Happiness


What is happiness and how important is it to you? The answer to this seems obvious at first, yet as we look closer we can see that the answer to this question is more illusive than one might think. The fact is, if we all had a clearly defined picture of what happiness means to us―we would all strive towards it.

Source:googleimages/clipart  

How much happiness do you really want? So, I Imagine you, dear reader, now sit poised with eyebrows raised at such a silly question. When your eyebrows return from the top of your head, allow me to explain why the question is not silly, nor is the answer self-evident. Maximum happiness and maximum knowledge, whilst the two are not mutually exclusive, I would argue, the two interests are in a zero-sum contest; that is to say, we cannot have the maximum happiness and the maximum knowledge simultaneously. As we surely want both happiness and knowledge, this means we need to make a difficult decision, how much of each do we want in our lives?  Knowledge is necessarily burdensome―the more we know the more we understand how much we do not know. Idioms like “ignorance is bliss” suggest I’m not the first to recognise that as we attain more knowledge we also learn of the depths of the problems we face. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability tend to overrate their competence, intelligence, and have an illusory sense of superiority―the fact that the majority of drivers rate themselves as better than average demonstrates this perfectly. If ignorance really is bliss and the most important thing in our lives is to be happy, then why waste our time on knowledge at all? Well, we recognise implicitly that happiness is not the be-all-and-end-all of our existence. House dogs―well treated― are the happiest creatures I can think of. A walk, some cuddles, a comfy spot to call their own, and they are in a perpetual state of happiness. They are not burdened by the knowledge of their own mortality and have everything done for them. Yet, is there anyone on the planet who would sincerely trade places with their furry friend? If there is, this person is likely not of sound mind! We recognise that a reduction in happiness is a price we are willing to pay in order to have the intelligence to appreciate a sonnet, or a symphony, a great work of art, literature, or a conversation. The trade-off between happiness and knowledge gives rise to experiences of awe and wonder. An inconvenient fact is that people who have children rate themselves as less happy than they were before they had kids, so why have them at all? It is because we recognise that, whilst we will endure the burden of child rearing, it is an experience which we ultimately want to have in our lives. We recognise that in spite of it being hard, and burdensome, and stressful that this experience is invaluable and to be without it can be tragic. Most would consider this experience to be their most meaningful despite the zero-sum relationship it has with happiness.

Source:googleimages              

Is happiness, simply, a synonym for contentment? There are two people within your consciousness, each jostling for control of your actions―the current-self and the-reflective self. If we were asked, as we mindlessly browsed social media, how content and happy we felt in that moment, the current-self would perk up and we would say that we were indeed happy and content. However, at the end of our day, when we total up time spent on social media, if we were asked how happy or content we were throughout the day, the reflective-self would perk up and we would express regret for our time spent on social media because, reflectively, we see this as time wasted. Now, both of these versions of yourself have a purpose, the current-self needs to be appeased from time to time in order to stay sane and the reflective-self is working towards the big picture. However, your current self is only concerned about making you feel content and this contentment, usually, takes the form of cheap and easy pleasure. When we embark on a challenge, a new diet plan for example, our reflective-self understands that to maximise happiness you will need to make sacrifices which your current-self doesn’t want to make. Your reflective-self, generally, is the version of yourself which you need to take control of your actions, it does not bother about feeling content in the moment―it is concerned with long-term happiness.

My advice to you then is this. Figure out how happy you want to be, define it, and write down the long term goal which would have the maximum happiness payoff with the minimum knowledge loss to you. This may mean distancing yourself from things which you like in order to specialise in one domain. Let your reflective-self take control and strive towards achieving your personal definition of happiness. Be aware that at times you will not feel content, but take refuge in the fact that you know you are investing in a plan for long term happiness.

Written by Aidan Doherty

The Sugar Crisis


the truth about sugar

The fitness industry, like any other, spits out trends at a phenomenal rate. Food Gurus, paradoxically, seem to find the ultimate diet to trump all others every few years. They make outlandish claims about what’s currently trending, nutritionally speaking, and when counter evidence is presented to them they seem completely resilient to the opprobrium. They move on, plant a flag somewhere else and, without compunction, make some more money spinning the same story. So then the question becomes; where do we get our information from? How can we tell the difference between a credible source and perfidious charlatan? The answer, unfortunately, is that the onus lies with you. Like it or not you are now part of an information age unlike any before it. The information bubble has popped and we are adrift in its entrails. As we float in this sea of information, we can use many devices to extract what we want yet the methods of filtering we normally use seem to be redundant. There are, however, methods out there which are both readily accessible and consistently reliable (tautology, so what?!). You now have a responsibility to implement these before promulgating information.

I have decided then to turn my, unforgiving, eye towards the current demonization of sugar. It’s important to note that demonization is often justified so it pays to look into these things — an informed decision is rarely regretted so, let’s get informed!

So firstly, what is sugar? Sugar is a form of carbohydrate which is broken down very quickly by the body. Sugar takes many forms however the ones we are most familiar with are sucrose (table sugar), fructose (sugar in fruit), lactose (sugar in milk), and glucose (what carbohydrates are broken down into). Glucose is the only fuel source which brain cells can use — so the notion that we don’t need carbohydrates can be dispelled immediately. Sugar is now facing the obloquy and it has become quite fashionable to finger it for the current obesity crisis facing the western world.

So let’s do away with some popular misapprehensions surrounding sugar and see if we can’t get our heads above water with what is true and what isn’t.

 

Claim – Sugar Makes You Hyper

We have all been there with our kids, they’ve returned home from a party jacked up on cake, chocolate, and aptly prepared to give you a mental breakdown! “Too much damn sugar at that party!” Tends to be our complaint! Unfortunately, as great as it would be to have an out like this, science has shown time and time again that the link between sugar and our kid’s hyper-activity simply does not exist. The brain uses glucose as an energy source and thus it seemed logical to link sugar intake with increased cognitive activity; there have been some studies which show that cognitive ability may be increased by consuming sugar however even these findings have not been demonstrated effectively. Take this quote from a review which looked at the literature regarding the link between sugar and children’s behaviour and cognitive abilities…

The meta-analytic synthesis of the studies to date found that sugar does not affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children. The strong belief of parents may be due to expectancy and common association.”

There was also a brilliant study analysing children and parents, in which the parents were told their children had been given either a placebo or actual sugar. In actuality neither groups had sugar and both were given a placebo. The mothers who believed their children had been given sugar actually reported that their children were significantly more hyperactive! This demonstrated that our biases are playing too much of a roll, we are expecting our children to be more hyper and therefore we perceive them to be such.

Claim – Sugar is toxic and addictive!

Facebook is notoriously good at proliferating absurdities and it — again — has a part to play in the propagation of the notion that sugar has addictive properties. Social media’s role in the alarmism that surrounds many of the topics today cannot be overstated. Articles which allude to sugar being addictive are everywhere these days and, to this end, it’s important for me to firstly make some distinctions. There is a spectrum here which, at one end, people use hyperbolic titles to get clicks and, at the other, flat out asserts that sugar is as addictive as cocaine. I am addressing the harmful end of this spectrum. This all comes from a study on lab rats which demonstrated sugar had addictive properties BUT this cannot be extrapolated to humans. There is a large body of evidence contravening this claim which has shown that — in humans — sugar is NOT addictive. The review concluded… 

“To conclude, the society as a whole should be aware of the differences between addiction in the context of substance use versus an addictive behavior. As we pointed out in this review, there is very little evidence to indicate that humans can develop a “Glucose/Sucrose/Fructose Use Disorder.”

Humans do however develop eating disorders and these people typically tend to have unhealthy relationships with high calorie, low nutrient foods. As for toxicity, anything can be toxic given that we consume enough of it and sugar is no different — studies have shown this again and again. Obscurantism like this can be extremely misleading to the general public. Take this quote from a study reviewing the literature…

“There is no evidence, however, that fructose is the sole, or even the main factor in the development of these diseases, nor that it is deleterious to everybody, and public health initiatives should therefore broadly focus on the promotion of healthy lifestyles generally.

Claim – High Fat Low Carb is best, sugar is the enemy! 

There is, indeed, the notion that there is one diet which surpasses all others! One which its proponents claim is how humans were meant to eat. There tends to be a lot of zealotry with in the low carb community and you will regularly here utterances such as “the ultimate diet” espoused by proponents of ketogenic and low carb diets, in fact, the topic has been the source of many of my posts. There is quite a bit of literature to support this claim too and that, I think, is one of the reasons this trend has taken off. The problem is that with literature we need to learn, not just to look at conclusions drawn, but also at the limitations with the research, and what you will find is that most of the literature which supports low carb diets don’t control for some very fundamental variants… calories and protein. You see, what we find when we compare diets in which calories and protein are equated is that there is no difference! Here a very recent review of the literature concludes…

“A wide range of dietary approaches (low-fat to low-carbohydrate/ketogenic, and all points between) can be similarly effective for improving body composition, and this allows flexibility with program design. To date, no controlled, inpatient isocaloric diet comparison where protein is matched between groups has reported a clinically meaningful fat loss or thermic advantage to the lower-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet. “

Thus we know that —fundamentally — our calorie and protein intake are of the utmost importance. Excess calories, be it from sugar or fat, will lead to obesity.

 

Claim – Sugar Causes Diabetes 

 

Diabetes is a condition which causes a persons blood sugar to become too high. There are two kinds of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the cells which produce insulin. Type two diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing insulin. The root cause of type 2 diabetes is generally unknown however what we do know is that there are some major contributing factors, most notable is weight gain! This 2018 overview lists the risk factors as follows…

  • Being overweight and not getting enough exercise.
  • Smoking.
  • Low fibre, high fat, sugary diet.
  • Medication which affect the body sugar metabolism.
  • Genetic factors.

What is the common denominator when looking at these lifestyle factors? Overweight, Little exercise, low fibre, high fat, sugary foods. All these things lead to a negative energy balance i.e. you’re taking in more calories than you need! That said there are a number of factors which need to be addressed as stated in this consensus statement. It does however go on to say…

“Most patients with type 2 diabetes are obese, and the global epidemic of obesity largely explains the dramatic increase in the incidence and prevalence of type 2 diabetes over the past 20 years.”

And then follows with…

“However, the precise mechanisms linking the two conditions remain unclear, as does our understanding of interindividual differences. Improved understanding will help advance identification and development of effective treatment options.”

This shows that whilst there is a prevalent link between lifestyle and type two diabetes we simply do not know the specifics of that link as of yet and to attribute it to sugar would be specious. The best advise to give someone is to get their weight under control and exercise as often as possible.

So in conclusion. There is nothing inherently bad with sugar, problems arise when we eat beyond what we need — when we are in a surplus of calories. There is a hierarchy of importance which we should appeal to when addressing these things and at the top of this hierarchy is total number of macronutrients by the end of the day. Fundamentally, if we manage our calories correctly, eat enough protein and plenty of fibre, most of the hard work is done. Sugars only really become a concern when we go into a surplus of calories. Peace!

Written by Aidan Doherty

Can Positive Body Image be Harmful


Blog Graphic depicting a woman binge eating

If the title confuses you, or worse still offends you, then I implore you to read calmly and objectively. As the western political pendulum caroms between left and right, regression and dogma, and emotive arguments vs skewed arguments, I see the preliminary symptoms of such behaviour creep surreptitiously into the fitness domain. What is amazing to me is that for most of these issues the answer seems so simple — honest and open discourse about the facts.  Facts are paramount here, we must address them in their entirety if we are to progress.

So before I put my point across I feel I should clarify some things, lest I be misunderstood. Firstly — kindness is beautiful and useful! I am extremely proud to live in society in which kindness is an extremely important component in our system’s operation. Compassion and kindness are two values which most of our populace would have instilled systemically and would give priority to, and rightly so. If you doubt our societies commitment to kindness and human flourishing go to the middle east or North Korea and see what it looks like when human life is undervalued. Perouse the history books and read how communist states had to remind it’s citizens that eating their children was a crime. This is only what has happened in the last century, as you go further into the past the rate and severity of suffering and violence increases almost exponentially. The empirical evidence, which shows we live in the best of all possible times by any meaningful metric, is overwhelmingly clear.

 

That being said, being kind is often not the most compassionate thing to do. The best analogy I can give to demonstrate this comes by way of how we treat and teach our children. Take this situation in which your child has been brought home by two police officers for shop lifting. The kind thing to do here is to forgive your child and welcome him/her back into your house with no repercussions — solve the problem with love! However, we all know that is the most uncompassionate thing you can do for your child. This will teach them absolutely nothing about right from wrong and will instead socially encumber them indefinitely.  What kind of parent cares so little for their child that they would not punish him/her when they needed to be punished. Through this act of unkindness [punishment] we teach our children social values such as how to act so that everyone — including them — has the best possible experience in life.

I see an analogous situation to the “solve the problem with love” method happening within the media. Positive body image, which has been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of eating disorders, has some how been extrapolated to glorifying obesity. As plus sized models took to the street to protest at a fashion event recently I couldn’t help be overwhelmed by the hypocrisy in their protest. Just as the fashion show was glorifying the skinny models, here the protesters were, glorifying obese ones.

Eating disorders encompass both under-eating and over-eating, and pretending either side of this is virtuous — is harmful.

This should not be a controversial thing to say given that obesity has been causally linked to over 50 diseases. This means that there are over 50 diseases which we can significantly reduce our risk of getting, given that we address the problem of obesity. Pretending that we are being progressive by glorifying obese people is an abhorrent trend which is just as harmful as the unrealistic body standards set within the media today. A study addressing the prevalence of obesity describes the problem as follows…

“Excess bodyweight is the sixth most important risk factor contributing to the overall burden of disease worldwide. 1.1 billion adults and 10% of children are now classified as overweight or obese. Average life expectancy is already diminished; the main adverse consequences are cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers.” 

Another study outlines the economic cost that obesity will have, given that it continues along the same crescendo as it has been…

The combined medical costs associated with treatment of these preventable diseases are estimated to increase by $48–66 billion/year in the USA and by £1·9–2 billion/year in the UK by 2030. Hence, effective policies to promote healthier weight also have economic benefits.”

When we go to the doctors and he discerns our health problems are causally linked to obesity, it would be unethical of him to advise you to simply “be happy in your skin.” The fact that obesity is already a huge problem within our society needs to be addressed and glorifying it under the guise of progressive values is harmful. All this movement does is make obese people feel better as they hurdle toward a completely preventable death.

To clarify here, I’m not proposing a reduction in kindness or to be more callous towards the obese, I’m simply purporting that kindness can be misplaced and sometimes rational compassion is what is needed. I am well aware of the causal link between poor mental health and binge eating disorder (BED) and I am not negating the severity of the struggle which some people deal with day to day. However, please step back and realise that pretending that there is nothing wrong with being obese is extremely harmful to the people who hear this message.

This is different from body shaming! As someone who actively works towards counteracting the societal problem of obesity I can tell you that making obesity a part of your identity is not a good thing — this is, inevitably, what this movement will lead to. The glorification of obesity is the antithesis of everything I promote and work toward, and devalues the work which perspicacious and conscientious people do to combat this! It encourages people — woman in particular — to embrace their obesity as part of their identity and to be proud of it. I’m almost certain that this movement is done with the intention of rectitude, however I feel they have diagnosed the problem correctly, but have implemented the wrong treatment. The real problem then follows, now that people have taken on obesity as an identity it becomes offensive to talk about it honestly and here in lies the problem! This is an effective way to sweep the problem of obesity under the rug which I am unwilling to do. Whilst I absolutely see the benefits, and encourage the proliferation, of promoting a culture of positive body image, I refuse to cede conversational territory to this movement in fear of being deemed offensive.

Obesity is responsible for far more societal problems than the unrealistic standards the fashion industry sets for woman. This is not the way to instil the values of positive body image. We look at the facts, we embrace what’s been demonstrated to work, and we implement the plan which has the highest potential of success.

Written by Aidan Doherty

Veggie Omelette


omelette and coffee

Ingredients 

– 2 whole eggs

– 2 egg whites

– Milk (splash)

– tomato

– celery

– onion

– kale

– Mozzarella

– Wheaten Bread (optional)

Condiments

– Rock Salt

– Pepper

Cooking Instructions

– Mix the eggs, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl with a splash of milk.

– Heat a pan to a low temperature and add a drop of olive oil.

– Add contents of the bowl, the vegetables, and the cheese to the pan.

– Cook until the omelette has hardened enough so that the total mixture can move around the pan as one.

– Remove the pan from the stove and put it in the grill to cook the top of the mixture.

– Serve Hot!!

Peanut Butter & Avocado Toast


avocado on bread with coffee

Ingredients

– Wheaten Bread (toasted)

– Avocado

– Peanut butter

Cooking Instructions

– Toast the wheaten bread and spread the peanut butter on it.

– Slice the avocado as desired and place on top of the spread to serve.

Chicken & Mushroom Risotto


Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

– 1tblsp butter

– 1tblsp olive oil

– 2 x large shallots

– 1 x garlic clove

– 3 x fillets

– 300g pearl barley

– 250ml white wine

– 400g chestnut mushrooms

– 1tblsp thyme

– 1ltr chicken stock

– mozzarella to serve

Cooking Instructions

– In a large heavy saucepan, heat the butter and oil. Sauté the shallots and garlic with some seasoning for 5 mins, then stir in the chicken and cook for 2 mins

– Add the barley and cook for 1 min. Pour in the wine and stir until it is absorbed. Add the mushrooms and thyme, then pour over ¾ of the stock. Cook for 40 mins on a low simmer until the barley is tender, stirring occasionally and topping up with remaining stock if it looks dry. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated Parmesan. Serve immediately, with chives and Parmesan shavings scattered over, if you like.

Note this recipe will serve 4 people approx

All credit to BBC good food for the recipe.

Egg & Wheaten Delight


Egg & Wheaten Delight

Ingredients 

– 2x Eggs

– 4x slices of wheaten bread

– 1/2 onion

– 1x avocado

– 6x sugar snaps

– 1x tomato

Condiments

– Salt and Pepper

Cooking Instructions

– fry the onions and sugar snaps in a pan with a little salt and pepper to season.

– add the avocado and and tomato when the onions and sugar snaps are fried. The avocado and tomato only need a few minutes to cook.

– fry two eggs sunny side up

– toast the wheaten bread

– use the wheaten bread as bed to put the vegetables on and then place the fried eggs on top as a lid.

– serve hot!

Enjoy!!

 

 

Upperbody Warm-Up


Kettlebell Press – 10 x reps(each side) (3 times no rest)

Pec Stretch – 10 sec hold

Push Up – 10 x reps

Lateral Raise – 15 x reps

Bentover Fly – 15 x reps

Cable external Rotation – 15 x reps (each side)

Resistance Band Shoulder Rotations – 10 x reps (3 times)

Pull ups – 10 x reps

Lat Stretch – 30 sec

Begin Workout

GMO, Yes or No?


GMO, Yes or No?


GMO’s… should you be worried? (5min read approx)

GMO is an acronym which means Genetically Modified Organism. It is a term used to describe an organism whose genetic material has been altered using any technique attributable to genetic engineering (GE).  Now, while this sounds pretty scary, it is important to realise that we have been genetically engineering foods for as long as agriculture has existed simply by selecting and breeding foods for specific reasons such as size, colour, taste, yield etc. As technologies have progressed we have been able to subsume a wide variety of more specific techniques, which are much more efficient than the torpid artificial selection approach and enable us to mitigate many of the short comings which were previously inherent in agriculture.

So what is the problem here? Well a quick google search will turn up some — seemingly — terrifying results…

A growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage, and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights. More than 60 countries around the world – including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union – require GMOs to be labelled. Globally, there are also 300 regions with outright bans on growing GMOs. nongmoprogect.org

Responsibletechnology.org lists a number of dangers such as…

By mixing genes from totally unrelated species, genetic engineering unleashes a host of unpredictable side effects. Moreover, irrespective of the type of genes that are inserted, the very process of creating a GM plant can result in massive collateral damage that produces new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies.

The problem here is that none of these sources seem to want to back their claims up with genuine research citations and they use logical fallacies which are easily refuted. For example, the claim that we should be worried about GMO’s due to the fact that “more than 60 countries worldwide” stipulate that GMO’s must be labelled and some have banned them. However, when we think this through this line of argumentation means absolutely nothing. Earth also has 72 countries which still currently outlaw homosexuality, using their logic we should be extremely worried about gays! This is called an argument from popularity and it assumes that a claim cannot be wrong simply based on the fact that a large number of people believe it. These kinds of claims are preposterous, rather than using facts, figures, and research they depend on buzz words like “toxins” and “chemicals” to give their assertions weight.

When we look at the scientific literature there is an overwhelming agreement that GMO’s are at least as safe as their conventional counterparts…

Here is an overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research, which incorporated nearly 1,800 studies into its analysis. The authors concluded the following:

“We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE crop safety for the last 10 years that catches the scientific consensus matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide, and we can conclude that the scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazard directly connected with the use of GM crops.”

After looking at the facts The Royal Society of Medicine concluded that

Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA.

The World Health Organisation stated …

GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.

All this is but a snippet of the information out there which is widely available and should be convincing to any rational actors that GMO’s are completely safe to eat and use. They also provide poor countries a lifeline with which to produce crops when it would not have otherwise been possible. They ensure that crop yields are at a maximum by protecting the crops from damage from countless environmental dangers giving farmers around the world the opportunity to make a living.

The takeaway point here is that you have absolutely nothing to fear from GMO’s, there is currently no evidence — which is taken seriously — to show that there are health risks associated with ingesting them. Rather, the problem we are facing is a distrust in expertise. We have been thrust into the information age without the necessary filter to sift the good information from the bad. This has led to a phantasmagorical situation in which we, as a lay population, have decided we are better informed than the experts in the field. This is ultimately a path to disaster.

Written by Aidan Doherty