Irresponsible Health Blogging

I need some feedback. Something has been bothering me for awhile now. It has do with blogging about health and nutrition. When hobbyists like myself learn new information and change our views and come to realization that some of our older posts are incomplete or flat out wrong, what should we do?

The way I blog about health topics has changed. I’ve gone from being confident that I had the answers to being confident that the people I was reading at the time had the answers. And I’ve been wrong on both accounts many times.

In recent years, I’ve taken a different approach. Instead of taking sides, I acknowledge that I don’t know and do my best to cover the various sides of the argument. Then I will put forth my current view on how it applies to me. Like the investor who thinks he has a good basket of stocks, but knows he could be wrong.


Photo by Heather Krisman

Every month I receive comments, mostly to older posts from people that are hurting. They get on a search engine, type in their concerns and land on one of my posts. A small fraction of those people will leave a comment asking me to help them.

This is not earth shattering news that people seek out information on sites with no credibility. On search engines my site often outranks real scientists, not because my content is better, but because I have a 15 year old domain, a fast server and the site is mobile friendly.

Over on my coffee site, I continue to go back and improve older articles. New photos and better instructions. But even if I didn’t, the stakes a reader takes by following my article are low. The coffee might be too weak or too bitter. Unpleasant, but no big loss. If however, someone follows incorrect or incomplete information here they could end up in worse health. This is concerning.

There is a date in the URL of each post telling the reader those were my views on that day. I use that piece of information when judging content. I don’t think everyone does. I believe that sites that don’t do that with health or financial information are less trusty worthy. See Blogging and Permalinks.

Some thoughts.

  1. Go back and remove and/or redirect older posts. This would be a ton of work. Also it assumes that I now know the information on those posts is wrong, which itself could be wrong. In other words, I could be wrong that I got it wrong.
  2. Leave the posts as they are. This shows the journey of how I changed as I encountered new information. This path assumes the reader is going to play catch up, which most won’t.
  3. Although I have honest intentions, I mostly have disdain for sites that remove older posts that make the site look bad. A financial site that I read for years took down years of posts. Many of my links broke. Good content was lost.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts, especially if you are a health blogger.


Intermittent Fasting – Context Is Likely Important

Last week I was involved in two discussions on Intermittent Fasting (IF). One was extremely supportive of IF and the other highly critical. Both sides were represented by smart people and both made valid points. They each pointed to science to back up their position. Yet they completely disagreed with each other.

My view on fasting has changed a lot since 2007. I’ve gone back and forth along a spectrum of being anti-IF and pro-IF. I understand the arguments of both sides and at times I’ve been more swayed by one than the other. My personal experience has been varied.


Photo by Diana Robinson

Let me begin by saying that I am completely unqualified to comment on what happens at a cellular level. I have read experts and their opinions on the role fasting plays on cell repair (autophagy), metabolism and stress hormones. There is a lot of disagreement. I won’t step into those debates. Instead I will approach this debate as an incomplete information problem. In other words, approach this decision as an investor, which means hedging. I’ve written on this strategy in the post Approaching Nutrition From an Investor’s Mindset.

My general beliefs are:

  1. The person most likely to benefit from fasting is the person that doesn’t fast.
  2. The person least likely to benefit from fasting is the person either fasts too much, under eats, has a slow metabolism, exercises a lot, has poor sleep, or has a more stressful life. I am a believer in not stacking stressors. I cover this concept in the post Cold Exposure – Not One Size Fits All.
  3. Men are probably more likely to benefit than women. This is a common theme I’ve seen repeated across several blogs. And stocky men probably benefit more than lanky men.
  4. Fasting probably isn’t wise for children. I’m not a parent. Do your own research.
  5. The optimal amount of fasting is likely to be the least amount needed to make a positive change. This will be different for different people. And that amount will change for the individual. For some people that optimal amount is zero. For some it might be a cycle of on and off. Cycles might daily, weekly, monthly or even seasonal.

Instead of viewing fasting as good or bad, I think it makes sense to look at where the individual is at on their health journey. I want to share my story and how it changed between 2008 and today.

Stress is cited as the primary reason to not fast, but I believe it cuts both ways. There is a stress associated with never missing an eating window. Always cooking. Always grocery shopping. Always trying to make the best food decisions with time restrictions can be taxing. From the post Peat-atarians and Fear of Hormetic Stress:

Before discovering IF, I was a slave to hunger. Every 3 or so waking hours, I had to eat. IF taught me how to be patient with food. I learned how to cook, because I could now chose to eat later rather than immediately.

IF initially reduced my stress. I felt empowered. I learned I was stronger and more resilient than I had ever imagined. I cut way back on eating out and grabbing “nutritional bars” for quick calories and began discovering new foods that I could make in my own kitchen.

But then I made the mistake that many in the Paleo community did and that was take it too far. If a little is good, then more must be better? Nope.

In 2011, I did 70 consecutive days of Leangains, which is a 16 hour daily fast. During the 2nd month of the experiment I was often tired, always cold and I lost muscle. A few of his fanboys sent me emails or left comments on how it was my fault. I accepted some responsibility, but in the end I felt it was too much for me. My suspicion was confirmed when one my commenters Tauno found a old comment on the Leangains site from 2008 written by Berkhan.


This advice never made it into the 2010 Leangains Guide. Would I have done better with this strategy? Yes and I confirmed it later that summer. From my post Intermittent Fasting – Life After Leangains, I said this:

Since ending the daily 16 hour fasts, I have regained my strength and am now at the leanest point of my life. When I scaled back from daily fasts to 2-3 times per week, my metabolism kicked into gear and I started progressing again.

This was optimal for a while. Until I started losing too much weight. This was a problem that I solved and one of the tools I used was to stop fasting. Doing this increased my body temperature and increased my sleep quality. Both positive signs that I had made the right decision.


Pick Your Poison by Scott Ableman. When I am HUNGRY and away from my kitchen, I am a sucker for getting 3 tostadas from Taco Bell. That is 840 calories which has very little nutrition to show for itself. 🙁 

But I overshot my target weight and once again became a slave to hunger. With the stress of meal planning and not being able to always make good food choices, the quality of my diet got worse. Carrying around an extra 15 pounds has made me more lethargic, which hasn’t been good for my mood. To me this is my sign that it is time to start fasting again. Just a little. Maybe one 22 hour fast a week. I already know that my body can’t handle too much and I am aware of the symptoms (tired, cold, weak) if I were to push the fasting too much.

So is fasting good or bad? It was both for me. I no longer believe fasting is either magical or dangerous. Context is likely important.


A “Sitting is the New Smoking” Skeptic Spends a Year in California

For a few years we’ve been hit over the head with health stories that equate sitting as being as unhealthy as smoking. And I’ve been a disbelieving skeptic. My thinking was that efficient exercise that targeted fast twitch muscle fibers could prevent the atrophy of the muscles caused by sitting.

Stories that said even active people were at risk failed to make an impression on me, because I am aware of what the classic definitions of exercise are. Jogging on a treadmill or using momentum to knock out a few sets of weight lifting aren’t going to be effective at building and strengthening the muscles we put into disuse from hours of sitting.

I felt that if I took a HIT approach to targeting the glute muscles that I could spend minutes a day giving me a free pass to sitting hours. So I created an exercise called the Static Windmill and shared it in the post Merging Foundation Training With Hillfit. The exercise works. I still believe in it. It solves the atrophy problem, but I learned after a year in California that is only half the problem.

Driving is the Worst

When I sit for hours at a desk, I move my legs. I stand up. I fidget. On rare occasions will I freeze my position for more than an hour. Driving is the opposite. When I am in my hatchback, my movement is frozen. When I am on the road moving, there isn’t much I can do to vary my posture. I’m locked in until the trip is terminated.

During my year in California I drove a lot more than I was driving in Seattle. On February 26th, I shared these numbers on Facebook.


Then I discovered all the cool city tours of San Francisco and I started driving even more. From February until the day before I left, I averaged 56 miles a day. This was not an hour in the car. It was HOURS in the car every day. Sometimes I was stuck in traffic. A lot of it was city driving.

Health Decline

The ten pounds I lost on the Fat Loss Bet prior to leaving was regained. I experimented with Food Reward and didn’t make any progress. At the same time I was tightening up my diet, I was increasing my driving.

I am no longer a skeptic to stories that talk about the reduced metabolic effect hours of sitting can have on your body. I experienced it. I do think doing my Static Windmill helped, but it was only part of the problem. The body wants to move. It doesn’t like to be trapped for hours in a car.

Not only did I gain weight, but I felt more lethargic. I felt rusty.

traffic light

Photo by Paul Clarke

Back in Seattle

I’m driving less now that I am back in Seattle. Not as less as I’d like, but the driving trips are shorter than the ones I was taking in the SF Bay Area. In Seattle, I am often taking 2-3 mile drives. In the SF area, many of my trips were 20-30 miles. Even the short trips were 7-10 miles.

My goal is to drive less. Leaving California was a huge first step in making that happen.


Yes Ice Cream is Still Better Than Protein Powder

I recently saw a thread on a Paleo forum that was discussing my 2012 post Why Ice Cream is Better Than Protein Powder. I won’t link to it, because the parent site uses pop-up newsletter forms on every page. I’m getting real tired of sites that are hell bent on building their email lists and could care less about annoying their readers, many of which probably have already signed up for their damn newsletter.

Back to the ice cream discussion. My case for ice cream was convincing to the Primal forum. Good! But the thread was less convinced that protein powder could thwart their goal of gaining muscle. The consensus was to have both ice cream and protein powder. I disagree with their conclusion.

In almost every discussion regarding nutrition and building muscle, there is this blind assumption that one must eat high levels of protein to gain muscle. This is not true. Read Matt Stone. Read Brad Pilon. This is the message the sports supplement sellers have been hammering away for decades telling us. You are being punked.


Protein lowers appetite. This is great for dieting, but if you are trying to gain muscle weight, what you want more than anything is calories. The reason for ice cream is it is a high calorie nutritious food that you can easily eat past satiety. All the protein powder is going to do is reduce appetite. The last thing you want is for the ice cream to displace other sources of nutrition. You want to eat your normal healthy diet plus ice cream for the needed calories to be caloric surplus.

Wasted Money

In the original post I said that I have:

…wasted over a thousand dollars on protein powders and bars since the mid 1990s.

With that kind of money I could have bought a lot of cool kitchen gear, which would in turn go to making more healthy meals at home. I would have saved more time and money. Hell I didn’t even get a pressure cooker until last year. Three tubs of protein powder or a pressure cooker, which is going to help you gain more muscle? No contest, it is the pressure cooker.

Dirty Ice Cream

The other angle people get hung up on is the cleanliness of ice cream. Those eating a squeaky clean diet that break into a cold sweat reading the ingredient list for many ice creams have two choices. Buy a basic vanilla as they tend to have the fewest ingredients.

Your second choice is to make your ice cream and source your own ingredients. This summer I made some coffee ice cream with a $50 Cuisinart and shared that tutorial on INeedCoffee. See Homemade Coffee Ice Cream – A Delicious and Healthy Alternative to the Store.


Photo by State Library of Victoria. Look at the side of the truck. Ice Cream is “The Health food of a Nation!” 

Not For Everyone

Finally the critics that say they would get fat eating ice cream must not have read this part of the article:

I want to define the audience for this post. It is for male ectomorphs that are already lean wishing to gain additional muscle. Younger males and those with less training experience will benefit even more. It is also not for ectomorphs with a gut.

Even if we aren’t this person, we all know someone like this person. Super lean, exercising all the time and can’t make gains. My advice is put down the the protein powder and pick up the ice cream. Give it a try. If it doesn’t work, at least you know.

I know this post will be misread by many. So let me summarize. Calories are more important than grams of protein when it comes to building muscle. Many lanky men have trouble eating enough calories to gain muscle. Protein powders are not helping them. Ice cream is a better tool.


Back In Seattle and Other Updates

Things have been slow on this site this summer. I spent July finishing up my commitments in California and then returned to Seattle a month ago. My Seattle room is still under construction, which is making it hard to settle in. As a result my main computer is unplugged. I’m hoping to have electrical outlets for it this week. Until then I will keep using my Chromebook.

It really is amazing all the things you can do on a Chromebook if you are forced to. FTP, photo editing, Shell, coding and even Torrent. Not that I torrent, but when a friend out of the country needed help, I was able to assist. 🙂

Since back in Seattle I’ve been catching up on new content for my coffee site INeedCoffee. There are also a lot more articles coming this fall. I’ve been advised that I should post more frequently to build a larger audience. But I prefer to post quality over quantity. There are too many sites creating disposable content. They tend to be hot for a while and then burnout. INeedCoffee has been online since April 1999. I’m playing the long game.


The Perfect Solution For Cold Brew Coffee on the Go was one of the two cold brew tutorials I wrote this month for INeedCoffee. 

My Duolingo streak is now at 107 days. I slowed down my Spanish learning a lot during and just after the move. Now that I’m caught up on coffee content, I plan to increase my language study time. I have no specific goal other than to keep improving. If one day I am fluent, great. If I can only read a newspaper, that is fine as well.

And an update on Waze, which is the app I discussed in the post Learning to Hate Driving Less. I ended up passing all my friends that connected to the Scoreboard via Facebook, except Nikki. There is no way I’ll catch her, especially now that I’m away from the SF Bay Area and back in Seattle where I drive far less.

Now my only motivation has been moving up the ranks. Several months ago I achieved level of Knight, which for the top 4% of users. I was two days away from becoming Royalty, which is the highest rank given to the top 1% when I got denied. The rankings are based upon state. When I informed Waze I was in Washington and no longer in California, the number of points needed to achieve Royalty was 7,000 points higher. So now I am looking at another month or two before I become Royalty.


In California this would be enough points to be Waze Royalty.

I renewed my web hosting with SiteGround. After firing three hosts last year, I may have finally found a place that can keep the servers running, keep them running fast and respond quickly to support tickets. If you need web hosting that isn’t ghetto, use my referral link.

I have several ideas for health and fitness blog posts, but I have more questions than answers. I was going to shelf all those posts, but I realized that many of the commenters on this blog are more knowledgeable than me and that other readers might have the same questions. So look for some discussion posts soon.