Some Thoughts on Nutrition and Obesity

When searching the internet, it is not particularly difficult to find arguments either saying that fructose is the devil or that fructose is the victim of a terrible misunderstanding.

Which is it then?

From everything I have seen and heard, all the research I have seen and done (admittedly, I am no scientist, so bear that in mind as I proceed through this), fructose is to blame for the rapid and worrying increase in obesity… but not alone.  It is not be the sole contributing factor, but it definitely is one of the bigger ones (no pun intended).

Where to start then?

Starting with fructose, the sweet tasting compound found in fruits, honey, etc, and the primary contributing sweetness agent in nearly anything that has a sweet taste these days.  To not say that fructose is “poison that should be avoided at all costs”, smaller amounts of it should not hurt.  Timing will also be an issue, as the body can use fructose to restore glycogen stores after a workout, even if glucose serves this purpose better.  Outside of this, however, fructose – consumed alongside glucose, since this is how it is found both in nature and in artificial sugars – gets metabolized into fat by the liver.  It has been found that the higher the glucose:fructose ratio, the less this occurs, but it does not eliminate the effect.  Fructose is even suggested to be the leading contributor of metabolic syndrome and weight gain, among other things.

As if that was not bad enough, sugar in general has been shown to have some other nefarious effects, which should be enough to not want to eat it.

Ok, so fructose is pretty bad to have all over our diet, that much seems to be clear, and it should certainly be minimized in our diet.  But to call it the only issue is quite an overstatement.

After all, there is the issue of fat to consider.  And not just any fat either… in particular, trans-fats.  No, not cholesterol or even saturated fat, just trans-fat, the stuff you may also read on a label as “[partially] hydrogenated [some kind of] oil”.  In an interview with Dr. Kummerow, who pretty much started the research on trans-fat in the first place, it is explained that it has a massive negative impact on health – most of which is commonly associated today with cholesterol and saturated fat.  It is worth noting in this that a good portion of our saturated fat intake comes from hydrogenated oils, which means that there is trans-fat contained in it as well, making it difficult to differentiate between the effects of the two; no research that I’ve found has taken the time to differentiate between fully hydrogenated oils, natural saturated non-animal fat (e.g. coconut oil), or animal fat (and what those animals would have been fed).

However, since unsaturated fats (where there are one or more double bonds) break down into trans-fats when cooking, even at relatively low temperatures, and do so from their double bonds, natural saturated fat is something that can prevent trans-fats from appearing in your food.  To know whether fat is primarily saturated or unsaturated, it is fairly simple: does it stay solid at room temperature?  If so, you are using a mainly saturated fat.  Examples include butter, coconut oil, and most animal fat.

I am not suggesting to eat lard by the spoon-full here.  Unsaturated fats – in particular, oils rich in monounsaturated fat (small breakdown of some of the better ones, and some claimed to be better that really are not) – have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease in a statistically significant way… meaning enjoy that olive oil on your Greek salad, it’s good for you!  As mentioned in the paragraph above, however, please avoid it when cooking, since the unsaturated fats tend to breakdown as you cook at higher temperatures, and you do not want that!

One more thing before concluding: I have heard it claimed that a “Paleo diet will kill you” or, more relevantly, a Paleo diet removes starches and vegetables from one’s diet.  While this is not an article specifically about Paleo or fighting this video’s talk, it is worth at least noting that starch – in reasonable (read: small) quantities – and vegetables by the bucket-load is something that should definitely be an important part of everyone’s diet.

Are there other causes to obesity in our diets?  Most likely… the widespread use of chemicals in our food is probably not helping, and then there’s the sheer size of the portions often being eaten on a regular basis.  Additionally, this is a very simplified article, and while I recommend doing more research on the matter, you’ll find that there is a lot of conflicting data out there; the idea is simply to give you an idea of which direction to approach from.  But if anything, hopefully you’ll feel better about your breakfast of eggs, [uncured] bacon, and potatoes after reading this!

The Inside Job

It is one of the greatest of the many false concepts taught to us through our lives – not by malice, at least that is what I assume, but by ignorance – one that has held so many back from personal success in any and all fields of life.  We have been taught through stories, movies, media, and society that life “happens to you” and that anything you do is based on the circumstances around you: “He got lucky”, “I fell in love”, “She makes me so angry”, and so on.  You get the idea.


It is also one of the largest factors in success – or failure – in just about anything, not because it has a direct influence on the outcome (at least, not always), but because as with a trim tab on the rudder of a ship, it is something fairly small by itself that brings about a large change around it, possibly changing the direction of your whole life!


I’m referring here to attitude.


You may have noticed how the vast majority of people who have achieved success – what they call success, not what you consider success – have very positive attitudes, a generally positive outlook on life, and an ever-increasing drive for more success (something I will talk more about another day).  “But Nicolas,” you may say, “of course they have a positive attitude; they’ve achieved success!”  That is frequently the outlook taken by people looking at these successful individuals, and was the one I previously took as well.


The truth, however, is that attitude must precede proper success.  Remember that “success” here is defined differently by each individual, so it must be remembered that for one, success may be building a business to the billion dollar revenue mark, while to another it may simply be getting their credit card debt to $0, setting up a charity for a cause near and dear to their heart, or being genuinely happily married.  All of these and more are definitions of success to someone.


While I won’t go into the steps to success in this article (that will wait until I’ve reached my own definition rather than still being on the path), the starting point is attitude, one of the biggest inside jobs you can ever accomplish.


Attitude is not something that is changed by your circumstances – not directly, at least.  The vast majority of people, including myself when I’m not paying attention to it, allow themselves to react to their circumstances and thus affect their attitudes, but the fact of the matter is when this happens, we let the circumstances affect us.  This truth might sound painful, but in another sense it is quite liberating, because it means that if we have the power to let circumstances affect our attitudes, we also have the power to prevent circumstances from affecting our attitudes.


Before anything else, I will say that admittedly, for those who have never tried to control their attitudes, it is not an easy shift to make.  When you pay attention to it, you may notice that we are currently programmed by various media to be negative, and that we have no control over much of anything: we say that anyone who succeeds is “lucky”, we call optimists “blind”, we call pessimists “realists”, we do things only when we are “in the mood”, and so on.


But looking in history, not that far back, we can find great figures who showed that their attitude was not dependent on their circumstances, such as Gandhi, Frankl, Mandela, and so many more.  Viktor Frankl even said “[e]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  If he proved that it is possible to choose your attitude when circumstances are a Nazi concentration camp, it should be fair to say that attitude can be chosen anywhere.


So where to start then?  You can tell me that a negative attitude is all you’ve known and that it’s too late to change, but that’s exactly where I was some four or five years ago.  While everyone’s journey is their own, mine started when I was introduced to Life Leadership, where I first learned this concept, thinking that it was impossible for someone to change their attitude completely.  Once I stopped resisting what I was learning, I made an effort to think more positive thoughts – and make no mistake, it took quite an effort at first!  But the more time went on, the more habitual it became, until finally, a few months ago one of my coworkers told me “you are the most optimistic person I’ve ever met!”


If I was able to become that positive, so can you.  Maybe one day I’ll go into just how negative I was, but this is not that day.  Just know that there is, statistically, little chance that you are more negative than I was at that time.


Once you take control of your attitude, you will have taken the first important step toward not only achieving your vision of success – even if you haven’t found that vision yet – but you will feel so much better about your life and yourself, no matter the circumstances, that you will never want to go back!  For more reading on the subject, I point you to Attitude is Everything, by Jeff Keller.  It is a short, easy read, but is a powerful book nonetheless, and was the one that finally got me going in the right direction.

Network Marketing, Pyramid Schemes, and Business, Part 2

In my last article, I wrote about conventional business – using a pyramid structure (again, lowercase ‘p’) in its construction – and Ponzi schemes.


As a quick recap, businesses typically build in a pyramid structure, with higher levels in the structure carrying more responsibility in the company, and typically receiving better remuneration.  This is usually done in branches, and if you place them all together on paper, it ends up looking like a pyramid.  As a general rule, businesses would collapse if they were not run this way, and so the structure remains.


Ponzi schemes generally rely on a single “investor” or “investment firm” of some kind promising large returns to any who will invest with them, and pay the original investors with money from the new investors, with the core “investor” taking a small cut each time.  This can go on until they are being required to pay out more than the new investors are paying in, at which point the whole scheme collapses.


Now, with that out of the way, let’s move on to Pyramid (capital ‘P’) structures.  What makes this different from a business with a pyramid structure or Ponzi scheme?


Contrary to a Ponzi scheme where a single party acts as the hub for the whole thing, a Pyramid scheme relies on “investors” signing new people up below them in the structure, being told that their return will come from this.  The way this form perpetuates is that the initial “investor” will recruit other people to “invest” with them, charging a fee for this privilege.  Each new “investor” is now invited to repeat the process with more people, while sharing a portion of their profits with the level above them, all the way to the top.  These new invitees are then are invited to find more people who… well, you get the idea.  No product or service is genuinely produced, and this is the key issue.  As nothing is produced, this can only perpetuate as long as new people are found, after which point profits dry up, and the perpetuator(s) either disappear or are arrested.


This usually has a shorter lifespan than a Ponzi scheme as it requires an exponentially growing base of members, while a Ponzi scheme more often will rely on repeat investors, keeping the required number of victims at a relative minimum.


Another way that a Pyramid scheme can operate is by “selling” a product or service with extremely little or no monetary value (examples include mailing lists, or some kind of report), typically only to members of the structure (i.e. it is nearly or completely impossible to charge money for these products or services outside the Pyramid organization as few people – or none – would pay for them).  This version closely resembles the operational approach of MLMs, often including similar approaches to how money is distributed (“those that do the work get the pay”, or you only get a percentage of the group volume below you by some calculation or other, etc.), except that again the vast majority of the money comes from new sign-ups, and very little or no money comes from outside the structure, as the product or service is essentially bereft of monetary value.  This last part is the primary, most important difference between a Pyramid scheme and an MLM.


Finally, MLMs.  Many have called MLMs Pyramid schemes… and in some cases, they’re right (see the above paragraph).  One of the key differences an MLM carries is that it’s possible to earn a reasonable income through product sales outside the structure.  Essentially, being a salesman of whatever goods or services the MLM offers, which therefor must have some monetary value to the target market (examples include various health products, makeup, hygiene products, leadership training, and so on).  Typically, the profits will be a mix between sales profits (either through markup of products sold to individuals or companies that are not members of the MLM or from commission from such sales, or both) and a profit sharing structure that often gives people the impression that they are being suckered into a Pyramid scheme (e.g. once one “team” reaches a certain size, you begin gaining a certain percentage of the total profits or revenue from it).


If it is properly set up, however, an MLM can be completely legitimate, and many such do exist.  One difficulty with them, however, is that to see it fully, one must stop thinking in terms of employment (as a great many of us think) because there is no employment occurring.  Joining an MLM is not employment, at least not in the same way that getting hired as a salesman is; it is a form of business ownership, and thus carries some of the same risks as starting any business does, only usually the start-up cost and operating cost are orders of magnitude smaller than a conventional business, and the business model is presented to you instead of created by you.  This is another part of why many consider these to be scams, yet would not consider a 100% commission job as one.


Regardless of which of these led you here, look well into the opportunity presented to you.  On the one hand, it may look like “one of those things”, a Pyramid scheme that will disappear with hundreds or thousands of your dollars, or it may be completely legitimate, and you could be missing out on something massive by refusing it!

Network Marketing, Pyramid Schemes, and Business (Part 1 of 2)

Anyone who has either been in or been invited to a network marketing (or multi-level marketing, if you prefer) company has likely either seen it compared to a Ponzi or Pyramid scheme, or made that comparison themselves.  When the claim is made, no doubt the person making the invitation quickly moved to defend their position, and how their particular model does something differently, making it “not a Pyramid”.

But is it true?

To answer this, first we need to know what a Ponzi scheme is, what a Pyramid scheme is, and how network/multi-level marketing is or claims to be different.  I will do this in two parts as even when giving only the general overview, there is a good bit to say.  Today, I’ll cover “conventional” business and Ponzi schemes, while in a future article, I’ll cover Pyramid schemes (note the capital ‘P’) and Multi-Level Marketing, or MLM; until then, stay tuned, as the conclusion will come at that time!

As a foreword, it is important to note that I am here giving only an overview; there are details being omitted because it would be possible to write [at least] a book on each subject, never mind a comparison of all these!  

First, I need to describe, in general terms, our typical corporate structure as a baseline.  Virtually every corporation today is built with a pyramid (small ‘p’) structure.  A pyramid structure is where for each person in the structure at a given level, there will be a notably smaller number of people above that level.  The higher you go, the more responsibility each person has over the work of those below.  Generally, they will have higher pay for this additional responsibility, and the only way to move up the structure is for someone to vacate a spot above.  In this model, all profits come from – or are supposed to come from – investors paying into the building of the entire structure with a promised return in the future, and payment from customers in exchange for a product, service, or both.

This is what one might call “conventional” business.  It works, make no mistake, and that’s why it’s still around.  When most of the structure is little more than the construct of the mind of the founder, it is a high risk venture, usually because the founder is not an expert at providing the product or service that is planned.  However, if they can make it far enough that they can construct their corporate structure to the point where they are no longer doing any of the work, eventually they can check out from there.  This is a long term process, and quite frankly, it is very fair, as the one or ones who did all the up-front work and took all the up-front risk is/are the one(s) rewarded for it the most.

If someone approaches someone with a “business idea”, this is one of the legitimate things they may be intending.

Ponzi schemes can sometimes be harder to catch early on.  Made famous by Charles Ponzi in 1920, the general idea of a Ponzi scheme is that money entering from new “investors” (members, etc.) is used to pay for those who got in earlier.  There’s no particular structure to this effect, at least not regarding those who are investing into it; it’s simply that those who get in earlier are more likely to get a payout… and invest again.

It’s worth noting that sometimes, the offer is legitimate; this investor knows of an upcoming opportunity but simply lacks the capital to make good use of this opportunity, and turns to the public to raise that capital.  He takes a cut of the profits – indicating that he will from the very beginning – and they keep the rest of the profits from what he invests.  It’s a win-win… if it works.  Sometimes, however, the market is unforgiving, and something happens that the would-be investor did not anticipate, and loses some of the money, or the returns are quite up to par with what he promised.  When his happens, he can either own up to his failure, or he can turn to the Ponzi model.

An example similar to this is Bernard Madoff, who ran a reportedly legitimate investment company until the 1990s, when he simply stopped investing.  At that point, as the company no longer generated profits from the market, the asset management division of the company because one of the largest reported Ponzi schemes ever seen.

Regardless of how the scheme starts, sooner or later it reaches an end when there no longer is enough money coming in from new sources to cover those cashing out.  Sadly, our own governments here in North America technically run such a scheme, only they call it “CPP”, “QPP”, “Social Security”, etc.  The intent of the scheme is not what makes it so, but instead the method through which money is gathered and payouts are made.  If new investors are the only way an “investment” is funded, this is the category it falls under.

Inevitably, the whole structure will fall apart, as every new “generation” of “investors” requires more than the last in order to keep it going.  The larger it is, however, the longer it may perpetuate, especially if the returns are not astronomical, or some condition prevents massive payouts (in the last examples, the relatively small payouts and late date at which these payouts can be gathered may keep them going a long time, but the fact that all over far over budget is indication enough of this issue).

Not all is always at it seems, then.  Investment scams always exist, and it is generally best to make sure you know where the money is going before you ever buy in.  If it is going into legitimate investments, ones you can track, then the only red flag would be promised returns.  As for business, venture at your own risk… and potential profit.

Change your thinking, change your results

After listening to an Anthony Robbins recording the other day, I’m reminded of a subject that I hear about quite frequently through Life Leadership: The conscious and subconscious mind.


Science has criticized the concept of the subconscious mind as it is difficult – if not impossible – to currently quantify.  Consider that even if it is not physically quantifiable, there are likely simply other processes at work in your mind that – for lack of better understanding – are referred to as “the subconscious mind”.  Even if it is a gross oversimplification, general idea remains firm.


It’s been said quite a lot that your subconscious mind can accomplish quite a lot more than your conscious mind – like an ant riding an elephant.  The concept behind it is simply that your conscious mind, that part of your mind that is reading this post, effectively “directs” your subconscious mind toward a goal, putting more power toward reaching it.  This is what happens when you focus on something you need done, and after some time it “just hits you”, be it through some epiphany or even in a dream.


While the idea behind a “conscious” and “subconscious” mind might seem far-fetched to some, the idea behind how it works has been seen in pretty well every person who has achieved major success… and major failure.


If nothing else, the following statement sums it up beautifully: You only get what you focus on.


What does this mean exactly?  It doesn’t mean that if you focus on the thought of a bunch of young, beautiful women fawning over you that you’ll get that (though you may), nor that if you focus on the thought of making a ton of money that you will (though, again, you may).  It means that if you are trying to achieve an end result and are quite serious about getting to it no matter what, then focusing on the end result – be it building a successful business, getting that promotion at work, or simply breaking out of a mental rut – will give you the means to do so.


I want to make one thing clear, however: this typically does not happen overnight.  The way you think has gotten you to where you are, for better or for worse.  Changing how you think, no matter how long you’ve been thinking that way, will take time.  After all, you’ve been programming yourself to think a certain way for some time (or others have been doing so – more on that another time), and it will take some effort to ditch old, less than useful habits for new and more useful ones.


One example of a thought habit is pessimism.  This is one I can speak of through experience, as I was a prime example of one of the most pessimistic, cynical people you could ever meet.  A real Debbie Downer.  But through constant effort, I’ve gotten to a point where someone told me “you are the most optimistic person I’ve met”.  It is very possible to be optimistic to a huge degree without necessarily going into what many cynics criticize about optimism – seeing the bright side without considering any possible negative points.  It’s about which part of the whole that is focused on, and that’s the part that you will head toward.  By focusing on the positive, you are pushing yourself toward a positive outcome.


Obviously, there’s more to this than I’m putting in this short post.  For that, I encourage you to pick up Vince Poscente’s The Ant and the Elephant.  For those of you that this applies to, I also encourage you to challenge yourselves for this point: focus on the positive of every situation you’re in for the next month.  Don’t look at how the situation is “bad because”, look at why it’s good!  If you can’t get quite to that, see why you can be thankful that the situation is as it is.  If you’re being yelled at by someone, they’re giving you an opportunity to practice patience.  If you were in a car wreck, you’re clearly able to read this and should be thankful for that if nothing else.  And so on.  After seriously doing this for a month, you may be amazed at the changes you see in yourself!


Look for more on this subject here over time, there may well be other concepts introduced.  Open your mind and you will be amazed at what you may gain.

A step toward better health

Like many others, I’ve taken an interest in my health. Unlike many others, I’m never bored by reading scientific papers, studies, etc, and seeking out new information is almost a game to me.

This led me to Mark’s Daily Apple.

While you can get a much better idea of what Primal living is by reading his site, the general idea is to cut out a huge portion of our modern conveniences… that also happen to be harming us. While very few would ever advocate for completely eliminating everything modern from our lives, there are certainly a few things that we could stand to let go. Some of these, naturally, are harder than others; after all, who hasn’t told themselves at one point or another that they would like to start exercising? (Incidentally, while I realize I’m plugging MDA a bunch here, it’s an excellent source of information on this subject).

I realize that not many enjoy reading studies and research papers, but there certainly are enough sources to look at, especially if you happen to have a subscription to one of the many journals out there. Otherwise, Mark gives a quick rundown of a couple of the nutritional myths so many of us have been taught to believe (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been told that “low fat” is the healthy way to go).

In brief, though, the whole idea behind this is that to be healthy, one should try to eat as natural as possible, move a bunch, optionally include a short workout here and there (but you can do without this if you move enough!) that can be as short as 10 minutes if you do it right, and eschew a decent portion of our comforts. Does that mean living like a metaphorical caveman? Not necessarily. After all, the leading advocate of Primal living writes a blog, so clearly there’s a certain level of modern living that can be used positively.

Dear reader, MDA is a valuable resource toward good health, and one that should be used thoroughly. I am in no way affiliated with him, but I certainly do advocate for what he teaches! May you be of sound health soon.