Three books that changed my life.

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As we are approaching Jul, I have though about what faith is, and what it’s useful for. I’m generally a sceptic, which is great if you want to avoid computer viruses, be safe in traffic of avoid bar brawls. But when learning something new, at one point you have to stop searching for the truth and accept some things as given. Maybe that is what faith is all about. I’m not religious, but I still have some things that I chose to believe in; things that are controversial, but still seem very logical and “ring true” to me. I’ve had a couple of life changing epiphanies in the last years, and it’s really about belief, and searching for truth in some pretty complex and important matters. They might seem a bit mundane to some, but big things can come from small ideas. For instance I’m 20 kg lighter than I was 8 years ago, and for me that makes a difference far beyond vanity.

wpid-download-1.jpg.jpegThe first one is that sugar and white flour is not high quality food. In fact, just doing without those two foods has made overeating a non-issue for me. Food is simply a source of happiness and nutrition, which seems like the way it should be. I had an epiphany reading John Yudkin’s book on sugar. Sure, many scientists say he overfed the lab rats with sugar. But he says it so well in the first chapter of the book: “Neither you nor your children need to take any sugar at all, or foods or drinks made with it, in order to enjoy a completely healthy and highly nutritious diet”. You’re not missing out by not eating sugar, and that’s the truth. I’ve also read about Sam Feltham, who ate 5000 Kcal of fatty stuff daily for three weeks, and gained minimal weight. I know that most athletes eat a lot of starch. And so would I if I exercised three times a day. BUT sugar and refined wheat flour are relatively new inventions, so it’s safe to say it’s been proven that humans can survive without. Who knew you could cook from old French cookbooks and lose lots of weight? I’ve never eaten better in my life.

mcdougallborntorunThe second one is that a forefoot landing is the natural way to run. When I started running again in 2011 my knees hurt. I switched to a forefoot landing, and haven’t had any knee trouble since, and very little trouble in the way of injuries. I also just enjoy running more than before, because it’s so comfortable. I’m crediting the book Born to Run, but although it was a big influence, what started it all was this video. Cushioned shoes are a new invention, and running is old, so here again I go with the time tested recipe. There can be arguments against it, the best is maybe that we now run on pavement instead of dirt roads. But I still don’t buy it. Landing on the heel when running just feels wrong to me. Sort of like walking without bending your knees.

headfirstThe third one is a little less universal and maybe more a question of taste: Opera singers today sing with a voice that is too dominated by the chest voice. I’ve been reading the book “Head first” by Denes Striny, and suddenly I hear something new in other singers. I can’t go into all details about how this works, because I’m in the middle of the process, but it seems intuitively true to me. The bottom line is that he claims many popular opera singers today perform a kind of “mix-belting”, which would be foreign to singers of yesteryear, who sang more with the abstract idea of singing in head voice “in the mask”. A typical example of this modern school of singing, in my opinion, is Rolando Villazon. In his heyday he sounded so masculine and healthy as long as he was singing loudly, but he didn’t have great pianissimo high notes. The book has helped me hear other singers in a different way, and hopefully it will solve some problems for me as well. So far I’ve been yodeling around in falsetto every day, and ironically it seems to do wonders for my low and middle range. I’m not sure what this will lead to, but I know it feels right so I will keep doing it. The mark of a true believer.

I think what my new ideas have in common is that you shouldn’t work hard at the easy stuff. For instance running a fast marathon is very hard, but simply running is easy. It should be easy. Same thing with singing, and even weight loss. Sometimes it’s more a matter staying in balance than gutting it out and giving it your all. Most of the time, really.

BTW merry Christmas, whatever you call it!