I am 60 years old. Life expectancy for a man of my time and age on PEI is 75. On Average by 65 the average of men like me will be helpless.
My own father died at 55. My mum has been an invalid since she has been 45. So the big question that I am confronting is not when I should die but will I too become a helpless invalid soon and burden my family and the state with looking after me.
The issue for me is not about death but about my life! My question is - How will I live out my last decades? Will I be getting progressively more frail or will I be healthy, active and a contributor until my end?
This question is about my health and also about my finances.
Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia are all how most of us end up. Even in Canada with the state paying - this can be crippling financially. If my mother did not have a pension from my dad I don't know how we would have coped. In the US the costs are immediate and can ruin a family. If you are an American and you get any of these, you will end up bankrupt.
In Canada and in the UK, when most of us are over 65, the costs of the new normal way of aging will ruin the state as well. On PEI the costs of healthcare will double in 2015 and double again to 2.4 billion in 2018. The total tax revenue from PEI's own resources is currently $600!
Now that most of us will be old, the stakes are huge - for me and for you as individuals and also for the societies that we live in.
So what to do? I and you are surrounded by fad diets and by people making their living by giving us "answers"
I have the motivation but I did not have a context for action so that I could choose a path that I could sustain. For I, like you, am a creature of habits that will be hard to break. I had to find not simply a diet but a way of life that would suit me and one that was not impossibly hard for me. I had to find a way that I could adhere too.
I had to find a context for action.
My regular readers will know that I have long espoused a return to a more Human way of life that is more akin to our Tribal Norms. I have written for a time and extensively about what this may be like. I have written also about how to grow food in a new/old way.
So one day abut 3 months ago, I got a call from a friend who wanted to introduce me to a colleague of his - Dr Michael Rose. Michael is one of the leading Evolutionary Biologists of our time and is one of the leaders in the world on the process of aging. Thus has begun one of the most formative relationships of my life.
For my bias has always been science. As many bang on about this and that in areas that I care about sich as how the Social in Social media work - I look to the science. Hence my interest in Robin Dunbar whom I have been following for many years. So my interest in parenting is not about this fad or that but in the science of how family culture affects children's development. Hence my interest in Doug Willms. So my interest in how our institutions affect the health and spirit of employees is not just a rant but based on the research of Dr Sir Michael Marmot.
What Michael Rose has opened my eyes to are these vital contextual points that are rooted in not a "How To Book" but in a lifetime of research and from a mind that is laser like.
- Aging is not downhill all the way from our peak to the grave - that trajectory is a product of how we have bolted our modern culture onto our Paleo biology. We can halt aging. It does halt normally if we reach about 80 - but we can halt it earlier. I want to halt mine NOW!
- The diseases of modern times that cause us to age in this way and that make us so ill are a result of how our culture - Post industrial living and eating of 50 years - Farming and Settled of 7,000 years for North Europeans and much less for all else and 100 years for Natives - has violated our biology of more than 2,000,000 years. We have got too far away from whom we are!
- Diet is a very important first step in regaining our health and with a more "Human" diet, we can undo a lot of damage - modern diseases are unknown in the few remaining Hunter Gatherer societies.
- But so are other areas of how we live - How we are employed - how large the population of the place is where we live - how much sunlight, sleep we get - the strength of our tribe connections - the kind of activity we get.
In short, Michael is recommending that I and you do our best to live a Paleo or more Human life - to live again as a Sapiens and not as a Sap!
By this he does not mean return to skins and a cave. Remember at the time of the Renaissance, people also re-discovered the wisdom of the Classic Age and using this Wisdom overthrew the Dogma of the Medieval time that was based on the self interest of the governing institutions of the time - the church and the hereditary monarchies.
This lead to a cultural change.
We too today live in a Matrix. We think that it is "Normal" that we get ill the way we do. We think it "Normal" that we look the way we do. We hope that the institutions will "Cure" us when we get these Normal Illnesses. There are powerful forces out there that do very well out of this and we think their role in our life is "Normal" too.
But then in 1500 the Universal Church, the Inquisition and Monarchies were normal too.
This new series will be my kind of 95 Theses. I am going to show you the "Observed Truth" not the fad. I will confine myself to science. Not just Michael's work but a host of other scientists, who each have a piece of the puzzle well worked out now. In my next post I will outlines the areas that I will be working in.
The greatest challenge we will have - you and I are our own beliefs and habits and the vested interests of the powerful who wish us to stay as we are. Later I will explore this too. I will explore Resistance and the Coming Inquisition.
But for now - for you to chew on - what am I doing that is helping me fit my life closer to my paleo biology and how is this working.
My plan is to get back to about 165 lbs. Most important to lose my tummy fat. I am now at 185 lbs so I have lost 20 lbs already. Imagine carrying a back pack with 20 lbs of books around all day. At 165 lbs I will have lost 40 lbs. You try carrying 40 lbs around all the time - you probably do!
So that is my goal - what am I doing? I am trying to be Human again. Trying to match the life that I am designed to live by my evolution. I am doing my best to mirror the following:
Food and Diet - In our Paleo past - all 2 million years of it - we ate mainly meat, insects, nuts, fish and leaf and root veggies. We have been cooking for at least 2 million years. We did not mainly eat Raw food. Nor did we only eat veggies and plants. Our brain development was powered by meat. (I know that many will be upset to hear this and in later posts I will make the link to the science)
I come from Northern European stock. My genes are the most adapted to dairy and grain. But we lose this adaptation by our middle years. If you are of African descent, you have no adaptation to this. Most of you are lactose intolerant. If you are Asian - dairy is out! If you are a Native American or Canadian - you were eating a traditional diet only 100 years ago and you have no tolerance for any modern food - least of all for the very worst modern foods - sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
No one!!!! Is adapted to the Agribusiness Diet. Look at the global obesity and diabetes epidemic that has taken off since the 1980's.
If you are a Native - the answers are in your traditional culture - what an opportunity to go home for you.
Lot's more to say here later - for of course the Food Pyramid is wrong. Wonder why? Also need to help you with "a calorie is not a calorie issue" - we are not a simple machine and different foods get dealt with in different ways. Controlling calories and attempting to burn them off is too simplistic an idea.
Nor is this about sacrifice - if it was no one could do it.
Am I hungry? Not at all. One of the interesting things about giving up grains is that mow my Leptin works - this is what tells me and you when you are full. Sugar kills this off. As soon as I have had enough, I get told. I am never hungry.
Sleep - Hunter Gatherers lived by the Sun. They sat around the fire at night but got up with the Sun. Dreams are a key part of how they process issues. How much sleep do you get? Most of us are deprived and sleep has all sorts of healing properties - it also enables you to process complex problems. I get at least 8 hours a night and I wake to the sun. My window faces East.
Work - Of course when you get up in the morning is connected to how you work. If you have a "job" you usually use clock time. If you commute - it is even worse. If you have kids - it's even worse! But our real normal is to work in a tribal setting not in the setting of the "Man". So work is task based and the work part of the day is punctuated with long periods of social or rest time. Daycare is your eldest daughter or sister. Work made up about 25% of the day. It probably does for you too - the rest is in meetings or commuting. Can you do any work at work anyway?
I have been self employed for 15 years and I get up when I want to. My commute is 8 steps. I go to bed when I am tired and get up with the light. In summer that is very early. In winter it is late.
Exercise and Daylight - When have you seen a ripped Hunter Gatherer? When have you seen them exert themselves except for a reason? This is the bit I like! We are designed by our biology to be active. That is to be moving around a lot and to carry loads. The word here is ACTIVE not exercise. Walk - carry wood - carry babies - carry food. Have stairs and use them. Stand a lot.
Be outside a lot. Most of us who live in the North are very deficient in Vitamin D - the best place to get it is outside in the sun.
Have a Tribe - Then worst thing that could happen to a Paleo person was to be shunned, expelled or to be without her tribe. We are designed to be part of a small group of people that we would die for. Many today have barely a parent. I have my web tribe that is very small but where the feelings of trust and love are high and I have an active extended family that increasingly looks after each other in very tangible ways.
The worst thing that can happen to your health is to lose a loved spouse or to have a major break with a sibling. These kind of social events can kill you.
Live in Small Groups - Most of the infectious diseases of our time come from concentrations of people and animals. We are designed to live in small communities where we "Know" most people. We are intensely social with all sorts of social tools that keep us informed as to what is really going on. When we live in big places we shut all of this down to protect ourselves from the noise. We switch off most of our feedback mechanism and so get "lost' - we tend to disappear into ourselves. This is the root of so much dysfunction and depression.
I live on PEI - total pop 140,000. We all know everyone! The big city is 35,000 this size of Athens of Socrates and London of Elizabeth 1st.
Mission - A Tribe has a compelling mission that all adults are prepared to die for. The kids must survive and have their time as the leaders of the Tribe. This is no faux corporate mission - this is the reality of all existence and we have largely forgotten it. It can be a larger mission that includes all the kids in your city or state or province.
At 60 my own kids are important but now so are all kids. I am devoted to doing my best to give them a better chance - for it is me and our generation that has used up so much of the planet just for us and that has given them shit for a future.
Having a mission gives the later years of my life a purpose and with a purpose a reason to stay vital and active.
So my dear readers - this is the thesis.
Over the next few weeks I will delve into every part of this and introduce you to the Scientists and to their work - Any of the points that I have made now that are odd - seem wrong etc I will expand on.
I am not saying that you have to do anything. I will talk about what I have done and will do. My point is to show you that what I am doing is possible - I have done it or I am doing it.
All I am doing is also rooted in science. I am not trying to sell anything. But if you want to take charge of your health - please pile in.