(626) 863-0008                                (818) 939-1188

824 HollywoodWay, Burbank 91505

WodWorks HERE

Academic Standards

The inevitability of calories. All nutrition orbits around that star. But aside from a glaringly obvious relationship to thermodynamics, how much information does the term contain? Every doctor knows that the body is a mystery. Sure, science and all that. Get numbers on the problem. Metrics -- it’s like money … so good. But some people don’t get well, when all the numbers demand that they do.

Sometime in the nineteenth century they figured out there was such a thing as protein and fat and carbs, and how much heat was released from each when you burned it, whether in a crucible or metabolically. No, really, it is important to know that. But it’s not something we should run our lives by. Since that time, we’ve learned a few more things. Like about hormones, say.

We keep using calories as if it were a meaningful concept because it’s a simple number that measures a real thing. That’s very good. But not all real things are meaningful. There exist books that, say, give brief biographies for the peers and nobles of Great Britain up until the mid 1860s. Of limited application. Is there some way of expressing useful nutritional information in a simple way? A grade? ORAC value, glycemic index, available energy content (with a nod to DIT and fiber)? Bioavailable protein? Bioavailable mineral content? Something where you don’t have to be a brain genius to be able to make a decision? Something where crafty marketeers can’t up the score by dumping some vitamins and fiber into their cotton candy? -- like every breakfast cereal?

That’s a lot of info. Looks like a grade isn’t enough. A report card. That’s too much. Not easy. But we can’t just express it as a ratio, dry weight over calories ... sugar would get a grade of ¼, grams over calories. So does a granola bar. Hm. Broccoli is 29 grams over 98 calories. Call it 3/10. In other words, sugar is 25%, broccoli is 30%. Does that seem reasonable? Because that’s what the current system thinks is important to tell us. As if 100 grams of one carb is the same as 100 grams of another. That’s just insane. Is the math right? Because something here is insane.

Point is, calories are like women. All the same.

Oh, is there something wrong with that idea? Not all women are the same? It hardly seems possible that sophisticated men of the world could be wrong about this. But in the vanishingly small likelihood that it is wrong -- and the idea is both absurd and offensive -- maybe the world is wrong about calories. It’s just barely possible.

Absurdity, of course. A thing has merit because of its particular qualities, not because of imposed judgments and sloppy assumptions. Nutrient-dense / calorie-poor foods are manifestly superior. Empty-calorie foods are drugs -- non-nutritive substances that manipulate hormones.

No, it's not just diet. Lots of actual work involved. It's a big-picture thing. Approach it with open eyes.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank


That's "Squanto's" real name, in Algonquian. Tisquantum. That Indian who helped out the Pilgrims. The shortening can be forgiven -- Algonquian rivals ancient Elamite for its opaqueness. Nquitpausuckowashawmen. No, not glossolalia. That's how Squanto would have said, "There are a hundred of us." Tashuckqunne cummauchenaumiz? "How long have you been sick?" Yep. Tough language.

Of course Squanto could have numbered his tribe, the Patuxets, in several languages. In English, and in Spanish. Alas, there were not a hundred Patuxets left to count: all had perished, to smallpox. He alone survived, like some servant of Job -- as indeed he was, to the hardpressed Pilgrims. As for how long Squanto was sick, sudden fever took him the year after he had settled with his new tribe of pilgrims.

He must have been used to being snatched away. He wasn’t kidnapped just once, understand. In 1605, one George Weymouth whisked him away to England -- whether kidnapped or volunteered, history does not record. He labored for untold years -- well, eight or nine -- until returning to America in 1613 as translator for none other than John Smith. Set free as reward for his service, Squanto returned to his own tribe, only to be enslaved and taken to Spain -- kidnapped in 1614 by Thomas Hunt, a lieutenant of Captain Smith. He escaped to London where he remained until 1619 (interrupted by one odd excursion to Newfoundland), then he joined an expedition to America. There he found his family and tribe all wiped out.

Providence? To find an English-speaking Indian wandering the coast at just the right time to save the Pilgrims? Well, yes. But how many other Squantos have wandered the earth, who never found their mission? -- Jonahs who made it to Tarshish?

To know one's purpose is something to be thankful about. Father, mother, friend -- and to bring light and love not only to those you care about but to the stranger -- well, this is something in which we might make our own providence. The rest of it -- being kidnapped and orphaned and dying young and such -- we count as beyond our understanding, and trust in Providence to resolve.

Much fiction will have crept into the story of Squanto and the Pilgrims. Of course. It's not that it wasn't a good enough story on its own. It's just that the reality is complex, and myths have a happy simplicity to them. The tales of childhood are for inspiring us to emulate an example of excellence ... since there are hardly any real examples of excellence. Having heroes who actually lived requires a degree of selective blindness on our part. We give importance to what is admirable, and choose not to see the flaws -- or at least to down-grade them. This is as it should be. If we saw the chamber of horrors that is the heart of every human, we might never stop screaming.

So we have myths.

Is America everything it might be or that we wish it were? The question answers itself. The same holds when we inspect any ideal. There are no “ideals.” If they were real, they’d be “examples.” But part of living in the real world is understanding that it is hopelessly flawed. Well, not hopelessly. Fatally. Even in the face of the inevitable fatality of our biology, though - in the face of ultimate metabolic failure, we need not be hopeless.

And so we have Thanksgiving. It has its own mythology, as does Christmas. But for all that there is the fiction of Santa, there is the reality of saintliness. And for all that the Hallmark and Rockwell images may be nothing but a happy conceit -- of convivial Indians supping in sumptuous abundance with the dour wayfarers from across the gray waves of the churning seas -- yet they have the reality of vivid dreams, that might be true, for all that sunlight says otherwise.

The cherished dreams of our hearts have no guarantee of coming to pass. Every prayer of thanks must, must include a prayer of abject supplication, begging God that evil, or greater evil, should not strike us. So Job, and tragedy, and the loss of every loved one, teach us. So, as a nation we take a day, a single day, collectively to call to mind the many blessing with which we have been blessed. We recall that it need not be so. We understand that who looks for perfection is a fool. We understand that who accepts the inspiration of a myth honors the daylight the visions of night have promised.

We wish to all who read this a joyful and most blessed Thanksgiving Day.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank


There's a part of us that might ask, what's the use. Haiti will be as much of a basket case after that last particular act of God, like all the others, recedes into myth. Pity the land that is made a colony of the French. The poor are always with us -- most especially if they live in a culture of utter corruption ... as distinct from just the workaday corruption inherent in the human condition.  Sheesh.  We can't even take a Carnival Cruise without being tormented by fate.

Why watch the news at all. More chaos? More of the same. Just more concentrated now, in time and location, in this era of mass communication.  Wars and rumors of war. It matters, theoretically and actually, but if you don't know, say, any Haitians, any compassion one might feel is theoretical, regardless of how genuine. And catastrophe victims aren't everyone's particular cross to bear. It must be a good thing, to not bleed for every wound that overtakes humanity. That's what callouses after all are for.

So when Pat Robertson said, say, that Haiti had made a pact with Satan 200 years ago, and that hurricane was a sort of judgment, well, do we need to have an opinion about his opinion? One of the ways the biblical God deals with humanity is through its nations. Maybe it's true. It's no dumber than Danny Glover's statement on exactly the same topic: The earthquake came from God as a judgment because Haiti didn't do enough to save The Planet at the Copenhagen Climate Summit.  Remember that?  As if the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere could have done anything at all. Could it even afford airfare to Denmark? At least Robertson had documents to support his claim. God after all has acted judgmentally, in the past. It's surprising though that Robertson imagined he had access to the archives of Hell, to know the private arrangements between slaves and Satan. As for Glover, it's surprising he believed in this sort of God. Must be Goddess, he means.

Ah well.  All that is old news.  What, five or ten years ago?  Who can remember.  And here we are, racing around, if only mentally, trying to find meaning. Why why why did this thing this or that horrible thing occur? Sin, private or public? A cursed creation? Entropy? Randomness? Job and David and every human being capable of thought have looked for an answer. Jesus gave one. Why do towers fall on innocent victims? So that non-victims will repent. We are all object lessons, one to another. This may not be an entirely satisfactory answer. It's doubtful that there is a better one.

Take addicts, drug addicts. California legislators and other ne'er-do-wells have agitated for legalized pot. So they can tax it and use it and be all groovy and socialistic. Yes, to profit from drug sales is a sound fiscal policy. Of course. But regarding addicts, there is nothing at all, ever, under any circumstance, that one can say, or do, or cause to be done, that can change an addict into not an addict. There is no formula, no thing, no performance, that is the thing to do. Wisdom is doing what is appropriate. Sometimes it's appropriate to understand helplessness. Sort of a Zen thing, where non-action is most dynamic. The still small voice, heard, where the Voice from the Whirlwind is just noise.

God is not all-powerful. He cannot be untrue to his own nature. He cannot violate our free will. Chosen, yes, and choosing. Not a contradiction. Not even a paradox. Just something we can't understand. That's probably why God wants us to be like little children. We have to accept some things, not because faith is valuable in itself -- it's just necessary if we want serenity.

What was the number of Haitian dead? Up to five hundred thousand? -- but that isn't likely to be right. Fifty thousand? Out of a population of ten million. So half a percent of the population, killed in a single blow. One and a half million, if it were the USA. Seems like a lot. But everyone dies. We just prefer that the horror be distributed more evenly across time. We prefer our grief to be decoupled from horror, for all that when we are overwhelmed we become numb. A madman or bureaucrat might propose that we get the killing and dying done all at once -- more efficient and statistically less traumatic. But something in our actual humanity argues against this sort of logic. God, taking the long view, allows both perspectives free expression, that we may chose between them as we please.

Of course God cares. It must be that he wants us to care as well. That, and that we should repent.

What does this have to do with fitness, or health? Or addiction or helplessness? This is the world we live in. We can live in it as victims, slaves to fate, or as captains of our destiny. The weather is what it is, with its droughts and hurricanes. How we sail the waters or traverse the wasteland is up to us. We eat what we chose to eat. We exercise as we will. The result of these things is health, and fitness, or its lack. We can't chose our bones. But we do choose what hangs off of them.

That's all. Understanding this, our strength and our helplessness, earns us all the serenity we will ever be entitled to.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank

Letting Off Some Steam

Counterintuitive ain't the half of it. We seem to have gotten our understanding of obesity and weightloss from infomercials. Can that be possible? What about Oprah? -- didn't she lose a bunch of fat? And Robert De Niro -- he got fat on purpose for Raging Bull. So eating more will make you fat, and diet and exercise can lean you down. It's obvious. But controlled studies consistently invalidate this observation. Calorie restriction for the obese results in lower basal metabolism and decreased energy expenditure. Exercise increases appetite and for the effort provides a relatively insignificant energy expenditure. That's the clear conclusion from the studies.

It's not genetic, as we know from the obesity epidemic. If Americans were generally not fat 30 years ago, and three times as many are fat now, it's environmental, some behavioral change of diet, lifestyle, etc. It's genes responding, not demanding. So why is it happening? That's not the question right now. Now, it's why isn't it changing, with diet and exercise.

It's as if somewhere in the brain there is a silhouette of what it thinks we should look like, and the brain works to maintain that shape. That's not how it is, but as if. There is a gradual increase and excess of calories, however, that allows for the slow modification, adaptation of that image, so that slow fat gain can be sustained, whereas sudden change is more easily reversed. It's really a function of insulin -- but insulin is subject to homeostasis, even if an unhealthy one.

Undoubtedly meditation, visualization, affirmations can hack in as it were and edit that image, allowing for successful weight loss where a merely thermodynamic approach will fail. We can say will fail, because that's what the mechanistic studies show -- treating fat loss as a mere equation of positive or negative energy balance results in failure. The homeostatic silhouette gauge makes adjustments -- faster heartrate, more spontaneous movement, nervous energy, body temperature fluctuation, manipulation of appetite and cravings -- anything to waste or conserve energy, calories, fat. We know the mind-body relationship is controlled but not ordained by hormones -- the way a puppet is controlled by stings ... it goes beyond the strings. Point is, thinking matters.

The diet and exercise paradigm, to which every sensible person must be attracted, seems to be wrong. You'll have to look at your own life experience to see if it has worked. It's not a simple equation, energy in, energy out. If the body were a closed system, that idea would work. But it's not a closed system. There's leakage. It's not energy in, which is either stored or burned for purposeful metabolic functions. Such functions can be quantified, as body heat or lifting or locomotion or breathing or heartbeat or shivering. These are purposeful, and because of that they are predictable, quantifiable, and variables of an equation. The silhouette gauge is a randomizer, in that insulin may be set too high -- making you too fat. Why? Who knows. Aside from too many industrial carbs that is.

Think of the body as a steam engine, in an old fashioned train. A heap of coal, a furnace, and a way to get work done. Easy. Straightforward math, whatever the details. But then there's the whistle. The safety valves, that keep the boiler from exploding. It confounds things. Some people are always blowing their whistle. A lot of wasted steam. Keeps them lean. Some people let the pressure build until it's dangerous. Not on purpose -- it's just how the thing is built. Some engine cabs just keep filling up with coal, that doesn't get burned -- or the firebox has a problem, and the coal builds up there. You get the idea. Not an elegant analogy, but you can play with it yourself.

The point is that the calculations can't be valid if the system is not closed. How can people eat less and still be fat? First, metabolism is not even a steam engine, but rather a hybrid motor, that uses different fuels in a pattern we haven't recognized yet. Then, well, the system is not closed. What goes in? Calories? How meaningful is that? Something burned in a crucible is supposed to translate one-to-one into metabolism? Isn't that actually sort of an insane assumption? And once we have digested these "calories", they can be used only according to the mechanistic expectations of thermodynamics? We're all for thermodynamics. For mechanistic systems. The fact that fat people can eat less and exercise more than lean people confounds the issue, though, wouldn't you agree?

There's an engineer at the switch, and he operates according to rules that you don't find in elementary physics textbooks. He decides wheel speed and burn rates and heat and pressure and noise. He doesn't like to be starved, and he works at his own pace. How do you make him happy? Feed him right, and have a conversation.

That's all. That's all for now. Complex, and simple. Diet and exercise. We eat right for health. We exercise for fitness. Both matter, a lot. Food makes our bodies, and we use our bodies to do the things that life is about. Energy and movement. Diet and exercise. That's it.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank
For more, click "Older Posts"

Contents copyright © FitWorks, Inc