April's CR Diary

A diary of a 30 year old woman following CRON, or Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition, for health and life extension.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Buy Guns Here! Through Faith Alone Will You Be Saved

On my way home from Reading, PA, where I did a meeting on the second to last day of work for my old union, I saw this sign on the side of a building. The sign went on to read, "Not through works."

At the edge of Pennsylvania Dutch country, I suppose it's not that shocking to find a Protestant gun merchant. Still, the juxtaposition struck me as funny.

Earlier in the week I had gone out for dinner with a friend of my parents whom I hadn't seen in awhile. When I described my new job and it's focus on reversing aging, he said, "Well, I have good genes, and I eat healthy."

It was clear that I had not communicated the point.

Good genes and eating healthy may prevent an early heart attack, but they certainly won't hold off aging much beyond what you get from having your shots and living in a country with basic sanitation and medical care. CR itself, a dramatic, difficult, unusual intervention, will only get us another few decades at best.

No, to reverse the aging process, you have to repair the damage of living. That's the whole point of the engineering approach.

Yet, when I talk to people about what I'm doing, their immediate reaction is to start talking about their own lifestyle. Part of that might be because they know I practice CR, so they want to talk about why they don't. But I think there's more to it than that. The idea of health and lifestyle is so guilt-ridden in our society that the moment you talk about the ultimate symptom of ill-health, death, people start to rattle off all the multivitamins they're taking and the broccoli they ate last week.

The other day I said to Aubrey de Grey, "I think it's important that you don't do CR, because we have to communicate to people that it's not about 'being healthy,' it's about interventions that will actually repair the damage."

I also threatened to refer to him as a modern day Martin Luther. He didn't bat an eye... well, I don't know if he did, the conversation took place entirely over email. However, Aubrey is one of those people who is not surprised by much of anything.

Now this may seem contradictory to you: for some time now, you've been following a blog about Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition for the purposes of healthy lifespan extension. Yep, that's what this is about. It's about what you can do in the here and now: in your kitchen, at the grocery store, on the road at the Subway, at dinner with your college roommate, on a date with some guy who makes fun of you for eating salad (thank God I don't have to deal with that... and if you find that frustrating, I have some very nice single CR brothers I can set you up with. Ladies?) I spend a lot of time and energy figuring out how to do CR so that it doesn't take up much time and energy... and I'm very proud of my quick and easy, elegantly simple CR diet. Obviously, I'm a believer in the one intervention proven to slow down the aging process: CR. So why am I babbling on about Aubrey de Grey and repairing the damage? And what's Martin Luther got to do with it?

The thing that always bothered me about CR is that in many ways, it is only for the elect. I would argue that CR is not limited to the rich, those who have time, people without children, or people with red hair. The ease and cheapness of my own CR practice defeats all those arguments. But it is limited to those with unusual self-discipline and focus, who want to use some of that self-discipline and focus on what they eat, and who believe that CR will work. The urge to eat crap is pretty darned hardwired, and to fight it, especially in a society where you're constantly confronted with delicous food and social pressure to eat it, requires an unusual personality.

When you talk about CR with the non-CR'd, their immediate reaction is always defensive. They talk about why they don't think that's "healthy," why it won't make you live longer, it will just seem longer, how they wouldn't want to be that skinny (people who are overweight say this a lot, I've noticed) and how they wouldn't want to lose their libido (a side-effect which is far from universal.) People don't want to change, even when changing would save their lives.

SENS isn't about being good, living a healthy lifestyle, or getting brownie points by eating your apple a day. Those of us who do CR to make it to "escape velocity" (if you don't know what I'm talking about go read Aubrey's website at http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/sens) hope that CR will be a bridge to the day when biomedicine will be available that will make CR unnecessary. No matter how well we practice CR, how low our calories and high our nutrition, it's still only buying a small amount of time if we don't come up with something better. We can't prevent all damage from occuring, so we have to figure out how to repair the damage that is inevitable.

You can never do enough good works to save yourself. Even if you ate 30:30:40 with 100% of everything every day.

This hasn't convinced me to give up brewers yeast and pinot noir in favor of Krispy Kreme and beer (though I do have a beer occasionally, following the "only at a brewpub or with Aubrey de Grey" rule.) If anything, my involvement with SENS, the M Prize, Aubrey, et al has convinced me to become even more serious about my CR. As one of the brothers at the NYC gathering last night pointed out, my diet has evolved a lot since October! I have re-applied myself to the task of minimizing my calories and maximizing my nutrition. To quote Aerosmith in that song from the movie _Armageddon_, "I don't wanna miss a thing."

And yet, I don't want people who don't want to do CR, for whatever reason, to be left out. If anything, we have to work harder, faster, so that they make it to escape velocity with us. There are some really fun people out there who don't want to do CR. I don't blame them: I don't want to do push-ups.

So this blog isn't *just* about CR. It's about how we can stay healthier, longer, using all the tools that are available to us now and building new tools that will work much better.

In the meantime, eat your eggwhites.


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