Act on the Signs or Live with the Consequences


It occurred to me that a majority of people suffer various afflictions because they disregard signs given to them by their bodies. First they don’t take hints that something doesn’t agree with them, then they pretend not to notice obvious signs, then take medicines to cover up the bothersome symptoms of dysfunction. Eventually they develop a disease: overtraining, injury, indigestion, obesity, metabolic disorder, organ dysfunction up to organ failure, cancer.

I think this disregarding the body’s signs is not innate. It is instilled by surrounding idiots—assorted authorities, beginning with parents (“Eat everything on your plate.”), then on to school teachers and medics (Food Pyramid, “Have a pain—take a pill”) and experts from mass media. Perfect products of such an upbringing don’t take a hint until they have a chronic dysfunction, which they will cultivate to a full-blown disease.

Here is an example of someone who does take a hint:

[S]omeone had recommended a local restaurant to me, and it had been several years since I’d eaten actual Szechuan cuisine—so I decided to check it out.

It was indeed excellent . . . but now that I’ve been eating paleo for some time, I realized that I had an entire multi-course meal before me, made almost entirely of non-food. And despite cleaning my very large plate, I found I was still very hungry . . . because what I was eating wasn’t food at all, just something that looked pretty and smelled nice.

I drive home and fix myself some real food [grass-fed hamburger, eggs, onions, bell peppers, garlic, and a small potato, fried in butter]. And, as if to underscore the point, I spend the next day farting like a cow until all the pretty but nutritionally useless non-food has left my system.

Here is an example of someone who doesn’t take a hint, but eventually, after years (better late than never) reacts to signs of dysfunction:

I have experimented with eating a so-called “paleo” diet for at least 14 years. […] Over this time period I have experienced myself, and seen in others, mostly gradual and sometimes sudden development of disorders that I can directly attribute to attempting to consume a high fat, excessive protein diet.

Then follows a list of signs one should react to immediately, not after weeks or years of suffering.

He followed a dogma rather than signs—and that is a bad concept. Signs tell the truth, and the truth will set you free 😉

Here are two key paragraphs from the chapter Nutrition in my Science of Sports Training:

“There is no diet good or bad for everybody at all times, with set-in-stone percentages of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. There are only individually suitable diets that let an athlete perform well and stay healthy and unsuitable diets that lower performance. An athlete needs to eat different meals before exercises and after exercises.

“How to tell if an athlete’s last meal was good for him or her? It is simple—if the athlete feels well, alert and energetic, and not hungry for at least four hours after the meal—then the meal was suitable and good. If the athlete is hungry four hours or less after the meal, then it was not suitable.”

So the key to optimal sports nutrition, just as for optimal exercise selection and dosage, is for the athlete to listen to his or her body, and for the coach to observe the signs too and make adjustments on the go.

The signs range from those noticeable immediately, during, and soon after a meal (feeling energized or sleepy, light or bloated), through those manifesting themselves several hours later or during the next couple of days (sweat, body smell, urine, stool, intestinal discomfort), to those that reveal long-term nutrition status (fat deposits, skin, hair, nails).

So much for nutrition. The principle applies to exercise too.

To sum it up: Whatever would compromise your survivability in “the wild” cannot be healthy. Speaking of survivability in “the wild,” I do not ask you to imagine being a Stone Age hunter—a modern one will do. If your body does something that would impair your effectiveness in the woods—by alerting the game to your presence, setting you up as an easy prey for predators, making you too hungry to keep still for as long as it takes, or making you too weak to dress and drag the game—then you ought to stop doing whatever you are doing to yourself.

Unbreakable Umbrella vs. Watermelon

6 Responses to “Act on the Signs or Live with the Consequences”

  1. 1 Nathan

    Mr. Kurz, I just want to take the time to thank you. I have read your books, articles/newsletters at, and your blog for almost a decade. You have always been thoughtful rather than dogmatic. I don’t know of you are thanked enough for your fantastic contribution to physical fitness, so… Thank you!

  2. Well, thank you!

    Now, if you would show your results …

  3. 3 Nathan

    My results are a completely mobile shoulder (diagnosed with arthritis, tendonitis, & bursidus), knees free from general pain (versus earlier), and the confidence to know I was being overtrained in my last martial arts school (which is one reason I left). You writings & videos introduced me to Kettlebells, Hindu Squats, and mobility drills. Further your book Science of Sports Training has been a constant guide for my journey in physical fitness. My children will be guided using your translation of Children and Sports Training. Your videos on acrobatics are a fun and challenging addition to my training (I am still working on all the techniques associated with the cartwheel).

  4. I love this article. I do a martial art that I love as a sport and I try to be mindfull. Yet I find it so hard to listen to my body. I live a stressfull life, run my own company . I realy want to listen to my body. I am 43 years old and am picking up weight at a frightening speed. I have constant acid in my throught. So I am doing something wrong but I am disconnected from my body. Is there something that can make me more attuned to listen to the hints and interprete them sensibly? Audrey from South Africa

  5. 6 Matthew Baniewicz

    i echo what nathan has said here. tom has the best info on sports training out there. thanks tom!

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