1

votes

Mental Toughness

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 14, 2013 at 2:30 PM

I'm currently reading "Damn Few," and it really got me thinking about all the issues (we) take with our diets. If you're not familiar, the book is an account of what it's like to be a Navy Seal, written obviously by a Seal. The author talks about the unimaginable hell that is BUD/S, the painstaking endurance in the battle field, the insane level of physical fitness... But most of all the importance of resilience and mental toughness.

The mental toughness got me thinking.. Are we doing ourselves a disservice by being so meticulous about our diets? Should we not be open to a wide variety of foods, shitty or not, in effort to build resilience? Should we force ourselves to be uncomfortable, imperfect, and tough in order to be the best people?

I guess I often fear that all this mental mastubation on diet and the absolute, most perfect lifting routine that won't tax our fragile adrenals too much, in the end is doing us a disservice. Making us, or me, a pain in the ass namby pamby.

This is not an attack. Just musings. Anyone else had similar thoughts/concerns? Any military folks in particular care to share perspective?

32652cb696b75182cb121009ee4edea3

(5802)

on March 14, 2013
at 06:32 PM

There's a reason they retire you around age 40. A body can only take so much. My husband (21 years in the Navy) is very mentally tough. He never complains. But he is very tired. We are definitely ready to decompress in the next few years.

Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

(7370)

on March 14, 2013
at 04:41 PM

I am not. Having the privilege to consider depriving yourself to build "toughness" is exactly that, a privilege. You may not like my answer, but I am not missing your point. Maybe having enough quality food is making *you* squishy, but for many other people, it's a constant concern, and something most people strive for, for themselves and their families.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on March 14, 2013
at 04:00 PM

And the other 5%, thegiantess?

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:58 PM

I think you're missing my point. But thanks for chiming in

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:56 PM

When really all I hope to achieve in life is to be a well rounded bad-ass not an overly sensitive, issue-y, food elitist. ;)

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:54 PM

Agreed. I am concerned I am becoming one of those people.

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:53 PM

It's not just about food, but yah I can see why they're constantly tinkering. It's more about becoming resilient which I think we get distracted from by doing so much avoidance of food groups and things. Thanks.

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:48 PM

Hormesis is exactly what I had in mind when I was writing this. Maybe it's bed to be on point 90% of the time, but 5% of the time throw yourself some curveballs to toughen up.

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:47 PM

Yah I guess I'm more speaking about the importance of focusing less on the tiny details of diet and more on becoming resilient. Which I think means adding stressors here and there be they paleo or not. Thanks for the thoughts.

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:45 PM

Not sure what this question had to do with ice cream and sitting on the couch. It is more about not being a super selective asshole and relying on your bodies ability to adapt and become resilient. Thanks for your thoughts.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on March 14, 2013
at 02:51 PM

+1 I think that most paleo gurus have zero trust in their bodies ability to combat a wide array of stressors. "safe starches" "plant toxins" "too much exercise" These people would be total wimps in the real paleolithic and wouldn't last a month.

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8 Answers

2
Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

on March 14, 2013
at 03:51 PM

I have gone through more than enough long, stressful periods of deprivation. I don't need to eat like a navy seal. If we follow that logic, why not eat like a beggar child in the slums of Calcutta? Certainly, if you wish to toughen yourself up in that way, go for it, but the mass majority of people in the world are poor, and they don't need toughening up. I'd rather work for a day when everyone can think with that kind of privilege.

Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

(7370)

on March 14, 2013
at 04:41 PM

I am not. Having the privilege to consider depriving yourself to build "toughness" is exactly that, a privilege. You may not like my answer, but I am not missing your point. Maybe having enough quality food is making *you* squishy, but for many other people, it's a constant concern, and something most people strive for, for themselves and their families.

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:58 PM

I think you're missing my point. But thanks for chiming in

2
2220edb35752c24f18e8efefa123c4ed

on March 14, 2013
at 03:11 PM

I can't speak specifically for BUD/S training, however I did graduate from the "Q" course (Special Forces Qualification) a long time ago. I served on an A Team most of my career in the military. (I retired eight years ago). I've been eating paleo for nearly a year now and have never felt better.

Having said that, during this type of training, you can't be selective as to what you are eating. Most hot meals are prepared in the military dining facility and you get what you get. I can also say that you tend to eat as much as you can physically eat at every meal. If you're lucky enough to get two hot meals in a day, you still stuff yourself and will find you're still hungry when all is said and done.

You will be forced into peroids of intermittent fasting while burning thousands of calories a day. The one meal you do get may be from a plastic bag (MRE) and is 100% processed, reprocessed, dehydrated, and rehydrated food with around 1,250 calories (13% protein, 36% fat, and 51 % carbohydrates) per meal.

Fatigue is the name of the game and you can't prepare for it. Either you deal with it, or you go home. You will come out of it not only leaner, but physically broken and need a long period of recovery.

32652cb696b75182cb121009ee4edea3

(5802)

on March 14, 2013
at 06:32 PM

There's a reason they retire you around age 40. A body can only take so much. My husband (21 years in the Navy) is very mentally tough. He never complains. But he is very tired. We are definitely ready to decompress in the next few years.

2
D1d9b0d839144b72b5f5dae893a686d3

(602)

on March 14, 2013
at 02:51 PM

Develop the mental toughness to sit on the couch watching TV and eating sandwiches and chips? Doing real exercise and eating real food in our society is more difficult than eating a wide variety of shitty foods.

Mental toughness to me would mean choosing only the best and refusing to settle for the shitty, no matter how much easier it would be.

I agree about experiencing difficulty, discomfort, etc. These things are important to not be a wussy. The good news is that there are many paleo activities that would qualify for this. Fast for a few days, climb a mountain, take a cold shower, refuse the pizza and french fries while everyone else is enjoying them. There are plenty of constructive, beneficial ways to push your comfort zone. Eating 7 pounds of ice cream and spending the rest of the day on the toilet doesn't seem like the best choice to me.

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:45 PM

Not sure what this question had to do with ice cream and sitting on the couch. It is more about not being a super selective asshole and relying on your bodies ability to adapt and become resilient. Thanks for your thoughts.

1
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on March 14, 2013
at 05:09 PM

Baked into these assumptions is that the Navy Seals (or insert your favorite elite military team), is actually the best you can be. I think there are innovations to be made in this space. One of the key reasons I think so it that at some point these people are broken down and then put back together- and they are required to follow orders, even really obviously crappy orders. Some of the PTSD stuff is happening because of what they've done, not just because of what's been done to them.

Anyway, there are many questions to which the traditional answer is discipline. I was told for most of my life that losing weight was simply a matter of eating less and exercising more. Then I found out about the Shangri-La diet, paleo, etc...

So, I think we are more likely to find mental toughness via biohacking rather than military training. You've got to think in terms of what is going to keep you able to deal with crazy situations. Sleep seems like the sort of thing we just need to get as much of as possible. I think the same thing is true of nutrition in general- Robb's advice to people going into deployment is specific and sensible, but it doesn't make sense as something to do chronically just because you might end up being glutened at some point.

I am not sure how this would look like in the end. Dave Asprey style stuff maybe. HRV training. One of the things I've thought about is how I could train my startle response. We all have a startle response, and if that response were actually something useful, we could theoretically end a confrontation (or get away) before it has totally registered in our conscious mind what is going on. Certainly, some of the training would be tough, because we want to mimic what would happen in reality. But in our daily lives, maximizing sleep and nutrition mean we have more in the bank and therefore are able to go longer than people who've been chronically tearing themselves down in a bid to be the toughest.

To an outsider, it probably looks like I have more discipline and more toughness than ever. I actually think it is funny when I go to the gym. There are all these guys just hanging out in the locker room, but the weight room is empty. But I think the real difference is knowledge, not discipline. I now know how to apply my effort to get really awesome results, rather than applying a whole lot of effort and getting nothing- or worse, damage.

1
800e726cb5dff569fd8edf604c3e2793

on March 14, 2013
at 04:12 PM

I think a related concept might come from Crossfit -- the concept of non-specific training that leads to "General Physical Preparedness". This is, basically, the ability to deal with the unexpected, resilience and toughness.

Your body should have large reserves of capability to deal with the unexpected and just as Crossfit-style physical exercise trains up these reserves of capability, so should the WOE.

If deviating a little bit from your carefully constructed diet causes your body to go into all kinds of spasms and contortions, that's NOT GOOD.

1
800e726cb5dff569fd8edf604c3e2793

on March 14, 2013
at 02:53 PM

Google up "hormesis". Hormetic response to stressors is a concept that's periodically discussed in the paleo world, I don't have links handy but I'm sure they wouldn't be hard to find.

Hard to make general comments here as it all depends (as usual) -- on the stressor, on the dose, on your general condition, etc. If you're celiac, eating wheat once in a while isn't going to do you lots of good. But, on the other hand, physical exercise is a classic stressor that does you good.

So -- as usual -- experiment and don't be (too) stupid about it :-)

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on March 14, 2013
at 04:00 PM

And the other 5%, thegiantess?

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:48 PM

Hormesis is exactly what I had in mind when I was writing this. Maybe it's bed to be on point 90% of the time, but 5% of the time throw yourself some curveballs to toughen up.

1
8d386bf2c5ba20fcc1a2a0c805b217c9

(743)

on March 14, 2013
at 02:43 PM

In terms of adrenals and physical effort... I really don't think the average human body evolved to be able to handle such stress. I'm sure you are aware of the attrition-rate for SEAL training. I personally believe that this world, with it's gigantic human population, has a small amount of genetic "freaks" that can really take a beating. I would never be able to survive any kind of military training. Not in this lifetime.

In terms of diet, you're right. People accustomed to SAD are such p*ssies when it comes to "real" food, or foreign food. Beginner-paleo folks too. My one friend started, and she's been eating chicken breast and broccoli EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I, on the other hand, am eating chicken carcasses, with the meat, skin, tendon, and cartilage. Cartilage grosses me out, but I do it for my well-being.

To be open to ALL foods, crappy as well, IDK.. it's a double-edged sword. If SHTF and it's the end of the world, I'll worry about eating crap food then. I want to build up the most optimally-functioning body I can in the mean-time.

Oh, and a side-note. One of the top coaches in my area, who's worked with plenty other top coaches around the country, likes to say "get comfortable with being uncomfortable". This is referring to personal/career development.

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:47 PM

Yah I guess I'm more speaking about the importance of focusing less on the tiny details of diet and more on becoming resilient. Which I think means adding stressors here and there be they paleo or not. Thanks for the thoughts.

0
D2b653e1bb95489af69ece6182abec48

(375)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:14 PM

SEALs and the people who prepare their food are probably still trying to figure this out, same as we are. See, for example, http://robbwolf.com/about/

"Wolf has provided seminars in nutrition and strength & conditioning to various entities including NASA, Naval Special Warfare, the Canadian Light Infantry and the United States Marine Corps."

06bf7b92d77f1ac1d8e3dc9d539d8254

(1649)

on March 14, 2013
at 03:53 PM

It's not just about food, but yah I can see why they're constantly tinkering. It's more about becoming resilient which I think we get distracted from by doing so much avoidance of food groups and things. Thanks.

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