Asking stupid questions.
Asking better questions.
A health and nutrition post.
Blog time : It’s December 2020 and the year has come full circle, outside i’m planting up next year’s spring bulbs and mulching the garden with this year’s autumn leaves….right now i’m just waiting for the spectacularly red maple just down the road to shed it’s leaves so that i can throw some instant colour onto the borders.
This time last year i was just coming to terms with the fact that i had some long term health problems and that i felt that i was in a kind of last chance saloon kind of situation in starting to deal with them : i’m 62 by the way, was obese, hypertensive and had emerging arthritis in my hands. Around Christmas last year my partner was working so i sat down to ask the good Doctor Google some really basic and stupid questions about what i might or might not do about my problems : everything from ‘what’s the best diet (hint….there isn’t one) to ‘can i cure my hypertension’ and so on and so forth.
In it’s first iteration my search question notepad was stupidly simple as i just wasn’t asking the right kind of questions, my question about what is the ‘right’ diet being one of the worst but strangely it was my question about arthritis that sent me down the right rabbit hole. Several sites suggested that yes indeed i could cure my arthritis and perhaps my obesity and hypertension at the same time : me, i was extremely skeptical but where those first questions led me was to simply better and more focused questions…..ask better questions and get better answers i feel is the thing i learned from that.
Asking better questions.
A year ago i started this whole experiment by sitting at the computer with a reporters notebook at my side and a short list of stupid questions*, one of those being ‘is there a problem with sugar/is sugar bad’ ? , the simple answer to that one being ‘no….sugar is fine as long as you don’t eat it’ !. A year later and i am still working from the same notebook only my questions are far more precise : as Dr Peterson might say, that they are at a much higher level of resolution. Today then instead of asking something like ‘is sugar bad’ , and yes i can just imagine Dr Peterson saying ‘define bad’, the kind of questions i am asking about sugar would be ‘what is the role of fructose in the inflammatory pathway’ ?. That’s about the level of resolution i’m working at as i try to join the dots of many of the nutrition and food related disease pathways and even at that level there is a heck of a lot of essential detail…..so for me it’s back to the physiology textbooks and scientific paper references on the end of Youtube lectures.
Asking a very silly question **
In my first week of researching the subject, ok…..correction : in my first week of surfing as Youtube video’s on the subject i think i got the idea that at least one channel or other declared that either a food was bad/very bad or maybe not as bad as we once thought. In the same week i came across most of the material that would inform me that not only do all ‘diet’s‘ fail….anything based on calorie restriction that is and that bizarrely ‘dieting’ might be a lot lot worse in some respects than simply not eating at all ; obviously even that needs a lot more explaining which i will do in a follow-up post. Sometime during that first week and with the bad food/fake food idea rattling between my few remaining brain cells i jotted a new and seemingly silly question at the bottom of the first list….
Would it be better simply not to eat ?
I didn’t actually mean that seriously, at leqst not at first , rather it was just a tongue in cheek reaction to one of the polar extremes of the diet cultists ; on the one the hand the Vegans basically saying that not only is all meat bad but is also the main reason for climate change and world debt !…..and then the opposite end which is the carnivores claiming that not only is plant food not really food but is actively trying to poison us….i shit you not.
Having asked a very silly question i then decided to use that as a search term along the lines of ‘what happens when we don’t eat’ ? and what i discovered was a whole load of papers and channels saying that fasting has a long cultural and medical basis, can be included in everyday living and might just be better than other dietary strategies : by now though i’d learnt to ask ‘better than what’ though ie what are talking about here. So, from a very silly question i re-framed the question and wrote out a second list but this time being a lot more specific, for example : what happens (physiologically) during fasting ? and ‘is fasting a better dietary strategy’ ? but then had to add such caveats as ‘better than what’.
The way i remember it was that this was some kind of lightbulb moment when i started to ask very specific questions : my ‘what happens during fasting’ for example gave me some 2 weeks of study and produced a whole set of notes from which i derived even higher resolution questions….finally it seemed i was not only getting somewhere but the place i had arrived at was very interesting indeed.
Well, it’s almost a year later and iv’e only just cleared my desk of those early questions and notes, intermittent fasting became a regular part of my everyday routine and from late summer onwards i have been experimenting with sequential moderate term fasts of 40-60 hours ; my current weekly routine being to fast for the first 2 days of the week. This post is one of a series which is a kind of build up to having a second major reset in my own life, my next one will start in the first working week of the (my) new year….that’s after December 21st by the way, and i’m planning a 5 day fast because i’m now persuaded from the evidence and my own experience so far that a longer fast is more effective than a shorter one and that the uncomfortable stage is really only the first 24 hours or so.
*In nursing and medicine we have a saying “no such thing as a stupid question”
**I’m tempted to say ditto the above but sometimes the silly questions are the best ones.