Saturday, September 3, 2022

Goals, PT, fats-and-oils and emotional health

 Happy dance

Never having been to Physical Therapy I was caught flat-footed on my first visit back in July when they asked me to "list my goals".

I come from an environment where goals are supposed to be germane, measurable, objective and achievable. Examples:

"Good goals"

  • Be able to walk 9 miles in 3 hours and 15 minutes
  • Be able to run 5k in 31 minutes
  • Dead-lift (10 repetitions) my body-weight
  • Squat (10 reps) my body-weight

"Bad goals"

  • Write world-class poetry
  • End world hunger

Yesterday my PT took me into the weight-room and he base-lined me on dead-lifts and the squat. 

"Tell me again why you need to be able to pick-up-and-carry 200 pounds?" asked Jeremy, my Physical Therapist

Random fact: A tripod mounted M2 weighs 128 pounds.

After base-lining, my PT gave me "the talk" about realistic expectations. Specifically, PT might get me 80%, maybe 85% of the way to some goals because that last 20% can take a long time to squeeze out. That is, improvements in physical performance show diminishing returns as they approach physical and biological limits.

According to the website, my dead-lift goal looks achievable within a year and hitting 85% of the squat goal appears to be achievable in that same timeframe.

Bonus link: A-to-Z website (W for weight lifting)

Goals and motivation

The apple that makes you fall off the ladder is the one that exceeds your grasp by a whisker.

You will learn a few things if you study "Motivation".

We are most motivated by the item (or goal) that we do not have...yet.

We are not as motivated by things we have already achieved and cannot be taken from us.

We are not motivated by tasks or drills were we have zero success or 100% success. Example, when practicing shooting baskets we will stay on-task longest when 50% of our shots are successful.

Successful coaches produce good athletes by presenting a series of "drills" or skills the players will use in the game. The drills increase in difficulty and are presented so easy ones (near 100% certainty of success, like dribbling the length of the court) are used as warm-up, drills clustered around 50% success and small-sided games are the meat of the practice and "stretch" drills with low-probability-of-success are near the end of the practice so athletes are introduced to them. Then the 100% drill is used as a cool-down at the end of the practice so the young athletes can leave the practice field with a sense of accomplishment and success.

As the athletes grow in skills, the menu of drills change.

Maybe I am reading too much into this but I get a sense that I am getting prepped for PT graduation.

Chocolate chips

One of the chores that I had been assigned was to clean out the huge, chest freezer at Mom's. She is in a facility and it seems unlikely she will come back home.

That chore was paused while I recovered but now I am back in battery.

It had been Mrs ERJ's and my habit to swing by the house after visiting Mom and filling a milk crate with items we could chip out of the freezer.

My mom, God bless her, had 15 pounds of chocolate chips and five pounds of almonds in her freezer. That is a lot of cookies worth of chocolate chips!

One of the conditions of my "chore" is that I am allowed to dispose of the items at my discretion.

The value of fats in our diet

No matter how "hot" she looks, I guarantee there is at least one guy somewhere who is completely fed up with her bullshit.

So I knew this guy who had a girlfriend who he thought was quite the catch.

His girlfriend obviously didn't think the same about my friend since she saw him as a "project" in need of perfecting. For instance, she badgered him into having his teeth capped so he was worthy of being captured in her selfies.

One of her initiatives was to put him on a diet so he would have that lean, ripped appearance...again, so he would be worthy of being seen in public with her.

To that end, she put him on the Pritikin Diet which mandates less than 10% of dietary calories be from fats and oils.

My friend, a person with a sunny personality and filled with bonhomie plunged into the darkest of depression as suddenly as if he had stepped off of a cliff.

The return to his normal diet changed his disposition as suddenly as his plunge into despair.

Fried foods make us happy
 That was my introduction into the role that fats and oils have on mental function.

Lorenzo's Oil

Once I had some awareness, I noodled around and found a movie titled "Lorenzo's Oil". It is based on a true story of Lorenzo Odone who was diagnosed with Adrenoleukodystrophy (a neural disorder) as a child. The doctors of the day had no treatment.

Through shear grit and tenacity, Lorenzo's parents started experimenting and reaching out to researchers around the world. They eventually determined that his condition was vastly improved by a preparation made from olive oil and rapeseed oil.

Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors

More recently, I stumbled upon information that fish-oil (specifically the EPA component) inhibits the re-uptake of serotonin in the ganglia gap between nerve cells.

If you visualize a string of mouse-traps where each trap trips the next trap in-turn then you have a mental model of how impulses travel through brain cells. Part of understanding the process involves an appreciation that each mouse-trap must be reset before the next impulse can pass through.

To continue the analogy, foods and drugs that function as SSRIs stop the trap-bar of the mouse-trap after it triggered the next trap but before it has completed it arc, thus reducing the energy (and time) needed to reset the trap for the next impulse. That is, the ganglia still has residual serotonin after the impulse passes through so the ion's recharge more quickly.

Not only is EPA  in fish oil, but our bodies can synthesize it from alpha-linolenic acid which can be found in edible oils in various amounts.

That is just ONE way that the fats and oils in our diets influence our mental abilities and emotional health.


Our bodies have amazing plasticity but it is visco-plastic, it is rate sensitive.

It takes our bodies (and the little critters living in our guts) time to adapt to various stresses and changes in our lives. It takes time to build muscle. It takes time to adjust to changes in diet. Changes that are too fast break the system.

People who frequently eat at fast-food joints can have 45% of their calories coming from fats. A simple meal of 10 chicken nuggets and large fries has 48% of the calories coming from frier-grease absorbed when being cooked.

Those people will not respond well if suddenly switched to FEMA meals with 25% calories from fat. Don't be one of those people. Avoid those people.

Bonus quote

"Tenacity is 900% better than one-ass-city"


  1. Hi Joe, your analogy of resetting mousetraps is great, I will use it in the future! However your description of the process combines a general term of 'fats' in a way that people describe material objects as 'stuff'. Fats are not a monolithic category especially as they apply to nutrition and metabolism. Fried fast food 'fats' derived from hydrogenated oils are not anything like 'fats' derived from the tissue of grass fed beef or organic egg yolk and they effect the body's processes in vastly different ways, the former being an inhibitor and the latter being a facilitator of health.

    1. Fats and oils are one of those topics that must be treated very simply or it goes down the rabbit hole.

      Rabbit Hole: Fat and oil molecules have a backbone of glycerine with three ports. Naturally occurring fats and oils have a short-fatty-acid molecule parked in each of those ports. In general, the short-fatty-acids are not the same acid. Some are 18C chains. Others are 16C chains. Some carbon chains have no double bonds (stearic acid) and molecules rich in stearic acid tend to be solid at room temperature (i.e. fats). Some SFA have a single double bond...which often occurs in the third or sixth position from the free end. Other SFA have multiple double bonds and these generally come from plant sources and are called "oil" because they are liquid at room temperature.

      Oils with many double bonds readily combine with oxygen in the air and can form polymers...useful for paints. Combining with oxygen changes the taste and make them "rancid".

      Since plant sources of oil are cheaper than animal based sources. Chemists found a way to add hydrogen to liquid, plant-based oils to improve shelf-life and frier quality but they move the double-bond around to strange places...they are called Trans-fats. They are notable for purple hair, body piercings and chalk-on-blackboard vocals.

      The latest trend in plant breeding is to use conventional (non-GMO) methods to select strains of sunflowers, canola and soybeans that are rich in single-bond, c18 SFA. They offer very good shelf-life and are similar to olive oil in characteristics at a much better price and with a neutral taste.

  2. "they are called Trans-fats. They are notable for purple hair, body piercings and chalk-on-blackboard vocals." Another great one! I agree the textbook description of the fat/oil compositions and differences goes down the rabbit hole - but the bottomless pit of rabbit holes is when extrapolated out to the effects of each fat / oil compounds interaction with the other dietary and pharmaceutical intakes and toxin exposure of the individual and that effect on the individuals body and equally important effect on the billions of microbes that inhabit the individuals body and gut. Not to mention that the industrial processes used to make processed oils like vegetable oil typically use plants that have been heavily saturated in toxic chemicals and may or may not come from countries with metals and other pollution in the soil, and the processing uses toxic chemicals that are never completely eliminated from the final product (although approved by the FDA as food safe). Combine that with a deep fryer changing the composition of all those trace chemicals and oils on your McDonald's fry's over a lifetime and you can see why the mousetraps are in poor working order on a dementia patient.... Cliff notes - fats / oils derived from industrial processes ultimately negative, fats / oils derived from nature ultimately beneficial.

  3. how canola oil is made. Yum, all that solvent, no wonder sperm counts are falling :)

  4. There are a couple versions of this presentation online, another of which delves more into the food science and chemistry explanation.
    This was enough for me to reduce my cooking oils inventory.
    Eliminate Seed Oils from your diet ...


    1. My younger sister (68) started taking Boron (20 MuleTeam from the box) this summer and found amazing relief from her RA symptoms. I'm not giving medical advice in any way but this paper motivated her to test drive it.

    2. I should have posted this first ...

  6. Boron, great for your bones.


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