One of the things I love about our success stories is the far-reaching impact of people’s health transformations. They lose weight (or in some instances gain it in muscle mass). They get fit. They get their basic health in order, and the physical vitality takes on a life of its own with a unforeseen “carry-over” effect, leaving them happier, more confident and newly inspired to pursue other personal goals or productive changes in their lives. This got me thinking about how much the opposite holds true. What about the studies that tell us negative circumstances in our lives become risk factors for a variety of serious health issues, including mortality risk itself?
You read Mark’s Daily Apple every day. Paleo health, nutrition, and fitness folks populate your Twitter feed almost exclusively. You’ve got several PubMed alerts set up, helping you stay on top of the emerging evidence. Everyone in your immediate circle knows to come to you with questions about diet and exercise. You’ve been living like this for the better part of a decade, and things are going well. But what if there were a few blindspots you didn’t know about, or assumed you didn’t have to consider?
I’ve been doing this for a long time. Over the course of 10-odd years, I’ve realized that many Primal and paleo enthusiasts have a few glaring blindspots. They may not be cataclysmic, but addressing them—or at least acknowledging their existence—can certainly improve your health and happiness.
No longer the sole province of the hemp-swathed sprouting enthusiast, meditation’s popularity has exploded across our collective faces. Tech companies have embraced mindfulness meditation as the ultimate productivity. Google has “mindful lunches,” complete with prayer bells and hour-long vows of silence. And as legitimate meditation researchers uncover more benefits to our brains, our bodies, and our psyches, diehard rationalists have been forced to accept the scientific merits of mindfulness.
My explanation for why interest in meditation has grown is that it’s a replacement for the nature in which we no longer reside. For hundreds of thousands of years, we spent our days in natural settings where much of the mind chatter stops and we exist in the present moment. The falling leaves sparkling overhead with sunlight. The herky-jerk scamper of a startled lizard just off the trail. The erratic brilliant butterfly fluttering through the scene that you can’t help but stop to watch. That was life for most of human history. It wasn’t special. It was home. It’s what we knew.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering an email that reminded me of an idea I once had that I’m convinced could really work: organizing group workout sessions like fitness bootcamps only instead of a guy barking orders as you perform a completely arbitrary set of exercises with little regard for technique, the group performs “workouts” that are actually acts of volunteerism. This makes your workouts truly count, not just as stimulants of fitness improvements but to the other people your efforts touch. It addresses an important aspect missing from most fitness programs. Humans used to perform physically demanding tasks on a regular basis in order to live, eat, and thrive. It wasn’t “exercise” or a “workout,” but it made us fit, strong, and fast just the same. And it was essential to living. It helped our immediate family and communities.
We’ve lost that, but training as volunteerism can bring some of it back.
Research of the Week
Early exposure to dogs and farm animals reduces the risk of asthma in pre-school and school-age children.
Urban fruit contained a wider range of micronutrients and fewer heavy metals than retail fruit.
Standing for at least a quarter of the day can reduce your odds of obesity.
A high protein, higher calorie diet improves body composition in resistance trained men and women
Delaying kindergarten by a year may reduce ADHD.
A single meal containing crushed, raw garlic alters immune and cancer gene expression.
A frittata is the perfect meal any time of day, cold or hot, eaten with a knife and fork or with your hands. It’s the type of dish a person is tempted to use as a receptacle for leftovers, throwing in bits of meat and cooked vegetables, wilted herbs and an old knob of cheese. It’s hard to go wrong with a frittata, but if you want to go really, really right, this is the recipe.
The sweet and earthy flavors of winter squash, leeks and Swiss chard swirl together here in a frittata with a creamy, custard-like texture. The secret to the heavenly texture is full-fat dairy; without it, frittatas often have the texture of a kitchen sponge. Dairy isn’t for everyone, but if you tolerate dairy well, then there’s no reason to abstain. Full-fat dairy has more than just rich, delicious flavor to offer.
In this frittata recipe, crème fraiche adds amazing flavor and texture, although the same amount of yogurt, cream, or grated cheese can be substituted. And if this frittata has too many veggies for you and not enough meat, then go ahead and add some prosciutto or cooked bacon. You won’t be sorry.