Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other — William Faulkner
Mistaking a single piece for the whole (and its kissing-cousin, reductionism) is, I suppose, part-and-parcel to the human condition. Why this condition is so is, on the one hand, fascinating — and, on the other, a bit disconcerting. It’s a bit like being stuck on a train, and having foreknowledge of that train’s immanent demise. Guarding against falling victim to the traps of this thought process (which are, in many cases sub-conscious and automatic) requires a monumental amount of willpower, self-knowledge, *and* continual self-questioning. One must, in fact, be comfortable in that rude purgatory of not knowing the full answer to ever hope of gaining a clear(er) glimpse of the truth. All rather ironic, to say the least. And the problem with this is, of course, that we’re both wired for (in a genetic/evolutionary sense) and socially conditioned to “win” — at all costs, even — whether that be in an intellectual debate, sporting event or, (and from our evolutionary past), any of the various and sundry survival strategies. We find ourselves in a vastly different environment from the one in which we matured as a species however, and just as we now need to amend our diets and movement (or lack thereof) accordingly, so too must we make a few tweaks to our thinking and decision-making processes.
I’m currently engrossed in Daniel Kahneman’s fine book, Thinking, Fast and Slow , which delves into great detail regarding the strengths and blind-spots of our thought processes. As well as with other constituents of Ancestral Wellness (diet and fitness, for example), the exquisite machinations behind our thinking, to be properly understood and dealt with vis-a-vis our modern environment, must be studied through the lens of evolution. As a species, our thought and decision-making process is one that was perfectly honed through hundreds-of-thousands of years worth of evolutionary pressure — think fight-or-flight, friend-or-foe, go-no-go like decision processes that served us well under those specific environmental conditions. That we as a species can not only survive, but thrive under highly varied environmental conditions is a testament to our staying power, and major impetus behind our collective success. We are, as a species, the ultimate opportunists; the ultimate survivors. What we neglect to consider, though, is the difference between mere survival and optimum thriving. We can no doubt survive on a Standard American Diet (how long, generationally-speaking, is debatable), though we obviously thrive on a more Paleo-steered fare; same, too, goes for our thinking. All we need to do is to recognize the advantages and limitations to our minds work and act accordingly given our modern environment. This ought to be considered part of the overall Ancestral Wellness plan. Eating, moving…and thinking!…with allowances and adjustments made according to our evolutionary dictates, relative to our “new” environmental ques.
Of big pictures, and puzzle pieces –
Chris Kresser recently posted an outstanding podcast, titled RHR: Why it’s so hard to lose weight — and keep it off, which explores the multi-faceted aspects to weight control. I say “weight control” here because we could just as easily look at this, with some appropriate tweaks, through the flip-side lens of hypertrophy gains. The idea here is that reducing the topic of weight management to the singular idea of insulin and/or leptin control (for example) is to completely lose sight of the bigger — and prevailing — overall picture. That concentrating solely on insulin/leptin control has worked for a large — and even for a statistical majority of people (if that is, in fact, the case) — does not (or ought not) imply that it is the single answer for everyone. I’m totally on board with the idea that if we, as a society, want to positively affect the largest number of obese/metabolically deranged in this country, then targeting insulin and leptin control/sensitivity is paramount. However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there are many other mitigating factors involved with weight control, and that for some individuals, the insulin/leptin issue may not (and in a real-world sense) be their predominant problem. This is the difference between addressing an issue from an n=infinity vs an n=1 frame of reference. This is also about resisting the urge to reduce the cause of a problem to a single, identifiable reason. Remember: Occam’s Razor begs only for the simplest correct answer, not the single biggest contributing factor to that answer. To the extent that one approach is more effective than the other resides solely on how the question is couched, and about whom the question is directed. This “wishy-washness” is a hard sell, of course, because being moderate, pragmatic and non-dogmatic isn’t at all sexy. It doesn’t sell ad space, or get people to heatedly “take sides”. Shakspear’s Macbeth might very well have had this in mind when he noted that (life) was “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. I suppose a fairer assessment has never been uttered. What I do know is that little blood has ever been spilled over “it depends” discussions, yet these are precisely the type of discussions that inch us ever closer to a glimpse of the truth.
Of fusion cooking, and the workout recipe –
I know I’ve ridden this analogy pony for all it’s worth, but damn if I can find any other that works nearly as well. As you may (or may not) know, I’m the PaleoFxAustinPartner responsible for the movement session aspect of this spring’s PFX12 symposium. As such, what you’ll experience at these movement sessions will be colored by my own interpretation of what true Ancestral Fitness (which begets true Ancestral Wellness) is all about — which is to say, a fusion of good ideas, tools and techniques.
I choose to view fitness from a non-dogmatic, n=1 prospective. That any one system/program/dogma works is not the question — most do, in fact, work for some percentage of practitioners — the real question is, this: does it work for you, in deference to your unique set of circumstances? And for you to cobble together a system that does work for you requires access and working knowledge of many different tools and techniques. Chefs refer to this idea as fusion cooking, and I suppose my overriding training philosophy could be labeled similarly; and hey, that’s one label I’d be ok with wearing. A carpenter can’t build a house with nail and hammer alone; limiting one’s self to curry and sage makes for a small repertoire of un-inspired meals. There are no hard dividing lines to Ancestral Wellness, and you’ll see this depicted in the synergy expressed at PFX12. From gettin’ “your swole on”, to natural movement, and everything in between — these are all tools available to those who have access to the Ancestral Fitness toolbox. All tools and techniques have their appropriate place within the full spectrum of Ancestral Fitness.
Thruought this past week, I’ve incorporated sprinting, bodyweight work, old-school black-iron lifts, Oly derivatives, various machines and ARX technology. I’ve used methods that would be considered purely the domain of bodybuilders and those relegated to strength and conditioning athletes. And it’s all good, it all “works”, and it all keeps me bee-boppin’ on down the path of Ancestral Wellness.
In health, fitness and wellness –