Originally posted on 05-14-07:
I discovered this video on the NYT today. There’s a link beside the video to an article that goes into more detail.
One of the subjects mentioned is the effect of caloric restriction on longevity. I first discovered this subject in an article about Dr. Roy Walford in Discover magazine a decade or so ago, and have been easing myself in that direction ever since. (There are multiple links on Roy’s site to some other, very informative ones.) I finally got serious about a year ago, and since then lost 20 pounds. It’s desirable to lose gradually or your immune system can freak out with unfortunate results.
I’ve leveled off at about 153, and I think I’ll hold it there for a while, because there’s a balancing act involved between exercise and diet that is somewhat delicate. You might think that if caloric restriction—highly nutritious but low in calories—is good, that more would be better. On the other hand, there are benefits to exercise that are worth having—including better cardiovascular function and bone strength—that you don’t get with caloric restriction alone. The balancing act comes in that you have to have enough calories to support the exercise—more exercise, more calories—but in processing more calories, you lose the advantages of caloric restriction. Everyone has to decide what level of physical fitness they want to maintain, and then maximize nutrition while minimizing calories for that level of fitness.
The interviewer in the Times video mentioned fear of death as a possible motivating factor, and the interviewees emphasized enjoying a healthy life span for as long as possible. Caloric restriction not only improves longevity, it lowers the odds of getting a number of illnesses, not the least of which is diabetes.
For anyone who hasn’t listened to my podcasts I’ll reiterate my view of death: I believe that when we die, our personal experiences and memories thereof totally vanish. There is no afterlife, and no recollection of this one. Our atoms, or the energy in them, goes on forever, and whatever memories other human beings have of us survive, but for me, personally, it’s as if I never happened; just as I have no memory of anything before birth. The Buddhists have a meditation practice that involves sitting in a charnel ground with rotting bodies—hard to find these days—and contemplating the dissolution of your own. I think it is a good idea to get used to the idea that you’re going to die, otherwise you’ll be, as an old Zen guy said, “Like a crab thrown into a pot of boiling water, kicking in every direction.” Very graphic, those guys.
Another subject dear to me was wonderfully elucidated in the Times article:
“BUTLER: For me, one of the most disturbing experiences is putting a fully incapacitated Alzheimer’s patient in front of a mirror and asking him who he is, and he doesn’t know. It’s just shocking to see that happen to human beings — they don’t even recognize themselves. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize winner who wrote “Night,” said we are our memories. Which I think is a beautiful statement of the significance of memory, because when you’re older, you also tend to review your life and to try to come to terms with it, and if you have Alzheimer’s, you’re denied that opportunity.”
I’ve talked so much elsewhere about the role of memory in making us who we are that I’ll leave that subject for now. In the meantime, “Live long and prosper.”
How Long Has This Been Going On