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MOVEMENT

We have a brain for one reason and one reason only — and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements.
— Daniel Wolpert

Your health depends on movement

The body contributes far more to our lives than just physical attributes such as strength and endurance - it plays a major role in emotions, learning and relationships. The body is intimately involved in all our thought processes, understanding, emotions and decision making. The mind and body are inseparable, from our endocrine system to the "brain in our gut" - the body is your brain! 

Most need a more "anti-fragile" experience, but too often we have extremes of inactivity and lack of exertion or inappropriate intensity that sends the stressed organism over the edge. "The dose makes the poison" and it is really just about finding that sweet spot. There is exercise, and there is movement. This is not about smashing out reps and killing yourself as an enabler to continue being in denial of a delusional lifestyle. Completing a "work-out" to achieve an external goal at the expense of not enjoying the process is short-sighted and not sustainable.

All learning, no matter how abstract, is physical. “Early movement experiences are beneficial to optimal brain development.” (Gabbard, 1998, p. 1). Stop a child from moving in early childhood and see what happens to their learning capability... oh, wait?! 

We have stopped moving

“In less than two generations, physical activity has dropped by 20% in the U.K. and 32% in the U.S. In China, the drop is 45% in less than one generation. Vehicles, machines and technology now do our moving for us. What we do in our leisure time doesn’t come close to making up for what we’ve lost” - designedtomove.org

Being sedentary has become "normal". A modern human has the luxury to ask why run? Why jump? Why climb? When everything is accessible, when you are not forced to move to catch your prey or avoid being prey. Most people have a disconnect between their mind and body. We work in jobs that don't require our bodies, simply sitting at desks clicking mouse buttons and tapping on keyboards. The narrative and relationship between our bodies and our movement is forgotten, not heard, ignored. We only notice our bodies when "something goes wrong" with it. We have, in effect, betrayed our bodies, ignoring and dishonouring them by using them purely as “locomotive devices" to transport the head.

What is Movement?

"Exercise is Optional, Movement is Essential". What is the difference? Exercise is a modern invention, an obligation or chore designed to give us a way out, a get out of jail free card that lets us believe three weekly trips to the gym lets us off the hook with our bodies. It is pain, rather than pleasure driven. It is generally focused on specificity and lacking in real skill development. Most exercise regimes use machines and isolated exercises that make us experts in movements that are not practical and are limited, to put it politely.

The body will become better at whatever you do, or don’t do. You don’t move? The body will make you better at NOT moving. If you move, your body will allow more movement.
— Ido Portal

Movement is something entirely different. Movement is ancient. Movement was here first. Hunting and gathering, dancing round the fire, walking, climbing, running, jumping, crawling, lifting, swimming, fighting...even sex! These are all movements the human body is designed for. A lot of public health research now points towards needing more movement in our lives, as opposed to exercise to remain healthy. For example, no amount of exercise will undo the pathology that is sitting and remaining sedentary. And conversely, you could go your whole life without ever doing exercise but instead move as part of your everyday life and remain healthy. 

A big impact on the history of the current "fitness" paradigm and thus exercise is the visual impact and imagery of the rise of bodybuilding a few decades ago. What Bodybuilders do for their sport, takes amazing dedication but unfortunately the effect on the fitness culture as a whole was that of isolation purely for cosmetic motivation.

Thankfully there seems to be a shift in paradigms. More and more people are realising that we need more than exercise for aesthetic reasons alone, we even need more than so called "functional training". We need movement.

If you train, then "train movement, not muscles". Find out what movement means to you. For most moving is being in the present, enjoying the moment. Enjoying what you are doing. You are not exercising, you are moving. Movement for movement's sake.

To wild animals, movement is not a chore, not a temporary punishment for being physically lazy and out of shape, not an optional activity just for better looks.
— Erwan Le Corre

References:

Special mention to these teachers. I have used their words and inspiration and any similarity is meant with the upmost respect.

Frank Forencich, Erwan Le Corre, Ido Portal

 

What can you do?

Remove sitting in chairs - Simple but tough to actually put into practice for most. Prove me wrong! Sit less in chairs and learn to squat and sit on the floor instead (and yes it often needs to be taught). We should be able to sit on the floor in various archetypal resting postures that are our birthright, contained within the interaction of many joints and muscles. Standing from these archetypal resting postures to our full upright bipedal posture contains many integral movement patterns most have lost due to preferring the chair or sofa! GET MORE FLOOR LIVING into your life NOW.

Find out what movement means to you - Research and seek high quality movement material and never stop digesting new stuff. Develop a BS filter to discard what is not useful. Seek a teacher/coach, someone with a practice and a process. Enjoy movement for its own sake instead of external rewards.

Make movement a priority - Once you've found movement material you love, turn it into your passion and your obsession. 

Movement snacks - Move more. Incorporate movement into your life, your job, wherever and whenever you can. Don't wait for your "workout" - do it now! Prevention is better than cure. Be a movement opportunist. Move, move move.

"Train movement, not muscles" - What are you training for. Muscles? Losing weight? An event maybe? Will it ever arrive? 

Embodiment - Use movement to reconnect with your body and bring the body back into our experience.

Where possible move in nature - We are designed to be exposed to and move in all sorts of natural environments. Touch the world with your senses - go barefoot, even hug some trees if you want!

"Be strong, to be useful" - So once you've improved yourself, that's great and all but now what? Personal self striving alone can become stagnant and meaningless if you do not help those around you. After you have focused within, turn your attention outward to help others. You family/tribe, your community, the environment - the world. Once you have "changed your body" what will you do to "change the world"?

Play - with your children, with an adult, by yourself. Play has many forms. Most are afraid or conditioned to not see it's importance. Are you play deprived? When's the last time you wrestled, played tag or hide and seek. It is far from a waste of time. "Play like your life depended on it".


THE BIGGER PICTURE:


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The Human Predicament

The human body, living in the midst of the greatest health opportunities in human history, has become weak, dysfunctional and physically illiterate.
— Frank Forencich

DISCLAIMER: This a paraphrasing of Frank Forencich's ideas and is meant with the upmost respect. It is best to seek his work directly via his website or various books such as Beautiful Practice for his original intent. 

 

It is a challenge to live in the modern world. When it comes to improving the health of the modern human, it is imperative to set the context. In order to understand our situation and make actual sustainable changes - whether it's common goals such as losing weight / body fat, gaining muscle, getting fitter, stronger and moving well, eating correctly or reducing the stresses in our lives - it is essential to look at the big picture. 

The Big Picture

Look at the people around you. The bodies and behaviour -  what do you see? Just from looking on the surface, it doesn't take an expert to notice that something is up. Something is wrong with the average person. People don't look that healthy or happy, they have their heads down with defeated postures, almost zombie like. There is a general, palpable physical unhappiness. When you look a little deeper you realise the majority of us are stressed and suffering from an ever growing list of lifestyle diseases: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, and suicide. Pyscho-spiritual afflictions such as depression are epidemic across the planet. By 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of disability, epidemics of attention disorders, pain killer addictions. We are the most advanced we have ever been in human history, yet we have no apparent solution to this "crisis".

“Conventional” approaches aren’t working and we are disconnected from our bodies and our world. There is plenty of information out there about the modern human condition but understanding is not enough - there has to be a doing, an experience. Words are great, but there must be engagement. Many of us are "information rich, but experience poor". We set out to help you take a big picture approach, not just to movement but the key fundamentals to make a change to your body, your health and each other.

Our bodies are ancient... well Paleo!

Our bodies are ancient, millions of years old. Everything about our design has come about from interacting with the natural world - a contrast to today's modern environment. There is great insight to be learned from this evolutionary heritage. In essence how we have evolved into the species we are today is down to exposure. Exposure was health promoting during the Palaeolithic period, and we've lost that exposure and adversity which promotes health as the body adapts and achieves. Paleo is actually defined as "old" or "ancient", not the limited perception for most people today of just being about food, and at a stretch, movement. It's interesting that in reality it's usage is very confining in its meaning. 

Mismatch

We are currently living in a "mismatch" between our ancient human bodies and the conditions of our modern world. We feel out of place because we really are out of place. The mismatch, as coined by Frank Forencich, describes the alien environment we have created for ourselves and now exist in, so radically different to our evolutionary beginnings:

  • Security - We have built up our world so much we have the illusion of security through buildings or insurance which is unprecedented. Paleo life had no illusion of security - you would witness animals and tribe members dying, and you would have no illusion that this would happen to you. Now when people die, we aren't prepared and have enormous stress.
  • Physical - we have built dwellings and structures to insulate ourselves from the natural world. This physically different way of living has forced us into sedentary living. Sitting has it's pathology, and all this computer work leads to virtual disintegration of a living experience, which is profoundly disturbing.
  • Circadian disturbance - our experience of light and dark runs our physiology which is ancient, and that of all life. Most ignore this biological clock and disturb it with artificial light being too prevalent in our lives. "Healthy" sleeping patterns are rare and our timings are often alien.
  • Alien nutritional environment - this is more than a glut of refined carbs / sugars, trans fats and salt. Our nutritional environment is alien in terms of geographical ease - no wide spread of food and lack of connection with food origin, makes an excess of consumption far too easy. When you are in the supermarket you condense 10,000 sq foot of habitat into a tiny "dangerous" place.
  • Alien bacterial environment - we share billions of bacteria and in a natural environment you come into contact with dirt and bacteria which is health promoting. The modern world is sanitised often to our detriment.
  • Alien social environment - we no longer live in tribes of 150 people, which is what our brains are wired for. We now have tiny real groups and masses of virtual groups on social media - a poor substitute for real positive social engagement, and our brains are not adapted.
  • Alien sensory - our entire history our sensory experience was tactile - barefoot, skin exposed, a lot of knowledge in that tactile experience. Now it's irrelevant because everything is plastic and smooth and heat controlled dwellings. We cover our feet with proprioception blinding shoes and do not make contact to the natural world with our skin, we are hyper-visual staring at blue-lit screens and no longer panoramic, scoping our environment. Our vision is rectangle. Alien noise - it is rarely dead quiet and we have constant noise pollution.
  • Hyper-normal stimuli - food products loaded with over the top sensation that anything you'd find in a normal natural environment seems bland. Super Sweet, Super sour, super abnormal.
  • Temporal environment - no free time or everyone is always in a rush. We'd hunt and then hang out and have hours of free time once upon a time. Now we living in temporal poverty and fear - "I have no time"!
  • Cognitive alien environment - cognitive overload - planning, sorting, worrying, thinking all the time. 
  • Stress - we would have had acute stressors contrasted with deep rest - e.g. An attack from a predator would usually have one of two outcomes -  you die or you survive, make it back home, live to tell the tale/ relax and the stress goes away. Modern stress is chronic. Constantly under attack but with no quick resolution - days, weeks, decades at a time, our modern often unnamable predator simple toys with us denying a "quick death".

Bad News!

Our mismatch works in tandem with the narrative that the world is doomed, from global warming to war and famine - of course I am not suggesting these are not true, but I believe we are not designed to constantly be made aware of this by manipulative media outlets on such a large and regular scale - in your face all the time is unhealthy. No wonder people are stressed if all you ever hear is bad news you can do nothing about to change.

Unique Predicament

Before this, our biggest challenge was exposure, then agriculture happened and we were challenged by diseases, which we conquered. in the last 100 years - it's lifestyle that is the biggest challenge to health! lots of experts have opinions on what to do but really, we have no experience to draw upon to deal with this challenge and tell us how to live. Our predicament of Lifestyle diseases are unique.

It's not all doom and gloom

But! It is a mistake to blame the modern world for all your ailments. This can only lead to a bitter victim mentality, cynicism, depression and denial of responsibility for one's own health. The modern world is not the enemy. We must not over-romanticise the past. The modern world has some great health promoting aspects. Don't set up an adversarial relationship between paleo and modern because it will cause you more stress. It is challenging, but it is an exciting time to live with some amazing discoveries, developments and stories of inspiration to tell. Meditation, neurosciences, teaching, coaching - stories of growth and education are around us every day.

REFERENCES:

Special mention to Frank Forencich. I have used his words and inspiration and any similarity is meant with the upmost respect.

 

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Food

 

Nutrition is a huge and often emotional subject. These are just a few of my thoughts, mainly referencing people whose opinion I respect and outlining what has worked for me and people close to me. Ultimately you need to take responsibility for yourself and do your own research to make an informed decision - find out what works for you. By all means, use this as a guide but do not take my word for it - go forth and find out for yourself.

In a nutshell: just eat real food! Focus on eating natural and locally sourced food which is widely available with little or no processing. In other words, eating the way nature intended. This is commonly referred to as the "paleo" or "caveman" diet (I do not like the word diet as it gives so many wrong messages). 

Our current 'diet' is relatively recent - we’ve only been eating this way for about 10,000 years. In contrast, most estimates say that humans have been around for a little over 2 million years. Eating real food naturally focuses us on eating food the way we ate before the last 10,000 years. Nowadays, the standard "diet" features wheat, excess fructose and excess Linoleic acid (Omega-6), often referred to as neolithic agents of diseasewhich is ruining the health of the majority and causing diseases that should not be part of the natural ageing process. Clearly something is not working.

Popularity

Recent books like The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, and The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson and Paleo Fitness by the UK's very own Darryl Edwards have caused a surge in the amount of attention paid to paleo and similar ways of eating, and are widely regarded as the reasons for this new way of eating's newfound popularity. 

The History of the Paleo Diet

The human body has evolved over millions of years. We’ve only been eating grains and other things since the agricultural revolution, which happened about 10,000 years ago. That might sound like a long time, but it’s really a tiny amount of time in comparison to how long we’ve actually been around. If you were to hold out your arms, with the entire length of your arm span representing human existence, agricultural is represented by the length of a finger nail on one finger.

As it turns out, we’re optimised to eat different foods than we mostly eat now. The copious amounts of sugar and processed foods that permeate our diets just weren’t around when we were cavemen hunting and gathering for food.

And, while we’ve been eating processed grains since agriculture got started, our bodies never quite turned away from their ancestral roots. Not only that, but grains don’t like to be eaten. There’s a whole litany of dangers associated with grains and with eating them. Grains have been shown to damage your gut lining, hurt your immune system, and cause a bunch of other issues. Put simply, when you eat grains, things get messy.

To return to eating like we used to, one should be eating mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, animal proteins (meat, fish, eggs), and nuts in moderation.

Fat Burner vs Sugar Burner

The main reason many people find the paleo diet to be such an effective method for losing fat is that it turns your body from a primarily carb-burning/sugar burning machine in to a fat burning machine.

Here’s how it works:

Your body’s preferred source of energy is fats. Fat is a much slower burning fuel, and it’s more efficient for your body to use. However, due to the abundance of carbohydrates that we consume on a daily basis in the western world, our bodies burn the carbohydrates rather than fat. So, when we take in more carbohydrates than are needed for energy, our bodies stores the rest as fat for later “just in case” (this process is left over from when we needed to store fat in case we couldn’t find food for weeks). 

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), most people will never really be in danger of “not eating”. We almost never have to resort to using our fat stores for energy, so instead of us eventually burning the fat we’re storing in our bodies, we simply add to it, over and over and over again. 

The paleo diet changes a lot of this by doing one simple thing: removing a lot of the simple carbohydrates from your diet.

When this happens, your body can no longer get away with using cheap carbohydrates for energy, and it’s forced to use the fat stores. That’s good! This is how it works:

Without the constant influx of cheap carbohydrates being turned into sugar, your blood sugar drops to a normal level, and your insulin levels begin to regulate. Regulated insulin levels allow a process called lipolysis to occur. Lipolysis is the process of your body releasing triglicerides (fat stores) to be burned as energy. That’s a bunch of big words which basically means that, by reducing the amount of cheap carbohydrates in your system, the paleo diet allows your body to start the process of burning fat. 

Good Carbs/Bad Carbs

So, are all carbs bad? No, not all carbs are bad. Some are worse than others, and there’s definitely a sliding scale of carbohydrate badness.

It’s easy to make a jump from “eat fewer carbs” to “all carbs are bad for you”". There’s definitely a sliding scale. Chances are you’ve heard of simple vs. complex carbohydrates, and while that can be a little complicated, the biggest question you’re looking at is how fast your body turns the carbohydrate into sugar. Ones that make the transformation quickly are considered “simple” (and you’ll want to avoid them), while ones that take longer to break down are considered more “complex” (you can eat these in moderation).

Simple carbs break into sugar quicker, and trigger a bigger insulin response. When your insulin levels are elevated, your body is prevented from burning fat through a process called lipolysis. That’s the main reason it’s recommended that you stay away from simple carbohydrates like white bread and pasta. Eating them is not much better than eating straight sugar!

We also need to remember that it's not as simple as fat versus sugar, or carbs versus fat. We must also consider neolithic agents of disease.  "It is neolithic agents of disease versus everything else that should really be focused on." And consider also the way food is prepared, and its cultural context such as food as reward or emotional eating. Food is fuel, and also pleasure-giving. 

What Can You Do?

Develop an understanding and awareness of what you are eating, where it comes from and what good - or bad - it does for you.

Just eat real food - if it has to go through a long process to make it editable, chances are it's not "real food"!

Realise the concept of "breakfast" or "lunch" only foods is bizarre and meals should generally be nutritious and filling, regardless of the time of day. My infant son has soup made from spring greens and butternut squash in lieu of porridge or cereals each morning! Hot, tasty, "carby" and nutritious, and he has no concept that soup is not "breakfast" food.

Accept that a lot of things in our modern diet are deeply entrenched in society's psyche - bread, sugar, grains. We have a lot of addictions - refined sugar is six times more addictive than natural sugar and used in most products, from bread to keep it fresh on the shelf to frozen products to stop freezer burn! Artificial sweeteners are probably worse. As with any addiction, it can be difficult to shrug off what we have been told for so long! It takes time to re-train ourselves into a new way of thinking and eating. 

Don't beat yourself up! Eating well all the time is the aim, but let's not forget - "bad" things are tasty and delicious. Pizza, ice cream, toast...a little bit of bad some of the time is no bad thing. A little bit of pleasure derived from "bad" foods is not a bad thing in itself. Aim for the 90/10 - or even 80/20 - rule and you're golden!

And finally - don't be confined to one singular orthodoxy. The paleo approach is great but we have already lost when it becomes the next "big thing" or the new fad diet. Consider the work of Chris Kressler who encourages the flexibility on "what is paleo", how we should do our own research and prefers it to be a template rather than a diet.  

Transient

Nature Deficit

Nature-deficit disorder, as coined by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods, is not a clinically recognised condition, but rather a term to evoke a loss of communion with other living things. Nevertheless nature-deficit disorder affects "health, spiritual well-being, and many other areas, including people's ability to feel ultimately alive." With the loss of natural surroundings, and many parks and nature preserves now with restricted access and "do not walk off the trail" signs, environmentalists and educators add to the restriction telling people "look don't touch". While they are protecting the natural environment, Louv questions the cost of that protection on our children's - and our own - relationship with nature.

The causes of the disorder include loss of open space, increasingly busy schedules, an emphasis on team sports over individualised play and exploration, competition from electronic media, and what Louv and others call a "culture of fear," in which people are afraid to visit natural areas or even go outside due to heavy media coverage of violent events.

The effects from Nature Deficit Disorder could lead to the first generation being at risk of having a shorter lifespan then their parents. We are living in a cultural depression where we imagine a dystopian future of despair, survival and conflict. We can't imagine a future that is environmentally sustained where we reconnect with nature and our surroundings, instead only imagining a future more akin to the sedentary people, disconnected and removed from nature in the film Wall:E. 

Attention disorders and depression may develop. People who don't get nature-time seem more prone to anxiety, depression and attention-deficit problems, according to research by Louv and various universities. Attention Restoration Theory is the idea that immersion in nature increases creativity and attention , both in short term restoration of one's abilities, and the long term ability to cope with stress and adversity. A study conducted by the University of Kansas showed that backpackers who spent three days hiking had increased creativity and cognitive abilities:

The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.
— Richard Louv

"Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that nature has specific restorative effects on the prefrontal cortex-mediated executive attentional system, which can become depleted with overuse. High levels of engagement with technology and multitasking place demands on executive attention to switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions."

In recognising these trends, some people argue that humans have an instinctive liking for nature—the biophilia hypothesis and take steps to spend more time outdoors, for example in outdoor education, or by sending young children to forest schools. It is perhaps a coincidence that slow parenting advocates sending children into natural environments rather than keeping them indoors, as part of a hands-off approach.

It would be a mistake to entirely blame our modern world. The great technological leaps seen from the mid-nineties through the early 21st century with the advent of the Internet and emerging technologies have brought us much joy, interaction, learning and in a sense, re-connection. These technologies - social, practical and virtual - have given much help, and much hope, to people previously unreachable. But there is no question that we are hooked on this technology; most of us are attached to our smart phones or tablets, and cannot go more than 30 minutes without checking for a message or status update. And so it is logical that the more hi-tech we become, the more we need nature as a balancing agent. Again we are brought back to the simple principle that it takes more than words - it requires a doing, an experience. It must be a conscious decision to engage with the world around us, to immerse ourselves and enjoy the splendour of nature - whether it is an invigorating hike through amazing scenery or simply making ice cold mud pies on a freezing February morning with our children.

 

Sleep, rest and relaxation (combine with Freetime?!) - non-stress

Circadian rhythm is your eternal clock. 

What can you do?

Reset you circadian rhythm by going camping.

Practice Sleep hygiene

deep rest

Transient
Transient

Tribalism has a very adaptive effect in human evolution. Humans are social animals, and ill-equipped to live on their own.