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BrianMDelaney

CR Psychology - The Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Ugly?

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[Admin Note: This and the next post in this thread originally formed of two-post thread about willpower, which I've deleted, because they fit better in this thread about CR Psychology, the good, the not-so-good and the ugly. So I'm moved them here.  --Dean ]

 

The CR Society is committed to being more pro-science than pro-CR. That is, if the science starts pointing to doubts about CR, than the Society needs to acknowledge those doubts.

- Brian

 

Another minor doubt I've had is that some of us might think about food in a way that wastes cognitive resources. The following might be relevant:

 

"Self-control saps memory resources".

 

I should, by the way, publically note that I now regret that the Society didn't take advantage of the opportunity to look at some of the psychological consequences of practicing CR when the opportunity to work with Kelly Vitousek presented itself. She might not have been the best person to work with, but still. A then board member was horrified that someone who researches eating disorders might besmirch our "great and noble diet" (exact quote, or near exact quote, if memory serves). My busy schedule at the time prevented me from thinking through the issue carefully. (I'm herewith also noting that Dean was probably right, in arguing for working with Kelly V.) I really think viewing CR as "great and noble" gets in the way of science. (I have little more to say on this side-note, but anyone wishing to continue it should perhaps start a new thread.)

 

- Brian

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Brian,

 

I too think the cognitive / psychological effects of CR in humans (both positive and negative) are important and under-studied. Personally, one of the prime reasons for my practice of CR is the beneficial psychological changes I feel it provides.

 

Here is an oldie (circa 2003) but a goodie on the subject of CR & psychology :

 

 

Wow - I looked young!  :)

 

For anyone interested, here is a cached, HTML version of the slides from the above talk, thanks to Google squirreling away a copy of everything ever posted on the web... 

 

Perhaps the investigation of CR & psychology is an(other) opportunity for worthwhile citizen science under the auspices of the CR Society!?

 

--Dean

Edited by Dean Pomerleau

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[Admin Note: This and several subsequent posts in this thread were originally part of this thread on advice from Aubrey de Grey about CR. But CR psychology is an important enough topic and these posts are interesting enough, that it deserves its own thread. --Dean ]

 

[from AdG ] If you find it not too stressful to do CR, and you do it knowledgeably (according to the recommendations of the CR Society, for example), it probably won't hasten your aging - and if I'm wrong in my pessimism above, it might be worth doing.

I think I've said this publicly before ... but if no-one remembers ;) I'll say it again: Even if CR hastened my aging (i.e, aging faster than  ad lib) , I would still do it given what I came to discover about its side effects: calm/peaceful psychology, requirement of a bit less sleep time, fewer colds/allergies, etc. If I magically lost these superpowers, and the only way the Gods would grant them back was via obesity on even less-appetizing food than my Primate Chow, then that's what I would do.

Still, I do feel that CR is not okay for most folks. That's why most folks can't/won't do it -- despite all the CR books and publicity it has gotten over the years. Many of us in the CRS, especially in the early years of the regimen, reported binging episodes and other psychopathologies.  The Biosphereans had psychological issues as did those in the infamous 1940s Minnesota Starvation study

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbnbzsWY2Jc

 

Also: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25782294

Edited by Dean Pomerleau

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Zeta, thank you for your idea on maximizing the settings. I just did it. I have a question for both you and Dean below.

 

Dean, thank you for your compliment. I am happy to contribute to the discussion!

I read your diet. I would say that mine is close to what you eat. I also eat cooked veggies. I eat more than 1 meal a day.

It is good to know that you are 115 lbs at 5’8.5”. I am curious. Could you elaborate on the increased psychological and physical benefits that you experienced when you dropped from, say, 145 lbs(where the NIA Control Monkeys were) to 115 lbs(where the NIA CR Monkeys were ) and maintain the latter? Currently I am trying to lose the hard-to-lose 5 lbs! Your answers will be a great inspiration!

And why do you think that doing it for living 2- 5 additional years is worth it (Zeta, that is a question for you too)?

I am aware of the benefits shared by KHashmi317,

“I would still do it given what I came to discover about its side effects: calm/peaceful psychology, requirement of a bit less sleep time, fewer colds/allergies, etc.”

I changed my diet 4 years ago. I have already experienced the following: no coughs, much fewer colds and faster healing from wounds.

Next, both you and Khurram say that CR can mess with the head. What do you do to prevent that from happening?

Also, yes, I would like to hear Brian update his views on the longevity benefits of CR since he wrote The Longevity Diet with Lisa. Thanks!

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[Admin Note: Here is another post moved from another thread unrelated to CR psychology, but which belongs here. --Dean]

 

Regarding Elon Musk,

 

I wish he'd get interested in calorie restriction, or even health, if only for himself! It would be a tragic for the world to lose someone with his vision and drive - if he keeled over from a heart attack.

 

I'm not so sure about how much CR would bennie people with such passionate vision and drive.

 

As I've noted on the List, CR (for me) has reduced passion to some extent. It took years to fully realize and accept (and work around) this. I can say that lack of passion, at its worst, is translated as a sort of boredom. To compensate, I am seeking out much more novelty, rather than drive and ambition for the same ol' thing. As an example, I'll mention a personal interest in music. I like classical, but rather than listen (view, now that much concert material is on YT!!) to the same ol Mozart/Beethoven, I'll seek out lesser-known composers/artists and/or compositions. And I think I'm much more enriched in musical arts than if I'd been content with the same ol' thing. This does make life a bit more ... uh ... capricious. But no more so than the avg. smartphone addict ;)

With Musk (or other highly-driven individuals, such as de Grey), CR (even mild CR) may restrict passion/drive .... and/or the hunger-eroticism food fantasies would distract/remove him from innovating and concentrating on electric car and spaceships or (in the case of de Grey) armchair anti-aging theories. 

,,,,apologies for rambling ... but I had the floor ;)

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Grace,

 

You've got so many interesting questions, it's hard to answer them all adequately! But I appreciate them and especially your sincerity, so I'll give it a shot...

 

You wrote:

Could you elaborate on the increased psychological and physical benefits that you experienced when you dropped from, say, 145 lbs(where the NIA Control Monkeys were) to 115 lbs(where the NIA CR Monkeys were ) and maintain the latter?

 

The physical benefits are easy - fewer colds, better heat tolerance, less aches and pains, and reduced inflammation / injury - I haven't missed a day of working out (which I do a lot of, seven days a week) due to injury in over a decade.

 

Regarding the psychological benefits - Khurram has expressed it well two posts up in this weird, cobbled together thread. But to learn more about my perspective, I suggest you read the second post from the top in this topsy-turvy thread, and watch the embedded video in the second one in which I discuss CR psychology at a CR Society conference many years ago. My perspective on it hasn't changed since then. In fact, my appreciation of CR's psychological benefits has only deepened in the last few years, as I'll discuss in a moment.

 

But before I do, some prefatory remarks are in order. Like Brian eloquently expresses in the top post in this thread, and like the title of the thread suggests, several of us at least are committed to complete transparency about our practice of CR (or in my case, our CR-like diet & lifestyle), and our results. It is only through such candid sharing of our approach to CR and our outcomes that we all can learn, and maximally contribute to our own flourishing, and to the flourishing of mankind in general. I realize that sounds very pretentious, but it is my perspective - the narrative I live by, if you will. See this thread, and in particular this post and the several one's below it on the philosophical motivation behind this perspective, if you are really interested.

 

Now on to your specific question about my experience with the psychological benefits of CR. I've shared this with only a couple of my closest CR Society friends, but in the interested of total transparency, here goes...

 

Two years, 3 months, 24 days ago, on Oct 13, 2013, my then 17 year-old son Kyle was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. I'm not sure if you are a parent Grace, but if so (and probably even if not), you'll realize that there is nothing more devastating for a parent than receiving the news that your child is going to die. Throughout the 10 months of his illness, between the day he was diagnosed and the day he died, Kyle was incredibly courageous and generally in amazingly good spirits, given how difficult it was for him and for all of us.

 

He was able to complete high school, which was a goal he had from the day he was diagnosed. He graduated third in his class, and gave a truly inspirational tertiary speech, which I've embedded below, both to honor his memory and to give you a feel for his courage and humor. Ironically, his speech was about his love of food. Kyle was definitely not a CR practitioner. (I've convinced myself that his cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, was an incredibly unlucky fluke, and had nothing to do with his diet or lifestyle).

 

I apologize for the audio quality - the mic wasn't set up correctly for him. In the last few months, Kyle was paralyzed from the waist down and hence wheelchair-bound due to a tumor in his spine, and so couldn't stand at the podium where the microphone was located for the other speakers. Plus his speech was slurred by the tumors growing in his brain, and from the surgery and radiation therapy he underwent to try to slow the cancer. The sound quality gets better, but you'll still want to read the closed captions.

 

 

What you might ask what does Kyle's tragic story have to do with CR psychology?

 

It proved to be the ultimate test of the "calm/peaceful psychology" that Khurram refers to as a result of practicing CR, and that I've referred to previously by the buddhist term "calm abiding". I can't imagine getting through the ordeal of watching my son waste away and eventually die, all the while maintaining an even-keel and serving his increasingly burdensome needs with a calm and positive attitude despite the extreme emotional duress. I think my CR-induced psychological and emotional stability quite literally held my family together and helped get us through that incredible difficult time. I can't imagine what life would have been like without this benefit of my CR practice. My wife, who doesn't practice CR, was devastated by the ordeal, and remains deeply wounded, as I'm sure you can imagine. Neither she nor I will ever get over the pain, but CR enabled me, and continues to enable me, to endure it and help her to do the same.

 

CR isn't for everyone. As I discuss in the CR conference video, and the Minnesota starvation study shows - CR can mess with your head. And several people (including my wife) have told me a parent isn't supposed to exhibit the level of equanimity I was able to maintain during those terrible months, and in the time since. It just isn't "natural" - a parent is supposed to be permanently devastated by the death of their child, especially one so innocent and wonderful as Kyle. But from my perspective, CR enabled me to spend more quality time with my son in his last few months, without being constantly morose (something my wife had to fight every day of his illness) than I'd done in the several years prior - you probably know how headstrong and independent teenage boys are...

 

In short, CR can, and for several of us does, provide a preternatural level of equipoise in the face of extreme adversity that, as Khurram suggests, we value more highly than any possible future health/longevity benefits that CR might someday provide...

 

--Dean

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Dean,

 

My sincere sympathy to you and your wife; I hadn't known that anything that horrible had happened in your family.

 

You have my sympathy, and, I'm sure, that of everyone in the CR Society.

 

  -- Saul

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Khurram,

 

As I've noted on the List, CR (for me) has reduced passion to some extent. It took years to fully realize and accept (and work around) this. I can say that lack of passion, at its worst, is translated as a sort of boredom. 

 

I've experienced this as quelling of passion as well, and not (just) in the literal sense normally associated with that word - in all aspects of life. The highs aren't quite as high, and the lows aren't nearly as low as they could / would be, given the adversity described above. All-in-all, it's been a bargain I wouldn't trade for the world.

 

But, I will admit, my current unusual CR-ish diet & lifestyle, is partly motivated my a desire to see if its possible to avoid some of what might be considered the "emotional deadening" effects of CR. By eating more calories and working them off via tons of exercise and, more recently, cold exposure, I have more energy and 'zest' for life, while (I hope) keeping my body in the "CR Zone", both physically and psychologically. It seems to be working for me so far, so I'm continuing to explore it...

 

To compensate, I am seeking out much more novelty, rather than drive and ambition for the same ol' thing.

 

I discuss my own experience of a similar sort of novelty seeking in certain aspects of my life in the CR Conference video linked near the top of this thread. Lately it has been the novelty of spiritual & intellectual exploration that has motivated me most. As I've discussed in the "what's the point?" thread, I also feel compelled to "go out on a limb for a worthy cause" by choosing a novel lifestyle, even relative to other CRers, in order to explore what's humanly possible.

 

But it's curious that for both of us, we able to tolerate and enjoy eating an extremely monotonous diet for years at a time without variation. You even more than me, my friend. We talk about that unusual side-effect, and its likely dopaminergic origins, in this thread about the modifications that occur to one's reward system when practicing CR. It still seems paradoxical to me that we're both relative hermits who eat the same thing every day, but at the same time seek out novelty in other aspects of our lives.

 

With Musk (or other highly-driven individuals, such as de Grey), CR (even mild CR) may restrict passion/drive .... and/or the hunger-eroticism food fantasies would distract/remove him from innovating and concentrating on electric car and spaceships or (in the case of de Grey) armchair anti-aging theories. 

 

I agree - passionate people like Elon Musk may simply be destined (or wired) to live fast, accomplish much, and die (relatively) young, by burning the candle at both ends. CR might very well mute their passion, and be a net detriment to themselves and society. And who knows, Elon may outlive us all out of his sheer determination and passion to see his several visions through to fruition. In some sense I hope so, for humanity's sake. More power to him!

 

,,,,apologies for rambling ... but I had the floor ;)

 

Never feel the need to apologize for heartfelt and sincere communication here. And in this case, your contribution is extremely valuable - thanks for sharing it!

 

--Dean

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Wow Dean. A very deep bow to you and your family.

 

I wonder what was it about your calorie restriction that gave you such poise during such terrible times? You're analytical and introspective, so you may know: was it your body that was naturally calm due to CR? (Maybe the body was calm because CR might keep the body suspended in restorative states?) Or was it your mind that felt calm despite the body's call for more food? Forgive me for separating mind and body; they are one, I realize, but the limbs and organs and everything below the brain speak so much to the brain, and all the time -- did your body feel calm on CR, thus enabling your mind to go with flow?

 

When terrible times devastate me, I lose my appetite completely, and the weight just falls off me scary fast. And I sleep.

 

The reason I ask about mind-body is I experience rather extremes of depression and anxiety -- lows then highs, yet I'm not bipolar, more like dysthemic -- and for me CR amplified mental problems. Highs higher, lows lower, and so it did begin to feel like something bipolarish. It seems like the body calls up to me -- hey you, eat some damned food, sleep, or I'll just keep making you so depressed and anxious until you do eat and sleep. When I was in the deep forests of CR, my body seemed to be in a constant alert state -- good alert sometimes, bad alert sometimes -- so my high-wire mind seemed higher still, and on an even skinnier wire. Excuse my ridiculous metaphors.

 

Your situation and Khurram's seem very different than mine, and so I'm wondering since you were able to acheive such profoundly exceptional calmness during Kyle's slide to death, why would you now stop CR? Why would you quit? I mean that not in the quitters-r-losers silly sense -- but since CR seemed to aid you during perhaps the worst moments of your life, why not keep it in current practice?

Edited by Sthira

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Dean, thank you for all the sharing! You are wonderful!

Kyle and his speech were beautiful! I feel his courage, humor and excellent spirits! You must be very proud that he graduated third in his class despite all the difficulties!

I am a parent. I have an 11-year-old son. Most of my friends have two or more kids. Some of them tried to convince me to have at least another child. They said that if my only child died before I did, I would be devastated. I would, but having one child has been already plenty of work for me. That is my own obsession of conversing personal energy! And I knew that my husband would be even more devastated. He has a higher BMI and a higher PBF than what I have.

I visit a Buddhist Zen meditation center regularly.  I appreciate the calmness and equanimity delivered by the center. I have done all of the right things or the most parts of the right things to take care of myself and my family.  I feel that I am well prepared for the last day of my life. On that day, I will be ready, knowing that I can finally rest and don’t have to meticulously plan on everything and make sure that everything happens  following my plans.

The death of a child is one of the most difficult losses. A parent ends up burying his/her own child.  It is hard to imagine the 10 months’ time you and your family had.

Your complete transparency and your personal perspective on the psychological benefits of CR have provided me the deepest inspiration. You are a perfect example. I cannot thank you enough for all that!

I will read more about your philosophical motivation and related posts and respond later soon.

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My God, Dean, I had no idea about what you were going through, only so recently.

 

I'm so, so sorry for you and your family. I know you didn't post this for sympathy, but I'm too floored by your loss to add anything more substantive to the thread right now.

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Grace wrote:

Both you [Dean] and Khurram say that CR can mess with the head. What do you do to prevent that from happening?


Another very good question Grace. My answer can be summarized metaphorically as "determine what pokes your personal dragon, and don't do that."

Dragon you say - what's Dean talking about now?

Its a metaphor I used on a number of occasions on the old CR email list, but it basically is the personal observation that I (and extrapolating/(over)generalization, we all :)xyz) have a non-conscious, non-rational dragon lurking inside us, ready to take over control of our behavior if given the opportunity.

Moderate CR can bolster the rational side of us, by softening the pull of one's passions a bit, and sharpen the intellect, thereby making one more of a rationalist and a utilitarian. To become more of the kind of person who would sacrifice the one to save the five, or even push the fat man :)xyz in the classic trolley problem in ethics.

But in my experience, if you push CR too far, the dragon will emerge - not in a fit of rage or anything like that, but simply as an instinctual autopilot that takes over one's behavior and makes you do things (often eating-related) that your rational self later regrets. I think both Khurram and Sthira are referring to the same phenomena in their personal stories shared above. Thanks guys!

How far you can push CR in terms of net calorie deficit without awakening your dragon, and exactly how the dragon manifests itself, varies from individual to individual. Sthira, when you were 20 lbs lighter your BMI was down around 16.9. For me, there is a fine line around a BMI in the low 17s, and below that is serious dragon territory. It's not at all surprising to me that you experienced some degree of psychopathology trying to live that lean for an extended period of time. Backing off to a BMI of ~19 makes a whole lot of sense. Who knows, maybe someday you'll want to regroup and take another crack at getting close to the bleeding edge (like I have - although more through increased activity than CR per se). But maybe not, and that would be good too. Whatever works for each of us.

So Grace, one strategy is paramount - watch for the warning signs of too extreme CR. One such red flag for me is constantly thinking about food and being unable to focus on anything else.

Beyond avoiding going too far in terms of net calorie deficit, there are the many psychological tricks we each discover to help us stick with our program. I find eating one very large meal per day, and then water/coffee/tea fasting for the remaining 22h per day works very well in this regard. I get to 'binge' until I'm really full when I eat, and then not think about food for the entire rest of the day. After a while you find you're not even hungry, even when (like at this moment) it's been about 22 hours since you last ate and you've been exercising for two hours in a very cold basement.

Eating very close to the exact same thing every day is another trick some of us find helps keep the dragon at bay. I discussed in the dopamine thread I pointed to above, our reward system changes so we can enjoy eating the exact same thing every day, and by doing it we minimize the tendency to obsess over what we're going to eat at our next meal - since it's already written in stone as far as we are concerned.

Then there are the hacks that enable us to deal with specific food temptations, like the one I describe in this thread on the value of precommitment tools and tricks.

Sometimes it's not so pretty (hence part of the title of this thread) and without question there are many so called "normal people" who would remark that what we do and what we are sharing here shows that we are complete lunatics. And from their conventional perspective and social norms, they'd be right. :blink:

But as discussed above, I consider the psychological "good" (particularly increased resiliency and equinamity) to far outweigh the "not-so-good" (a degree of emotional "smoothing" - some would say "deadening", and social isolation) and the "ugly" (a tendency towards OCD symptoms and disordered eating behaviors if taken too far).

And even if others are right, and this is a foolish tradeoff in the long-run, I think it's still an experiment worth trying for those who can do it, simply to explore what's humanly possible, and to see (and document) how it works out.

Hope this helps.

--Dean

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Sthira wrote:

Your situation and Khurram's seem very different than mine, and so I'm wondering since you were able to acheive such profoundly exceptional calmness during Kyle's slide to death, why would you now stop CR? Why would you quit? I mean that not in the quitters-r-losers silly sense -- but since CR seemed to aid you during perhaps the worst moments of your life, why not keep it in current practice? 

 

Sthira,

 

I'm not sure I completely understand your questions. Is it intended to be hypothetical or literal?

 

In other words, are you asking:

  •  What would theoretically make you stop since your form of modified CR seems to be working for you? or,
  • Why are you practicing your bastardized, high-calorie, high-energy-expenditure CR-ish diet and lifestyle now, when "real" CR has worked well for you in the past?

In the interest of thoroughness and transparency (not to mention catharsis...), I'll answer both.

 

If it's the former, it's hard to imagine anything realistic that could make me stop. If some evil demon had told me "quit your CR lifestyle forever and I'll let Kyle live", I'd have done it in a heartbeat. But barring such a crazy impossible scenario, I don't know what could make me go back to the other side of the emotional/psychological chasm, another metaphor I've used to describe the transition to CR from a passionate, calorie-replete, high-testosterone way of life.

 

I've even contemplated, and on occasion came close to facing, the choice between my marriage and my diet/lifestyle practice. As you might imagine, I'm not the easiest person to live with or perhaps I'm too easy to live with, by being emotionally distant, and so life with me isn't as fulfilling or exciting for her as she'd like... I'm fairly certain I'd chose CR if forced in this circumstance. As you might imagine, calmly and rationally expressing such a sentiment doesn't exactly go over so well...

 

As for the case if your question is literal. I actually started my bizzaro current approach to a CR-like diet & lifestyle during Kyle's illness. Probably more as a classic anorexic response of overeating due to a sense of despair and loss of control, and then trying to work it off with excessive exercise. Near the end I was Kyle's 24/7 primary caregiver, both because my wife was emotionally devastated and had a hard time keeping a "stiff upper lip" around Kyle, and she was trying to manage our household and support our then 14 year-old daughter, and because Kyle was 6'2", 150lbs and a complete invalid for the last few months of his ordeal, so at 102lbs, she wasn't much help with the arduous physical side of his caregiving. 

 

He slept a lot, so I got in the habit of continual exercise (treadmill and stationary bike) while listening for him over the baby monitor. I also developed the habit of eating only once per day, in the early morning before Kyle or my wife/daughter woke up, so that I wouldn't have to eat, or think about eating, during the rest of the day (e.g. taking Kyle to doctors appointments and treatments, etc).

 

I found eating a lot of healthy food once per day, and then doing nearly continuous exercise when not helping Kyle, kept me sane psychologically (and in the "calm abiding" CR zone), gave me more energy to cope with the physical requirements of assisting Kyle, and finally bloodwork and other biomarkers showed I was still in the physical "CR Zone", as far as I can tell. Plus the somewhat discouraging news about the CR primate studies had come out, and the argument for health/longevity benefits of CR beyond that offered by healthy eating + obesity avoidance didn't seem so compelling anymore...

 

So in short I discovered that for me at least, my alternative to classic, low-calorie, reduced-energy CR seems to work well for me then, and continues to work well for me now.

 

I feel I'm 'firing on all cylinders' more now than when following a more conventional approach to CR, and (hopefully) still garnering (some of) the health/longevity benefits, such as they might be. Time will tell...

 

--Dean

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My basic understanding is that CR isn't about BMI. I'm on CR only when cutting calories back from whatever baseline I determined individually. And what may be slowly dawning upon me is my two or three years of extreme 20%, sometimes pushing for even 25% and gasp even 30% cronometer-documented CR -- combined with fasting some days -- I may have dropped my baseline. Is this possible? Dropping baseline weight? This, thanks to you, Dean, is just now making me see and wonder.

 

Since adolescence I've been that ectomorph -- that long scrawny tall dude -- skinny in high school I weighed 175 or so. I was always called skinny.

 

Today I'm 150 -- even skinnier -- and I feel great physically. My body feels lean, strong, and efficient so sometimes in physical activity my body surprises the hell out me -- I'm like gawww -- amazed at what it can do effortlessly. I hate that this sounds like bragging -- it's not, I'm pretty depressed much of the time. But then light bursts through, and power.

 

I think because of you, dear Dean, I'm just going to randomly see how many calories I'm eating per day. I stopped keeping track. I just eat what I already know is very healthy food -- beans, greens, cruciferous, berries, nuts, loads of olive oil, a little chocolate, coffee, water with vinegar, weird, I know, but a little vinegar in water is for taste and keeps me hydrated...

 

Several aspects about practicing CR confuse me. One is determining baseline caloric need. If I eat too many nuts, too much olive oil, greens -- if stuff myself and weight climbs to 155 or 158, I just feel heavy and tired. I feel "over baseline..."

 

Only when I stop eating -- fast a day, two days, eat normal-lightly again -- do I begin to physically at ease again. Back to baseline?

 

Is it possible to drop the baseline through severe CR, then back off the severity while simultaneously retaining the lower baseline?

 

I'm talking about weight, though, and not calories, and that's probably the flaw in my thinking. CR is about a calorie intake, not weight. Weight is a result of CR. But weight can also be a driver of CR?

 

Who knows.

 

Dean, you're an amazing person who did what you had to do to rise to the occasion. CR becomes irrelevant -- you kept your mind and body functioning as optimally as possible in order to navigate the terrible details of tragedy.

 

Again: very deep and profound bow to you. We all must suffer on this planet in these lives, and was it Hemingway who wrote that courage is grace under fire?

 

And I know what you mean about using physical activity to quiet the mind. I use dance and yoga. When my mind is barking too loudly at whatever story is playing out for me, being physical and wearing myself out is better than any anti-depressant or therapy session.

 

Thank you again so much for your transparency here. You're changing lives for the better in ways you cannot even be aware. You're an inspiration! Words r cheap -- but it's true. Keep doing what you're doing.

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Dean ... wow! Kyle .... my God!  I won't pretend to express sympathies because I can't imagine what your crisis must've been like. 

Because of my heavy CR, emotions are pushed way in the background. But your shared account ... as a longtime friend ... brought quite a bit of emotion to the surface. Yes, those emotions are still there -- but reserved for important occasions!

Back in 2003 and 2008, I had my share of test-my-CR crisis management  ... that was the immigration fiasco (the case of which still goes unresolved).

You (Dean) in particular helped immensely during those times.

W/o expounding more, I can say that with veteran CR members, I do feel a transcendent/metaphysical bond. I think this is why I post and share here, rather than social media or other LE forums.

 

This is an important thread and I'll come back to it as I absorb ... 

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Thanks Khurram, Sthira, Grace and Brian. Your support means a lot to me. I too feel a bond with you guys (and gal!) that transcends our physical separation.

 

I also note (sheepishly, having been somewhat critical when first proposed) that these CR forums provide a much better venue for this sort of social connection that the CR email lists ever did - given how restrained one had to be in posting to the email lists, knowing that every message you sent was going to show up in hundreds of people's email inboxes whether they liked it or not...

 

Khurram, I can't believe your immigration fiasco hasn't been settled. That was such a long time ago. I imagine reaching closure on this sort of thing must be even harder these days due to recent world events...  :(xyz . It would / will be great to catch up with you on this sort of thing, either over PM, Skype, or in person at the CR Conference.

 

--Dean

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[Admin Note: This is a copy of a post from over on this thread about the mortality effects of loneliness, which belongs here too because it talks about the one modern study of effects of long-term CR on human psychology, and it was a study of some of us from the CR Society! --Dean]

 

Hi Saul,

 

Thanks for reminding us of the CRONA CR psychology study. I'd forgotten about that. Here is the reference [1] and a link to the free full text. Here is the relevant passage about social relationships and CR folks being loners:

 

Regarding social relationships, CR participants mentioned on average 2.30 (SD = 2.22) close others, and 19 (70.4%) mentioned two or fewer. Four CR participants (14.8%) mentioned no significant relationships, 22 (81.5%) mentioned no friends, and six (21.4%) described themselves as “loners,” “solitary,” or having little in-person social interaction. Finally, all but one (96.3%) mentioned two or fewer social hobbies. Comparison groups reported similar social profiles but generally indicated higher numbers. Only three (8.1%) mentioned no specific social relations and only two (5.4%) described themselves as “loners,” “solitary,” or having little in- person social interaction.

 

I wasn't one of the participants, but I definitely fit the profile of a loner, despite being happily married, like you. I consider myself very lucky to have her and our daughter. If it weren't for them I'd likely have no (real-world) social life, for all intents and purposes. 

 

--Dean

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[1] Appetite. 2014 Aug;79:106-12. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.04.006. Epub 2014 Apr 18.

 

Clues to maintaining calorie restriction? Psychosocial profiles of successful
long-term restrictors.

 

Incollingo Belsky AC(1), Epel ES(2), Tomiyama AJ(3).

 

Free full text: http://www.ncbi.nlm....les/PMC4198019/

 

To combat the obesity epidemic, interventions and treatments often recommend
low-calorie dieting. Calorie restriction (CR) as a weight intervention, however,
is often unsuccessful, as most people cannot sustain the behavior. Yet one small
group has maintained extreme CR over years - members of the CR Society and
followers of The CR Way. This study examined stable psychosocial characteristics
of these individuals to identify traits that may promote success at long-term CR.
In 65 participants, we measured diet, eating behaviors, and personality traits
comparing calorie restrictors with two age-, gender-, ethnicity-, and
education-matched comparison groups (normal weight and overweight/obese). We
first tested whether the CR group restricted calories without indications of
eating disorder pathology, and second, what crystallized psychosocial
characteristics set them apart from their nonrestricting comparisons. Results
indicated the CR group averaged 10 years of CR but scored lower than comparison
groups on measures of disordered eating (p < .001) and psychopathology (p <
.001). Particularly against overweight/obese participants, CR participants scored
lower on neuroticism (p < .04) and hostility (p < .01), and were stronger in
future time orientation (p < .05). Overall, CR profiles reflected high
self-control and well being, except for having few close relationships. This
study suggests a potential predisposition for successful long-term CR without
disordered eating. Since modifying trait factors may be unrealistic, there may be
psychosocial boundaries to the capacity for sustaining CR. Paralleling a movement
toward personalized medicine, this study points toward a personalized behavioral
medicine model in behavioral nutrition and treatment of overweight/obesity.

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMCID: PMC4198019
PMID: 24747211

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I also note (sheepishly, having been somewhat critical when first proposed) that these CR forums provide a much better venue for this sort of social connection that the CR email lists ever did - given how restrained one had to be in posting to the email lists, ...

This forum is a much better venue than the CR list for me also: the primary reasons being the ability to communicate much more effectively and efficiently ... embolden, italicize, hyperlink....[drop in an image], [drop in a video], [drop in a podcast], etc.

My only real worry is existential: the CRS may fizzle out one day for multiple reasons. Will this forum -- and all our time-invested content -- also vanish like those Archives?

BTW, the CRS as a public forum is not new. Remember this? And Francesca Skelton created her own which was even more popular.

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Dear All, 

 

I was going to post a reply to this morning's post on the CRONA study, but in reading back through the thread, I see that much more serious topics were being discussed than the putative CR personality type.

 

First, let me say to both Dean and  Khurram, if your CR/Health practices have helped you through had times, then that is very good, and I am glad of it. 

 

As one of the subjects of the CRONA study, I do recall some probing, and perhaps leading questions about personality, as well as one of those endless psychological questionnaires, where they ask you the same questions over and over again, rephrased each time,   quite unrelated to research into telomere length.    Psychological traits are typically found on spectrums.   I alternate between gregarious and solitary modes.  I would not, and if I remember correctly, did not characterize myself as a loner during the Study, but I would not characterize my hobbies as particularly social.  

 

The characteristics of being forward-looking, and self-disciplined, seem rather obvious requirements for successful CR, but the social aspect is more complicated and interesting. Human socializing largely revolves around sharing meals.  Many religious groups have dietary laws with the intent of separating the society of believers from non-believers.  Although I don't think that is any our intention, social isolation is certainly a possible outcome of our dietary practices.  If one does have social contacts, then, at least, a strong characteristic of non-conformity is required to practice CR. 

 

In my own case, I have moved away from standard CR, to a more highly varied practice, following a modified low-carb diet, with periods of going off diet, particularly over the holidays, and on weekends, alternating with 3-5 day periods of CR + protein restriction.  The two main pathways we target with CR are the insulin/IGF-1 pathway, and the MTOR pathway, controlled by glucose and protein intake, respectively.   

 

There has been much discussion of methionine restriction in these pages, but I find that even my normal morning salad and rice bran provides 0.3g of methionine + cystine, of the 1.09g I need for my RDA, so I raise my intake of fat and non-proteinaceous carbs on those days.

 

I would say, from my experience, that indeed, straight CR is very difficult to jibe with social engagement.  Since part of my work requires socializing with suppliers and customers, and I enjoy eating with friends and family, a variable approach works better.

 

Dave 

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Dave,

 

Great to hear from you. I just want to note that I've also moved away from a consistent daily reduction, also – almost entirely in my case – for social reasons.

 

The concern that many of us have about non-standard CR (that is, anything other than a consistent daily reduction) is that the evidence supporting its benefits is still pretty thin. See the discussions here about the fasting-mimicking diet, for example (have to rush out; sorry for not searching and linking to it) [Admin Note: Brian is likely thinking of this thread on intermittent fasting --Dean]. My own concern is less that it won't be effective (beyond, as Michael has stressed, the net average reduction), than that it might even be – indeed likely will be, I conclude based on limited evidence – harmful as I get older, with the irritating problem that there is insufficient evidence for determining what "older" means: 75? 65? 55?

 

Best,

Brian
Edited by Dean Pomerleau
Added link to IF thread

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Khurram wrote:

 My only real worry is existential: the CRS may fizzle out one day for multiple reasons. Will this forum -- and all our time-invested content -- also vanish like those Archives?

 

Khurram,
 
The nice thing about these forums relative to the email list and archives is that they are being crawled by Google and the Internet Archives (aka the "Wayback Machine"). So all our profound insights and prognostications should be safely preserved for, and searchable by, posterity  :)xyz.
 
This is a very good thing from my perspective, and I suspect yours as well, but I'm not sure everyone appreciates or is even aware of this feature.
 
Everyone contributing to these forums should be aware that they are only as private as you choose to make them, by maintaining an anonymous persona. These forums are unlike the old email list which was (more or less - except for the spotty Yahoo Groups mirror) only readable by members of the CR community, and not by 'robots'.
 
P.S. I do vividly recall the rather acrimonious split with Francesca. Her CR-related Yahoo group appears to be pretty quiescent in the last several years. I wonder what happened to her...
 
--Dean

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Grace,

 

You've got so many interesting questions, it's hard to answer them all adequately! But I appreciate them and especially your sincerity, so I'll give it a shot...

 

You wrote:

Could you elaborate on the increased psychological and physical benefits that you experienced when you dropped from, say, 145 lbs(where the NIA Control Monkeys were) to 115 lbs(where the NIA CR Monkeys were ) and maintain the latter?

 

The physical benefits are easy - fewer colds, better heat tolerance, less aches and pains, and reduced inflammation / injury - I haven't missed a day of working out (which I do a lot of, seven days a week) due to injury in over a decade.

 

Regarding the psychological benefits - Khurram has expressed it well two posts up in this weird, cobbled together thread. But to learn more about my perspective, I suggest you read the second post from the top in this topsy-turvy thread, and watch the embedded video in the second one in which I discuss CR psychology at a CR Society conference many years ago. My perspective on it hasn't changed since then. In fact, my appreciation of CR's psychological benefits has only deepened in the last few years, as I'll discuss in a moment.

 

But before I do, some prefatory remarks are in order. Like Brian eloquently expresses in the top post in this thread, and like the title of the thread suggests, several of us at least are committed to complete transparency about our practice of CR (or in my case, our CR-like diet & lifestyle), and our results. It is only through such candid sharing of our approach to CR and our outcomes that we all can learn, and maximally contribute to our own flourishing, and to the flourishing of mankind in general. I realize that sounds very pretentious, but it is my perspective - the narrative I live by, if you will. See this thread, and in particular this post and the several one's below it on the philosophical motivation behind this perspective, if you are really interested.

 

Now on to your specific question about my experience with the psychological benefits of CR. I've shared this with only a couple of my closest CR Society friends, but in the interested of total transparency, here goes...

 

Two years, 3 months, 24 days ago, on Oct 13, 2013, my then 17 year-old son Kyle was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. I'm not sure if you are a parent Grace, but if so (and probably even if not), you'll realize that there is nothing more devastating for a parent than receiving the news that your child is going to die. Throughout the 10 months of his illness, between the day he was diagnosed and the day he died, Kyle was incredibly courageous and generally in amazingly good spirits, given how difficult it was for him and for all of us.

 

He was able to complete high school, which was a goal he had from the day he was diagnosed. He graduated third in his class, and gave a truly inspirational tertiary speech, which I've embedded below, both to honor his memory and to give you a feel for his courage and humor. Ironically, his speech was about his love of food. Kyle was definitely not a CR practitioner. (I've convinced myself that his cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, was an incredibly unlucky fluke, and had nothing to do with his diet or lifestyle).

 

I apologize for the audio quality - the mic wasn't set up correctly for him. In the last few months, Kyle was paralyzed from the waist down and hence wheelchair-bound due to a tumor in his spine, and so couldn't stand at the podium where the microphone was located for the other speakers. Plus his speech was slurred by the tumors growing in his brain, and from the surgery and radiation therapy he underwent to try to slow the cancer. The sound quality gets better, but you'll still want to read the closed captions.

 

 

What you might ask what does Kyle's tragic story have to do with CR psychology?

 

It proved to be the ultimate test of the "calm/peaceful psychology" that Khurram refers to as a result of practicing CR, and that I've referred to previously by the buddhist term "calm abiding". I can't imagine getting through the ordeal of watching my son waste away and eventually die, all the while maintaining an even-keel and serving his increasingly burdensome needs with a calm and positive attitude despite the extreme emotional duress. I think my CR-induced psychological and emotional stability quite literally held my family together and helped get us through that incredible difficult time. I can't imagine what life would have been like without this benefit of my CR practice. My wife, who doesn't practice CR, was devastated by the ordeal, and remains deeply wounded, as I'm sure you can imagine. Neither she nor I will ever get over the pain, but CR enabled me, and continues to enable me, to endure it and help her to do the same.

 

CR isn't for everyone. As I discuss in the CR conference video, and the Minnesota starvation study shows - CR can mess with your head. And several people (including my wife) have told me a parent isn't supposed to exhibit the level of equanimity I was able to maintain during those terrible months, and in the time since. It just isn't "natural" - a parent is supposed to be permanently devastated by the death of their child, especially one so innocent and wonderful as Kyle. But from my perspective, CR enabled me to spend more quality time with my son in his last few months, without being constantly morose (something my wife had to fight every day of his illness) than I'd done in the several years prior - you probably know how headstrong and independent teenage boys are...

 

In short, CR can, and for several of us does, provide a preternatural level of equipoise in the face of extreme adversity that, as Khurram suggests, we value more highly than any possible future health/longevity benefits that CR might someday provide...

 

--Dean

 

Wow, thanks for sharing your story. I don't have children, so I can't even begin to imagine how you and your wife felt. I'm glad that CR has helped you psychologically and I believe it does. It reminds me of the last chapter on how the brain's dopamine sensitivity gets reset on a whole-food, plant-based diet in Dr. Greger's How Not to Die. Ever since changing the way I eat, I've noticed considerable memory improvement and overall mental well-being. I have fewer mood swings and a more optimistic, productive outlook on life. It's also quite amazing how quickly my bad moods return when I fall off the wagon and eat some junk food. I think the psychological benefits outweigh the mental struggle of starving hunger, something I have a hard time dealing with when restricting calories.

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