Mexican Shrimp Soup

Here’s an incredible dish I made last night. The original recipe was from a paleo/wellness cookbook, although I modified it somewhat for my own use.

Ingredients: (Serves 2)

  • Pot with a lid
  • 1/2 red onion, normal sized
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, depending on size
  • 1 serrano pepper (for some kick, not crazy spicy)
  • Olive oil
  • 3-4 medium/large tomatoes
  • Oregano
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound of shelled shrimp
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1/3 cauliflower
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lime

Preparation:

  1. Chop up the onion, garlic, and serrano pepper into small pieces and cook in a small amount of olive oil. Use your best judgement of how long – they don’t need to be browned but should be cooked through decently well.
  2. Once step 1 is cooked properly, add tomatoes and preferably put a lid on the pot while letting the tomatoes cook down. You don’t want a pure liquid, but the tomatoes should start to separate and cook down a bit. At this stage you should also add your oregano (a moderate amount)
  3. Add shrimp, zucchini that is chopped to be bite sized, and bite sized cauliflower bits. Also add your chicken stock.
  4. Cook until vegetables are as soft as you want them to be. Add salt and pepper. Serve with a lime squeezed over it.

Going Full Caveman: Sleeping on the Floor

Many compare the paleo diet to cavemen, citing that food around less than 1,000 years gets us away from our caveman roots. While there is truth to this, especially as it relates to processed foods, another area we seem to forget about is sleep. To any of you paleo thumpers out there, how many of you sleep on the floor?

That Lovely Cave Floor

I seriously doubt many paleo dieters have considered it, but sleeping on the floor has many benefits that we do not get from lying in a bed. A short list I’ve compiled of health benefits include:

  • Improved circulation
  • Corrected posture
  • Pain prevention in back and neck
  • Reduction of scoliosis

Additionally, you sleep lighter and get out of bed easier in the morning. This leads to improved performance early morning and you can get a quick jump on your time management skills. There are other non-health benefits as well:

  • Significantly more space
  • Large amount of money saved – mattresses are $$$!
  • No more confusion about sleep numbers
  • Minimalist lifestyle

I have been sleeping on the floor now for two weeks. The reasons for this are not solely wellness driven, at least not at the outset. I am living as one of four people in a 1-bedroom apartment. Considering we are not allowed to have more than two people residing there, anything outside of our bunk bed is conspicuous. I had an air mattress that was easily inflated and deflated daily, although it quickly broke. Instead of purchasing some type of temporary bed I transitioned to the floor, which another roommate had been doing all semester.

Although I cannot feel things like improved circulation or scoliosis reduction, I can certainly attest to the light feeling I have each morning. There was no pain after a few days and the strangest thing is my mind seems to think of the floor as a bed now. Just as I used to like that “curling up” feeling of getting into my bed, so too do I get that “comfort feeling” when crawling into my space on the floor.

The only thing I use for padding is my yoga mat, which is essentially like putting a layer of toilet paper on the floor. It does very little except to make the floor a bit softer.

Not All Positive

Just as with my eating habits, this too gets some strange reactions out of people. I’m not going for any sort of “wow” factor, although that generally happens when a friend tells a new acquaintance about my wellness behaviors. It can be a bit polarizing, and although I don’t think anyone would avoid me on principle of wellness extremism alone, I don’t think it always comes off positively.

Additionally, sex is not really possible without some type of furniture. As I do not have a bed, will not be using my roommates’ (come on show some respect!), and we have no other furniture in the apartment, I’m not really sure how to solve this conundrum. I could always head to the girls’ place, but that would assume I currently have someone in my life right now. I do not. But should something pick up I will have to report back. I’m chuckling just thinking about how that conversation would go.

Back Problems

The medical community does not know why some people experience back problems. For many, this is a chronic issue that is not easily solvable. Although it’s perhaps a bit brash to blame it unilaterally on mattresses without any scientific evidence, I would not be surprised if that wasn’t the leading cause. Sure, everyone sits hunched over at a desk all day, but without the ability to reset your back at night, when will that occur?

From what I can garner online, posture and alignment when lying on a hard surface are fixed and put in their place. In such a sleeping arrangement, our body is supported by our bones. However, on a mattress we sink into the mattress and we are generally supported by soft tissue. This leads to lesser circulation and imperfect alignment of our spine.

Mattresses have been around for a long time and almost everyone has one, so you can’t say they cause back problems in everyone, because not everyone has back issues. However, just as some people do not get cancer despite many decades of smoking cigarettes, so too do some people get back problems from their mattress.

Intuitively it seems like it could be the opposite. Wouldn’t we want a soft place to lay down and sleep for the evening? Unfortunately this is not the case. I wrote about the body’s general antifragility in my last post and it seems to apply to most areas of our anatomy. I think this applies just as much to exercise as it does to the surface you sleep on.

Conclusion

Just as with all I’ve learned about eating well, I’m glad I found this too. Sleeping on the floor has many perks and I look forward to my posture improving over time.

Ultimately, I would encourage you to try it. Give it a week – no half assing it – and regardless of any discomfort you feel (so long as you can bear it), try to see how you feel by Day 7. I would be willing to bet this would improve your life, even if marginally.

Diet vs. Exercise on Obesity: Salads or Marathons?

I’ve always been a somewhat cynical individual. I meet people and tend to make up my mind on someone too early. This was especially true of fat people earlier in my life.

I believed what society told me- or more specifically, the government- in that, if you wanted to lose weight, you just had to exercise more and eat according to their pyramid. Also that you were probably stuffing your face and being a piggy.

Many recent events in my life have completely changed that notion. For the past two years or so, I have been through periods whilst very sick and the medication I was put on had me craving very calorie-dense, unhealthy foods. And a lot of them. Because of my very large appetite, I tried eating healthy. Salads, fruits, lean meats, grains, and very little processed foods. This would be the “healthy diet” you’ll hear from the USDA and most people interested in health. Too bad it doesn’t work; I gained more than a little weight. The first time around I gained 70 pounds, the second time was 55 pounds. Oh and did I mention? I was exercising extremely hard. High intensity interval training, long runs, weight lifting, taking the stairs rather than the escalator, and it was all for naught.

Granted, I was consuming large quantities of food, which means even with the best of diets, I couldn’t have done much better than break even. But 70 pounds in 9 months is a staggering figure, as is 55 pounds in 6 months. But I have also shown a resiliency to lose this weight and this is why I have a slightly different perspective on obesity. Anyway, I don’t mean to focus on my 2012 and 2014. Let’s focus on fat people.

Survival Instincts are What’s Killing Us

I’m not going to get into calories here, simply because the math doesn’t work by itself. The sheer amount of calorie deficiencies and exercise to drop a pound of fat is considered an absurdity in the online health community, and to be honest, I agree with them. That’s not to say that calories are completely irrelevant, but it’s far more important of the qualityof the calories you consume the calories themselves.

Ridiculous! You might exclaim. Your food is “fortified” and has all sorts of vitamin & mineral additives, how could it not be as healthy as eating a tomato? Not that Ramen Noodles are fortified at all, but one drastic story to explain my point is the teen who had been living on solely Ramen for 13 years, since the age of 5. Her health at 18 is being described as as poor as an 80-year olds.

Ok, fine. Cheap shot. You don’t eat Ramen every day, but do you really feel safe consuming large amounts of dairy, meat, grains, and processed food products every day? Your brain loves it, sure; it simulates all that we humans used to look for in survival. Salty, fatty, and sweet (SFS) tastes encouraged our survival, simply because they were denser foods through which we could subsist on in the wild. Was it an everyday occurrence that early humans found a deep-fried sugary donut in the morning, a peanut butter jelly sandwich for lunch, and a slice of pizza with a salad for dinner? Impossible.

So our brains are hardwired to seek out these SFS foods, as our bodies are still in survival mode. And because these incredibly heavy foods are very nutrient-poor, we are hungry more often. Our stomachs also don’t fill up nearly as much from 400 calories in pizza as they would be from a salad:

So, to recap: we’re hardwired to seek out processed, calorie-dense foods (i.e. addicted) and they don’t fill up our stomachs fully (we go hungry or we get fat). Let’s move on to exercise.

Exercise

I have already written on exercise in the past as a means of becoming fit, however it is not necessarily needed to become skinny. Anyone running every day will of course slowly lose weight, but as it compares to diet’s impact on overall physique, the results are unmatched. No amount of exercise can compete with my current diet, especially for people who are not fit and don’t have the energy or stamina to put in 3 hours at the gym every day. Most scientists I’ve seen online say it’s 80/20 or 75/25 between diet and exercise in terms of effectiveness. One even went on to say “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” Another said, “It’s much easier to cut 500 calories than to spend an hour at the gym burning 500 calories every day.” While I think calories oversimplifies the issue, it provides helpful images like the one I shared above and can equate food with exercise in simplistic terms.

What exercise will do for you, however, is:

  • Strengthen your core
  • Improve bone density
  • Improve your mood and mental health
  • Drastically improve your circulatory and respiratory systems
  • Maintain existing muscle mass
  • Prevent injuries
  • Improve sexual performance
  • And even prevent cancer (although diet does a far better job if you’re strict enough)

Without it, you will lose muscle and bone density alongside fat as you eat well. So there is a great deal of value to being physically fit (through exercise) as there is to trying to lose excess fat (through diet).

However, as I indicated in my simplistic description of exercise on diet, obesity is caused almost exclusively by poor eating choices.

Okay, Let’s Blame The Excess Fat on Poor Eating Choices

Calling obesity a choice implies a level of education and ability to actually choose the right foods for consumption. In many cases, this is simply not the case.

First there are children who simply eat what their parents feed them. This is hardly the kids’ fault, and in fact, parents need to be held far more accountable. Next in line are those who are too poor to afford a proper alkaline meal. I don’t need to represent the numbers here but unless someone is incredibly careful about their expenditures, it is far easier to eat unhealthily than healthily from a cost perspective. Lastly are those who did not receive a proper education, or rather, self-education in wellness, as our government has completely screwed up dietary recommendations since the FDA issued its first version of the food pyramid around 1940:

This is nowhere near a prescription for an optimal human diet and reeks of either poor science or potential industry influence, even right around WWII. The recommendations continued southward from here, however, and the food pyramid I grew up was perhaps the most backwards:

With grains (sugar) at the bottom, the effective recommendation is almost half of your daily consumption to have no nutritional benefit. This is hardly a productive recommendation, and yet it was what I grew up with believing without question.

So before going too far into how poor a job the FDA has done for the average citizen, one can only imagine what seeing something like this does for their mindset on eating. Additionally, as they peruse the internet for low-fat diets, low-carb diets, and various diet fads like a cayenne pepper/lemon juice/syrup cleanse, it’s likely they will try a few things, find poor results, and quit.

The educational piece is what I’m trying to drive home here. Fat people are not a function of their choices in all circumstances. Yes, some chose McDonald’s over salad places, not arguing with that, but given the sheer quantity of misinformation on eating properly from the federal government on down, I have trouble blaming fat people for their choices. It is likely many of them are highly frustrated and I doubt very many would choose to remain that way if they knew how easy eating right can be. I simply think of them as uneducated and likely unwilling or unaware of the ability to educate themselves and pull out of the hole they’re in.

And of course, there is the rare occasion its due completely to something out of your control, such as awful medications or other health concerns. I’m inserting this plug for myself of course, but not every obese person can be blamed for it.

Antifragility: Running Until I Can’t Continue

I am an avid runner. Given the choice of any exercise, when I am already in shape, running is absolutely my activity of choice. I have a style of running that is pretty different than mainstream advice on how to become a great running, but I’ve found it works far better for me than the traditional way of doing things. This is usually the case for every discipline and it is no different for physical exertion.

The way I like to run is to run about as hard as I can while still maintaining the ability to run at least 2 miles. The difference between 2 miles and 10 is solely training your cardiovascular system, assuming you have your weight at the appropriate level. From there, I keep that pace every time I run but I add incremental distances. The amount I add is not a premeditated amount; I simply run until I literally cannot any more. 

I can generally gauge how long my runs will be each time, based on the prior run I had, so if the run seems a bit shorter than I need I just sprint all out at the end. If it is longer than I need, I do not slow down, I just run until I can’t. Walking home isn’t a bad thing, I just do not want to train myself at a sub-optimal pace, even if just for a half mile.

As for how this compares to other areas of exercise, I am pursuing a heavy lifting strategy, as opposed to circuit training. For cycling, I’d be far more concerned with my heart rate above a certain amount as opposed to my getting longer distances in. Swimming would be pushing myself to the point where I feel like I’ll drown because it’s so hard to breathe. You get the idea; I am not a multi-faceted exercise kind of guy (at least not yet), so I’m sure you can apply the same principles to your own routines.

So Why Not Take It Easy and Get The Hour/Day We Are Told To?

Jogging every day at a 10 minute pace for many miles sounds like a great way to burn fat, but it isn’t really stressing your body very much. You are demanding far less from yourself in terms of performance, and as a result, your ability to improve as a slow-paced runner into a faster-paced one is a far slower transition than mine will be from running hard at 2 miles up to 10. In fact, I bet I could get myself up from 2 miles today at my pace (roughly sub 8 minute miles) to 10 in less than half the time it would take someone jogging 10 minute miles to 8 minute miles for the same distance. You just aren’t stressing your systems enough.

Exasperation should be your goal, not weight loss. That’s how you become fit. Once you are fit, losing weight is incredibly easy. But getting to fit is the harder journey. Feeling like you might die from a run is something not many Americans are willing to even try. Even fewer would do so to get their training from 2 to 10 miles.

Don’t worry about the time spent exercising. Focus on exasperation, difficulty breathing, and sweat. Get all 3 of those every day, even if you do it for 10 minutes, and you’ll become an animal.

Antifragility

Nassim Taleb, one of the smartest thinkers and writers of economic theories, has since delved into other areas of thought that are removed from finance. He is an applied statistician and phD, but surprisingly, he is also a great practitioner (most of these types are academics with no hope of application to the real world). His latest book, called Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, focuses on things that benefit from disorder and randomness.

In other words, something that is stressed and breaks, such as glass, is fragile. But the human body is the opposite of this; the more it is stressed with disorder, the stronger it becomes, so long as you do not break it in the process.
This applies to everything anatomically.
  • Want to improve your sexual performance capabilities? Read up on edging and kegel exercises. They certainly fall into the extreme category.
  • Want to improve your ability to think? Our minds are no different than muscles, so the more different types of problems we throw at them and struggle to learn, the better we think.
  • As it applies to investing, you’re best off taking significant risks or none whatsoever. So perhaps keeping 75% of your money in cash and putting the other 25% with your favorite 23-year old wellness blog writer to start a business with (hint hint) might be something he could get behind. This flies in the face of investment theory, and is indeed an oversimplification, but this post is about exercise, not investments.
  • As it applies to exercise, I’ve already described my views on running and other forms of exercise. This fits perfectly into Taleb’s framework. He explains the barbell approach, which is not doing anything that is luke-warm, medium, and right in the middle, as it doesn’t produce any benefits compared to the extremes.
So, what are you to do? Push yourself to your limits with exercise. Don’t injure yourself, but perhaps become a bit worried that you’re close doing so. And keep it randomized. Just as Taleb encourages barbell extremism, he equally encourages keeping your body guessing.

Deciding To Live Well

I’ve spent the last 13 months of my life working for a financial institution. I started the job as healthy as I’ve ever been, only to continue getting healthier. I ate perfectly, cooked most of my meals, and even cut out alcohol for extended periods of time. At 21/22 years old, this is not necessarily easy to do.

Flash forward to today where I’m back up in weight significantly, I have a broken foot, and happiness is not something I have experienced except for rare occasions. I’m as unhealthy as I’ve been since I first learned how to take care of myself with wellness.

So what gives? Is this something to expect for the rest of my life if I have a well-paying job? Is there something wrong with me personally if I can’t live this way?

It’s an Artificial World Out There

In the words of entrepreneur Paul Graham, “In an artificial world, only extremists live naturally.” I think there is a lot to take away from this, especially as it relates to wellness. Because this world is artificial, you have to think and act like an extremist if you want a natural life.

As a society, we pay a social price for engaging in behavior that isn’t considered normal. This is true for eating more than just about anything else. Try devouring some raw meat at your desk like my buddy RJ does at his job. Carry green water with you to work every day and leave it on your desk as I did the past year. Or just order a salad at a steakhouse. The more extreme you are with your wellness habits, the more obnoxious the questioning from those around you. You will get similar looks carrying a jug of vegetable juice that you would if you showed up to a corporate job in shorts and a t-shirt. You find yourself defending not only the food/beverages you have chosen to consume, but also the science behind it. And those you talk to have not the faintest clue about wellness despite having many ill-formed opinions on the subject.

If the above paragraph sounds a bit annoyed, it was intentional. It is annoying having to try to explain yourself about taking care of your body. I know RJ has completely stopped explaining his behavior to anyone. I am considering starting that as well.

But the alternative to wellness extremism is far more funny to me; eating fried, calorie-dense nutrient-poor food that is likely to cause heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and premature death isn’t even given a second thought. It’s similar to the time period when cigarettes were pervasive and even looked at in a positive light. Now, if you saw a morbidly obese individual carrying a milkshake and a box of friend chicken, you might judge their life choices. I’ve also seen some shaming of incredibly heavy people on airplanes who need more than one seat. But the majority of people are never considered regularly for their horrid eating habits the way that I am for my good ones. It’s a focus on outcomes over process, as with so many areas of society. But that’s the world we live in; it’s far more normal to see a Subway sandwich or McDonald’s than we are an organic homemade salad.

Another take on our artificial world is the workplace. Everyone is pitted against each other in some form of loose competition where the rules aren’t clear, and so everyone plays office politics. You have to watch what you say for fear of it preventing a future promotion. In my work experience, I was told on by a 30-something year old co-worker for taking a personal call at my desk that lasted 20 minutes. It was in regards to managing my father’s retirement, and while I shouldn’t have taken the call, I couldn’t believe I was told on like it was grade school. Naturally, this was the only thing discussed in my semi-annual performance review. Nothing about the work I had done or anything else, really.

Even more basic is the environment itself. No sunlight reaches you all hours of the day, you sit in a chair 99% of the time, your clothing covers virtually all your skin for when you do happen to make it outside, and you stare at a screen all day long. Considering we get essential Vitamin D from the sun and it can kill you if you don’t get enough, that’s a very obvious deficiency most corporate workers will have. Others include spinal problems and muscle/bone weakness from a sedentary lifestyle, such as how I broke my foot simply from running. Humans are meant to run. If our bones broke from running naturally, our ancestors wouldn’t have survived. Just some food for thought.

Bad Habits

It’s only natural, therefore, to slide back into bad habits if that’s the environment you live in. When your friends only socialize with alcohol, it’s hard not to partake. When your coworkers choose a restaurant with no even moderately-healthy options for a team lunch, do you simply go hungry for the afternoon? Or, in my case, when the job makes you miserable and you try to find ways to feel good again, you end up eating poorly just to help you endure a bad period of your life.

Before I blame the job for all the poor health as described in my intro, I will say it’s not fair given my circumstances. I was hospitalized again in December with mental health issues and the recovery has been a bumpy one. As part of survival through the lows of that process, and despite my self-loathing as a result, I ate SAD (Standard American Diet). Pizza, ice cream, burgers, sugar-dense foods, and did I mention pizza? The weight gain was 80% the result of my mental health and 20% from sitting in a cage all day. However, 100% of my unhappiness was a result of the job. Which leads me back to bad habits.

Removing a considerable amount of the time in one’s day and also removing their happiness completely will cause some strange effects. Instead of coming home and treating 7 hours of free time like it really is 7 hours, most of that time will be spent improving one’s happiness. And it’s far easier to do that with bad habits – drinking, drug use, television, poor eating, sedentary lifestyle – than it is with good ones. And so, while I consider myself a strong person with conviction and ambition for my future, I couldn’t pull it together to become who I intend to become one day. It’s hard enough to be great without the added baggage of deep unhappiness and the bad habits that come with it.

So is There Something Wrong With Me?

In assessing my priorities for the future – wellness, self-employment, and freedom – I couldn’t see any value in staying in my current position. So I quit. Today is the first weekday I have off since August of last year, absent the vacations I’ve taken. I couldn’t be happier with the immediate effects on my mind and my body. I’ve already churned out 7 hours of work, eaten perfectly today, and do not feel any negativity or strain in my deliberations. The good is easy to see. And it will keep getting better as the benefits of a free lifestyle accrue to my active mind. But what about the negatives?

As far as negatives go, it’s hard not to ask myself if there’s something wrong with me. That I can’t hold down a job working 40-45 hours/week while still remaining productive in my life outside the job. Or even that I wasn’t proud of my pace or energy for the position I was in. The work I turned in was sub-par by my standards and I’m sure my lack of enthusiasm wasn’t missed by my coworkers or manager.

But as I’ve found with studying all different types of people, the ones I gravitate towards the most are the entrepreneurs and the hippies. The ones who are looking to build something great while remaining independent, or even just to live a great life by being happy every day. Are those goals worth sacrificing so I can drive a nice car or own a big house?

It’s only natural to want nice things. But as was made very clear in the movie American Beauty in the scene where Lester (the protagonist) tries to seduce his wife with whom relations have become strained. He pins her against their expensive Italian silk couch while holding a beer. She ends up worrying more about the couch being ruined than experiencing this intimate moment with her husband. He yells something simple and yet quite profound:

“This isn’t life, it’s just stuff. And it’s become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that’s just nuts.”

Is there something to this? Have we all lost sight of living in pursuit of material goods? Ten years ago, I’d never have believed I’d type out a question like that. But this isn’t meant to be some kind of lecture on loving your family and trying to get what you can out of life. It’s more just a cost/benefit analysis. Does that extra 10-20 hours/week you work in a job you hate to buy a larger TV or a faster car seem worth it?

Polls and statistics always lie, but from what I’ve read recently, 70% of Americans hate their jobs. Assuming it’s even just 1 in 2 people, that’s 40-50 million people who hate how they spend half of their time every week. Considering that and putting it in the lens of an artificial world, my actions to quit don’t seem so outlandish or extreme to me as they do to others. In fact, staying in a job you hate will cause significant unhappiness and lead to many of the bad habits I outlined above.

Conclusion

Steve Jobs has an absolutely fantastic speech at Stanford that I encourage everyone to watch. In it, he talks about his decision to drop out of college:

“I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.”

You won’t see any mention of him wanting to build Apple as a reason to drop out of college. It was solely about removing a costly barrier in his way. This speech shines some insight into my decision, namely that I’m also removing a costly barrier to personal success and trusting it will work out okay. While I will work incredibly hard toward entrepreneurship, this is far more a decision to not live in the artificial world laid out for all of us than it is a conviction that I will build a company one day.  So I too am trying this out, despite being a bit scared about the process.

In closing, I’d like to end on something RJ said to me earlier this year (paraphrased). It arose out of our ongoing discussions and disbelief of the world so many choose to live in:

“There is nothing wrong with you. This world, everything around you, is a result of a society on autopilot. Most people don’t question it and will have to live with the consequences. But realize there are other ways to live if you simply seek them out. It won’t be easy, but it is simple. Choose to live well and ignore the noise. There is nothing f***ing wrong with you. So don’t ever think that.”

The Better Juice Fast

I’ve been through some health issues the past few years. It’s made many aspects of my life difficult, including maintaining a low, healthy weight. When medications you’ve been put on add 6 lbs./month on average for patients taking it, you can’t really fight it even with proper wellness.

But once you’re off the heavy meds, as I am now, you can re-focus yourself back on wellness. I love to do this first with a big juice fast. It cleans out your body after 3 days or so, only to then move on to a different state of being. Your mental clarity improves significantly, you feel far lighter during the day (perhaps 10-15 lbs. lighter than you actually are), and you don’t have nearly as much physical energy. Running is difficult, as is hiking or climbing, of which I did all three this week. I’m on day 6 of my juice fast now and it’s going great- I’m down 13.5 lbs in 6 days. For reference, I’m not huge and therefore dropping significant weight quickly- most people say I don’t need to lose weight, even though I do.

The Basics of Juicing

The first thing I like to distinguish is between a cleanse and a fast. I consider the first 3 days as a cleanse, as it truly cleanses out your digestive tract and your body gets a chance to heal. Anything beyond this period is, for the most part, a weight loss initiative. The pounds come off consistently throughout – about 1.5 lbs/day – but the only real benefit beyond 3 days that you haven’t already full experienced is just continued weight loss.

Juicing is properly done without any sugar. As sugar typically comes attached to fiber, and thus is slower to digest, the absence of that fiber can do some serious damage on your body. It’s a huge “sugar shock” to your system if you just suddenly downed the equivalent of 6 apples or 4 mangoes, etc. And so, for an ideal juice fast, no fruits should be used. I do make the exception with lemons and limes because they contain a good source of alkalizing mineral salts and not too much sugar. Most wellness experts tend to agree they are a net positive.

So no fruits, with the exception of lemons and limes, leaves only a bunch of vegetables. This sounds miserable to most of you at this point I’m sure, but I promise you, it still tastes pretty great. The rule of thumb I live by is at least 1/2 of the pre-juicing vegetables need to be leafy greens. I’m not talking weight, but rather just an eyeball of the amount of greens vs. everything else. Again, this is before juicing and they are laid out on the table, not after. They are the most concentrated sources of just about everything and you’d do well to not ignore them, despite the lack of a significant amount of juice. Also, throwing 2 different healthy greens into each juice helps to get a wide array of the proper nutrients. Greens I consider healthy include kale, mustard greens (spicy), dandelion greens, spinach, and arugula.

Good vegetables for a lot of juice and good wellness are carrots, cucumber, celery, and beets. Other good vegetables for wellness are bell peppers. Besides that, there isn’t much I add, except perhaps ginger. It’s really not supposed to be every single vegetable and every leafy green; seeing as you’re doing this anywhere from 3-14 days (if I had to guess), then it’s more important to be cost and time effective. You won’t get any nutrient deficiencies from limiting yourself to what I’ve just described, especially if you stick to the leafy green rule of thumb.

Living the Juice Cleanse/Fast

 Day 1 is a bit tough. You still have energy from the day before and you also have food from last night in your intestines. You make the necessary juice for today- about 3/4 of a gallon- and make sure to drink the required 10+ cups/day. After work at 5, you decide you want to exercise one last time and go for a run. You run out of gas about 2/3 of the way through what used to be an easy loop for you. That’s alright, though, since you’ve consumed less than 500 calories today and you just burned probably somewhere in the vicinity of that off.

Day 2 is harder. Your body isn’t adjusted yet and you’re hungry most of the day. The juice, when made properly and enough is drank, keeps you at bay. But you’re weaker today and you don’t feel like exercising. That’s alright though, as you woke up 4 pounds lighter this morning and know that it’s still continuing.

Day 3 is the hardest. Your body isn’t adjusted yet, your intestines start to really clean themselves out and you’re in the bathroom a lot, and you can’t seem to satisfy your hunger. You keep it at bay with the juice and stay hydrated, but it’s a struggle. But you also know that tomorrow is going to be great.

And Day 4 is great, just as you expected. You wake up and aren’t hungry any more. Your intestines are done cleaning themselves and you’ve never felt so crystal sharp in your mental cognition. It almost feels like a different state of consciousness. You feel far lighter than you thought possible so soon, both because of the weight loss and your body is acting far more efficiently.

Every day after Day 4 gets a small step down in metal cognition, although it is probably not until Day 8 or 9 that you fall below a normal level of mental energy. Some don’t experience that degradation during the duration of their juice fasts, but usually I tend to get fatigued. Each day after Day 3 is great, and although you need to stay disciplined, it’s not as hard as the first 3 days.

Improving the Juicing Experience

So I titled this article “The Better Juice Fast” because there are ways to improve the quality of your fast significantly. The first that I already showed is no sugar- by focusing on veggies and lemons/limes, you get a superior result.

The next thing I highly recommend is getting some healthy fats in your system during this cleanse. Bulletproof coffee is one of the greatest things I’ve ever come across and one of the things recommended to put in their coffee is unsalted grass fed butter. I’ve gotten used to making this either my breakfast or half of my lunch, so with this juice fast currently, I continued drinking it every day. It’s the only direct source of food I have and gets by body used to burning fats. At this point, I think it’s probably helped me maintain muscle mass more as my fat has burned away.

If you don’t drink coffee that’s okay! You can just as easily use tea. What this has gotten me into is using coconut oil as well because it tastes good with the tea. To give a reference of how much healthy fats you’d want in your hot beverage of choice, you should have about an inch at the top of a glass if it were in a beer glass.

You don’t want a lot of healthy fats- just around a slice or two of grass fed butter every day. A similar amount of coconut oil is good to add too.

Conclusion

So yeah, that’s where I’m at currently- back on the way down with weight and doing it highly efficiently. Hopefully these thoughts on improving juicing and your experience go over well. The biggest pitfalls I always see is people not using enough greens or not drinking enough juice throughout the day. That’s called starvation my friends!

Best of luck and have a good weekend.

Switching from Veganity: The Importance of Eating Meat

I was vegan for 6 months. It worked out great- I lost a lot of weight and I was looking very healthy in the mirror. I’d steer anyone looking to lose serious weight onto a diet somewhat resembling how I ate during that period. However, that all being said, being vegan wasn’t the best I’ve felt eating-wise on my wellness journey. It all changed when I started eating meat again.

Why would a dedicated vegan attempt a drastic change? Well, my wellness teacher, RJ, had made the shift not long before talking to me about it and I trust his guidance, so I decided to give it a chance. The effect on me was startling when I did take the plunge.

First off was the mental clarity increase I experienced. It was unlike anything else I’d tried since beginning on my weight-loss quest and I was thrilled with how much sharper I was. In addition, I wasn’t hungry as often throughout the day, which was nice. I still ate sparingly with an avocado and tomato for breakfast, but come lunchtime, I had a vegetable-beef stew prepared the night before. The food tasted great and I functioned at a higher level throughout the day. Sure, it cost a bit more, but because of my small serving sizes, it didn’t bother me much at all.

Last was the natural increase in muscle on my body. Whereas before I was becoming leaner, now I was filling in muscle as I dropped weight. Meat had some great mood boosting properties as well with what I can assume as increased testosterone levels. I feel more like an animal, which is always a plus.

How Vegans Mess it Up

Without pointing fingers, I have met some vegans who eat poorly and end up obese. This may seem counterintuitive, but vegans define themselves by what they don’t eat rather than what they do consume. By saying “no dairy and no meat”, they inherently lock themselves onto a few food groups. They have fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and processed foods to choose from.

Processed foods and grains are particularly bad. For example, a vegan can eat two Pop Tarts in the morning, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a Coke for lunch, and spaghetti with marinara sauce and a beer for dinner. All of this can be eaten from processed sources and still considered vegan, whereas the purpose of eating vegan in the first place is forgotten. Grains are turned into sugar in the digestive system over an extended time and processed foods are often heavy in sugar, unhealthy fats, and preservatives.

I have seen heavy grain-eating vegans who don’t realize their mistake. And that mistake is a costly one- people end up feeling like victims because they can’t lose weight on a vegan diet and often decide to give up.

Some may say I’m being cruel and it’s simply a moral decision, that they feel for the animals being treated horribly by our food system. I will say that I admire people who take a personal stance in the food they eat to support moral values. However, I don’t like it when they compare themselves to me from a wellness perspective and they have a doughnut in front of them at breakfast. Pick a side a stick to it, but don’t claim you’re vegan for health reasons while eating poorly.

Vegans who do eat incredibly healthy- the salads, vegetables, and lack of sugar or processed foods in their diets- are admirable and only a small step removed from how I eat. I just add in some healthy meat every day and otherwise we’re the same. I’d challenge those vegans who eat for wellness purposes to try some healthy meat, as described in the next section.

How SAD (Standard American Diet) Practitioners Mess it Up

This one is easy to pick apart; a cow is not a cow is not a cow. In other words, not every cow is the same, especially when it is caged, doesn’t see sunlight, eats sugared-up corn feed, and lives a miserable sick life. Eating meat from sick animals raised by industrial food production is just as bad as eating pop tarts as a vegan, seeing as it goes against the spirit of the food itself.

Most people place blind faith in our food system or, if they are educated on it, believe there are no alternatives to getting meat from the grocery store. The atrocities committed by U.S. food producers as they kill 10 billion animals each year are on a scale almost unimaginable. This is why I choose local farmers markets as an alternative. I source all my meat from a local farm in Raleigh, NC which allows its cows to graze upon the land. The difference in quality is staggering, both from a taste perspective and from a wellness one. This particular farm has had 1 sick cow in the last 27 years, which they promptly offloaded to the industrial food system.

Grass fed cows do not get sick the way cows do from eating corn. Cows are not meant to eat corn and will not under normal circumstances, so in reference to my comment above, food producers actually add sugar to the grain so cows will eat it. The result is sick cows that we then eat and become unhealthy.

Beef is not the only meat either. Chickens raised in cages or oven-like huts never see sunlight and they end up sickly as well. Chicken breasts can end up as large as human breasts and antibiotic use is staggering. Fish raised in farms can swim in their own feces and live in overcrowded conditions. Pigs live in crowded pens and even eat other pig carcasses.

What I’m drawing to attention is simply the need to ask questions about where you get your food every week. There is a major difference to be had and I encourage all of you to start thinking about getting healthier ingredients. Not to mention the moral issue facing the industrial food production currently taking place nationwide. It’s disgusting and very upsetting.

Conclusion

What this ultimately leads me to, for those of you trying to slap a label on it, is something similar to the Paleo diet. Everyone loves labels and simplification for its own sake, but I will stand firm on finding the highest quality ingredients and eating sparingly throughout the day, as the calorie restriction is good for the body and keeps the mind alert. The more food you shovel into your stomach, the more energy is drained from your body for digestive purposes. Lastly, sticking to vegan principles with heavy focus on vegetables hasn’t gone out the window. I just eat some healthy meat mixed in now.

Running Barefoot

It is often thought that people who stop writing for months usually have lost interest in the subject and have simply given up. I can gladly say that for me, this is simply not the case. I’ve been more active than ever and am quite pleased with the results. In due time I’ll cover the main areas of progress. Today I’m going to talk about feet.

Being an Animal

How often do you feel like an animal in your everyday life? I don’t mean simple minded, sub-human, or even caged, I’m talking about the freedom of an animal spirit.

You feel like that in your cubicle? Sitting on your laptop at home? On the phone with your parents? In the car on the way to the dentist? How about shopping at the grocery store?

Chances are this concept doesn’t occur to most of us. We may get brief moments of it at the first descent of a roller coaster, or perhaps in a physical fight, but rarely will we experience these flashes of our past. Our ancestry is nearly destroyed through our modern civilization.

Not anymore friends. Not today.

Barefoot Slippers

As with all my posts thus far, RJ had a hand in this one as well. Earlier this year, I noticed RJ with the most curious shoes on. They were individually toed and looked more like a strange foot-glove than a shoe. This was my first introduction to vibrams.

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These shoes piqued my interest and he described the benefits:

  • No shock absorption by the shoe
  • Thin soles to better experience a barefoot run
  • Fixes your stride to take strain off knees/lower back

Know any runners with lower back problems? My mom is one. She has debilitating back trouble that often keeps her from simple tasks such as driving or performing necessary tasks around the house. I know quite a few people who have knee trouble as well. Such is life- our bodies break down, right?

Evolution

Okay, so unless you believe that we were put on this earth not too long ago, you’ll buy into my logic here. Human beings come from a long lineage stringing back 10 million years. You may hear differing estimates by a few million, but that’s largely irrelevant to someone who lives perhaps 80.

How did we get here? Did cars and grocery stores always exist? Have we never had predators to worry about or food that wasn’t within a phone call’s reach? After watching numerous pre-history documentaries on the evolution of human beings, one thing that is often touted is the efficiency of 2 legged running vs. the traditional 4. It’s simply not the ability to see higher because otherwise giraffe’s would be the ones polluting our rivers right now.

Running is something that is in our animalistic DNA. We do it naturally and gracefully. I recently saw an absolutely badass video of a tribe in Africa that still hunts on foot by running miles upon miles chasing 4-legged antelope-type animals before they collapse of exhaustion. How many times have you chased an animal for hours before collecting your bounty? Me neither.

My Wednesday Experience

So, after wandering into a Track ‘N Trail store (great salesperson helped me out as an aside), I purchased these:

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I chose a different style but you can see the lack of a heel. It allows you to run without cushion and get used to running on your toes, so to speak.

On Wednesday, I met up with a local running group and ran 5 miles in these beautiful re-inventions of the foot. I haven’t had such an uplifting experience in a long time and I’d say they’re likely my favorite purchase this year (a close contender with my juicer or my car).

A Short Look at the Pain Caused by Traditional Soles

Why would cushioning the blow of the pavement be bad on you? It allows you to push your feet harder than they should against the ground (i.e. stomping) and those shocks still hit your joints quite hard, regardless of the cushion available in your new Nike shocks. After years of bodily abuse, your back or your knees simply cannot take it any more.

I’m not familiar with recovery stories of the injured becoming the superstar within a year, but as with all areas of health, the body recovers faster than we give it credit (as long as we allow it to heal!).

So, this is your knees begging you: try out some barefoot running. You deserve it.

Update: best shape I’ve been in in 20 months. Should be about 3 months before I get in the best shape of my life. Here’s to keeping it going.

Hospital Food: I’m Gonna Be Sick

My father is a surgeon, and despite a meticulous care for his health from an exercise perspective, his diet is pretty erratic. He doesn’t eat breakfast most of the time, except for a large coffee, and the first food to hit his stomach is 7 hours into his day. This “food” is perhaps a nutrigrain bar or a bag of pretzels. It’s hard for me not to think about that and cringe. Sure, a salad is usually in order with dinner, with a beer, but ultimately most of his food is eaten after 6 PM.

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The effect on his digestive system, metabolism, and overall health is unfortunate. He’s skinny but it’s due to the lack of food, not the food he does consume. As I’ve come to learn from reading and personal experience, nutrients are far more important than sustenance. Regardless of how much you eat, processed foods simply won’t do the trick. Skinny people feel bloated, tired, lazy, and mentally clouded the same way the obese can.

Hospitals: Auto Repair Shops

Most auto repair shops will fix the damage caused by accidents, faulty manufacturing, and ultimately, the effects of poor driving behavior. However, when was the last time an auto mechanic questioned your abilities behind the wheel?

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We can think of bad genetics as faulty manufacturing all we want, but it wasn’t Honda that caused you to fall asleep at the wheel. I’m of the belief that genetic disorders are about as common as poor manufacturing on the most reliable of cars. In this day and age, that would qualify as a Tesla.

This may seem unfair to many. Heart disease, dementia, and even diabetes run in families. You hit a certain age and it’s only a matter of time, or so they say. However, numerous scientists and health professionals outside the traditional realm of modern medicine- and I’m not talking about witch doctors- have concluded that most modern diseases are caused by diet, not genetics.

I had a mental health affliction. The keyword there is had. I became very sick last year because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was eating worse than anyone I know, not sleeping, and taking on more stress than is bearable by a family of four. It’s no wonder I ended up in the hospital, and yet, doctors were quick to rush to a diagnosis and treatment without questioning my behavior. Just like auto mechanics.

Sure, it is in my family, but “faulty manufacturing” is not the cause. It was my behavior. Modern medicine looks at those with my “disease” and says that it’s quite common for people with my condition to act just as I was. It so happens that living wrecklessly is quite common for people like me, and yet, I’m left wondering if cause and effect are being mistaken for each other.

Food in Hospitals

I visited my dying grandfather in the hospital often enough to see what he was eating. His mind was gone- dimensia and alzheimers- and he was given processed nutrient-dense drinks along with jello and processed meats. The vegetables, if they were there, were cooked enough to have little left in the way of nutrients and the rest of the food was so poor in quality that it was sad for me to watch. And this was at a time when I didn’t think like this about health either.

Not only did my grandfather have his afflictions to deal with, he was being fed rubbish with medication in the hopes that his body would stay afloat. It works splendidly in keeping people alive, but not so much in the quality of life department.

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Despite the billions of dollars spent each year in keeping people alive, very little attention is spent on how “cars” end up at the garage every year. Auto mechanics simply couldn’t care less about driving behavior as it isn’t their job. Similarly, doctors aren’t so concerned with the behavior of their patients. Sadly, this leads to a serious deficit in the quality of care we could otherwise expect in America.

Toxic Waste

If you read alzheimers and demensia studies closely, it is often stated that plaque builds up in the brain and nobody knows exactly why. This plaque is said to come from nowhere, as if our bodies have no ways to process foreign toxins that somehow find their way into our brains. I find this logic puzzling, and yet, I do understand. Because it runs in families, it’s hard not to point out faulty manufacturing rather than try to diagnose the underlying cause. And so, we have more money and attention spent on medications (read: auto repairs) rather than on changing behavior. It’s only natural to demand a pill to reverse the years of drinking alcohol or trips to McDonald’s rather than blame yourself.

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Dr. Robert Young- author of the pH Miracle- contends that our bodies build up with toxins over time if we eat poorly. It starts in the digestive system, naturally, and spreads everywhere after we’re saturated with toxins. Preservatives in our food, GMO’s, things we shouldn’t be eating to begin with, and outright poisons are to blame. This toxic waste isn’t food but it’s become such a major part of our society that nobody questions it. How could something that has been around since our childhood be causing all these problems? Most people don’t have a long enough time horizon, that’s how. If you don’t get sick within a few hours, it can’t be bad for you, right?

Conclusion

Diet is one of many ways to prevent serious health issues. It just so happens that it looks about as obvious as avoiding cigarettes and is the biggest problem facing our nation today. Other issues that would have made this post on preventative medicine far longer are the discussions on TV & video games, birth control, vaccines, antibiotics, environmental toxins, and dental care, among others. No reason to harp on areas I’m going to cover at some other time.

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But hey, maybe this won’t strike anyone else as odd. I just think that our hospitals ought to start asking more questions about why we need them in the first place. And serving actual food to their patients.

Tomato Lentil Jalapeño Soup

Okay, so very rarely will you see me come up with my own recipe. I had help with this one: RJ’s sister and I picked out ingredients for this today. She also eats very healthy. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised at the ease, small number of ingredients, and taste to this one, I guarantee it.

Ingredients:

3 large tomatoes (get juicy ones, i.e. no roma tomatoes. Vine ripe or heirloom work great)
1/2 of Trader Joe’s Lentils (about 250 grams or 9 oz’s of cooked lentils)
1/2 red onion
1 Jalapeño
8-15 fresh basil leaves
Sea Salt

1) Chop up the red onion into small strips, although dicing them will also work. Place into a pot intended for soup and put on high heat.

2) While that’s starting, very thinly slice each tomato both vertically and horizontally. You should get many pillars of tomato, resembling a checkerboard. As you finish each tomato, toss into the pot, and be careful not to burn the onion by delaying.

3) After the onion & tomatoes, thinly slice the jalapeño and place into pot as soon as possible. It should still be on high heat, so make sure to stir regularly. Make sure to get all the seeds and everything in.
NOTE: this will not make it unbearably spicy. If you’re worried, perhaps add 1/2 or 2/3 of a jalapeño, but it’s not a death sentence unless you can’t even handle mild salsa.

4) Next comes the lentils. These can be added virtually any time, as they are already cooked (if you buy the trader joe’s brand). Add to the pot and keep stirring regularly.

The purpose of the high heat is to cook down all the ingredients and let the flavors mesh, with the tomatoes being the base for the soup. Stir stir stir!

5) Lastly is the basil. You want to wait until the tomatoes are completely cooked down (or nearly so if you want some chunks in your soup) and then add the basil a few minutes before finishing up. You want them to cook into the meal but not be destroyed. The basil adds a good taste and balances out some of the strong tomato tastes.

6) Salt is to be used sparingly; you really don’t need it given the flavor of the soup. I just put in a little bit and it worked out fine.

And there you have it. Simple as all get up. Takes me about 10-15 minutes tops.