Calorie restriction and me

A few months ago reporter Michael Mason contacted me for a story about via my writeup of the first day of CR IV (I still have notes from the other two days and will write them up in the fullness of time). The story appears in tomorrow’s New York Times, now online, as One for the Ages: A Prescription That May Extend Life. Just a few notes on the paragraphs that mention me and accompanying photos:

Mike Linksvayer, a 36-year-old chief technology officer at a San Francisco nonprofit group, embarked on just such a diet six years ago. On an average day, he eats an apple or some cereal for breakfast,

Cereal is pretty much junk food, and whether I eat any is a pretty good indicator of how well I’m doing. I can go for weeks without any, then eat some every morning for a week at work if I’m procrastinating on a project. I skip breakfast more often than not. Natto and garlic (pictured) is my favorite breakfast.

followed by a small vegan dish at lunch.

However, it must be noted that most people practicing CR are not vegan.

Dinner is whatever his wife has cooked, excluding bread, rice, sugar and whatever else Mr. Linksvayer deems unhealthy (this often includes the entrée). On weekends, he occasionally fasts.

I cook a fair amount, too. The dishes pictured are typical of my cooking — more or less random vegetables and vegetable protein mixed together with lots of spices.

Mr. Linksvayer, 6 feet tall and 135 pounds, estimated that he gets by on about 2,000 to 2,100 calories a day, a low number for men of his age and activity level, and his blood pressure is a remarkably low 112 over 63. He said he has never been in better health.

My first estimate was 2,200, which includes some fudge factor, as I know how easy it is to underestimate intake, and I am not super meticulous. But they wanted to go with a lower number.

I am on relatively mild CR. For example, in at least one human CR study the median blood pressure was 99/61.

“I don’t really get sick,” he said. “Mostly I do the diet to be healthier, but if it helps me live longer, hey, I’ll take that, too.”

True, though I learned of CR through life extension circles and that was definitely my initial motivation. It doesn’t really matter to an individual whether CR squares the mortality curve or extends maximum life — only whether that individual gets more healthy years (easy) and yes, perhaps a better shot at hanging on long enough for real life extension technologies.

Regarding the food pictures, the photographer wanted food on plates, but I typically eat multiple servings or from a salad bowl, as in the photograph with me in the picture. The lunch and dinner pictured are low calorie density for their volume. Some people on CR eat a huge salad every day.

The clarifications above aren’t intended as criticisms. Overall the article is pretty good and I was impressed by the amount of legwork and research the reporter and support people put into the story. Seeing a real photojournalist at work was very interesting (picture of two of his cameras I took while he carried the rest of his gear down the stairs), even if I didn’t really enjoy being a subject. Maybe the MSM is worth keeping around after all. :)

There have been several stories about CR published recently. I recommend checking out The Fast Supper in New York Magazine, which features people far more hard-core and interesting than myself.

Also check out the Calorie Restriction Society. I rarely blog about CR, so subscribe to April Smith or Mary Robinson, who do so intelligently (though most people on CR seem to be male).

Better yet, ignore all of the above and contribute to the real fight against aging — from December 2005:

Excepting the very laws of nature (see arch anarchy), aging and its resulting suffering and death is the greatest oppressor of humanity. As far as I know Aubrey de Grey’s Methuselah Mouse Prize/Foundation is the only organization making a direct assault on aging, so I advise giving generously. Fight Aging! is the place to watch for new anti-aging philanthropy.

Addendum: The meal photos left out dessert.

14 Responses

  1. […] Mike Linksvayer My opinions only. I do not represent any organization in this publication. « Calorie restriction and me […]

  2. David Lee says:

    Hi Mike,

    Are those Field Roast vegan sausages in your NY Times article? If so whast flavour? Or Tofurky? Just wondering out of vanity!

    David Lee

  3. Hi David, Tofurky Italian Sausage. I’ve seen Field Roast at the grocery I shop at but it is significantly more expensive if I recall. I’ll try it at least once now, thanks for the comment.

  4. Drea says:

    Great article,

    though it’s too bad mainstream press on CR has tried to make it seem so extreme, and usually skimps on describing the actual amount of food eaten in a typical day of CR

    2200 calories is fairly standard, and the amount of food from nutritious sources that can comprise that many calories is a lot!

    ‘an apple, vegan dish, and dinner’ … that’s what, 100 calories for breakfast, say a generous 800 calories for a vegan lunch… is dinner 1300 calories?

    and in the graphics, the total amount of food pictured in the CR side looks not more than 1200 calories!!

    unfortunate that they listed 2000 calories, and then show maybe half that amount with a silly disclaimer of all the things they didnt include.

    Hope that in the future, the writers of CR articles aim for better accuracy.

  5. Drea, as I mention in the post I will have multiple servings of the lunch and dinner pictured, and the dessert was not picutred and also as mentioned above, 2200 includes a fudge factor.

  6. Drea says:

    Of course, all is well in your post..
    I mean in the NYTimes article,
    where the wording and visuals are not as clear,
    and depict an amount much smaller than you or a typical CRer would eat.

    So yea, hope that the mainstream media writers can give even better and clearer descriptions of CR in upcoming articles.. its not so scary or spartan as they seem to like to make it sound!!

  7. […] It’s been mildly amusing watching reactions in the blogosphere to yesterday’s NYT article on calorie restrction that used me as an example. […]

  8. Interesting article! Never knew this. Sounds good :)

  9. Racella says:

    Mike — I commented on Mary’s site about the article. I didn’t mean to imply that you made the stupid comment. I tried to imply that the author of the article tried to make you seem bizarre and uppity. Also, the picture was unflattering. Those guys who work for the NY Times are good! It makes for better media and appeals to the lowest common denominator.

    I’m on your side although I did think the sample meal was strange. Natto??? Even Japanese people don’t like natto.


  10. Hi Marco. Coming from you I’ll take sounds good as a compliment. :)

    Racella, I got that you’re on my side, thanks, not that I care if anyone is not. Some Japanese people may not like natto, but lots do. How else to explain many different brands of natto taking up a whole refrigerator shelf at Japanese groceries? And I spent a few months in Japan, when I really learned to appreciate natto, konyakku and goma dofu (unfortunately not particularly CR friendly — sesame paste and kudzu root powder) — many Japanese do like natto.

  11. […] Several people have asked me roughly the same questions after noticing me in last week’s NYT article on calorie restriciton. I am not a physician, nutritionist, or even particularly knowledgeable amateur. In other words, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Common questions with my answers follow anyway. […]

  12. naomi says:

    Not sure if you can help – I am trying to get around the hang of eating NATTO on a regular basis.
    I don’t mind the taste, but it is the smell that makes me feel like I can’t eat it.
    Any suggestions on how to disguise this strange smelling Wonder food??

  13. naomi,

    If you like garlic, it goes well raw with natto.

  14. […] IHT (actually first in the NYT) article was about calorie restriction, not veganism, but that’s a nitpick. Most of the “media” items my name has […]

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