The disgusting Mr. Linksvayer

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

A “beauty editor” says:

He’s practically emaciated (6 feet tall and 135 lbs) but he looks like he’s 16!

Both wild overstatements, though this reminds me — is there an age guessing site on the web, a la ?

A “fitness journalist” writes:

“Holy shit! That guy looks like he’s about to drop over dead!” You might guess that he has some kind of muscle-wasting disease. I know the angle of the photo isn’t flattering to a tall, long-limbed man, but perhaps the fact he’s sitting is appropriate. Honestly, he doesn’t look strong enough to stand.

And others like this. Yes, I can stand up, and so much more!

I did not realize how many bloggers copy and paste entire articles and call it a post. There are lots of them, not counting obvious spam blogs.

On the other side, CR blogger Mary Robinson has a reasonable critique:

I did not like Linksayer’s meals as an example. They are nice enough, but reinforce the stereotype that CR food is weird food. The text made it sound like he does not eat the same thing at all as the pictured food – he seems to eat a pretty normal regimen. So why show fermented soy for breakfast? My Fiber One and vegetable juice would have been less weird. Some yogurt and an orange would have been even better. I would like to have seen some fish in there for one meal. Maybe chicken at the other.

With a little more forethought I might have tried to prepare more mainstream meals. In my little bubble world, natto is normal. Regarding yogurt, fish, and chicken, I don’t eat them. I emphasized to the reporter many times that most people attempting CR are not vegan. If I had anything re-impressed on me from this article, it is that only a tiny bit of information can be squeezed into a news article.

The most satisfying blog commentary comes from Karen DeCoster:

Here is a photo of the disgusting Mr. Linksvayer:

He’s more frail than blown glass, has a very stooped posture, and his body parts are not in proportion. In fact, upon seeing him, you immediately notice that he has taken on the physical appearance of one who suffers from mental retardation – which is typical for malnourished adults.

2,100 calories? That average day does not even approach 2,100 calories – you can do the math. This man is eating between 500-900 calories per day, that is, on the days that he does not starve himself fast.

I can see where DeCoster might get those numbers from the pictures, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, they leave out dessert and multiple servings of lunch and dinner.

But more than enough about me. DeCoster’s main argument:

First, a restricted calorie diet eats up gobs of human muscle, reduces metabolism, kills energy, destroys hair and skin and nails, numbs brain function, and depletes necessary nutrition to dangerously low levels. Only these pro-starvation crackpots would possibly claim that people on these nutbag diets can still get adequate vitamins, minerals, and overall nutrition. They claim that breaking down your body is, in essence, really “building it up” for the long run. Then, of course, we come to the call for government intervention in the aging process:

There would be some truth to this if one were to sharply restrict calories on a standard amurrican diet, or worse. This is just malnutrition. There’s a reason “we” (people practicing CR) do CRAN (CR with Adequate Nutrition) and aim for CRON (with Optimal Nutrition). In fact CR people get far more vitamins and minerals than the average person. As for destruction of hair, nails, brain, etc., nothing could be further from the truth. Aging breaks down the body. CR doesn’t build anyting up, it slows down the destruction, not least by nearly eliminating risk for major killers and disabilities like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and alzheimer’s.

My suggestion to DeCoster is to do a bit of research and to follow Fight Aging for awhile. She’ll even appreciate that blog’s general skepticism of the usefulness of government funding, for example:

While in general I’m all for raising public awareness of any plasticity of the human lifespan, we’ve all seen the objections to the Longevity Dividend; it is unambitious and slow, setting the bar so low that the target gains will probably happen anyway. It is the sort of lowest common denominator big tent approach that gets politicians to spend tax dollars on inefficient ways forward while ignoring the real possibilities of doing far better.

I am particularly amused that DeCoster wrote on I used to have a love/hate relationship with this and its sister site, Trenchant and extreme anti-war and anti-government commentary, including against intellectual protectionism. But the occasional Christian apologia, pro-apartheid writers, and general nuts really put me off. Then there’s the despicable Hoppe. Fortunately I am able to no longer care. There are many substitutes on the topics those sites were good on, and I am mostly convinced by Bryan Caplan on Austrian economics that the school does not just appear to be an ignorable backwater, it is. Part of Caplan’s conclusion reminds me yet again of the perils of meta:

Neoclassical economists go too far by purging meta-economics almost entirely, but there is certainly a reason to be suspicious of scholars who talk about economics without ever doing it.

To bring this ramble to a close, doing CR is definitely not meta.

Update 20061102: Cool, Reason too, with attitude and not much information. Others, at least check out the and learn how to use the NYT link generator before posting. You’ll look a bit less stupid.

12 Responses

  1. Mike Linksvayer,

    I think all the negative feelings have to do with:

    1. You’re not smiling. SMILING PERSON = HEALTHY AND HAPPY TO LIVE.

    2. Your hair seems not clean and brushed perfectly.

    3. You should have corrected the position of your head.

    We judge on appearances, unfortunately.

  2. (1) and (3), you’re absolutely right. I really felt unnatural while being photographed. The photographer said “you’re really not a hollywood actor” or something like that at one point. Something to work on.

    Regarding (2), I was trying to look French.

    But appearances don’t account for all of the negative feelings, none of which I mind.

    Bring on negative feeling!

  3. Sean says:

    Three cheers for the disgusting Mr. Linksvayer.

    I suspect most of the negative feelings flying around are generated through projection. I read through the responses to the bit on ‘Reason’ and the one that stood out for me was the guy who looked at your photo and saw a smug expression: projection, I thought. What is a libertarian if not smug, “I can fend for myself, thank you very much.”

    It seemed that most of those angered by the story were being very defensive, asserting there intention to run right out and get them some burgers or ribs or whatever else. This is common in my experience (i’m a lazy vegan myself.) People think that choices I make for myself are an assault on their choices (or lack there of.) While yes I do care what you do, no i do not intend to make you do otherwise (or even call you names [to your face.])

    So, it’s quite clear that you are secure in your choices and convictions and do not need my (a complete stranger’s) endorsement. Take care.

  4. Ryu says:

    I didn’t have any negative feeling when I saw your picture in the NY times. I only thought that you were probably European, not American.

    After reading the negative comments, they reminded me of the kind of stereotypical comments that vegetarians often get. I am a vegetarian (not a vegan). I am still not sure why eating “uncommon” meals provokes so much negative reactions.

    What was most intrriguing to me about your example meal was the breakfast natto with garlic. I am a Japanese male and I know that not all Japanese like natto, perhaps because of the smell and the consistency. When I was a kid, I used to run away from the dinning table if any of my family members decide to eat natto (now I like it though). I haven’t personally met any American who likes natto. I have never seen any Japanese eating natto with garlic; they usually eat it with sliced scallions, but hey, that looks good. I’ll try it with garlic sometime.

  5. April says:

    Hi Mike…

    The stupid crap on the blogosphere is just that. I got a ton of it after our NY Mag article. I think it shows how emotionally invested people are in their rationalizations for inability to control food intake.

    We love you! Thanks for doing so much to get the word out. Those who are genuinely interested are finding their way to more information. Those who aren’t… well, they’ll be dead sooner rather than later.

    love, april

  6. “It seemed that most of those angered by the story were being very defensive, asserting there intention to run right out and get them some burgers or ribs or whatever else.”

    Sean and Mr. Linksvayer – you people are just plain nuts. God help that we criticize starvation and emaciation. Try education as opposed to “negativity” as the reason for the season. Dare I shred Mr. Sean’s glorious theory of fast food glory?

    At 5′ 3″ and 115 lbs., I am a natural, lightweight bodybuilder. I don’t eat fast food, and surely, rarely do I eat ribs. What I do, however, is eat 5-7 times per day, and I eat food that most people consider non-glorious. I eat to be strong and healthy and energetic – my number one goal in life. I deadlift 255 lbs and squat about the same. I do 500+ lbs on the 45-degree leg press. I wear pants in the size 2-3 range. But I am not emaciated – I am muscular and lean. I have also spent 20 years as a cyclist (road cycling and mountain biking), and I can sprint a 100, 200, or 400 faster than I did in high school 25 years ago. People take me for 10-12 years younger than I am. I enjoy this.

    Thus I do not run out for ribs and big macs, as you would hope. This is why I have a leg to stand on in my criticism of the lifestyle that you promote. I am also a freelance writer who writes for clients in the health, food, and nutrition industry. So I have done my research and I know my stuff.

    You emaciated nutballs do not have a clue. If….if some definitive voice were to come down and tell me that I would – without a doubt – live 5-10 years longer if I looked like you, Mike, and led my life like you, I’d say “no deal.” I deem that to be healthy and strong is indeed the happiest thing going. I’d be afraid to shake your hand because I’d break your arm in 3 spots. You are not a man who eats 2,000+ calories/day. And you are not promoting a longer, healthier life via severe calorie restriction. (2,000 calories is not “restriction,” by the way.)

  7. Karen De Coster,

    Congratulations on your good health, may it continue for a long time.

    Engergy requirements vary tremendously across individuals, but for an average western male, 2000 calories is moderately restricted. I believe moe extreme males on CR, like these are at about 1800 and I’ve seen estimates of around 2800-300 for the average U.S. male. Females consume about 50 percent less all around.

    Regarding a couple things from your followup post:

    So they destroy and emaciate their bodies for 30-40 years so that they may have the chance to live a few years longer with arthritis, wearing diapers, and everything else that extreme old age brings.

    Not at all. Whether CR extends maximum lifespan in humans is uncertain, but it almost certainly delays risk of disease and disability associated with aging. Even if CR people don’t live longer I expect them to live longer in good health.

    My view is that you take as much of the wheel as you can and steer things in the right direction. Somewhere, there’s a really happy medium between obese and emaciated.

    Some are willing to steer harder than others.

    Unfortunately, Linksvayer did not link to the “pro-apartheid” article he claims are standard fare for Thus we assume he’s slinging rhetoric and making false charges. But he also hates Hoppe.

    Note the lack of a capital A. I’m referring to Hoppe and others’ braindead arguments for government control of immigration, which I see as the moral equivalent of capital-A South African Apartheid.

  8. Gaurav Ahuja says:

    Note the a? Where is a pro-apartheid article from lrc? Also. if immigration restriction is pro-apartheid, than billions of people are probably are pro-apartheid. By this logic you are condemning huge amounts of people who believe in immigration restriction as legimiate either in the temporary as libertarians like myself and Hoppe do(until we get to anarchocapitalism or an ideal minarchist state) or permanent. Using pro-apartheid in this sense does not make sense unless you just mean that someone is for immigration restriction of any kind.

  9. Gaurav, yes, billions of people are pro-apartheid, they’re wrong, and I condemn them.

    I encourage you to read my immigration restrictions as apartheid archives.

  10. Aha — “immigration restrictions = apartheid.” Good thing we vetted out the hyperbole. Mike, note there have been plenty of awful, statist immigration views on LRC (Steve Greenhut, etc), however, Hoppe’s stance is entirely private-property based. You need to read up on this, as I am sure you haven’t.

  11. I have read up on Hoppe’s argument. Disingenous at best.

  12. Molly McCrea says:

    Hey Mike:
    Please contact me- – new report out of harvard, cornell that sheds light on CR and how diet may help protect cells from diseases of aging.
    We’re going to reprise story we did in 2002

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