Longevity Lessons from Art De Vany

Tim Ferris introduced me to several interesting thinkers through his podcast, “The Tim Ferriss Show.” I’ve learned a lot from them, and they in turn have introduced me to others who have affected my approach to diet, exercise and wellness.

Dr. Arthur De Vany was among the first, through this episode on “How to Reverse Aging.”

Art De Vany is one of the pioneers of the Paleo movement. He’s an economist, not a physician. And as Tim said, “he’s nearly 80 years old and ripped.”

Now he’s 82, and one of the things I appreciate about him is that he’s approaching the study of aging as a layman. “I only started studying it a few years ago. I figured I’m an expert because I’m experienced… When you’re coming up on 80, you start thinking about – when you approach middle age, you start thinking about these things.”

Beyond his characterization of 80 as approaching middle age, here are a few more snippets from Art in that conversation that caused me to stop and think.

  • I never have three meals a day. I sometimes have one. Sometimes none. Most times two. But you don’t have to cut calories. It’s just the timing. 
  • I eat only twice a day. So I want long intervals between meals. I want low insulin signaling so that I bring on the defensive and repair pathways. I want to be conscious of maintaining my stem cells.
  • The leanest are the ones who engage in the most intense bursts. Little children don’t steady state exercise.
  • I work out almost every day. Maybe 10, 15 minutes. 
  • Yeah, you can jog if you want to. If you want to kill some of your stem cells. 

Having been one of those guys who jog, thinking it was good for my health and longevity, that last point was jarring. But given that Art has something like 8% body fat, and that he says his blood test results are at levels typical of men 30-40 years younger, I thought it was worth exploring further.

Somewhere else I recall him comparing the overall physical appearance of sprinters vs. marathoners and asking: “Which looks better to you?” The sprinters are bright-eyed, muscular and vigorous, while the marathoners look like they’re about to die.

Point taken.

So this interview was part of my journey toward high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as well as more weightlifting.

Having been on a regular three (or more) meals per day cadence, the first bullet point above about eating two meals most days, sometimes one, and sometimes none was unfathomable to me. It seemed crazy.

But on further reflection, it increasingly made sense. Our ancestors didn’t have constant access to food. When they succeeded in a hunt, they ate, and with no refrigeration available it meant they loaded up while they had access to food. And then they were hungry for a while.

While I didn’t realize it at the time, this was my introduction to the concept of intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding.

This podcast episode is well worth your time. Art discusses some fascinating concepts from his work as an economics professor, and the importance of major events in our personal lives and in economics as opposed to incremental developments. By far the most impact – for good or bad – comes from a handful of events, and he says it’s essential to recognize and remain poised in those situations.

If you want to read more from Art, check out The De Vany Diet, as well as his updated version, The New Evolution Diet.

Next time I’ll review a serendipitous Audible book recommendation that revolutionized my understanding, that when you eat is almost as important as what you eat.

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

4-Hour Body: Occam’s Protocol and the Minimum Effective Dose

In mid-2016 when Lisa suggested that I might consider adding weightlifting to my 30-minutes of daily cardio, I couldn’t see a way to make it work into my schedule.

After reading The 4-Hour Body, however, I had new inspiration to give it a try.

As Tim Ferriss explained the concept of a Minimum Effective Dose of weightlifting (as well as other interventions), it made sense to me.

To add muscle…do the least necessary to trigger local (specific muscles) and systemic (hormonal) growth mechanisms

Tim Ferris, The 4-Hour Body

The idea is that you need to stress your muscles for a relatively short period (he said about 80 seconds) to trigger an adaptation response.

More than that is not only wasteful, but may even be harmful.

Ferris also describes what he calls “Occam’s Protocol” which involves two alternating every other day between two daily weight-training workout that take about 20 minutes each.

I adapted it for my purposes, using equipment available at the YMCA:

  • Incline press (one set…increasing weight when I could do seven reps)
  • Pull down (same approach on reps and going up in weight)
  • 10 myostatic crunches (using a Bosu ball for full range of motion)
  • 10 Cat Vomits (gotta get the book for a description of that one!)
  • 25 minutes of cardio on the Precor elliptical machine

Later, instead of the incline press on a weight machine, I started doing a dumbbell chest fly (although probably not with very good form.) Still, it was my first real work with free weights.

I didn’t lift every day, because I knew days off for recovery were important. And I still wasn’t doing leg work, because I didn’t like the feel of the leg press machine and I had tight hamstrings. I figured the elliptical training was enough.

And I was still making it all fit in 30 minutes a day.

Still, by starting to add some muscle I was beginning body recomposition. The number on the scale wasn’t going down as quickly, but I was becoming fitter. And adding muscle meant my basal metabolic rate would increase.

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

4-Hour Body: The Slow Carb Diet

Because of my interest in productivity sparked by David Allen and GTD, I also had encountered The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. And while I really liked my job and wasn’t looking to Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich, I found lots of his life hacks helpful.

What I really appreciated about his approach is his relentless desire to get the absolute best results from the minimum effort.

So given my newfound interest in a total body makeover (and Lisa’s frustration with the Trim Healthy Mama Plan), I checked out The 4-Hour Body.

This book is the result of Ferriss’ constant self-experimentation and measurement of results, to the point of eating two different ways on consecutive weekends, and weighing the resulting excrement. Or buying an ultrasound device that enabled him to make precise body fat measurements.

I figured I could learn from his experiments and recommendations.

So Lisa and I tried what Ferris calls The Slow-Carb Diet – Better Fat-Loss Through Simplicity. It’s all summed up in five simple rules.

  • Rule #1: Avoid “White” Carbohydrates – bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, etc. Cauliflower is the only exception.
  • Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again. Mix and match from three groups that include proteins (eggs or meat), legumes (beans), and vegetables (spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans.)
  • Rule #3: Don’t Drink Calories. No milk, soft drinks or fruit juice. Limit cream in coffee to two tablespoons.
  • Rule #4: Don’t Eat Fruit. Heads of dietitians everywhere are exploding at that one. As Tim says, though, my northern European ancestors didn’t get fruit in the winter, and yet here I am today.
  • Rule #5: Take One Day Off Per Week. On “cheat day” you can (and should) forget Rules 1-4, and eat whatever you want. Maybe even eat until you’re feeling a little sick.

We found the idea of a cheat day extremely helpful. Tim says it’s good for jolting your system, and preventing your body getting into caloric deprivation mode, which slows your metabolism.

But just from a psychological perspective it’s also great. As he says, when you go “on a diet” you will eventually binge. Why not schedule it in advance? Then you aren’t demoralized by failure.

Also, it makes it easier to comply during the week when you know you have cheat day coming. If you say, “I can never have ice cream again!” it seems onerous. Saying, “I can’t have ice cream now, but I can on Sunday!” is doable.

Tim also recommended getting at least 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking in the morning. Lisa doesn’t like eggs, so she typically got hers from a protein shake.

For me, at least six days a week, I would scramble these together in a skillet for breakfast :

  • 3-4 eggs
  • 3 strips of chopped bacon or some diced ham
  • A handful of spinach
  • 1/2 cup of black beans

After this was cooked and on my plate, I typically topped it with salsa.

Lisa had a harder time with this diet because, unlike the Trim Healthy Mama Plan, there wasn’t a cookbook to help with dinner planning.

But while she only lost a pound per month with the other diet, she lost 10 pounds in three months on the Slow Carb Diet.

I continued to lose weight, about 10 pounds, during this time. But it was probably 15 pounds of fat loss, offset by muscle gain.

In my next post I’ll share what I learned about building muscle through this book , and how that got me started for the first time on a weight-training regimen.

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Top SMUG Book Recommendations

While we have a SMUG book store that I plan to reorganize and upgrade, I wanted to take a moment to highlight three books that most professionals thinking about applying social media will find particularly helpful.

Getting Things Done, by David Allen, is my absolute first recommendation, particularly if you just don’t think you have the time or energy to fit another thing, social media, into your already overcommitted life. This blog started out as a way for me to learn about blogging, and Getting Things Done (or GTD) was a key element of my posts for the first year or so. Just type “GTD” in the search box at right and you’ll see several of those posts. A good way to get an intro to GTD, before you buy the book.

On a similar topic, I recommend The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, particularly for his observations relating to email and meetings. He’s snarky bordering on sarcastic and I don’t buy into his “new rich” goals for life, but he has some excellent and immensely practical observations on how to get the most out of your work time.

Finally, on a more theoretical note, I offer Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. This book won’t help you swim through the torrents of email and other commitments, but it will give you perspective on how and why it makes economic sense for services like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to be free to users. And it may help stimulate your thinking about you work or business, and how you can incorporate free into your business model.

I’ve reviewed each of these books in more detail here on SMUG, so look in the book review category for background. If you click the affiliate links above and buy the books, SMUG would get a dollar or two. But if you have an Audible.com account, you can get this last book for free. The other two also are available on Audible.com, which leads to no SMUG kickback. It doesn’t matter to me…get them however you would like, but I really think you’ll find these books helpful.