Monday, December 04, 2006

Less is More, More or Less

I see calorie restriction is becoming fashionable. I looked into this phenomenon while researching my new book. The idea is that you restrict your calorie-intake to about 70 per cent of normal levels. Since the thirties, animal research has shown that this prolongs life. The reasons are unclear. Certain science-aware babyboomers are particularly drawn to CR. They have read that some scientists believe technologies providing significant life extension and perhaps even medical immortality may become available within thirty years. For a boomer aged between 45 and 60, this is a somewhat enervating forecast - they may die before they get a chance to extend their life, they may even be among the last people to die by the traditional methods of disease, old age, whatever. In the future only pianos falling on us or trucks hitting us will be terminal conditions. Boomers, who never thought they would die anyway, thus find themselves having to work like crazy to stay alive. I have met boomer doctors who dose themselves with dangerous levels of anti-cholesterol and blood pressure lowering drugs and all sorts of boomers who take 250 supplements a day. CR can be dangerous. Women, it seems, may miscarry. I also love the list of risks on the Calorie Restricriction Society web site. These include hunger and discomfort while sitting due to loss of 'cushioning' fat.
Octavio Paz once wrote, 'A civilization that denies death ends by denying life.'

11 comments:

  1. I forgot to mention. When I first looked into CR, I thought I must attempt to contact its great prophet, Roy Walford. The first thing I cam across was his obituary.

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  2. As a fellow boomer, [I'm not really 90 ... yet], the way to go is exercise. In the gym. Once the initial shock passes and you learn to love pain, [they call it the 'good pain'], the benefits are huge. Then you don't calorie restrict at all, which is stupidity, nor do you consume any sorts of drugs. You consume huge amounts of water and basic foodstuffs and burn it off by the end of the day. You become trim, taut and terrific but now another problem looms - how to rid yourself of the bevy of girls half your age who insist on attaching themselves to you?

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  3. 'Good pain'? Surely an oxymoron. Forget about the gym, basic foodstuffs and pointless sports. The only sport that is guaranteed to keep your weight down is chess. Have you ever seen a fat chess player? No, nor have I. At least two games a week should do it and you can eat what you like. Although there is one proviso: you must only play people who are marginally better than you. The reason being, you will burn up the calories all week long racking your brain trying to come up with ways to beat them. And then the games themselves, well, I've lost pounds in sweat worrying about an opponent's passed pawn.

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  4. Gina Kolata, author of Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth About Exercise and Fitness, in an interview said:

    'This is the way I end my book and I think it sums up the message:


    'One day, I get an email from Richard Friedman, the avid swimmer and psychophamarcologist at the Cornell Medical School. He knows I'm writing this book and he has a question: "Are you planning to tell the truth about exercise?" he asks me.


    'I write back. What, I ask, is the truth?


    '"Ah, the truth about exercise?" he replies. "Well, I suspect that exercise is more often a marker of health than its cause -- healthy people like to exercise more than unhealthy people, to start with. And the real value of it is not in terms of abstract health benefits like longevity -- an extra few hours or maybe months -- but because it feels good when you do it or when it's over. To hell with Hygeia; the truth lies in pleasure."'

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  5. Dave -- That is a great addition to this discussion; I agree totally! People used to get exercise regularly, whether they liked it or not, because they had to walk to get places. Now everyone is either sitting in cars or at computers. I am sure this is why Americans are so fat: All work and no exercise, unless they're of the type who like to work hard, then kill themselves at the gym. Moi-meme, I like to walk a couple of miles every day, or bike several if the weather is good.

    Exercise releases endorphins, so it sure does feel good, but for people who are workaholics (most Americans, but not me or my husband -- we decided to give up a lot of money and only work half-time several years ago), they are not willing to fit it in and give up a couple of hours of getting ahead at the office.

    My recommendation to everyone who can afford it: Give up money for time. Whenever you die, even if it's tomorrow, you'll have so much less to regret -- you will have spent your time as you wanted to, and with the people you really wanted to share it with.

    End of sermon; I'm off for my daily constitutional!

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  6. Personally, the pleasure I found in exercise is the same I found in hitting my hand with a hammer; it felt good only when I stopped.

    Let me pass along a link to a recent article in New York magazine about this. The reporter spent two months on an extreme CR diet, with people who are so into this, they use scales to precisely calibrate their meals. The story ends with a "feast" in which the reporter brought along a non-CR friend to provide his insights. The denoumont is very funny.

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  7. People, exercise need not be the strenuous lifestyle. A little bit in small ways is good. For goodness sake, sex is great exercise. The body demands it - then go and play chess.

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  8. Better yet, play strip sex. Make every pawn count!

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  9. Um, that was supposed to be strip *chess* -- I'm a bit distracted here; Frank's been talking to me about Keats and heroin and I dunno what all fascinatin' stuff. What boring times we live in...Sigh. Sex is all that's left. And chess.

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  10. I've tried strip chess. My openings are usually daring and imaginative but I tend to fall apart in the middle game. And consequently the end game is over very quickly. As for sex, I've never looked upon it as exercise. No doubt it's a healthy activity, but I tend to ruin this by having a few snifters beforehand and a couple of fags afterwards.

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  11. Further news on this front at Technology Review today.
    www.technologyreview.com

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