Modern lifestyle and health

Over the weekend, I was at an entrepreneur conference. I wasn’t there to attend any of the talks, but simply because a few of my CoderDojo students were giving talks themselves and a few of my fellow mentors were also involved with the conference, so we moved the entire CoderDojo to the venue (Monaghan Institute) for that weekend.

I spent about two hours answering every question the kids had about 3D printing, and there were a lot. When a child gets interested in something, they can dig really deep down into it and ask the most insightful questions. I had to explain the difference between PLA and ABS, why the bed was heated, how heat-breaks work and why they’re important, what kinds of materials can be printed (basically anything that melts and resolidifies at a predictable temperature) , how multiple-extrusion printers and why /they/ are important (for printing both chocolate and syrup, obviously), etc.

After the class was finished and the kids had mostly gone home except for some stragglers such as my own kids, I got a chance to see some other people’s talks. I got a few minutes of Niall Moyna’s talk on modern technology and health.

It’s unfortunate I didn’t get to stick around for the entire talk, because it is right up the alley of this website and my book, but the essence of what he was saying is that our bodies are “designed” to be active, and yet our technology is designed to keep us inactive.

To illustrate this, he pointed out that when an Australopithecus or Cro-Magnon got up in the morning, they’d better be prepared to run after their breakfast, because the local shop was a few tens of thousand of years away.

He said (and I don’t know the truth of this) that human beings can outrun every other animal on the planet, even if they’re faster, because most animals will need to stop every now and then to pant, while we simply sweat away the heat and keep going.

The point he was making is that we evolved to be active beings.

It has been shown countless times that when we are inactive, we are more likely to die early.

In 1949, Professor Jerry Morris did a study of 31,000 bus conductors and bus drivers and pointed out that bus conductors were 150% more likely per year to die of coronary heart disease. The correlation was because of two noted things: bus conductors are always actively moving and climbing stairs, while bus drivers sit all day and gain weight and fat around their organs.

Modern technology has a tendency of reducing the amount of “work” that we do in order to accomplish goals, which has the side-effect of slowly piling on the pounds on our bodies.

As an example, you are probably sitting while reading this. I’m certainly sitting while writing it.

When you drive your car to a shopping centre, you probably park as close as possible to the entrance. When you go anywhere at all, you try to park as close as possible, because it will reduce the amount of “work” that your body has to do.

Your body has evolved to expect that any energy it stores will be burned off sooner or later, so it doesn’t have a limiter. At no point does your body say “no more – I really can’t store any more of this energy”. Instead, as you eat more and more and don’t burn it off, it converts more and more to fat. All the while, it also makes it harder for you to do the work needed to shift the fat.

Fat is there for the lean times – it’s for the times when you are unable to find food nearby and need to walk miles and possibly days to find it. That scenario is ridiculous in modern days – there are always shops within minutes of any place where you are (in developed countries). But your body doesn’t know that.

Unfortunately, there is no single pill that will solve this.

We do have new methods that can convince the body to burn its fat, converting so-called “white fat” (the normal kind) to “brown fat”, but these methods have not yet been rolled out to the general public, and they only mimic one of the effects of exercise.

Exercise also has an effect on the oxygen intake of the lungs, resting blood pressure, and even happiness. Converting white fat to brown fat is not going to do these things.

It is in every person’s interest to do about 90 minutes of moderate exercise every week. Moderate exercise means something between walking and jogging. Walking up-hill, for example. Doing more than 90 minutes is probably a waste of your energy – you won’t get much more benefit from it, but if you don’t exercise at all, then taking regular walks will almost immediately lower your yearly chance of dying by about 14% and give you an extra 3 years life expectancy.

Modern technology is evolving much faster than the human body, so you need to keep that in mind and try to do more “work” than is necessary. Walk up stairs instead of taking a lift. Park on the far end of the car park. Cycle or walk to work.

The SBSI (Surface-based Body Shape Index) is a good measurement tool for figuring out if your body is “in shape” (literally), as it does a better job than the ABSI and the BMI of correlating body shape to mortality. Use my calculator to figure out your current SBSI, BMI and ABMI, and what you need to do to improve them.

Workshop progress

Construction takes longer than I thought. No wonder it costs so much!

When I started building my workshop/lab months ago (July – two months ago), I thought I might be done in a few weeks. It’s now September, and I’m just getting around to the roof now, and even then, it’s a temporary roof just to keep the structure from rotting through the winter!

The first thing I’ll be adding to the workshop is a 3D printer, with which I can start building the equipment I’ll need for working on my food replacement plan (a 100% nutrition food that’s designed on a person to person basis).

On a related note, based on an observation I made, Jimmy Joy is planning a low-calorie version of its Plenny-shake, which should allow better nutritional control for people that don’t consume exactly 2100 calories a day (that would be, oh, everyone!)

The second thing I’ll be adding is a weight and pulley system, to help me exercise. One thing I hate is going from no exercise to full-on exercise. For example, you can either do no press-ups, or you can do press-ups with your full weight. In order to do press-ups with lower weights (do build yourself up to full-on weight), I believe it would be better to start by having your body weight balanced so you’re essentially weightless, and start gradually adding more of your weight as you get stronger.

This is all part of my own attempt to extend my life. The ideal weight for my height is about 62kg, based on a BMI of about 23. That’s just the start, though – BMI does not discriminate between people that are overweight, and people that are just muscular.

To get a more accurate mortality calculation, you need to use something like ABSI or SBSI. The Surface Based Body Shape Index takes into account the weight, height, waist-size and vertical trunk-size, and uses that to generate a very accurate body-fat to mortality index. The people that live the longest are those that manage to reduce their SBSI score to .108 (male) or .105 (female).

To measure your own SBSI, please use my SBSI calculator.

Losing weight is straightforward – you just eat less calories than you use during a day. I’ve lost more than 12kg since the beginning of the year with little effort.

Reducing waist size, though, involves exercise. That’s a big change for a person (like me) that generally only does what is necessary. I generally don’t do anything that has no immediate purpose. Lying down and doing 100 pushups, or running a mile, doesn’t make any sense to me, because all I seem to get out of it is pain.

But, if there is an end-goal in the form of a number, suddenly it’s a game, which I intend to win 🙂

So – the plan – build the workshop, create custom exercise stuff, reach an SBSI of .108, and finish creating my food generator thing.

An eventual plan for the workshop is to build a protein synthesis machine capable of synthesising senolytics such as the FOXO4-DRI peptide, but that’s probably a year away.

workshop progress

I’m still working away at the foundations of the thing. Building things takes longer than I thought – especially if you’re doing it completely by hand, and only have an hour or two in the evenings!

I had some ideas on further things I want to dive into with the lab/workshop/shed once built.

One main reason for the entire project is so that I can work on projects that I simply can’t do within the house, such as working on electronics, etc. I can’t work in the house comfortably if I only have an hour or two each evening, only have a small area to work in (most of which is taken up already by my laptop), and I have to clear up whenever someone needs to use the table. By having a dedicated workshop, I can have a few projects going at the same time, and simply walk away after each session, knowing that I can pick up exactly where I left off the next day, without needing to go search for my bits and pieces.

The projects I already had in mind:
1. 3D printer to replace the old one that finally fell apart. first job: print a second new printer.
2. protein synthesis. far future plan. there are details online on how to automate protein synthesis.
3. vertical garden. I have a large plan for this, but basically, I want to be able to grow food using containers that I can store underground, lighting with LEDs, and feeding with nutrient baths.
4. calorimeters and other tools to measure nutritional content of food and plants.
5. food dispenser that is designed to output meals with very specific nutritional values.
6. spectrophotometer. should be simple enough. This is so I can measure protein in the protein synthesis project, and soil nutrient content for the vertical garden project

The idea for project 5 came about because of the month I spent eating Jimmy Joy (Joylent). While the prepackaged meal seemed like a perfect idea before I started, it soon became clear that it was designed for a person that is much more active than me, and I could not eat a reduced amount of it and yet keep 100% nutrition – so I designed and build a program that can use common off-the-shelf ingredients to generate customised nutritionally-balanced meals.

Of course, I’d like to know for sure that the meals actually do end up with the values that I calculate, so project 4 is for that.

And I’d like to grow my own source ingredients for the dispenser, so project 3 lets me do that.

gaining weight by yawning

In my last post, I made a statement, “I’ve found that if you wait a few minutes, the act of waking up seems to add grams of weight as you breath in the morning air and absorb it.”

Given the sharp and unforgiving nature of my friends (good for them!), this was immediately questioned.

So, I did a bit of math.

The short outcome is that yes, you do gain more than 2.5 grams of weight by breathing in the morning.

the math:

oxygen saturation in blood is about 90% when asleep, 95-100% (let’s say 97.5%) when awake.

I have about 5 litres of blood.

35% of blood is haemoglobin, and there is about .1551 moles of haemoglobin per litre.
that’s 1.75 litres of haemoglobin (5*.35).
1.75*.1551 is about .27 moles of haemoglobin.

every molecule of haemoglobin can bind to 4 O2 molecules.
That’s 8 atoms of Oxygen

so if blood was 100% saturated, it would contain 2.16 moles of oxygen (8*.27).
that’s 34.56 grams of oxygen.

97.5% of 34.56g is 33.7g of oxygen in the blood when awake
90% of 34.56g is 31.1g of oxygen in the blood when asleep

So… you wake up, you weight your self, you yawn a few times (oxygenating the blood), and you gain more than 2.5g of weight.

how I lost 10kg in 6 months with little effort

I’ve been asked this a few times recently now, so I thought I’d write a short explanation of how I did it.


First off, exercise doesn’t work. You can do press-ups and sit-ups and all the running in the world, and every gram that you lose through your panting and sweating will be regained as soon as you stop to eat, because exercise makes you hungry.

To understand how the body loses weight, you should do a little experiment. Measure your weight just before you sleep at night, then measure again in the morning as soon as you wake up. If you’re overweight like me, you’ll probably lose about 500g. Half a kilogram. (1.1 pounds, for those of you living in a backwards country.)

People lose weight through expiration. You literally breath the weight off you. You don’t poo it out, you don’t sweat it off. In a way, you do piss it out, but mostly you lose weight by breathing.

When fat is used to generate energy, it is broken apart into carbon dioxide and water. 84% of the fat’s weight is expelled through the lungs (the reason you lose weight at night), and 16% is lost through urine.

For the first few months of the year, I followed a pretty simple diet – during the week, have whatever you want for lunch and breakfast, don’t have dinner, and if you’re peckish later in the evening, have some popcorn. For drinks, avoid anything which has lots of calories. I drank a lot of water, and a lot of Coke Zero. On the weekend, eat whatever you feel like.

Also, you must religiously record your weight as soon as you wake up. As soon as. I’ve found that if you wait a few minutes, the act of waking up seems to add grams of weight as you breath in the morning air and absorb it.

Drink a lot of water. I’ve seen recommendations that say that every male should drink 3.7 litres of water a day. Every female, 3.2 litres. Those are crazy numbers. But try to anyway.

Chill the water before drinking. When your body absorbs water, it must be raised to body temperature (37°C). The definition of calorie is “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1°C”, so to raise 3.7 litres of water from just over freezing to body temperature burns up 136900 calories (or 137kcal).

The standard adult daily calorie intake is 2000kcal.

If you eat normal food, you don’t know how many calories you are consuming. But if you eat a future food such as Jimmy Joy, Huel, Jake, Soylent or any of the other similar all-in-ones that are available, then you know /exactly/ how much you are consuming.

For the last month, I have consumed about 1000kcal of Jimmy Joy per day, popcorn at night to soothe the savage beast, and only the occasional snack in between when I can’t occupy myself with something distracting. My weight has dropped on average about 100g per day because of that.

I said that exercise will not make you lose weight, but I find that a little exercise is enough to get you breathing hard enough that you will lose some weight through breathing (and it also measurably helps your chance of surviving the next few years). Too much, and you’ll be tempted to engorge yourself afterwards, but if you go for a brisk walk (I walk about 1.5 hours every day to/from work), that should be enough. by “brisk”, I mean you should exert a little effort.

If you have any other tips that are backed up by science (don’t talk to me about avocados…), please mention them below.

Calorie Restriction and Jimmy Joy

Calorie restriction is a method of increasing longevity by reducing calorie intake by about 20%. It’s been studied in various animal species since the 1930s and shown consistently to work, even if not always in the same way or to the same degree.

Recent studies in mice showed that calorie restriction increases longevity by about 42%, but also pushes health-destroying diseases back until later in their lives. In a study by Stephen Spindler, it was showed that tumours were much reduced in mice that had reduced calorie diets, vs those with normal diets.

Calorie restriction does not mean simply reducing the food you eat. If you do that, you are also reducing the percentage of micro-nutrients that you eat.

In my case, for example, I’ve been eating nothing but Jimmy Joy for the last month as an experiment to see what it did for me. I discovered that it was difficult to eat a full day’s worth, and that if you don’t eat a full day’s worth, you are losing out on nutrients.

Jimmy Joy (old name: Joylent) is a “future food” that is carefully designed to have exactly 2100 calories in a one day sample, and as close as possible to 100% of the recommended daily recommended values of all the micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc). Those are the things that you need to eat every day, but are not mentioned on ingredient labels…

I was overweight by almost 20kg at the beginning of the year, and have been reducing that in various ways since then. I found that moving onto Jimmy Joy made an amazing immediate change, causing my weight loss to increase hugely (20g average per day to 100g average per day).

This is because Jimmy Joy is very filling. If you mix it at the ratios that they recommend, there appears to be a “foaming” effect where the food feels like it’s filling you up even with just the smallest amount. The encourages you to eat less.

While this might have a desired effect on weight, it has some side-effects – I’m tired, weak, sometimes less mentally sharp than I would like, and I have a lowered libido.

This is because the food is designed to give you exactly 100% of what you need. If you eat less, then you are getting less than 100% of what you need.

While eating less calories is a desired thing, consuming less micro-nutrients is not.

This highlights the problem, but what is the solution?

Going back to eating “normal” food is not a solution. My diet was nowhere near optimal before this.

Doctors and other health-professionals recommend that you “plan carefully” when creating your diet, which is a vague way of saying “we don’t have a plan either”. When they say you should have plenty of variety in your diet, they are basically saying “if you eat lots of stuff, you will give yourself the right nutrients by accident”, which is yet another way of saying “we don’t have a plan.”

I can see two solutions to this:
1: that Jimmy Joy (or a similar food supplier) comes out with a very-low-calorie variant that is still 100% nutrient-full, which you can then mix with your normal day-to-day Jimmy Joy to get the right calories you’re looking for.
2: that I write a nutrient calculator program that can design recipes itself based on exact requirements

I have no control over Jimmy Joy’s choices, and I’m sure they’re happy enough with the money they’re making on their standard meals, so they’re unlikely to start accepting amendment requests from random nobodies.

So, I started building my own service to provide recipe plans.

So far, the plan is able to generate mixes of ingredients for single days that are designed to provide you with 100% nutrition, and your own requested number of calories.

I’m working now on making multi-day plans to allow overestimates or underestimates of ingredients to be balanced out over days. This way if you have too much iron today (for example), then tomorrow, your plan will include less iron.

I have a number of far-future plans for this.

One is that I can use this kind of program to generate personalised meal-plans for people that are trying to diet but are unsure that they are doing it right (that would be everyone, right?).

Another is that I can use this to generate one-day meal packets similar to how Jimmy Joy, Soylent, Huel, Jake, etc do, but again, personalised.

Tomorrow, I start eating based on my own plan. If I do this right, then I will soon be back to my usual alert self, but will also still be losing weight, as my own plan will have reduced calories in it.

water temperature and weight loss

As part of my effort to reach the optimal weight for my height (according to BMI and my SBSI calculator), I’ve been thinking about at all sorts of things.

I learned this morning that you can burn calories simply by drinking water. After thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense.

I figured out you can burn up to 137kcal just by chilling your drinking water to just over freezing.

The human body has a maintained internal temperature of 37°C. When you drink water, the water cools the body down, so the body reacts by heating back up (thermogenesis) so it can remain at 37°C, which involves burning calories.

So how many calories are burned? That depends on the amount and temperature of the water you drink.

The formula to determine the calories used is actually very easy, because the definition of a calorie is “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1°C”. Note that “calorie” in this case is 1/1000th of a kcal, which is what people usually call a calorie. Yeah, humans, confusing things aren’t they. Personally, I use kcal as the main measure, and if I say “calorie”, I mean “one thousandth of a kilo-calorie”.

Assuming that tap water is at room temperature (about 20°C), it would therefore take 17 calories per mililitre (1g of water equals 1ml of water) to heat it to body temperature, or 17kcal per litre.

So if you drink a standard-sized glass of water (240ml), this will burn 4080 calories (240ml*17°C), or about 4kcal.

To double the amount of calories burned, cool the water to just above freezing. This way a glass of water will burn 9kcal (.240l*37°C = 8.88kcal).

The recommended daily intake of water is 3.7 litres for a male, or 2.7 litres for a female.

So, it is possible to burn 137kcal per day (3.7*37°C = 136.9kcal) just by chilling all of your water.