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The Expedition: December Edition

The Expedition: December Edition

Featuring: A book I’m re-reading; numbers on ideal VO2 max and 5K time, nasal breathing, vegan diets, and more; the culprit of the teen mental health crisis; an exercise to avoid and fix knee pain; lessons from high-stakes poker; and a quote on truth.


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Onto today’s post: The Expedition

This monthly series is a journey into thoughts, opinions, ideas, observations, studies, facts, figures, etc. Good ones, bad ones, insightful ones, dumb ones, and ones you can use to live better.

It’s a roundup of all the worthwhile stuff I’ve encountered in the last month. It’s a bit of an island of misfit toys. But, hey, the greatest journeys are winding. We’re covering:

  • One of my favorite books ever.
  • Numbers on an ideal VO2 max and 5k time, the overstated benefits of nasal breathing, problems with vegan diets, and strength training for older people.
  • A wacky correlation between BMI and corruption.
  • The roots of the teen mental health crisis.
  • Five lessons from high-stakes poker that apply to decision making.
  • An exercise I’m doing to prevent and fix knee pain.
  • A quote on how to detect BS.

Enjoy …

A book I’m re-reading: A Confederacy of Dunces

I recently appeared on Mike Rowe’s podcast (episode out in January).

He asked me for a few of my favorite books. This was the first book I mentioned. I realized I was due for a re-read.

A Confederacy of Dunces is, full stop, the funniest book I’ve ever read. It’s also the first fiction book we’ve placed in The Expedition.

A ridiculous line I identify with:

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

By the numbers

40.3-51.5 and 35.5 to 46.6 ML/KG/Min

The VO2 max considered “elite” for males and females between the ages of 40 and 79. A rule: The higher your VO2, the less likely you are to die at any given moment.



Percent of vegans who met the protein intake guidelines.

  • The big finding: The vegans who didn’t get enough protein consumed more ultraprocessed foods. Another finding: Vegans who supplemented with plant protein powders were most likely to get enough protein. (I like Momentous’ Essential Plant Protein).



Minutes or less you should be able to finish a 5k, according to the endurance exercise expert Alan Couzens. He wrote: “I think it’s far safer and more telling of your aerobic fitness to shoot for a sub-23-minute 5K rather than a sub 6-minute mile.”

  • That equates to a 7:23 minute mile.


Percent increase in leg strength experienced by people over age 85 who strength trained three times a week for 12 weeks.

  • Takeaway: Older people can still gain strength (and strength is associated with a longer lifespan and healthspan in the elderly).



Benefit to nasal breathing over oral breathing in healthy people. Nasal breathing may possibly benefit hospitalized patients.



Percent lower risk of diabetes experienced by people who ate more candy and chocolate.

This finding is a great example of the problems of nutritional epidemiology, which polls large populations about their eating habits and looks for associations between what they eat and their risk of disease. In general, if you comb the data enough, you can find all sorts of silly associations.

Speaking of spurious correlations …

Body Mass Index—a metric of weight—correlates strongly to political corruption in China and post-Soviet states.

As my friend Tamar Haspel put it, “the fatter, the crookeder.”

Two important stories about the teen mental health crisis

This graph shows the radical changes in mental health episodes among different age groups since 2005.

  • The Takeaway: Young people experienced sharp rises in mental health issues starting between 2011 and 2014.

Two recent stories—one from The New York Times and the other from The Atlantic—may help us understand why.

Both stories argue the way we’re helping depressed teens isn’t helping.

The Times piece points to research that discovered large-scale mental health programs have backfired.

For example, teens involved in one program report more depression, anxiety, and difficulty managing their emotions compared to kids who weren’t in a program. Two other studies have had similar results.

A line that jumped out:

… by focusing teenagers’ attention on mental health issues, these interventions may have unwittingly exacerbated their problems. Lucy Foulkes, an Oxford psychologist, calls this phenomenon “prevalence inflation” — when greater awareness of mental illness leads people to talk of normal life struggles in terms of “symptoms” and “diagnoses.” These sorts of labels begin to dictate how people view themselves, in ways that can become self-fulfilling.

The Atlantic story makes a similar argument, pointing to the rise of trauma content online.

As the online world has opened up about mental health struggles—which is good—it may have led to unintended consequences.

Many young people may now view any deviation from bliss as a clinical issue. It may have even made mental health issues a status symbol, according to USC researchers.

From the piece:

I’ve become more convinced that the way we commonly discuss mental-health issues, especially on the internet, isn’t helping us. Watching and listening to so much anxiety content, which transforms a medical diagnosis into a kind of popular media category, might be contributing to our national anxiety crisis.

These are complicated issues, and the line between helping and hurting is undefined and different for everyone. What’s your opinion?

5 Lessons from high-stakes poker that apply to decision making

Amanda Orson—friend of 2%, startup maven, and Founder/CEO of Galleon—used to play a lot of high-stakes poker.

She won far more than she bet and recently published five lessons she learned at the tables that have informed her business decision-making ever since.