On The Lip Of A Lion
What does breakfast do to me? And what were my books of the year?
And greetings from (appropriately enough for today’s story) the library.
But first — that’s a valiant flea that dare eat his breakfast on the lip of a lion!
For those of you new to these pages, hello 👋 My name is David and I’m a writer, outdoor instructor and cyclist-at-large with Thighs of Steel.
I write stories that help you and me understand the world (and ourselves) a little better. That’s the plan, anyway.
This week, prompted by an app called Zoe, I have been experimenting with my morning repast.
On Tuesday, I ate a single bagel, then nothing for three hours. On Wednesday, I devoured a bowl of nothing but avocado. Thursday was (glory be) avocado on a bagel and today was a plain bagel immediately followed by a 30-minute brisk walk.
And here’s what those diabolically calibrated breakfasts each did to my blood sugar:
Note: The yellow line is when I ate breakfast. The blue shaded area is the three hour test period.
Plain bagel: blood sugar spikes and gradually descends — but remains higher than my typical baseline for this time of day. 5/5 on the hungry scale (ravenous).
Pure avocado: blood sugar doesn’t rise at all. 4/5 on the hungry scale (wolfish).
Bagel + avocado: blood sugar rises, but only after a 30-minute delay and it never goes as high as on Tuesday. 1/5 on the hungry scale (I could eat).
Bagel + walk: again, blood sugar rises, not as high as on Tuesday, but followed by a more steeper and deeper decline. 2/5 on the hungry scale (peckish).
One of the things I find interesting about these breakfasts is that there is no place for protein.
I’d always thought that protein = satiety, but it turns out that combining carbs and fats also = satiety. Even a brisk walk = satiety! How can a walk fill you up? Mind blown.
But, while a post-prandial walk (or any kind of exercise, science suggests) seems to flatten the blood sugar spike, it did leave my blood sugar levels lower than the other breakfasts. Something to play around with.
I was also struck by how much fat Zoe recommended I eat with my bagel: 200g. That’s two whole avocados — a lot more than you’d get on your smashed avo in a hipster cafe.
So that’s a couple of things I never knew about my body. I’m looking forward to learning more, particularly about what times of day I deal with food best — my glucose levels seem to struggle in the evenings.
(Note: Your blood and guts might respond to this kind of experiment very differently. There’s a reason why this is called ‘personalised nutrition’. See how you go!)
Tomorrow, breakfast will be a bowl of avocado, a 10-minute pause, and then the bagel.
I’ve no idea what might happen to me personally, but I’d never previously considered the idea that sequencing foods might make any difference at all. I’ll report back!
Rare words! brave world! Hostess, my breakfast, come! O, I could wish this tavern were my drum!
Incidentally, did you know that, in France, they have breakfast at lunchtime?
In French, ‘dejeuner’ means ‘lunch’ in English, but etymologically translates as ‘breakfast’ — ‘jeuner’ being the French verb ‘to fast’.
Although some people also use ‘dejeuner’ to refer to ‘breakfast’, the more common term for ‘breakfast’ in French is ‘petit dejeuner’ or ‘little breakfast’. Very confusing.
And, with that, welcome to edition 339, which is, of course, about books.
Dave’s 2022 Books Of The Year
This year, I have read 38 books — although, for some reason, 2022 has been the year of abandonment.
A record six books have been picked up, started, and put down again, never to be troubled by my rigorous scoring system.
Perhaps I was unlucky in my choices. Or perhaps I am beginning to value my reading time above my loyalty to a tyrannical scoring system.
But, thanks to that tyrannical scoring system, here are the fifteen books that, for me, warranted a perfect five.
For some reason, this year I’ve chosen a winner out of each category of fiction and nonfiction.
(Oh, and at the end I’ll tell you the wonderful bonus book that I didn’t read and probably never will… Ooh, mystery!)
WINNER: The Bones of Barry Knight by Emma Musty
I don’t know how Musty turned such a bleak tale of broken NGOs, broken borders, broken asylum systems and midlife breakdowns into such an enjoyable romp, but she did. She really did. Served with an unexpected twist of metaphysics. Buy it.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: A reread of one of my favourite novels of all time, in honour of ‘22. So good that I dedicated one of this year’s stories to the ideas therein.
Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka: Picked up in Bologna, I was looking for a novel that would transport me. A pageturner about assassins on a train was perfect. Now a Major Hollywood Motion Picture, but don’t let that put you off.
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac: Another reread. There are some books that grow roots with a second look. I don’t think this is one of them, really. Still good, but without the shuddering impact of my first time round.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: What an atmosphere! The flip side of Jane Eyre. What is real, what is truth? Like all the best novels, short, but lingering.
The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter: Colonial and postcolonial Algeria through the eyes of a first generation French-Algerian woman. Unromantic historical fiction inside an unprecious family saga.
WINNER: Free by Lea Ypi
The personal story of a childhood in Albania as it clattered from socialism into capitalism, written by a woman who was there, a woman who is now a professor in political theory at London School of Economics. A healthy tonic for your arguments with neoliberals.
Wonderworks by Angus Fletcher: Strong exegesis on why and how stories affect our psychology. A little repetitive with enthusiasm of various story ‘inventions’, but that’s probably me being British.
I Hate Running by Brendan Leonard: A much funnier and cleverer book than the one I wrote about cycling. Hint: It’s not really about running. Recommended by Mike Sowden of Everything Is Amazing.
Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey: A tour of childhood poverty in Glasgow that illuminates the failings of activism on the left, how identity politics can exclude the working class, and why we should take personal responsibility rather than blaming The System.
How to Change by Katy Milkman: Behavioural psychologist tackles impulsivity, procrastination, forgetfulness, laziness, confidence and conformity. Another cracker recommended by Mike Sowden. Having said that: I remember nothing of this book, not even the chapter headings that I copied out and reprinted above. Time for a reread.
Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake: Wondrous. I read half this book in pre-print. It’s worth reading in full, twice. Everything is connected.
100 Acts of Minor Dissent by Mark Thomas: A comedian’s job is to show us the world as it really is, instead of how we assume or are told it is. Only a great comedian would put their dignity on the line and actually try to change that world. Such a comedian is Mark Thomas. Infectious, riotous. National Treasure.
Dare To Lead by Brené Brown: Ah, Brené! The doyenne of shame brings vulnerability to the workplace. Pairs well with a barrage of free resources. Do the work.
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg: Simple guidance for anyone who wants a framework to understand what’s really underneath the feelings that they’re having. Genuinely life-challenging. More on this next week.
BONUS: One Category-Winning Book That I Didn’t Read (And Probably Never Will)
The Girl Who Rowed The Ocean by Alastair Humphreys is written for kids aged 7-12.
Based on Alastair’s experiences rowing the Atlantic, Bear Grylls called it ‘An inspirational ocean adventure’. But who cares what he thinks?
Much more important is what my niece thinks and she thinks it’s great, so that’s that.
And there you go: sixteen books to put on your (or someone else’s) Christmas list.
How about you? What did you read this year that blew your tiny mind? What challenged you and changed you?
Please let me know by replying to this email or posting in the comments:
If you’re really keen, you can peruse my previous book lists: 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021
Days of Adventure 2022: 128 (+2)
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Heartfelt thanks to Andy, Claire, Tudor, John, Harri, Becky, Illia, Joanna, Maryla, Cass, Georgie, James, Joe, Libby, David, Tessa, JMJ and Geoff 💚💚💚
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Thank you 🙏
I’ll leave you with three things that stood out for me from the wonderful Future Crunch’s 99 Good News Stories From 2022:
13. Crime also fell in the United Kingdom. Compared with the year before the pandemic, burglary in 2022 was down 28%, robbery down by 23%, vehicles offenses have fallen by 19%, knife crime by 9%, firearm offenses are down 10%, and homicides have decreased by 5%. Overall crime is now at its lowest level since the 1980s. ONS
39. There was some really encouraging news about the fight against cancer, the world’s second most common cause of death. Cancer death rates have fallen substantially in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan, and Rwanda revealed it is on track to become the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer.
99. Britain reported a string of successes in re-wilding populations of osprey, cranes and spoonbills, the US Interior Department announced $105 million of funding to conserve or restore 116,305 acres of habitat for waterfowl and other birds in 18 states, and thanks to a collaboration between government agencies, scientists, and indigenous tribes, condors are once again soaring over the skies of North America.