Mastery and Control of Your Life

Reader and commenter Tin Tin sent me the following and it's really special. It aired on Australia's 60-Minutes program. Backyard Revolution.

Of course, as with virtually everything you see, there's the continual emphasis on eating plants and demonization of fat. But look beyond that. This is more about real food, and even more — if you pay close attention — this is about taking responsibility for your food and ultimately, mastery and control of your own life.

The video is about 12 minutes long, the first half of which is about backyard gardening, primarily. The second half is better, featuring Link Walker — who lives off the land along with his family — and professor Kerin O'Dea. It's slightly funny that so much of the piece is about fruits and vegetables ("Low in Fat!!! Yea"), yet watch what Link and his family are up to: getting meat, and lots of it.

Here's a notable quote from O'Dea, who took Australian Aborigines suffering from the typical laundry list of modern diseases into the bush to live off the land for seven weeks:

We lived off the land for seven weeks and in that time, all of the metabolic abnormalities of diabetes and all of the risk factors for heart disease that I could measure just plummeted. People changed, those Aboriginal people changed completely when they went back to the bush. They were in charge of their lives. And they had this sense that we talk about now of mastery and control over their lives and we know that when people have a sense of mastery and control, they're healthier.

Now, see? Don't discount mastery of your life as a huge part of your overall improvement in well-being on the paleo/primal path. This is why I avoid politics and all involvement in it like the plague, and why I consider it just as toxic to well-being as grains and processed frankenfood.

Why waste time with anything that exists primarily to divorce you from mastery and control of your own life? I can't think of anything more unhealthy.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. Monica on April 17, 2009 at 08:15

    Hey Richard — I love that old guy in the video! :)

    You may also enjoy this site:

    This family's lifestyle and beleifs are a bit extreme for my tastes (bike powered blenders, belief in imminent doom from global warming, etc.), but if you search around you'll see some very worthy stuff there. A family of four, originally from New Zealand (the people down under are VERY resourceful) moved to Pasadena, CA and turned their 1/6 acre property into a massive garden. They dug up the entire lawn and now grow 6000 lbs. fruit and vegetables on just 1/10 cultivated acres per year. They are lacto ovo vegetarians and have 9 chickens, 6 ducks, and 2 goats. Presumably for eggs, milk, and fertilizer. Oh, and bees. All on 1/6 of an acre. Very impressive.

    OK, they're in Pasadena, CA — but still. I had a bumper crop from a relatively small garden in upstate NY, enough produce to feed 2 people for an entire year. My grandparents used to have a relatively small garden that also would produce large amounts of crops to feed a family of 5 or so. It was a blast. We used to have great fun sitting around together shelling peas and husking corn, then freezing or canning much of it for the coming winter. I know you've had similar experiences.

    If you search around this site you'll notice this family's body composition is not nearly as good as someone doing paleo. Still, they are far happier and healthier than many Americans, so good for them.

    If push came to shove I could definitely do something like that where I live, even at high altitude. I would need more protection from herbivores but it could be done. You can grow food at 10,000 feet if you want to, you just need to set your mind to it. I had plans to do that this year, actually, but Robb objected because he doesn't want crazy raised beds with chicken wire and shadecloth all over our property for the wedding. Nor does he want chickens. :( Bummer. He's been very open minded about my bees, so I will take it slowly. :) Meanwhile, we are searching for property at lower altitude to make this type of "homesteader" lifestyle a bit more feasible.

    Two things stand out here about two different types of dommsayers. First is that the biotech companies are wrong — we don't need them to feed us and that's what they want us to believe. Funny enough I am managing to feed myself just fine with genetically modified crops since I don't eat corn or soy — and since the main crops that are GM are corn, soy, cottonseed, and canola. Funny how all of us who don't eat these foods aren't starving due to a food shortage. And second is that the extreme environmentalists that claim we're running out of land to feed people are also wrong. If you can feed 4 people on 1/10 of an acre in Southern California, almost anything is possible, wouldn't you say?

  2. Joe Matasic on April 17, 2009 at 11:32

    Good timing. I'm going finally getting around to building my square foot garden this weekend. Got some of materials already. Hopefully I can fit a little 4' square one raised a couple feet as to not destroy the grass. Don't want to piss of the townhouse homeowner's assoc. Actually never had a problem with them. Saw it on MDA a while back, the gardening that it.

    I'll try and watch the vid tonight.

    Now just to figure out what to grow. Definitely heirloom tomatoes. Maybe some peppers and additional herbs…I'll figure it out.

  3. Monica on April 17, 2009 at 08:59

    correction: without genetically modified crops.

    I love that old guy on his huge garden potato. "It's as big as a bloody pumpkin!" hahahahaha.

  4. pooti on April 17, 2009 at 22:08

    Nice post, Richard.

    I too like the urbanhomestead dot org site (aka path to freedom website).

  5. Andrew on April 18, 2009 at 19:19

    Something I've been wondering about recently. It seems most likely that saturated fats do not cause heart disease but I don't see why one can't eat saturated fats and carbohydrates. I've been reading some of Matt Stone's stuff at [link removed] and one of his commentators has some interesting points about low carb diets. Basically he seems to think that eliminating carbs masks a metabolic problem rather than fixing it. I myself am on a fairly low carb high fat diet but I have no yet found perfect (or even good) health (and I'm not talking about weight loss). The high-fat paleo movement seems to be heading in the right direction, but maybe what's happening is similar to the lowfat craze. Maybe we should have all three macronutrient groups than just two. Also, it seems like theres a lot of disagreement about whether or not ketosis is harmful. I'm not convinced ketosis is immediately harmful, and it may be very beneficial, but it does seem like it is simply more efficient not to have to turn the proteins into glucose. And if the body really does turn proteins into glucose then doesn't this suggest that the body wants to run on glucose rather than ketones? When looking at Paleo diets it seems to me that the idea is to look at a group of people that have successful help and eat the way that they did. So the Paleo approach is to look at our paleo ancestors and mimic what they ate. I'm pretty convinced that they did have good health (except for trauma) but I'm not convinced that we know exactly what they ate (the mainstream media seems to think they ate many many vegatables, nuts, and fruits spaced throughout the day which sounds like garbage, but if there meal pattern was to eat large amounts of a animal fat and protein infrequently then why does the body have glucose at all?). It seems to me that there are other more modern groups that have very good health and that we could successfully imitate their diets. The Inuit are often mentioned, and I still have yet to read Steffonson's book, but it seems that there's a lot of disagreement about what the Inuit actually did eat (cooked, raw, different tribes, chewing, not chewing, etc.). Michael Phelps diet had some media coverage and the BBC article cited a nutritionist who said that she would like to see Phelps make a number of improvements in his diet and these improvements were mainly adding more fruits and vegetables and changing his white bread to whole grain bread. I think that this is an exaple of what the Paleo movement has been fairly good at exposing: she holds his clearly excellent health up to a fabricated standard of health). From what I can tell, Phelps eats high fat and high carb and low fructose. And even if he does have a very high activity level then it seems that his diet and physic show that the calories do not cause body fat. So Taubes and others are right about a lot of things: saturated fat is good for you, insulin is a hormone that has something to do with the distribution of body fat. But does this mean we shouldn't eat carbohydrates. I was convinced up until a few days ago but am starting to have doubts. You seem to be adding white rice fairly regularly into your diet Richard, and I wonder if you are having the same thoughts that I am. Would appreciate any comments on this, and would especially like to know if anyone knows of any athletes who function well on a low carb high fat diet. Successful athletes seem to work well on high carb and high fat. Andrew

  6. Monica on April 19, 2009 at 07:41

    Andrew, you're certainly correct that it's a bit more inefficient to turn proteins into glucose. Some of us do want a more inefficient metabolism, though. :) I am not sure just *how* inefficient it is, though. I do not know how much energy is used to turn amino acids into glucose, but gluconeogenesis (glucose formation) uses all but three of the same enzymes as glucose breakdown (glycolysis).

    I believe that some of your cells can even live without performing glycolysis, though. They can simply deaminate amino acids and feed them into the Krebs cycle as Krebs cycle intermediates. Same with fatty acids: they may be oxidized and turned into acetyl groups (a very simple ketone) and enter the Krebs cycle. I know this is possible for at least two amino acids which are turned into Krebs cycle intermediates alpha ketoglutarate and oxaloacetate by deamination — as for the other 18 amino acids, perhaps they do have to be turned into glucose in order to be used at all. I honestly don't know. And maybe the need to do glycolysis is constrained by cells not being able to transform the amino acids into other respiratory intermediates besides sugar? I don't know.

    This is a question I've wanted to look into more deeply for awhile. I suspect any biochemist could probably answer these questions with more accuracy and thoroughness, so perhaps a biochemist will stop by. Most of my knowledge is from general knowledge of respiration that I learned way back when in college, so it's not very complete. And I don't have my big biochemistry charts anymore. :)

    On the other hand, I'm sure you're correct that some of your cells do need glucose to survive but I don't know exactly what those cells are either — but I believe it includes kidney and red blood cells and some brain cells. You do generate a bit more ATP and NADH (then used to make ATP in the electron transport chain) in glycolysis. Obviously glycolysis onward will produce a theoretical yield of more ATP than just doing the Kreb's cycle onward to electron transport chain.

    Glycolysis is a very old biochemical pathway, which is probably why cells have not "found" a way around oxidating many amino acids directly (as opposed to what they do, they turn them into Krebs cycle intermediates or glucose — "easier" for the cell to use a pathway that's already there). Glycolysis doesn't require oxygen — which wasn't present in the primitive atmosphere of Earth — so if for some reason cells are ever still starved of oxygen, they can just carry out glycolysis and at least get a little energy. Fungi and bacteria that do this sort of fermentation do not necessarily do it exclusively. They can also carry out Krebs cycle and ETC when they have access to oxygen. Same for your muscle cells, they can do fermentation too. I'm talking a bit out of my ass at this point, but from my basic knowledge of biochemistry it does make sense to me as to why this step has stuck around, even though the energy yield will be much lower. But imagine if human muscle cells could not do any glycolysis at all if oxygen was limited. Seems it would be extremely maladaptive.

    On ketosis — the amount of ketones produced during ketosis is generally 10 times less than that of a diabetic in ketoacidosis, according to Gary Taubes. Unfortunately, I don't think studies exist of this metabolic state in healthy humans so researchers are geared to think it is dangerous. I think it's probably only dangerous if you cannot excrete the ketones fast enough and they get dissolved at high levels in your blood. After all, paleolithic man and the Inuit must have spent an awful lot of time in ketosis.

  7. John Campbell on April 20, 2009 at 07:15

    I am with you Richard – since eating more like our ancestors, I have moved far away from the junk food and I have moved away from other junk too. I find myself watching little television, reading the newspapers and news blogs much less and ignoring politics. I agree – it is toxic to the mind, spirit, and body.

    I used to be a news junky, but I have way more important and productive things to do now. I really think this way of eating and living alters one's thinking or perhaps clarifies it. There is way more here than simply diet – that is for sure.

    Thought provoking post – thanks!

  8. martydoesntfoul on April 20, 2009 at 07:17

    I'm a sophomore in college, and just started a Paleo and IF regimen a couple of weeks ago, and I feel amazing and have already lost several pounds of fat. I've taken to eating fried eggs for breakfast in the morning from our cafeteria because it is both cheap and delicious. You have the option of having them cooked in frankenspray or butter, and I've always asked for butter.

    Today, the short-order cook finally told me the "butter" was Smart Balance. I feel like a schmuck. I know our dining services is obsessed with serving "healthy" food like chicken breasts and buckwheat, so I should have known that the french toast wasn't actually being cooked in butter. I think there's only one place left on campus that even offers real butter. I guess my eating options are even more limited…Hello, hard-boiled eggs!

  9. John Campbell on April 21, 2009 at 19:36

    Richard – another case of politicians wanting to take away more from our mastery over our own lives and health.

    The Clandestine War Over the Food Safety Modernization Act

    Via Instapundit – so I haven't stopped following politics completely – it is prudent to keep an eye out for the modern day predators just as our ancestors kept their eyes peeled for sabre tooth tigers – sigh – plus ca change…

  10. Monica on April 22, 2009 at 07:36

    John, indeed. I've been meaning to write about HR 875 on my blog. If this bill goes through it's going to be a disaster for our freedom to eat what we want. The Reason article is the best I've seen, albeit with a few holes.

  11. Richard Nikoley on April 22, 2009 at 09:50


    Regarding the rice, it's something I do on average probably 6 times per year, if that. However, it might be twice in a single week and then none for many months.

    I think rice is probably on a par with potato, and it's just the sugar issue, not the toxins issue as with other grains like wheat.

  12. Richard Nikoley on April 22, 2009 at 10:01

    I HATE that! When I go to restaurants and ask for my eggs to be cooked in butter, I have to specify: I mean BUTTER. Do you have butter? Margarine is NOT butter.

    Infuriates me.

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