Hypochondriac's epitaph: "I told you I was sick."
So you want to improve your health. Maybe you've got some ailment that you hope I can help you cure. Maybe you're really wimpy or overweight and you're looking for a diet/exercise program. Maybe you're looking for motivation to work out. Maybe you're just a friend of mine who's reading this book only because you know me. Or maybe you accidentally stumbled upon this link while aimlessly surfing the Web. Whatever your reason is for reading this, you will be subjected to my opinions throughout this work, with no way to rebuke me no matter how wrong or offensive I am. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!
I am not a doctor. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a personal trainer or an exercise physiologist. (I am also not normal, but that's another matter.) I have no formal training or degree in anything that even remotely resembles the medical field. But I can help you remain healthy and medication-free better than most professionals can. Why? Because professionals tend to specialize and try to treat every ailment in terms of the methods they know: doctors prescribe medication; herbalists prescribe herbs; personal trainers tell you how to exercise; nutritionists tell you to eat foods that you hate and not to eat foods that you like; psychiatrists analyze you and if they can't find out what's wrong, they put you on Prozac. It is far better to balance nutrition, supplements, exercise and relaxation, because they all work in harmony so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
There are lots of things we can do to improve or maintain good health. We are very fortunate in this country because of all the access we have to health literature, wholesome food, sanitary conditions, sporting equipment and good medical care. This is why we can live so long and so well in every state except New Jersey.
However, there is only so much we can do about our health. There are some genetic and environmental influences that are beyond our control. And it's not always fair, either. Useless people seem to live forever, while good people die in bizarre toaster accidents. There's no justice. Jim Fixx, who ate health food and jogged, died at age 46 while he was jogging. But Keith Richards, who has been shooting heroin for most of his 50-plus years, is still alive. I have this feeling that if there's ever a nuclear war, all that's going to be left is bugs and Keith Richards.
Eating and exercising right will prevent more illnesses than all the advanced medicine in the world can cure. Look at doctors. Many of them are in worse physical shape than most of their patients. A lot of medical schools don't have nutrition classes as part of the curriculum. Basically doctors are nothing more than our last resort when we have some condition that is beyond our control. They perform tests and procedures with unpronounceable names (like "sigmoidoscopy"), making sure to charge your insurance company ungodly sums of money. They do not, however, know how to teach you ways to prevent health problems, or if they do, it is not in their best interests to do so because fewer problems for you means less business for them.
Chapter 1: GENERAL BODY FUNCTIONING
He's so fat, people jump over him rather than go around.
Before we go into any particulars about diet, exercise, and so forth, let's look at our bodies. No! No! Not literally! Put your clothes back on! I mean, let's get acquainted with these living machines that bring us so much enjoyment, pleasure, pain and embarrassment.
The human body is a magnificent, complicated collection of all sorts of tissues that make up several systems. Certainly some bodies are more pleasant to look at than others are, but on a biological level we are all the same. We have bone, muscle, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, teeth, nails, lymph nodes, plasma, several kinds of blood cells, lungs, various other internal organs, eyes, ears, nerves, hair, and skin. Let's look at each bodily system individually.
The respiratory system takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. Air, which we get from the air, enters the lungs from the trachea and travels via a branching structure of bronchioles to the alveoli, which are tiny sacs that allow the blood to exchange gases with the air through mucous membranes. Oxygen from the air enters the oxygen-deprived blood, and carbon dioxide (our waste product) from the blood is released into the air, through a process called "diffusion", which is the tendency for concentrations to even out. Diffusion is demonstrated in several bodily processes. For example, in your youth most of your hair is on your head, but as you age, via diffusion the hair spreads to other places (e.g. your nose, your ears, your back, etc).
The skeletal system provides a solid structure and produces blood cells in the marrow. Bone is, pound for pound, more resilient than steel. Steel might be able to hold just as much weight, but bone holds its structure better. It also doesn't rust.
The muscular system gets work done. Muscle cells contract in order to move body parts, and relax in order to stop moving them. It is muscles that we are most concerned with when we exercise: we strengthen them, and using them makes us burn off calories and lose weight. Using your muscles can also make you gain weight (like when you use them to eat a piece of cheesecake).
The circulatory system delivers proteins, lipids, glucose, infection-fighting cells and oxygen to the rest of the body, via the blood. Blood is a rich mixture of cells, plasma, nutrients and other stuff. It's also red so you don't confuse it with other fluids. An extensive network of arteries, veins and capillaries provides a vast pathway via which blood is pumped by the heart to all the tissues that need it.
The endocrine system produces certain chemicals that are needed when there is an emergency. For example, adrenaline is automatically injected into your bloodstream for quick energy when you become afraid, allowing the fight-or-flight reaction that can help you in dangerous situations. Unfortunately, this can work against you, for example when your boss or spouse is criticizing you and adrenaline causes stress because you don't use the energy to beat him/her senseless or run away. This is why firearms were invented.
Hormones are produced in the endocrine system and in the brain. They regulate things such as growth, voice and muscular development. Testosterone produces male characteristics and estrogen produces female characteristics, but everyone has at least some of both (look at Richard Simmons). For example, estrogen helps maintain strong bones in both men and women. When women stop producing it after menopause, they start to lose calcium (which, in advanced cases where the bones become brittle, is called "osteoporosis"); while men generally don't have this problem because they keep producing estrogen.
The digestive system breaks food down into usable molecules such as amino acids, fatty acids and glucose; and gets rid of excess water and indigestible material (called "Number One" and "Number Two", respectively). I won't go into this further because it's just too disgusting.
The reproductive system produces specialized cells and delivery mechanisms that enable propagation of the species. It's interesting that while this system helps the species survive, it does nothing for the survival of the individual. Especially if that individual uses his reproductive system with the ex-wife of a certain former football star.
The lymphatic system does whatever it does (like I said, I'm not a doctor). I'm not sure exactly what its function is but I think it has something to do with fluid and nodes that swell and become tender when you have an infection. The lymphatic system works in conjunction with the immune system, which produces specialized cells that protect your body against intrusion by foreign cells. For example, white blood cells attack those that they think don't belong. Basically these cells are bigots.
The nervous system delivers motor messages from the brain to body parts in order to make them do stuff, and sensory messages from body parts to the brain in order to provide feedback as to what's going on. Both of these functions are vital for survival: you can't move your body without motor neurons, no matter how big your muscles are; and without sensory neurons, you'd never know to pull your hand off a hot stove or run away screaming when someone asks you to marry them.
Then there's our brain. (I will address only the physical aspects of the brain here. Psychological aspects are another topic, and will in fact be covered in the next book that I plan to inflict upon you.) The brain is the most important, useful and interesting part of the body (unless you work for the Post Office). It is always working, even while you sleep, telling your lungs to respire, your heart to beat, your armpits to stink, and your colon to pass gas while you're at a job interview. Actually the human brain can be a real ass, can't it? And not just Democrats' brains, either. Anyway, even though we do a lot of thinking, most of what our brains do is subconscious. Good thing, too - imagine trying to tell your body to turn food into shit. You can't consciously make that happen. Unless you work for Burger King. But I digest. The brain requires lots of energy in order to carry out its vital functions. In fact, this 3-pound organ (10 ounces in Arkansas) uses one-third of the calories that one's entire body needs for basal metabolism.
All these parts of the body work at the same time. Well, not always. For example, in men, the brain does not work while the reproductive system is working. But other than that, all the bodily systems work simultaneously to maintain life, health and happiness. Sometimes things go wrong, and the rest of this book is dedicated to preventing and curing some of these maladies. It's also dedicated to wasting your time.
Chapter 2: ILLNESS
Dear Dr. Health:
I have a bad cough. What should I do?
Eat a whole box of Ex-Lax. Tomorrow you'll be afraid to cough.
There are hundreds of different kinds of microscopic organisms that can inflict all sorts of damage on us. Usually we encounter everyday bacteria that cause local infections, and viruses that cause colds and flu; but there are far worse offenders that can eat our flesh or infect us with meningitis, pneumonia, and other afflictions which must be bad because I can't spell them.
Prevention is always better than cure, so the best way to keep these nasty little creatures from hurting you is to avoid them.
Other people are often carriers, and it is possible for them to infect us. Consequently, a lot of folks are phobic about eating from someone else's plate or using unwashed silverware. The truth is that most microorganisms get killed by stomach acid (there are exceptions, of course). You are far more likely to get sick if you rub your eyes or pick your nose with dirty fingers, because germs travel right through the mucous membranes, bypassing the lethal digestive juices. This is one reason children get sick so often: they have no knowledge or fear of infecting organisms, and they frequently have their fingers in their eyes and noses. Their hands are usually germy after playing on the floor, or cleaning their "personal region" after doing Number Two, and they fail to wash their hands afterwards (think about that the next time you finish your child's sandwich). So the most cost-effective thing you can do to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands fairly frequently, especially after performing tasks that bring your hands into contact with unsavory things (e.g. changing diapers, cleaning toilets, shaking hands with politicians, etc).
Other habits besides handwashing affect the likelihood of transmitting microbes. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is more than just a nice formality - it helps prevent the spraying of germs into the air which can cause others to breathe them in. Sharing handkerchiefs or nasal sprays or sex partners or anything else that comes into contact with sensitive areas increases the likelihood of infection.
Stress compromises the immune system. The physiological processes by which this happens are beyond the scope of this stupid book - suffice it to say that the negative effects of stress are more than just psychological. People under stress tend to get sick more easily and take longer to recover. Getting sick can be a good thing if it makes the person take a break from their life of appointments and obligations, spend a few restful days at home reading or with loved ones, and get a fresh perspective on life. Perhaps getting sick is the body's way of making its owner slow down. Anyway, rest is the most important thing to get when you're sick, because forcing yourself to stay in the rat race keeps your immune system suppressed so that recovery time is lengthened and you are more susceptible to other illnesses. So keep stress to a minimum: don't worry needlessly over little things, get enough rest, and don't have kids.
It seems that we get sick more often during the winter than at other times of the year. A lot of people think the cold weather causes this. Actually the outside temperature does not bring more microorganisms into the region, nor does it necessarily weaken our immune system. It is during winter that we spend the least amount of time outdoors, so we are exposed to germs inside homes and offices for longer periods of time. Furthermore, when heaters are turned on in autumn, we get inoculated with the dust and microbes that get blown out after having accumulated for half a year. It can take weeks or months for infecting organisms to incubate and for us to experience symptoms of the infection, and all the while we are living petri dishes that can spread these germs to other people.
So what, besides rest, can we do once we get sick? It depends on the offending organism. Viruses attach themselves to healthy cells and leech off them, like lawyers. There is little we can do about viruses other than get plenty of rest and reduce stress to a minimum so that our immune system can build up enough antibodies to eradicate the intruder. Most bacteria, on the other hand, will respond to prescription medications, although some respond better than others. Drinking enough fluids and taking vitamins help, but the most important thing is rest. You people who insist on struggling through your daily routine while you're sick only prolong the illness and expose the rest of us to it. Thanks a lot.
Chapter 3: HYGIENE
Remember that Milk Bone Dog Biscuits commercial? They show this dog who's ashamed of his bad breath. I think that if my dog were ashamed of having bad breath he'd stop licking his ass.
Lack of proper hygiene can result in more than just body odor or bad breath. These smells are produced by bacteria which can attack and damage body tissues, so they should be taken as a cause for action. Some people seem oblivious or apathetic toward their personal cleanliness, as evidenced by those whose breath is so bad that even dogs go "Whew! What died in here??"
Our teeth are the hardest parts of our body. Long after we die and our flesh, organs and even bones have decomposed, our teeth remain intact. How ironic, then, that they seem to decompose faster than any other body part while we're alive. This happens because of bacteria that live in our mouths, feed on bits of food that get lodged in there, and produce acids that eat away at our teeth and the connective tissue that keeps them in their sockets. This is why it is important to brush and floss every day. Brushing both the teeth and gums sweeps away a large amount of bacteria and plaque (sticky food deposits which harbor bacteria and promote their destructive action). Use a soft-bristled brush (hard bristles can irritate your gums and cause them to recede), and brush in a circular motion. Most people brush but many don't floss, and flossing is the only way to get between teeth. By working floss just under the gumline and scraping it up and down against the teeth, food and bacteria are dislodged, sometimes providing you with a nice snack.
All foods - not just sweets - can promote tooth decay. Bacteria feed on sugar, but your saliva breaks down proteins and starches into sugar, so any foodstuff that gets under your gumline can be harmful if it sits there long enough. Of course, if you're such a lazy pig that you'll let half-digested chunks of Kentucky Fried Chicken sit between your teeth for days until your oral bacteria have converted them into corrosive acids and halitosis, then you deserve to be afflicted with pyorrhea.
There are many mouthwashes on the market, the vast majority of which act as nothing more than mouth perfume. The only ones worth a damn are those that actually kill bacteria, and unfortunately they taste like paint thinner; hence the popularity of the ineffective but good-tasting products. Listerine and the store-brand Listerine mimics are approved by the American Dental Association because they kill or at least inactivate bacteria via their high alcohol content. (A shot of vodka would be just as effective, but more expensive.) Rinsing with salt water is good too, and perhaps better because studies suggest that alcohol causes mouth and throat cancer. Whether using mouthwash or salt water, rinsing should be done after brushing and flossing so that the fluid can reach the bacteria that your manual cleansing methods missed and wash them away along with their acidic by-products.
Semi-annual dental visits are necessary so that tartar (hardened plaque) can be scraped away. Tartar is very difficult to remove by yourself, and it protects bacteria from your toothbrush. Your dentist can also find and fill cavities. Some dentists are very dedicated to their practice. In fact, one time when I had arranged to play golf with my dentist, he said that he had to cancel because he was drilling my wife. Which reminds me, remember that Trident commercial? "4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum." What about the other 1 out of 5? Can you imagine his recommendation?
Patient: "Can I chew gum, Dr. Tartar?" Dentist: "Sure, just make sure it has lots of sugar."
Our skin shields us from most of the microorganisms that would like nothing better than to get inside us and consume us from within, kind of like the Catholic Church. Obviously scrapes and cuts can allow infectious microbes in, but even unbroken skin is susceptible to invasion and damage if left in contact with certain organisms long enough. Fungi seem to be the most stubborn culprits. They cause athlete's foot, jock itch, and women's yeast infections. They are rather hardy little buggers that thrive in warm, moist areas, and go dormant when the environment is not so amenable, only to reactivate when conditions become favorable again. This is why fungal irritations which seem to have been eradicated will sometimes reappear in exactly the same place. Recent medical evidence is showing that fungi are responsible for some things that we never suspected them of being responsible for before, like dandruff. Which reminds me, remember that commercial where a single woman sees a good-looking, well-dressed man who she's instantly attracted to, but upon noticing his dandruff she decides not to introduce herself to him? You show me a bachelorette who refuses to meet a well-to-do, attractive prospect because of a few dandruff flakes, and I'll show you a shallow, nitpicky broad who he is better off without. Anyway, fungal infections need to be washed at least once a day, and kept dry between washings, because moisture helps fungi live and reproduce. Sometimes antifungal medication is needed to combat them. Over-the-counter stuff is usually adequate. Look for active ingredients such as "clotrimazole", "miconazole nitrate", and other lethal-sounding chemicals. When medication is being used, the affected area should be washed, dried, and treated with medication every day. Liquids tend to be more effective than powders because they keep the skin moist, facilitating absorption of the medication (but remember to keep the area dry if medication is not being used). It takes longer to recover from fungal damage than bacterial damage, so you must be patient. I've had athlete's foot several times, and once the symptoms appear (cracks in the skin between the toes, burning, itching, pain), it always takes at least two weeks of careful washing and medicating to heal. You know, there's a shoe store called Athlete's Foot, and I don't know why anyone would name their business after such an annoying condition. Buying shoes there is like buying underwear at a store called Jock Itch.
Daily washing with soap/shampoo is the best way to rid your skin and hair of dirt, and wash away bacteria and fungi before they get a chance to infect you. Water alone is only partially effective. Soaps and shampoos have chemicals that greatly improve water's ability to separate dirt and microorganisms from our bodies.
Perfumes and colognes are a waste. They were invented a long time ago when people didn't have indoor plumbing; they took semi-annual baths and the rest of the time smelled like decomposing rodents. They applied strong-smelling liquids and powders to mask their foul odor, and wore wigs to hide their head lice. Now that we can bathe or shower every day, we don't need to douse ourselves with floral-scented substances, though many people still do, often using so much that you can smell them before they even enter the room. Another example of people's idiocy is their use of antiperspirants. They spray or smear this stuff in their armpits in order to block their pores so they can't sweat out toxins, exemplifying the fashion-over-health mindset that leads people to take up smoking or drink coffee at Starbuck's.
Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. (Get it? Soapbox? Hello?)
Chapter 4: NUTRIENTS AND OTHER STUFF
You are what you eat. I've got to stop eating Minute Rice.
There are four basic food groups: the fried group, the salty group, the dessert group, and the beer group. For those of us that are no longer in school, however, the groups are a lot more boring: dairy, fruits/veggies, grains, and meat. President Clinton introduced a bill to add another food group, but that bill was apparently aimed only at a certain White House intern.
The four food groups are not the best way to categorize nutrients. First of all, they don't include all foods. I mean, which group do Cheetos go in? And second, the food groups don't help us understand the different molecules we consume (protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, fiber, water and alcohol). It is important to understand these substances and how our bodies process them before we can become aware of how we are affected by the things we eat and drink. Then we can feel even worse about ourselves after that big bowl of ice cream.
Protein, carbohydrate and fat are the three essential nutrients. The other items listed above are not essential nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, fiber and water are not nutrients because they provide no calories; and alcohol is not essential (unless you're a Kennedy).
Proteins are essential for both creating and destroying substances in our bodies: performing enzymatic reactions, building muscle tissue, etc. We make proteins by breaking down the proteins in the foods we eat into their constituent amino acids, and reassembling them into the different kinds of proteins we need. There are two main factors that determine a food's protein value: usability (how closely the essential amino acid proportions match our needs), and digestibility (how much of the protein our digestive system is able to break down and re-assimilate). There are dozens of different amino acids, most of which we can manufacture ourselves without eating protein, but some (eight, to be exact) of which we cannot manufacture and must therefore get from food. Rather than bore you with the names of these essential amino acids, let's just call them "one" through "eight". In order to make a specific protein, you must have enough of all the amino acids required. For example, let's say a particular protein requires 20 molecules of amino acid number two, 30 of number three, and 25 of number six. Even if you have 50 of two and 80 of three, if you only have 15 of six then you can't manufacture this protein. It's frustrating when you don't get enough six.
There are amino acid supplements, but these are expensive and usually a waste of money. Most of the proteins we get from foods have adequate usability and digestibility, so we do not require amino acid supplements.
Fat is essential for maintaining skin integrity, cushioning internal organs, and giving others something to laugh at. There are two essential fatty acids: linoleic and linolenic. These are necessary for building the kinds of lipids we need. The essential fatty acids come from polyunsaturated fat. There is also saturated fat and monounsaturated fat.
What do saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated mean? They mean that I must be a genius for knowing how to use and spell them. Before going into the three categories of fat, we need to familiarize ourselves with something called "cholesterol". Cholesterol is a substance that travels in the bloodstream. Each cholesterol molecule is carried by another molecule called a "lipoprotein" (a what??). Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) encourages lipids to stay in the bloodstream, and thereby promotes atherosclerosis (Ha! Another big word! Ain't I smart?) which is the process of lipids and other substances attaching themselves to the insides of blood vessels. This makes them narrower, meaning that the heart has to work harder to pump blood through. Plus the deposits make the blood vessels lose some of their elasticity (hence the term "hardening of the arteries"). Eventually a blood vessel can close completely, cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tissue it used to nourish. If it happens in the brain, it's called a "stroke"; if it happens in the heart, it's called a "heart attack". This is why LDL is called "bad cholesterol". High-density lipoprotein (HDL) has the opposite effect of LDL: it brings lipids to the liver for excretion, and thereby discourages atherosclerosis. So not all cholesterol is bad. High cholesterol in and of itself is not necessarily bad, and, conversely, there are people with serious arterial plaques that don't have high cholesterol. What's important is the ratio of HDL to LDL.
Saturated fat tends to raise our LDL level, and this is one reason animal fats (which are mostly saturated) are so bad for us. Sure, they taste good, but foods that contain them should be eaten sparingly.
Polyunsaturated fat is the form of lipid that is most useful to us. In addition to providing us with the essential fatty acids, it helps maintain a good HDL-to-LDL ratio. It is just as fattening as the other two categories of fat in terms of putting on weight, but it does less internal damage. It also scores points if you're dating a health freak ("Honey, I know how unhealthful sirloin is, so for dinner I made a big pot of lentils!")
Monounsaturated fat is touted as being heart-healthy, like polyunsaturated fat. It doesn't provide as much essential fatty acid as polyunsaturated fat provides, but I'm not going to argue with the experts. If the American Medical Association (AMA) says that we should eat monounsaturated fat, then by golly let's do it. Of course, this is the same organization that brought us Thalidomide.
Carbohydrates provide us with energy. They include all forms of sugar. There are simple carbohydrates such as dextrose, fructose and sucrose; and complex carbohydrates which are referred to as "complex carbohydrates". We burn simple sugars, but derive them mostly by breaking down complex carbohydrates. When simple sugars are eaten as a significant percentage of dietary calories, they cause a much faster rush of sugars into the bloodstream than complex carbohydrates cause, because the latter are broken down by enzymes and delivered slowly, whereas the former pass through intestinal walls without much modification. The blood sugar spike causes a brief "sugar high", but stimulates the pancreas to secrete abnormally high levels of insulin to take the sugar out of the blood, and when this excess sugar is gone, the extra insulin is still in the bloodstream, removing even more sugar and causing hypoglycemia, or a "sugar crash". This is one reason that complex carbohydrates are preferable to simple ones. Despite this, millions of people insist on consuming copious amounts of soft drinks and candy. When the sugar crash hits they consume even more of these empty calorie products in order to restore their blood sugar levels, creating a cycle that contributes to the lethargic and pathetic bodies that comprise a significant percentage of our population.
Our bodies don't store much carbohydrate. The liver stores about half a day's supply in the form of glycogen (a technical word that I threw in just to impress you). When you run out and there is no dietary carbohydrate to replace it, your body breaks down protein and/or fat to keep itself functioning. Fat can be used for some processes, but it cannot be broken down into glucose (the only fuel your brain can use). However, your body can break down protein into amino acids, then into complex carbohydrates, then into glucose. If there is no dietary protein available, your body breaks down its own muscle tissue. In other words, your body eats itself (hmmm, that sounds fun). So muscle is broken down in order to keep the brain functioning. Maybe this is why most super-educated eggheads are wimps.
Fiber, which used to be called "roughage" until some marketers in the food industry determined that the word "fiber" would be better for sales, is defined by the AMA as "indigestible matter that helps you go potty". It is light and slippery compared to nutrients, and slides through the alimentary canal fairly easily. It is very important for the movement of other indigestible matter through the colon (the large intestine). A fiber-poor diet can cause constipation, whereby matter moves more slowly, stays in contact with the colon longer, and thereby increases the risk of colon cancer. Fiber works as long as there is enough water present to enable the fiber to keep its consistency. If you don't drink enough water then the fiber becomes more solid and less slippery. In addition, your thirsty body absorbs water from the colon when it needs it, and this further dries out the colon's contents, causing constipation. Constipation can lead to straining while pooping, and this in turn can cause hemorrhoids because of the trauma to rectal blood vessels. My mom told me that I'll never get hemorrhoids because I'm a perfect asshole.
Water is the medium in which all bodily processes take place, and life as we know it cannot exist without it. Also, without water we would not have beer. A lot of us don't drink enough water, and our health suffers for it. Without enough water, we don't process food as efficiently, we are weaker, we don't flush out toxins as well, and, as mentioned earlier, we can become constipated. We might not perceive any of these problems (well, except the last one), but they happen nonetheless, causing slow but continual long-term degradation of health. Some medical literature tells us to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. I doubt that that much is necessary for everyone - it depends on one's size, level of activity, and the amount one perspires. Also one's proximity to a bathroom.
Vitamins are substances that, in very small amounts, help or enable us to use nutrients properly. Taking in only nutrients and water isn't enough - we need vitamins so that our bodies can direct these substances in useful ways. As vitamins have been discovered over the years, they have been given frightening names (like "niacinamide"), so in order to relax us, as well as to stop confusing simpletons (i.e. you), the medical community has assigned each vitamin a different letter, starting with A and moving through the alphabet. However, the medical professionals can't seem to get this right. For example, there are vitamins A, B, C, D and E. There is also vitamin K. What happened to vitamins F through J? Not only that, they use the letter B for five different vitamins, and use number subscripting to differentiate between them. And they can't even get the numbers right: the B vitamins are B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12. What happened to B4, B5, and B7 through B11?
Each vitamin has a specific function. Without them, conditions such as scurvy, pernicious anemia and rickets occur, depending on which vitamin(s) is(are) deficient. A balanced diet usually provides enough of all vitamins, but taking supplements can help. However, megadoses don't help, and can be harmful. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, meaning that the excess is stored in the body. An accumulation of too much of these substances can have negative health effects. I can't think of any right now - ask your doctor (as if he'd know). The B and C vitamins, on the other hand, are water-soluble; we flush the excess out. People who take mega-high doses of B and C vitamins have the most expensive urine in the world.
Vitamin C is the most volatile of all vitamins. It is used up and excreted by our bodies faster than any other vitamin, and it has the fastest rate of potency loss in supplements as they sit on the shelf. Of course, all supplements lose potency with age. Don't we all?
Minerals are similar to vitamins, except they're not given letters. Minerals are just what their names imply: metallic elements. Copper, calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, manganese and iron are just some of the metallic substances in this category. Like vitamins, they each perform a particular function and a deficiency results in health problems.
Some minerals are bad for us, e.g. lead, mercury and aluminum. Industrial waste has contaminated some water supplies with toxic metals, so it is therefore a good idea to have your tap water tested to see if it exceeds certain levels of specific substances. Even if levels of the most toxic metals are acceptably low, most municipal water supplies contain chlorine (added to inhibit bacteria), which is not good for us. A charcoal water filter will remove chlorine and the associated smell/taste. Some filters remove toxic metals as well. Toxic metals can enter the body via avenues other than the water supply. Aluminum cookware can cause this metal to leech into food. Shellfish eat mercury-contaminated matter, and this metal can become more concentrated in marine life higher up the food chain (e.g. tuna). Many children have gotten lead poisoning from eating lead paint chips (but if you ask me this is natural selection).
Sodium is a mineral that gets a lot of press, most of it bad. Too much sodium causes thirst and water retention, impairs blood circulation, and can contribute to high blood pressure. However, studies in Japan (where lots of salt is consumed, mostly from seafood and soy sauce) show little or no correlation between sodium and bad health. The health problems that we attribute to high sodium are at least partly attributable to other causes. For example, most junk food has lots of sodium, but the poor circulation that junk food eaters are afflicted with comes mostly from inactivity, obesity and heart disease (the latter two are caused by high levels of fat typically found in junk foods). High blood pressure (hypertension) is caused as much by a deficiency of calcium as it is by an excess of sodium (calcium is necessary for nervous system health). Also, smoking and psychological condition are by far the biggest influences on blood pressure. Any fat, sedentary, stressed-out smoker who blames his hypertension on sodium has his head so far up his ass that there's no room to kick it. However, if you already have high blood pressure or a weak heart, and your doctor recommends a low sodium diet for these reasons, then you'd better listen.
There are other substances that our food provides us that medical science has yet to discover. This is why a varied, balanced diet is important: even if you can get all the known good substances from, say, nine different foods, this limited diet could be lacking in some undiscovered yet necessary substances.
Chapter 5: ALCOHOL
They did a study on alcoholism. The results are staggering.
Alcohol gets its own chapter. Why? Because I like alcohol. Ah yes, the magical potion that has eased our burdens and helped us have sex since the beginning of civilization. There are many schools of thought (or lack thereof) about alcohol. There are teetotalers and winos, proponents and opponents, bars and Alcoholics Anonymous. Some people say that alcohol is "the tool of the Devil"; others point out the Bible's reference to Jesus drinking wine. Some literature tells us that a drink or two a day is healthful; other authors claim that any alcohol is bad for us. Some say alcohol raises blood pressure and accelerates heart disease; others say it has the opposite effect. Who is right?
First let's look at alcohol. Alcohol is a waste product of microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast. The vast majority of alcoholic beverages start out as a sugar-containing solution inoculated with yeast. The yeast eats the sugars and gives off alcohol and carbon dioxide as waste products. Basically, when you drink alcohol, you're drinking yeast piss. (For more on this topic, see chapter 5 of my first publication, Ben's Big Book O' Brewing Beer.)
There are several kinds of alcohol (e.g. isopropyl or "rubbing" alcohol) but only one kind is potable: ethyl alcohol. All alcoholic beverages (vodka, beer, gin, wine, tequila, etc) contain this and only this kind of alcohol. People who drink several kinds of alcoholic beverages at one time and get sick often blame it on the fact that they "mixed" alcohol. They are wrong, since they only drank one kind. Sickness sometimes results from the mixing of other substances that drinks are made with (juice, soda, cherries, olives, syrup, fruit), but more often than not it's from simple overconsumption, and these people deserve to have their heads in the toilet - it'll teach them to ease up next time.
What effects does alcohol have on us? Aside from making other people more interesting, it depresses the central nervous system. I don't mean depress in an Al Gore sort of way, but in a sedative sort of way (well then maybe I was referring to Al Gore). In low doses it slows and calms us down, and can help us go to sleep (sometimes in the middle of a party). The calming effect can also cause loss of inhibition, which makes people more talkative; hence alcohol is sometimes referred to as a "social lubricant" (although I don't like that term - KY Jelly is a social lubricant). The physical effects of low doses are benign and might even be beneficial to people who are stressed (by lowering blood pressure). However, like any other substance, too much is bad for us. Higher doses take away coordination, resulting in slurred speech and difficulty walking or driving. Blood vessels at the skin surface dilate, accelerating heat loss. The action of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), a chemical we naturally produce in order to limit water excretion, is inhibited, resulting in excessive urination and dehydration. Water-soluble vitamins (B and C), as well as some minerals (e.g. magnesium and zinc), are flushed out. Disorientation and pseudo-anesthesia can make people talk more loudly, since their ability to hear themselves speak is impaired. Visual focus degenerates, resulting in double vision. Some people become violent when they're very drunk, and others simply pass out (which one happens probably has a lot to do with the person's subconscious: people with unresolved conflicts and a short temper are more likely to be abusive when they're drunk). Extremely high doses can cause life-sustaining processes (e.g. breathing) to shut down, resulting in coma and/or death.
A hangover is caused by several of the factors listed above. Alcohol is a cell poison, and the after-effects of drinking too much include headache, nausea, and the Zackly effect (that's when your mouth tastes Zackly like your ass). How can you avoid a hangover? Well, drinking way too much will make you feel like crap no matter what, but you can help ease the effects by consuming vitamin and mineral supplements, water, and complex carbohydrates before going to sleep.
For the most part, alcohol consumption in prudent amounts is fine. There are some people, however, who have little or no alcohol tolerance. This is due to a lack of a certain enzyme that is necessary for eliminating alcohol from the body. Some people produce a lot, others don't. There is little correlation with body weight and the production of this enzyme; however, men tend to produce more than women. People who produce very little of this enzyme are very sensitive to the effects of alcohol and may get flushed or sick from consuming just one drink. In college we called these people "nerds".
The liver is responsible for removing alcohol and other toxic substances from the bloodstream, and drinking too much alcohol for too long can impair its function and cause it to accumulate fatty deposits. In the medical community, a harmful fatty deposit is referred to as "cirrhosis"; to us laymen, a harmful fatty deposit is referred to as "Linda Tripp".
Heart disease, cancer and overweight are exacerbated by overconsumption of alcohol. Some say alcohol actually causes them, but other factors, such as inactivity and vitamin/mineral deficiencies, are the main contributors. For example, the term "beer gut" is a misnomer. It's the chips and burgers one eats while drinking beer, plus the sedentary lifestyle, that make one fat. If a fat, lazy, Doritos-eating, football-watching, beer-drinking slob were to give up beer, then he would still be a fat, lazy, Doritos-eating, football-watching slob. And he wouldn't have beer as an excuse.
Alcoholism can occur but it should not be confused with drinking too much on the weekend or using alcohol as a psychological crutch. Alcoholism is an actual physical dependency, whereby long-term, excessive use effects a metabolic change which causes the body to prefer alcohol over food. Another way to make the body prefer alcohol over food is to eat my wife's cooking.
Believe it or not, alcohol is a nutrient. One gram of alcohol has 7 calories (protein and carbohydrate have 4, and fat has 9). Contrary to popular belief, there is no fat in alcohol. Your body converts alcohol into energy, but don't for a second think that it should be used as an energy source. Remember all the potentially harmful effects. Alcohol is just empty calories, and it should be used only as an occasional recreational beverage or to improve the appearance of potential sex partners.
Chapter 6: DIET
My first wife died from eating mushrooms. My second wife died of a fractured skull. She wouldn't eat her mushrooms.
A lot of people don't seem to care what they put into their bodies. They figure, why go through all the trouble and expense of looking for, buying and cooking fish, pasta, vegetables and tofu when your body can function just fine on Pez and Spam? Well, these people just don't know any better. They have no idea what it's like to have that wonderful, vibrant feeling of being in great physical shape. If they've ever eaten healthful food, it's only been once in a while, so they don't know the light, energetic feeling of a healthful diet. They treat their bodies like garbage disposals, using them only as tools of gluttony, stuffing them with way more calories than they expend, and hefting their pendulous bellies and fat asses to stores and restaurants for even more material with which to gorge themselves. If this describes you, then maybe you'll be moved to make a positive lifestyle change as a result of reading this book. If not, you might as well eat it.
Now that we have a basic understanding of the substances we consume, we can look at the foods and beverages that contain them and make healthful dietary choices.
Virtually all forms of animal flesh (red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, bugs, etc) provide us with all the essential amino acids. People tend to eat too much animal flesh. We only need about 70 grams of protein a day, and most people eat much more than this. The extra protein is broken down into carbohydrate, and the excess phosphate causes calcium excretion which can lead to bone loss.
Red meat, and the skin of any land animal, are high in saturated fat. There is never a need to eat the skin, as it contains little or no essential fatty acids. Some cuts of red meat are fattier than others, but even a piece that looks lean can have lots of fat marbled in it. Fish (including shellfish) and white meat poultry are the most healthful of all the animal flesh choices. Pork and dark meat poultry come next.
Now before you accuse me of being a Commie pinko liberal tree hugger, I am not saying that you should not eat red meat. I enjoy a nice medium-rare, tender, juicy steak as much as you do. I'm just letting you know that it's high in saturated fat so you might not want to eat it more than a few times a week and when you do eat it you might want to trim the fat.
Processed meats such as hamburger, hot dogs, sausage and bologna have a good amount of protein but they're usually very high in fat. Grinding up meat is the best way for companies to both dispose of and make money from animal parts that nobody would touch if they were put on display in their natural form. Processed meat contains bone, cartilage, hair, insect parts and rodent droppings. Think about that the next time you're chomping on a Big Mac. (Big Mac® is a registered trademark of McDonald's Corporation. Eat shit!)
Eggs have both the highest usability and the highest digestibility of all foods in terms of protein. You might also be interested to know that all of an egg's fat and cholesterol are in the yolk, while the white is pure protein. Even the yolks, with all their cholesterol, aren't too bad for you. Eating cholesterol is not as bad as eating saturated fat, which elevates LDL level. As long as you don't mix in bacon or cheese, eggs are a healthful meal. One time some friends bet me that I couldn't eat 15 eggs. Well, I did it, but only because they egged me on. Two hours later I threw up. Boy did I have egg on my face.
Milk is a pretty good source of protein. It also contains calcium, which is essential for strong bones as well as the integrity of the nervous system. Low-fat or skim are preferable to whole milk because they are considerably lower in fat. Cheese (made largely from milk) also contains calcium and protein, but is quite high in fat and sodium. My favorite cheeses are Swiss, Brie and Government. Cheesy foods such as macaroni-and-cheese, pizza, and anything ending in "parmigiana", are invariably fatty and salty. If you are a couch potato who snacks on these foods, then you might as well just paste them directly to your hips.
Vegetarians can have trouble getting enough protein because most plant foods provide us with some essential amino acids but not others, so eating just one of these foods alone fails to provide us with all the necessary protein building blocks. One must eat several of these foods at the same time so that all essential amino acids are consumed. For example, kidney beans and brown rice (as opposed to white rice which has had almost everything but the starch removed) provide this "protein complementation". It is necessary to eat these complementary foods within a few hours of each other, because unused amino acids are broken down into carbohydrates within several hours. I was vegetarian for a while many years ago when I went through my politically correct, non-judgmental, seeking-the-meaning-of-life phase. Actually I was vegan, which means no animal products of any kind, including eggs and dairy. I studied protein complementation and everything else there was to know, I ate tofu and beans and rice and so forth, and I lost 20 pounds over the course of half a year, even though I was eating a lot (well, I was crapping an equal amount). Unfortunately I was always tired and sore from playing football and doing tae kwon do, and I didn't understand why until I went to donate blood. For the first time ever my blood was rejected. The reason: not enough iron (even though I had been taking iron supplements). I remembered reading that there's a certain type of iron that can be obtained only from animal foods. It also occurred to me that I might not have been getting adequate protein. Right after leaving the blood bank I went to Roy Rogers and had two of their roast beef sandwiches (reportedly the lowest in fat of all the fast food sandwiches), and the next morning I felt better than I had felt in several months. I've met vegetarians who tell me how great they feel, but the majority of them are rather sedentary people. If they were to actually push themselves, I bet they'd experience the same fatigue and lightheadedness I went through, and go back to eating what they ate before they became vegetarians. My theory is this: if we're not supposed to eat animals, then why are they made of meat?
Crunchy vegetables provide lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Almost all vegetables are quite low in fat. Some of the best foods in this category are carrots, broccoli, cabbage and spinach. Some vegetables provide beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A. What's great about beta-carotene is that it cannot lead to vitamin A overdose because the body converts only as much as it needs.
Grains (oats, wheat, barley, etc) are excellent low-fat, high-fiber choices. Grains provide a lot of carbohydrates and some essential amino acids, whereas vegetables tend to be mostly fiber and therefore provide very few calories. Also, it is the grain husks that contain the fiber. Grains which have had the husks removed provide carbohydrates and little else. Pasta and white bread are made from huskless grains, so they are not good sources of fiber.
In the past ten years or so, oat bran has gotten a lot of good press. It is purported to be the best thing for you, doing things like lowering blood cholesterol, preventing colon cancer and reducing the national debt. I'm no scientist, but it seems to me that bran is bran: the husk of a grain. It is indigestible matter that provides fiber but no nutrition. I fail to see how oat bran can be better for you than wheat bran, or barley bran, or rye bran. But this is just my opinion (and everyone is entitled to my opinion). I'd like to see the results of side-by-side studies where different subjects were given equal amounts of different kinds of bran. I mean, other than "the subjects pooped a lot".
Beans (not green beans, but hard beans such as kidney, lima and garbanzo) are loaded with fiber, carbohydrates, and some essential amino acids. They are very good for you. Well, good for your body anyway - they cause intestinal gas, so they're not very good for your social life.
Pasta, bread and potatoes are great low-fat sources of complex carbohydrates. These are preferable to the simple carbohydrates in soft drinks and candy bars.
Cereals have lots of carbohydrates. Obviously the sweet cereals like "Caramel Coated Cavity Crusaders" (comes with a free bottle of insulin) have a higher percentage of simple sugar. Some cereals are a good source of fiber. In some cases too good - their motto should be "Snap, crackle, poop".
Fruits are fairly good sources of fiber, and citrus fruits are very good sources of vitamin C. Fruits lacking in vitamin C turn brown when the skin is removed (e.g. apples and bananas). This is why lemon juice or orange juice should be added to fruit salad - it inhibits browning of the non-citrus fruits. The carbohydrates in fruits are simple, but they are better for you than candy because fruits contain a high percentage of fructose, whereas candy tends to contain sucrose (table sugar) and dextrose. Fructose does not cause the insulin response that the other two sugars cause. Fiber and vitamins also make fruit a better choice.
Incidentally, vitamins are found in the highest concentrations in the skin, rather than the inside, of a plant. For example, a potato skin has more vitamins than the inside, so people who eat just the inside are doing themselves a disservice. An orange rind has more vitamins than the pulp, but in this case it's okay to throw the outside away because it's so bitter. If a candy bar has any vitamins at all, they're in the wrapper.
Fish oil contains a good amount of monounsaturated and/or "omega-3" polyunsaturated fat. Therefore oily fish (e.g. salmon) are good sources of these fats. Then there's cod liver oil, which used to be popular earlier this century. There are a lot of adults who bear deep emotional scars from Mom or Grandma force-feeding them a spoonful of this noxious substance every day. "Come on," they'd say, "take your cod liver oil - it's good for you." Of course, these same people would eat lots of red meat and hot dogs, so we have to wonder if ol' Granny was as smart as we like to think she was.
Nuts and seeds (and their butters and oils), as well as vegetable oil, are good fat sources. They tend to be high in monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fat (they vary quite a bit) and low in saturated fat. Nuts and seeds that haven't been processed into a butter or an oil are only somewhat digestible, and this is good because they satiate you for hours without being too fattening.
Food refining is big business. This country seems to be obsessed with making everything whiter: sugar, flour, rice, Michael Jackson. Any refined food is usually nutritionally inferior. The germ, husk and other components are removed so that only the starch is left, and the resulting product is deficient in vitamins, protein and fiber. These refined products are put into junk food, along with various flavor additives and preservatives. "Junk food" is, in my opinion, an oxymoron. Potato chips, chocolate, nachos, Fritos, Cheetos, Ring Dings, Twinkies - these are all substances that might taste good, but they are so high in fat, sugar and/or sodium that they should be eaten only for dessert, and even then only in small quantities. They lure you with their good taste, and then leave you feeling empty and depressed. Just like my ex-wife did to me.
Why does junk food sell so well? Because most people are lazy and ignorant. They prefer to sit on the couch eating Doritos, drinking Pepsi and watching Montel, rather than exercise, drink water and read an educational book. And what makes them choose one particular kind of crap over another? Commercials featuring celebrities and catchy slogans. Marketing personnel will always find work because this planet is inhabited by corruptible idiots who gladly trade their health and money for an image.
To recap: For protein, the best choices are eggs, skim milk, fish and poultry. For carbohydrates, eat bread, pasta, potatoes and whole grains. For fat, eat nuts, seeds, vegetable oil and fish oil. For fiber, eat crunchy vegetables.
A quick note on child nutrition is in order. Pound for pound, kids burn more energy than adults. Their small stomachs cannot hold very much. Therefore they need nutrient-dense food. This is probably why they have such a sweet tooth. Good foods to feed them include pasta, potatoes, cereal, bread, milk, eggs, fruit, vegetable oil, starchy vegetables (e.g. turnips, butternut squash), fish and poultry. It's okay to introduce crunchy (high-fiber, low-calorie) vegetables into their diet, but only in modest amounts. They should not be forced to fill up on them, because if they do, they will have no room for foods which provide the calories they need. As they (and their stomachs) grow, more crunchy vegetables can be introduced.
Here are a few foods to avoid (unless you have a death wish):
Scrapple. Ever wonder what they do with extraneous pig and cattle parts? You know, the parts they won't even put in hot dogs? Bingo!
Caviar. The fat content and cruelty to fish pale in comparison to the horrible taste. In laboratory experiments, dogs kept in cages with nothing but caviar have been known to eat their own shit rather than this food.
Yoo Hoo. This beverage is totally devoid of nutrients. It has the consistency of severe diarrhea. The manufacturers still can't believe that people actually drink it.
Slim Jims. These are nothing but cigar-shaped pieces of rawhide, smoked with some industrial chemical. Bon appetit!
Spam. Who eats this stuff? Ignorant hicks from West Virginia, that's who. It's friggin' cat food.
Fried mozzarella sticks. One of these grease dogs has enough calories to feed Somalia for a year, and has so much saturated fat that even Dom Deluise won't eat it. You might as well have your arteries surgically blocked.
I went on the grapefruit diet. It's pretty good, except now
every time I urinate I accidentally squirt myself in the eye.
Over the years we've seen plenty of diets and weight-loss centers come and go. Some tell you to eat mostly carbohydrates, while others tell you to stay away from them. Some emphasize wholesome foods, and some businesses tell you to consume their product (usually a shake or some pills). Diet companies make millions of dollars from ignorant fat people who believe their propaganda. The majority of these people either fail to lose weight, or keep losing it and gaining it back, all the while depriving themselves of pleasure and feeling guilty. They might as well be Jewish.
If all people were educated and had the inner drive to take control of their own lives, then dieticians, as well as psychiatrists and religious leaders, would be out of a job.
Some companies claim that you'll lose 10 pounds in a week. The truth of the matter (aside from the fact that they're lying to you) is that you cannot lose more than about 2 pounds of fat in a week. Anyone who does lose 10 pounds in a week is losing mostly water.
A very popular diet is the one where you eat all the fat and protein you want, but no carbohydrates. Huh? "Lose weight with a big steak and a wedge of cheese!" Let me get this straight: it's okay to eat a footlong knockwurst, as long as I don't eat the bun? Many people claim to have lost weight on this diet, but I question whether they lost fat or muscle, and whether they will be able to keep the weight off after they start eating carbohydrates again. The reason for this diet has to do with do with preventing "insulin resistance" and producing ketones when breaking proteins and fats down, but I don't buy it. It's called the Atkins diet. They oughta call it the Oprah diet.
The two biggest sellers in any bookstore are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it. Nevertheless, I recommend that you read other books in addition to this one, especially nutrition books in which the author is giving you scientific information and not trying to sell you a diet plan. You'll learn more than I can tell you, and you'll find out that other authors say a lot of the same things I do, so you'll see that I'm not as stupid as I look.
There are lots of health magazines. Unfortunately, in most cases their integrity level is on a par with Cosmopolitan. Every issue has diet tips and fluffy headlines such as "Miracle Foods!" aimed at typical consumers who just want a quick fix to their self-inflicted marginal health. When you turn to the "Miracle Foods!" article you'll find that the author has merely listed a few vitamins, minerals and/or other chemicals, and described the effects they have on our bodies, as though no one knew any of this before, or as if these substances did amazing things that science can't explain so therefore they must be miracles.
The only good "diet" is a sensible, balanced assortment of foods, not fads or shakes or the total exclusion of certain food groups. In this enlightened age when we can chat via the Internet with people all over the world and we don't have to pay a lot for our muffler, it is time to stop the lunacy of fad diets and once again enjoy the simple foods that God intended us to eat, like fruit and lentils and pizza. (I'm kidding - who eats lentils?)
Sometimes a person will say, "I've been dieting for months and I just can't lose any weight." This is the sort of person who will go out to a salad bar and eat ten cubes of cheese, a plate of nachos, and some greens with half a cup of blue cheese dressing, and claim that all s/he had was a salad.
We could take some diet tips from our pets. I mean, how many fat cats are there? Therefore I offer the new Happy Cat Diet:
Breakfast: Open a can of expensive gourmet cat food (at least a dollar per can) and place 1/4 cup on your plate. Eat 1 bite of food. Look around the room disdainfully. Knock the rest on the floor. Lunch: Four blades of grass and one lizard tail. Throw it back up on the cleanest carpet in your house. Dinner: Catch a moth and play with it until it's almost dead. Eat one wing. Leave the rest to die.
I bought a frozen dinner. On the package
it said, "Serving suggestion: Defrost."
Reading the front of product packaging will only deceive you. Phrases like "Low cholesterol" and "Fiber source" are printed in big, colorful letters in order to trick you into buying the product. And you know what? It works. Why? Because most people are ignorant. This is why nutritional education is so important.
Always read the fine print on any packaged food product. The FDA requires all ingredients to be listed in descending order of amount. This means that whichever ingredients are listed first are the main ingredients. So the next time you see an ingredient written in big letters on the front of a package as an enticement (e.g. "Contains oat bran!"), look for it in the list in small print - chances are it's not one of the first few.
Some products list amounts of certain things such as protein and sodium. Always read this nutrition information. If, for example, a brand of sliced luncheon meat writes "Low fat" in big letters, chances are that the small print will reveal that just three slices contain 800 milligrams of sodium (not good for people on low sodium diets).
Unprocessed products (e.g. produce) are not required to have nutrition information labels, because it is plain to see what they are. However, some companies put stickers on them to confuse you. For example, one banana company puts a "Low cholesterol" sticker on each bunch, as though other companies' bananas are high in cholesterol.
Heckle: "I see you started rolling your own cigarettes." Jeckle: "Yeah. My doctor said I should get more exercise."
Some people consume (eat, drink, smoke, snort, inject) substances other than the ones mentioned so far. Let's explore a few.
Caffeine is a stimulant, and just as with any other stimulant there is a "crash" when its effect wears off. Many people have a pseudo-addiction to it, drinking several cups of coffee or soda throughout the day in order to "keep them going". It stimulates the central nervous system and can constrict blood vessels, stressing the circulatory system. Drinking significant amounts of caffeine every day for decades has detrimental long-term effects, mostly cardiovascular. If you really like the taste of coffee, tea or soda, there are decaffeinated choices that mean you don't have to drink caffeine in order to enjoy these beverages. However, it seems that a lot of people want to be stressed all the time, their morning diet consisting mostly of caffeine, sugar and fingernails.
Tobacco is an even worse substance. Smoked or chewed, it brings dozens of chemicals into the body. Tar is a viscous substance that stains teeth and clogs lungs. Nicotine is a stimulant that works in a manner similar to caffeine. There are other substances in tobacco that poison body tissues, not only at the entry points (lungs, cheeks or gums), but at other areas as well, because these substances travel in the bloodstream (which is why tobacco can cause cancer anywhere in the body). Tobacco is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease: it constricts blood vessels and promotes vascular plaques. In the case of smoking, the alveoli are damaged so that gases cannot exchange as well as they normally can, and this decreases cardiovascular capacity. The lungs produce mucus in defense, causing that disgusting, gurgling, hacking cough. Smokers do more than destroy their own bodies; they poison ours by polluting our air with unfiltered, second-hand smoke. Then they complain that anti-smoking ordinances (which would not be necessary if these people had the common courtesy to not smoke in restaurants and offices) violate their rights or cause great inconvenience, as though each person should have the right to make others suffer for his/her own vices. Banning smoking indoors makes perfect sense because having "Smoking" and "No Smoking" sections in restaurants, for example, is like having "Peeing" and "No Peeing" sections in swimming pools - the stuff gets around.
A lot of smokers have filed lawsuits against tobacco companies, claiming that the advertising made them pick up this unhealthful habit, as though they had no idea that smoking was bad for them. Yeah, sure, it's perfectly normal for a nineteen-year-old to cough up big chunks of phlegm every morning and to get out of breath washing his car. We all know the real reason most people started smoking: to look cool. Many of their peers did it, so they felt obligated to join in, as though they were unworthy of respect if they didn't smoke. The first few cigarettes were horrible-tasting and caused quite unpleasant coughing fits. This was their bodies' way of telling them that smoking is a harmful thing, but they chose to ignore this unmistakable sign and force more smoke into themselves because they considered it more important to be respected by other vain, shallow, ignorant kids than to be healthy. Well, they made their choice, and they got exactly what they deserved. Kids, if you hang out with people who will not respect you if you don't smoke (or drink, or do illegal drugs), then these losers are not your friends and it is time for you to find other people to hang out with.
Illegal drugs each have their own effects on us. Smoking marijuana damages lungs just like cigarettes do. Cocaine and amphetamines stress the nervous system. Any intravenous drug taken with an unclean needle can infect you with diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS. Some drugs are addictive and make life unpleasant whenever you're not high on them. All drugs cause the liver to work extra hard in order to rid the body of foreign chemicals. Frequent drug use can make you center your life around it, causing you to miss out on life's splendor and preventing you from enjoying life very much (especially while going through the unpleasant experience of coming down from your high). Also, getting arrested and locked up for ten years would be unhealthful because you'd be under more stress, not to mention taking it up the ass from a cell mate or prison guard.
My wife is a terrible cook. She uses the smoke detector as a timer.
How food is stored and cooked has a big impact on its nutrition. For example, a raw steak isn't as digestible as a cooked one, and a three-month-old carton of curdled milk isn't as nutritious (or appetizing) as a fresh one.
First let's look at the food industry. Fred Farmer and Carl Cattlepuncher grow our food in vast tracts of land, or in confined little cages in the case of poultry. Seafood is caught by Phil Phisherman. The animals are "processed" by Bob Butcher, and crops are picked by migrant farm workers who we complain about taking away American jobs but we're all full of shit because we consider ourselves to be too good for that sort of work. Then somebody says, "Wow! Look at all this food! We're rich!" and hires Ted Trucker, at Union wages, to bring the food to processing plants where the various foods are canned, frozen, wrapped and/or crated. From there, yet more truckers, directed by Mark Middleman, bring the food to your local grocery store where Gary Grocer, Carrie Cashier and Billy Bagboy make it ever so pleasant to find food and bring it home, although many housewives will still complain about what a hard day they had running errands, as though they had to go out and bring down a buffalo.
As you can see, the food industry is a wonderful thing. It produces and brings us our food, and keeps it fresh. Freshness is extremely important. No matter how great any food starts out, if it goes bad it is rendered useless because the bacteria that spoiled it have eaten most of the good nutrients and produced substances that can make us sick.
Given that you have fresh food to work with, you might need to alter it somehow. This usually means cooking it. Men, "cooking" means putting it either in the box with the neat buttons and digital display (the "microwave"), or on top of the stove (preferably in a "pot" or a "pan"), or in the little room under the stove (the "oven"). Don't do this with every kind of food (e.g. beer), but with foods that are actually improved by cooking. All animal flesh, eggs, grains and most vegetables are made more tasty and digestible by cooking (via chemical reactions that I cannot explain but take my word for it, they really happen), as well as safer (the heat kills microbes).
WARNING: You should not attempt to prepare food unless you know how. If you are a complete idiot who doesn't know how to work a stove or an oven or a spoon, then for God's sake go out to eat.
Cooking just the right amount makes most nutrients more accessible to us. However, overcooking has the opposite effect. A juicy steak barely blackened by charbroiling is yummy, but if it's blackened all the way through, it is effectively a five-dollar piece of coal.
Cooking meats on a grill allows much of the fat to drip off, while frying in a pan doesn't.
When boiling or steaming vegetables, the water that is released into the cooking vessel (called "pot liquor") is full of vitamins and should be used, not thrown away.
Vegetable oils contain mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. However, once they're exposed to air (actually oxygen), they begin a process of "hydrogenation" whereby certain parts of the fat molecules change in such a way as to make the fat more saturated. Oil is vacuum and/or nitrogen packed so it's fine until you open it, but once it has been opened it should be refrigerated in order to slow down the saturation process. If it solidifies in the refrigerator, it has become significantly saturated and is not much better for you than lard. An exception to this is olive oil - it solidifies when refrigerated even before being opened (don't ask me why). Cooking greatly speeds up all reactions, including hydrogenation/saturation. Hence cooking can turn your nice healthful vegetable oil into a Liquid of Death. The higher the heat and the longer the cooking time, the more the oil saturates. If possible you should cook without oil, and add the oil after the heat has been turned off.
You ever buy fried foods? Sure, we all have. Go into any grease shack and look where they cook the French fries and onion rings. It's a vat of oil that they simmer all day long. Some places proudly display signs reading, "We use only vegetable oil". This might be true, but all that heating and exposure to air completely hydrogenate it. The same thing happens at the factory to the vegetable oil in refined products such as potato chips, which is why junk foods can clog your arteries.
Butter or margarine? This is a question pondered so often and by so many that it has become almost philosophical. For years margarine companies have been scaring us with the evils of butter, telling us that margarine is much better for you because it uses only vegetable oil, not animal fat, so therefore it gives you only unsaturated fat. Yet again the American public has been duped by marketers who stretch and omit truths just enough to trick us and still escape prosecution. It is true that margarine is made with vegetable oil and butter is made with animal (milk) fat. But non-hydrogenated vegetable oil is a liquid; whereas margarine is a solid stick, just like butter. How do they do that? Simple: they hydrogenate the vegetable oil so that it will solidify. Hence margarine is almost the equivalent of butter. In fact, the hydrogenation process creates substances called "trans fatty" acids which I'm not sure what they do but I thought I'd throw that term in to both impress and frighten you. All things being equal, you're better off with butter since it tastes better. The margarine commercials try to convince us that their product is indistinguishable from butter, but there are few people outside of the Kentucky coal mines who can't tell the difference.
There are other methods of "cooking" that don't use heat. Sashimi is a Japanese dish containing unheated fish marinated in various substances such as lemon juice which chemically react with the fish and make it palatable. I don't know about eating raw fish. We had sashimi where I come from, but back there we called it "bait". I think the Japanese invented sashimi as a way of getting back at us for WWII. I can see the initial board meeting now:
Itsumi: "Okay, how can we get even with the Americans when we open businesses in their country? The floor is open for suggestions." Hitachi: "Let's have 'em eat raw fish." Moto: "Wrapped in seaweed!" Fuji: "Yeah, and let's have 'em wash it down with hot wine!" Itsumi: "Ha ha ho ho! Brilliant!" Yakami: "Let's sell them mats to sleep on! Hee hee!" Hitachi: "Hey, here's a good one: let's walk on their backs! And we'll tell them it's good for them!" Moto: "Oh, come on. Americans aren't that stupid." Hitachi: "Sure they are. The Chinese already stick pins in them." Fuji: "Get this - let's make them eat with two sticks! Ha ha ha!"
Last night my wife told me she wanted to be bound and
gagged. So I tied her up and took her to Denny's.
Knowledge of which foods are good for us is only part of a good nutritional regimen - we also need to establish good eating habits. We must learn how to not let external factors coerce us into eating foods that we know are bad for us, or eating when we're not hungry.
Like all other habits, our eating habits are formed over a period of time and remain the way they are until they are changed either by forces outside of our control or consciously by us. Our upbringing influences us even after we have left the nest; this is why a lot of us tend to eat many of the same crappy foods our parents fed us. Ever notice how fat kids tend to have fat parents? This is not necessarily the result of genetics. Children blindly trust their parents to take care of them, and if their parents are ignorant or apathetic about nutrition and feed them crap, then the wheels have been set in motion for these kids to continue eating this crap later in life (because they don't know any better) and become fat adults. How else would you explain why so many so-called poor people, who supposedly can't afford enough food, are fat? (Just a little tasteless humor there, designed to elicit angry letters from liberals.)
A lot of people automatically grab a bag of chips when they sit down to watch TV. They're not really hungry - it's just a conditioned reaction. They mindlessly munch away on unneeded matter in order to keep their hands and mouths busy while they remain otherwise motionless. These extra calories turn directly to fat because the body does not burn them.
Food is served at most parties. Why? Most people eat dinner before going to a party, and they're certainly not burning much energy sitting around yammering about each others' clothes or what they do for a living. Many people who eat copious amounts of food at a party eat not out of hunger, but because they're bored. What better way to fill an awkward gap in a conversation than by excusing oneself to get more food? And the other person will gladly excuse you because it would be considered impolite to prevent you from obtaining sustenance (as if you really need it). Do not use food to fill awkward conversation gaps - use booze instead.
A good breakfast is very important. We burn most of our energy while we're going about our daily routine, and too many of us do ourselves a disservice by eating a lousy breakfast (e.g. coffee and donuts), or skipping it entirely, so that we run out of mental energy quickly, develop headaches, and succumb more easily to stress. If you're not hungry before leaving for work, then don't eat, but you will probably become hungry within the next few hours. If you have a job that allows you to stop and eat, then eat when you're hungry - don't wait until lunchtime.
When an American white collar worker gets promoted, the tradition is for this person to bring in donuts for his/her co-workers. Why donuts? Why not something like fruit, which is infinitely more healthful? This bad habit of celebrating with junk food is propagated by uncreative people who merely follow established behavior patterns. When someone brings in a few dozen, employees who you rarely see will come out of the woodwork and stand around the donuts like wingless, polyester buzzards. Eventually all but one donut gets eaten, because no one wants to be the "pig" that finishes the last one (as though they aren't pigs already).
Many people eat lunch only because it's "lunchtime". They have been taught that midday is time for eating, and they stick with that routine because it is so ingrained. Perhaps construction workers and other laborers need food at that time to keep them going for the rest of the day, but the typical sedentary office worker should instead take a walk at "lunchtime" because yet more calories are not needed and in fact some need to be burned off.
It is not always convenient to wait until we're hungry in order to find food. This is why we must plan ahead. For example, you can keep a stash of nonperishable, healthful food (e.g. unsalted crackers) at work so you can nibble whenever you get hungry. This will enable you to get more work done (because you're not searching vending machines and the cafeteria for food), keep your fat intake low, and avoid buying a whole meal when a small snack will do. Keeping healthful foods handy is a very simple thing we can all do at work and/or home, yet most people don't.
Restaurants make it very easy for us to gain weight. They make good-tasting food, and very little of it is low-fat. Often the portions are quite large, and many people feel the need to finish whatever is plunked down in front of them because when they were young their parents used to prod them into joining the Clean Plate Club. Then, after a huge meal, the waitress comes by with a dessert tray full of offerings with names like "Death by Chocolate", and asks folks if they want one of these coronary cuisines. This is where people's avarice really shows: rather than everyone at the table splitting one dessert (so they can all taste it), some people each order an entire half-pound wedge of cheesecake or something similar for themselves and proceed to devour it in addition to the three-quarter-pound steak they just had. Whenever I see some gelatinous blob gorging their disgusting excuse for a body like this, I think of the 150 Ethiopian children who could have eaten for a week off of this glutton's one meal.
Fast food places are the worst places to go for healthful food. They serve grease and sugar to people who are in a hurry to die. I went into a McDonald's once, and there was nothing in there under 50% fat. And that included the customers.
If your stomach growls it is only because it has digested its last meal; it does not necessarily signal a lack of sustenance in body tissues. Ignore your stomach's rumblings and feel the energy level in your body. If you really feel fatigued, then perhaps food is needed. If you have enough energy, then do not eat. The stomach rumblings will last only a little while, and you can help quell them with a glass of water. Also note what you're craving. Your body knows what it needs, and it will produce appropriate appetites. You know how sometimes you're in the mood for a steak, and other times you want something sweet? That's because you are deficient in some nutrient(s) but not others. Eat according to these cravings - don't eat just any old thing in order to fill your stomach. Also be careful to avoid "stealth" nutrients. For example, if you have a sweet tooth, ice cream might be a poor choice because of the fat that accompanies the sugar.
All habits take effort to change. Many folks who eat a lot of crap choose not to change their unhealthful eating habits. That's fine - they can continue to poison themselves, and the rest of us will continue to laugh at them.
She's so fat, she has her diaphragms made by Whammo.
Okay, a lot of you are embarking on this chapter with great interest, while others are approaching it with fear and apprehension (as though anyone besides me and my parole officer will ever read this book).
Exercise is possibly the best way to make yourself feel good. Life is always more poignant for me after a good workout. Vigorous exercise purges pent-up energy, relieves stress by dropping blood pressure (unless you're an uptight, overcompetitive asshole), strengthens bones, increases coordination, and releases endorphins into the bloodstream that give you an indescribably relaxed yet alert feeling. It causes muscles to develop more enzymes for extracting oxygen from the blood. It keeps your joints limber. It makes you look better. It is quite possibly the best thing a person can do for himself/herself, and yet most people don't do it on a regular basis. In fact, there is a large segment of our population that exercise nothing but their mouths and their colons.
A major reason that so many people fail to exercise is that there is no pressing need to be active. Modern conveniences such as television, computers and automobiles encourage people to remain motionless. Social interaction usually involves sitting, eating and drinking. Culture has a large influence; for instance, I was brought up Jewish, and it wasn't easy to find physically challenging sports in a culture where the three main forms of exercise are complaining, mah-jongg and canasta.
Some people claim that they "don't have time" to exercise. Of course, many of these same people will spend hours watching The X-Files or Deep Space 9, so it's a matter of priorities. We all have time for the things we choose to make time for.
I've heard people say that they've "been thinking about getting back in shape". I always think, Yeah, well you'd better think a lot harder, Shamu. First of all, you have no intention of actually working out - you just want others to think that you have even an iota of inner drive and are therefore worthy of their company. Second of all, what do you mean "back in shape"? You were never in shape. Putz.
If you do not exercise regularly but are considering doing so, I hope this chapter gives you the extra incentive you need.
WARNING: Consult with your physician before starting any exercise program. If you have any kind of condition that makes working out a dangerous thing and you hurt yourself by pushing your body beyond medical recommendations, then you are a complete idiot who deserves to die a painful, heart-clasping death on the side of the road and give passing motorists a humorous story to tell their families when they get home.
Before exercising you have to choose appropriate workout clothing. I'm not talking about those expensive stretch tops and pants that make their owners look like homosexual Nazis. Your clothing should be suitable for both the weather and the type of workout you're doing - it shouldn't merely make you look like you're working out.
It might be a good idea to warm and stretch your muscles before using them. Cold muscles are more susceptible to tearing injuries. It depends on the exercise of course, e.g. you probably don't need to warm up or stretch before walking because there is no great range of movement or muscle load. If you choose to stretch, you should definitely warm up your muscles first. Do not stretch cold muscles because that could cause micro-tears in some of the muscle fibers. A walk, a light jog, push-ups, sit-ups, etc will get your muscles warmed in 5 to 10 minutes. Then stretch. There are hundreds of muscles and many ways to stretch them, and there's not enough room here to describe them all, so I suggest you get a book on stretching if you're not already familiar with it. When you stretch, do it slowly; do not bounce. Stretch each muscle as far as you can without too much discomfort. If you stretch a muscle to the point where it hurts, you are causing damage. Remember, pain is your friend: it lets you know when something bad is happening. Like the pain of hearing a John Tesh song.
All you need to do in order to improve your fitness level is challenge your cardiovascular system. Even walking can be enough exercise. It's all relative to what you're used to. If you're a pretty good athlete who jogs or plays basketball, then walking will do little for you because your cardiovascular system has advanced past the walking stage. But if you're basically an inert lump whose greatest physical feat in the past month was taking a dump the morning after eating at Bob's Burrito Bar, then walking will be a good exercise to start out with.
To get substantial benefit, an exercise should challenge your heart and muscles for at least 20 consecutive minutes and should be done at least three times a week. If you can get a good sweat going, so much the better - sweating gets rid of excess sodium, urea and other unwanted substances, and keeps your skin healthy. You are the judge as to just how hard to push yourself so that you derive maximum benefit and feel invigorated while not overworking yourself.
Tailor your exercise for what your body can do. For example, jogging can be damaging to your knees and feet; if so, try using a stair stepper - it can give you an equally good workout while being gentler to your cartilage and ligaments (more on these in a later chapter).
I've found that the best way to exercise is to play sports. Exercising alone can be difficult because it might not be easy to motivate yourself, and focusing on the exercise isn't always fun. Sports, on the other hand, provide incentive for showing up (because people are waiting for you) and something fun to focus on. Of course, there are differences of opinion as to what constitutes a "sport". Cardiovascular effort is a prerequisite as far as I'm concerned. Soccer, martial arts, running, wrestling and racquetball are good examples. Many people consider diversions such as softball and bowling to be sports; in my opinion, any activity that is routinely done while drinking beer is not a sport.
Stretching after working out is good practice. As muscles are used they produce a waste product called "lactic acid", and stretching facilitates its removal from the muscles. Stretching also keeps muscles more flexible and helps you relax. It is not dangerous to stretch after exercising because your muscles and joints are already warmed up.
Exercise builds muscle. When muscles work beyond what they're used to, they are stimulated to grow stronger than before. Muscles respond to how they're used. If you want to increase their power, work them harder (e.g. when weightlifting, use more weight); if you want to increase their stamina, work them longer (e.g. do more reps); if you want them to atrophy, live the typical lazy American life. Building muscle has several benefits. It raises your basal metabolism so that you burn more calories all day long, not just while you're exercising. It elevates your physical limits so that you can enjoy doing more. It has a great cosmetic effect, making it enjoyable instead of embarrassing to see yourself in a mirror or wear a bathing suit in public. Which reminds me, remember those corny ads in the backs of magazines about 30 years ago that would advertise some kind of muscle-building program with a cartoon whose first panel shows a skinny guy at the beach getting his girlfriend stolen and sand kicked on him by some jerk, then in the next panel (after completing the program) he comes back to the same beach, all big and muscular, and kicks the living crap out of the jerk and gets his girl back? Well, I tried one of those programs many years ago because once when I weighed only 160 pounds, some 190-pound bully kicked sand on me at the beach. Right after that I signed up for the Bob Beefcake Bulk-n-Brawn Program. Ten months and $500 later I was a strapping 200 pounds. Feeling very confident, I went back to the beach. Then a 250-pound bully kicked sand on me.
Women, don't worry about becoming overly muscular. You do not have enough testosterone to develop large muscles (unless you're the Attorney General). You will still become stronger without adding much muscle, due to development of your nervous system.
Your eating schedule needs to be synchronized with exercise. Carbohydrates and water should be ingested about two hours before working out, so that they have time to get out of your digestive system and into your blood and muscles. Protein and fat take 3-4 hours to digest, so eat them either several hours before or sometime after your workout.
Believe it or not, exercise suppresses your appetite. When you sit around doing nothing, the appestat part of your brain doesn't function properly - this is why people feel hungry even when they haven't done a damn thing. If you exercise rather than eat in response to this false hunger, your appetite will go away and will return later when you're truly calorie-deficient.
Different types of training burn different amounts of fuels. For example, strenuous exercise requires quick energy, so mostly glucose is used; it does cause fat to be burned (because it raises your metabolism), but this doesn't happen until after your workout. Light exercise burns fat as a slow fuel, but it must be done for much longer than strenuous exercise in order to use the same amount of calories. Moderate exercise uses some glucose and some fat. Also note that while strenuous exercise makes your heart stronger than moderate exercise does, moderate exercise can be just as effective in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease.
Don't forget to rest. It is possible to overtrain, which can break muscle down rather than building it, cause fatigue, and decrease your enjoyment of life. If you're married then you're probably already used to these problems, but why make them worse? Forcing yourself to run or lift weights every day is not good. Even if you take a day off between workouts, you'll still be fatigued if you don't relax. Merely not exercising is not enough - you need to relax your mind and body and get good, deep sleep in order to rejuvenate yourself both physically and mentally. I know several people including me who have gotten great workouts after going out drinking the night before. This might seem contradictory until you realize that our partying enabled us to relax and thereby replenish our energy. Except for that one time when some guy bumped into me and told me to get out of his way. I tried to ignore him but he kept yelling at me. Finally I got so annoyed that I punched him in the face and knocked him right out of his wheelchair.
She's so old, her social security number is 4.
All living things are programmed to die. Our bodily processes are destined to slow down and eventually cease. There is nothing we can do to prevent this. However, what we can do is live well while we're here. With plenty of exercise, rest and a good diet, we are rewarded with physical and mental energy, vitality, fewer diseases, and a greater chance of aging well and living longer.
The human body is a remarkable machine that can stay quite healthy all throughout its life span. Scientific studies have shown that even people in their 90s can improve their cardiovascular condition and gain muscle. (By 90s I mean age, not IQ.) This means that although we cannot live forever, we can be in good health until the end. The fact that you're over a certain age doesn't mean that you have to be incapacitated. Most of us have memories of grandparents who spent their days sitting, walking slowly, soaking their dentures, passing gas and emitting that strange body odor. These conditions are the norm only because the majority of people choose to remain sedentary; they are not unavoidable aspects of aging, or, if they are, they don't have to happen as soon as they do in most people. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want to spend my final years lying in bed hooked to a respirator while my relatives lean over me saying things like "Where's the money?" as they're stepping on the oxygen hose.
What causes us to age? This is a topic of much research, and no one knows for sure. One theory is that our bodies succumb to the constant, lifelong attack of substances called "free radicals" (no, this does not refer to Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan). A free radical is a molecule with one unpaired electron in its outer shell. It's produced by healthy metabolism, directly or indirectly from oxygen. Theoretically, then, you can stop aging if you stop breathing oxygen. (Of course, aging could also be avoided by, say, double-crossing the Mafia.) Free radicals are used to help cells in certain ways, such as in fighting infections. However, they also injure our own cells because they readily modify other molecules nearby, such as parts of cell membranes or pieces of DNA. Furthermore, this can set off a chain reaction creating even more free radicals, thereby perpetuating the process. Certain vitamins (such as C and E) supposedly neutralize some of them, but since free radicals are constantly produced, we cannot completely escape them.
Whatever the cause(s) of aging, it seems that there is little we can do about some of its effects. For example, our skin wrinkles and sags because the fibers that hold it together (called "elastin") break down, causing it to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to snap back after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily and takes longer to heal. No amount of exercise and good diet can prevent this. However, we can make choices that help to minimize it. For example, ultraviolet light and smoking speed up the breakdown of elastin; therefore we can limit exposure to the Sun and not smoke, so that we don't wrinkle prematurely.
Other conditions are also largely beyond our control. Muscles start losing flexibility when we stop growing (ever notice how almost all world-class gymnasts are teenagers?). Some people develop cataracts. Some people's hair goes gray or falls out. Some people begin using the expression "When I was your age..." Some read the obituary column every day. Some send money to PBS. And a lot of people become lousy drivers. Most of them have a simple solution to this last problem: they buy a bigger car.
Conventional wisdom is that the brain's abilities decline with age. This is true, but the decline happens much more slowly than most people believe. The mind's faculties actually diminish faster from disuse than from aging. This is why, for example, we see so many people go rapidly downhill after retirement - they stop employing their minds so much and spend more time in front of the television or simply relaxing in their easy chairs instead of being actively involved in a hobby or interacting with others. A lot of people live this unchallenging lifestyle in their youth as well, so their minds' atrophy process is set in motion decades before they become elderly, setting the stage for a boring, depressing final few years of life.
Contrary to popular belief, senile dementia is not a normal part of aging. Dementia is a degenerative brain disorder caused by various diseases, e.g. Alzheimer's. These diseases are usually caused by genes, environmental toxins, poor overall health, underutilization of cognitive abilities, and/or head injuries. But for most of us, dementia is not an inevitability.
Two things will help us develop and retain our happiness and abilities in our golden years, as well as delay or even prevent dementia: 1) relationships with loved ones, and 2) fun, challenging activities. These things are very important at all times, not just early or late in life.
It is possible to extend life by caloric restriction. Note that this does not mean starvation (in fact, starvation shortens life). Caloric restriction means limiting caloric intake to what is absolutely necessary and no more. It maintains many physiological processes in a youthful state and retards aging processes and most age-associated disease processes. It enables one to use carbohydrate fuel as effectively as anyone else while maintaining lower plasma glucose and insulin levels, which protects against long-term damaging actions of these substances. Dietary restriction also protects against free radical damage. But guess what. How many people are going to voluntarily reduce their caloric intake in this society where you have access to virtually any kind of food you want 24 hours a day? Longevity is fine but it is at least as important to enjoy life. I for one will gladly sacrifice a few of my wrinkled, hard-of-hearing, Depends-wearing years in order to enjoy my youth more.
I recently got rid of 185 pounds of ugly fat. I got divorced.
Youth and beauty are revered in this country. Everywhere you look you see young, beautiful men and women being used to entice you to buy mediocre products and watch inane television shows. Although I don't like the wares they're peddling, I'm glad this beauty is available on television and in print, because frankly, most people have repulsive bodies. I like to see a well-conditioned, slim, muscular body, whether male or female. It's not a sexual thing - it's an appreciation of beauty and health and the hard work (or genetics) it took to attain them. Some people complain when they see someone without a shirt or bra, or wearing very skimpy shorts, but that's only because they're envious: if they were physically attractive themselves, it wouldn't bother them. You will never hear Arnold Schwarzenegger or Cindy Crawford complain that someone else is showing off their boobs or their biceps.
Our society's emphasis on slenderness is partly due to affluence. It is very easy even for many people who are poor by our standards to become fat, so therefore not being fat is considered an accomplishment. We live in one of the few countries in the world that ridicule fat people and worship the ultra-thin models who appear in such magazines as Modern Anorexic and Bulimia Weekly. The focus for women is on trim thighs and hips, as well as a tight butt. With men the emphasis is on muscular development and a trim physique. This can cause a poor self-image, as a number of people think that not living up to these standards makes them unworthy of social acceptance. We see many of them taking diet pills or steroids, starving themselves or consuming supplements, and enduring workouts that they don't enjoy, just to attain the kind of bodily appearance that the media tells them they should have. It is important that whatever you do, you do it because you enjoy it. You should never put other people's opinions above your own happiness. It's one thing if someone makes an occasional fat joke, but if they won't accept you merely because of the way you look, rather than the person you are, then to Hell with them. Some people are really judgmental and intolerant. I can't stand those jerks.
Much of our body shape is determined by genetics. There are three basic body types: ectomorphic, mesomorphic and endomorphic. Ectomorphs, which constitute about 10% of the population, have a narrow bone structure and tend to stay pretty trim, not gaining much extra muscle or fat in response to lifestyle. Endomorphs, also about 10% of the population, are built broader than everyone else, unable to appear slender no matter what they do, and easily able to gain weight. The majority of us are mesomorphs who fall somewhere in between the other two types. Mesomorphs have the greatest ability to affect their body shape by lifestyle. However, regular exercise and good diet will enable anyone - even endomorphs and ectomorphs - to have the healthiest, most visually pleasing body their genetics will allow. The problem is that a lot of people make no effort in this area. Many of them try to compensate with baggy clothing, make-up and hairdos, but this is merely cosmetic fluff that makes them even more laughable. People with "fashionable" clothing, big hair and even bigger butts remind me of Dr. Suess characters.
There are certain kinds of body sculpting that we cannot do. For example, we cannot work fat exclusively off of a certain area by exercising that body part. Working a certain area conditions those particular muscles, but this has nothing to do with how fat is burned from that area. When you need to burn fat your body takes it from wherever it's most readily available, not necessarily from where you want it to come from.
The human body is mostly water, protein, fat and minerals. Our society's emphasis on being trim causes people to talk more about percentage of body fat than they do about any other component. Obviously the percentage varies from person to person. Men tend to have lower body fat than women because women are built for producing and nursing children, and men are built for lifting heavy things and drinking beer. There are also differences between individuals of the same gender due to both lifestyle and genetics. Generally, however, men's body fat should be below 20% and women's should be below 30%. You can get a rough estimate of your body fat percentage by a "pinch test" whereby skin thickness is measured with a caliper at different parts of your body. A more accurate method is the water displacement test where you are weighed while submerged in a tank of water (this has to do with the relative weights of various tissues, e.g. muscle is heavier than fat). Then there's the "zoo test". That's the one where you go to the zoo, and if the elephants throw peanuts at you, you're fat.
Being too thin is just as bad as being too fat. We need fat for such things as temperature regulation, disease resistance and hormone production. Men who become too thin produce less testosterone, leading to muscle loss. Women who become too thin produce less estrogen, leading to bone loss.
Some people have liposuction done as an easy way to lose fat. The thing is, the fat loss is not permanent. Fat cells can grow to any size, so the ones not sucked out can easily store the extra calories that these people invariably ingest after surgery.
Some people actually have fat injected into certain areas. For example, a woman might want fuller lips. Where do they get the fat to do this? From her butt? If so, then when other people greet her, they unknowingly kiss her ass.
How did aerobics get its name? I guess they figured that if they're gonna
charge $10 an hour for it, they can't call it "jumping up and down".
It is more economical to join a health club or "fitness center" than it is to buy workout equipment. There are contraptions you can use at home, but these don't allow you to do all the exercises that the dozens of machines at a health club let you do. Even if you could afford all the machines available at a health club, you would have no room for them. Most fitness centers also have free weights, which are simply weights rather than machines. I once got in trouble at my health club because no one told me what the term meant. My first day there I saw a sign that said "Free weights", so I took a few.
It's very important to enjoy your workout. If you don't enjoy it, and do it only for the expected results, then you will get sick of it and stop going to your health club. This is exactly why so many memberships go unused. Often people join because they have more free time when the holiday season is over and they hope to lose the 5 pounds that they gained (plus the 20 extra pounds they were already carrying), and within a few months the initial enthusiasm and novelty wear off. Going to the gym becomes a chore and they eventually stop going. Proprietors of these establishments thrive on this phenomenon: they keep bringing in new customers, selling one- or several-year memberships to each of them without having to enlarge their facilities.
Most health clubs have a room dedicated to free weights. Even if you don't use them, go in there. You'll see some interesting characters. It seems that some people live there, always pumping and sweating, without a job or other hobbies. I once saw someone at the squat rack, hefting 475 pounds for several sets, with the biggest legs I've ever seen, straining and grunting like a colic yak. She was scary.
Aerobics has been popular for decades. Most health clubs have several classes a day. They also have several kinds: step class, body sculpting, low-impact, high-impact, boxing aerobics, and even "kickboxercise". I took kickboxercise once, and the instructor asked everyone to get a partner. A young woman asked me, "Do you want to double up?" I said, "Sure." So she kicked me in the balls.
I hate beards, but I grew one recently. It's amazing
how a wanted poster will make you change your lifestyle.
Good health is a lifestyle. It is not something that you can do only now and then, occasionally working out and eating salad in between month-long stretches of Twinkies and inactivity.
Technology tends to draw people away from real living. People of all ages spend their precious free time watching TV, playing computer games and visiting one-handed Web sites. Even kids - who should be out playing with other kids - spend hours in front of the television or computer instead of outdoors exploring their world. I remember the good old days when I was a young boy, stealing candy and beating up nerds. Where have those old-fashioned values gone? We need to come out of the glowing screen and jump back into life, or else life will pass us by.
Kids eat what they are fed and use the toys they are given. If you want your kids to be both happy and healthy, it is up to you to guide them properly. For example, feeding them chicken instead of hot dogs and giving them a soccer ball instead of a Nintendo game will set them on a healthful course. This is not to say that they should never eat junk food or play video games - these things just need to be balanced.
We've all seen the stereotypical has-been who played a few years of sports in his youth but has done nothing since, degrading into a pathetic shell of his former self. That brief period of activity long ago does absolutely nothing for his health now. It seems that a lot of people believe that exercise is only for the young, that after we reach a certain age we should merely look back fondly on our glory days like Al Bundy sitting on the couch with a beer in one hand and the remote control in the other. If you choose to do this, then fine - you'll help the rest of us feel superior.
It's interesting how people's lives change. Many former jocks become fat, middle-aged alcoholics; while some nerds, who the jocks used to pick on, start working out after they get out of school, becoming fit and desirable, perhaps dating or marrying beautiful women who, 20 years earlier, made fun of nerds and dated jocks. The same metamorphosis can happen to women: some heavy girls become active and trim as adults; while some former beauties, who were attractive only because of their genes and youth (and who were sometimes maddeningly stuck-up), will, as a result of their do-nothing, look-pretty-and-land-a-rich-husband lifestyle, bloat up and sag like bad fruit.
It's not very difficult to steer your lifestyle in a healthy direction. Improving your diet might take willpower but it doesn't take much time because you have to eat anyway. Likewise, exercise need not burden your schedule, as it can replace an equal amount of television or other unnecessary diversions. The key is to establish a routine. For example, if you come home after work and decide whether you want to exercise, you might find something else to do, possibly feeling empty afterwards because exercising would have been better. If instead you go right to the gym or running track after work, the choice of whether to exercise will be much easier.
I was in an accident. The ambulance got me to the hospital
in only two minutes. Then I waited three hours for a doctor.
We all get injured now and then. Sometimes it's during vigorous physical activity, and other times it's stupidly, like stubbing our toe on a coffee table. Whatever the cause, we need to take care of our bodies when something gets bumped, torn or broken.
Any injury that breaks or scrapes the skin needs to be washed, treated with an antibiotic and covered. Ointments are best because they keep the skin wet, and wet skin heals faster and better than dry skin. If a cut bleeds a lot, you need to elevate it and apply pressure to it until it stops bleeding. Wounds need to be kept covered in order to prevent bacteria from entering.
Sometimes contracting a muscle causes pain. This could result from a pull or a cramp. Muscle pulls are actually small tears. A pulled muscle needs to be rested; continuing to use it could tear it further. Muscle cramps are usually caused by a lack of energy, water or certain minerals (potassium, calcium or sodium). A cramped muscle must be rested and stretched or else it will continue to cramp.
Tendons connect muscle to bone. They can tear just like muscles can, and if they do, they take longer to heal than muscle.
Ligaments keep your joints' bones together. They're pretty tough but they're not very flexible so they are susceptible to tearing. A common ligament injury site is the outside of the ankle: a person's foot turns in as weight is put on it, tearing a ligament.
Whether you have a muscle, tendon or ligament injury, it must be initially rested and then lightly exercised a few days later (except in the case of serious injuries which require surgery). Use the RICE method for the first 24-48 hours: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. The need for rest is obvious. Ice should be applied to the entire area (to inhibit swelling) for 20 minutes at a time, three to five times a day. Keeping it compressed (e.g. wrapped in an elastic bandage) and elevated higher than your heart will also help reduce swelling. After a few days you should begin heating and moving it: heat it by soaking it in hot water or applying a heating pad, and then move it. Make sure it's good and warmed up before you move it, because moving a cold injured part could injure it further. It is important to move the injured part and get the blood flowing in order to speed healing and keep it from permanently stiffening up. Just remember to move it only as far and with as much force as you can without causing much pain, because pain means that you're causing further injury.
Cartilage cushions bones in a joint so that they don't rub together. Unfortunately, due to its limited nutrient supply, it doesn't heal very well. Only your doctor can help with cartilage injuries.
If you push yourself too hard and it's difficult to catch your breath, breathe deeply. This will help you relax so that you don't stress yourself even more. It also helps deliver more oxygen: there are always about 150 milliliters of "used" air in your lungs and trachea after you exhale, so this amount of every breath is always somewhat oxygen-deficient. The more you inhale on each breath, the higher oxygen delivery you get because you are breathing in a higher percentage of fresh air.
Patient: "Doctor, please help me. I'm under so much stress, I keep losing my temper with people." Doctor: "Tell me about your problem." Patient: "I JUST DID, YOU STUPID BASTARD!!!"
Stress, like anything else, needs to be balanced. Too much or too little is not good. Too little stress makes for a boring life. Too much stress decreases enjoyment of the moment and has numerous detrimental health effects, including a reduction of blood and oxygen to the brain, immune system suppression, and atherosclerosis. In fact, fatty food doesn't contribute as much to heart disease as stress does. Look at France. They eat a lot of fatty food, and yet they have only one-third the rate of heart disease that we have over here. This is because we are stressed out and they're not, due to the fact that we bail them out of wars while they insult us and sleep with our women.
What is stress? One definition I've heard is "an emotional state caused by the mind overriding the body's natural desire to beat the living shit out of some asshole". Sometimes it's the result of worrying about small things like money or social status. Either way it's usually our own damn fault. It causes the release of stress chemicals such as adrenaline. The once-in-a-while fight-or-flight adrenaline response does little damage; however, what many of us experience is chronic stress wherein stress chemicals are injected into our bloodstream much or even most of the time. This is what causes stress-related health problems.
Stress chemicals cause muscle to get broken down into amino acids, then carbohydrate, then glucose. This makes us feel temporarily energetic. Many people under stress don't use this glucose for physical work, so it gets converted into and stored as fat. In this way, chronic stress can make us fatter without making us gain weight. When the liver eventually removes the chemicals from our blood, we feel tired. This is why so many people with desk jobs feel drained when they come home from work: they stop pumping stress chemicals into their blood. They mistakenly believe that the work itself drains their energy. No desk job is that strenuous.
Reducing stress is imperative for those that have let it disrupt their life. There are many techniques, including meditation, massage and booze. But the bottom line is that we must learn to let go of certain thoughts so that we do not remain angry at the jerk who cut us off in traffic or constantly fret about bad things that might happen to us. If we retain our unhealthful thought patterns, then relaxation techniques will do us little good because the stress will return as soon as the massage is over or the alcohol wears off. If you suffer from stress, then you must retrain your thought patterns. Some people are able to do this on their own. Others seek professional help, but I think that anyone who sees a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.
My doctor told to give him a urine specimen, a stool
sample and a semen specimen. So I gave him my underwear.
Over 90% of all medical problems are caused by patients themselves, via sedentariness, smoking, emotional upheaval, and excessive eating/drinking. Some people see their body as just a vehicle which gets them from Point A to Point B and enables them to obtain gratification via food, sex and/or entertainment. The only time they do anything healthful for it is when some condition becomes advanced enough to cause pain. Then, after decades of abusing and neglecting the only body they will ever have, they go to their doctor and hope to get fixed up. But even then, some people's attitude toward their body doesn't change, and they go back to neglecting it just as soon as they feel better, which eventually brings more pain.
In some cases a dependency cycle is created whereby the ignorant patient believes whatever the doctor says and blindly follows instructions. It's like religion. For example, doctors tell older women to take calcium supplements in order to prevent or retard osteoporosis, and recommend daily dosages in excess of 1000 milligrams. Yet in most developing countries, where the average calcium intake is only about 300 milligrams daily, osteoporosis is uncommon. Why? Because exercise stimulates your bones so that they add more calcium and become stronger, or, if you're a postmenopausal woman, lose calcium at a slower rate. Women in developing nations remain active throughout their lives, performing daily chores without the help of household appliances, and this activity keeps their bones strong by making very efficient use of dietary calcium; whereas the typical American woman's most difficult task is carrying groceries from the car, so most dietary calcium is excreted because the body doesn't sense a need for it. Therefore exercise would help more than calcium supplements. Why don't doctors tell us this?
Even specialists aren't always competent in their field. Once when I was kickboxing I sustained an injury to my elbow when I blocked a kick. I must have ruptured a blood vessel because the bursa sac swelled up with blood. I went to an orthopedist who tried to drain it with a needle and syringe but failed. And while he was being useless, he asked me for advice about his home computer; he was more interested in one of his possessions than he was in helping one of his patients (well, this is what happens when your health care provider is an HMO). He told me that more than likely I would need surgery. Disgusted with him, I bought a needle and a syringe and drained the elbow myself. It's fine now. (Incidentally, some of my friends worry about me kickboxing, because all those shots to the head can cause drain bamage, but I havent notised any affects.)
It behooves doctors to keep their patients fearful and ignorant, charging huge sums of money for surgery and medication. Rather than help you become self-sufficient, they keep you coming back so that you and your insurance company will continue to feed the multi-billion-dollar medical and pharmaceutical industries.
Even doctors' secretaries like to treat you like you're an idiot. Every time I go to my doctor's office, the secretary asks, "Are you here to see the doctor?" as if I had taken a day off from work to water her plants.
There are all sorts of "alternative" practitioners who peddle everything from yoga to herbs. One of the tricks I can tell you about is colonics, where the vendors try to convince you that everyone has "deposits" in their colons and that a colonic is necessary in order to flush this material out. Rather than just dismiss this as charlatanism, I satisfied my curiosity by actually going to a colonic "specialist", so that when I later criticized these people I would be speaking from experience. I stopped eating and took castor oil 36 hours beforehand in order to make sure that I eliminated everything that would eventually have come out on its own, so anything the "specialist" washed out would be stuff that had truly been stuck in there. I paid the $40 fee, got undressed, put on the hospital-type "Johnnie" apron and sat back on the procedure table. There was a machine with a little window and a hose attached to it. The woman performing the treatment lubricated the hose and, um, inserted it. Water was injected into my colon, making it expand and causing a moderate amount of discomfort. Then the water was sucked back out, with the contents passing by the machine's window so we could see them. Nothing but water. She repeated the process a few times, and each time all we saw was water with just a tiny bit of mucus. I said, "Looks like I don't have any colonic problems." She said, "Yes you do. Sometimes it takes several treatments to dislodge the material." Obviously she was more full of shit than my colon was. But I wasn't gonna tell her that. At least not while she still had that hose up my ass.
So take charge of your life! You now have a good start on the information you need in order to live happily and healthfully. It's up to you to apply it. If you choose not to, then don't complain about how lousy you look and feel, or claim that you don't know where to begin. It is never too early or too late to eat right, exercise, and otherwise take care of yourself.
Ben is an avid kickboxer and weightlifter. He has many years of experience competing in wrestling, football and soccer. Not that he's good at any of these sports, mind you - he just likes to show up and get in people's way, and later brag about what an athlete he is, as though he has made any sort of positive impression on anyone. His doctor is constantly amazed that Ben is still alive, because even if his state of health hasn't done him in yet, certainly by now he should have pissed someone off enough to bring out their urge to kill. At the beach, Ben elicits roars of laughter from both women and men, and when he dies his body will be donated to science fiction.
Below is a picture of what the author would like to look like someday.