Book Review: The Molecule of More Part 2

Moving on to p.84 and the fact that dopamine suppresses guilt.

This perfectly explains the binge-and-remorse cycle of addiction. In the moment of temptation we don’t feel guilt, even though we know intellectually we will later, because the want is able to block out other things. The want is strong and nothing else is present so that let’s us feel like we might as well, in fact we worry we’ll regret not giving in. Because want is the only feeling we have and if we don’t indulge that then we’d feel nothing.

Which isn’t true, it’s just how your dopamine makes you feel at the time. Your brain always finds new stimuli and a new way to feel. This is why, of course, so many recovering addicts take up exercise. It changes your brain chemistry at will.

hm, we’re on p.101 and the bit I’d like to focus on is long and in two parts. Oh well let’s find a way to dive in.

It’s built around a saying that goes “We don’t believe what we hear we believe what we say.” If you lecture someone it doesn’t prime their behaviour well or at all sometimes but if you can get them to give you examples of times they’ve been noble (or whatever you want them to feel, say… shameful) then they will behaviour with more of that emotion in the future.

And the second bit builds on that with how to respond when someone makes a pro or anti change statement. If someone wants to stop drinking and they say so then you should encourage them to say more, so they encourage themselves with their own words. If they make a statement about how quitting drinking is pointless or blah blah blah, instead of pushing back you just let it fall. Don’t get them to reinforce bad ideas by defending and discussing them.

I think this also explains why people give the best advice to themselves when talking to – and about – someone else.

p.105 A nice little chat about guilt. Guilt is a strong enough emotion to battle dopamine. The two studied examples are Alcoholics Anonymous and smokers who get pregnant. In AA community is super important and one of the ways it keeps people sober (compared to people white-knuckling it on their own) is not disappointing the group. And smokers who get pregnant quit more quickly and successfully than the baseline rate.

Meaning addiction doesn’t have to be brutal and full of relapses, you just have to do it for the right reason. This is a problem of course because I’ve seen people try and force the reason in advance, declaring that this baby, dog, or gym membership will get them off cigarettes or booze because they’d just be crazy to keep going. But of course addiction is a symptom of self-loathing and now they’ve given themselves one more thing to fail at and hate themselves.

I’m not saying it doesn’t work, I’m saying you can’t plan it. There’s a story in Jog On about an alcoholic who got sober because his dog looked at him. He’d lost everything else and he wasn’t even taking care of the dog – which hadn’t been fed or walked in days – still loved him. That guilt gave him the drive to get sober and stay sober long after the dog died years later.

What matters is the man felt compassion from the dog. People trying to orchestrate their sobriety with obligation just give themselves one more way to let themselves down, and boy do addicts cherish letting themselves down, it gives them a reason to use. It’s about the loving relationship and compassion that makes people get better.

Okay last book mark – p.139. Dopamine and delusion. Dopamine let’s us plan for and be excited by the future, by the as-yet unreal. When you say you’re going to get a gym membership and really mean it and plan how good people are going to say you look at the beach – that’s dopamine. If that system runs out of control though you start to plan the impossible, make impossible connections, and be highly motivated about it.

Hence all the bullshit about genius and madness being related. Having an impossible vision that you then accomplish gets you in the history books, otherwise it gets you in the psych ward. And often highly dopaminergic people do both, great inventors have blue prints they never realize, great writers get wasted and depressed and have unproductive decades and suicide attempts, musicians make a great album because they’re a little obsessive and reclusive then have decades of silence or crap because they become really obsessive and reclusive, forever tweaking rewriting and fixing, forever motivated by dopamine to chase a feeling dopamine can’t give them.

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Book Review: The Molecule Of More

“How A Single Chemical In Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, And Creativity – And Will Determine The Fate Of The Human Race”

Hyperbolic, gentlemen. I say gentlemen because this book is written by Daniel Z. Lieberman, MD & Michael E. Long.

And it doesn’t say it’s about dopamine at all but… it’s about dopamine. That’s the single chemical we’re talking about.

Overall I found the book interesting with some filler and some big hypothetical stretches, I don’t think it’s a must-read, but let’s dive into my specific book marks that I found fascinating.

p.17 has an example of a highly dopaminergic person who’d excitedly plan a trip to Rome, scheduling out every day and loving it. Then when he’s at the museum he’s not really enjoying it because he’s thinking about dinner, and at dinner he’s thinking about the next thing on the schedule and the next thing and he’s not totally present and enjoying any of it.

I fall into that trap sometimes, living one step ahead of myself and missing the fullness of what’s going on around me. You just have to be conscious of it. The book doesn’t say that, the book doesn’t actually offer anything if you identify with an unfortunate example.

On p.64 we talk about why this dopaminergic thrill of planning exists. Because it helps us maximize our resources in the future. People who plan should end up with greater access to food and mats so of course evolution would select for high-dopamine, planning type people.

p.68 This one’s about dopamine and willingness to put in effort. If you artificially lower the dopamine of starved rats they will do barely enough work to feed themselves, compared to the control rats who work hard, overfeed, and store food after being starved.

Furthermore, if you give the same groups of rats a choice between working for some good food or not-working for bland food the low dopamine rats will settle every time.

Drawing the conclusion that willingness to work hard isn’t about virtue or laziness, it’s just chemicals. No dopamine, no motivation. So instead of preaching at people about will power we should, as always, ask them to check if their neurotransmitters are in order first.

p.76 Affiliative and Agentic relationships. The book casts Afflitiative relationships as mere friendship, they kind were you just hang. Marinate in each other’s company as Kevin T. Porter says. And Agentic relationships are where the relationship has a purpose like, say, you and your literary agent, where each person has a need and goal to be fulfilled by the other.

But this touches on something I’d been thinking about anyway in that friendships are purpose-driven too. There are people I know who hang out with people they don’t enjoy being around and when pressed to not hang out with that person they say but we’re friends.

Isn’t the point of friendship though that you enjoy the other person’s company? Like, you went out to have fun and one person ruined the fun aren’t they then bad at friendship? There’s a lot of cultural talk about toxic people and emotional labour and I think it’s because people don’t realize that as adults you can choose your friends. We’re raised in a model where you made friends at school because you were thrust together, your classmates and your friend’s friends were unavoidable. So those would be truly affiliative as I’m concerned, everything after that though, when you can choose who you want to be friends with, is agentic in a way. It has a purpose it either achieves or doesn’t.

And while saying that all friendships are goal-driven might seem like me being cold and logical and missing the true value of friendship in a My-Little-Pony-kind-of-way, I think it acknowledges that the purpose of friendship is to feel good about oneself and others, to me that’s practical self-care and acknowledges the evolutionary value of having friends.

Don’t have mediocre (or worse) friends is my point.

What does this have to do with dopamine, it’s sane to ask. The authors say that agentic relationships, like networking for your career, is dopaminergic while standard friendship is serotonergic (to do with serotonin, the molecule of contentment supposedly). Whereas I imagine your relationship with some you live with or (maybe ironically) work with are the merely affiliative. You don’t have a goal at all times, you fill a lot of silence with sharing, and you just marinate in their company for years to the point you sometimes only know you like them when they been gone. Modern friendships are a series of difficult to organize and frequently cancelled play-dates to consume together – be it food, alcohol, or a movie. It’s all planning, hoping, liking, rewarding. That’s dopamine.

That was quite the rant, I’ll call that part one. Stay tuned.

I Finally See The Benefit Of Fallowing Someone Else’s Plan

And it’s how to take it easy.

I have a go hard or go home mentality and I fell into the trap of thinking a workout that doesn’t make you sweat, doesn’t make you hurt, doesn’t take a significant amount of time, can’t be really good for anything.

I struggled through the taper before the marathon trying to keep my fitness up but not push myself and add any fatigue, in fact to be as rested up as possible, and I don’t think I did a great job. Furthermore, anytime I’ve had to recover or take a deload week I’ve struggled and I ended up doing what seemed like too little, resulting in difficulty coming back.

So after the marathon, the recovery week that I’m actively in, I knew some workouts would be good and some bad and blah blah blah and rather than program for myself (or especially wing it day by day) I looked at Krissy Moehls recovery week plan since I’m reading her book Running Your First Ultra.

And the glory of it is it’s simple. It’s lighter workouts than I would ever normally do but I’m not nervous that I’m doing too little because I’m listening to someone much more experienced than myself. That’s the benefit of someone else’s plan, being okay going not-hard, and knowing how not-hard to go.

Anyone can go hard, really. Some people are way too easy on themselves but mostly in our community the problem is everyone wants to go level 10 most of the time. Get to that feeling where you must have done something.

So it’s nice to run 3 easy miles and say okay, I took my prescription and I can stop.

Today’s a rest day again then tomorrow is 5 steady miles or an hour of cardio, in my case the elliptical, then Saturday is listed as 5-8 miles and I’m back to normal.

Now of course there’s a danger in following a program too and it’s worth saying because we have a fresh example in Jon. Let me quote him as loosely and sarcastically as I can.

Jon: Hmm, my knee hurts but the plan says 16k so 16k it is. Oh, now my knee really hurts and it’s doctor time and I’m not running the race and in fact not running again for a year, wish I’d stopped during the 16k.

But again I benefited from having a plan after the race because I had a lot of aches and pains that I feared could be injuries and wouldn’t have ran but Krissy wrote that the easy miles were mostly a test to see what’s up and that really helped. During the easy run I mentally kept an eye on all the hot spots and felt them clear up or flame up and I know better now what to stretch out and watch for.

So it’s not a matter of listen-to-the-plan or listen-to-the-body, it’s a matter of planning to listen to your body.

My Literary Interest In The Appalachian Trail

We go to the bookstore every other week at least. It’s supposed to be once a month for budgetary reasons but it’s just our favourite place to be so sometimes it’s weekends in a row.

And at our beloved Westhills Indigo there’s a dedicated running section. There’s also running and work out books in Wellness (Between Sex and Diet across from Medical Memoirs) but in Sports, three knee-level shelves labeled Running.

This is how I started reading about the Appalachian Trail. I found two books boasting on the cover about setting the trail record, Jenn Pharr Davis in 2011 and Scott Jurek in 2015. They both had endorsements from people I admire as well, Christopher McDougal and Dean Karnazes respectively. So I bought both to read in chronological order.

Turned out Jenn wrote her book after Scott had taken her record and after Karl Meltzer had taken Scott’s. Meanwhile Scott also ends his book with Meltzer taking the record.

And to be succinct: I like Jenn’s book and I love Scott’s (I should say Scott and Jenny’s because his wife co-wrote it detailing her experience heading the support crew and that’s a big part of what makes the book truly great) and I love them together as companion pieces. Davis gives more history and introduces key figures while Jurek gives a much better in-the-moment narrative.

So after passing it a million times on Netflix I felt I really had a reason now to watch Made To Be Broken, a movie about Karl Meltzer’s record setting run on the AT.

And I’m not super glad I did. I mean, I’m glad I did so that I’m not curious but it’s meh. It’s 41 minutes long meaning every day is summarized in less than a minute and it feels like there’s nothing there. It’s cut like a trailer for a better movie.

I was more aware of it than an average viewer because it’s mentioned in both books that Karl is sponsored by Redbull so I saw the beverages and the logo and the fact that his dozens and dozens of identical shoes are in the Redbull colours but I don’t think it’s actually overstated or obvious.

I guess I’m sucked in though and now have to read or watch things about the trail and it’s speed runs whether they’re particularly good or not.

Book Review: The Longevity Paradox Part 2

Diving right back in my book mark on page 198 I’ll just block quote this bit

It turns out that the real anti-inflammatory compounds made from DHA and EHA (two types of Omega-3s) in fish oil are called resolvins, and these guys are the superheroes of blocking inflammation in your nerves and eyes. But here’s the caveat: you need a little bit of the active ingredient in aspirin (salicylic acid) to get these effects.

with a quick google I found there’s a lot of foods (green vegetables and nuts) that contain salicylic acid, including my beloved pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are the new walnut, they are good for everything.

Moving on, he talks about glucosamine acting as a lectin blocker. Good, because I take glucosamine, specifically he singles out glucosamine MSM.

My next bookmark is a reminder to get 1000mg of DHA per day and a little note to sprinkle some rosemary on fish. Ultimately Gundry wants you vegan but I guess if you’re not he’s still at bat for you.

And my final bookmark is his liver protection supplement stack and he particularly mentions while fasting; milk thistle, D-limonene, dandelion, N-acetylcysteine, activated charcoal, and chlorella.

I’ve never heard of two of those and spellcheck doesn’t think 3 of them are words.

So that’s all my bookmarks. I’m tempted to go through the book cover-to-cover again, there’s a lot of information in it but a lot of it boils down to expensive and rare food and supplements.

I do think everyone should read this book but not first, it’s not intro-level clean eating. Someone still eating packaged food and whatnot is just going to balk at this and reinforce their bad habits.

What is intro-level? I still give it up to Clean Eating For Dummies, read that then Brain Food by Lisa Mosconi, then maybe you’re ready for the Longevity Paradox.

 

Book Review: The Longevity Paradox Part 1

By Steven R. Gundry, M.D, subtitle How To Die Young At A Ripe Old Age.

First of all just oy. This book is a downer. I said when I was reading Food Prescription that the book wasn’t much help if you were already eating clean anyways, well there’s no such thing as clean enough for old Gundry.

I was baffled during the first 3/4 of the book wondering what was left to eat after he hates on meat, grain, dairy, sugar, beans, corn, and marathons. I know that’s not food related but I was just mortified that he disapproves of marathons.

Now there is good stuff in the book – I don’t think he’s wrong about anything I just think it’s asking too much – and I did takeaway a lot about fasting, which was the chapter that convinced me to buy the book.

The simplest takeaway on that is you want to be sure to go to bed hungry at least once a week, for your brain-health. This got me to switch from a 24 hour fast on Mondays (Dinner Sunday to Dinner Monday) to a 36 (dinner Sunday to breakfast Tuesday). And I do feel mentally clearer on Tuesday because of it.

So that’s my top-of-the-head introductory thoughts, let’s get into the bookmarks I actually left. There’s ten.

Oh he’s got me afraid of glyphosate, thank you. In case you thought being plant-based was enough it’s got to be organic plant-based otherwise you’re getting as much dangerous garbage in your system as an omnivore.

Lectins and auto-immune get a lot of coverage. I knew lectins were bad and about breaking down the lining of your intestine but apparently they also leak out of your gut, attach to your organs, and get attacked by your immune system damaging the organ in the process.

So that’s why he’s anti-bean, but I’ve heard elsewhere that proper cooking destroys the lectin in beans. Lectin is however in every packaged food I’ve seen recently. Whenever I get too in my head about how there’s this killer stuff in every food and oh no I have to avoid everything I remind myself that smokers still exist.

You can smoke, the absolute worst possible thing one can do from a health perspective, for decades, not feel awful, and clean up the damage in a few years. Life is for living and health shouldn’t make you hide.

But do cut down your lectin intake. And don’t smoke, obviously.

Still in the same chapter (called Protect and Defend) there’s talk about the importance of stomach acid. Most bacteria hate it and it keeps them in the intestine where they belong. If you too often neutralize it, particularly with other the counter heartburn medication, they can creep up and you get SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) which is bad, and/or autoimmune which is worse. And apparently drinking a baking soda solution is the, well, solution. Although no further detail is given.

Oh, the next book mark is on the next page and it’s the dreaded Thing Worse Than Gluten! Wheat Germ Agglutinin known as WGA because agglutinin is unpronounceable with any dignity. This little molecule has come across my desk before and convinced me that even the healthiest bread isn’t healthy. It gets through the gut barrier and causes inflammation but worse still it mimics insulin.

This explains how I was eating brown bread every day with as many added ancient grains as possible and still looking pre-diabetic in 2017.

Back to the bookmarks though we’re into a chapter called Dance Your Way To Old Age but really we’re still in the gut biome. This is where he gets anti-marathon. He’s against both acute endurance exercise like marathon running (or even halfs and 10ks) and so called chronic cardio.

Besides the heart scarring effects which I knew about and have written about there’s the effect on the gut. Long form exercise draws blood away from the stomach for so long that bad things go wild and it tanks your immune system, hence why runners are sick all the time and have digestive issues according to Dr Gundry.

But there’s got to be a work around. I was thinking about this on the treadmill when I ran my 3 10k intervals two days ago and noticed I’d get a chill after every handful of Smarties. Drawing blood away from the surface muscles and back to the gut, I figured.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the health consequences of running and it’s important to remember that it’s not equally bad to anything else. I’m going to write another dedicated post about it but there’s a nihilist dismissiveness that everyone suddenly gets when you talk about cancer. Oh everything gives you cancer is the common refrain. Because as evidence mounts and more and more seemingly fun things get seemingly taken away people just throw their hands up. But health isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being better. Yes, smoking and bacon will both increase your likely of getting cancer, but not equally. Yes, running and not running are both bad for you in excess amounts in long term studies, but not equally.

This is where I’m going to break the review in half so I don’t go down the bubble-living argument rabbit hole… see you tomorrow, unless too much awesome running kills me.

Book Review: The Virility Paradox by Charles J. Ryan

The title sounds like a paperback thriller but it’s the subtitle that hooked me; The Vast Influence Of Testosterone On Our Bodies, Minds, And The World We Live In.

And of course the book proves its point, I’m astonished at the effects of testosterone. What’s most interesting is when you give test to low test people they become more focused on systems and less on feelings.

People with what Chuck calls the Virility Triad (high fetal testosterone, high androgen receptors – meaning the body’s ability to receive test -, as well as high testosterone itself) get tunnel vision, collect things, love to win, track numbers, etc.

The thing is, it’s true regardless of gender. In fact if you simply give a woman with baseline female levels of testosterone a bunch more she’ll become more systematized and less empathetic. And feel an increased love of winning.

Testosterone and dopamine are closely linked and there’s a feed-forward mechanism with both, the more you get the more your body designs itself to receive. So winning at something gives you a boost of testosterone which makes you more likely to win, and to want to win, at something else. You want to know who has high levels of testosterone? Trial Lawyers. Makes sense now doesn’t it?

Now of course female athletes have more than average testosterone and success tracks upward with it, some even have T levels that are naturally as high as if they were doping and are so successful the sports don’t know exactly what to do about that. It’s a natural advantage like height or muscle fiber so you don’t want to dampen it but if no amount of training will get other women up to that level then should they be allowed to supplement?

Maybe in the future instead of gender-based divisions in sport it’ll go by base-testosterone.

Just when the book has you convinced that boosting your testosterone would be inherently great it gets into the effect on rape and massacres so don’t go running to your pharmacist. But a little boost, by working out or priming with virile images, can help you get stuff done.

It’s also interesting that lowering testosterone, which happens naturally to men as they age, makes one more nurturing and interested in the feelings of others. The book has a bit to say about the role of grandfathers from an evolutionary perspective that’s quite touching.

Speaking of touching, oxytocin causes T levels to drop as well, which again makes sense because evolution wouldn’t favor someone being organized and aggressive when cuddling his mate or offspring.

All in all, great book. Read it if you see it.