Beyond Paleo

“The real problem of humanity is the following;

We have Paleolithic emotions;

Medieval institutions;

and god-like technology.”                                                                                                                                             E.O. Wilson cited in 2009 conversation,

with Rebecca Castro, p. 18, The Watchman’s Rattle.

A recent request for my thoughts on ‘the future of Paleo’ as someone dissident to the movement took me doubly aback: first, due to the question itself, and secondly due to being regarded as a ‘dissident.’

I’ll readily confess: I’ve never thought of myself as a dissident within the Paleo movement simply because I’ve never considered myself to be a card carrying member of the Paleo movement. Paleo’s rapid emergence and popularity as a grassroots nutritional movement is breath taking: however, once we move beyond the diet considerations, Paleo is merely the tip of a huge iceberg — and with that, of far greater social and scientific importance than simply a dietary movement. That iceberg is NOT Paleo — it’s the emerging new paradigm of evolutionary science. It’s time to move Beyond Paleo, just as Popular and Commercial Paleo moved out of evolutionary science forming a scientifically solid nutritional movement. The clear and present danger of Popular and Commerical Paleo lies in making non-dietary claims couched as ‘genetic’ or ‘scientific’ when, in fact, those claims are hand-me-downs in commercial garb.

Originating nearly 30 years ago, the seeds of Paleo slowly grew as academic research and publications in the newly emerging discipline of evolutionary medicine — where medicine and anthropology joined forces studying human evolution, health, and diet on a global and historical scale for the first time. In 2004, one of the researchers published a groundbreaking study entitled The Paleo Diet, catalyzing the shift from a best kept secret of academia to what became the groundswell popular Paleo movement. Blogs, websites, and social media all contributed to viral growth of popular Paleo, a movement further amplified by commoditization of Paleo with myriad commercial ventures — books, workshops, clothing and equipment, and much more.

The request to talk on the future of Paleo catalyzed thinking on the past and present stage of Paleo, including dangers it faces for some foreseeable time. From my perspective, Paleo went commercialized too fast and with too great success to now be able to renew itself; what’s more, the bigger implications of Paleo seem of little interest to contemporary Commercial Paleo. The future’s wide open — in the future I perceive, Paleo will occupy a significant role in a far greater paradigm, one concerned with whole person natural genetic expression mandating attention to far more than diet.

Dr. Lane Sebring & Evolutionary Science

Moving from Arizona to a small Texas town in 2004, word of mouth recommended a physician who seemed in league with how I feel about medicine. In short order I became a patient of Dr Sebring, enjoying our conferences with my annual physical examination. We shared many interests in common, including physical culture. In 2009 I was honored with his invitation to collaborate developing an evolutionary based clinical procedure for dealing with Metabolic Syndrome — type II diabetes, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, and several other symptoms. We were just then moving back to Wimberley from Austin, within two miles of his clinic. We’d already decided the lower level of our home was to include a comprehensive gym and research office.

Sarcopenia — Initial Breakthrough

First guiding my contributions to work with Dr Sebring were deep roots in Evans and Rosenberg’s landmark research of the 1980s at Tufts. They renamed chronic strength muscle atrophy by using a new word: sarcopenia or muscular poverty. Evans & Rosenberg initially set out to explore the age old conviction that muscle wasting is a normal condition of aging. Their research revealed that muscle wasting due to inactivity is the primary cause of premature aging, along with Metabolic Syndrome. Of greater importance, they demonstrated that sarcopenia can be prevented, can be arrested, and can be reversed. Muscle fate is not cast in concrete, instead there’s a plasticity of muscle. Their 1992 book Bio-Markers tells an intriguing story.

Evolutionary Medicine

Dr Sebring should be called the Pioneering Paleo Physician. From 1998 he was a regular participant at the late Robert Crayhon’s Boulderfest, there meeting up and attending workshops with Loren Cordain. Four years before publication of Cordain’s The Paleo Diet, Lane was already engaged in clinical applications of Cordain’s principles. When CJ Hunt undertook his In Search of the Perfect Diet movie project, Cordain pointed him to Dr. Sebring. To my shameful embarrassment, Dr Sebring had pointedly urged me toward Cordain’s book as early as 2005. A casual perusal of the book suggested it was yet another Physical Culture orientation to a high protein, nutrient dense, natural whole foods diet. How entrenched can one become? Only when we began collaborating did I read the book, experiencing an epiphany of insight. But it didn’t stop there. Cordain’s website contained years of peer review publications, and their references took me back to the origins of Paleo in the work of Eaton, Shostak, and Konner, especially their 1988 The Paleolithic Prescription.

My journey turned from Paleo to Evolutionary Medicine at that point. The great lesson of evolutionary medicine isn’t restricted to discovery of the Paleo diet: of far greater importance is revelation that a pandemic of nearly 35 diseases racking havoc and ruin among Western cultures stem exclusively from living in utter contempt of our genetic nature. While successful application of Paleo on a personal basis in losing body fat and subduing type II diabetes is admirable, reducing the Paleo movement to a self-help industry undermines its potential for mitigating major social & health problems of our world.

Beyond Sarcopenia — Evolutionary Exercise Physiology

 Evolutionary sciences now include evolutionary exercise physiology. Unencumbered by the dogmatic institutionalism of medicine, exercise physiology has emerged as a truly independent science. While medical research grew over the past century due to grants and controls from the pharmaceutical monopolies, hence overtaking free investigation due to directing research to marketing agendas, medical schools were forced to eliminate dissident disciplines: energy medicine, chiropractic, nutrition, and physical culture. Up until the 1970s, physical culture reincarnate as kinesiology and exercise physiology made slow progress. From the 1970s, exercise physiology began coming of age. Hidden away from the pharmaceutical-medical monopolies in obscure colleges of education, in physical education departments — as relevant as basket weaving to most — funding from alumni aimed at fielding champion athletes and teams produced handsome budgets. Their science was in aid of peak performance, science in service of unlocking dormant genetic potentials producing world class athletes and teams.

From the 80s through the new millennium of the year 2000, the Human Genome Project produced detailed mapping of what drives and makes us up – our genome. The year 2000 stands as a decisive turning point, one in which research turned to understanding genomic expression. Incredibly important research publications of the past 12 years in evolutionary exercise physiology, if taken seriously and applied, threaten to more than dramatically resolve the gridlocked health care crisis not only in public policy, but more importantly catalyzing a new medical science. A new medical science? Yes, one beyond  treating downstream symptoms but, instead, addressing upstream causes and prevention. So dramatic are the implications that public cost savings amount to tens of trillions of dollars.

This much is known: inactivity signals DNA to sequence unhealthy proteins, while under-sequencing healthy proteins. In terms of human evolution, our genetic make up standardizes normal levels of activity resulting in biochemical production of fitness friendly proteins. In an activity deficient condition, we don’t produce what we’re supposed to be making, starting a downward spiraling deregulation of health. We sign our own death warrant. Activity rules.

Physicians are today trained in the scalpel and prescription pad triumphs of 20th century Pasteurian medicine — a medicine whose triumphs defeated communicable, infectious diseases — along with public sanitation hygiene projects. Today’s pandemic of upwards of 35 major diseases are not infectious, communicable diseases; instead, they are degenerative, based on us as a civilization doing ourselves in. In pure existential terms, diseases of civilization are masked, unconscious, unwitting versions of mass suicide — akin to lemmings running off cliffs to certain destruction due to blatant ignorance, while for humans that ignorance is managed by surrogate measures of addiction to retain us within comfort zones of detrimental addictive reliance.

Beyond Omics – The Rest of the Story

The September 15, 2011 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology carried two articles of immense sobering influence for us. Wagner & Paterson’s “Physiology: Found in Translation” editorial was simultaneously published in 2011 in The Journal of Physiology; Physiology News; American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology; American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism; American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology; Journal of Applied Physiology; and Physiology. David Paterson is Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Physiology.

Peter Wagner is Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Applied Physiology, an unprecedented move. They introduce Michael Joyner’s Edward F. Adolph Distinguished Lectureship address published as “Giant sucking sound: can physiology fill the intellectual void left by the reductionists”

 Both articles review thirty years of inspired work in genetic and molecular biology, with emphasis on those fields’ promise of establishing deeper knowledge resulting in new cures for diseases running ramped. To date, panaceas remain in short supply. Where traditional physiology offered tools on the macro-level of diagnosis — capable of assessing presenting symptoms to various regular and rare causes, today’s biochemical model is so far removed from gross examination and diagnosis as to be remotely useful, more likely lost in confusing the forest for the trees. The author’s of both papers call attention to reductionism and the need to re-establish sobering balance.

Reductionism is the tendency to reduce complexities to simple explanations, simplistic paradigms that don’t stack up with credibility in face of the big picture. Reductionism was a characteristic of theology, replaced in the late 19th century by materialistic reductionism. That era of reductionism removed mind/emotion/will from the picture, holding that all scientific explanation could be based on reducing phenomena to material causes. Mind was explained as epiphenomalism – the view that just as the kidneys excrete urine, the brain excretes consciousness — essentially a toxic byproduct of no great importance other than as something defecated. One wonders if the implications of that view impacted the scientists proposing it in terms of self-esteem for their profession. Caveat lector!

The authors discussed above are physiologists. Crossing over to exercise physiology, the same reductionist genetic and molecular biology also thrives. Rarely do orthodox medicine and physiology intersect with physical culture and exercise physiology, resulting in immense fragmentation of knowledge and disruption of development of whole systems understanding. Since medicine and physiology are chiefly occupied understanding pathology while physical culture and exercise physiology concern themselves with health and peak performance, their dissociation creates an unhealthy gap in pure and practical knowledge.

Worse still, a review of genetic and molecular biological literature reveals a sort of Grail Quest for primary yet nevertheless evasive, mysterious, perhaps unknowable factors. Factors? Yes, since both fields highlight varying metabolic pathways marked by considerable synergy, interactions sufficient enough to result in highly clouded explanations.

The Omics mistake in physiology simply should not occur in exercise physiology. And the best way to ensure such mindless reductionism from happening will be a new field of research pairing up subtle omic research directly to gross level physical training protocols. Most genomic exercise physiology studies measure aerobic expression, while for over all health benefit anaerobic protocols must be followed. We’ll have more to say about commercialized physical training below, while for here genomic strength development is far from a singular noun: systematic study of various training methods is mandated in order to fully understand what they stimulate and how they work.

Slower, Weaker, Smaller — Manthropology

Australian anthropologist Peter McAllister’s Manthropology is a curve ball to our Western civilization standards of normality. Based on sub-disciplines of anthropology, he offers an adjunct to early Paleo science, amplifying how diminished genomic expression has become under the reign of Western civilization. Like Jarod Diamond’s work, obvious implications of McAllister’s work should be a wake up call. What’s he got to tell us? Through his work, his reporting of physical anthropological findings undeniably conclude that contemporary zoo humans are essentially smaller, weaker, slower expressions of ancestral adaptations. Comparative study of McAllister’s findings applied to the current pandemic would explicitly reveal how rapidly we’re promoting increasingly smaller, weaker, slower, and hence sicker with chronic degenerative diseases.

From Academic Paleo to Commercial Paleo

Its roots are in academic research, in evolutionary medicine: Paleo itself was born with publication of Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet in 2004. Up until then, growing scientific news appeared in various hard to find peer review publications. As a new author with a popular book, Cordain’s publisher chose the title. And that choice of title typecast Paleo as Diet.

Several years of focused Paleo research makes it real clear how rapidly and influentially Paleo has grown in remarkably short time. Such unprecedented growth is largely due to websites, blogs, and social media. Cordain set loose profoundly revolutionary ideas, while web media transformed those ideas into a groundswell popular movement out of which a rapidly growing commercialized Paleo is erupting.

Commercial Paleo is, after all, inevitable. The most difficult challenge those of us who got into to Paleo early on faced was identification of supply and distribution channels, even in our local areas. Business opportunities abound, resulting in a more formidable, doable foundation for applying Paleo to your life.

Popular & Commercial Paleo: Where They Went Wrong

Something disruptive happened as Popular and Commercial Paleo genres became runaway successes: they ran away from their scientific roots in evolutionary science. They did so first by dumbing down formative evolutionary scientific research by focusing on diet and diet alone. Anyone familiar with American culture knows that fad diets make millions of dollars because they satisfy belief that silver bullets cure everything. Paleo does better than simple fat loss diets: reports of remediation of type II diabetes and other illnesses fuels the fire.

Symptomatic of what’s wrong about Paleo is the whole area of exercise or fitness, a dimension of academic studies at least since 1988 publication of The Paleolithic Prescription. Up until emergence of Popular Paleo, diet and activity/fitness were part and parcel of medical anthropological reporting. Popular Paleo exhibits wholesale disregard for more than a decade of evolutionary exercise physiology publications irrefutably underscoring the primacy of activity, with nutrition a close second. The result is many folks regard Paleo as a diet freeing them of any concern for fitness bestowing action.

Commercial Paleo dramatically worsens the situation, yet you don’t see any discussion of it. In essence, a sort of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ seems to be in place — promoters of various Commercial Paleo schemes, especially those including some version of “ancestral fitness”, never challenge, never criticize, and never discuss justification for their scheme. With my early readings of Paleo literature, I smelled an aged rat upon reading that Paleo based exercise should consist of “short, infrequent training of upwards of one set of eight exercises done to failure.” That motto is not science speaking: it’s the polemic of a commercial theory of exercise now forty years of age. It has no justification in evolutionary science — nor do any of the other commercial theories!

To date, the leading Commercial Paleo concepts attempting to colonize the movement have been HIT and CrossFit, both known for aggressive marketing while being short on validating science: you’ll be hard pressed to find either in the curricula of exercise physiology or in scientific studies, while both ultimately rest on systems of authoritarianism for inprisoning minds. That’s because they’re commercial theories, not scientific theories. HIT and CrossFit are by no means alone for being short of scientific validation. Other commercial training services advocate ‘real Paleo’ Tarzan and chimp approaches to training.

Review of a century of study concerning how exercise works, what exercise methods are best, what makes muscle grow and get stronger result in one answer: we don’t know yet. Science doesn’t have to be in a hurry to learn the answer, but generations of individuals frustrated by no to slow fitness results seek a winning system. Once finding a system producing long sought results, a convert is born. We know this much for sure: any training system works for some of the population some of the time. Plateaus are more inevitable than injuries. Otherwise training ideas are widely divergent. Once a solution is commercialized, however, at that time its ability to grow and change is pretty much dead: commercialization leads to branding uniqueness, rarely generality. Our best solution today are those coaches ripe with wisdom in the art and science of training.

For my interests, Paleo is a wonderful dietary movement with a broad spectrum of entertaining systems of exercise thrown in. None of those exercise systems can justify being called “Paleo” because as they aren’t rooted in evolutionary science: they are not Physical Culture 2.0. either. And the ones you’re most likely to hear about are due to marketing budgets making their existence know: as much as they’ll claim to be Paleo, what evolutionary science justifies that claim. In absence of science, a good many rely on fictional reconstructions of Paleolithic life. Some cite anthropological reporting of Paleos working hunting 2-3 days weekly, then resting a lot: use of single studies does not consider men’s and women’s work allotment among many primal peoples.

Beyond Paleo: An Emergent New Humanistic Naturalism

 Paleo increasing digs itself into a solidifying ‘caveman’ icon. That’s going to backfire since it often glorifies a fictionalized ancestral past in seeking solutions to complex problems my recourse to simplistic image, while — more importantly — it disregards 100,000 years of continuing, sustained human evolution. I’m more concerned with moving well beyond commercialized Paleo, reconnecting with original scientific roots, and incorporating other disciplines filling still more blanks showing us what our genomic potential amounts to, and how we can consciously & beneficially evolve. It seems to me reclaiming our humanism is key, and doing so in a far reaching, multidisciplinary yet integrative manner.

Humanistic Naturalism: Reshaping Medicine

 Let’s move out of the Paleo Diet paradigm in a genetic based humanistic naturalism applied to medicine. With every physical examination, your doctor keeps track of both your height and weight. Those figures can be entered into a computer program for calculating BMI or Body Mass Index. Depending on the percentage score calculated, you’re rated on a relative scale of percentage body fat — ranking you as healthy, overweight, or obese.

Evolutionary exercise physiology understands that only until very recent generations, children born into the world had to develop strength and speed to survive. Those surviving into adulthood mated, transmitting the genetic wisdom keeping them alive to subsequent generations. We’re born into the world ready to compete and win — so much so that evolutionary scientists say that most of our ancestors’ normal condition was like that of life long athletes today: today’s medical standard for ‘normal’ is genetically abnormal. Our ancestors were heavier with lean muscle mass, yet with lower body fat.

Athletes are regularly diagnosed as over weight to obese with application of BMI. Since insurance companies use BMI, athletes can expect to be offered coverage at a higher premium due to being diagnosed at greater risk for disease and death — they’re diagnosed as over weight. Body composition distinguishes between body fat and muscle, giving a more accurate report but is not admissible for insurance companies.

Your doctor doesn’t know normal is abnormal. That means average numbers are wrong yet your doctor doesn’t know so. Since we’re smaller, weaker, and slower than our ancestors — except for life long athletes — construction of diagnostic tables fixing contemporary ‘normal abnormality’ will have tremendous health ensuring benefit. So-called ‘health’ by normal is abnormal standards would be reversed as unhealthy. Adjusting recommended body weight by age group upwardly in accounting for greater muscle mass would elevate target body weight goals for maintaining a place in the evolutionary fit category.

Implications of re-visioning bodyweight to athletic body composition have to be applied throughout the life span of 90 or 100 years. And with a dramatic shift from today’s pathetic standards. Sarcopenia speeds up with aging: the average 70 year old may have wasted away as much as 33 pounds of strength muscle. If we assume healthy people grow lighter as they age since sarcopenia is not taken into consideration, then a life long athlete could expect to be as much as 33 pounds fitter than the normal is abnormal standard — maybe more.

In line with roots in evolutionary science, blood panels would undergo considerable change. Blood panels are standardized to a random, general population — control groups composed of fit persons are excluded. From the evolutionary perspective, those optimally expressing the most natural genetic potential of fitness should be the gold standard. Sedentary people deemed healthy today due to an absence of disease by contemporary standards would not and could not be deemed healthy under an evolutionary based blood panel. In other words, the standards of normal abnormality do not take into account testing for bio-markers of degeneration versus fitness: we know two very different molecular biological processes distinguish the two, and with metabolic differences.

Under evolutionary medical diagnosis, attention will shift to Fitness Deficiency Disorders now treated as stand alone diseases (e.g., type II diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis) will be recognized as secondary and tertiary degenerative steps.

Such a genetic science based revisioning of simple bodyweight and blood panel diagnostic tools will align medical practice with diseases emerging as consequences of living in contempt of our genomic requirements. Evolutionary fitness, not disease absent “health,” will become our highly valued standard.  Prevention will outweigh cure.

Beyond Paleo

Most likely, the Paleo movement is here to stay. After all, it’s a genetically based refinement of old time Physical Culture’s admonishment to consume nutrient dense, natural whole foods. As a subordinate yet supporting role to Physical Culture 2.0 and an emerging Naturalistic Humanism, Paleo will well nourish the work of embodied minds taking the driver’s seat in next phases of human evolution’s challenge to avoid extinction at the hands of its own ignorance. Otherwise, the forces of evolutionary science will continue to shape a larger Naturalistic Humanism in which Paleo plays an important supporting role.

©2012, Ken O’Neill. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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Diet & Exercise — Rest in Peace

 “The evidence is overwhelming that within your DNA are powerful adaptive mechanisms that constantly push you to your normal state which is one of fitness. All you have to do is respond naturally and let your body do its own thing.”

                                            Hardwired for Fitness, p. 205

Hardwired for Fitness by Drs. Robert Portman & John Ivy amounts to nothing less than a revolutionary work concerning fitness and wellness: it all but announces the death of ‘diet & exercise’. Both authors are world renown in a specialized field of physiology. Not the sort of physiology sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry through huge grants to medical schools concerned with disease. Their research aimed at fine tuning use of nutrients and other key elements to optimize athletic development for ‘peak performance.’ As their work grew, they found the same methods bringing about peak performance for athletes equally apply to the rest of us for optimizing wellness and fitness. A down to earth accounting of the latest science, Hardwired for Fitness is a powerful, practical guidebook of fitness for living.

In proper perspective, exercise and diet are a multi-billion dollar per annum business. Their success is built on your momentary success while counting on your longer term failure: if exercise and diet have a common identity, then it’s through repeat sales, not one time permanently abiding solutions. Yet the regular on and off approach to diets and exercise conditions us to think of them as short term solutions demanding frequent repetition. That’s where Portman & Ivy’s book is revolutionary — yet may also pose difficulty for understanding and successfully applying it. For that and some other important considerations, before getting into discussion of their work we’re going to consider the place of their work in a wealth of new, exciting scientific discoveries — discoveries the diet, fitness, and healthcare industries don’t want you knowing about.

In Plain Sight

The work of scientists including Portman & Ivy amounts to a sort of ‘silent revolution’ going on in our times, yet one not reported in news media. It’s been growing steadily since the 1970s, hidden away in colleges of education, in departments known as physical education, health education, kinesiology, exercise physiology and by other names. Physicians will tell you such work ‘isn’t medicine.’ Ironically, such work threatens to profoundly alter our understanding of health, fitness, and even how we develop or prevent disease. That’s due to an escalating development of new sciences with roots going back only to the 1980s. Let’s catch up on what’s unreported despite going on right under our noses.

From the 1980s, serious work began in earnest to sequence the human genome — to unravel the complex chemical and biological information guiding our lives’ development from the moment of conception through maturation, then sustaining us until death. By the end of the 1990s, genomics and bio-informationics had unraveled the genetic code. From the beginning of our 21st century, research took a new direction toward understanding the complex genetic and molecular biological processes along with metabolic pathways sustaining life and engendering slow disease onset — once the make up the genome was identified, research in our century has focused on how it all works for sustaining life, or when disregarded brings on debilitating illness leading to slow, inevitable death.

While that work was going on, S. Boyd Eaton, MD and Melvin Konner, PhD, MD,  published a landmark paper in the New England Journal of Medicine followed by their 1988 masterpiece The Paleolithic Prescription. Their work brought together medicine and anthropology, a synthesis shaking the very foundations of our generally accepted “health” standard — that is, our unquestioningly taken for granted beliefs rooted in cultural conditioning — concerning health and disease. Their work hinges on recognition that we today are 99.7% genetically the same as our remote Paleolithic ancestors of 100,000 years ago. What’s more, remaining Paleolithic hunter/gathers found around the world bear the same genes we do AND do not become ill, suffer erosive decline and disability, then die from diseases prevalent only among ‘civilized’ people. The 35 major non-infectious, non-communicable diseases we currently take for granted as ‘normal sicknesses’ do not exist among hunter/gatherers genetically identical to us! That revelation forced a radical reconsideration of the nature of fitness, disease, and health care. Or, should have! National discussions of health care indicate the discipline of evolutionary medicine is remote to business and political agendas.

More recent publications reveal generally accepted standards of ‘normal health’ are severely flawed. Our 100,000 year old genome is hardwired for survival in life, and passes on those life skills through reproduction of healthy offspring. Each generation born into life in our world is ripe and ready for gaining healthy, survival based maturity and subsequent sustainability. Frank Booth reveals through most all of human history, matured humans best resembled lifelong athletes of our times — that’s our normal condition, our normal genetic expression of health and fitness. And that’s a far cry from the standard we take for granted as ‘normal’ today, a standard that is so remote from genetic based normality it can only be called ‘abnormal.’ Abnormal pseudo-normality is the gold standard of medical diagnosis!

Exercise physiologists and evolutionary medical researchers come in contact with an elite group of experts absent in orthodox medicine: athletic coaches, the front line masters of promoting activity based genomic expression. Both evolutionary medicine and genetic exercise physiology enjoy input from coaches, and in turn contribute to coaching success. Practical application of evolutionary medicine and exercise physiology keep breaking records — in sports, and in clinical applications preventing, stopping, even reversing life threatening and unnecessary disease.

For those populating the marginal sub-culture broadly known as Physical Culture, the late breaking news from the new sciences is fascinating in an “I told you so” manner. More than a century of modern Physical Culture has emphasized regular intense activity, renewing restful deep sleep, eschewing unnatural stress, and consuming nutrient dense, natural whole foods with a healthy appetite. Simply put, Physical Culturists march to a different drummer, voluntarily choosing wellness and fitness as a way of life.

Traditional Physical Culture included advocacy of mastering the so-called “mind-muscle” connection. From the 1960s onward researchers began in earnest conducting studies to determine the nature of dormant capacities and functions bridging what were regarded as two separate and distinct realms: body and mind. With the advent of bio-feedback, certainty was established concerning development of voluntary control of what was for long held to be the independent autonomic nervous system. Research in fields such as hypnosis, bio-feedback, meditation and contemplation, and psychoneuromimmunology  conducted with new tools and technologies of neuroscience demonstrates body/mind to be irreducibly integrated and available to development of skills in voluntary control — with applications to stress management, quality sleep and recuperation. The search for a mind-muscle connection is over: we are an embodied mind which is the chief beneficiary of fitness.

Thanks to the life work of Drs. Jan & Terry Todd, Austin, Texas has become the iconic capital of Physical Culture. The Todds’ visionary decades of collection development has resulted in their 300,000+ item Todd-McLean Physical Culture Archives of the Stark Center, University of Texas. On July 21, 2011, gala private ceremonies were held in dedication of the Stark Center’s Joe & Betty Weider Physical Culture Museum. Roughly 150 persons gathered for the event, a veritable “who’s who” of the last sixty years of the Physical Culture movement — most all incredibly fit, many exhibiting age defying fitness well distinguishing them from ‘normal is abnormal.’

With the foregoing considerations in mind, Portman and Ivy’s work is a master template for expressing the innate fitness we’re all hardwired to enjoy. The book is deceptively simple: each chapter’s endnotes of referred reading points to an amazing depth of research review, analysis, and application. The purpose of Hardwired is not one of re-iteration of a plethora of rich scientific writings, but, instead, is a refreshingly popular, pragmatic summarization written to put the facts in your hands and mind so you can gainfully employ new science to your benefit. For those wanting in-depth material, follow the trail of references to your delight!

The authors give recognition to our metabolism resting on a genetic basis established at least 100,000 years ago among our ancestors of the Paleolithic period. That says our metabolism is an estimated 99.7% the same as remote human ancestors. What separates us from our ancestors is not genetic: we’ve become sedentary and accustomed to eating too much of the wrong things at the wrong times. They show how the body clock best regulates which foods at which times during the day, and how to coordinate that with activity to optimize metabolism.

It’s estimated that less than 2% of today’s diseases rest on faulty genes, while more than 66% of today’s diseases originate by living in ignorance or contempt of our genetic inheritance. Following Ivy and Portmann’s recommendations, learning and acting on the principles they reveal, should bode well for preventing, arresting, even reversing chronic degenerative diseases – diseases constituting a pandemic in civilization.

On a personal note, I wish I’d had this book several years ago: it would have saved that much time conducting my own research! And even with the depth of research conducted, the authors’ use of metabolic circuits is a brilliant device for what elsewhere are presented as complicated, difficult to master metabolic pathways. Even this late in the game, the work has provided me with a master template for my work. For persons desperate to know the facts for successful personal health application, everything you need to master is found in this delightful book. What’s more it’s written with a passion rendering it as much an adventure – like an engaging ‘who done it’ detective story.

Circadian Rhythms — Your Body Clock

Gay Gaer Luce’s Body Time (1971) brought about public attention to circadian rhythms, enjoying considerable popularity in the 1970’s. Circadian rhythms were first noted thousands of years ago, only gaining a name in the very late 19th century. More recent research unraveling the wonders of the human genome finds a specific genetic basis for circadian rhythms.

Our circadian clock is a molecular and cellular oscillator that regulates rhythmic physiology and behavior, and the contribution of circadian rhythmicity to cellular, organ, and organismal physiology.

Common sense claims the keys to fitness and wellness are diet and exercise: such common sense takes modern living conditions for granted. Those conditions of life very efficiently throw you out of synch with your body clock’s optimal rhythms: those rhythms establish the optimal daily time zones for activity and for rest, for eating proper foods at proper times, and much more. Optimization of fitness and well being occur far more naturally and effectively by getting in synch with the natural rhythms your genes are hardwired for successfully living and thriving withinn — otherwise, hardwired quickly degenerates into haywired!

Fitness, Circuits and Switches

Hardwired’s markers of fitness count Body Mass Index (BMI), percentage of bodyfat, and Activity Level as the three primary components of fitness.

Body Mass Index remains the standard measurement in health assessment: it’s based on statistics relating your height to your bodyweight to determine if you’re healthy, relatively overweight, or obese. Medical and insurance organizations make use of it regularly. And it’s exceptionally flawed insofar as it rests on the assumption that ‘normal’ means a random sampling of the population — it fails to distinguish between individuals who are overweight due to obesity versus healthy athletic persons whose ‘overweight’ condition means they’re relatively lean including a lot of lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass is not a health risk: it’s a fitness marker.

Adding percentage of body fat to assessment offsets the otherwise flawed BMI measurement by taking into account the composition of a given person’s body mass. Adding Activity level is even more precise telling indicating how the person is using their bodily resources for energy expenditure.

Science today doesn’t talk about metabolism as a singular noun — only simplistic diet and health experts do so, and that’s a good signal to avoid them! Broadly defined, metabolism consists of the tearing down of cells (catabolism) and the repair or building up of cells (anabolism), the processes that maintain our fitness. Scientists today, however, recognize a complex of metabolic or regulatory processes based on genes and biological molecules in a dance of complex, step by step processes. What’s more, within the complex wonder of our bodies, those processes may work together well or dysfunctional interrupt and thwart one another.

Portman and Ivy distinguish between four master fitness circuits and the switches that turn them on, off, or on stand by, bringing orderly accessibility to what we need to know. The four circuits are:

  1. Energy, with insulin and AMP kinase switches;
  2. Stress, with the cortisol switch;
  3. Appetite, with appetite peptides, CCK leptin, and ghrelin switches;
  4. Protein turnover, with mTOR and insulin switches.

Noteworthy is how some switches work in opposition to others. Each circuit, in turn, properly occurs within its period of the daily circadian cycle. As is said, timing is everything.

Early chapters not only introduce circuits, switches, and diagrams showing within a given circuit which switches are on, off, or on standby, but apply those basics to showing why diets don’t work. Diets tend to be short term metabolically disruptive extreme interventions leading to longer term metabolic damage. We know the extreme cases from men’s and women’s bodybuilding in which extreme caloric restriction combined with equally extreme aerobic activity succeeds in getting a competitor down as low as an abnormal yet ‘ripped’ 3% body fat for several competitions. Then traumatic effects set in with contestants gaining 30 or more pounds of fat post-competition, finding themselves unable to shed it — sometimes for several years. Thermogenic adaptation has been shot. Persons who engage in quick fat loss diets equally down regulate thermogenic adaptation, with effects lasting up to six months post-diet — coupled with returning to an acceptable maintenance caloric intake for their height/weight, they nevertheless quickly put on fat. That’s due to their thermogenic adaptation being downwardly regulated by as much as 25%. Bottom line is episodic dieting is disruptive to the cycles of life we embody.

Much the same can be said of ‘exercise’ programs. Exercise itself is a creation of post-industrial revolution society. Hardwired proposes activity rather than exercise as a standard, inviting readers to complete a telling inventory of their NEAT nature. NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Instead of making infrequent exercise the standard of caloric expenditure, over all activity is taken into account — everything you do from awakening in the morning until retiring at night. Suggestions are made regarding how to become more energy inefficient — how to burn more calories while doing the same activities: for example, standing at your desk, climbing stairs instead of taking elevators, etc. The net effect is keeping caloric intake close to caloric expenditure by means of overall lifestyle, not through an artifical focus on gaining periodic, disruptive temporary salvation through ‘diet and exercise.’ After all, the human genome did not evolve around sedentary lifestyles punctuated with sporadic episodes of cosmetic enhancement through short lived programs of ‘diet and exercise.’ In that regard, the standard for measuring caloric expense is not ‘exercise’ but instead is ‘activity’ — which includes exercise.

Portman & Ivy’s fourfold model of fitness includes two categories normally omitted: stress and energy. Discussion of stress necessarily includes consideration of recuperation through sleep. Our genome is certainly hardwired for dealing with stress, but contemporary stress deviates from traditional episodic and acute moments of stress triggering fight or flight responses. Contemporary living is saturated with environmental stresses with such intensity, magnitude, and frequency of occurrence as to be chronic — leading to metabolic erosion due to stress overload. The antidote to stress is deep, relaxing sleep. Research shows in recent decades people have migrated to 90 minutes less restorative sleep nightly. Due to metabolic, including hormonal, systems, overly stressed persons become physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually enervated, depressed, and depleted. Simply put, they report ‘having no energy, no enthusiasm’ for much of anything.

Drs. Portman & Ivy have written a breakthrough book, one revealing the basic principles anyone can put into practice for enjoying life long fitness and health. The book is a breakthrough in several important ways: for the first time, scientific discovery arcane to the layman is presented in easily read, easily understood terms. Finally, the significant research in genetics, molecular biology, exercise physiology, and longitudinal studies showing how to successfully win the battle of the bulge are brought before a public in search of real, enduring, sustainable answers. Interpreting difficult scientific information in a manner both entertaining and empowering sets this book well above others.

Hardwired for Fitness is NOT another diet or fitness book – it does not support fad diets, fitness crazes, or the yoyo pattern of gaining/losing weight cycles so many fall prey to. Where diets don’t work lies in their formulation: most are commercial theories aimed at fame and profit for their authors — the same holds true for most fitness programs.  Both Ivy and Portman are world reknown scientists in their respective fields. From time to time such scientists produce works amounting to a turning point or paradigm shift. For diet and fitness, their work is such an achievement – akin to Jonas Salk’s development of polio vaccine. I simply cannot underscore the significance of this book to a growingly obese population. Hardwired is neither a diet or exercise approach to fitness: by laying out the findings of contemporary science, amplified by their successful laboratory and winning stadium applications, fitness is revealed to be a genomic endowment expressible as a fulfilling human life. Rooted in a fitness way of living results in choices favoring wellness and stability while willfully decreasing internal and external stresses.

For those interested in learning more of Portman & Ivy’s earlier work in Nutrient Timing, my August 2005 Iron Man Magazine interview with Dr. Ivy is now online.

©,2012, Ken O’Neill. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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The Genomic Fitness Literacy Project

 That which is used develops, and that which is not used wastes away…If there is any deficiency in food or exercise the body will fall sick.

Hippocrates, 24 centuries ago

The last entry of this blog address our cultural fitness literacy/fitness fluency deficiency disorder as the primary cause preventing exuberant motivation for physical training. Since then, growing concern regarding how to effectively launch a grassroots revolution in fitness education empowering autonomous, preventative self-care nurturing dormant genomic express of vitality and wellness has been paramount in my heart and mind. I’ve come to the conclusion that just as it takes a village to raise a child, likewise it takes a community to create critical mass resulting in a major paradigm shift. With that in mind, I invite you to join in the Genomic Fitness Literacy Project.

Laree Draper recently moved Iron On Line from its incredibly successful, richly varied, long standing website to FaceBook with tremendous new success. If you don’t know of Laree, she and legendary iron game husband Dave “the Blond Bomber” Draper have set the pace for rich, varied, no stone unturned web forums, books and DVDs. The Drapers are a new & significant chapter in Physical Culture, successful by virtue of nourishing an online community of practitioners with an ethos ensuring everyone’s view counts. Love ‘em – it’s that simple.

My most recent blog addressed absence of fitness fluency and fitness literacy in our culture as the underlying reason people remain unmotivated and disenfranchised for taking control of their health and well being. A week ago I delivered an invited lecture at the University of Texas Medical Branch (that’s Texican for medical school) in Galveston: Bryan Barksdale has very kindly uploaded it to vimeo for others to watch or download (

I’m busily writing more blogs, researching even more. Those efforts mandate careful research of all sorts so the resulting articles are as close to true, unbiased information as possible.

A growing stack of books populates my desks — you’d not recognize them as desks but as dining room tables. Sloppy to be sure. You get me sloppy and creative, or pinpoint organized and shut down! Match that with several other tables filled with peer reviewed research articles either organized in binders or fairly newly printed out, waiting for a touch of loose organization. Got the picture: what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls ‘full catastrophe living.’ Hell, learning and knowledge are open ended, ever incomplete, so welcome to the situation room.

Living with the apparent luxury of an academic (the word scholar comes from the root expression ‘leisure’), I’m both methodical and slow to produce, often going through half a dozen or more drafts before issuing a slightly sensible product. That’s not good enough. We live in the midst of a pandemic of degenerative diseases stemming from one major and one less major cause: (1) absence or inadequate physical activity signaling DNA sequencing of health protein turnover, and (2) malnutrition from industrial foods instead of the nutrient dense whole foods our ancestral genes crave in order to do their brilliant job. Worse still, an immense gap between what’s known in genetic and molecular exercise physiology about disease prevention versus unsatisfactory paradigms governing medically based health result in more and more people getting sicker and sicker simply due to breaking our genetic natural laws!

I was about to remedy the situation somewhat by starting a series of book review springboard articles under the banner of “Fitness Literacy”. Then Laree Draper’s inspiring example penetrated my thick skull. As a 16 year old more than 50 years ago, I gained empowering knowledge of training through a very kind community of mentors — the guys who trained every Saturday morning at the San Jose YMCA. That included bodybuilders, power lifters, Olympic lifters, track and field athletes, pro wrestlers, fitness buffs and many more. Those guys educated a kid hungry and thirsty for more than book knowledge. Such a community exists through Facebook and the blogs — it’s just not coordinated through a single, unifying theme and an informational focus point. Now it’s time for us all to articulate, discuss, and pass on our individual and collective training knowledge, wisdom, and best guesses!

Since the 1970s the science of exercise physiology has grown like hot cakes. In more recent decades, genetics and molecular biology have become huge assets to exercise physiology aimed at nurturing peak performance. The implications of the fitness science of exercise physiology threaten to massively transform orthodox medicine as a practice of dealing with pathologies to becoming a wellness art and science of genomic based fitness. As great & unprecedented the current situation might be, one dynamic element remains missing: the wisdom coaches and iron game athletes gain from their years of training, plateaus, plateau busting, ongoing progress, staled failure, renewal, and more is not incorporated into sports science. From my take — one most of you would agree upon upon reviewing the literature — exercise physiology remains profoundly unknowing of the ‘secrets’ — those tricks, tips, and traps — we all live through, and all experiment with next step trials to bust free of stale sticking points. Sometimes that includes designing unique equipment, modifying standard equipment, inventing cycles or protocols of reps (full or partial), sets, rest between sets, recuperation cycles, supplements, dietary changes, radical changes in training, you name it.

With that in mind, my Smart FIT FaceBook page is now dedicated to The Genomic Fitness Literacy Project for a community of practitioners to join in discussion, discourse, even debate — with important caveats — no sewer mouth disrespectful fowl language or insults, an ethos of polite disagreement, no attempts of commercial theories of training to act as predator imperialists out to colonize. While evidence driven science would be the standard we aspire to, the gap between exercise physiology and coaching wisdom is immense: just read through a decade of peer reviewed literature shaking you head in be wonderment, asking if any of these guys have seriously trained for progress, size, shape, strength, championships, long term development and maintenance of physical superiority.

When I founded The Wimberley Valley Think Tank close to 2 years ago, its mission was to gain understanding pursuant to a new, emerging paradigm or model making sense of four words: healthy, wellness, healing and fitness. A group gathered, all professionals, and from various specializations — hence, it was both multidisciplinary and whole systems oriented. Participants included Dr Dennis and Mrs. Laurie Romig: Dennis’ Side By Side Management has been a New  York Times best selling non-fiction work in synergistic management. All involved in that group shared values of classical liberal education, honoring diversity of specializations side by side with recognition of need for generalists who spanned otherwise isolated, dissociated specializations — those knowing more and more about less and less! In similar manner, The Fitness Literacy Project honors diversity while eschewing specialization reductionist fundamentalism — in other words, when you are convinced your viewpoint is the only correct one, at that point it’s time to recognize all others are likely just as correct, just as limited, and just as much in need of chunking up to a more synoptic, all-inclusive overview.

More than 50 years ago the influences of Jack La Lanne, John Grimek, Bob Hoffman, and Peary Rader set my life course on the fitness path. Throughout the decades, training and dietary schemes have come and gone — their underlying unity being train intensely and eat nutrient dense, natural whole foods. Of late, the neo-Paleo movement born of evolutionary medicine has become an unprecedented grassroots groundswell with advocacy from a series of popular authors. One thing’s for sure: no generally accepted evidential science guides that popular movement. My first take was profoundly erroneous: Cordain’s The Paleo Diet seemed to be yet another high protein, high complex carb diet well oriented to anabolic response for robustly fit living. Drilling deeper into Cordain’s earlier works and those of even earlier scientists, a new vision emerged: one rooted in our ancestral legacy of fit survival embodied in the wise intelligence of our genetic make up. Sadly, today’s popularized Paleo movement sometimes owns up to the hard science that should underwrite it: works of Art de Vany, Mark Sisson, and Robb Wolf go in the right direction. Yet there’s no peer review, and in the Facebook groups it seems having an opinion — indeed, any opinion — is confused with knowing something. Review of formative literature just simply does not back up much of  popular claims or theories regarding exertion: hence, all bets are off until a better job is done. The general populace deserves better treatment from emerging neo-Paleo than its antithesis in Big Pharma monopolized medicine offers. And that’s precisely where you can interject disturbing anomalies and hard case evidence that today’s popular and professional paradigm models are little more than limitedly/limitingly informed WAGS  – wild ass guesses.

Please join the discussion on Face book’s Smart FIT. A dedicated Genomic Fitness Literacy & Smart FIT website will have to be constructed. FB makes no allowance for archival storage and access of salient material. Anyone with a passion for the possible who can help me construct such a website as an online version of Perry & Mabel Rader’s Iron Man Magazine will be hagiographic ally recognized as a blessed.

My mission for the remaining years of my life is this: to contribute to a grassroots revolution in fitness/health education empowering autonomous, preventative self-care nourishing fullest expression of innate, natural, genomic potentials for fitness/wellness. That’s antithetical to the dominant medical/pharmaceutical/hospital/medical equipment/insurance cartel of monopolies invested in you and your family breaking down and getting sick due to fitness deficiency disorders.

Here’s the url to Smart FIT on Facebook (

©,2011 Ken O’Neill.Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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Motivation — In Trans Evolutionary Context

It started in the morning as I woke. In a dream before waking I heard a beat, a drum,a march from the first Neanderthal shamans through the Vedic seers and all the patriarchs.There was a sense that no one could stop it.

 —     Michael Murphy, Jacob Atabet

We hear it time and time again: lack of motivation keeps folks from working out, sabotages their gym participation, thwarts following health care advice to be active. Much is written about motivation, including how to ‘motivate’ people. Discussion of lack of motivation remains largely ignored. Is motivation the villain or a convenient straw man preventing analysis? What if motivation is a symptom with upstream causes, hence not a primary obstacle? What might motivation or lack of motivation be a symptom of?

None of us came into this life with a user’s manual. I’ve yet to meet anyone exposed to health education in grades K-12 sufficient to instill life long fitness motivation.  Undergraduate education does not include health education in core curriculum. As a nation, our education and socialization excludes fitness literacy and fitness fluency. In fact, we’re a sedentary literate, sedentary fluent nation. Change in health care liability protection mandating informed consent by medical experts accustomed us to responding with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to various recommended care options which hopefully will return health to normal: in practice, informed consent didn’t increase health literacy, instead it strengthened detrimental reliance on experts and further disenfranchised patients. Our cultural lack of empowering fitness literacy undermines motivating action: we’re not only sedentary but passive as well — why do anything if you don’t have to. Things haven’t always been that way.

The Axial Age

Between the 8th-2nd centuries BCE something spontaneously stirred throughout the ancient world including the Mediterranean Occident, China and India. A new breed of human emerged, one seeing through and rising above uniformity, advocating independent individuality. The Pre-Socratics and Socrates in Old Europe, the Upanishads and the Buddha in India, and the originators of Dao and Confucianism in China all voiced independent declaration of individuality as necessary for truly being human. Individuation requires strong inner-directness since the task demands gaining independence from the momentum of mediocrity governing membership in human society’s culture of conformist sameness. The Axial Age gave birth to a new guiding image of humanly ennobling independence of mind and spirit.

Pioneering figures of the Axial Age are generally noted as the first to exercise philosophical analysis promoting breaking free of blind acceptance of conformity to popular social norms in order to become master of one’s life. Wider consideration of their times demonstrates new self-determining programs and movements of physical fitness in the yogas, martial arts, contemplative transformational disciplines, arising of the Olympic games, public celebration of athleticism, and art celebrating fitness as the aesthetic and erotic ideal for men and women. Individuality limited to mere philosophy devoid of equal maturity of body and emotion creates a truncated, incomplete human being.

Cultures of the Axial Age expressed a new, dignified image for perfecting natural endowments essential for becoming fully human. In those cultures, there was no discussion of motivation. Sedentariness demonstrated inferiority, marginalizing such individuals as less than responsible or respectable. Those cultures were naturally fitness literate and fitness fluent.

Survival of the Wisest

Dr. Jonas Salk became famous for developing polio vaccine, resulting in stopping one of the major infectious diseases long plaguing humanity. So immense was public gratitude to Salk, he became an instant hero for a major scientific achievement. In short time, jealously of other scientists turned to outright hatred, haunting him for some time. That unexpected, outrageous turn of events became a catalyst for introspection by Salk. By the 1970s, his thinking led to the staggering insight that humanity is at an inevitable turning point mandating a next step — one he named meta-biological evolution.

Earlier thinking divides evolution into two phases:  pre-biological evolution and biological evolution. We’re told ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny — from the moment of conception of human embryos through full development as an adult, we repeat the entire drama of evolution from single cell micro-organisms up through all stages until completed as an adult human. Salk’s meta-biological evolution adds a next step, one which might be characterized as emerging from pack animals bound to the rule of the mega tribe of civilization to fulfilling the vision of Axial Age thinkers and doers. For Salk, meta-biological evolution marks a turning point in the human adventure, one in which the ante is survival of the wisest. In Salk’s vision, we become for the first time active agents in the future direction of our evolution by use of our under-developed embodied brain. Inspired by Salk, this Blog’s name is Trans-Evolutionary Fitness, highlighting a new sense of fitness in context of survival of the wisest.

Experts are Clueless

 On April 26, 1986 some during a systems test on one of the nuclear reactors of the Chernobyl power plant, a sudden power surge leading to an emergency reactor shutdown occurred, followed by a more extreme surge, leading to what became an explosion and fire releasing large quantities of radioactive contamination eventually spread over much of Western USST and Europe. It remains the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.

A work now online entitled “Chernobyl Notebook” by G. Medvedev, one of the Soviet scientists involved in the accident clean up, was written in narrative style in an earnest attempt to gain understanding of what happened. Pages 28 & 29 takes us into the unfolding emergency drama of highly educated engineers in the control room attempting to understand the nature of the problem so they could shut the system down. Their training convinced them the reactor core was inviolable. First hand investigation of the inner sanctum of the plant revealed large chucks of graphite glowing red hot and suspicious dust everywhere. Further investigation found the same material strewn around the exterior of the plant. The mystery plaguing them was simple: what was that material? With power out, they attempted to manually shut down the reactor. Blinded by the paradigm of an indestructible nuclear core and a system loaded with sophisticated failsafe shut down options, faced with the harsh evidence of explosions from the reactor core recognition of the obvious was simply impossible for them. The entire staff died in short time due to massive radiation exposure.

In Plain Sight

Once or twice weekly for more than twenty years, Hoja approached the border entrance of the adjoining state with his train of donkeys heavily loaded dry goods destined for sale. Always asked by border guards of his occupation, he regularly replied with “smuggler,” leading to full inspection of all his train bore. And each time the guards could find no contraband, allowing him on. Within days Hoja would return home bearing far greater income than could be accounted for by the wares he carried. In time he retired, moving to another land. Among the guards the mystery of an income surely associated with smuggling something had grown so immense that a collection was taken up to send representatives of their own to find Hoja: since he could not be prosecuted, surely he would solve the mystery. The two set out, after a difficult journey found him, then posed their question. “Donkeys,” he replied, “I smuggled donkeys in plain site.”

Paradigms enjoy a life of marked vitality well beyond that of mere ideas one might freely accept or reject. As with both the border guards and Chernobyl engineers, paradigms are that nature of reality for those holding to them. Most challenging for a paradigm shift to occur is our deeply entrenched emotional sense of the dominant paradigm simply being ‘the way the world is.’ Paradigms are the sense of reality we’ve invested in to maintain stability in our lives. Learning something deeply believed is even partially untrue can come at a tremendous emotional cost — a traumatic one, in fact.

The Current Crisis in Evolution

We’re at an immense, unprecedented point of crisis in human evolution, one in plain sight yet unrecognized. Up till now, the innate ancestral wisdom written as our genetic DNA has maintained its integrity across hundreds of thousands of years. An ever exponentially accelerating pandemic of chronic degenerative diseases are sweeping through the civilized world. While it is estimated that a mere 2% of current disease stems from genetic causes, it is also conservatively held that more than 66% of today’s pandemic diseases stem from living in contemptuous opposition to our genetic code. As the situation worsens, exemplified in an ever deepening body of  scientific research findings warning not only of the seriousness of the situation but of an impending health care whole systems breakdown, elected officials and corporate health care industry leadership rests content in trivializing the gravity of the situation — there’s apparent content with maintaining status quo.

Diseases of degeneration now thwarting maturation of the young, manifesting at or before puberty, resulting in forecasts that today’s parents of those youth will be the first generation to outlive their children.  Orthodox medicine and physiology are hard pressed to recognize an evident drift in age of adult onset of chronic degenerative condition due to the triumphs of 20th century medicine: during the last century, conquest of infectious, communicable disease dramatically increased survival of infancy and lengthening of life expectancy. Life expectancy in 1900 was 49.2 years, dramatically increasing by almost 30 years to 78.7 for 2011. With a senior population outliving those of a century ago, assumptions arose about how aging brings decline and degeneration among seniors. That’s changed: so-called age defined decline onset has shifted downward from the senior years to middle age, as well as growing in onset among children. The facts are in plain site while expert opinion is mighty close to those in charge at Chernobyl.

Health Care Experts Clueless in the Pandemic Era

Decades of political discussion concerning health care in America have bolstered reliance on expert opinion, resulting in a vast series of interconnected medical, pharmaceutical, hospital, equipment, and insurance monopolies. Those monopolies create a generally accepted standard of health care. More explicitly, they’ve created a monolithic monopoly of how we are expected to be dutifully obeisant to their dictates regarding the nature of health care. We are told Americans have the best health care system in the world, ignoring the World Health Organization’s ranking of American health care as 38th in the world, placing us between Costa Rica and Slovenia; moreover,  Andorra, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Jordan rank greater life expectancy than do Americans — the USA ranks 45th for longevity . Of the $1.8 trillion spent annually on disease, less than 2% is allocated to prevention.

The late Johns Hopkins faculty member Dr. Barbara Starfield’s Journal of the America Medical Association article “Is US Health Really the Best in the World?” reports an astonishing 225,000 annual deaths due to iatrogenic causes — deaths directly attributed to medical intervention (JAMA, 284:4, pp 483-485). The Institute of Medicine’s year 2000 report To Err Is Human established that as many as 98,000 persons needless die annually due to preventable medical harm. IOM’s 2010 updated To Err is Human reports astonishingly little improvement. Those and other publications consider error of practice under current medicine as the regrettable generally accepted standard. Is leadership not included in medical curriculum?

In total, 2,977 people died as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Recognition of external forces jeopardizing American security resulted in massive protective security programs. As a worse case estimate, extending Starfield’s reported 225,000 deaths per annum due to medical intervention over the ten years since 9/11 would result in a death count of 2,250,000 persons. Regulatory and professional agencies have not instituted their version of Homeland Security to deal what must be acknowledged as stealth terrorism due to egregious, unrepentant incompetence. While terrorists are justifiably tracked down and eliminated, our system of health would seem to place itself above ethics, and hence basic humanizing qualities of character.

Not considered in foregoing reports is current medicine’s orientation is toward diagnosis and treatment of disease. Modern medicine originated as a science in the 1860s with Pasteur’s discovery of microorganisms as the agents of infection. The triumph of modern medicine lies in identifying agents of infectious diseases and thwarting them with anti-biotic drugs and vaccinations along with tremendous assistance from public sanitation programs. Current medicine understands health to be an absence of disease — and that’s precisely where it breaks down as a science facing a pandemic of non-infectious, non-communicable degenerative diseases.

Current medicine has not adapted to a quarter century of scientific evidence, instead misapplying concepts of communicable disease to non-communicable, degenerative diseases presumably as its method of self-preservation. Preservation is not evolutionary survival because it fails the test of adaptive fitness.  In league with a massive onslaught of pharmaceutical advertising misinformation and disinformation campaigns, the public is kept docile, passive, and blissfully ignorant at a huge cost plaguing the US health care system. A revolution in thinking like that of the Axial Age is mandated to reshape medicine as a science.

Evolutionary Medicine — Caring for Causes, not Symptom Maintenance

Evolutionary medicine and exercise physiology provide important missing keys: diseases of chronic degeneration have roots in social conformity to a standard of cavalier disregard and commercial contempt for caring for the needs of the human genome. Imposing artificial standards sickens us slowly yet steadily, establishing primary disease until those well rooted adverse conditions blossom into secondary and tertiary conditions misdiagnosed as primary diseases — often incompetently characterized as ‘genetic’. Evolutionary medicine comprehends primary genetic based fitness arises from adhering to two genetic requirements: (1) plenty of intense exercise and play along with (2) eating nutrient dense, naturally raised foods.

During its early period of growth, currently orthodox medicine eliminated competition in health care by first removing them from medical school curricula, then dismissively demeaning them as quacks. Included was as physical fitness. Despite marginalization from orthodox health care, fitness grew into our contemporary multi-tennicle fitness industry. Today’s fitness industry has some loose links to the larger, more authoritative health care industry. Both are industries, both emphasizing commercial theories of health and fitness — usually based on half truths, frequently less. While virtually any form of exercise is better than a sedentary condition, coming to honest grips with tangible fitness education has eluded the industry.

One perspective on the current evolutionary impasse afflicting healthy survival lies in the archaeological record: contemporary humans are slower, smaller, and weaker than were tens of thousands of years of ancestral predecessors. Our current state of fitness care has not moved an iota in remedy our evolutionary fitness deficiency disorder — in large degree because the health care and fitness industries are equally unaware of the problem, in part because commercial theories do not lend themselves to problem solving when their proper application lies in sales. The Two R’s drive the fitness industry: membership Recruitment and Retention, suggesting fitness is a hard sale.  Devoid of fitness literacy and fitness fluency, the matter of motivation naturally arises.

Survival of the Wisest — Evolutionary Medicine/Evolutionary Fitness

 Had you been born with a user’s manual, you would have learned of the accumulated wisdom living your life, a wisdom developed and refined for wellness and survivability, passed down and strengthened in intelligence over millions of years. That wisdom is the substance of the Book of  Human Life — The Human Genome. Ancestral wisdom guides every second of the life you were given. While you may be misled to think of yourself as a solid, constant person, at the basis of life you’re a verb, a dynamic, rich array of myriad processes maintaining your existence. The first task of personal survival of the wisest is acquiring guiding optimization of well-being and longevity in harmonious accord with your genomic potentialities. Evolutionary Fitness mandates living within inborn specifications of your genetics to fulfill your natural potential for survival, reproduction, and longevity as a fit member of the human species.

With emergence of evolutionary medicine and exercise physiology, scientists began to understand that a fundamental shift in the nature of human health has occurred since World War II. With the triumphant conquest of infectious disease, infant mortality has drastically decreased and we’ve extended life expectancy to close to 80. With extension of longevity by several decades in the past century, we had no baseline understanding of healthy aging. The dramatic post WWII increase in longevity matched with exponential development of degenerative conditions seen among the aging was taken to be a normal decline in function as bodies wear down and out. Several factors interceded to question that view. First, degenerative diseases occur at younger and younger ages, now including middle school children: clearly, aging alone does not explain their onset. Evolutionary medicine brought about revelations threatening to upturn the legitimacy of orthodox medicine: rising tides of degenerative illnesses bringing disability and death in pandemic proportions are unnatural — they are associated with modern industrial and high technology civilization, not found among traditional extant hunter/gathers. Civilization is killing itself.

Since its first emergence in the mid 1980s, evolutionary medicine has grown, inspiring associated work in genetic, molecular biology based exercise physiology.  Evolutionary medicine’s roots in medicine and the various fields of anthropology discovered that only in the last 11,000 years have humans grown smaller, weaker, slower — less fit, less human. Diminished human development is not due to genetic mutation, instead due to accrued developments of civilization. Your genes are ever ready for fitness even if your civilization holds you back. With ancestral nutrient rich foods and robust activity, signals are sent to your genes for them to instruct the operations of your body to be fit and healthy. Conversely, feeding on the popular diet of denatured foods combined with inactivity signals messages to your genes resulting in physical and metabolic breakdown. It’s that simple. Survival of the wisest is innate, embodied wisdom.

What Your Need to Know

Survival of the Wisest is necessarily present and future oriented, yet with an eye to learning lessons of the past in order to prevent repeat catastrophes. Mythologist Joseph Campbell time and again reminded us that a culture without a guiding mythic image is a dying culture. What mythic image guides us today, calling us to rise above ourselves, calling us to actualize dormant, seemingly heroic powers of character and purposeful will? None! Ancestral wisdom of the human spirit is held in myths guiding us to awaken and actualize dormant potentials awaiting expression as a mature, sage adult. In myth, first hints of a larger life are embodied by a miracle calling us to action for an adventure. Campbell was fond of repeating an Arthurian legend exemplifying the ennobling life. On one occasion the knights were gathered at the Round Table for a feast. Arthur postponed eating until a miracle occurred, resulting in a vision of the Holy Grail in veiled form seen by all. His nephew, Gawain proposed an adventure: each knight was to go forth in quest of the grail for a period of a year, each individually entering the forest where it was thickest, darkest, and there was no path. In other words, quest of the Grail — the supreme divine intelligence — must by sought alone within the wilderness of your spirit. To do otherwise would be ignoble!

Paradigm pioneers of the Axial Period transmuted ancestral wisdom embedded in its harbingers of fuller expression of the human genome — hunters, warriors, and shamans — taking their respective survival fitness a quantum leap forward. While regarded as philosophers by academics, sages of the Axial Age upgraded inherited cultural wisdom to a new vision embodying a new breed of human — one both spiritually independent of social mores, and one announcing a new vision of the possible human. Axial Age genius took us from tribal complacency to a new vision of inborn potentials. It offered practical methods of rising above them, giving birth to a form of mastery of the most basic of human rights — your existential, baseline human condition.

Motivation starts with you gaining an irrevocable skill in fitness literacy, becoming fitness fluent in order that Survival of the Wisest becomes alive and well within you. That will result in a new fitness, what I call fitness with an attitude. As an unshakable understanding, fitness is an attitude or orientation embodied as the life you live. That attitude rubs off on others — people feel the presence of a fit attitude. Becoming a person characterized as fitness with an attitude, you’ve gone beyond the obligatory habit of training and eating correctly ‘because it’s good for you.’ Taking the evolutionary adventure to the core mysteries of fitness, you no longer blindly lead your life as a habit. You’ve awoken life-values, or what Maslow called B-values (Being-values). That gives you an attitude of irrepressible, indestructible knowledge. With that you understand evolutionary fitness to mean far more than the ‘better sameness’ of the health and fitness industries addressing people who don’t know what they need yet will unquestioningly follow orders — for a while — and so under-value fitness they measure it by standards of ‘better, faster, cheaper’ while wishing they could pay someone to train for them. Becoming one of the Survival of the Wisest means you value revolutionary evolutionary change. The task of Wise Survival means you have to go beyond better sameness. The biggest challenges beget best work. Intelligent people rise to the occasion. And intelligence means changing your mind, gaining evolutionary fitness confidence — freed of the motivation dilemma, the joy of play is born. You know in your bones you’ve gained strength and freedom not found in the institutions of health and fitness care because you’ve penetrated to the core of evolutionary fitness, now freely embodying it as an ennobled, fully human being.

 Copyrighted © 2011 by Ken O’Neill. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited:  all rights reserved by copyright holder.

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New Breed Fitness Educator — Physical Culture 2.0

A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.   — Max Planck

Novus ordo seclorum: a new order of the ages is born. — Vergil
Our only security is our ability to change. — John C. Lilly, MD

 The New Medical Fitness Revolution

An unprecedented groundswell movement in health care grows exponentially at the grassroots level. Originating in a new paradigm forged by synergistic meeting of anthropology and medicine in the 1980s, it is known as evolutionary medicine — with a smaller associated movement that should be named evolutionary exercise physiology. Evolutionary medicine, in turn, spawned in less than the last ten years the popular Paleo Diet movement. Starting first with several related books in the mid 2000s, one can now fill a bookshelf with popular Paleo movement books. Strengthening rapid development of the movement are blogs and social media, and a growing number of local ‘meet up’ groups.

By means of discussion between physicians and medical professors meeting with anthropologists, a new paradigm of health and fitness emerges. Orthodox medicine reflects ideas of disease known in modern Western civilizations, most all non-communicable diseases. Anthropological input determines extant hunter/gatherer cultures’ vocabularies don’t include our diseases because they rarely, if ever, get them. That recognition forced passionate inquiry aided by new sciences of genetics and molecular biology applied to knowledge of the profound differences in diet and activity between Western civilization and hunter/gatherers.

We know today that regular, challenging exercise fine tunes our bodies to operate closely like today’s hunter/gatherers. After all, the human genome remains 99.7% just the same as it was 100,000 years ago: we have not changed genetically and we have profoundly altered activity and diets of nutrient dense foods. When active, we signal 60% of our 20,000 genes for healthy expression. Evolutionary medicine quickly concluded the rapidly increasing pandemic of chronic degenerative diseases raging through the West today are diseases of civilization — hence, unnatural causes of illness and death.

Eroding Medical Legitimacy

While both evolutionary medicine and its Paleo movement offspring are in their youth, they’re growing up fast. As they grow, a kind of global mind change occurs.

Rooted in willingness to take on new options in personal health matters is a growing diminishment of public credibility regarding orthodox medicine. The health care industry accounts for 18% of the domestic national product: it’s a big business with monopolistic characteristics. Most of all, orthodox medicine is very expensive. Its credibility erodes in face of an unchecked rising tide of chronic degenerative diseases. As just one example, on September 13th, 2011 the 47th annual meeting of the International Diabetes Foundation and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes announced the number of people diagnosed with and dying from diabetes continues “on a relentlessly upward trajectory.” International studies reveal in 2011 the number of people with diabetes has reached an astonishingly 366 million. In 2011, 4.6 million deaths will be assigned to diabetes, and with healthcare costs reaching $465 billion. One person dies from diabetes every 7 seconds! That’s just one of 35 chronic degenerative diseases. At best, orthodox medicine can diagnose those conditions, most likely placing sufferers on prescriptions which slow down symptoms — a disease maintenance program that can be thought of as a kiss of death. Of greatest importance is the fact most of our contemporary degenerative diseases were hardly known in 1950 — their growth occurred only in the past 60 years.

Simply put, orthodox medicine keeps losing the war against contemporary disease while charging staggering costs for no remedies. Worse still, orthodox medicine is not held accountable for its gross failings for doing its job. In our culture, orthodox medicine reigns supreme with an unquestionable authority; however, disease statistics stand as a significant and undeniable basis of that authority being unearned and undeserved.

Evolutionary medicine views our pandemic diseases as diagnoses of secondary and tertiary symptoms, and then looks upstream for primary causes. Evolutionary medical intervention addresses today’s presenting symptoms in relation to yesterday’s primary insults to your healthy balance. Evolutionary medicine’s growing legitimacy rests on successful treatment of primary causes, often at most requiring pharmaceuticals only in the short term. Treating primary causes moves us from life long maintenance to arresting and reversing symptoms. Many a personal diagnosed with type II diabetes has enjoyed successful arresting and reversal of that diagnosis in three short months with the Paleo type of diet and fitness training.

Important distinctions must be noted – distinctions you’ll need to imbed within your thinking. Ever become fluent in a second language? Learning a second language is one way we make a paradigm shift: the world doesn’t change with a second language but the way we talk about it and conceptualize it certainly does change a lot. There’s a crucial point in moving from having to translate in your head all that’s heard and read in a second language: at some time, you begin to ‘just understand.’ Those times are great, especially when you automatically understand puns and jokes — you find yourself laughing. Paradigm shifting is very much like that. So dramatically steeped are we in our civilization’s subtleties regarding health, fitness, and diet, you’ll find you keep going back to the very ways of thinking you want to grow out of: that’s fine, that’s part of the transition. Fluency comes about.

New Breed Fitness

An important distinction has to be taken to heart. Health is not fitness, and fitness is not health.

In biology and anthropology, fitness bears a very special meaning related to the survival of a species. Fitness means reproductive fitness. For a species to survive, it must gain survival skills and then pass those skills on to its offspring. The genetic basis of our human fitness remains 99.7% just the same way it was 100,000 years ago. Key to successful fitness is the same today as it was long ago in ancestral times: nutrient dense food and physical activity. Both signal our genes to sequence or produce healthy, life bestowing proteins. Inactivity creates sends signals to the same genes resulting in unhealthy metabolic results. In order words, fitness amounts to living in respectful compliance with our genetic make up. Your life depends on living the life you were given!

Health is another matter. Since the old paradigm of health care is that of orthodox medicine, I’m confining use of the word health to where we learned it from, the source of the information we take for granted about health. For decades, the officially often heard definition of health has been ‘the absence of disease.’ That’s hardly a definition while bordering on an insult to our intelligence. Basic to that definition is the sense that health is somehow like a vacuum, an absence condition! Going further, however, the definition makes abundantly good sense in a medicine whose chief orientation is toward pathological or disease conditions: you’re okay or healthy if you’re not diseased.

Here’s where that notion of health fails your fitness. Orthodox medicine is well equipped to discover disease; however, evolutionary medicine knows such diseased states have been building up in the background for some time. For example, conditions ripening as type II diabetes may have been in process for twenty years prior to diagnosis. In that respect your fitness has been slowly but steadily waning for several decades. That makes it clear that pronouncements of being healthy can be made without diagnostic testing for slow erosion processes — health can misdiagnosis eroding fitness, hence not arrest or prevent later disease blossoming.

Health is not fitness. Health is a medical term meaning absence of detectable disease. The key word is detectable. Early and acute degeneration is not tested for, hence not detected. Fitness prevents degeneration. Where “normal” health is a plus in medicine, it amounts to abnormal unfitness for Physical Culture  2.0. Evolutionary exercise physiologists recognize throughout our long history, our condition of fitness made us look like athletes. The pre-steroid era bodybuilders, power lifters, track and field athletes bear the look of a fit human being. The trouble with our modern standard is that what it regards as normal today is genetically abnormal and the basis of disease for humans: normal is abnormal. To gain a sense of what normal and fit meant to our ancestors, Greek art depicts their normal men and women looking like what we’d think of as fitness models and athletes today!

New Breed Fitness

Physical Culture 2.0 is a new paradigm of fitness and well being, a radical departure from classical and modern versions of physical culture. Older physical culture trained you for strength and health. With roots in the new sciences of evolutionary medicine and exercise physiology, Physical Culture 2.0 recognizes fitness as your innate genetic potential, gaining rich expression with nutrient dense diet and robust physical activity starting from birth and sustained throughout life. In other words, fitness is our natural human condition  —  as long as we live congruently with our nature.

Work of Evans & Rosenberg of Tufts University performed in the 1980s demonstrated a major culprit in our civilization’s decline to be muscle wasting (sarcopenia) — specifically wasting of type II strength muscle. Long thought a normal condition of aging, those researchers revealed muscle wasting plays a key role in premature aging and onset of Metabolic Syndrome. Of their Ten Determinants of Aging, maintaining muscular strength topped the list. Loss of strength muscle plays a leading role in disease onset — including type II diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, arthritis, obesity, heart disease, depression, and loss of cognitive skills. Muscle wasting in an early symptom of metabolic breakdown, and should become a primary diagnostic tool.

Fitness: An Inconvenient Truth

 Nearly twenty years later, findings of the Tufts’ group has not been incorporated into popular news or medical practice. It counts among a list of inconvenient truths — truths if taken seriously mandate a call to action, some not without serious economic consequences to mainstream medical business.

Frank Booth, faculty of the University of Missouri Department of Biological Sciences, remains a major contributor to genetic, molecular biology and exercise physiology and their impact of health. His list of professional publications runs for 21 single spaced typed pages. His extensive publications reveal how modern society mandates living in disharmony with our genetic nature, resulting in what he calls SeDS or the Sedentary Death Syndrome. His large volume of work has yet to reach the very public need it most. A contributor to ancestral health, he’s not even known among the Paleo movement perhaps since his revelations dethrone diet alone as a panacea silver bullet.

As a society, no where in our upbringing are we educated in matters of personal fitness. The single most pressing challenge facing survival of the human species is a comprehensive system of fitness education giving birth to a new breed of fitness educators.

We’re told to seek physician advice and permission before undertaking a fitness program of physical activity. Given that physician education does not include course work in either nutrition or physical exercise, one is hard pressed to determine what sage advice a physician might offer. Since such advise has not been a part of their medical education, physicians are likely to be just as confused as you are; however, given their social role as indisputable experts, we are trained not to question there advise. One physician friend has advised me that somewhere in medical school doctors are trained to stop challenges to their expertise by firing back with a rhetorical question: “Are you a doctor?” Always answer with a ‘no’, and then gently ask in return what qualifications they hold in exercise physiology?

The popular Paleo movement has made earnest attempts to incorporate fitness. However, since evolutionary medicine itself has not integrated evolutionary exercise science, the Paleo movement lacks paradigmatic leadership. First wave Paleo fitness orientations arose from two competing commercial theories of fitness, both notorious incomplete and under developed from the perspective of evolutionary exercise physiology. Most rest on claims of activity levels among hunter/gatherer populations, numbers inconsistent and not supportable by reams of anthropological reporting — I’d be tempted to classify those errant claims as modern urban myths were they not part of a pitch for authority for marketing. Some go so far as to claim scientific foundation for scant exercise programs, confusing empirical scientific method with journalistic polemics and confirmation bias covering hidden agendas. All systems of training in Paleo today work for some people to some extent, and all are profoundly better than inactivity; however, without due consideration of exercise physiology brought to bear in Physical Culture 2.0, many run the danger of under-training and/or incomplete training resulting in under-expression of genomic potential for fitness. Many popular Paleo fitness products and services hinge on mimicry of ancestral living 50,000 or more years ago — not well suited for contemporary living, and not a panacea since such programs are a genuine threat to the well being of older persons.

Another factor influencing public opinion and customer expectations for fitness is the huge fitness industry — an industry manufacturing and selling equipment, clothing, nutritional products and supplements, big box gyms, and educating certified personal trainers. Much of high end fitness equipment is simply unnecessary, some poorly designed knock-offs of superior equipment. In general, the fitness industry by means of mass advertising establishes a de facto standard unsupportable by scientific research. Personal training certification programs are not in alignment with evolutionary exercise physiology and medicine, nor do they address the pandemic of chronic degenerative disease.

New Breed Fitness Educators — Embodying Physical Culture 2.0

Earlier physical culture advocated fitness outside the providence of medicine, each occupying complimentary roles: where physical culture advocated fitness to prevent illness and developing the dormant fit human, medicine excelled at treating illness. With the advent of evolutionary medicine, fitness was redefined as survival adaptation and should bring about integration of physical culture and medicine as a unified field. Due to evolutionary medicine, both physical culturist and physician should equally become fitness education consultants regarding practices of preventative self-care and maintenance by individuals. I’m inclined to remain pessimistic regarding physicians and associated pharmaceutical and health care institutions shifting to an evolutionary medical model — Planck’s opening words to this article seem to suggest the direction the course affairs will take.

Physical Culture 2.0 gives birth to a new breed of fitness education delivered by means of a new breed of fitness educators. For almost all of human history, our normal ancestral condition was one found today only among athletes. Athletic like condition was attained and maintained by means of normal life in times past: the need for such conditioning is intrinsic to our genetic make up. The fall from our natural condition results in your system going haywire, producing unnatural disease. Attaining fitness levels normal to our ancestors is the task of New Breed Fitness Education.

Today’s personal trainers either work in gyms or free lance. Most hold certificates licensing them as trainers with one or more of the many trainer education programs offered today. Far too many trainers confuse the idiosyncrasies of a given training method with sound principles of exercise science. Not a single program’s curriculum addresses the pandemic of degenerative disease or its basis in maladaptive genetic expression due to inactivity and malnutrition. In this regard, the wide spectrum of trainers ranging from profession strength and athletic performance through general and specialized recreational fitness for exercise buffs through those selling fat reduction, ‘toning’, and cosmetic enhancement are included. Devoid of a thorough consideration of fitness in conjunction with diseases of civilization, any approach will remain essentially incomplete.

Transition from personal trainer to PC 2.0 fitness educator and consultant is nothing less than a full paradigm shift. New Breed Fitness Educator curriculum will require generally mastery of major ideas of evolutionary medicine, exercise physiology including genetic and molecular science in relation to metabolic pathways, and the relation of specific types of training stimulation to specific metabolic effects. Understanding the difference between contractile and hypertrophic adaptations along with understanding of which types of training best stimulate differing response is mandated. The work of Fred Hatfield, Joseph Signorile, JC Santana, Scott Abel and Brad Schoenfeld pertaining to full spectrum training aimed at stimulating the wide range of metabolic and hypertrophic responses offers guiding, generative principles for client-centered training in place of today’s by guess and by golly cookie cutter approach. More will be said in subsequent blogs. Robert Portman and John Ivy’s recently published Hardwired for Fitness will be a handbook for New Breed Fitness Educators. Watch for my review of that book in these blog pages.

Transformation of the role of trainer to new breed fitness educator is the next step in Physical Culture 2.0. New breed fitness educators form  a leading edge of a grassroots revolution in fitness education empowering autonomous preventative self-care. An army of individuals working as fitness educating mentors has the power to beneficially reshape lives in a way political leadership cannot fathom. They will play a powerful role in guiding Americans taking back their fitness, vitality, and zest for life. Solution to America’s health care crisis cannot be fixed by the system that got us to the current broken condition — take back fitness starting with yourself! Become a leader at the grassroots level.

Copyrighted © 2011 by Ken O’Neill. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited:  all rights reserved by copyright holder.

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Body By Play – Physical Culture 2.0 in Practice

 “I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols.
Physical Culture 2.0 — The Autobiography

Somewhere in the early 1970s Mike Spino, a formidable challenger for national honors in the 10 kilometer race, did an all out training session. Years of training had forged considerable self-mastery of the subtleties of mind and body that occur when going for broke. This was to be a record breaking run. He was totally unprepared for what was to overtake all of him. Running at full speed aimed at getting to the finish in record time, strange sensations overtook him. Within his consciousness, his skin began falling off, dissolving into thin air; his bone soon followed course. Mike’s sense of himself became energy moving effortlessly through space-time, a sense of perfect flow that nothing could stop. Reaching the finish line, he collapsed in uncontrollable crying and weeping — tears of ecstatic bliss never before experienced combined with an immense sadness due to knowing he could not tell anyone of this since no one would understand. He ran the event within scant seconds of a world record!

Spino wasn’t alone. The annals of sports, fine and performing arts, martial arts and contemplative traditions abound with such incidences. Incidences in their clean form corresponding to what shamans the world over report when describing their journey from this world to the next — and both are right here! Always marking these experiences are unprecedented personal experience of joy, ecstasy, bliss and the sense of entering a new life, a new body: self-mastery in the art of play.

Physical Culture 2.0 has been my lifelong adventure; a journey like Spino’s taking me to unexpected places, coaches, and learnings. It’s fair to say Physical Culture 2.0 is autobiographical in that it’s my story, one at least 52 of my 67 years in the making. As Jung once noted of his psychology, there can be only one Jungian since his entire psychology embodies his journey of self-disclosure. Physical Culture 2.0 is first and foremost my autobiography, one akin to the Grateful Dead’s line “what a long strange trip it’s been” – noting its resonance with others, hopefully a movement called PC 2.0 will emerge. Don’t hold me responsible for that — I can only feign responsibility for my originating it as autobiography in search of the art of being a human player.

It originates when as a bookish high school science student I joined the swim team in my sophomore year. Coach Dick Threllfel was a maverick for those days, having purchased barbells to strengthen his swimmers. I was bit by the iron bug enough that I bought my first set within weeks. Coach Threllfel left at the end of that year, our new ‘coach’ bringing a wealth of retrogressive training ideas. I left the team, got an after school job, passionately weight training at home.

Since Physical Culture is an art, it can’t be successfully learned from books. Coaches and mentors are necessary to guide your journey’s beginning. Instead of one coach, Saturday mornings at the San Jose YMCA provided a community of mentors — athletes, fitness buffs, Olympic lifters, power lifters,  body builders, and professional wrestlers — most agreeable to passing on their wisdom to a kid passionately hungry to learn. They were good fun. Several of the wrestlers compassionately yet strongly suggested some coaching in self-defense was in order for a book worm: Saturdays took on the extra measure of an hour on the mat, no punches pulled although the knives and guns I went up against were rubber imitations. There came a point, here in 1960, when they strongly urged I get over to the nearby very large Buddhist temple to learn judo and meditation — stressing that meditation is key to strength and fitness as a high art of play.

In time I did more than that by becoming a full scholarship student earning a graduate degree from a Japanese Buddhist institute and then, in Kyoto, Japan, gaining advanced training, testing of the substance of my spirit, resulting in being awarded title of Kyoshi (‘teachings master’, same as  Zen master).

I never had a sense of going East or taking up Eastern philosophy. For me, I was taking part in a naturalistic humanism.

The Cultural Zoo

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area enforced the value of cultural divergence. My home county doesn’t have an ethnic or racial majority. Public schools offer many more languages than just English, Spanish and French. The Bay Area has been a robust artistic, intellectual, and athletic renaissance for far more than a century. Such a culture forges perspectives often different than what is normal most everywhere else: cultures other than one’s own open a sense of fascination in difference and choices we can make about how we live and value.

As an undergraduate I majored in philosophy and psychology in quest of understanding the nature of humans. As graduation approached it became clear for me that Western philosophy and psychology were far too limited. Something greater was calling from a gut level intuition. Exposure to sports, Buddhism and martial arts all evidenced the nature of life being far greater than imagined and accounted for in my major subjects. What’s more, all three knew of deep reserves of energy and power remaining mysterious and hidden to orthodox Western thought. So with that call to adventure, I plunged right in.

As a life long athlete I train for fun, for play, for joy. It’s natural for me. With that I’ve had a very difficult time understanding people who need motivation to train: my conclusion is the joy of play is foreign to them. The fitness industry’s number one concerns are recruitment and retention of members: again, the joy of play is absent among those for whom there’s no art of living. Considering the huge annual consumption of physician prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals along with self-medication with alcohol and recreational drugs, one can reasonably conclude for much of the population life is a mechanical drudgery devoid of the natural grace of joy and play.

Something unusual happened in Western European culture starting in 1534 with the advent of Calvinism — that portion of the Protestant Reformation known as Puritanism. Max Weber’s classic study of Protestantism and the rise of the middle class emphasize that movement’s success in formulating our dearly loved work ethic. In particular, Calvinism emphasized a tacit necessity for hard work resulting in worldly success as visible evidence of predestined personal salvation. The Protestant work ethic is also known as the Puritan work ethic.

During the short reign of Oliver Cromwell (1653-1658), who overthrew the British monarchy, appointing himself Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, the English language took a decided swing toward suppression of sensual pleasure. Cromwell’s reign resulted in an enduring censoring of the English language and values, condemning sensual pleasure and emphasizing the hard work ethic. Even Christmas was banned as too overly sensually pleasurable! A long standard verb for sexual intercourse as banned, known today as the “F” word. Resurgence of Puritanism as Victorian Morality surfaced with the 19th century reign of Queen Victoria, greatly influencing Americans.

Puritanical regimes never lasted long in Europe as sanity returned pleasure and play to rightful balance. Many Puritans sought escape from libertine Europe, becoming founding citizens of new colonies in North America. Their adherence to a strong work ethic and disregard for play and sensual pleasure became deeply engrained in the American spirit. You need look no further than the rhetoric of political candidates to find those buzz words alive and well.

Ironically, we pollute the play of training by infecting it with the hard work concept: we say we’re working out, not enjoying play.

Fortunately my college education awoken me to the origins and persistence of Puritanical hard work and anhedonia (the inability to enjoy; the word means “not hedonic, not a hedonist).   Reading Nietzsche, William Blake, and Alan Watts convinced me play, dance, music, joy are basic. Are there cultures based on those hedonic life values?

My brief introduction to Buddhism years earlier caught up with me through Alan Watts and Joseph Campbell. Both stressed words such as the Sanskrit terms ananda and sukhu and the Japanese yorokobi. Watts pointed out that in Puritanically based English we insult someone by telling them to go enjoy sex, while in Japanese the same expression is complimentary. Martial artists added those states of peak performance and flow, and not only is there a subtly pervasive joy but along with it comes a powerful energy.

We have several hundred years of interpretative accounts of the ‘religions’ of India and China. Because Western European culture has a long, rich tradition of religion based on dogmatic creeds of belief, we expect the rest of the world to be just the same. Until you learn how to get out of your cultural orientation, you remain an unknowing prisoner of it. We don’t know how to know we’re inmates of a human zoo, one that keeps us in order, makes us predictable, while preventing us the grace of being naturally wild. Once gaining a modicum of freedom, learning to question authority initiates learning who you are and what choices life offers. For me, my task became understanding the traditions of China and India had to be taken in on their own terms in a raw and unfiltered manner  — along with avoiding the trap of symptom substitution by jumping from one zoo to another.

How do you distinguish a zoo from a play area? Zoos are filled with orthodox authorities including politicians, lawyers, clergy, etc. All will colonize you with laws, rules, and regulations as the price of membership. Coaches and mentors point you on the way, encouraging experimentation so you get it just right for yourself. They have general principles instead of laws. Zookeepers emphasize faith in a dogmatic system; coaches encourage doubt so you can know yourself and master playing.

Early in my explorations I was fortunate to hear a story from history bearing orienting wisdom. Alexander the Great conquered much of India, and had been tutored as a young man in philosophy by Aristotle. Once he’d conquered India, he sought intellectual entertainment by sending one of his Generals out to locate some philosophers with whom to debate. The General returned announcing he’d found philosophers, however they refused his offer. After several attempts at ordering them to his court, Alexander finally went out to demand their compliance. There they were, seated on a high boulder stark naked in the searing Indic heat. He demanded they come down to speak with him about philosophy. They replied that persons with so little self-mastery preventing stripping down and joining them in the heat bore no development worthy of serious conversation.

Note the important cultural difference. Our Western tradition separates mind from body: for India, there’s no separation. Mental dexterity and physical dexterity are one and the same. Today neuroscientists call us humans embodied minds. Indian philosophy integrates and coordinates our embodied mind, holding that nature of life is play and joy. I was headed on the right track!

Threefold Embodied Mind Training

Of tremendous importance to Trans-Evolutionary Fitness’ Physical Culture 2.0 is a training method called the Threefold Embodied Mind. Each option or stage points to the beliefs and knowledge embodying our living.

The Convention Driven Embodied Mind gets shaped and informed growing up in a family, with peers, schooling all making us card carrying members of a culture. Einstein described it noting that common sense is that layer of prejudices acquired prior to the 18th birthday. Such living subjects you to the stresses and melodramas shaping ordinary life. Politicians and salesmen take strong advantage of manipulating conditioned fear. At best we can say of this condition that we are civilized yet barely human abiding within the zoo.

 Embodied Mind training practices are employed to wear through the veneer encapsulating you in the momentum of mediocrity of being a convention driven embodiment. You gain strength and power in emotional intelligence and self-regulation. Neuroscience today recognizes so-called contemplative practices take advantage of neuroplasticity to remodel the structure and operation of your brain. Gaining self-mastery and volitional choice in maintaining inner calm and peace allows for observation of how your attention easily distracts, thereby taking a first step in gaining control of what you attend to.

The Joyful Embodied Mind emerges as strengthening of emotion  and insightful attention grows. I’m using Joyful due to an immense translation challenge. Sanskrit, the classical language of India, distinguishes between many kinds of experiences of joy, fulfillment, ecstasy, and bliss: in comparison, European languages are relatively impoverished. The word I translate as joy means orgasmic in general Sanskrit. I refrain from using orgasmic so you won’t get the wrong idea. Orgasmic is used to call attention to the grace of naturally fulfilling blissful ecstasy related to this very world. A crucial point is reached in experience bringing lasting change: gone is the sense of confinement, stress, and being burdened and alienated. A subtle, pervasive bliss awakens in you — one’s that’s inborn and genomic but unexpressed in the human zoo. In the human zoo, pleasure and pain are opposites we feel, while we seek transcendence from pain in pleasure. On that basis, both are fleeting and temporary. Orgasmic also points to the relational basis of becoming Joyful Embodied Mindfulness: you’re no longer stuck in a mandated role, having nothing to prove or fear, hence are authentic and free in life with others. Your values shift to Being-values.

Our natural Joyful Embodied Mind is said to be a transcendent state. It does get us out of the mutually dependent dynamism of pleasure versus pain, transcending those psychologically conditioned states. Yet it does not transcend them in terms of leaving this world, or creating special immunizing conditions of living. In that sense, Immanence is a better choice of words. With cultivation of your Joyful Embodied Mind you become more deeply and joyfully immersed in life than ever before. As Joseph Campbell put it: life calls to you and you answer with “YES.” Your brain structure and function measurably change as does your physiology — and most of your entire attitude. Symptoms of being a Joyfully Embodied Mind include laughter, seeing the humor of conventional life, and being irrevocably happy.

The Play Embodied Mind counts as the higher achievement, the one of becoming fully human. Your self-identity shifts for protecting the integrity of a conventionally informed self (ego) to identification as a human being being human. You’ve mastered the art of play. Developing your Play Embodied Mind is the basis of Physical Culture 2.0 as the operating transformational methodology of Trans-Evolutionary Fitness. In that sense, I’ll let the cat out of the bag — whole person fitness is playfulness, the art of living joy. In that regard, PC 2.0 isn’t a commercial exercise theory or training routine: it aims at waking up joy and play as the base camp for exploration of the next step in volitional, voluntary evolution.

In1938 book of Dutch historian and cultural theorist, Professor Johan Huizing’s Homo Ludens or “Man the Player”. For Huizinga, play is an important element of culture and society — so much so that Huizinga held our next step in human evolution was to become Homo Ludens. A culture without play is barely living. A culture without play becomes a passive spectator culture made up of couch potatoes! With spectator activities, we well pay others to play before us, living vicariously through them. But even many of our athletic heroes have lost that sense of play, becoming ersatz superheroes in performance enhancement pharmaceutical driven ‘sports’.

Please take a minute for a reality check, including scanning your entire body’s feelings. How does the foregoing fit? It’s an age old map and method for becoming fully, freely, playfully human. Yet it may be strange to your cultural conditioning. It’s roots go back more than 3,000 years — likely much further to the first shamans and human hunters.

From Physical Culture 1.0 to Physical Culture 2.0

In the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution belief arose that the middle and upper classes suffered from various diseases of affluence. Inspired by classical Greek and Roman athletic training and borrowing exercise systems from folk games, sport and dance, military training and medical calisthenics, more-or-less new ‘scientific’ systems of exercise developed. Many were new businesses. New levels of literacy, an emerging publication industry, and ability to mass produce and distribute exercise equipment all contributed to a rapidly developed Physical Culture 1.0 movement. The first wave of the enduring battle of exercise systems grew as well.

Physical Culture 2.0’s most important attribute lies within its context of development: its foundation is Trans-Evolutionary Fitness, hence PC 2.0 aims at the next step in evolution being consciously volitional, incorporating our embodied minds as our personal director. In fuller version, PC 2.0 incorporates emotional intelligence, stress management and development of brain/mind responses overcoming detrimental aspects of contemporary living. PC 2.0 is an evolutionary transformationalist orientation.  In that context, fitness is vividly whole system oriented.

Physical Culture 2.0 mission is to contribute its understanding participating in a grassroots revolution in health education empowering volitional, preventative self-care stimulating fullest development of genomic potential for health and fitness. Awakening the innate joy of playful participation in life is a major evolutionary step for most.

Watch for announcements of forthcoming educational publications, workshops, and private coaching from my Smart FIT (fully integrative training). And stay tuned as I reveal more installments of Physical Culture 2.0, my personal evolutionary journey.


In formulating Physical Culture 2.0 I must acknowledge my sources and influences otherwise the deepest significance of it being rooted in play will be missed.

A big part of my daily life is Rusty (13), Mandhi (10), Oso (9), Copper (5) and Cisco Bob (7): Rusty, Copper, and Cisco Bob are Australian Shepherds, Oso a strapping 100 pound Aussie-Retriever mix, and Mandhi a Queensland Healer. Supposedly working dogs, they are masters of play.

Each morning my first task is caring for them, in between sips of fresh coffee. Each greats me with new day exuberance. While it’s breakfast time, each prefers starting the day with some earnest play.

Each has a unique personality. Copper’s incredibly smart, runs after a ball with the intensity of a predator. I call Mandhi by the nickname ‘bullet’ for her running speed and agility. Rusty’s not the best fetching ball player, more a clown by nature: if he sees me folding laundry, he’ll dash in, snatch something, and then take off with it. Oso’s the big guy for whom there’s never an end to a retrieving game of tennis ball fetching. Cisco Bob, Mr. Imperturbable, excels at mid-air flying ball catching: cats, squirrels and deer don’t run from this mellow fellow. Play rules!

Copyrighted © 2011 by Ken O’Neill. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited:  all rights reserved by copyright holder.

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Tight Fittin’ Genes

Tight Fittin’ Genes — Metabolic Fitness

The irony is what we wish for most is what we once were.  – Lane Sebring, M.D.

Academically oriented evolutionary medicine and its popularized expression in the Paleo movement have called penetrating attention to our ancestral genome informed by environmentally prevalent, nutrient dense foods sustaining human life from at least a 100,000 years ago; furthermore, those disciplines demonstrate contemporary civilizations’ wealth of industrial foods are at variance with basic genomic requirements for health and longevity. Early contributors to both disciplines stressed the dynamic interplay of diet and exercise as an indivisible requirement for healthy genomic metabolic expression. Today’s popular Paleo movement has increasingly evidenced danger of unwittingly slipping into another ‘dietary sliver bullet’ movement by underplaying and over simplifying genomic requirements for exercise. Physical Culture 2.0 offers an integrated, whole systems approach incorporating nutritional and activity requirements triggering genetic signaling resulting in metabolic fitness. While industrial & toxic foods mightily contribute to inflammation, loss of insulin sensitivity, and myriad other potentially life threatening conditions, no amount of proper fueling of the human organism without robust activity sustains overall metabolic requirements for health.

Physical Culture 2.0 bears far reaching implications extending from ensuring fullest personal metabolic fitness to spurning a grassroots revolution in health education hopefully promoting a major paradigm shift in preventative self-care. Shifting medical attention from secondary and tertiary symptoms commonly diagnosed and treated, instead to upstream, functional origins provides an orientation to preventing, arresting, and reversing at least thirty-five major conditions misdiagnosed as ‘stand alone’ diseases today. Transition from expensive medical and pharmaceutical treatment combined with costly medical insurance to lower cost, life long investment in prevention putting people in charge of their lives results in redistribution of health responsibility to individual persons.

Physical Culture 2.0 rests upon extremely simple evolutionary genetic principles combined with recognition of the human story revealed by various anthropological discoveries. With an evolutionary based exercise biology brought into the discussion, a new and powerful practical paradigm emerges. Simply put, our culture’s collective ignorance has misled us all — nobody’s to blame and we’re all equally at fault and victims. With this article, you gain empowerment to change the course of your history — and perhaps a significant number of histories of persons you’re in contact with. Physical Culture 2.0 is not about sports, fitness, health, and the struggle to become motivated for exercise we all know through the melodramas of everyday life. Physical Culture 2.0 is as simple as Paleo diet, and the missing ingredient of the popular Paleo movement. The the Paleo diet will work somewhat without Physical Culture 2.0; with PC 2.0 and Paleo diet, you can supercharge yourself for ultimate genomic expression of metabolic fitness — that’s about as fit as anyone can become.

Before getting to the meat of the matter, let’s review the glorious past of Physical Culture 1.0, even its predecessors. Physical Culture is known to have been part of the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, India and China, and likely among other great civilizations of the past. Modern Physical Culture — let’s call it Physical Culture 1.0 ­— emerges from the mid 19th century when the reign of religion tumbled in favor of newly emerging science. Darwin’s work was pivotal in that transition, as were the triumphs of the Industrial Revolution in radically changing life from labor to leisure.

Physical Culture 1.0 remains for most the standard, popular operating system of exercise, fitness, physical therapy, sports medicine, and looking good naked. What a rich and varied tradition it is, with a cast of characters ranging from superb athletes, marketing geniuses, and snake oil salesmen! In a scant 160 years Physical Culture empires arose and collapsed, most long forgotten. By and large we have no popular sense of its history, leaving us without the protective armor of knowledge for assessing the latest fads and claims inundating us on the internet, print media, and regular reruns of lengthy infomercials. Physical culture 1.0 is also the fitness industry, a huge, complex, frequently contradictory web of products, claims, and marketing disguised as ‘science.’ Many trends in Physical Culture are kept alive by equipment manufacturers despite being scientifically proven of little to no value: huge profits require perpetuation of untrue myths to create consumer expectations and comfort.

On the bright side, Physical Culture 1.0 remains the bastion of perennial training wisdom. Contending training ideas were and remain rampant in PC 1.0. All too often training systems go overboard with enthusiasm or marketing, or both, claiming to be the ultimate system. The truth be told, virtually any training system will bring results to a neophyte. Changing training routines most often brings new results — for upwards of six weeks! Much of Physical Culture 1.0 coaching wisdom rests on decades of observation and experimentation. Nineteenth and twentieth century Physical Culture 1.0 may well be short on robust scientific explanations but that is more than offset by a rich diversity of coaching know-how, a wealth of protocols. With roots in contemporary science, PC 2.0 benefits everyone by resolving some ancient feuds, most often finding them to be complimentary rather than opposites. PC 2.0 is a major upgrade to PC 1.0, a revised, more user friendly operating system!

Physical Culture 2.0 has been brewing for at least forty years. Only in the late 60s did exercise physiology begin in earnest to ferment. Throughout the later 1980s movement in evolutionary medicine and evolutionary biology bore important impact for exercise physiology. Yet the full significance of findings of exercise physiology have yet to impact bio-medical research in general, and in particular seem to have successfully avoided detection within the popular neo Paleo movement.

Evolutionary medicine recognized the contemporary genome to be nearly identical to that of our hunter/gatherer forebears of 50,000 – 100,000 years ago. The anthropological record, however, demonstrates despite being nearly genetically identical to our ancestors, we’ve nevertheless become shrunken versions of them. We’re not as tall as they were, our bones are smaller, and hence our muscles are far under developed. What’s more, extant hunter/gathers do not suffer from the pandemic of chronic degenerative diseases sweeping contemporary civilization. Anthropological reports of hunter/gatherers the world over testify to natural levels of fitness at least rivaling those of peak athletic performance in Western civilization.

At this point the singular salient question has to be posed: what’s normal human genomic expression?

Our 100,000 year old genome has bode well despite several major environmental disruptions impeding and inhibiting its natural expression. With dawning of the Neolithic period some 10,000 years ago domestication of animals and development of agriculture arose, lessening survival mandated activity demands. What’s more, humans banded together in villages, then cities, in turn becoming those fortified, large congregations of humans known as city-states. Cities afforded new opportunities for development of communicable disease, in part facilitated by development of unsanitary conditions. Domestication of humans, like other species, allowed for tribal stragglers of weak genetic disposition to survive into adulthood and multiply: for most of our history, weak stragglers were easy game for predators, thereby maintaining a more robust genetic pool due to reproductive fitness.

A major tipping point occurred less than a mere two centuries ago. Prior to then farmers of ancient Egypt shared a lifestyle far more in common to that of George Washington, and radically different from that of Charles Darwin. The Industrial Revolution’s far reaching changes resulted in decreased hard labor, invention of a culture of prolonged childhood due to need fewer workers, development of steam power, electrical power, mass production in factories, locomotives, later internal combustion engine vehicles, electrical turbines, distribution of electricity and natural gas via pipelines to homes, widespread food distribution networks, and processing, preservation, and canning of food. Most of our selection of fresh fruits is hybrids developed in that period. Results included greater prosperity, resulting in better housing extending life expectancy.

Current Paleo discourse puts greatest emphasis on the Fall of Mankind occurring 10,000 years ago with the domestication of livestock and development of agriculture. Note the emphasis: diet is the culprit. The work of Eaton, Konner, and Cordain is half ignored with that approach — or half understood. Dietary change accounts for introduction of toxic foods while failing to account for the dramatic shift in activity demand arising nearly 200 years ago. The dramatic impact on transition from activity to leisurely sedentariness was initiated with the Industrial Revolution and exponentially deepened ever since.

While the Neolithic revolution may have shaped a first downfall in healthy, natural genomic expression, the Industrial Revolution and what followed with High Technology have borne far more wide reaching environmental impact. Those impacts begin with our culturally sponsored expectations and beliefs about the nature of reality — maintenance of which constitutes unquestioning membership in society. A once robust, active species, in two short centuries our way of life grew incredibly sedentary. We have come to view normal as a sedentary condition of living, along with also accepting as normal roughly 35 disease conditions stemming from ‘normal living.’

Physical Culture 2.0 & the Contemporary Pandemic

Many researchers in the fields of evolutionary medicine (S. Boyd Eaton, Mel Konner, & Loren Cordain), evolutionary biology, and exercise physiology (Dr. Fred Hatfield, Dr. Joseph Signorile, & Brad Schoenfeld) as well as several in the popular neo Paleo movement (Art de Vany, Robb Wolf and Dr Kurt Harris) have contributed to my current understanding. Most of all, however, the utterly brilliant work of Dr. Frank W. Booth remains tops. An integrative, whole systems thinker and researcher, his work emphasizes the primacy of activity or exercise as the standard for discussion of genomic health, SeDS (Sedentary Death Syndrome) as the root of our current condition of unacceptable, needless suffering and expense, and an ongoing campaign to wake up current research to a standard of scientific/epistemological sanity and sobriety based on recognition of fit persons as the standard of healthy genetic expression. The sheer volume of Booth’s publications is staggering; even more so is his coordination of resources: frequently contributing invited reviews of the state of knowledge, his coordination of resources easily runs into several hundred references. Definitely a polymath, his call for reform of research based on establishing a standard of normality closest to the human genome for control groups is the basis of an immense grassroots and scientific paradigm shift in primary preventative care based on rich genomic expression.

My tipping point occurred with a second reading of his coauthored 2002 “Exercise and gene expression: physiological regulation of the human genome through physical activity”. Booth’s articles are so comprehensively dense that missing the significance of a single sentence in his tightly woven discourse can be a catastrophic mistake. Second time around I read:

“Neel…wrote that although trained athletes retain the relative muscle mass of early humans (at least until competitions are over), modern humans are characterized by a ‘striking sarcopenia’. Thus, one can infer based on these statements that the relative size of human muscle mass from the Late Paleolithic era was larger than today. Consequently what is called the mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy from sedentary levels today would probably be the maintenance muscle mass in the Late Paleolithic era.”(p. 401). [emphasis mine].

Booth’s arguments include evidence from physical anthropology. However, more salient are his presentations of how physical inactivity constitutes failure to maintain homeostatic signaling of gene level expression of the Paleolithic period innate within us. Those genes requiring physical activity are also disease-susceptible. That results in signals inhibiting health promoting processes of protein sequencing while activating disease promoting proteins. In turn, altering of intercellular homeostasis comes about, altering metabolic set points. Once we move from acute to chronic thresholds of physiological significance, you can count on pathophysiological manifestations embodying our contemporary pandemic of chronic degenerative diseases, resulting in debilitating erosion of vital reserves ending in predictable death. Many of us sadly observe friends, family members, middle aged and elders slipping into degenerative demise.

Professor Booth proposes a wake up call for health research: include as the control group those who are athletically fit best case representatives of genomic expression. Dr Joseph Signorile’s recent Bending the Aging Curve (Human Kinetics, 2011) does exactly that, with noteworthy differences amplifying the essential survival role of life long fitness training rooted in surfing the curve of strength types.

Too often for my comfort, research citations are reported without drilling down to examination of the actual research design. A good case in point came my way just last week. An author for whom I have the highest regard referred in passing to a fairly recent research publication “Strength, But Not Muscle Mass, Is Associated with Mortality in Health, Aging, and Body Composition Cohort” (Newman et. al., Journal of Gerontology, 2006). Nearly 2,300 subjects ranging in age from 70-79 years of age participated. Considerable robust testing of various factors was performed. Conclusions were based on mortality rates among a senior population within normal end of life ranges (unnoted in the study). While testing included activity, the study was randomized without a control group. The study’s conclusions appear specious in abstentia of controls evidencing life long fitness or sedentary habits. At best, it can be said older people exhibiting several types of strength live longer than others: but, we want to know were those who lived longer physically active?

In approaching PC 2.0, please bear in mind that the current view of civilization holds that the genetically abnormal is normal. The single biggest step for gaining self-mastery lies in systematic application of knowing “normal is abnormal.”

Transition from PC 1.0 to Physical Culture 2.0 hinges on a basic understanding of genetic expression.

Here’s an easy to remember schema giving visual representation for understanding conditions that kill and conditions empowering rich genomic healthy expression. Environmental interactions include sedentariness, alcohol, tobacco, stress, and pharmaceuticals.

Genotype + environment (E) + genotype & environmental interactions (GE) -> phenotype (P)

In very simple terms, your genotype is the range of survival potentialities you bring to the world, while the phenotype is your conditioned expression of them. Phenotypes are not mutations. Genotype refers to an organism’s full range of hereditary information, even if not expressed. Phenotype is an individual organism’s actual properties and characteristics alive in the world.

Today’s E condition includes toxic industrial foods, sedentary life styles, tobacco, alcohol, recreational drugs, electromagnetic pollution, and other factors.

GE is where things become dicey and systemic. Inappropriate diet sets off a cascade of immunological reactions while down grading greatly taxed metabolism. Sedentary lack of exercise signals sequencing of unhealthy metabolic effects, inducing unhealthy metabolic chaos. Synergy is explained as that condition in which one plus one is greater than two. The constellation of just an inappropriately toxic diet and lack of exercise is sufficient to put your metabolism into a nose dive. What kind of nose dive? One of acute yet persistent episodes operating in the background until they reach critical mass — critical mass perturbs crossing thresholds resulting in noticeable degeneration, even diagnostic degeneration. That’s how we do ourselves in as a culture!

PC 1.0 isn’t much help here. It stalls due to being based on symptoms of fitness rather than the deeper genetic, cellular, metabolic, biochemical levels of understanding of what’s really going on. PC 1.0 straps us with theories so limiting they result in anomalies. Anomalies don’t exist in nature: instead, they evidence shortcomings of incomplete theories. Anomalies easily become poorly formulated theoretical dismissals aimed at keeping incomplete models on life support. PC 2.0 cuts to the chase — train for genomic stimulation of metabolic fitness. Further blogs will deal with ranges and kinds of metabolic demands in relation to activity demands.

PC 2.0 aims at optimizing metabolic fitness. Metabolism is not a single item, rather a complex web of processes. PC 1.0 gives us a wealth of training systems, each of which address some specific metabolic processes but not all. In that sense, PC 1.0 training systems work well for what they do while usually remaining incomplete in terms of comprehension of overall metabolic conditioning. In practical terms, physical training must orchestrate various protocols into one strategic plan ensuring best genomic stimulation of cascading metabolic events.

Those following Keith Norris’ excellent Theory to Practice blog learned in his recent “In an Evolutionary Sense, Why Hypertrophy “  of our ongoing discussion of the matter over the past month. I published my introductory “Physical Culture 2.0” the same day. Only later that day did I reread Frank Booth’s comment cited above. His comment reframed the discussion for me. Keith and I were both dealing with an evolutionary question within context of PC 1.0. No big surprise to that: we share a collective 80+ years of formative experience in PC 1.0!

Hypertrophy or gaining muscular size and strength isn’t primary to Physical Culture 2.0.  Absence of large, strong muscles developed by natural, robust upbringing speaks of arrested, incomplete development. Normal means immature, under developed genomic expression. Healthy genomic expression in an athletic-like physical condition frames conditioning, training, and movement as the way of life long maintenance of a healthy condition. Hypertrophy oriented training is a therapeutic intervention treating a deficiency condition. Physical Culture 2.0 rests on one foundational idea: gaining then maintaining fullest genomic expression of health. With that muscle is gained as an expression of attaining metabolic health. For PC 2.0, deficiency of healthy genomic stimulation results in adverse metabolic chaos: PC 2.0 aims to restore healthy genomic stimulation resulting in metabolic fitness, health, longevity, and a passion for life. In that regard, PC 2.0 training is therapeutic intervention aimed not at a cure but, instead, restoration of natural, innate genomic expression as metabolic fitness. Depending how late in life one begins that journey of self-mastery, some years of consistently passionate training will eventually result moving to the stage of life long maintenance. The enduring feature you’ll achieve is autonomy and independence, pride in performance, a sense of genuine character development as a wise individual directing your healthy life.

Physical Culture 2.0 emphasizes training your genes: the genes that make you look good in tight fitting jeans! Gym work triggers healthy genetic expression; what’s more, such activity is how your genetic intelligence embodies healthy metabolism. Taking in nutrient dense whole foods provides the raw fuel as a necessary but not sufficient condition. Physical Culture 2.0 concentrates training as metabolic conditioning.

Much is at stake with fitness in the context of Physical Culture 2.0. In his “Lack of adequate appreciation of physical exercise’s complexities can pre-empt appropriate design and interpretation of scientific discovery” (J. Physiol 587.23 (2009), p. 5531) Booth enumerates 35 adverse disease conditions stemming from metabolic catastrophe. He recommends research focus on primary causes. Orthodox medicine focuses on disease conditions at their secondary and tertiary resulting stages of development as pathologies stemming from ignored primary causes. The ranking primary causes stem from inactivity signaling production of metabolic chaos. The role of Physical Culture 2.0 extends well beyond PC 1.0 considerations of getting buff and in shape toward supporting a grassroots revolution in preventative self-care and healthiness education. Our health care system is in a state of utter chaos stemming for systematic ignoring of primary causes. PC 2.0 promotes natural, healthy genomic expression as metabolic fitness.

Several popular theories of exercise have rooted in the popular Paleo movement, all artifacts of Physical Culture 1.0. In fairness, all theories of exercise and training methods have roots in PC 1.0. We would do well to hold all popular theories on advisement until coming to grips with training in context of gaining fullest possible healthy genomic expression as metabolic fitness. Discussions of training type, training frequency, recuperation become subordinate to facilitating healthy metabolic fitness. Genetic signaling results in stimulation of healthy metabolic processes — necessitating a program including various types of training methods. As such, there’s no quick fix nor one system that covers all bases. Metabolic training mandates training variety on a regular basis.

A few training methods promise maximum quick fixes with as little as one or two training sessions per week. In my book, that’s a rest week! But it may be the case that some of the population retrains strangler genes rendering them more prone to long term recuperation due to a predisposition toward sedentariness. Before typecasting yourself as a hard-gainer of strangler genetic heritage, first experiment with varying training methods. Reasonable training should facilitate innate genomic recuperative expression along with other markers of restoration. As such, some of the population is likely disposed to a slower beginning vis-à-vis a long term strategy ensuring success. Merely sticking with a beginning conditioning program is a sure fire way for ensuring less than optimal development.

In fullest application, PC 2.0 based training programs should be implemented either at home or in preschools, and physical education should be re-established in grades K-12. The younger healthy genomic expression is cultivated, the more easily children grow into fully matured manifestations of 100,000 year old genetic maturity and wisdom.

What might that look like? Dr. Sebring and I would argue the richest athletic embodiment we know of are decathlon athletes whose sport demands speed, agility, explosive power,  endurance, and other important fitness markers. We know from anthropological and historical reporting humans possess prodigious abilities rarely tapped. With PC 2.0 we’ll discover who we are. There are clues.  Lake Placid Winter Olympic games speed and endurance skating events were swept by one amazing athlete, now Eric Haeden, MD. Haeden possessed leg development the envy of bodybuilders with 28+” thighs. His training broke all the rules of PC 1.0. A normal leg workout might involve laps around a track doing duck walks, or sets of 100 repetitions with over 500 pounds on the much harder to use old fashion vertical leg press machines. On one occasion, Haeden used a 205 pound barbell for one set of full squats, racking up an unimaginable 300 nonstop repetitions. Tom Platz is legendary for doing 26 nonstop repetition squats with 525 pounds. Modern mankind’s major obstacle to such performance lies in being convinced only the genetically gifted can make such achievements. An implication of Physical Culture 2.0 holds that most all of us are genetically gifted but lack sufficient curiosity to open the gift package: we have not been educated to know our life depends on doing so. We under-live. Our civilization has excelled in creating lasting amnesia to our nature, our freedom, our passion for the possible. We simply don’t know who we are.

Physical Culture 2.0 is a new paradigm. As such, it should stir healthy controversy inherent in gaining mastery of a new way of thinking and doing. Please join that discussion.

 Copyrighted © by Ken O’Neill. All rights reserved.

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