Autophagy and Loading Trucks For UPS

When I was in college, one of the many jobs I had was loading trucks for UPS. Boxes would move throughout the warehouse on a series of conveyor belts. The dock I worked on had five 18-wheeler trucks. Those trucks once full would leave Columbus and head off to different regions of East Ohio. My truck was for Zanesville, Ohio.

As packages heading for East Ohio would move to our area, a worker on a platform would check the city and zip code, and then push the box onto the appropriate slide which fed one of the five trucks. During my 3 hour shift, boxes would pour into my truck. My job, prior to loading, was to confirm it belonged in my truck by inspecting the city and zip code on every parcel. If the box was mistakenly put in my truck, it was my responsibility to get it out. Also, if the box was damaged it had to be removed for repair.

The boxes did not trickle in at a steady rate. They came in fast, then slow, then medium, then fast again and there would be times when no boxes came into my truck. When things slowed down or I had no boxes to load, I would use that time to get out any parcels with bad zip codes and fix any damaged parcels.

Where is this blog post going?

Last year I learned about a cellular process called autophagy and it reminded me of my job loading trucks. From Cellular Autophagy by Arthur De Vany:

Autophagy (self eating or consumption) is a crucial process in the cell. The cell consumes and recycles damaged internal material; this is an energy sparing process and important for scavenging old and damaged material within the cell. Autophagy is an important element in energy management and damage repair. The energy and protein content of damaged material is used to fuel rebuilding and cellular energetics.

The process seems to be triggered when the energy content of the cell declines so that the cell literally consumes itself. It goes after the damaged materials first, so there is a strong link between repair of damaged tissues and fasting or low energy state in the cell. So, it you are over-fed you down regulate cellular repair. You want to go hungry episodically to turn on cellular autophagy and repair those damaged tissues.

In short, cells will live happily off the nutrients flooding into them until they stop coming. At that point, they start a clean and repair process. The cell feeds off their own damaged material for fuel. If the cell never gets a break from the flood of nutrients, it won’t devote resources toward autophagy. Why feed off a damaged tissue for fuel, when new nutrients are still entering the cell?

This to me sounds a lot like my job at UPS. As long as boxes (nutrients) poured into my truck (cell), I didn’t have the resources to remove (clean) parcels with bad zip codes (toxins) or fix (repair) damaged boxes (cancers).

When I first started loading trucks, I would have nights where 5-6 parcels would arrive in Zanesville incorrectly or damaged (unhealthy rate). Eventually, I got better and would have just 1-2 over an entire week (healthy rate). My truck was cleaner and my error rate plummeted.


Add yours

  1. Cool concept! It reminded me of something much more morbid though. In dysfunctional situations, people will naturally put all their energy into getting through the day rather than taking the time to figure out the root cause and addressing it appropriately 🙁

    BTW, companies like UPS and Amazon use high volume, low error, sophisticated, automated outbound sortation systems today that are amazing to watch if you ever get the chance to do so.

  2. At UPS I was loading 700 boxes an hour, all while checking zip codes. It was the toughest job I’ve ever had. It made Army Basic Training seem like working at the library.

  3. More than 10 per minute? I know UPS had a relatively high hourly wage back then but that rate seems very high for an inspection/lifting/moving work standard..their industrial engineers (if they had any) needed training or maybe another job.

  4. Yes. Few employees reached that target, but that was the metric. if too many employees reached the goal, then the goal was too low.

    It took months before I achieved that pace. I can’t recall if a bag of envelopes counted as 1 box or as several parcels. Regardless, at the end of a shift, I lost a few pounds of water weight and my arms were bruised.

  5. Sorry to hear that, MAS 🙁 This would count as a complete misuse of Time and Motion Study tools and concepts. Work standards are supposed to be set at the “steady state” not at the top 1-5%.

  6. OK, I am intrigued but concerned. I want to balance the positive cleansing effects of autophagy while maintaining my weight. Based on your research, would an 18 or 24 hour fast be effective for cleansing? Are there any good books on this subject, De Vany’s?

  7. @Chuck – I don’t think optimal parameters have been figured out. My guess is that longer fasts would benefit those with more visceral fat, but that is just a guess.

    De Vany’s book doesn’t go into the details. I haven’t looked into this topic in a while, but one of theories that I’ve heard about is protein fasting.

    Paleo Protein Fasting and Autophagy

    As far as keeping the weight on, we just need to eat more during our window of eating.

  8. Yes, I have read similar theories that the optimal fast length will have to do with the starting health of each individual. Based on what I know of myself, I tend to have several galsses of wine and/or vodka on the weekend. A heavy Sunday feed followed by an early week fast might be best for me. Do you do coffee during your fasts?

  9. @Chuck – With the exception of my current caffeine detox, I tend to increase my espresso intake during fasts. Caffeine is effective at mobilizing fatty acids. I also engage in long walks.

    For the readers that don’t know me, I never put milk or sweetener in my espresso.

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