Thursday, 25 April 2013

Food Reward: Constant Craving

Heads up for those interested in food reward and addiction:
  • Could obesity, in some cases, result from an addiction, and if so, do we need to change the way we treat it?

    When we think about addiction, drugs, alcohol or gambling come to mind. Though hardly uncommon, many people will go their whole lives without ever even dabbling in them. But could the everyday act of eating also be addictive? In excess, drugs, alcohol and gambling can cause massive physical and psychological harm, cutting across class, sex and age. But so can excessive eating. And if we're to believe alarming predictions about rising obesity levels, then perhaps we need to consider looking at overeating from a different angle.

    Researchers around the world are asking the same question: is overeating a compulsive behaviour that exploits the same biological mechanisms we see in people addicted to drugs or alcohol? Is there such a thing as food addiction and how addictive are certain foods? In, Constant Cravings: Does Food Addiction Exist, Sally Marlow, a researcher in alcohol addiction at London's Institute of Psychiatry, explores the latest evidence underpinning the scientific basis for overeating, and asks just how radical should the solutions be?

    In 2012, NeuroFAST, an EU research project began co-ordinating data on the relationship between overeating and addiction. Its mission is to achieve consensus on how overeating should be classified clinically, which might then lead to major shifts in treatment, public policy and attitudes to obesity.

    Few of us, if we're honest, would consider obesity as little more than self-inflicted. And it's how many of us used to think about other addictions. Yet now we know that an individual's choices are influenced by a host of biological and environmental mechanisms: genes, brain chemistry and family history. Might overeating share these mechanisms? Behaviourally, does overeating feature the two psychological cornerstones of addiction: tolerance and withdrawal, where something that was initially pleasurable, becomes an act to relieve negative feelings of shame and disgust?

On BBC Radio 4 next Tuesday (30th April) @ 2000hrs.

Grant Stalwart: Mind Your Muscles

I've come to the same conclusion as Paddington does at the end!

Lean on the Inside

The diagnosis of me being 'hypertensive' has led to a few tests.  To reiterate, this was a chance finding whilst using a friend's sphygmomanometer. The latest test was a kidney scan.

To cut a short and dull story much shorter, after the scan (rather like the 'first scan' that expectant mothers get in the UK), the doctor turned to me and said,
  • "That was the best scan I have ever done.  That was by far the clearest and easiest scan - almost as if you were transparent. It was the clearest image of any kidney - certainly any native kidneys - that I have ever had.  I wish all scans were as easy as this.  Sometimes we have to call people back for a second scan or use other methods but yours were easily visible.  Your kidneys look absolutely fine."
He just kept on talking about how amazed he was with the scan and it was hard getting a word in!  My take-home message was that I was obviously lean on the inside - low visceral fat.  Yowzers.

Seizing on his talk of 'native kidneys' I mentioned an article I'd read about a doctor in Middle East saying when allied soldiers come in to casualty their organs are often obstructed by layers of fat.  This was in sharp contrast to civilians upon how surgery was much easier due to their leaness.

The interesting thing is that I maintain this leaness year round.  There is no counting of calories and the occasional eating of modest amounts of 'processed shit' and a glass of wine once a week or so.

Currently I am not lifting weights and my appetite has down-regulated accordingly.  I am lighter and feel I have lost some muscle mass.  But I also feel and look leaner with a narrower waist - almost like I've been on a cut.

I'm still following a 'paleo model' diet; a lunch of tinned fish (and I've now added in a big-ass salad with lots of beetroot, celery, radishes, avocado, spinach, tomatoes and eggs - all topped off with apple cider vinager), and a tea of quality meat on one half of the plate, lots of veggies on the other side.  Add potatoes on a training day.  Nuts and fruit conclude each meal.

I am all but off coffee (for purposes of sleep).  I've had some excellent BP reading of late and am hoping that my new low-stress lifestyle (breathing exercises, swimming, early to bed, isometric grip training and lots of meditation), are having the desired effect.  I will post up some details when I have time as I know a lot of other folk (young and old), have elevated blood pressure for which there is no obvious cause.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Sadly things aren't so good under the hood...

So here's the thing; Out of the blue I've just been diagnosed with Stage 2 hypertension.  I had no symptoms (and still don't).  No head-aches, palpitations, NOTHING.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.  I can't believe I am actually 'broken' at some level...

This was a chance finding (I used a friend's blood pressure cuff - partly in jest - and got a high reading.  I repeated this measurement a few days later and got another high reading), that has since been confirmed by my doctor.

My diet is pretty good - plenty of whole foods with quality meat and fish, and lots of fresh vegetables.  Some fruit and nuts, and modest dairy.  I have the odd bowl of porridge but avoid most grains (bread and cereals).  Processed food is minimal - save for tinned tuna, mackerel and sardines. Activity wise I engage in a few sports and do some strength training. I don't smoke and rarely drink (the latter only during the Six Nations Rugby or Xmas).  I've low body fat and have just hit my 40s so just don't tick any of the standard boxes.  I am not even sure I can blame the seasons.

Stress is perhaps the main factor.  I didn't think I was stressed but being a working parent can be stressful.  Perhaps my OAC and deadlifting ambitions are similarly too intense?  I need to figure this one out as hypertension can do real damage.

The diet I am happy with (I've added in a few more beets and celery).  The exercise will focus more generic and functional activity like climbing, swimming, walking and a bit of Lau Gar Kung Fu (the forms in particular as they share roots with Tai Chi).  I've sacked my morning cold shower and any late night training (and the resultant late night eating) in a bid to spare my 'stress points' to once daily - around midday.  I will still do some weight work in the medium term, and the odd sprint, but need to manage my numbers first.

I am also looking to introduce a program of relaxation.  I am heading to bed earlier and taking time to deep breathe and meditate daily.  (Dr Kendrick's blog is food for thought.)

By necessity, my goals are shifting from elite-fitness toward health and longevity.  Let's see how this one goes.....

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Colour Be Thy Guide

This Color-Coded Chart Helps You Pick the Most Nutritious Produce

Saturday, 6 April 2013


Breakthrough in neuroscience could help re-wire appetite control