Today we have an Optimize +11. (Hah.)
Although this one’s longer than the normal installment, I hope you find it helpful!
As we discussed in Conquering Cancer 101 and our prior +1s on cancer, one of the first things I did after my brother’s diagnosis was reach out to my dear friend Pilar Gerasimo.
Among many other things, she told me to read a book called Anticancer by a guy named David Servan-Schreiber. Of course, I immediately got it, read it and started sharing everything I was learning with my brother in what we’ve come to call his “80/20 180°” phase in which we super-quickly turned Rick’s life around 180 degrees.
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but up until his diagnosis, Rick was kinda the poster-child for the modern Western diet and lifestyle. He had smoked for a couple decades, drank a bit too much and definitely ate too much (lol). For example, he just got back from a cruise on which he’d deliberately feast on three desserts a night.
So… Our first step in Optimizing was to STOP doing a bunch of little yet high-leverage things (no more sugar, flour, grains, etc.) then we got more and more precise as we Optimized one day at a time to the point where he’s now a precision machine.
Here’s a quick look at the 80/20 180° approach we took that might be helpful for you.
First, for those who may not know, the “80/20 principle” basically says that 80% of the benefits from any given activity often come from 20% of your efforts.
Basic idea: There are almost always a few key things you can do to get big results fast.
That’s what we focused on with my brother. Who, again, like most people in the world, was starting from a near-perfectly sub-optimal standard Western lifestyle. (Love you, bro! 🤓 🤗)
Then, as per Tony Robbins’ doctor (Dr. Gundry, author of The Plant Paradox), we followed Rule #1 of nutrition (and life, really) which is to STOP eating (or doing) the stuff that’s slowly killing you. In this case, we can be even more specific: Stop feeding the cancer that’s killing you.
Step 1. We IMMEDIATELY eliminated all added sugar. ALL OF IT. As in, COMPLETELY ELIMINATE, no further discussion about the subject, 100% gone.
(Of course, this was after the IV drip of pure sugar and the first couple hospital meals that were essentially as bad.)
As my brother puts it, “Get rid of sugar. Period. Get used to eating leaves and vegetables.” (Hah!) (With some super tasty, healthy, calorically- and nutritionally-dense (and satiating) salad dressing that’s so good you want to drink it, btw.)
We also COMPLETELY eliminated all flour. The type of flour we consume in such excess didn’t exist pre-Industrial Revolution and it’s just not meant to be in our bodies. Period. Note: Getting rid of sugar and flour means you just got rid of almost all packaged foods — which is fantastic.
We also COMPLETELY eliminated ALL grains and legumes — including but not limited to rice, wheat, corn, barley, oats, beans (all varieties), etc.
This is, for some, slightly more debatable. Especially for hard-core “whole food” (typically low-fat) vegans. God bless them and their approach and we’ll save the debate on the pros and cons of all the various dietary approaches in the prevention of cancer but the approach to nutrition for ACTIVE cancers is a COMPLETELY separate discussion.
In addition to the sugar, flour, grains and legumes, there were a few other important facets of our 80/20 180 including vegetable oils, factory-farmed animals (and fish), protein, water (both drinking and showering), household products, sleep, movement and meditation.
We talked about some of this in a prior +1 on pulling levers. But it’s worth a quick review:
Vegetable Oils. Think: soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil. “Vegetable oils” SOUND like they’re good for, “They’re vegetable oils! They have to be good for you, right?!” No.
I know “vegetable” oils sound so nutritious but they’re NOT. They didn’t exist before the turn of the 20th century and anything that recently added to our food supply should be limited.
Yet, get this: Americans consume 18 BILLION pounds of soybean oil per year. An astonishing 20% (!!!) of our total calories come from soybean oil alone. TWENTY PERCENT!!
(Pick up a bottle of salad dressing (even at a place like Whole Foods) and look at the first ingredient. Then put it back on the shelf and walk away.)
Again: We never had the edible foodlike substance known as vegetable oils before the 20th century. Now just one type of it constitutes 20% of our diet. Yah. That makes sense. (And you can do the same calculations with sugar. Trace amounts until recently and now? 150 pounds per person per year = CRAZY = not helping the conquer cancer cause.)
Again2: Don’t want to be a statistic? Stop following those statistically normative behaviors.
Quick note on WHY vegetable oils are so bad: One of the big things we want to do is reduce the chronic inflammation within our bodies.
One of the ways we can do that is to Optimize our omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
Short story there: Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. Omega-6s are inflammatory. We need both. The ratio back in the hunter-gatherer days used to be 1 to 1. Now it’s something like 16 to 1 in favor of omega-6s. As Christopher McDougall puts it in Natural Born Heroes, our bodies need a modest inflammatory response — think of a fire in the fireplace. But… With the modern western diet, we have a raging inferno of inflammation that’s burning down the house. Not good. (Especially for cancer.)
Vegetable oils jack up the omega-3, omega-6 imbalance. So, walk on over to your pantry right now and throw away everything that has a vegetable oil in it.
btw: Fascinating Wikipedia fact regarding veggie oils, specifically the rebranding of “rapeseed” oil into “Canola” oil: “By the 1950s and 1960s, soybean oil had become the most popular vegetable oil in the US. In the mid-1970s, Canadian researchers developed a low-erucic-acid rapeseed cultivar. Because the word ‘rape’ was not considered optimal for marketing, they coined the name ‘canola’ (from ‘Canada Oil low acid’).”
<– Have that in mind when you throw out your “canola” oil and refuse to buy any more of the lab-made toxic edible foodlike substance.
btw2: Fat is awesome and will provide the bulk of our calories as we move toward the ketogenic therapeutic diet. We just don’t want veggie oils. The good oils? Coconut oil, olive oil, algae oil, perilla oil, avocado oil!
Factory-Farmed Animals (and Fish). Vegetable oils are gone. That will help with inflammation. Next up on the anti-inflammatory push? Never eating a piece of meat or fish from an animal that was factory-farmed.
In addition to getting sick from eating grains they didn’t evolve to eat (and then being jacked up with antibiotics that you then consume), all that grain they eat leads those factory-farmed animals to have a disrupted omega-3 to omega-6 ratio which then negatively impacts your ratios. That’s one of the reasons you should only eat grass-fed beef.
(And, while we’re at it, skip the underwater factory farms as well. Stick to wild-caught fish.)
Protein & mTOR. The factory-farmed animals are gone. Now we need to dial in our overall protein intake. Quick story: There’s something called “mTOR activation” that’s associated with nearly every cancer out there.
Here’s how Dr. Mercola puts it in Fat for Fuel: “Of all the nutrients that stimulate mTOR, amino acids—which are derived from protein—are the most potent. Stimulating mTOR by eating large amounts of protein is also one of the quickest ways to suppress cellular and mitochondrial autophagy, which prevents your body from effectively cleaning out debris and damaged cells. Even if you are optimizing everything you can to keep glucose and insulin levels low, eating excessive protein will still activate the mTOR pathway. If your goal is to treat disease and live long, doing this chronically is something you want to avoid.”
Our target? An “adequate” level of protein. Not “high” or even “moderate” protein but “adequate”—enough to do the repair work that’s vital to our well-being but no more.
In our 80/20 phase, I had my brother limit his total animal protein (from chicken, fish, beef but not eggs) to 4 ounces per day. And, we napkin-numbered a target of .5 grams of protein per lean body mass. (So, for example, with my brother weighing in at 155 pounds at around a 20% body fat, he has 31 pounds of fat and 124 pounds of lean body mass. .5 x 124 is 62 grams of protein.
That ballpark wound up being pretty close to what we’re now doing in our “Precision Nutrition” phase which we entered when we started working with our rock-star nutritionist, Miriam Kalamian (author of Keto for Cancer), who has helped us fine tune everything (!) down to the lettuce leaf via her wisdom and an app called Cronometer which she (and my brother now) loves.
For now, Remember: ADEQUATE protein. Not too much. Not too little. Goldilocks style.
Toxic Household Products. Next up: Removing all the toxic stuff in our houses — from the cleaning supplies to the cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, etc. Any one dose of one item by itself might not be toxic (which is why it isn’t regulated) BUT when you aggregate and compound all those little toxins into a non-stop “toxic cocktail,” the effects can be disastrous. So, eliminate that stuff. Replace.
Basic idea: Your immune system is in a fight for your life (literally) so let’s not give it extra work. Think of all these little things we’re Optimizing as little paper cuts. Any one may not be a big deal, but all day every day from every angle? Ouch.
We also dialed in sleep, optimized the drinking water, replaced the water filtration system and had fun rocking 10,000+ steps per day.
… That was simultaneously a LOT and… We barely scratched the surface of the 80/20 180…
P.S. I asked my brother to make some quick notes on the top stuff we worked on. Here’s what he came up with: