional libation.
The only substantive difference in our lifestyles was our workouts. He jogged once a day; I jogged twice. He jogged 3-4 miles a day; I ran 3-4 miles in the morning, and then 4-5 miles in the afternoon.
I’d been pretty smug about my chances of having any sort of cardiovascular problem before Alexander’s passing. My heart rate averaged below 50 beats per minute. My left ventricle even grew to slightly larger than average, much like an endurance athlete, which I happily wore as a badge of honor.
After Alexander passed, however, I didn’t feel quite so sure anymore. One thing I was certain about, however, was that hiking, camping, and singing patriotic songs around a campfire were all wastes of time. I had no desire to be a good (Soviet) sport; I wanted to live a long and healthy life.
I made it a point to devise a more comprehensive longevity plan, looking for every possible opportunity to help me live longer as the days passed. And believe me, as I’ve mentioned a few pages before, this wasn’t easy under Soviet communism.
But I did what I could, and made the most of it considering the circumstances. I joined the university swim team, started playing tennis, and became a member of an underground martial arts club.
I also made some improvements to my diet. For one, I had to say bye-bye to binge drinking. This wasn’t an easy decision to stick to in Soviet Russia, where abstinence from alcohol was viewed with as much suspicion as yelling at imaginary birds in public.
To prevent any sort of eyebrow-raising from my countrymen, I invented a number of stories that allowed me to avoid the ever-present bacchanalias that were a fact of life in Soviet Russia, a decision I do not regret in the slightest to this day.
On top of all this, I also endeavored to get a hold of as many vegetables as I could. I relentlessly dug for every last vegetable in every market I came across. Literally. In Soviet Russia, it was custom for food vendors to bury vegetables in large containers with dirt and whatever else they had lying around. Washing and proper packaging was so ‘First World.’
Regrettably, however, refined sugar remained in my diet. This was primarily due to its still being seen as a valuable nutrient at the time, a reputation it enjoyed not only in Russia, but in the West, as well.
(Fun fact: In 1965, Big Sugar hired prominent scientists to discredit the connection between sugar consumption and cardiovascular disease. The sugar cartels paid top Harvard University scientists the sweet sum of $6,500 (about $50K today) to put all the blame on saturated fat. As if being fat wasn’t shameful enough!)
Going back to my med school days in Soviet Russia, I had an almost insatiable appetite for sweets. And since fruits were unavailable at the time to anybody but the party elite, I had to consume ‘refined’ carbs to support the intellectual challenges and other rigors of medical school. In hindsight, I’m glad I started exercising, since I largely burned all that sugar off anyway.
My exhaustive workout regimen had after a few months proven to be a success. I was leaner, fitter, and felt more alive than ever. I became increasingly confident that I’d live well into my 70s, maybe even my 80s, so long as I kept it going.
And then, in 1985, a miracle happened. Mikhail Gorbachev assumed the reins of the USSR. In one fell swoop, ’Gorby’ ended an entire era of demented communist leadership. Ushering in perestroika, a top Soviet official finally offered a glimmer of freedom to the populace. If it wasn’t for him, I would probably still be reaping the illusory harvests of socialism behind a still-closed Iron Curtain.
But, thanks to Gorby, the Berlin Wall fell (1989), the Soviet-Afghan War ended (1989), Russia’s first McDonald’s restaurant opened its doors in Moscow (1990), and the Iron Curtain finally opened (1991).
Suddenly, fresh, clean, healthy fruits and vegetables were available on almost every street corner in Moscow. Some had exotic names like kale, bok choy, and arugula, but so long as they tasted OK, I didn’t care. I ate with abandon.
My fellow Muscovites finally began to take up running, jogging, skateboarding, rollerblading, and countless other activities that would’ve been no-no’s just a year before. Numerous private health clubs and spas popped up everywhere, seemingly overnight.
I found myself signing up as a member of one of the poshest fitness clubs in Moscow. Suddenly, some of the world’s most cutting-edge fitness equipment was at my fingertips. And the amenities! The club’s sauna was a bona-fide Finnish model where you could turn the heat up to 248 degrees F (120 degrees C). And when you were done sweating, you could take a dip in its world-class jacuzzis, and let their hot water jets massage your aching muscles after a long Russian winter’s day.
What’s more, it was all private. No more worries about breaking this or that Communist Party rule, about potentially offending this or that potential Communist Party member sitting by you in the spa. All our former worries as normal Soviet citizens evaporated into the steam of the sauna.
At times, during those heady days in the early ‘90s, I had to pinch myself just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
And then there was the culinary scene. Countless exotic restaurants, with previously-unheard of cuisines, opened their doors to the public. Me and my fellow Muscovites finally got to sample Coquilles Saint-Jacques, veal Milanese, and sashimi for the first time in our lives.
I distinctly remember dining in the newly-opened Nostalgie restaurant in Moscow, which quickly built a reputation for itself as a purveyor of fine French cuisine and live jazz. After its unbelievably delicate foie gras melted in my mouth, I knew there was no return to Communism. I stopped pinching myself from that day on.
But there was still one looming problem in this newfangled paradise: the pernicious, gloomy, and utterly depressing Moscow weather. To add insult to injury, by 1998 the air pollution in Moscow had reached LA levels. Not a good place for setting longevity records by any measure.
Now don’t get me wrong. Moscow is undoubtedly a beautiful city, full of architectural marvels and treasures that rank right up there with Paris and Rome. But pollution is pollution, and if a city has it, it’s hard to get past that familiar thick pall of dust and grime that has seemingly settled everywhere.
One of my sardonic tourist jingles I wrote to get a kick out of my friends back then:
‘Want to get age spots, wrinkles, and rosacea in your early 40s? Then come to Moscow! Don’t be discouraged by our gloomy skies! What we lack in sunshine and damaging UV radiation, we effectively compensate for with air pollution! Moscow: Heaven is only a breath away.’
It doesn’t help that toxic air also exacerbates heart and lung disease, has been linked to diabetes and mental illness, and, on top of all that, accelerates aging.
After a while, I got sick of it. I had to get out.
My urge to escape Russia started becoming directly proportional to the rising concentration of toxins in the air. I needed a serious upgrade in my living conditions. Otherwise, it just wasn’t worth all the work I’d been doing.
I immediately set my sights on that faraway land of freedom and dreams: the USA. All that Soviet propaganda after all those years of saturation had only gotten so far in obliterating its image in my eyes.
I’ll give you a few hints as to which part of the US I set my sights on: superb weather, a burgeoning biotech industry, an illustrious arts scene, amazing wineries … If you chose (northern) California on your first try, you have my undying adulation and respect.
Back in Moscow, I began filling out all the required paperwork for a new life in the States, and waited for the right opportunity to escape. The stars finally aligned for my benefit, and on November 16th, 1999, I found myself on the Delta flight from Moscow to San Francisco.
I knew I’d found the right place the second I arrived and stepped outside. The experience was one of the most sensual of my entire life. Deeply inhaling the ocean air, absorbing the rays of the sun … I felt as if California was filling my soul like one fills a glass with water.
After hunting a while, I eventually found an apartment in Campbell, smack dab in the middle of Silicon Valley. Within walking distance I had access to half a dozen tennis courts, a stadium, and a swimming pool that was only 20 yards away from my front door. I couldn’t believe my luck.
And to potentially stimulate my intellect (and wallet), the HQs for both Google (still a toddler company at the time) and Yahoo (then valued at $125 billion) were short drives away. The air was filled with the aspirations and unbridled ambitions of millions of people. I’d never felt so alive.
I was ready to raise my longevity bar to 85, even 90 years of age, but it was 1999, and - if you’re old enough to remember, dear reader - the specter of Y2K was dampening all of our spirits. Even I, your typical cynical surgeon, wasn’t immune to its knell. My pragmatic mind knew nothing would happen when the ball dropped, but I still held my breath just in case.
While other people were wringing their hands in fear, however, I was making the most of my newfound life in America by ringing in the year 2000 from the slopes of Lake Tahoe, indisputably one of the most beautiful places on Earth. After hearing that Australia, Japan, and finally Europe got through the first hours of 2000 just fine, everyone, including yours truly, breathed a collective sigh of relief and got on with life again.
With Armageddon averted, I knew that my health and longevity were in nobody’s hands but my own. All I had to do was stay the course. I was certain that nothing could derail my progress.
Nothing, that is, except my own hubris …
Permit me to speak mythologically for a few paragraphs:
Since time immemorial, the gods have never liked us humans taking control of our destinies and extending our time on this planet. They tolerated us when our average lifespan was 25 years of age, at most. They even took an active part in our lives - Zeus’ escapades with our females were nothing short of legendary. But when we started regularly surpassing 25 years of age, we began to provoke their ire.
If there’s one thing the gods have been good for after all these years, it’s being pathologically thin-skinned and prone to petty but deadly vengeance. For his hubris, Zeus killed the mortal Phaethon for presuming he could control the reins of the sun chariot. Apollo and Artemis killed all of the mortal Niobe’s children after she questioned the fertility of their mother, Leto, who just happened to be Zeus’ girlfriend. (Niobe had a point: She was the mother of 12 children, while Leto only birthed 2.)
Back in California, I’d gotten so intoxicated by the Bay Area that I started thinking I was invincible. I imagined that not only could I extend my life, but reverse the aging process itself. As a fan of mythology, I should have known better.
The gods punished me for my hubris ruthlessly. Before I knew it, my health was in the toilet.
To my dismay, conventional medical approaches failed to work. But, again, I was in the US of A, the land of second chances and silver linings. What’s more, I was in the middle of Silicon Valley, the cradle of ingenious scientific innovation. On top of all that, I already was a scientist, so all I had to do was apply my skills and find a solution to my problems.
And that’s precisely what I did! Leveraging my own medical and personal experience with diet and fitness, I created the Eating Applied method, which not only helped me to quickly restore my health, but also seriously increased my prospects of living longer.
I’d like to share this invention with you, dear reader, and invite you to join me on the road to healthy longevity.
Here is an interesting question, ‘Can we eat more and lose weight?’
I am not talking about eating nothing but low calorie greens. I am asking if we could eat meat, fat, dairy, sugar, and processed junk, a.k.a. standard American diet, and lose weight.
The conventional wisdom says ‘No, we can’t’.
I say, ‘Yes, we can’.
For decades, when it came to fighting obesity, restrictions were the name of the game. Restrict everything: cut portions, cut calories, and avoid foods. The American Heart Association had put a VERBOTEN sign on the entire food group, fats, for crying out loud!
How does that advice hold up? According to the data, not so well… to put it mildly. Over the past thirty years, the obesity rate in the United States has more than tripled, from 11% to 38%.
It is obvious that the “Eat Less” mantra does not work. Isn’t it the fate of all ill-advised prohibitions? Yet, the health gurus keep chanting it. In spite of the clear clinical data, the health industry continues to use restrictions as a treatment of choice. Maybe there used to be an excuse for that - there was nothing else to offer.
I’ve invented a method for weight loss that disrupts the old dogma. It is called Eating Applied (EatApp for short). Its premise is simple: Eat More - Lose Weight.
EatApp does not restrict anything. Quite the opposite, it recommends you spend as much time eating as possible. The emphasis of EatApp is not on what you eat, but on how you eat it. My method works to focus your attention on food and the actual process of eating.
EatApp is designed to avoid the noxious side effects of the old school of weight loss: hunger, deprivation, and stress. Unlike the restrictive methods, it works in accord with the physiology of digestion and metabolism. EatApp enhances the pleasure of eating and removes the fear and guilt associated with it. As a result, it leaves you satiated with just a fraction of your usual portion.
EatApp creates a habit of mindful eating. Once that habit is established, weight loss is nothing short of inevitable.
Weight loss is just one benefit of the EatApp method, and, the way I see it, not the most important one. In fact, weight loss was a side effect - a good and desirable side effect - but still, it wasn’t the primary goal of my invention.
You know, sometimes you want to address a certain issue, and, all of a sudden, other good things happen. Serendipitous events are not that rare. They started with the three princesses of Serendip in a Persian fairy tale, hence the name. These princesses were "always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of”.
The important but unintentional discoveries continued with Alexander Fleming’s accidental finding of the first antibiotic penicillin, which eventually saved billions of lives. Percy Spencer inadvertently invented microwave oven in 1945, and we are forever grateful to him for making our life so convenient. And, by all means, the invention of Post-it by Spencer Silver in 1968 had the most profound impact on how we do business. It is not as high-tech as penicillin and micro-wave, but it has increased our collective business acumen manifold.
The inventors of sidenafil deservedly claimed the latest high-tech serendipity for themselves. Sidenafil is a drug that was initially designed for treatment of high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease. The Sidenafil Study began as a boring standard clinical trial for hypertension and heart disease until something unexpected and exciting started to happen. The patients on sidenafil developed ‘spontaneous’ erections, and it wasn’t because they were happy to see their doctors, but due to the increased blood circulation in their penises.
Some men experienced erections for the first time in many years. Whoa, that was huge!
There is an overabundance of drugs that treat cardiovascular disorders, but there is one and only Viagra, which is a sexed-up name for sidenafil. The problem that made lives of so many men miserable was solved by a serendipitous discovery.
Welcome back to the bone zone, brothers! Just don’t overdo it, your heart is still weak and vulnerable. Medical professionals warn their patients about the dangers of overusing sidenafil for pleasure - there’s a real and present danger of causing cardiovascular complications. The doctor’s message is, ‘Don’t rush to buy Viagra, get in shape first.’
There is no better way of getting in great shape than by using the Eating Applied method. EatApp attacks the source of the disease, which distinguishes it from medicines and methods that address the symptoms. Also, it positively affects not just one but every organ and system in the body.
EatApp was originally designed to deal with digestive problems, such as heartburn, indigestion, IBS, and overeating. And when I discovered its powerful weight loss effect, I was very excited. But I was even more thrilled about another opportunity - extending our healthy lifespan. EatApp lifestyle prevents and reverses the development of age related chronic diseases.
Some health improvements happen almost instantly while others will require weeks or months to take place. And when you embrace the EatApp lifestyle, your prospects of staying healthy and lean will increase dramatically. Moreover, you will feel energized, confident, and empowered. And if you are a middle-aged man, one day you will find that Viagra is no longer necessary.
Get on the EatApp bandwagon as early as possible, and you will be rewarded with a long and healthy life.
Before I describe the specifics of Meditative Eating, here are a few thoughts on meditation.
Firstly, meditation is not just an esoteric practice confined to the Buddhist monasteries. Focusing on the present moment or a specific object fully qualifies as meditation. For this occasion, the present moment is eating and the object is food.
Secondly, assuming an awkward cross-legged position on a mat is uncalled-for. Following rituals is important but not a deal breaker. Just sitting comfortably on a chair will suffice.
Here’s how you can kill the proverbial two birds, Dyspepsia and Stress, with one stone, Meditative Eating.
Step 1 - One
Block every possible distraction to the best of your ability. Turn off every electronic device that can sidetrack you.
If you are at the top of the food chain, close the door in your office. Otherwise, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your cubicle.
Put on a pair of headphones with relaxing music to drown out the ambient noises and to prevent the potential calls of duty from entering your ears.
Use any other trick to keep your privacy, I bet you have one or two up your sleeve.
And remember, you are not playing truant, you are protecting your right to have an undisturbed meal.
Step 2 - Two
Focus on the food you eat. Show some unabashed curiosity: eyeball, touch, squeeze, palpate, sniff, and lick the food item. Do whatever you need to know the food better. That includes reading the label to learn and understand the nutritional value of food.
The more you know your chow, the more satiating this chow becomes.
Step 3 - Three
Estimate how many small, cherry-size bites are in your food item. Challenging, isn’t it? It is especially difficult for those who are used to taking big bites.
Have you noticed that this little charade has already made you forget about the looming deadlines at work and the leaky dishwasher... or whatever problem you have at home?
Step 4 - Four
It is very simple to take small bites when you eat with a knife and fork. Just cut them small, the size of a medium cherry.
It is way more tricky to take a small bite from a big food item like a burger or an apple because taking a small bite is a skill.
Here’s how you develop this skill: restrain from opening your mouth wide. The opening should only allow a medium size cherry to pass between your teeth.
Remember, homo sapiens has evolved from being your average predator a long time ago. We don’t need the sharp canine teeth to bite into the prey’s jugular. We use other means to get food rendering our canines obsolete.
Bite only with your front teeth, the incisors. This tactic will ensure that you take small easily chewable bites.
Step 5 - Five
Start chewing thoroughly. Chew... Chew... Chew... Chew... Chew... Chew... Chew...
Uh-uh, don’t swallow it yet! I said, ‘Chew thoroughly’. You need to form a nice bolus (a wet lump of food) the consistency of apple pure.
This process is extremely important for proper digestion not just in the mouth but in the stomach and intestines as well.
Step 6 - Six
Pause for a while before taking the next bite.
That’s when your mind can wander into the realm of gustatory nirvana through recalling your experience, analyzing it, and enjoying it again on a cerebral level.
Are you done with gustatory nirvana? Good job!
Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6. And never forget to enjoy the taste, flavor, and texture throughout your meal.
Always remember that you eat not just for yourself, you also eat for the trillions of bacteria in your gut, the microbiome. These bacteria work with you and for you. The macrobiome keeps pathogenic bacteria in check, synthesizes essential nutrients and vitamins, and digests food.
The gut microbiota will appreciate if you do your part and properly digest food in the mouth. It will increase the bioavailability of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals not just for the host organism, you, but for the trillions of symbiotic bacteria as well.
There are very strong indications that the microbiome’s wellbeing has a profound impact on the host organism’s mood and cognitive function. Yes, healthy satisfied microbiome can make you smarter!
To sum up, if you’re good to microbiome, microbiome’s good to you.
Telomere Extension. Cellular Debris Removal. Cellular Repair. Genetic Engineering. All these technologies can improve health on the cellular or molecular level and dramatically expand human life span. That is the future of longevity.
We have already made some progress in genetic engineering with new technologies such as ZFN, TALEN, and CRISPR. Just recently, a one-year-old girl with deadly leukemia has been successfully treated with a genome-editing tool TALEN. This technique can modify donor T-cells, or immune defense cells. It edits the genome of T-cells making them impervious to the administered cancer drugs as well as to our own body immune defenses.
The doctors who treated the girl are confident that her life is not in danger any more. She just needs a bone marrow transplant, which is a routine procedure. Her premature death has been averted - that is some serious life extension!
Regarding the telomere extension, cellular repair, and cellular debris removal, these technologies still remain hypothetical and futuristic. Some people think that this future is not that distant, and the above-mentioned technologies will be available in 20, 30, or 50 years, tops.
Good for them! On the one hand, I want to share their optimism, but, as a realist, I don’t want to keep my expectation too high.
Here’s a good example, which prompts us to err on the side of caution. The Renaissance people knew about the flying apparatus by the early 16th century. That’s when Leonardo da Vinci designed one of his most famous inventions. No doubt his contemporaries were all psyched up about this invention and were desperate to see the machine fly. However, there was a little hiccup, the engineering technology wasn’t ready for the challenge yet. Humanity had to wait very patiently for another four centuries before the Wright brothers came up with an aircraft that could stay in the air.
I don’t think that we have to be that patient. Modern science moves forward at a much faster pace, and the biotech industry is in the vanguard of progress. New cellular and genetic technologies will eventually make many diseases obsolete. But currently those technologies are either taking the first baby steps or they remain just that: plausible hypotheses.
Also, I am still concerned about the lack of clear understanding of how to cope with the most complex, powerful, and currently inevitable “disease”. The “disease” that eventually kills every one of us - aging. We are just getting the grasp on what really causes aging and, let’s be real, we mostly fantasize about the potential cures.
The scientific world is divided into optimists and realists. Certain prominent scientists believe that the futuristic cures will be implemented in a few decades. Those are the glass-half-full optimists. The realist-scientists see the half-empty glass and expect a century-long slog, almost like with the da Vinci’s flying apparatus.
The other important concern is the cost of these technologies. For example, some cancer medicines cost hundreds of thousands dollars. Highly complex cellular and genetic procedures will be far from cheap for sure.
Well, if they are only affordable to the rich, then screw them. I’m not going to wait for those fancy technologies, especially if they are beyond my means.
In my opinion, waiting passively for any miraculous cure is a fool’s errand. And many of us do not want to wait. Many of us desire to live a long and healthy life right now.
I have some good news for the impatient ones. There is a proven method of life extension available for everybody immediately. The mechanism of life extension behind this method is very well known and well explained by the multiple scientific studies. It is called Calorie Restriction. Don’t confuse it with a fad diet because it is something entirely different.
Calorie restriction is a way of life and a very demanding one. It is not for everybody. It requires enormous will-power and discipline to make it work. These two preconditions explain why this method of life extension has very few adherents.
But again, don’t despair. I found a way to eliminate the negative effects of calorie restriction while preserving its efficacy. I developed a simple, undemanding, and very affordable method to extend healthy life span. It creates the calorie restriction effect without forced calorie restriction. Any person can do it.
How do I know it works? Simple. I live it. I don’t have the superman’s will of steel or any other super powers. I am a regular person who has a very human desire to live long and healthily. And I am eager to share my experience with you.
As a plus size nation we are obsessed with weight loss. During the decades-long fixation, we tried every possible fad diet, every magic pill, and an unstoppable stream of gimmicks: ring worms, zapping belts, cotton balls, tongue patches... you name it.
Nothing helped. Nothing!
Of course, it is unwise to expect results from dubious outlandish contraptions. But what about the science backed approaches such as calorie restriction and exercising?
There’s a very good reason why the sensible methods of weight loss do not work as well as expected, and I will elaborate on that a little later. Let me talk about the willpower first.
Modern life is tough, demanding, and exhausting. To cope with challenges, we have to engage our resolve not once day and not even ten times a day; we must exercise willpower and self-control almost constantly.
Multiple obligations, grand and small, govern our life. Obligation to work, obligation to care for the family, and obligation to our own precious self are the most important ones. And then, there’s a sea of temptations that accost us everywhere. We need to summon our will every morning and can only let it go when we are ready to sleep.
On top of that, the fast pace of life gives us very little time to recharge our batteries, and when inevitably we are running on empty, we need the last few drops of willpower just to keep going.
Now, let’s go back to the calorie restriction and exercising.
When we decide to go on a calorie restriction diet, we intentionally put ourselves in a pickle. We have to fight constant hunger, deprivation, and stress combined with unyielding craving for the foods we like and are forced to avoid. Going on a weight loss diet is one crazy willpower-sucker.
Working out is not much better. When we engage in moderate to vigorous workouts, we need to summon some serious willpower to meet the demands of fairly fast running, swimming, cycling, etc. And pumping heavy iron can be a murder.
Then, just when the workout session is over and we eagerly anticipate some chilling and relaxing, the electrolyte imbalance may surprise us with intolerable cramps, while the lactic acid buildup sets our muscles on fire. And afterward, of course, the delayed muscle soreness tests our will 24-48 hours later.
"In the end, everybody breaks. It's biology" - said a CIA operative in Zero Dark Thirty. And he was talking about the most hardened warriors. So, it is not surprising that the regular folks, soft and spoiled by the comfortable life, do not stand a chance.
Eventually, a lot of us crack and must go easy on ourselves. We have to face the necessity of letting go of some obligations. And the choice we make is somewhat obvious.
Can we stop earning our daily bread? Inconceivable. Entirely out of the question. We have to assign willpower to our employment as a simple matter of survival.
Can we stop taking care of our family? Highly unlikely - we are responsible loving humans, and quitting on our family is anathema to most of us. A big chunk of our willpower will always be allocated to supporting the close ones in spite of all their problems and foibles.
Can we stop taking care of ourselves? What an idiotic question.
Yes, we can!
And yes, we do!
By all means, the first obligation we dump is the obligation to our own, not so precious after all, self.
Here are some facts to support that. ‘Research suggests that 50% of persons starting an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months’. And how about quitting a diet? That happens even faster - 50% give up dieting within one month.
When people were asked, ‘Would you rather lose 15 pounds or have your 401(k) balance rise 15 percent this year?’, most people chose the money.
What people might not realize is that the financial payoff from losing those 15 pounds and being healthier is much greater than the increase in 401K. And when it comes to exercising, moderate to vigorous physical activity actually increases our energy capacity. Similar to the way the Tesla Powerwall batteries accumulate energy from the sun.
But these are the topics for another conversation. Let’s to sort out our priorities first.
A Solution 2 Dilemma
Currently, we are facing a dilemma: to be or not to be on a diet, to exercise or not to exercise. Something should be nixed since we don’t have the stamina to keep both activities going. Our health, our employment, our social wellbeing, and our future depend on it.
Sounds like a tragedy, not quite Shakespearean but still a distressing one.
Don’t despair though, there is a way to avoid that distress by making intelligent decisions.
Step One – Be Honest
The first very important step in the right direction is to be honest with ourselves. Do we really believe that unhealthy lifestyle will increase our chances to be successful at work? Do we really think that being an ailing, week person will help us to take a good care of our family?
We may try hard to convince ourselves that we can survive and even succeed without taking good care of ourselves. But, c’mon, deep inside, every rational individual knows that without healthy diet and exercising we are doomed to be sick.
Those who fall into the overweight category are usually the first to quit. The customary quitter’s mantra goes like this: ‘I am just slightly overweight. I don’t have to workout or eat healthily because I have a few extra pounds. My health is fine. Oh, and lucky for me, the scientists report that you can be “fat and healthy”.
I have to disappoint the overweight quitters. Yes, there are scientists who think that some people fall into the so-called “healthy overweight” category. Those scientists obviously haven’t heard that obesity is a chronic disease, and being overweight represents the first stage of this malady.
Those scientists also ignore the fact that when a disease is not stopped at stage I, it inevitably progresses to stage II, III, and further. This is a common development for every disease whether it is hypertension, heart failure, cancer, or obesity.
Letting a disease progress by doing nothing and finding excuses is unwise. It is well known that treating the late stages of any disease is much, much harder; in many cases, it is too late.
“Healthy overweight” is a foolish and treacherous oxymoron. The main symptom of the disease, redundant fat, is obvious and indisputable. The absence of the disease biomarkers only means that current diagnostic tools are not sophisticated enough to detect the very early stages of obesity.
Step Two – Change the Narrative
The next step in the right direction is to change the narrative. We need to stop fussing about extra weight. We did it for decades, and it did not halt the obesity epidemic.
The narrative should not be about extra weight and weight loss per se. Losing weight just for the sake of getting a slimmer body doesn’t carry any gravitas. But when we approach excessive weight as a manifestation of the disease of obesity, it makes us treat this situation differently. We become more motivated to get rid of it.
When we conscientiously replace weight loss with health gain, everything falls into place. Now, it is not a vanity project, it is a health improvement project. Now we are investing in a good dignified cause.
In fact, we are investing in a bevy of good causes:
Prevention of chronic diseases
Deterrence of the frailty of old age
Achieving those causes will dramatically improve our quality of life and will extend our healthy longevity.
I hope I’ve convinced you that quitting is not an option. Let us see how we can tweak our physical activity and healthy eating practices to make them more pragmatic and achievable.
Step Three – Face the “Bad” News
I will start with the “bad” news. Regular physical activity is an essential and irreplaceable component of health. That’s a given, and there’s no way around it. Therefore, I can’t provide an excuse from regular intensive exercising. But I can give you several pieces of advice that will make your life tolerable.
Choosing a routine that is right for you is the way to go. There is a plethora of workouts available for every taste and ability. If you are a fitness club member, talk to the fitness instructor whom you trust and who is familiar with your health, capabilities, and aspirations. Otherwise, use the limitless capabilities of the Internet. Do a focused online search. Don’t go for the miraculous promises, go for the substance. And stay away from the sources with sensationalist attention grabbing titles.
With a little bit of perseverance and luck, you will find some exciting workouts tailored to your taste.
Just keep in mind a few important considerations:
- Light workouts build up a good appetite but burn too few calories. Light exercising is better than nothing, but it can actually result in extra fat deposits. I see the light physical routines as an initial step to introduce you to the fulfilling world of moderate to vigorous workouts.
- Set realistic attainable goals. Being too ambitious can result in injuries or big disappointments. On the other hand, going after a low-hanging fruit will have too little effect, may stall your health improvement, and will set you up for disappointment.
- Do not push yourself too hard and always increase the intensity of workouts incrementally.
- Never be fooled by the trendy arduous routines that do more harm than good to our bodies. I know many people who were burned by the excessively demanding workouts and developed an aversion to exercising. Leave CrossFit, P90X and similar punishing routines to the cocky congressmen and reckless youngsters.
Step Four – Exploit the Good News
Now, the good news. Eating and nutrition are the areas where my Bites & Chews method of mindful eating can do many excellent things for you. It will completely remove the stress of dieting. It will lift the heavy burden of bad eating habits and rid you of the symptoms of indigestion. It will show you a way to turn each meal into a relaxing and healing experience.
I am definitely not promising you a cakewalk, but I can guarantee that my approach to eating will substantially increase your energy and confidence levels instead of depleting them. Use that energy surplus for any other cause dear to your heart.
He’s the gist of the Bites & Chews method:
Good health starts with proper digestion in the mouth. I developed a method of changing the way we eat by tweaking how we bite, chew, and process food in the mouth, hence the name “Bites & Chews”. It is powerfully simple and is easy to follow.
Does this method require discipline and compliance? Yes, of course. You can’t achieve anything if you don’t stick to your goals. Does this method require sacrifice and pain like restrictive dieting or punishing workouts? Far from it! I specifically designed Bites & Chews to form a habit of healthy eating without experiencing any stress, deprivation, or pain.
I find it extremely counterproductive when a person approaches a dining table with fear oozing tons of cortisol. Instead, I want you to be pleasured and nourished by every little morsel of your meal. The precise and relaxing technique is aimed at activating your innate resources. Bites & Chews invokes intuitive responses from all the organs and systems in your body that are involved in digestion.
My goal is to nudge you toward healthier food choices, but ultimately it is your decision. There’s no pressure on you to eat exclusively healthy foods. The Bites & Chews nutritional health score system is going to show you the health value of foods, but it is up to you to decide which food is going to be on your plate. You’ll be surprised how eating properly will eventually change your food preferences for the better.
Bites & Chews does many things, but it does not do what many weight loss methods do – go against normal physiology.
Bites & Chews doesn’t restrict. It is wasteful to spend willpower on fighting your food preferences.
Bites & Chews doesn’t cut calories. Cutting calories sends your body into the defensive fat saving mode.
Bites & Chews doesn’t cut portions. Seeing an unusually empty plate is depressing, unnerving, and only increases cravings.
And another point I want to underscore. Remember I mentioned how light workouts can lead to flab accumulation? That’s a serious problem for many people who are not physically ready for serious workouts. I am happy to say that Bites & Chews presents a solution to this problem. It works in tandem with light workouts by making sure that you eat just the right amount of food.
“With an Iron Fist, We Will Drive Humanity to Happiness”, Lenin & Co.
There is an awe-inspiring group of people who have found the fountain of youth. They are the members of the Calorie Restriction Society (CRS), and they follow a severe calorie restriction diet as a way of life.
Many of the Calorie Restriction Society members are senior citizens. Don’t pity them, though. There are several major characteristics that distinguish a CRS senior from your average old geezer. A typical elderly person has a customary bouquet of chronic illnesses, including arthritis, diabetes, and cardio-vascular disease. A typical Calorie Restriction Society elderly individual is unbelievably healthy and not just in general terms, but clinically healthy. This guy’s biological markers are better than of a healthy young person.
There’s another illustrious distinction. A typical old geezer looks like... an old geezer. The burden of years and multiple chronic diseases make the seniors look decrepit. You see it in their every move or rather absence of it. You immediately recognize an old person from a distance.
The CRS guy looks young and fit, with a vibrant youthful gait and a confident stance. And if it wasn’t for the ragged skin and grey hair, you would have easily confused him or her with a 30-something year old.
And finally, the old geezers “grunt and sweat under a weary life” while the Calorie Restriction Society folks enjoy their lives to the fullest.
What’s their secret? Are they privy to the mythological Methuselah effect?
Well, it has nothing to do with mythology. Firstly, they have a very strong desire to be healthy and live longer. But, more importantly, because they can. They do everything necessary to evoke the power of youth and then euphorically project it.
So, here’s an interesting situation: science has a proven working recipe for a long and healthy life. Then, why so few of us know about this fountain of youth?
This CR recipe has been tested in many animal species in multiple controlled scientific studies. When subjected to severe calorie restriction, worms lived twice as long, flies lived 50% longer, while mice and rats added 40 percent to their lifespan.
But forget the worms and rodents, monkeys, who’s genome is 98.5 % human, lived 30% longer when on highly restrictive diet. They stayed active and healthy when their ad libitum fed counterparts got sicker and sicker and died prematurely. Ad libitum food consumption is somewhat similar to a Las Vegas buffet. Only instead of crabs, 2-pound steaks, and endless desserts monkeys are given what monkeys like: fruits.
And, of course, the CRS members who can vouch for this fountain of youth first hand. These folks have an international society, they write books about sever calorie restriction, they give lectures at the prestigious universities, and they don’t hold back from proselytizing.
Nevertheless, this group remains very small and will stay that way - there are no indications that its numbers will increase dramatically any time soon. So, again, the grand existential questions are, ‘Why do so few people jump on the Calorie Restriction Society bandwagon? Why so few want to imbibe this elixir of youth?”
Many of us believe to have food intolerance. What if it’s something else? What if we deprive ourselves of healthy nutritious foods for no reason?
One example - the self-perceived lactose intolerant folks avoid dairy foods. Not only do they compromise their bone health, they also have a considerably higher rate of diabetes and hypertension.
Another example - the so-called gluten sensitivity. The data shows that less than 1 % of the population has celiac disease, and less than 6 % have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Astonishingly enough, 33% of Americans think that they cannot digest gluten. That’s more than 100 million people who will limit the consumption of whole grains, or replace them with Frankenstein gluten-free products. Whole grains reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Removing them from our diet without a good reason is wrong.
I suggest we pause for a minute and open our minds to the following - there is a widespread condition that produces symptoms very similar to food intolerance. This condition is called overeating. Too much of anything, even the super foods like kale or quinoa is bad. When overstuffed, our body responds with symptoms like gripes, gas, nausea, diarrhea, and such. It simply begs us, “Stop! Too much food! I can’t digest it properly.”
Imagine overfilling a car engine with oil - the engine will start smoking and will eventually break down. It doesn’t really matter whether the oil is expensive or cheap. It is the glut that sets the engine on fire.
Our stomach and intestines is our engine. When we fill up the stomach with poorly chewed food, a chain of negative physiological events is unleashed. It leads to indigestion, food sensitivities, and chronic diseases. So, don’t immediately blame food intolerance for your troubles. Learn to take small bites, chew well and eat in moderation first.
I give you the Eatometer – a pedometer for eating to guide you through your meals. With the Eatometer, your health will be in good hands. Or, rather in good jaws - your capable jaws.
The good news, we understand more about obesity. There were two very important developments recently. The first one was the recognition of obesity as a disease. The second one, USDA took a substantive step towards fighting obesity - new USDA’s 2015 dietary guidance make more sense than the previous ones.
The bad news, very few of overweight and obese people will heed the new guidelines. And we can’t blame people for being skeptical. When a government calls two tablespoons of concentrated tomato spread on a slice of pizza a vegetable, you start wondering if this government is in its right mind.
In my opinion, there is a substantial flaw in the guidelines. The guidelines do not emphasize that overeating was, is, and always will be the main cause of obesity. There isn’t any doubt that overeating sugar is very bad for your health. The ubiquitous refined sugars are practically in every processed food, and the 2015 Guidance clearly indicates that. But there is no clear and loud indication that overeating anything is also bad. Overeating, even healthy foods, also leads to obesity, albeit not as fast as when we gorge on sugar.
Weight gain is a result of disproportionate energy intake compared to energy usage. When we habitually consume more than we burn, our adipose (fat) tissue keeps storing excessive energy in the form of triglycerides. Adipose tissue is not just a fat depot, it also functions as an endocrine organ and has a profound effect on our health. In plain words, the habit of overeating makes us overweight, then obese, then destroys our health and makes our life miserable, although much shorter.
This bad habit cannot be broken by restrictive diets or, for that matter, by any type of sporadic dieting. Irregular light exercising cannot remedy this habit either. While excessive, “The Big Loser” style exercising, burns tons of calories, it is dangerous and just makes you eat even more.
Drugs, supplements, cleansing, and other gimmicks might make you a bit slimmer for a while. However, these gimmicks will only solidify the bad habit of overeating and promote a vicious cycle of weight loss and gain - exceptionally detrimental for health and self-confidence.
The only way of breaking the bad habit of overeating is by forming an opposite habit - a good habit of eating in moderation, which makes us burn more energy than we consume.
But how do you form a good habit of moderate eating? It is easier said than done. To succeed in forming a habit you need a fine plan with clearly defined goals and specific steps.
I developed a method of changing the way we eat by tweaking how we bite and chew, hence the name “Bites & Chews”. It is very simple and easy to follow.
Does this method require discipline and compliance? Yes, of course. You can’t achieve anything if you don’t stick to your goals and follow through. Does this method require sacrifice and pain, like restrictive dieting or punishing workouts? Far from it! I specifically designed Bites & Chews to form a habit of healthy eating without experiencing hunger, stress, or deprivation.
I also created a bunch of mobile applications to guide you through the eating process, making it easier to succeed with Bites & Chews method. All you need to do is follow the simple cues.
We are all familiar with the beneficial effects of pedometer - it improved the lives and health of millions of people by making them walk at least 10 000 steps a day. Its main principle is very straightforward - the more you walk, the better you feel physically and emotionally.
I designed a tool in my app, which I called Eatometer. Eatometer is a pedometer for eating. It gives you not just one, but a whole bunch of clear goals to achieve during each day. It is much more fun than the pedometer in that regard.
My method and apps will ease you into healthy eating. They will change your life for the better:
You will stop worrying about eating too much.
You’ll get satiated with just a fraction of you usual portion.
You will allow your body to self-regulate food intake.
You will naturally keep your weight within healthy range.
You will stop getting frustrated with uncooperative scales.
Your main concern will be about savoring foods and enjoying life to the fullest.