Food Brings Joy


This week’s question was from Donna:
“What about metabolism? What can be done to work towards a better metabolism”

Donna’s question was directed towards the wiser generations (“folks moving toward the backside of 50”) and I think Harry Rosen has the best answer:

Eat real food.

Harry Rosen dines out every night in some of the finest restaurants in Manhattan. A nice dinner is his therapy.  Harry Rosen is 103, but he usually tells people he’s 90.

He says “If I tell them my real age, it becomes the whole subject of conversation and makes it look like I’m looking for attention, which I’m not.”

For Harry Rosen, and for many people, food bring joys.  If you eat right, you feel good.  Not just while you’re eating, but all the time.  Your car doesn’t need to take a nap every time you fill up the gas tank and you shouldn’t either.

Harry Rosen always has fish but you don’t have to eat fish from the finest restaurants in Manhattan to eat well.

Real food tastes better.  A healthy diet is a healthy diet.  Eat lots of vegetables.  Eat high quality animal products (wild caught fish, grass fed beef, eggs, soups). The only thing that changes as you get older is the amount of food, not the type.

Metabolism (the rate you burn energy) does slow down as you get older, but it shouldn’t change your food choices, just your portion sizes.

Decreasing stress and lowering blood sugar won’t necessarily increase the rate you burn calories, but decreasing stress and lowering blood sugar are the best steps for improving body composition at any age.

Stress causes a rise in blood sugar and sugar in food causes a rise in blood sugar.  Your body burns blood sugar before anything else.  High blood sugar is toxic, so burning blood sugar isn’t just easier, it’s necessary for survival.  As blood sugar levels drop, your body will start releasing fat for fuel.

The more your body burns fat, the better it becomes at burning fat.  If your body runs on sugar all the time (because there is a constant supply in your diet), it starts becoming less efficient at burning fat.  Carbs are the simplest macro-nutrient to judge adequate amounts. If you’re always hungry and putting on weight, you’re eating too many carbs and not enough fat and protein.

Getting blood sugar, stress, and inflammation under control usually improves body composition for about 75% of the population. If lowering stress, blood sugar, and inflammation doesn’t help, a check of hormone levels might. Hormone levels are another thing that tends to fluctuate as we get older. Improving your diet will help normalize hormone levels but additional treatment may sometimes be required.

Metabolism, or basal metabolic rate, or resting metabolic rate, gets a lot of play from food and exercise advertisers.  A food or exercise routine that raises metabolic rate offers the holy grail – eat this food or do this routine and you’ll “burn fat while you sleep.”

Harry Rosen doesn’t worry about his metabolism. Move enough everyday to stay capable and eat enough food to support your movement. Eat real food, watch the carbs, and enjoy your dinner!

  • Picture of Harry Rosen by Dave Sanders for The New York Times
  • You can read Corey Kilgannon’s New York Times’ article on Harry Rosen here.


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Sorting It Out

Image 2Whether it’s frustration, stress, or anger, the last straw isn’t what it’s all about.

Here’s a pop quiz:

IF X = Frustration, Y = Happiness, A & B = things you see, C & D = things you hear, THEN:

a) X = (20%A + 40%B – 75%C) / 43 and Y = 27 (50%A – 33%C + 17%D)
b) Y = X * D / A
c) X = A + B/4.3 – 5.6*D
d) None of the Above
(hint: The answer is ‘d’)

People are complicated, most of the time it’s tough enough figuring out what makes us happy or not happy, let alone our spouses, family or friends.  We are all constantly bombarded with information and it’s hard to figure out exactly what makes us happy and what stresses us out. The last straw, the event that triggers a conscious emotional response, is rarely the root of the problem.

We need time to sort it out, time to figure out what’s causing us to act the way we do.  We need quiet time to figure out what causes us to behave well and what causes us to behave poorly.

Meditation works but meditation isn’t what you think.

Meditation doesn’t have to be some mystical feat, it doesn’t have to be sitting in a lotus position chanting “om”.

Meditation is simply quiet time to sort things out.  It can be done sitting, walking, running, or surfing (my favorite). You can do it alone or talk through things with a friend.

Meditation does three things:
1) Helps your attention span (attention regulation).
2) Helps you figure out what triggers your emotions (body awareness).
3) Helps you control your emotions (emotion regulation – from knowing the triggers).

(Here’s an Article from the Atlantic with a longer discussion)

Control over your emotions is the most important.  Chronic stress is bad.  Chronic stress prevents adaptation, healing and recovery.

Figuring out what is really triggering the stress response is the first step in reducing stress.

Three tips to get you started:
1) Start small. Start with 5 – 10 minutes a day. Try and fold it into something you already do every day (walking from the parking lot, exercise, etc.)
2) Start with whatever’s on your mind. You can work on “just being” later. Start with whatever issues you can’t stop thinking about.
3) Pull the string.  Sure you remember the last straw, the thing that pushed you over the edge. What happened before that? What were the assumptions you made?

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Resiliency, Complexity and Time

People are passionate about food.

We all eat, we all have experience with nutrition, we’re all experts. How can there be so much confusion? How can there be so many opposing views?

People are resilient. You are very hard to kill. You can survive on just about any type of food and live to 40.

The body is complex. There are billions of cells undergoing trillions of reactions.  The label “scientifically proven” is compelling. It implies a rigorous procedure that has isolated one variable out of billions, determined a precise quantity, eliminated one decision we have to make. In reality, “scientifically proven” covers a spectrum from molecular analysis to questionnaires about diet choices. What did you eat two months ago on the second Thursday?

Time matters. The average person can last well over a month without food. You won’t be happy, you won’t be healthy, you won’t be productive, but you would still be alive.  The idea that there is any nutrient that you need to eat everyday is a myth.  As the types of food change, nutrient levels rise and fall.  New food choices often bring rapid, noticeable changes in the way you look and feel.  Deficiencies in your new diet may happen slowly, at a rate that is not so noticeable.

The typical American diet is composed primarily of corn, wheat, soy, and grain fed muscle meat. The typical American diet causes nutrient deficiencies, chronically elevated blood sugar, inflammation, and digestive trauma.

Lots of diets work for a little while. Just about any change from a typical American diet will cause you to look better and feel better.  The real test is how long they hold up.

Eat real food. Pay attention to how you feel. Fix the problems.



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