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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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December 22 2014

Dear Mark: Candle Fumes Safety, Quest Bar Carbs, Minimalist Shoes for Track, and Walnut Oil

By Mark Sisson
76 Comments

CandleFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a four-parter. First up, how safe are indoor candles? Do some emit toxic fumes? Are there certain types of candles we should prefer over others? The second question concerns the carb content of Quest Bars. Can we really disregard all the fiber and sugar alcohols when determining the amount of digestible carbohydrates contained in the bars?  Third, what should a high school track athlete look for in a minimalist running shoe, assuming Vibram Fivefingers are out of the question? I help her narrow down the most important attributes. And finally, I may caution against making high omega-6 nut oils like walnut oil a daily staple, but do those recommendations change if a person is using it to actively solve a health issue?

Let’s go:

Hi Mark –

Do you have any concerns with the heavy or daily use of candles in a home (e.g., in an effort to reduce blue light in evening)? Some sources say that candles put off toxins. What’s your take? What about scented candles? Are there any candles safer than others?

Thanks!

Brian
(P.S. Primal Blueprint Certified Expert #75!)

Most candles sold nowadays are made from paraffin wax, a byproduct of petrochemicals. Burning them can release benzene and toluene, two chemicals linked to certain cancers and asthma. If the wick is lead-based (as many wicks with a metal interior are), it also releases aerosolized lead into the air. If the artificial fragrances in your scented candle are anything like those in cosmetics, their manufacturers don’t have to disclose the chemicals contained in a particular scent; those will also be released into the room.

You can find studies claiming that the emission levels  ofthese airborne candle-derived toxins never pose a threat to people, and maybe they’re right. Heck, it’s not like people are dropping dead because they lit a candle in the bathtub. Then again, nor are people getting lung cancer because they smoked a single cigarette. If any health issues do arise, they’ll likely happen over the course of an entire lifetime from the cumulative effects of chronic, steady usage.

Don’t worry about occasional usage of paraffin wax candles. Especially if you ventilate the room, there’s no real danger in acute, transient exposure. But if you plan on “heavy or daily use” of candles, you’ll want a safer alternative.

Soy wax is one alternative that doesn’t release benzene, toluene, and other petrochemical byproducts into the air. But the wax is almost certain to be derived from GMO soybeans. It’s not an immediate health threat, but if you’re opposed to the industrialization of agriculture and wish to withdraw support of GMO crops, you’ll also want to avoid soy wax candles.

Luckily, a safer and superior alternative that smells better and supports a sustainable industry (beekeeping over fracking and genetically engineered monoculture crops) is available: the beeswax candle. Just make sure your beeswax candle is 100% beeswax, and not some amalgam of beeswax and paraffin (same goes for soy).

I wouldn’t run shrieking from the room if someone lights up a regular candle. On a romantic, candle-lit night with someone special, I wouldn’t pause the foreplay to ask if “those are paraffin candles.” But if you’re going to use candles on a regular basis — and I think that’s a great way to reduce blue light at night and approximate our Primal desire to sit around a campfire at night — beeswax is the safest bet. That the soft honeysuckle scent comes from real natural bee vomit rather than a smell cooked up in a lab doesn’t hurt, either.

P.S. Great to have you aboard the Cert program, Brian! Congratulations!

Hey Mark,

I have a question concerning the sugar listed on food labels and how to account for that when I calculate my daily macronutrients. When I read food labels like those of Quest bars that claim they only have 1 or 2 grams of carbohydrates, yet I look on the wrapper and there are 22 grams listed in the carbohydrate section of the label. They say that because the “other” carbs are sugar alcohols and insoluble fiber, you only have to worry about those 2 grams.

My question is how should I factor this in to my account of daily nutrients. 22 grams or 2 grams of carbohydrates?

Also, are sugar alcohols bad for you (primal)?

Thanks,

Alex

Well, let’s break down the metabolic effects of those carbohydrates to determine if we should count them or not.

First, the sugar alcohols. I actually wrote a post about sugar alcohols a few years ago, but let’s look at the sugar alcohol used in Quest in more depth. Quest bars use erythritol, which has 0.24 calories per gram (sugar has 4 calories per gram). For the most part, there’s no evidence that erythritol has negative metabolic effects. Heck, it doesn’t really have any effect at all, good or bad:

Erythritol had no effect on blood sugar or insulin in healthy subjects, with 90% of it being excreted in the urine unchanged. Same goes for diabetics, who experienced no adverse effects on glucose control after two weeks of eating it every day.

Even short term massive overfeeding of erythritol — 1 gram erythritol per kilogram of bodyweight per day for a week — was well-tolerated by people.

As erythritol cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria, studies usually find it to be neutral for dental health. That said, one recent study even found that erythritol was more protective against cavities than xylitol, another sugar alcohol widely touted for its dental health effects. Regardless of which studies you read, erythritol is not going to make your dental health worse.

Some studies find that huge doses of erythritol (50 grams in a sitting) upset the stomach and cause nausea, but most find it has no effect on gastrointestinal response.

As long as you don’t get any weird stomach problems from the erythritol in Quest bars, I wouldn’t worry too much.

Now, the fiber. Quest bars use an interesting type: isomalto-oligosaccharides, or MOS. MOS are a recognized “functional food” with noted health benefits in many Asian countries. They’re used a lot in severely constipated patients, and it appears to be an effective treatment for that condition:

Even if you’re not a constipated elderly man, you can benefit from the generally prebiotic effect of MOS. For instance, bifidobacteria and lactobacillus reuteri — two types of gut bacteria with considerable clinical support — both metabolize isomalto-oligosaccharides. That explains why the long-term MOS study in elderly men increased both bifidobacteria and lactobacillus counts.

Long story short: don’t count the sugar alcohols or fiber as digestible carbs that contribute toward your daily allotment of glucose.

Hi Mark,

I’m a high school student-athlete in track and field. I really want to run while wearing Vibrams, but when I went to track practice with them, the coach called me over and curtly told me to get “real shoes”. So I’m stuck having to wear non-toe shoes. (It would be an ideal world for me to be able to wear Vibrams all day, but if I walk around with them in school my classmates will notice and talk about me behind my back, which I suspect has already happened during the short time I was wearing them at school.)

I want to ask your advice: if you’re in a situation where you MUST wear more conventional-appearing shoes/sneakers *for running*, what specifics would you look for? I wore Vivo barefoot before but the shoe just didn’t cut it for me. I felt like my feet were plopping on the floor.

Thank you!

Helena

Assuming your lower body is conditioned to run in shoes as minimalist as Vibrams, look for a few characteristics:

Large toe bed. Vibrams allow your toes to spread of their own volition. They don’t force your toes into preordained dimensions that constrict your feet and alter your gait. The better minimalist shoes do the same by offering a wide toe bed. Try shoes on in person if possible in order to test the toe bed.

Minimal heel drop. If your shoe has “zero heel drop,” both the heel and the forefoot are the same distance from the ground. Bare feet have zero heel drop. Vibrams have zero heel drop. The standard running shoe has a 10 mm heel drop, meaning the heel is 10 mm higher than the forefoot. There are many minimalist shoes running the gamut between zero and 10. Get as close to zero as is comfortable, but don’t put your feet and ankles in a situation they’re not prepared to handle. Don’t think you’re failing or anything if a 2 mm or 4 mm heel drop feels better than the zero.

Everything else you’d like in a shoe. Just because the shoes you found have room for your toes and minimal heel drop, don’t neglect the importance of how the shoe fits, the weight, the traction, and the general “feel” of it on your feet. If your foot’s sliding around inside the shoe, a zero heel drop won’t save you.

Look into Altra shoes, or perhaps the Inov-8s. I have a pair of the Altra Adams. They’re very lightweight, very Vibram-esque without looking like Vibrams. Good for hiking, sprinting, and general scampering about. Neither they nor their female counterparts, the Eve, are available anymore (although it looks like you can buy the Adams through a third party seller on Amazon), but if Altra’s more recent offerings are of similar quality, you’ll be very happy with them. I’ve heard good things about the Altra One.

Hi!

I was wondering why you put on your walnut oil comment that you would not recommend using it daily. I drink a few tsps a day because it helps with my dry skin. Is that bad?

Thank you!

Rosanna

No, keep at it! If walnut oil is serving a specific purpose for you and your relationship is mutually beneficial, keep using it. My warning against high intake of walnut oil is merely a guideline for the average person, not a rule. Extenuating circumstances (“walnut oil helps reduce my dry skin”) absolutely justify the use. As far as I can see, you’re doing it right:

You’re using it for a specific purpose – to improve your dry skin – rather than because it’s “healthy” (low in saturated fat).

It’s working (it’s actually helping with your dry skin).

You’re taking it cold, not exposing its fragile fatty acids to heat.

You’re (presumably) keeping it in a cool, dark place without heat, light, or air exposure.

You’re doing everything right. As long as it’s helping, stick with it. Just be sure you’re eating fish or taking high quality fish oil. Those omega-3s are still important, especially in the context of your moderate to high omega-6 intake.

That’s it for today, folks. Anyone else got any additional responses to this week’s questions?

Thanks for reading!

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76 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Candle Fumes Safety, Quest Bar Carbs, Minimalist Shoes for Track, and Walnut Oil”

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  1. Bee Vomit! Perhaps you should look into how the beeswax is produced internally in the honeybee. As a former commercial beekeeper I can assure you that “bee vomit” is just wrong.

        1. Maybee that was kind of pointless.
          Just wanted to say hive while combing the comment section.

  2. Great questions today! I feel for the high school track runner. My very last cross country meet of my high school career was ran barefoot. I cut probably 3-4 minutes off my time and nearly got disqualified because shoes were mandatory! Luckily, I was in a low enough tier (bracket? who knows) that they really didn’t care enough to do anything about it.
    Perhaps you can prove to your coach that the vibrams actually improve your performance and he’ll be more willing to let you run in them. Also might need to make sure he’s not telling you to get normal shoes because of some sport regulation mandating types of shoes worn.

        1. What’s the name of that guy who keeps running the Boston and NY marathons and winning…BAREFOOT?

    1. I say look into the regulations that govern your sport within the section and region you will be competing. Better yet! Request that your coach provide you this info to prove you can’t wear vibrams–they are, after all, “real shoes.” I do wonder what he means by that. I assume he means closed toe shoes. Approach your coach humbly to discuss the issue.

      The greatest question here: is this a battle you want to take on? Most probably, you are quite fine (read: in regs) with vibrams. If you want to wear them, and no reg says you can’t, stand strong.

  3. Good to know about the Quest bars!
    I always keep some on hand to throw in my bag if I’m in a rush or heading to a gathering where there may not be anything that I can eat. (IF is an option, but sometimes I’m hungry.)

        1. Did you know that bio-diesel was invented to replace whale oil?
          One good way to use up the stale omega-6’s, like say, walnut oil.

  4. Interesting take on Quest bars, frankly the high fiber in those bars freaks me out and it doesn’t seem at all to resemble “real food.” I also always have stomach upset from sugar alcohols, so I’m partial I guess.

    1. Not only that, but there are people out there (like Hubby) who cannot tolerate sugar alcohols because they make the blood sugar RISE instead of doing nothing. We tested every single type of sugar alcohol out there on him, and the statement “They won’t raise your blood sugar” must be proven individually. This is a marketing gimmick, as far as I’m concerned.

      I’m sure full-blown diabetics feel the same way–ask one.

      The one sugar alcohol that rises the least in Hubby is stevia glycerite (1 point in 2 hours), so that’s what we use. Everything else is just as bad as regular sugar on him.

      1. makes me BS rise too. Haven’t tested stevia because sweet foods in general make me want more. I also tolerate zero sugar alcohols digestively.

  5. Apparently researchers recently identified lung cancer in a mummified Grok, which they hypothesize could have been caused by repeated exposure to wood smoke, aka campfires.

    1. Or it could be the random lung cancer that strikes non-smokers. If it were campfire smoke, wouldn’t researchers have seen lung cancer in more than one Grok? (not that we have enough Grok mummies to do statistics on…)

  6. I love running/walking in my ZEMgear 2cinch, they are thinsoled but look more like regular shoes. Also, they are easy to rinse out and they do not stink.

  7. I always worried a little bit about scented candles. We have a few around that we use on occasion but I think I’ll stick with my instincts and grab some beeswax candles next time.

  8. Hi Helena, for what it’s worth I have been running (5K to 10K) and sprinting in Inov-8 shoes, for the past 3 years and absolutely love them. I’ve started with a 5mm drop and progressed to zero.

  9. As for the Quest bars… while the ingredients may not themselves be harmful, they seem to fall into the “highly processed” food category. Compare the Quest bars to say something like a Larabar… minimally processed; only 2-4 ingredients total; all ingredients you can pronounce without needing a medical dictionary or lab book; ingredients you might actually buy raw at a produce stand. My rule is whole ingredients, but where something must be processed… then as minimally processed as possibly with as few ingredients as possible… and avoid anything made in bulk in a lab if I can. To me, a Larabar fits this bill better than a Quest bar. Is a Larabar higher in fiber and sugar? Yes. But its also more natural.

    1. Larabar isn’t higher in fiber. If you look at the apple pie flavor, Larabar is 5g fiber + 18g sugar + 4g protein. Quest is 18g fiber + 4g sugar + 20g protein. All with basically the same number of calories. That’s a pretty significant difference. Also, the quest bars don’t contain any cariogenic ingredients while dried fruits like dates are sugary and tend to stick to teeth. Quest might be a better choice for some people needing a snack on the go. I guess it depends on what your goals are.

      I’m not invested in either as I think they’re very pricey but if I made a homemade version of snack bar I’d lean more towards something high fiber and low sugar.

      1. I stay away from any snack bars but that’s just me. For snacks on the go I just fill a small zip lock bag with almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts.

      2. I guess I just look at things differently. I don’t really care about my calorie count too much. And truth be told, I don’t hammer down any “bars” very much. For me, they’re more of a lightweight packable food when hiking or backpacking. My thing is this… if I’m going to eat sugar, I want it its natural form (or as close as I can get it). For example, I don’t drink apple or orange juice. They’re pretty much just sugar water. But I do eat both apples and oranges. Drink some apple or orange juice and you get a massive sugar rush, followed by a crash. But when you eat an apple or an orange, you’re getting its natural sugar wrapped up in its natural fiber. This allows it to digest more slowly and to reduce the impact of the sugar to your system. I get most of my calories from protein and fats, but when hiking or backpacking, I don’t mind jacking up my carbs a bit. Typically I pack fresh fruit. But where its too heavy for a multi-day trip, etc that’s when I look at a bar of some sort (or dried fruit and nuts). For me, I’m not overly worried about calories or sugar content at that point as I know its all going to burn off. At that point I’m realizing I must consume a processed food, so now I’m looking at minimal ingredients, minimal processing, minimal made-in-a-lab items, etc. For me that’s where a Larabar works (and it doesn’t seem to stick to *my* teeth). But to each their own…

    2. I *love* Larabars as an every-so-often, save-my-bacon solution when I need to walk out the door NOW, will be somewhere for hours and there won’t be anything good to eat, and I have no other options on hand.

      I also buy the Chocolate Chip flavor of Larabar for my husband, to replace his previous guilty habit of stopping by the local chain bookstore bakery and downing a giant Triple Chocolate Brownie (420 calories). It satisfies the same craving in him without hundreds of grams of extra carbs. 🙂

      1. The owners of Larabar have supported NOT labeling GMO foods. I will no longer use my money and support them

        1. That’s interesting because they go out of their way to advertise their products as from non-GMO sources (as well as gluten free, vegan, etc where applicable). I wasn’t aware they support NOT labeling GMO foods, but am surprised because they mention the non-GMO thing on their own labels. Somethings seems wrong… this page seems to indicate they do support GMO labeling so you may want to check your sources http://www.larabar.com/programs/non-gmo-project Do you have a link where they said they don’t want GMO labeling?

        2. Larabar is owned by General Mills. In 2012 GM gave over $1.1 million to defeat California’s prop 37 to label GMOs. They also belong to the grocer association that gives money against GMO labeling….

      1. One can only assume you can make this comparison because you know what arse tastes like? I guess that’s one way of being truly primal… 😛

    3. Why not grab a small bag of nuts, or a small box of raisins instead? Chances are good that the only processing there is the packaging. If you really have your heart set on bars, make your own ahead of time.

  10. Just an interesting tid bit about candles, if you have a bird of any sort in your home, don’t use anything that isn’t beeswax or anything that doesn’t have a 100% cotton wick. The fumes from both will off your birdy friend in no time, especially if the room isn’t ventilated well. It’s basically the canary in the cole mine, except in your house, from some candles.

    1. If you have a bird in your house you’re probably kind of evil, unless maybe if you let it fly around, because birds should not be made to stay caged or even indoors. I think one way people should be treated is the way they treat their pets. Clip a bird’s a wings? Get your legs amputated then.

        1. lol, not sure if you’re just being lighthearted with that one.
          PETA amuses me.
          I eat meat without guilt, even though lots of the animals that it came from probably lived horrible lives in factory farms (gotta get it somewhere.. I can’t afford pastured animals). I’ve killed / butchered / or just hurt animals with pleasure for various reasons. I hope to do so again a bunch of times.
          I’ve had pets and I wasn’t always as fair with them as I now feel I should have been, especially as a child before I had time to formulate and consolidate my own opinions rather than conforming to what I grew up around or trying to figure out how to mishmash the insanity from multiple sources into something I could convince myself was the right way for people to be.
          I was talking about keeping birds and clipping their wings lately with someone else and I figured I’d throw my two cents in here. I’m against slavery, roughly speaking. I despise the keeping of pets as something aesthetically or audibly pleasing. I especially despise the forced body modification of pets (and people), even neutering. Pets should be friends, not horribly neglected moving museum pieces (aka zoo animals). I’ve spent about 1/24 of my life incarcerated. I should know approximately what it’s like to be in a cage. I’ve never had to deal with a crippling surgery forced on me. That’s probably worse than anything I’ve ever had to deal with.
          Someone told me that he once had a pet crow and he’d let it fly around outside and it would follow him from above when he was walking around a city. I don’t know if that’s true – he was a bit of a pathological liar – but it seems like something that could happen.
          I admit though, I can’t even bring myself to figure out exactly what my policies for the treatment of animals would be given the chance to administrate them. I’d have to be there for a while and critique. Maybe in extreme cases an animal should be surgically limited, like if it’s insanely hostile.
          In “conclusion” I’m not a watchdog for any organization. I have my own rules and they are subject to change and occasionally I fancy myself a bit of a vigilante and actually do something instead of saying things, such as putting myself in potential mortal danger recently to stop a pretty good sized dog from harassing two others (last time I got two dog bites on my hands the teeth nearly punctured 8 prominent veins in them.. guess that could’ve been much worse). If it had attacked I would have tried to permanently injure it, at least.
          I like animals, but not mean ones.

      1. Lighten up, Animanarchy. I agree with you in theory, but you are making generalizations about all bird owners. Now I’ll make a generalization–I suspect most of the bird owners who frequent this site are of a different sort.

        We have a cockatoo that I rescued over 25 years ago. If I could let her back into the wild, I would–I would actually fly to her island in Indonesia and do it–but I can’t, because she doesn’t know how to survive on her own. I’ve spent an enormous amount of money over the years making sure she is happy, and not bred (because we don’t need any more cockatoos in captivity).

        We also have a 16 y.o. cockatiel and he is never caged (except at night, when he wants to be because he feels safe!). He would have died in the wild because he has an issue with his wing and cannot fly.

        Kelly makes a good point. Birds’ lungs are more sensitive than humans, and it’s good to take notice of what will kill them as it may mean that it affects humans. So candles and also non-stick cookware, which, if overheated, releases gasses that kill birds. That makes me suspicious of non-stick cookware.

        1. Exactly. Their lungs are a thousand times more sensitive than ours, and the fact that everyday household things can kill them makes you wonder if that chemicals are in higher doses are they going to effect you and your family as well? That was the entire point. And if I could fly to Belize and let Payaso out with a flock there I would do that in a heart beat, but he would die because parrots raised in captivity cannot survive in the wild. Silly trolls.

        2. Well kudos to you. I’m not looking for an argument or even an emotionally neutral debate. I was just saying an opinion.
          Hope it’s sufficiently primal?

        3. I feel for you. We have a cockatoo we rescued about a dozen years ago. If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s that if you want a cockatoo, get some other smaller bird and eventually someone will give you a cockatoo. I’ve gotten two that way so far. Ours does fly in the house. Nothing more terrifying than looking up and seeing a giant white pterodactyl heading right for you. She’s a nice bird but she’s the reason we can’t have nice things. We love her anyway though.

        4. For Diane:
          Yes, I have two extra table legs in the garage. I bought them after the second time my cockatoo decided to eat through our dining table. It just takes one moment of our being distracted and suddenly there is a bite out of the table! LOL

      2. Except oddly, flight feathers grow back, and legs do not in fact, grow back. Unless you have discovered something no other scientist in the world has yet, anyways. ARE YOU A SECRET GENIUS STEM-CELL RESEARCHER? CAN YOU GROW LEGS? Then you should be a billionaire and not here, trolling MDA, with your bleeding heart, judgmental, holier than thou, subjective views. I hope your holidays are as wonderful as your current demeanor, friend.

        1. Alright, I digress.
          Fracture their shins or something similar instead since it will immobilize them for a while and is reversible.
          My bleeding heart must have really struck a chord in yours. Cheers!

      3. I have been incarcerated my whole life, in other people’s society. But perhaps I have no rights, seeing as my species is a parasite.

        1. Not based on that information.
          However if you had a soundbite opinion that didn’t align with one of mine I may have to freak out and resort to a barrage of demeaning insults to show everyone how self-righteous you are and how right I am.

  11. For anyone looking for a snack bar, look up Epic Bars. Those are the closest thing I’ve found for a primal “bar.”

    It’s mostly meat, folks.

    1. Oooh, or Tanka bars, found via Costco online! They are made of buffalo and berries. And they are *delicious.*

    2. They look awesome, unfortunately, I can only find 12 packs on amazon.ca. I’m way too picky to take that chance.

      Talking about grass fed beef in Canada, if someone knows where I can buy some, I would be really grateful because I’ve looked everywhere on google and on the forum here and I can’t find anything.

      1. You might check out this new Thrive (Thr!ve?) Market thing that Mark has mention a couple of times, probably available in Canada. Or if not then maybe soon.

        1. Thanks for your input but ‘thrive’ is ubiquitous and google doesn’t yield any interesting results…

        2. It’s just thrivemarket.com. If that doesn’t work, just go to the December 1st post titled Dear Mark: My Primal Investments. It’s all over the second half of the post and there’s a link to the website. I think it’s on page 6.

  12. Merrill used to make a PaceGlove with Vibram soles…I don’t know if they still do or not, but I loved that shoe. Basically just like the vibram but without the toes, so you don’t get weird looks from people. I’ve also worn the vivos and definitely preferred the PaceGlove, so it might just be the thing for you! Merrill also makes some other minimalist shoes that would be worth a look. I lift, run, and play volleyball in my current pair.

  13. To Helena, the high school track runner: I have been running in non-VFF minimalist shoes for quite a while now. My favorites so far are the Merrell “Glove” series (Trail Glove and Road Glove) which feature Vibram soles and the Merrell “Bare Access” series for longer runs, also with Vibram soles. Both of these models are zero drop. I also like all of the shoes being put out by Skora out of Seattle (also zero drop). I own, and have run in a pair of VivoBarefoot, and I agree they are pretty “ploppy”,

  14. Dang those candles I bought at the liquor store can’t be any good.

  15. Helena I would strongly recommend checking out either the Merrell “barefoot” shoes (particularly the Trail Glove) or Lems shoes (they make a shoe called the Primal 2, which is SUPER comfortable). They are both excellent shoes and both are zero drop. The Merrell shoes actually have the same vibram sole as the Five Fingers but without the toes. I find the Merrell shoes are great for trail runs and rougher terrain and the Lems are better for flatter terrain. Either way they are a nice alternative to regular shoes and are every bit as comfy as vibrams (I’ve owned all three).

    1. Seconding Lems shoes. I’ve had my Primal 2s for about a year now and they’re my go-to shoes for casual wear and workouts. Ultra-light, roomy in the toes, but without the clown shoes effect that some minimalist shoes have

  16. “I wouldn’t run shrieking from the room if someone lights up a regular candle. On a romantic, candle-lit night with someone special, I wouldn’t pause the foreplay to ask if ‘those are paraffin candles.'”

    🙂 And Mark proves once again why he is a steady voice of reason and sanity in what is sometimes a larger community overrun with people freaking out about minutia. I suspect he makes a point to include lines like this to beat the crazies to the punch. And the foreplay, plus what comes after (no pun intended, I swear!!), are probably more beneficial for health than candle fumes are detrimental. So if one is weighing the cost/benefit, go ahead and light the candles. 😉

  17. I’ve been a fan of New Balance Minimus series of shoes. My latest purchase: http://amzn.com/B008E3DOB2 Roomy in toes, 4 mm heel-toe drop, and if you go to their website, put in a shoe that you own and it’s size, and it will tell you exactly which size to get (For some reason their models can vary in actual size). Much cheaper than the Innov-8’s too.

    1. Hey, thanks to you I have a new pair of New Balance shoes! Sportsman’s Warehouse was the only place I could find that had minimal shoes in stock. They had a few Merrels, one NB and a toe shoe. I tried on the Merrels & NB with the 4mm drop. Merrels felt sloppy on my feet, don’t know how else to describe it.

      Ended up with the New Balance 810, off road running shoe. I would prefer something with a less heavily lugged sole but these will be fine for sloppy winter conditions.

  18. I would totally recommend Soft Star shoes to anyone, I love their ethics and they have many designs that looks just like running shoes.

  19. I can’t be the only one wondering why there was no mention of stearin camdles?

    They burn better than anything else (very few drops) and are based on a by product of rendered beef fat.

    I rarely buy any other type.

  20. If the candle wick is silvery in colour I’d avoid that. there are various methods used to make candles. one is to dip the wick in lead. Yes that is lead as in plumbism. You then push the stiff wick trhough the wax and then you have a candle. Albeit one that will also vaporise the lead coating the wick and thus create unnecessary lead vapour exposure. The morale is don’t buy candles with silvery looking wicks.

  21. Rather than bars I carry in my day hiking backpack a mixture of nuts, seeds and dried fruit that I combine myself. I’ve grown partial to mixing up spicy/salty things like spicy pepitas, tamari almonds, spicy mango, chile and limón lima beans and other weird, hot spicy things with dried fruits of my choosing (usually dates) for an interesting combo every time. Since I’m an active person I don’t worry that much about carbs and I would rather eat foods I can identify. Plus you get more for your money with trail mix than with bars and I can reuse my ziploc bag rather than creating one more item of trash. When I’m just sitting around at my desk and need a snack, I have some fruit.

  22. I would personally recommend New Balance Minimus Zero. Wide toe box and super flexible with some cool colors. I am on my second pair and they easily camouflage as “normal” shoes. Also: chocolate chip cookie dough Quest bars, nuff said.

    1. Seconding the New Balance Minimus. I have the Minimus 10v2 Trail and they are super comfortable, plus they look like everyday casual shoes.
      I thought they were zero-drop, but they are actually 4mm drop. Oh well. Maybe I will get a zero drop shoe next time or just get an identical pair of Minimus again 🙂 I love them so much!

    1. Have you looked into the Lontra and its newer cousins? They now have three or four models that are at least waterproof, and the Lontra is insulated. I have a pair of Lontras that I’ve worn in the rain and snow, and they’ve proven good to as low as about 15-20F/-5-10C.

  23. I make candles using tallow alone or mixing it with a bit of beeswax. This allows to have a soft candle for half the price. They are really easy to make and don’t smell at all. Since I don’t use smelly cosmetics anymore I am very sensitive to them. Artificial fragrances can be very irritating when you start to notice them.

  24. To Helena, if someone hasn’t already said: try the Merrell Vapor Glove! I love them for walking and running!

  25. I love my Merrell barefoot shoes. They look normal but definitely have that barefoot feel. I just wish they had waterproof ones!