When Chris McDougall stumbled across the story of Churchill's 'dirty tricksters', a motley crew of English poets and academics who helped resist the Nazi invasion of Crete, he knew he was on the track of something special. To beat the odds, the tricksters - starving, aging, outnumbered - tapped in to an ancient style of fitness: the lost art of heroism. They listened to their instincts, replaced calories with stored bodily fat, and used their fascia, the network of tissue which criss-crosses the body, to catapult themselves to superhuman strength and endurance. Soon McDougall was in the middle of a modern fitness revolution taking place everywhere from Parisian parkour routes to state-of-the-art laboratories and based on the know-how of Shanghai street fighters and Wild West gunslingers. Just as Born to Run got runners off the treadmill and into nature, Natural Born Heroes will inspire casual athletes to dump the gym memberships for cross-training, mud runs, and free running.
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I have just finished reading ‘Natural Born Heroes’ by Christopher McDougall and it truly put in focus my transition over the last couple of years from obese to normal and how it was achieved so very easily by breaking myself from refined carbohydrate addiction. Compared to some I was not even that addicted, I hardly ate chocolate and candy, I did not eat sugar in my beverages, but I did like really good bread, along with pasta and potatoes. But I was still a steady 30-40 lbs overweight, even when I tried to reduce calorie intake and take more exercise. All that changed in July 2014, when someone suggested I consider doing Paleo - I say doing, as it is more a way of life than a diet. I did not cut out calories, I ate what I wanted, just no refined carbs and very little unrefined carbs. I was not hungry and did not crave bread and cookies, as long as I did not eat them. The core fat melted away over a period of 3 months and by 6 months I had quite naturally lost 35 lbs. while just taking reasonable exercise. I found I had more energy when I was not taking on carbs and I seemed to just feel great. Over the last year, I more or less maintained my weight, easing in to some calories from Carbs, but I found very quickly that little indulgences like the occasional Pizza had a very negative impact on my body fat, carbs just went straight to waist fat and made me hungry again for more carbs. I realised that the completely unnatural cereal and sugar based ‘nutrition’ we have been fed over the last 30 years was indeed completely false. Eating good quality meat, butter, eggs, milk, fish was actually very healthy and we had been fed lies about good food. Certainly I do not advocate eating factory grown meat fed on corn and concentrates, but real grass fed meat and dairy is exactly what our bodies require, along with plenty of fresh green vegetables, fish and a few seeds and nuts. When that kind of diet is combined with a normal level of activity, which for me is mostly quick ChiKung exercises in the morning and as much walking I can do, with some running, I feel great. When I lapse to eating carbs for even a couple of days, I feel the way I used to, losing energy and vitality. I liked ‘Natural Born Heroes’ as it combined ancient and modern Cretan history, Minos to the German occupation, with personal journeys in fitness. I think the example of Timothy Noakes, the ‘guru’ of carbs for athletes and his regret and transformation away from being a carb guru to being an overweight type 2 Diabetes sufferer, was quite an insight. Noakes now healthy, has now thrown out carbs as being a killer and is now a believer in a healthy low carb lifestyle. Another really interesting point in the book was made about energy drinks and the scandal surrounding the drink more fluids campaign. You don’t need energy drinks as an athlete, you need a healthy diet and a few sips of water. We have slain the dragon of cigarette addiction, but have we slain the dragon of the processed carbs addiction? There is a lot in the book about how the human body is capable of amazing feats of endurance, especially when in a natural low carb condition. It is certainly well worth reading if you want to become an amazing athlete, however, for the average person, who just wants to be healthy and fit and does not want to go to an early, painful and obese grave, it is also recommended reading!