Book Review: The Furious Method

The Furious Method: Transform your Mind, Body and Goals by Tyson Fury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Hands down, the best depression book I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot of depression books. Especially for being such a happy-go-lucky fella.

I picked this up expecting it to be a diet book. Tyson Fury lost 10 stone, which means 140 lbs in units used by real people. He mentioned in interviews he did so via “Dirty Keto” which meant a bunch of eggs, sausage, and Diet Coke, for some reason. Health and wellness book, written by a pro athlete who had just lost a manlet worth of weight in preparation for a championship match, it’s reasonable to assume the book would be about nutrition and exercise.

And in a way, it was, but only as a vehicle to battle depression. The Furious Method is the best compendium of practical coping skills I’ve found. It’s part self-help instruction manual, part mental health confessional, part autobiography, but the whole thing is done with a directness, an honesty, and a compassion I found totally disarming.

I didn’t know a lot about Tyson Fury before picking up this book. I knew he was a 270 lb British heavyweight champion who looked like an ogre but didn’t fight like one. I knew he stressed fundamentals and finesse. And I know he goes by “Gypsy King”, which I don’t think I’m even allowed to say, but I also know it’s a title earned by beating up all challengers within the traveller community. Yeah, you go ahead and tell him he’s cancelled.

So I naturally assumed this lumpy monolith was going to be a braying oaf. I was mistaken. He’s down-to-earth, eloquent, and a hell of a writer. The book is a forthright account of his struggle with bipolar depression and addiction, and exactly what was going through his mind at his highest highs and lowest lows. It’s a book that needed to be written, and a powerful blow against the stigma surrounding mental illness. There’s this lingering Puritanical boomer belief that if you got the depresso you suck it up and tough it out and you don’t talk about it. Don’t be a pussy. Well, Tyson Fury is the heavyweight champion of the world, and he’s a real piss-and-vinegar fighter, none of that slick cherrypicked Mayweather trash. If he struggles with mental illness, then it’s not strictly the purview of pussies, huh?

The advice is salt-of-the-earth, direct, and clinically accurate. Exercise. Eat well. Sleep enough. Get outside. Push yourself to do it. Reach out and get help. It’s the stuff we all know, but nobody really takes seriously, like mom telling you to make sure you wear a coat. Yeah, yeah.

Well, it’s fuckin cold out. Wear the coat.

If you’ve ever dealt with depression, I urge you to read this book, and do what it says. You can probably skip the My First Warmup sections of every chapter, but replace them with some other kind of functional cardiovascular exercise, because that is deadass THE way to beat depression. The studies have demonstrated, conclusively, that it works as well as or better than all those magic pills they keep heaving into our collective mouths like the Big Bertha arcade game.

Great book. Great fighter. Great dude. Yeah, okay, so he’s British. We all have our shortcomings.




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Book Review: Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live

Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live by Nicholas A. Christakis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Three stars for dry writing. It was an interesting enough read. Christakis gives the impression of being called in as an expert witness to uphold the Quiz Broadcast – REMAIN INDOORS – narrative, and he does, enthusiastically, before contradicting it repeatedly.

“Once again, everything that we’re doing is exactly what we should be doing. This is the only way we’re going to beat it. It is your moral duty to listen to government. Here are the many and varied ways the government in general, and Trump in particular, has done everything wrong since this started. I will now list the data as to why none of these methods work. BUT, I cannot stress enough that these methods work.”

“It is imperative that we remain indoors and avoid everyone else, in order to flatten the curve. But it shouldn’t be social distance. The last thing we want right now is to socially isolate, as that suppresses immune system and leads to mental health outcomes that can be as bad or worse than the virus in terms of casualties.”

“The vaccine will dramatically reduce the number of deaths and save us all. Rescue is on its way! Unrelatedly, vaccines take 10 years to make, at which point they’re often unsafe, and historically, most pandemic diseases have been dealt with by herd immunity, with medical interventions occurring well after the pandemic is in remission and the infection line has flattened or begun to drop.”

He says masks kind of sort of work, but only as a means of blocking you from spraying your grotesque fluids onto the people around you. They do nothing to protect you unless it’s one of those N95 respirators. Wearing a mask is a show of good faith, demonstrating that you acknowledge we are in a pandemic situation and, yes, it effects you, too. It’s solidarity and altruism both, and that’s the kind of thing that got us through all the past pandemics.

Oh yeah, that’s a big point. These unprecedented times? Don’t buy the hype. They’re not all that unprecedented. Christakis rattles off a laundry list of other crippling pandemics, drawing the most comparisons between COVID and the Spanish Flu of 1918. He’s of the belief it was easier to get people to behave like responsible adults because Americans were in the midst of WWI, and “flattening the curve” or whatever euphemism they had for that around the turn of the century was seen as doing your part to support the troops.

He also rolls through some survey data, presumably to make good on his promise to discuss the impact of Coronavirus you can’t get from a glance at the grocery store. People are lonely and isolated. Women report greater anxiety and loneliness than men. Mental illness self-report for everybody is way, way up. Small businesses are collapsing, and the world looks like it’s on fire.

At the same time, there are these huge, sweeping grassroots efforts from individuals and nonprofits trying to fight the virus and help their neighbors. Overwhelmingly, people report being totally down with observing quarantine and distancing procedures. Charitable donations are higher and more frequent. People are pitching in their time to provide essential services to those who don’t have them, and everybody seems to be trying to protect health care workers; Christakis was especially fascinated by a sort of volunteer nanny service organized by furloughed workers to watch the children of health care workers for free while they’re out there working triples, tending the afflicted, burning out, and dying at much higher rates than the rest of the population. And that last part held true even before the pandemic.

The take home is wash your hands and wear your li’l mask, but manage your expectations. The vaccine probably isn’t going to return us to Eden. Vaccines take a decade to get out of trial stages, and even those kill people in droves. The vaccine we’re working on attacks the portion of the viral RNA that binds to our proteins and communicates the blueprint of how to do the same to our immune system. It’s a new frontier. We’ve never tried to make a vaccine like this before, we’ve never attacked it from this angle before, we’ve never tried to push it through on this timetable before, and it’s never been so obfuscated and politicized before.

Historically, medical interventions have done very little to control these major disease outbreaks, since they tend not to hit the scene until long after the damage is done and the population is already recovering. It’s usually some combination of widely dispersed antibodies (the same way as they used to do chicken pox, unfortunately), herd immunity, and the virus itself mutating into something less severe. This last part is naturally selected for being beneficial to the virus, too. It wants to propagate, and if its host dies, so does the virus’s efforts at propagation.

Rescue is not coming. Not in a timely fashion, anyway. But that’s okay. We don’t really need rescue. We just need to be accountable for ourselves, empathetic to our neighbors, and exhibit a modicum of hygiene.

If you really want to fight Coronavirus, stop drinking soda and eating Pop-Tarts. Take a walk in the sun. Adopt a dog and take care of it. Hang out with the friends you can safely hang out with. Exercise, eat well, sleep enough, meditate, and have emotionally gratifying sex (probably not with strangers). If the American people were healthier in general, COVID wouldn’t be able to capitalize on the pre-existing epidemic of chronic diseases of civilization.

And stop smoking, you stupid bastards.





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Book Review: Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery

Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie Aschwanden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Science lady identifies that there’s a such thing as a “recovery industry” and it has been playing us for suckers since at least the 70s. She laces up her fashionable but functional athletic boots and charges into the fray to determine what helps us recover from exercise and what is a scam.

Conclusions: virtually everything is a scam. Icing, infrared, cupping, massages, foam rolling, supplements (even those that include the word ISO and MATRIX in their names somewhere), overhydration, all of it, is pretty much one big pricey hustle. Controlling for all other factors, none of these things reduced DOMS beyond placebo thresholds or improved subsequent performance beyond same.

So what does the research show actually DOES lead to improved recovery?

Eat enough protein. Eat carbs relative to exercise levels. Manage stress. Sleep so much.

That’s it, fellas. Sleep = recovery, and sleep is free.



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Book Review: No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness

No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness by Michelle Segar

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A sound concept and valuable information that probably could have been a distilled to a couple of sentences, rather than an entire book. The take-home is that if you frame exercise as self-flagellation or a painful part-time job you don’t get paid for, you’re not going to stick to it, and you’ll wind up exercising even less as a means of rebellion. Segar suggests to her clients that they frame movement as “a gift to themselves”. Personally, if anyone ever told me that, regardless as to how sound the advice, I would do all in my power to never have to speak to them again.

The remaining couple hundred pages of the book are her rephrasing that concept and giving examples of little Socratic traps she set for her clients to trick them into giving themselves “the gift” of getting off their asses.

To distill it even further: If you don’t like running, don’t run. Do kung fu or something. Don’t like kung fu? Do croquet. Don’t like croquet? Don’t force yourself to play croquet. Go be a gardener, gardening is movement. 60 minute blocks of mandatory, unpleasant sweating isn’t the only valid kind of exercise, and you can still stave off knee degeneration and diabetes by doing quasi-exercise like walking around the neighborhood with your dog and/or friends. It won’t make you an Olympian, but you don’t have to sweat blood and hate yourself for it to count as fitness.



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Book Review: Nourishing Traditions

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet DictocratsNourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Female Alex Jones howls accusatory invective at the FDA, food lobbyists, and bought doctors, interspersed with complicated recipes for enzyme-laden meals from scratch to feed to your fussy babies.

It revisits the usual paths taken by this kind of nutrition book – Weston Price, that son of a bitch Ancel Keys, the AMA is bought by the Big Food, customers not cures, food is medicine, et cetera. It’s not a science book. It’s honestly more of a scrapbook comprised of excerpts from Weston Price’s journals, quotes from a couple of books with titles like Sugar Blues and Fighting the Food Giants, and elaborate recipes for fermented grandma foods.

Everything requires the addition of whey or creme fraiche. I’ve never even seen a cheesecloth, but it is mandatory for virtually any dish in this book. It also keyed me in on the importance of food processors, which I had gotten by without for three decades, but not no more. I picked one up and used it to make baba ganoush. It was okay. Probably suffered because I didn’t add whey.

The main idea is traditional food is easy to eat and generally comes with a starter’s kit of enzymes (pickles, sauerkraut, fermented foods) that plug into your gut microbiome, allowing you to extract more nutrition from each meal and thus be healthier. It checks out, but getting through the book was sort of a drag. Three stars because reading about things you’re highly interested in shouldn’t be a drag. But then, I’m certainly not the target demographic.

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Book Review: Deep Nutrition

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional FoodDeep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A cute doctor’s lengthy exposition about how eating actual food will make you healthy and cute.

Well, maybe not cute, she clears that up in the beginning of the book when she talks about how she was a lanky teenage distance runner who subsisted entirely on spaghetti. It worked well enough to keep her crossing finish lines, right up until it didn’t, and her leg fell apart. Bedridden and busted-ass, she started tweaking her diet and noticed the more real food she ate – meat, vegetables, cheeses, the good stuff – and the less refined sugar and Demon Wheat she allowed into the gangly, crooked temple of her body, the faster her recovery.

Doc Cate threw herself full force into studying the effects of nutrition on the body and, by extension, genetics, and came up with some beautifully problematic conclusions that I will outline with great relish.

The human body was designed to eat a specific kind of diet, and that kind of diet, along with regular exercise and adequate sleep, allows it to grow tall, strong, and hardy, all of which it’s supposed to be. Failing to get the nutrition required by the human blueprint results in errors in genotype and more readily visible phenotype programming.

In utero, these errors can cause catastrophic physical deformity like limbs not working or babies born without eyes or whatever. Shanahan also suggests a causal factor between poor prenatal nutrition and functional/neurological disorders, like ADHD and autism. She justifies this with a quick crash course in genetics.

I’m not smart enough to know real genetics. A psychology degree gives you roughly the same credibility in pure scientific fields as having a Top Member badge on the I Fucking Love Science! facebook, so I was thankful Doc Shanahan laid it out in a way that slack-jawed layfolk like myself could understand.

Coded into your genetic schematics, you have the potential for genes that do virtually everything, and interact with each other to increase or decrease likelihood of things like red hair, height, a full and luscious beard, tig ol’ biddies, et cetera. The coding is there no matter what, but whether or not a particular trait is activated is dependent on environmental factors. She likens it to toggling a switch on and off.

So our genome is full of these on/off switches for things like green eyes, clubfeet, proneness to addiction, or heart disease. Depending on what we eat, how much we move, what kind of movement we do, how much we rest, and how we manage our stress, some of these switches get turned on and some of them get turned off.

In an ideal situation, which is always a hunter gatherer society in this type of books, assuming ready access to a dependable animal protein supply, the toggles for “tall, strong, and hot” are going to be switched on. Most of the toggles for most cancer and heart disease are going to be switched off, and the toggles for diseases like diabetes and arthritis are going to be virtually nonexistent.

Horrifying, right? She goes on about physical attractiveness for most of the book, arguing that it remains one of the most reliable markers for physical and genetic health. Wrongthink in the extreme. You can’t just say uggos are more likely to suffer physical and mental illnesses, rate themselves as less happy, and wind up in jail, no matter what kind of research you’ve got supporting it. It’s 2020, dude. We’re all equally beautiful at any size/shape/mineral deficit.

And for the rest of the book, she issues a throaty, sustained Valkyrie war cry leveled against shills like that vegan doctor (Dornish, I think his name is), the vegetable oil industry, Big Agriculture, and that son of a bitch Ancel Keys.

She’s pretty mad about sugar and grain, which is normal for these kind of books, but she is absolutely livid about vegetable oil. She talks about the effects the trans-fats have on the arterial walls, resembling proteins that we use but functionally serving as trojan horses for compounds we can’t (deadass, it’s just poison), then sticking that along our cell membranes and functionally “deep frying us” from the inside out. And then that gets blamed on healthy foods like butter and meat, because our entire country runs on corn subsidization.

I was going to give it four stars, but I bumped it up to five. She just got so angry about vegetable oil. It was incredible. Damn, queen, you look adequately nourished when you’re mad.

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Book Review: The Primal Blueprint

The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless EnergyThe Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy by Mark Sisson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another ungabunga paleo supremacy book winds up in my reviews, big surprise, but this one left me really conflicted, probably because the author was so flagrantly Californian.

The Good:
Our mans is a successful ultramarathoner, lifelong athlete, and current health coach, so he knows his stuff. He explained the function of insulin in a way I finally understood, after half a dozen books have tried with varying levels of success. (I still had to copy a paraphrase down in my sketchbook for it to fully land, though. Real science is hard.)

The laws of the primal blueprint are as instinctive as you’d expect of something called “the laws of the primal blueprint”. Eat food, don’t eat not food, exercise intelligently, sleep, play, use your brain, put down the goddamn nintendo and go outside. Conceptually solid. Mom was right. Outside of that, it’s the usual awakened caveman shtick — move how evolution intended, wheat and sugar are the devil, manage your stress, and everything will fall into place.

Nothing here I can argue with, and nothing I would argue with even if I could. This is how I keep my house in order, and it’s why I’m such a little fuckin’ ray of sunshine.

The Bad:
It’s a pyramid scheme. The clown name-drops his personal line of “primal supplements” constantly throughout the book. With names like “Primal Probiotics”, “Damage Control”, and “Adaptogenic Calm”, and at a measly $30 to $50 a bottle, you know you’re in good hands. Primal pill supplements! You know, like australopithecus used to order!

Or if you want to take it the rest of the way, how about becoming a “Certified Primal Health Coach”? That’s right, for a one-time payment of $4,495.00, Sisson will tell you the 10 steps to being a functional person again, then print you a little diploma. Hopefully he sprang for some Captain Caveman clipart, but I’d be hesitant to try to juke around Hannah Barbera’s copyright, too.

Now that we’re a nice round $5k in the hole, we can truly begin our Primal Adventure (note: actual Primal Adventure packages sold separately).

Most of the science in the book held up, but I took issue with the exercise part. Again, I’m sure we are all gawp-mouthed and astounded. Sisson presses for maintaining a heart rate between 55 and 75% of your max HR for the “comfortable pace” movement, which he advocates to get as often as you can. That, two days of weightlifting a week, and 20 minute HIIT sprints every other week and you will be a marvel of primal athleticism! You will be Caesar from Planet of the Apes, but smooth and sexy!

Thing is, I’m in good shape, and I can get my HR up to 55% walking my dog. And my dog is real slow, fellas. He’s huge.

But, benefit of the doubt, I tried that for a week. It was a massive drop-off from my normal regimen of what he would call “chronic cardio” and I would call “a pitiful 20-minute run every morning”. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but that week I barely lost any weight (half a lb) as compared to my consistent 2 lb/week loss I’ve maintained since January. I was also grinding my molars down to nubs with all my excess pent-up energy, because 3-5 hours of brisk walking a week is not an exercise regimen, as any extant hunter gatherer society will tell you.

Now, granted, I lost those 40 lbs following the primal blueprint, but only incidentally. If you exercise, sleep enough, and eat primarily meat and vegetables, you’re going to get healthier and trimmer no matter what. Even if you don’t spring for the year’s supply of Primal Fish Oil.

Sisson spends the whole book talking about how buying into his program will improve your generalized fitness, not only your health but your non-specific athleticism. Grok (the cringe-inducing fictional caveman he chose to represent primitive man in his contrasts between diet and lifestyles in the prehistoric and modern worlds) had to be ready for anything, so he had to be well-rounded. He achieved this by following the 10 laws, and they made him not only healthier and happier, but spry right up until the end of his days.

There’s some truth to this. You don’t need to be an anthropologist to see the difference between a modern hunter-gatherer elder and the shuffling ghouls that Westernization has inflicted on the rest of the world as a perceived inevitability after retirement.

So I was willing to buy it, right up until Sisson talked about how he busted his leg and wound up in traction for six months playing Ultimate Frisbee (which of COURSE he just referred to as Ultimate) in his early 50s.

All this can be yours for the low, low price of $4,495.00.

The only other gripe I had was all the middle-aged woman yard sale jokes he polluted the writing with, but honestly, after tallying the rest of the issues, it feels petty to take a star off for that.

Two stars. One for explaining insulin to me, the other for confirming my bias.

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