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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 15, 2010

Monday Musings: Meditation for Life Extension and the Twinkie Guy

By Mark Sisson
93 Comments

Upfront disclaimer: stress is my big issue. I have most everything about my life pretty well dialed in, but I just don’t handle stress the way I probably should (or the way I tell other people they should).

Most people have the vague notion that meditation is good, usually in a psychological, somehow “not physical” manner. It reduces stress. It’s relaxing. Well, these emotional mindstates have physical or neurological corollaries. You aren’t “just stressed,” as if stress is some concept floating there independent of physiology. Chemicals and hormones induce these states, and meditation can affect their secretion and production.

There’s also compelling evidence for the negating effect of meditation on certain marks of aging. This study found that, when compared to controls, trained Buddhist meditators had enhanced cortical thickness. Older meditation experts displayed the most dramatic differences, suggesting that “meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning.” A new study digs even deeper. Subjects spent three months at a meditation retreat under the tutelage of a Buddhist scholar. It was a particularly intensive retreat – participants attended two group meditative sessions and spent six hours in individual practice, daily. Control subjects were matched for age, sex, education, ethnicity, and meditation experience but did no actual meditating for the duration of the study.

Researchers were looking at telomerase levels. Telomeres are chains of DNA sitting at the end of chromosomes. They act like built up genetic material for cell division. As the cell divides, the telomeres shorten. If the telomeres grow too short, the cell cannot divide and eventually dies. This is the inevitable result of time passage, or aging. Telomerase is an enzyme that rebuilds and even lengthens telomeres, and its deficit has been linked to age related degradation. In addition to displaying greater psychological health, reduced stress, a better outlook on life, decreased neuroticism, and “perceived control” over one’s life, meditation subjects had significantly increased levels of telomerase activity in their white blood cells – about 1/3 more than the control group.

Statistical modeling shows that the increase in telomerase activity was most strongly linked with decreased neuroticism (racing, stressful thought patterns) and increased perceived control (calm, measured outlook on life). Simply put, meditation gives you greater control over your thoughts, and being in control of your mind seems to result in increased telomerase activity and – potentially – longer, stronger, better-fortified telomeres that can hold off the aging process a bit longer.

If current hunter-gatherers are anything to go on, our ancestors probably had plenty of free time to play, relax, ruminate, and simply be. I’m speculating, but it could be said that their daily existences were largely spent in what we would recognize as the “meditative” state. I don’t think they were necessarily formally meditating, but they simply had far less BS to deal with. And isn’t that what modern meditation tries to obviate? Today, people go on meditation retreats to restore balance, to get away from it all, to escape the endless internal ramblings that are our modern brains. Meditation is likely a Neolithic tool forged in response to the unnaturally abundant stressors we face in modern society. I happen to think it’s one of the better ones, along with butter, barbells, and computers. Now, knowing all this, do I personally find time to actively meditate? Nope. Gotta work on that one…

The Twinkie Guy

This has been covered to death. Stephan covered it. Richard and Don both did, too. There’s not much to add, but I’ll throw my two cents in.

– The guy did this for three months. Try doing it for life and see where it gets you. Even if the results were maintained for years, keeping the calories low and eating Twinkies for life would be torturous. Hell, during the Irish potato famine, people lived on seaweed and shoe leather for months at a time (carbs and fiber). I’m sure they lost weight, too. Doesn’t mean that’s the secret.

– When you’re on a mission to prove something (and boost your academic reputation and perhaps garner a bit of extra funding), doing the impossible becomes a whole lot easier. It’s human to rise to the occasion. He had the weight of media scrutiny and the desire to prove a point snapping at his heels; the hunger and cravings were secondary to that, and temporary. There was an end in sight. The unemployed single father with life’s boot tripping him up at every turn might not be able to resist his body’s cry for more calories and more Twinkies. And he won’t have things nicely and neatly wrapped up after three months, with plenty of media coverage.

Let me know what you think in the comment board. Do you find time to meditate? Are you ditching Primal to go Twinkie? Thanks for reading, everyone.

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93 Comments on "Monday Musings: Meditation for Life Extension and the Twinkie Guy"

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Julie
5 years 10 months ago

I notice the media never touched on how Twinkie Guy felt during his crap-food fest. Energy levels? Fitness? Sleep quality? Focus, concentration? Libido? Etc, etc.

But then again, I suspect that would have put a damper on the Good News that you can be skinny and eat crap, right?

Richie
Richie
5 years 10 months ago

This is exactly what I thought as well.

Jeff
Jeff
5 years 10 months ago
Check out his interview with Jimmy Moore from Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/did-kansas-state-nutrition-professor-dr-mark-haub-really-go-on-a-little-debbie-snack-cake-diet/9226 “No, not hungrier than when I was following other dietary behaviors (Atkins and high-fiber/low fat). I have never craved sweets, so the added sweeteners in the foods are not “addicting” as many claim. Not sure what my body is craving, however the foods I crave (not sure why — physical and/or mental) most are hamburgers and sandwiches. The diet has been very easy for me to follow–I eat by myself frequently, the foods are shelf-stable and easy to carry (no refrigeration), the portions are pre-determined, there is… Read more »
Paul C
5 years 10 months ago

I don’t understand the answer “no” followed by saying he craved hamburgers.

His body may have been somewhat satisfied eating itself, but that would certainly end soon, and the hunger would be certain to follow.

Russ
5 years 10 months ago
I’m part of another online community based around “health” – though this one takes a more CW stance, especially when it comes to weight loss. I’m intrigued by the pervasive idea that if you just eat less calories you’re all set. I mean I guess I understand the desire to want an equation to be that simple when it comes to weight loss, but I continuously urge people to focus more on quality of life and fitness than on just losing lbs. But it seems like “perfect” equals skinny these days. I keep trying to pass along the idea that… Read more »
junebu8
junebu8
5 years 10 months ago

No way would I go Twinkie. They barely have any cream filling these days!

MHart
5 years 10 months ago

I think it’s funny and I thought my clients would think it a free reign to eat twinkies. But they prevailed! Anyway, I think it’s important to note that he didn’t say how much of these treats were consumed on a daily basis and also, while he did see improvements. He still ended up with a bodyfat % at 25, with a weight of 175. Would still look pretty soft.

Russ
5 years 10 months ago

I saw an interview where he said he ate 2-3 twinkies a day. PLUS, he took multivitamins and ate a bunch of green veggies.

Kind of misleading.

Jan
5 years 10 months ago

Ditch Primal to go Twinkie? I don’t think so. Two weeks ago I had a tonsillectomy and at 47 that’s no joke. For several days the only things I could bear to swallow were soft, bland and often grain-based foods. Six months of pretty clean eating was undone in three days – I felt like crap, horribly sore and swollen throat not withstanding. I was never so happy to eat real food again in my entire life.

My life is exceedingly stressful these days – just how does one learn to meditate??

Evolutionary Diet
5 years 10 months ago

So, maybe if I just meditate about Twinkies, but I don’t actually eat any Twinkies …

tess
tess
5 years 10 months ago

honestly, i’ve been known to do something similar — imagine eating something “wicked” so vividly, it’s satisfying with just a cup of coffee….

Graham
Graham
5 years 10 months ago

Why not meditate on the run? Sometimes when I walk to my lab (~30 mins each morning), I challenge myself to think AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. I’ve learned that trying to not think anything on the walk is too ambitious, but try 30 seconds, then 40, then 50…only problem is, as soon as I go “Nice! I made it!”, I’m thinking again…haha. Still a fun little challenge.

Brinck
Brinck
5 years 10 months ago

There’s a Buddhist tradition known as “Walking Meditation” that’s pretty much what you’re describing… details here:
http://www.wildmind.org/walking/overview

Kelda
5 years 10 months ago
A few years back, when I was at the height of my CW-diet-fuelled manic depression I got ‘into’ all things ‘mystical and meditative’ … in fact I spent quite a bit of time ‘trying’ to meditate every day to alleviate all the stresses in my life and even out my increasingly bizarre (manic) behaviour. And the result … I felt more stressed at losing the time ‘meditating’ rather than getting on with the things that were piling up adding to my stress! Conclusion … best way to deal with stress, in my experience, is to reduce what you are trying… Read more »
Todd
Todd
5 years 10 months ago

It’s good that you are trying to make time for being meditative, but if you’re going about meditation as a cure, as some means to some end, and stressing about meditation itself as you plan it, “practice” it, and regret it later, then you’re going about it all wrong.

PWG
PWG
5 years 10 months ago
A mindfulness and meditation practice saved my life. Really. Because as an athlete, trained to a peak, my life as I knew it stopped cold after two operations to stabilize my cervical spine. I was in significant pain for almost two years. I also have ongoing stress because I am mom to two young adult special needs kids. Training, using my body, was how I coped. Well, in desperation because I was forced to SIT with myself, I found a meditation teacher. And now I have a dedicated meditation practice and I know how to sit with myself. I feel,… Read more »
Sondra Rose
5 years 10 months ago

I do EFT (AKA “Tapping”) to relax when I am stressed. Quick, easy and it doesn’t require that I sit around for hours to get the same effect as meditation. More info at http://www.eftuniverse.com.

Zoebird
5 years 10 months ago
My husband and i are avid meditators, with at least 30 minutes each day. We strive for more if work and our 2-yr old will allow it! i didn’t know about this neurological stuff; its’ fabulous! i’m going to write a blog about it for our business blog, so thanks for the great information! (i’ll link to you too!) to learn to meditate (since i also teach yoga and meditation), the easiest method is to take 3-5 minutes in a quiet place where you will not be distracted. just listen to yourself breathe. if your mind starts to wander (and… Read more »
Alhaddadin
Alhaddadin
5 years 10 months ago
So happy to see this mentioned! The Easwaran approach to meditation is an excellent, all-encompassing view of the practice that helps to contextualize it as a part of a general healthy existence. The big tie-in that I recognize immediately from this program and other disciplines of meditation (Buddhist especially)is a deliberate focus on two things: 1) slowing down, and 2) ekagrata (Sanskrit for “one-pointedness,” specifically in the context of one’s thoughts) This is what I think you were going for, Mark, when you talk about hunter-gatherers being in a more “meditative” state all the time. Per the first point –… Read more »
Luke
Luke
5 years 3 months ago

I’m obsessed with the meditation hunter gatherer approach as meditation has been such an incredible benefit to my life.

I saw a video of Shinzen Young where he mentioned staying with a few hunter gatherer indigenous type folks and many of the hunters seemed to by default have the same kind of extraordinary concentration abilities of very advanced meditators..

Denis
Denis
5 years 10 months ago

Meh, twinkie diet. Good luck to the guy in maintaining his weight over 5 years eating like that without continuing to calorie count. I know from experience it’s tough and it sucks.

All it’s left me wondering is if someone could comparatively do a “bacon” diet (with similar caveats). Unfortunately most of us who have gone primal don’t have much extra weight left to lose.

MountainDew
MountainDew
5 years 10 months ago

OT: has anyone had log-in problems into the forum? I’ve had my password reset because my old one wasn’t “working” (even though it was correct since I have it written down). So when the PW was reset I tried logging in and … nope, nada. Wouldn’t let me log-in.

Diane the Purple
Diane the Purple
5 years 10 months ago

I’ve had a little trouble. It seems like the “username” field is getting filled with tons of spaces for me – if I manually take them all out, it works fine.

Jenny
Jenny
5 years 10 months ago

Same here — I have two browsers. One remembers me so I haven’t had to log in… The other, the forum won’t let me log in. I thought I deleted all those spaces but I’ll have to try that again!

Peggy
Peggy
5 years 10 months ago

Twinkies? NO. Suzy-Qs? maybe… they at least have chocolate in them. Can I wrap them in bacon?

rob
rob
5 years 10 months ago

When I lived up north I got addicted to Tastykake pies, gained thirty pounds.

Life was a series of Tastykakes. Every time I saw a convenience store I had to stop and buy one.

The Chocolate Eclair flavor is like crack cocaine.

Kent Hawley
Kent Hawley
5 years 10 months ago

All that’s needed to lose weight is caloric restriction. But many people never understand there is so much more to good health than low body weight!

Cheryl S.
5 years 10 months ago

Couldn’t disagree more. I did my own little experiment with the aid of a registered dietitian. I ate according to her recommendations to the T – 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carbs at 1600-1700 calories a day. This was supposed to net me a loss of 2#/week. I lost 3 pounds in two months.

Then, I took the same number of calories, with a ratio that turned out to be more like 30% protein, 50% fat, 20% carbs (primal) and lost 10 pounds easily in a month.

Calories are not the whole story, even with weight loss.

Seth W.
Seth W.
5 years 10 months ago

The greater weight loss is probably due to the fact that you had less water retention. There’s certainly no magic to quality of calories (especially since you kept your protein the same, nitrogen retention would have been the same)

Griff
Griff
5 years 10 months ago

Wow, you’re new here, aren’t you.

Caloric restriction is what made me morbidly obese. Eating the Primal way made the weight come off.

Kelda
5 years 10 months ago

That’s just what I thought Griff! You are a brilliant example of how it all works. Makes you want to scream doesn’t with the CW.

Julie Aguiar`
Julie Aguiar`
5 years 10 months ago
Saying “no” to some useless “obligations”, accepting lowered expectations, simplifying life…YES! As a slightly type A “control freak” ( I can, of course control what I put in my body), the release one feels when we let go of “shoulds” is incredible. I learned this as a young teen and never looked back. I am never “obligated” to do anything. Of course I work for a living, care for my family and household, and try to find “me” time. And when I do, I do not feel guilty in the least. I need to empty my mind regularly, and I… Read more »
Kitty
Kitty
5 years 10 months ago

Amen

Mike Cheliak
5 years 10 months ago

I am a real newbie to Yoga and meditation (about two weeks) but I have found almost immediately how my stress level has dropped.

After years of banging iron, I am now doing a much more Primal fitness plan (I do include Hot Yoga in that) and I am also getting into meditation. It is certainly working for me.

kem
kem
5 years 10 months ago

Lucky me. No twinkies, ding dongs or little debbie snack cakes on this island. Guess I could try the date scone diet.

Might stick to meat, vegies, exercise and meditation.

meditation man
5 years 10 months ago

I so agree with this article When i meditate I feel like I have so much more control over my day. almost everything seams to just flow into place!

chuck shriner
chuck shriner
5 years 10 months ago

There is no one size fits all diet in my lay opinion. I am primal about 80% of the time with time out for the occasional beer, pizza or slice of carrot cake and I feel great. Twinkies arent part of my plan, but my initial goal of no rice, pasta, potatos, sweets or bread (except fresh rye sourdough)leaves me enough leeway to truck through my eating day with interesting choices available.

Curtis
Curtis
5 years 10 months ago

Heck, I bet you could starve to death eating twinkies. That doesn’t convince me they are part of a healthy diet. Just the opposite, in fact.

Simon Fellows
Simon Fellows
5 years 10 months ago
Sorry if this is heavy handed in advance. I spent 2.5 years in Buddhist(Thera and Zen) and Benedictine monasteries (Dad lived 9 miles from Down House..CD being my greatest hero) so i know a bit about this stuff. Meditation is belived to have come from the one pointedness of the hunt.For most folks shikan-taza as opposed to vippassana is very diff as folks canny ‘hold’ that one pointedness. What i found was that if one is fuelled by ketones(i started this afore there was the current paleo-blogs/sites and most of the books) that one pointedness becomes the mainstay..15 years later… Read more »
Kelda
5 years 10 months ago
Interesting … that’s what I’ve discovered by trial and error and tried to explain above, if you live it (slower, more measured, less ‘busy’ life) all the time you don’t need to set aside particular time. Since the summer (in a bid to aid sleeping) we’ve cut right down on TV and media input in general and we have lights low from mid evening and only candles in the bedroom (no electric lighting after 8 pm) and it makes a massive difference to the stillness of your mind. I could gaze at candle light for hours and now the winter’s… Read more »
Adrienne
Adrienne
5 years 10 months ago

Yoga and Meditation is a perfect compliment to Crossfit type workouts. Cortisol levels too high are counterproductive and stress management is very beneficial for me. Dropped coffee on Nov. 1 and that helps too. Caffeine addiction sneaks up on you.

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rik
rik
5 years 10 months ago

the soothing effects of meditation, especially a guided mediation, are incredible.. as for the twinkies..well..its just not part of my lifestyle anymore.

Alison Golden
5 years 10 months ago

I have never found the motivation to meditate either. My goal is to switch off the electronics in favor of a book.

I allowed myself a Twinkie once when I first moved to the US because I’d heard so much about them. Whoever said that British fooa d was bad, obviously hadn’t ever eaten Twinkie.

Jeff
5 years 10 months ago

I’ve been wanting start meditating for a few years now, but I’ve aways put it off.

This has really convinced me to start immediately. I think I’ll start with just 10 minutes in the morning when I wake up and 10 mins at night before I go to sleep.

The Primal Palette
5 years 10 months ago

I actually like to meditate cross-legged atop the pillowy softness of a twinkie pile. It’s very enlightening.

Nathan
5 years 10 months ago

Even if I could eat twinkies every day, I wouldn’t. After following a primal diet for about a year now, I really don’t ever crave sweets. When I do give in to peer pressure I feel like crap after consuming junk food.

Twinkies make you sickly and weak, so why not eat food that makes you strong and lean?

shoreline
shoreline
5 years 10 months ago

I drink several glasses of red wine for meditation. It cuts off the highs and lows of life leaving you perfectly balanced

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Jenna
5 years 10 months ago

Hello all! I love primal blueprint and blog about meditation, yoga, and the like (URL attached). However, I do find it hard to find the time to meditate but I like the idea of 5 minutes of listening to your breath to get you started. Also know that yoga is a fantastic segue into meditation because you worked your body and subsequently can relax due to the contrast you’re creating by juxtaposing the two. Happy trails!

Oliver
Oliver
5 years 10 months ago

Jenna your hot 🙂

Andrea Reina
Andrea Reina
5 years 10 months ago

Not heavy-handed at all, Simon. I’m actually interested in hearing more, as many who practice meditation and yoga eat vegetarian because they say it enhances their consciousness. What’s shikan-taza? I’m familiar with vipassana, but have never heard of the other. And who is H-G?

slacker
slacker
5 years 10 months ago
I think some people really need a group to sit with in order to get started. Certainly you need a good teacher, regardless. You have to have an experienced guide to keep you on an open and positive path with it. It is essentially about learning patience with yourself and the world. That doesn’t come immediately and directly to everybody. A group is also good because trying to find time to sit doesn’t work any more than trying to find time to work out does. You don’t find time to do it, you either do it or don’t. If you… Read more »
Jerry
Jerry
5 years 10 months ago
People really underestimate the power of meditation. The book mentioned above here, zen mind, beginners mind is a genius book. Absolutely, I think its up there as one of the wisest pieces of literature you can possibly read. After reading that I meditate every day like he describes it, except i do it my own way kind of. I do all he says but I don’t sit but balance on my knees with one foot up on my thigh then I switch after a few deep breaths. Seriously, when I don’t meditate now I feel it. My body feels deprived.… Read more »
Brash
5 years 10 months ago

good post
But there are plenty of studies that are still taking place so far on this subject, but this does not negate the importance of relaxation, it is useful for many things, including the re-activity
and thanx for post

Maxim
5 years 10 months ago

IMHO, tHe best books on meditation is the Scicence of Enlightenment by Shinzen Young. Very structures, scientific, flexible and exciting approach!

Maxim
5 years 10 months ago

IMHO, the best books on meditation is the Scicence of Enlightenment by Shinzen Young. Very structures, scientific, flexible and exciting approach!

Highly recommend this one!

Kasi
Kasi
5 years 10 months ago

We had a Buddhist officer who did guided meditation sessions weekly – eventually daily – while my unit was in Iraq. Here are some interesting articles he sent:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/choke/201008/what-can-11-hours-meditation-training-do-it-can-rewire-your-brain

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-work/200910/the-neuroscience-mindfulness

He and our unit behavioral health doc both recommended “Wherever You Go, There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zin (who also has some audio CDs) as a beginner’s guide to mindfulness meditation.

Kelda
5 years 10 months ago

Alhaddadin – I’ve quoted your comment on my blog today – you comments allowed my brain to put a number of pieces of the jigsaw into place! Thank you.

Danielle
5 years 10 months ago

I wonder if prayer works in the same way meditation does.

Primal_Joe
5 years 10 months ago

My kids would just love a Twinkie diet! I hope they don’t see that article! 🙂

Simon Fellows
Simon Fellows
5 years 10 months ago

Hola…..If anyone hapens to want to email me about owt i wrote about my email is

supachramp at yahoo dot com

TheCommonSenseWarrior
5 years 10 months ago

10 minutes a day of silent me time.
NO Twinkies!!! Ever!!

Trevor
Trevor
5 years 10 months ago
Oh fantastic, Let’s all run to the store and buy boxes of Twinkies and corn chips! Think about the financial savings? You’ll have all that extra spending money to help you pay your digital cable bill or fill the car with gas. You’re going to need those things when you have no energy to get off the couch and no motivation to walk to the store for more Twinkies! What is with our cultures fascination with weight loss? You might shed a few lbs by following the Twinkie man but do you think you’ll have energy to do that evening… Read more »
Gal @ 60 in 3
5 years 10 months ago
I had a very hard time with stress following some personal issues. It was affecting my health through overeating, lack of sleep, inability to exercise or focus and occasional bouts of irregular heartbeats. It was quite literally killing me. I took a 9 week course on stress management which included various tools like multiple meditation techniques, stretching, breathing exercises, yoga, mindful walking and so on. The point was to show a variety of tools and allow the student to pick between them the one that worked best for them. It worked. My stress level went down and I have never… Read more »
Jay
Jay
5 years 10 months ago

I use to sit two twenty minutes sessions, now do 1/2 hour of Tai Chi.

Tai Chi is very powerful.

Janet Butler Male
5 years 10 months ago
I wouldn’t be without my meditation. Have been meditating twice a day for over twenty years. I teach it at my Lifestyle Studio, and it is such a thrill to see my clients turn up stressed and unhappy and, after just one session, leaving as if they are floating.. And if they stick with it they have got the ‘ace up their sleeve’ to feel fab every day. One lady said “I feel as if my shoulders are in the right place for the first time in years!” I taught my mum, she is eighty, and I can tell if… Read more »
Dirk
Dirk
5 years 10 months ago

Go to iTunes and search for “Byron Katie Guided Meditation.” If you are already familiar with “The Work” you won’t be disappointed and if you aren’t familiar with it you won’t be disappointed either.

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