Nothing has Changed Except the Camouflage
I have to admit I have been studying Nutrition with great interest for well over 30 years. Having a background in Exercise Physiology and having worked in the Fitness Industry since the boom began, nutrition has been a hot topic. What is it that gives you the edge?
When it comes to human performance, there are so many variables that it is easy to promote a belief without much proof. There have been many great debates about the role of Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fatty Acids, a plethora of micro nutrients and along with all of that, thousands of new and exciting supplements that promised miracles beyond belief.
I’ve seen it all; well, most of it anyway.
And all around me, as time passed by, I have watched the health of this proud nation crumble into a sea of blubber. Obesity, disease and lethargy have overtaken the once proud home of the Bronzed Anzacs.
All the while, I wrote articles, gave lectures, recorded seminars, wrote and developed courses, striving to turn the tide, battling to find the inspirational message that would change the thinking of at least a few. But the harder I worked, the more I was drowned out by the advertising and brilliant marketing of the burgeoning food and drug industries.
Along the way I ran head first into new theories. Often I could not tell if it was something genuinely new, or a clever new campaign of a food industry hidden agenda.
So many of the theories have never made physiological or biochemical sense to me. Often they did not make sense in relation to how human consciousness tends to operate.
Of particular interest in this area is the theories around Palaeolithic dietary habits. The theories abound about how humans in the Palaeolithic periods ate. Some say that it is the most natural of all dietary regimes. In the same writings, some researchers claim that Paleo man had a much shorter life expectancy than modern man.
In recent years, the “Paleo Diet” has really gained a footing. People who follow it tend to lose weight. That is a good thing. But I wonder about its authenticity.
But here is where some of my bias and reservations pop in. First, I am a pure vegetarian. I don’t believe I need meat or any other animal based foods to live. I have been that way for 30 plus years. Second, I was not there (not that I can remember) to witness Paleo man, so I don’t really know. And of course, I am guessing nobody else does either. And sometimes, I feel things like Paleo can be rolled out to justify the consumption of large amounts of meat.
The commonly held belief is that Paleo nutrition consisted largely of meats, fish, vegetables and fruits. The Paleo prescription says that consumption of grains and legumes started following the inception of agriculture and that they human digestive system has not evolved to deal with them. The prescription also warns against processed and refined foods. But then again, I don’t need to be a Paleo advocate to see the sense in this final recommendation.
But if you really go and search, there is not a whole lot of evidence from the Paleolithic era, in large part because hunter-gatherers move around so much. But the archaeological record that exists has been studied very, very closely and with increasingly sophisticated methods. Daphne Derven, an archaeologist and educator who has studied Palaeolithic man for many years states, “Now we can look at teeth, bones, even seeds in the same context as tools,” she explained. “For instance, it turns out that the East African hominid species nicknamed ‘Nutcracker Man’ developed a powerful jaw and enormous molars not for cracking nuts, as was previously thought, but for chewing grasses, like a grazing animal. That was the main part of his diet.”
Human’s eating grass. Who would have thought? Perhaps if the muscle gyms knew that part, the wheat grass shots would be flying out the door.
Two things really capture my attention about all the Paleo hype. First, the research that I do find interesting reveals that Paleo Poo that has been discovered and analysed, shows an enormous amount of fibre in the Paleo diet. In fact, the average defecation was up to one kilogram in weight, way more than the average today. This indicated a largely plant based diet.
Second, I don’t know about you, but if I had the choice of chasing very fast and evasive animals for food all day with a sharp stick, or simply finding some tasty treats on a tree somewhere, I reckon my lazy side would take over and I’d go the tree every time. Catching animals without modern weaponry….hard work.
In recent years we are learning an enormous amount about pre-biotics and the role of highly fibrous foods. High fibre eating is more about creating thriving gut flora than anything else and so a diet high in rich fibre, like that from grasses, legumes and grains, seems to be of major benefit.
See this is where a study of human consciousness comes in. As all the women out there know, men can be pretty lazy and not big on self-starting. Getting out to go hunt with rudimentary weapons would go against the grain of this laziness.
Second, from the research it appears that insects were a big part of the Paleo diet. Nobody seems to want to talk about that. Eating insects doesn’t really seem to fit through many people’s window.
Further, people want to find a reason why they can indulge in their desires. We see all the time people promoting the benefits of chocolate, which gives them the reason they need to eat plenty without guit. How often have you heard someone say they smoke because it helps to keep their weight down and that it’s better than being overweight?
The same exists for meat eaters. The evidence that meat consumption promotes disease is overwhelming. So those who really love to eat it will likely jump at any reason they can find to eat more of it and feel justified. The Paleo diet does just that. The evidence is there right. Let’s order a steak!
If we are really honest with ourselves, we do love to justify things. I had a friend who was dead against all forms of anabolic steroids. When he was in his 40’s a few things started to slow down. He found a doctor who blamed it on low testosterone, so guess what? He started on testosterone therapy without question, but with incredible justification.
So I have to say that reaching back to Palaolithic man for evidence that eating lots of meat is good, is like reaching back to Noah’s Ark to explain the disappearance of certain species of animal. Nobody knows.
So, I have been contemplating this a lot. Then, as I ran the other morning I had an epiphany. I started to laugh. Here is how it goes.
Back in Palaeolithic times, or even in the bushlands and jungles of Africa and South America where some tribes still live off the offerings of mother earth, everything they need is right there. Animal life, herbs, fruits and vegetables. But all of it has to be sought out and found, then captured or harvested. There are many things that might look like food, but are not.
Even the fruits on the trees are often camouflaged and cannot be seen till one is up close. There are poisonous fruits and herbs that must be avoided. At some intuitive level, animals and humans living in these environments know which is which. But still sometimes they may make mistakes.
In these environments, humans will not likely eat an animal that they find already dead as they are unsure if it is safe to eat. Some religious laws grew out of the directive to people to not eat anything that they did not see bleed and die with their own eye.
In these environments, the humans had to keep going, keep searching, keep persisting, until they found the nutritious food they needed. If they did not, they grew weak and slowly perished.
In modern life it is the same. There is plenty of really good food available. Food that is natural, highly nutritious, and rich in flavour and goodness. But, you have to find it. And it is camouflaged among a variety of offerings that at some level offer no nutrition or are perhaps even poisonous or harmful. To find the good stuff, you have to persist and put in the work, and not get way laid by the easy options.
We are still hunter gatherers, but the terrain and the camouflage have changed. Those who do not go the extra distance and seek out the food they really need, will slowly perish.
My mind relaxed. I now realise that it does not matter what false or synthetic foods are offered. Those who wish to be responsible will keep seeking till they find what they need and will not get caught out eating things that will not allow them to thrive.
But, the amazing thing about market forces is that the more people who seek out the good stuff and find it, the more others will follow the well beaten path and find it too. The tide is turning. It must.
Survival of the fittest is still running, perhaps more than ever.
As for Paleo Man, I wonder if he would eat the animal flesh he finds lying dead on a tray in a supermarket meat department? I have a sense he might take a semi interested sniff and head for the bananas.
Let’s Get the Ladies on Board
Retrace: Back in 1980, I started work at Melbourne’s most up market and luxurious Health Club in South Yarra, The Ultimate Sporting club. The who’s who of society went there, from Barry Humphries to Sam Newman and from Andrew Peacock to visiting artists like James Taylor and Billy Joel.
But the most impressive person I ever met there was Sue Gooding. She worked with us for a while as a Gym Instructor. She was perhaps the most beautiful looking woman I had ever seen, was extremely kind, smart and gentle and was also a former Canadian Women’s Olympic Gymnast. But the thing that got me most was that she was also the Captain of the Canadian Women’s Rugby Union Team.
In 2001, I was living in Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula. That was perhaps one of the best places I had ever lived. Being a person who likes to get amongst the community, I joined the local football club and played a couple of seasons, and also joined the Management Board of the Red Hill Recreation Reserve. It was a big gig because we had lots of facilities, Senior and Junior Football Clubs, Senior and Junior Cricket Clubs, a Tennis Club, the Red Hill Market and the Red Hill Show as regular users.
At the time, a memo went out from the local football league, seeking to urge the football clubs to start Netball teams for the ladies in the area. The league thought this would be a good way to get more women involved in the football clubs and as a consequence, strengthen the clubs financially.
I read the email and sat dumbstruck for a few moments. Of course, all the Netball keen women in the area already had their teams. Why would they abandon those just to play for a team established by the football club? The delusion and arrogance in the memo was quite shocking.
But the message was clear. The clubs needed to find a way to get more of the local ladies involved. When you get more women at social functions and games, you get more men. The whole thing sprouts wings from there.
So this floated around in my mind. You see, I am a true believer that sports clubs are an essential part of a community. They bring people together. The nurture friendships, common interests and provide those who need it an opportunity to serve; to make a contribution. Along the way, young adults can learn values through their participation in the game and the club.
During that year, my youngest daughter Toneya, took an interest in Football. She had a male teacher who loved the game and he entered a girls’ team in a lightning premiership. 10 Primary schools on the Peninsula sent a girls football team to play in the event.
Toneya was sick all week with the flu, really sick, but she was determined to play. The team needs me to be there she lamented. So on Friday morning she dragged herself out of bed and we headed for the oval.
Now I knew Toneya was a good athlete. She is small, but loves to train and is a very good netballer. At 12 years of age, she was searching for a sport she could make her own. Something awesome was about to unfold.
Over the next 80 minutes, I watched these young ladies go at it with as much ferocity as the boys would. They ran, bumped, marked, kicked, crashed through packs and took to the game like ducks to water. And Toneya, well, in that period of time, she kicked 20 goals.
As I watched, I remembered the memo from the football league. “This is it” I thought, “I am watching the future of local football. If these young girls keep playing, and why wouldn’t they, in 8 years we will have a women’s team playing at the Red Hill Football Club, and the other clubs in the league.”
So I flipped open my phone and rang David Parkin. “David, let me tell you want I am looking at right now.” I went on and explained the scene. I then told him about the memo and my vision for the future.
David is a smart guy who loves football and is passionate about people. He said, “Give me 5 minutes and I will ring Laurie Woodman” who was heavily involved in Football Administration at community level for the AFL.
David rang back and said, “Laurie is arranging a meeting with Mick Daniher at The Victorian Metropolitan Football League. He wants to know if we can come in next Wednesday.”
When I got home I rang an old friend Julie Henry who worked at GP Bates Advertising. They had the AFL Account and I asked her if she could mock up some promotion for women’s football. My goal was to get an under 13 girls competition going for the next season.
The Victorian Metropolitan Football League meeting was great. They decided to fund a female field officer and all looked well. But then the bombshell dropped a few weeks later. They had decided in all their wisdom to establish an Under 17 competition up in the city.
Now this was the very same year 3 young girls had been told they had to stop playing in an under 13 competition because administrators thought they should no longer be matching it with the boys. Under 13 was the exact target age group. From there, start an Under 15’s next year and in 2 more years start under 17’s.
Not one of those young girls who played that day went on to play competition football.
An opportunity went begging. Football and community level could have been very different by now. Is it too late to resurrect the idea? I do not know.
But the one thing I do know, young girls love playing football. Rugby and soccer are wide open for women. What is wrong with AFL?
Tossing the Ball Around
It is August 19th, 2013, and I am very excited this morning. I am sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Hamilton in New Zealand. Last night, the All Blacks gave the Wallabies a bit of a spanking, but I am excited.
Did you see the game? Maybe Rugby Union is not your cup of tea, and that is ok. I can forgive you for that. But having been born and partly raised in Queensland, it is in my blood.
I feel like, for the first time in a very long time, the shackles have come off the Wallabies. They stopped being so dour in defence and started to throw the ball around. Their play was exciting, adventurous and they took chances.
They made some mistakes that the All Blacks capitalised on, but they didn’t go into their shells. They just kept at it, running the ball and throwing it around, taking risks.
And the amazing effect was that this seemed to free up the All Blacks as well and they started to play an even more positive brand of Rugby. The game was thrilling and spectacular.
Wait till the Wallabies settle into this new style of play. They will give the World Cup a real shake in 2015.
But, that is not the main source of my excitement. It demonstrates to me a shift in attitude at the pointy end of this country. The Australian Rugby Union is not the government but they still hold our hearts in their hands. Perhaps Cricket Australia is learning this too.
See, I have had this feeling of dismay for so long about the decisions being made in the top end of town. The world economy has been struggling for a long time and the best strategies our corporate leaders can think of is to shut down on spending. They are playing a defensive game and it is killing so many other areas of the economy.
What would happen if they took a different viewpoint and took some risks and started to spend, become ambitious and bold. There may be some different results.
Small businesses depend on big businesses spending money. When big businesses go into “spending shut down” mode, they still make big profits. But, those profits end up in company savings or in the pockets of shareholders and very little of it creeps out into the economy.
Small and medium businesses then tend to follow suit and zip up their wallets and purses and everything slows to a crawl. Then we look at Governments and say they are not doing enough.
This fear based mindset makes a recession more real and keeps it frozen in place, as opposed to building our way out of it.
Economic slow-downs have a huge negative impact, not just because people lose their jobs or because small businesses fail, but also because there is less revenue going into essential community services and many of societies normal support structures begin to break under the strain.
So, let’s bring this back into our own lives. What are we doing? Are we playing it safe like the Wallabies have been, or are we prepared to take a risk and throw the ball around a little?
Are we stopping spending “just in case”, or holding back on more speculative investments, or even holding off on going into the business we always wanted to start….because the time is not right?
Are we investing in the shares of the big companies who are putting the brakes on and sucking the life out of the economy so we can get safe returns? If we are, it could be argued that we are part of the problem.
Are you buying cheap food to save money or are you going for good health and wellbeing and buying the good stuff, and in doing so, supporting positive industries and food suppliers?
This probably all comes back to us shifting our perspective from “What can I get?” to “What can I give?” When you step up and do your bit to make the economy grow, you are making a huge contribution to the lives of others. And you don’t have to spend money with the big corporates who are cutting costs and hording wealth either.
This fits in perfectly with a piece of advice Greg Norman once gave me. I asked him about some of the outrageously risky shots he used to take, like a One Wood over the trees on a par 5 dog leg at Huntingdale. He said to me, “My first obligation is the fans. They come to see exciting golf. So, that is what I give them. If I win too, that is a bonus.”
So, is the world seeing your most exciting gifts right now?