Friday, December 30, 2011

Conventional Wisdom

Throw me some help
How prevalent is Conventional Wisdom about nutrition and exercise in our society today?  I've been drinking the Paleosphere Kool-Aid for a few years and I think I've lost touch with how much this way of thinking is actually in the minority.  I'm not saying that I don't know its an uphill battle and all, but I don't get the chance to discuss this stuff face to face with that many people.

Take, for example, the Holiday party I found myself at on Christmas.  There was much discussion regarding good food and drink and I managed not to go all Paleo on anybody.  Heck, I even had some cake for desert, which is great - that's what special occasions are all about.  After the party, though, is where I got tripped up.  The Hostess and my friend started discussing cholesterol and diet.  And, as you can see where this is going, the Hostess was right on the money with Convention Wisdom concerning this subject.  I mean classic definition type of stuff.  Her cholesterol is high, her Doc wants to put her on Statins, which she doesn't want to do, so she has gone the previous 3 months without eating meat to lower it 'naturally'.  And she is upset because the tests just came back and that little trick didn't work.

I was sitting there biting my tongue with no intent of saying anything, but it just came out.  I don't know if I jumped in on this discussion because I really felt I had information that could help, or because I was so steamed from some of the misinformation I was hearing.  Probably a combo of both I suppose.  Now, there were only four of us left and the Hostess is a really good friend of my really good friend, and I do indeed like her and genuinely want to help.  I probably wouldn't have opened my mouth if this had been the subject over a noisy dinner table of 10, but regardless, I was a bit surprised I did say something at all.

We actually didn't argue about the subject.  I just tried tossing out some information and gauged quickly that, even though she is a very intelligent person, she has bought hook, line and sinker the CW on this stuff.  To give you an example, I said that Statins have only been shown to reduce cardiovascular events in a small sub-population of people, none of which are women.  To which her reply was something like - yes, but if it reduces your cholesterol blah blah blah.  She even pulled out the line 'I want to get my cholesterol in the sweet spot', which I assume she means between 160 and 200.  But as you and I know, your total cholesterol level is not predictive of your cardiovascular risk.  Hell, I wish it was.  I wish it was that easy.  Take a simple test and if your not in some magic range, then change your diet or take a pill to get it there and all of a sudden your risk goes way, way down.  If only there was any test (short of opening up your arteries and examining them) that could give us definitive cardiovascular risk analysis.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that.  Mark Sisson over at Mark's Daily Apple has just done an in depth series on cholesterol testing and it's limitations, definitely worth checking out if you have the time.

So then we arrive at her deciding to go vegetarian to improve her heart health.  Oh man, talk about Conventional Wisdom.  By all means, be a vegetarian if you so desire, but please don't make the mistake of thinking that you'll achieve optimal health by eating this way.  You could possibly improve your health if you are coming from a pretty crappy diet to begin with, but optimal  health will not be in your future.  I find it alarming how many times people have just assumed that I, myself, am a vegetarian simply because I fit the stereotypical picture of health.  They are genuinely surprised to learn that I eat lots of red meat and fat.

Alright, back to where I stared this thing ... how prevalent is this way of thinking anyhow?  I kinda feel like our little wave is swelling with all of the awesome information that is freely available out there.  And all of the books coming out.  And all of the success stories.  Am I being blinded?  Somewhat, no doubt.  But is this movement really getting any traction? 

Sure, we're up against Big Agra, Big Pharma, and Big Government ... oh wait, maybe that's it.  It's all about the money isn't it.  We can be as all grass-roots as we want, but if grains continue to be subsidized by the Government, and Big Pharma underwrites all of the funding for their own studies, and the FDA puts together the Food Pyramid or whatever it's called these days - well, to put it optimistically, we'll be fighting an uphill battle.  Never be fooled by the notion that Government or Big Business is looking out for our health though.  No.  They are just looking for profits.  That is what they do.

In the end, I guess that is why Conventional Wisdom is so popular.  Money buys influence.  But if your health is truly important to you, then you have to take matters into your own hands.  You will have to go find information and figure things out for your damn self.  It sucks if you don't have a lot of time, but really, what is more important than your own health? And with so many great resources out there just a click or two away, I think information will ultimately be the key weapon against Big Money.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

O.I.A. II

Only In Aspen

I went to see a movie last night.  I probably only see a couple of those a year.  Maybe.  Anyway, one nice thing about the Artsy side of this town is that we get in some high quality entertainment.  The movie I went to see was part of  the Aspen Film's Academy Screenings.  It was called Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseYou probably haven't seen it yet because it doesn't hit the theatre's until late January.  If you're not a member of the Filmfest, you have to take a number and wait until those people are seated, and then they sell tickets to the general audience.  A friend happened to be volunteering there last night, noticed my friend and I, and scored us a couple of free tix so we didn't have to wait in line.  Nice to be a local sometimes.

Anyway, here is the interesting part.  Before entering the Theatre, everybody was scanned with one of those wand thingy's you see the TSA using at airports.  I don't know what you call them.  I believe they were looking for video equipment, because before the movie started they warned us that they would be checking the audience with night vision goggle's to make sure nobody was using a phone/recording devise to pirate the movie.  There was a chuckle from the audience and then the lady said she was serious.  I don't know.  I suppose if there is anyplace where they could afford that kind of odd luxury, it would be here.  Is pirating a movie before it comes out that big of a deal?  Give me a clue here ... I really have no idea. 

Oh - the movie was okay.  Movies aren't usually my thing, but my friend cried a lot so I think it was probably pretty emotional for normal people.  And the kid in it does a fantastic job acting. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Working Hard


Still a mile into town
Working hard this time of year.  Look at the pic over there of all the people queuing up to come into town.  I'd say that our population at least triples for these couple of weeks.  It's almost comical trying to change gears and all of a sudden have enough 'stuff' for everybody that drops in ... even though we're quite aware they are indeed coming.




As I lay on the floor of my Flat, recovering after my shifts during the Holidaze, I often think of the working folks that inhabited this very town over 100 years ago.  Aspen was a Silver mining town back in the late 1800's and many a men came here seeking their fortunes, or at least to look for a steady job. 

Aspen circa 1890's
                                                            


    I may have to work hard now and again, but those dudes make even my toughest day look like a picnic.  Can you imagine that kind of backbreaking work day in and day out?  Man, it's just one more thing that makes me thankful this time of year.  

It also gets me to thinking about where our society is today.  I mean in terms of obesity, food quality and lack of physical activity.  Where has it all gone wrong?  Sure, I'll bet few of us would want to trade places with our ancestors of only a few generations ago, but what has all of this technology gotten us in terms of our health?  More heart disease, more cancer, more diabetes.  We may statistically live longer (mostly due to lower infant mortality rates and sanitation) but are our lives healthier?   Are they richer and more fulfilling?  Do we have too much stress nowadays?  Are we inundated with too much information?

This is why I like the overall philosophy and direction of the Paleosphere so much.  In my opinion, it tries to tackle and answer these types of questions in a very non dogmatic and community driven way.  So I would like to take a moment while I'm doing some reflecting and sincerely thank all of those people out there who spend so much of their time and effort putting forth information and ideas that are available for anybody to peruse.  From the nerdy scientific stuff, to recipes, to practical, everyday issues - it's all good.  I raise my glass of Eggnog to everyone out there contributing in both big ways and small ... and give my best wishes for a Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year to All!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Colorado Blue


There's something about the thinner atmosphere at 8000' that gives the sky up here it's own unique color of blue.  I call it Colorado Blue.  It's my favourite color.

I've spent countless hours in pure amazement of the majestic scenery in these Rocky Mountains.  They say you can move away from Aspen, but your heart will always remain.



   

Town sure is getting a lot busier right now.  You wouldn't believe how many second and third home owners come in for the Holidays, buy their $800 X-mas trees, and then promptly go back to wherever it is they came from for the rest of the year.  Ahhh to be Super Rich.

Nah ... I have my Family and Friends, and I'm in tip top physical health.  Life is good.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Running II

So I left off where I was determined to find a solution to running fast and injury free ... que it up:

The first piece of the puzzle was reading, coincidentally enough, Gordon Pirie's Running Fast and Injury Free (free online here).  I highly, highly recommend this book for anybody that is interested in running.  Yes, he is a bit arrogant and seems to go on about himself, but the information he gives on running technique is priceless.  For the first time, I realized that my bio mechanics were not only likely to blame for my troubles, but were also something that could be modified.  Previously I had tinkered with stretching, shoe selection, bands and straps, massage ... anything but actually altering the way I ran.  This was about to change.

Glorified Slippers
Looking around for more information, I came across the Pose Method of running stuff by Dr. Romanov.  I read his book and watched his video.  It was similar to Gordon Pirie's advice, which is, in a nutshell: to stop throwing your leg forward and landing on your heels first.  Precisely what I had always done.  He recommends that you get yourself some nice flat shoes and practice landing mid foot or thereabouts.   Now mind you, this was before the advent of Vibrams or our current little barefoot running craze.  As a matter of fact, in order to get 'flat' shoes and not have so much heel-to-toe slope, I had to order some old school Puma's (see pic).  These were not sold as running shoes, just fashionable tennies I guess (to whom I have no idea!).  Getting my new kicks I set out to work on my form.  I had high hopes.

Unfortunately, back then, there wasn't a lot of specific advise on converting from heel striking to mid foot landing.  I suppose that's because few people had the experience of  actually making the change themselves.   So I was kind of flying blind when I first made the switch - and I made a huge mistake.  I concentrated landing on the balls of my feet.  Let me save you some time, and possible pain, by saying that you only sprint on the balls of your feet.  When you do regular running, you use your whole foot.  Got that.  Your whole foot.  No, you don't heel strike and 'roll' through your stride, but your heel does touch the ground.  I was confused by this at first and ended up with a 4th metatarsal stress fracture on my left foot.  Three separate times.  Yeah, you read that right.  What can I say, I'm a stubborn guy in some respects.  I knew that I was onto something with changing my technique, but I (obviously) just couldn't get it right.

Needless to say, after the third fracture I was quite frustrated.  Stress fractures take some time to heal and this whole process was now taking years instead of weeks like I had hoped.  The good news was that I didn't have to deal with my ITBS or Achilles problems.  The bad news was that it wasn't because I had solved them, it was because I just hadn't run enough to start them up.  In all honesty, I had pretty much given up the ghost at this point.  ITBS, Achilles soreness, stress fractures ... running just didn't seem to be in my cards.

Mid foot vs. Heel strike
And then one day, it just fell into place.   I was out running, tinkering as always, and it just clicked.  I know that sounds wonky and all, but it really happened that way.  It wasn't the final version of how I run now, but it was a huge leap forward.  I could just feel that I got it.  My hips were more forward, I was standing more upright, landing mid foot, and all in a relaxed manner.  I could literally tell right then and there that, how do I say it, that I wasn't fighting my body to run.  There was no jarring landing on the heel, no 'roll through' of the entire foot, no throwing or reaching the leg forward on each stride.  I was gently landing mid foot, knee slightly bent, and everything felt considerably more efficient and comfortable. 
 
So how did I know that I finally had it?  Well, I could finally run.  I could run as long as I wanted to without ITBS.  I could run as fast as I wanted to without Achilles problems.  I could run and it didn't hurt.  It's not suppose to hurt.  In the Summer, I run in Vibram's on the concrete.  I've even run a trail half marathon full tilt just to see if I could.  Running smoothly is a great feeling.

Now, the totally ironic thing is that as all of the final pieces were coming together for me on my running, I was at the same time immersing myself into the Paleosphere.  So what, right?  Well, this is when I started to realize that perhaps chronic cardio isn't the health panacea it's purported to be.  Maybe it's not even healthy at all ... especially if you're pushing yourself flat out training and racing, and consuming monster carbage to fuel said activities.  It's ironic in that if I hadn't come to this conclusion at that particular moment, I would probably still be out there running across the Country, ala Forest Gump, several times over.  Now that I can physically run and run and run, I'm not interested in doing so due to health concerns.  I still run mind you, and really enjoy it when I do, I just don't plan on making it a chronic habit as before.  Sprinting is my chronic habit now.  Oooooh, I love sprinting.  But that takes like a total of 2 minutes a week and is a topic for another show.

My Niece again ... look at that form!!
In hindsight, I'm very glad that I endured and made the transition.  Running injury free is reward enough in itself.  I also think that if anybody were interested in making technique adjustments themselves, either to reduce or eliminate injuries or to just run more efficiently, they should take their time.  You could hire a professional coach or bone up on all of the information now available out there online, but whatever you do, take it slow and listen to your body's ques.  I believe we all knew how to run with good form as youngsters and then got sidetracked by nice, big, cushy shoes.  So it's really just a matter of going back to where we came from.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

(O)nly (I)n (A)spen

Is that Pesos?
O.I.A.

If you can afford a house in Aspen with 16' or higher ceilings, then I'm sure a piddly 8 Hundy for a Xmas tree isn't going to set you back.  Good to know that someone is out there to  take advantage of  service the needs in our community!

I'm sure it's a very nice tree though.  Probably even all Paleo and Organic like.

Me ... I think I'll print out a copy of this pic and use it for my tree.  The real deal wouldn't fit in my Flat anyhow.




Monday, December 12, 2011

Running

Are we born to run?  Is running healthy for us?  Is it too hard on the body?  Is there a right way to run, or more importantly a wrong way?  What kind of shoes should we wear if we run ... or should we wear any at all?  So many questions.

Yep, I actually used to 'run' in these things
All that I can do here is tell my story of running.  It will add a piece to the overall puzzle and perhaps offer some insight for others to draw on.  Here it is:

I first began to run for fitness during my Freshman year of college.  And it didn't go well.  Very quickly I came up with an injury.  I can tell you now that it was Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), but it would be many years and a few doctors down the road until I figured that out.  All I knew was that if I ran too much my knee would hurt.  And no matter how macho I though I was or how much pain I could tolerate, this was something I couldn't just 'run through'.  It was very frustrating to be so young, feel virtually invincible, and yet not be able to simply run when I wanted to.  Fortunately, I was also into cycling at the time and somehow got into competitive stair climbing as well.  Neither of these activities gave me knee pain.  You would think stair climbing in particular would, especially since I was running up them.  Not the case though.  During the rest of my college years I never did take up serious running again, I was satisfied with cycling and eventually lots of walking (what comes around goes around - I walk a lot now too).

After I graduated, I moved out to Colorado and tried running for the second time.  In short order the same injury happened again.  This time, I at least figured out my problem by researching running injuries at the Library.  It wasn't easy to get information or find solutions this way (still pre Internet - we are soooo lucky now) but I found the 'standard' treatment protocall - stretching, rest, ice and good old motion control running shoes (what a friggin disaster those things are).  None of that helped the pain in my knee though.  If I simply ran too far, the pain would creep up and I had to back off.  The only thing I had going for me was running up mountains.  This was similar enough to stair climbing that I could tolerate it much better.  And so, like any strapping young lad who likes a challenge, I signed myself up for the Pikes Peak Ascent, betting that I could get enough training in without overcooking my IT Band.  In hindsight it was a pretty dumb idea.  What motivated me through all of my training was that I could go relatively fast uphill.  Much faster than most people.  And so I 'managed' my training by not going to long and then on race day I went for it.  Oh, I felt it during the last quarter of that race alright ... and as it turns our for weeks to come, but I pushed through the pain on that day and made my goal time.  Whoopie.

What was so frustrating was that there was obviously something very wrong with my running and yet I could do nothing to fix it.  Flummoxed, I pretty much quit running for awhile after that race with perhaps only a short outing here and there.  I was still into cycling and found a new love for weightlifting, but in the back of my mind I always wanted to just be able to run and run to my hearts content ... not to my IT bands command.

IT band strap ... been there
Fast forward a couple of more years and I make the move to Aspen.  This is where I meet and become one of the cadio crazy people that populate this beautiful area.  Again, I 'managed' my ITBS by not running over an hour or so at any given time.  I had to alternate days with cycling or skate skiing to make sure I didn't overdo it.  Also again,  I did some uphill running races (that's virtually any race here - not much to speak of  in the way of flatland) and did quite well.  Still, I dreamt of running all day on the beautiful mountain trails but knew this was out of reach with my ITBS.  What happened next turned out to be the instigator for the eventual overhaul of my running style, a process that would end up taking years.

I wish I had an exact term for the second type of major injury that set me back, but it was essentially just muscle trauma.  Basically, my Achilles area would become inflamed if I ran too fast.  Such as running races full throttle.  Are you kidding me?  So now I couldn't run too fast in addition to not being able to run too far.  What the?  I was fit to be tied.  I went to see a couple of specialists in the area (Chiro, ART etc.) determined to fix my problems.  Not only were they not of any help, they basically didn't think there were any lasting solutions for serious ITBS.

Fortunately for me, the Internet Machine was finally coming into it's own as a research tool by this time.  Thank goodness.  I was too stubborn to give up running both long and fast.  I was active with other things so this would not have broken me, it's just that I was now obsessed with finding a solution.

I'll finish my story in the next post.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Zephyr

I've been thinking a lot today about What Matters.  Its times like these that make you stand back and appreciate every precious moment we get.

For a small guy, you sure had a big fan club Z man.

R.I.P. my little buddy, I'll miss you more than you can imagine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

None of the Above

Does anybody remember the movie Brewster's Millions?  Specifically I'm talking about how he runs None of the Above for mayor.

Is it just me, or does this seem more applicable today than ever?  Yes, I'm talking politics.  No, I'm not going to get into it with anybody.  It just seems like the system is broken.  Those Jokers in D.C. can't get anything accomplished ... and then they play the blame game as to explain why.

And watching the Evening News - it's downright depressing.  The European Crisis, Fukushima, Syria, Murderings, Politics, Unemployment and on and on.  It's like watching a Soap Opera ... you tune in after a few months of going without and the plot is exactly the same, just different characters.

I'm taking a break from all of that negative information man.  It's the Holiday Season and there is a lot to be thankful for.  I have my Family, my Health, a few close friends, and a steady job.  Life is good.

Taking a few moments to be thankful for the opportunity to be here on this Earth experiencing Life in it's many different facets ... that is way cool.  And it's contagious.  If people see you enjoying your Lifestyle, it's likely to rub off.  Go ahead and give it a try.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Commuting to Work

I've lived in Aspen for over 13 years now (just a few more to be considered a local) and I can count on one hand the number of times I've used motorized transportation in order to get to work.  That means the other few thousand times I've walked or ridden my bicycle.  And I'm proud of it.  It's my little hat tip to Mother Earth.  Of course, living in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, Mother Earth doesn't always make it easy.  Here's a few tools I use to level the playing field:

Nokians.  These baby's are essential winter gear if you're crazy enough to even think about cycling to work in the winter.  And yes, I fall into that category.  These are Finnish made, 240 carbide studded, absolute monsters.  They set me back about 80 US Dollars a pop ... but they were worth every penny.  Ice is my main concern when riding in the winter here, and studded snowtires are the best bet to keep myself upright.  They are no guarantee of course, but they actually perform really, really well.  Surprisingly well in fact.  I believe I've only hit the deck like 3 or 4 times total so far ... not bad.  Sure, if I turn my tire sharply on ice with any kind of speed, I'll likely go down ... just like if you were to do that same thing in a car, you'd be doing donuts.  So, although awesome and essential, they're not a license to ride like a madman.  It's winter out there for goodness sake, I take my time and try to be as careful as I can.  And that's not always so easy when I'm bundled up like an Eskimo while trying to ride in sub zero degree weather.  On those days I sometimes question my sanity, but, not being able to shift gears aside, riding is still possible.  There are, however, those occasional 12 inch snow days when riding my bike just isn't an option (believe me I've tried) and so I break out some of these:

Studded Snow Cleats.  These are also essential.  Carbide studded cleats that pull over your shoes.  By the way, the carbide studs are important because they don't wear out ... nice feature.  Unfortunately, I pretty much need to use these things any day I choose to walk in the winter.  And that's because I have to walk through the West End of town which I believe, no I'm certain, is the absolute last place they snowplow in Aspen.  Have you ever seen those picturesque all white Winter streets that look so clean and beautiful?  Well, the West End is like that all Winter.  And as beautiful as it is, it's also a pain in the ass to walk or ride through.  Alright, enough of my little rant.  Having studded cleats to wear on that ice rink is a real lifesaver.  Another nice thing is that I just pop them off when I get to work and don't have to change shoes.  As important as it is to have good studs, its probably even more important to stave off hypothermia:

Wool socks with Toe Warmers.  Yep, gotta keep those little piggies nice and toasty.  The warmers themselves don't activate until you open them and stick them to your socks.  Once opened they last about 5 or 6 hours.  One word ... Awesome.  I've always had problems generating heat in my hands and toes, and these suckers have solved the toe issues (still working on the hands).  And probably the number one essential piece of clothing:

Neck Gaiter.  Absolute must have.  The dilly here is that you have options on how to wear it depending on the temperature.  When its freeze your fanny off cold, I have the thing pulled up over my nose and mouth.  As it gets less frigid, perhaps just over my chin.  Part of the awesomeness is that when it's 20 friggin below zero and you have the thing pulled up over you nose, you feel the heat and moisture from your breath on your face.  I wish that was funny, but there have been times when that was the only thing preventing my face from freezing off.

Winter Ninja
So, if Winters here can be so harsh to commute a pied or on two wheels, why don't I just take the free bus into town right?  What's the old saying - what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?  I don't know, like I said in the beginning, it's a small token to keep my personal impact on this planet down.  I may not do it for the rest of my life, but for now I've made a difference, and that's all that matters.

Now I want to be clear about something.  I'm not suggesting or even advocating that everybody needs to minimize their commuting impact.  Sure it would be nice if more people could, but we're all at different places on this journey called life.  Some people are way into recycling, some are going all green energy, some are even trying to unplug all together.  And still others could care less about all of this stuff.  If we were all the same, Life would be pretty boring.

Is there a Primal spin on all of this?  Not really.  I suppose my commute contributes significantly to my move around more often that not premise that I laid out in the Exercise post, but there are many ways you achieve that - most of which don't involve risking your life riding your bicycle in freezing weather, on the ice, to work.

PS  A few things before I hit publish on this
  1. It's -10 F here right now
  2. I just did my sprints outside
  3. I'm going to ride my bike into work in 5 minutes
  4. Perhaps I should stop by to see the Doc and have my head checked out

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No Shampoo

As we enter December, it reminded me that last year at this exact time I tried the 'No Shampoo' thing.  If you're not familiar with the idea, it's simple - give up shampoo and conditioner.  Just rinse your hair with the water in the shower.  What could be easier right? 

There are several reasons to consider making this change:
  • The first is that we don't want to be putting icky chemicals onto our scalp and hair.  And if you've ever looked at the ingredient list on most shampoos and conditioners - icky would be putting it mildly.  
  • The overall  health of your hair.  Having the natural oils from your scalp lube your hair is the way it has been for all of mankind previous to shampoo or soap.  Constantly stripping out these oils and 'replacing' them with waxy paraben substances really can't be that good. 
  • Cost.  Potentially you could save a boat load by ditching hair care products all together.
  • Time savings.   Think how much shorter your shower would be if you didn't use shampoo followed by conditioner.  Now add up that time savings for 365 showers a year.  Substantial.
Being a regular peruser of the Paleosphere I had encountered this idea before and had even read up on several people's personal experiments.  Naturally, some people did great with it and others ...  not so much.  But most importantly, all came away with a new experience.  I decided I would finally give it a try myself and at least stick with it a couple of months.

The fist two weeks were the 'messiest', and from my reading, I knew they would be.  Your hair and scalp are used to having their oils stripped out everyday.  When you instantly stop the stripping, you're left with an overproduction for a short period.  So greasy it was.  It didn't bother me too much.  Yeah, I looked more like a greaseball, no other way to put it, but I pushed on.  For the first month I didn't use anything in the shower for my hair except water.  And I gave up soap by the way too.  I only used it to wash my bottom.  Basically I was just rinsing my whole body with water and then drying off.  In and out.

After one month's time I came to two conclusions.  First, not using shampoo left my hair greasier than before.  No big surprise here.  The initial greasefest of the first two weeks tapered off, but it was still greasier than normal.  Second, there was actually a benefit to having a bit of extra oil in my hair - it was easier to manage.  In the winter I have to wear a hat on my commute to work (it can be a wee bit cold up here) and it usually leaves my hair messed up by the time I get there.  Well, with some natural oil on it, I could manage my hair better after taking off my hat.

Now, easier to manage notwithstanding, I personally don't think my hair looks better when it's greasier.  That's just me.  So, following some of the tips I had previously read, I started to use a rinse with baking soda added to some water.  This effectively removes some of the oil from your hair.  I only used it maybe 5 or 6 times for the next two months, but I could tell a difference after I did.  As in my hair looked better.  Nevertheless, I continued until the end of February whereupon I began using shampoo again.  I actually don't use conditioner ... never have.  I'm very glad I gave this experiment a try, but in the end, this wasn't something for me to implement into my lifestyle long term  (although I did ditch the soap permanently).

Shower Filter
Conclusions.  If my hair had looked really fabulous, I probably would have continued with the no shampoo thing for good.  It was really easy and saved a little time.  The reality is, I have some vanity.  You wouldn't think so by the very simple and not so stylish way I dress myself, but I learned that, indeed, I prefer my hair to be clean looking.  I say this first because it may bias my next line of reasoning ... which is, I don't think that using shampoo to clean your hair actually leaves you very vulnerable to all of the nasty chemicals in the bottle.  You put it in your hair, mix it about, and then rinse it off fairly quickly.  There really is no 'soaking in' time involved.  Conditioner may be different, I'm not familiar with that.  But even if conditioner, or say some gel, was left in your hair ... it's your hair by golly.  I don't think it soaks back into your skin from there.  I could be wrong about that, but it doesn't seem likely.  We're not talking about stuff like lotions and sunscreens that you slather on your naked skin and leave there all day.  Now that stuff I don't do unless I have to.  Anyway, when I'm in the shower, much more of a concern of mine is having my body exposed to the chlorine in the water ... especially from a nice hot shower.  That's why having a chlorine filter for my shower water is more important to me than if I use shampoo or not.  I know everybody has different results and thoughts on this subject, but those are mine and I'm sticking to them.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'm a Lefty - Sometimes

When I was 18 or so I decided to use my left hand when eating cereal.  For no other reason than to try something different I suppose ... I didn't injure my right hand or anything.  It was quite challenging, especially since I ate so much cereal back then!  I'm naturally right handed and I couldn't believe how weird it felt to be doing something so simple with my non-dominant hand.  Also around this time I intentionally changed the way I held a pen/pencil in my right hand.  For some reason I had chosen an odd grip as a youngster and as a result my handwriting was atrocious.  So to improve it, I went with a more conventional grip and practiced by writing a little bit everyday.  I struggled with it until eventually it became my new normal, but as with eating the cereal lefty, it felt very awkward.

Which way do I turn?
These two episodes led me on a quest to become ambidextrous.  Or at least somewhat ambidextrous.  Since then, I've made a very conscious effort to use my left hand in everyday living situations.  I eat with my left hand.  I comb my hair with my left hand.  I shave with my left hand.  I brush the right side of my teeth with my right hand and my left side with my left hand.  Anything new that I try at this point in my life, I like to split time between my right and left sides.  Now mind you, I'm still right handed.  With few exceptions, using my left hand side is not as effective, or how shall I say, feels weaker than when using my right hand side.  Also, because my coordination on this side isn't quite the same, almost everything I do ends up taking longer to accomplish.

Aside from the simple everyday tasks I mentioned above, I've spent the most time learning how to throw a ball and swing a club (and bat) lefty.  I'm pretty athletic and can do these things efficiently with my right hand side.  However, when I initially tried these things with my opposite hand I ended up throwing like a girl.  It was downright frustrating at first.  Frustrating really does describe that internal feeling when you're doing something you already know how to do well, yet, when you simply switch sides, you can barely do at all.  It actually takes a fair bit of persistence and patience to keep playing this little 'game' as it's very tempting to just go back to your dominant side.



At this point I can throw and swing lefty pretty darn good.  I can't really, really wind up and launch one, but I certainly don't look like a rookie either.  When my brother and I have a catch (throw a ball to each other over conversation) we do so ambidextrously, and an untrained eye probably couldn't pick out our dominant hand.  My brother happens to be a natural lefty.  I have a theory that it's much easier for lefty's to do things right handed since they are forced to live in a right handed world (I believe we outnumber them something like 9 to 1).  Why is that by the way?  You would think that either everybody would use the same side or we would pretty much be split down the middle.  Just thinking out loud here.

The hardest thing I've tried to do with my opposite hand has to be writing.  I can do it ... but only if I go really slowly.  And even then, it just doesn't look very neat.  In today's world with computers and smartphones and texting, people just don't use handwriting that much.  In order to even give it a try, you might have to be doing it just for the sake of practice.  I tried writing some orders at work with my left hand, but it just ended up taking too long.  I still think it's a fine goal to learn to write with your opposite hand, it's very challenging to say the least, but I would first recommend trying simple everyday tasks.

Here is a small sampling of things to try with your opposite hand/side:
  • Insert keys/Open doors 
  • Use computer touchpad/mouse
  • Turn faucet/shower knobs
  • Use television remote control
  • Comb hair, Brush teeth
  • Eat/Drink
  • Put on/take off sunglasses (for those of us not in the Pacific NW)
  • Shovel snow
  • Dial cell phone (do people still do this?)

As I said earlier, this little project of mine is something I work on here and there to challenge myself, but not a full tilt mission to become ambidextrous.  Actually, I rather look at this as neurological exercise.  It's different from both book learning and full on physical exercise.  There's probably a term for what kind of 'inroading' this type of activity delivers, but I'm not familiar with it.  I just know that trying things with my non-dominant side is challenging and a unique way to keep things fresh.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Intermittent Fasting

I've been thinking about whether I should conclude the Foundations series with Intermittent Fasting or leave it at Food, Exercise and The Three S's.  As much as I believe in Intermittent Fasting for health and beyond, it's not truly essential and I will therefore let it stand on it's own.

We all Intermittently Fast whether we like it or not.  The time between your meals, and in particular from your last meal of the day until your first one the next day, is technically a Fast.   Your body uses this time to fully digest and utilize the nutrients from the food you've consumed.  If you don't give yourself enough time between meals to accomplish this basic task, you'll fall behind on other important things such as repair and removal of unwanted cellular material (Autophagy).  This is where Intermittent Fasting (IF'ing) comes in.  It's essentially a tool that gives your body a chance to sort things out properly and deliver a shot in the arm to your immune system in the process.

My Breakfast yesterday
Many people have a knee jerk reaction to the idea of Fasting.  You hear things like ... 'But I don't want my body to think it's starving and hold onto fat'  or  'If I don't eat every few hours my blood sugar will tank and I'll flop around like a wet mop'  or my fave 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day'.  If any of these were the case, the human race would not have made it this far and we wouldn't even be here having this discussion.  Our ancestors ate what they could, when they could.  What they ate was totally dependent on animal and plant availability where they were currently living.  And when they ate was a matter of whenever they could get their hands on anything edible.  I don't think I'll stretch your imagination to have you believe that most of the time they likely didn't have three squares a day.  Maybe sometimes they did.  But I'd bet more often than not, their eating schedule was very erratic.  Something we could possibly term as Random Intermittent Fasting.  I imagine this is the way it was for a long, long time.  Not until the agricultural revolution and the rise of civilization did we begin to have enough food to even think about consuming it on a regular, scheduled basis.

Does this mean that if you don't implement some IF'ing into your lifestyle you're screwed?  No.  Plenty of people don't make a habit of it and do just fine.  I personally use it because I think it has some serious potential upside for health and longevity and little, or no, downside.  If you think you might want to give this technique a try, there are a number of different ways to go about it.  I'm going to list a few methods, but I don't think any one way is better than the rest.  Ultimately, the best method is the one that is the most comfortable and sustainable for you personally.

Random IF'ing.  Going without food whenever you feel like it.  Skipping a meal here and there.  Skipping food for a whole day now and then.  Mixing it up.  Our genes are probably wired up for this method as a result of our ancestors eating habits.  And as fortune would have it, random fasting probably fits right in with most people's unpredictable, hectic schedules.

Daily IF'ing.  Having an 'eating window' each day.  A 16 hour fast followed by a 8 hour window is popular.  I'd say anywhere from a 16 to 20 hour fast each day would be ideal.  If you're more active, lean toward the 16 hours, if not so much, 18 to 20 might work better for you.  There are even some people who like to eat only one large meal every 24 hours.

My Breakfast today
Weekly IF'ing.  Fasting for a 24 hour period once a week.

Monthly IF'ing.  Fasting for a 36 to 48 hour period once a month. 

There are many more ways to try this stuff.  For instance, you could do Daily IF'ing during the week and then eat three squares on the weekends.  Or you could do the Random option while also incorporating Monthly IF'ing.   I do want to mention here that with Intermittent Fasting, I'm not talking about going 72 hours or more without food.  I would call that straight up Fasting.  Perhaps this type of long Fasting serves a purpose in some situations, but I don't think it's anything you would want to do on a regular basis.

I've personally been doing the Daily IF'ing protocol for over two years now.  I eat two large meals a day, starting my eating window at noon and finishing my evening meal between 6:30 and 7.  If I'm out with friends and end up eating later, or for some reason I need to have lunch at 11:30 ... I don't sweat it.  I just resume my regular timing the next day.  Giving up breakfast has been a wonderful thing for me.  As Forest Gump said 'It's one less thing I have to worry about'.  It's that simple.

My Breakfast tomorrow
Back in my chronic cardio days I was in the 'eat every two to three hours' camp.  Gotta keep fueling those muscles you know.  This is partly why I ate so many energy bars.  With so many mini meals a day, I didn't exactly have enough time to prepare all of my food from scratch.  Looking back, it was mentally draining to be thinking about eating all of the time.  What to eat for Breakfast?  Before training?  During training?  Post workout?  Lunch?  Snack?  Dinner?  Geeesh.  When I first made the switch, I was worried about performance drop off and losing muscle mass, especially since I would be (and still am) training in a fasted state in the mornings.  Well, no such thing happened.  If anything, I have more energy and focus in the mornings with an empty stomach.  Instead of me going into the specifics of why this is the case, I'll let a professional handle this one.  Martin Berkhan has a site called leangains where pretty much all he does is dismantle the notion that Intermittent Fasting will shrivel you up into a shell of your former self.  And quite the opposite, you can easily gain muscle this way - if that's your goal.

So let me sum it up.  Intermittent Fasting is a powerful tool you can use to improve your overall health.  It's gives your body a chance to recharge your immune system and clear out some of the junk in your cells.  You can do it daily, sparingly, or not at all.  It's works well for some people and is just too much trouble for others. And it won't sap your energy or shrink your muscles.

As with anything new, if you try Intermittent Fasting for the first time, you can expect your body to encounter a learning curve.  When I first ditched breakfast, I was hungry when lunch rolled around.  This happened for a week or so, but faded quickly.  I think hunger is something most people don't truly experience very often ... usually they eat just because 'it's time'.  Anyways, have fun with it and remember it's just a tool.  A very powerful tool.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Foundations - The Three S's

 Sleep, Stress, Sunshine

Continuing with the foundations of a solid Primal lifestyle we come to the three S's.  Unlike the first two foundations of Food and Exercise, I think there is less controversy about the nuts and bolts of how to optimize our levels of sleep, stress and sunshine.  However, like the first two foundations, each person will have to find what works best for them and their situation.  Notice a theme here?

Plenty of Sun today in Aspen
Most people recognize how important these three things are in their lives.  Getting plenty of sleep, reducing your stress and optimizing sunshine are, well, foundations of good health.  The tricky part is finding the time and putting forth the effort to make them happen.  Here are some of the way's I go about it:

Sleep.  Ah, one of my favorite things!  I love sleep.  And I'm good at it.  We should all get plenty of sleep and wake up only when we're good and rested.  We should go to bed by 10 and sleep in a pitch black room.  We should turn off our electrical devices early, leaving us plenty of time to unwind and think about the day that happened and plan for the day ahead.  And then there is reality.

I think the idea of sleeping in a very dark room is sound advice.  If you can make it happen, do it.  Below is a pic of my homemade setup that I've rigged to shut out most of the light.  With the ring method I came up with it's not much work to put them up every night, but real black out shades/blinds would be easier.  I also usually wear an eye mask to bed (I use a spandex cycling headband as I don't like the thickness of real eye masks) and I think this is the real secret.  We want to minimize the light on our retina's, as well as on the rest of our body, to start melatonin production and enter the sleep cycle.   Since I actually sleep under my covers, most of my body doesn't get exposed to light even if I didn't use window shading.   So while total darkness is ideal, a good eye mask goes a long way ... and it's perfect for when you travel.

Nice look huh?
But real easy to do

I also wear earplugs when I sleep.  I started this a few years back when I had some noisy neighbors.  The neighbors are gone, but I've enjoyed the quiet so much that I won't give up the plugs.  I don't consider these essential, and for most people they're not practical, but silence is truly golden.

As a result of wearing earplugs I discovered what I believe to be the second most important thing for sleep, after the eye mask.  A vibrating alarm watch.  I'll never set an electronic alarm again.  Waking up to the piercing sound of one of those things just gets you up on the wrong side of the bed.  Vibrating alarm watches are very effective, relatively cheap, and not surprisingly, made with deaf people in mind.

Stress.  Having a type B personality, my internal stress levels are generally pretty low.  On top of that, I don't have a stressful job and I'm single.   At a restaurant I once worked at, in the middle of a crazy shift, the owner/executive Chef pulled me aside and said 'if we could just bottle your temperament and spread it around'.  Stress is not a problem for me personally. 

I suppose the previous article that I wrote What Matters? is relevant here.  Take a step back when you're feeling stressed and put things in perspective.  I know ... that's not exactly ground breaking stuff.  Try this instead ... throughout the day, and especially when you go to bed, consciously relax your facial muscles.  Really relax them.  I'm not going to theorize as to why this seems to work so well, but it's so simple and effective that you should at least give it a whirl.

Yoga. Tai Chi. Puzzles. Meditation.  Popping your boss across the smacker with a left hook.  These are other things you can try if your stress level is out of control.  I'm not saying that someone who is Type A should strive to become a Type B person, they should just try to reduce their overall stress.  Being stressed out all of the time will sabotage all of the other positive lifestyle changes you make on your journey to becoming healthier.   Remember, this Primal/Paleo thing isn't a diet or exercise plan, rather, it's a template for better living all the way around.  Getting your stress levels under control is big part of that.

Sunshine.
  With all of the current Sun-phobia out there, optimizing Sun time is probably a little more controversial than the first two S's.  However, I think it's becoming apparent from current research just how important having good levels of vitamin D is for our health.  And absolutely the best way to get vitamin D is by exposing your skin to the Sun.  Don't burn yourself, but also don't err on the complete other side and never get any Sun at all.  It's all about balance. 

How much is too much?  How much is enough?  Lots of variables will determine what you need.  The way to know for sure is to have your Vitamin D levels checked.  Then adjust your outside time accordingly and perhaps supplement in the winter. 

I also recommend against using sunscreen in most cases.  Your skin is the largest organ of your body and absorbs whatever you slather onto it.  Sunscreens usually have a nasty list of ingredients you don't exactly want to be soaking up on a regular basis.  Now having said that, using sunscreen is better than getting a burn.  But if you find yourself needing to use it too often, consider changing your habits. 

The Sun is pretty intense up here in the Rocky Mountains.  In the Summer I wear a very breathable long sleeve shirt when I'm out walking and take it off only for a short time to soak in the rays.  I slowly increase the time I go shirtless throughout the season.  And usually in October sometime, I start taking Vitamin D supplements. 

Sleep, Stress, and Sunshine.  It's all about optimizing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Foundations - Exercise II

As I mentioned in the previous article, moving around a lot and working hard physically are the foundations for an active body.  There are many different ways to accomplish these things, and many ways to make them so much harder than they need to be.

My Sprints yesterday.  Yeah, it was cold.
Here is my story:
I currently do a few short, intense bouts of exercise a week, along with some walking and lots of moving around ( I'm on my feet all day at work).  I do mostly body weight exercises and sprints.  But this has not always been the case.

From the time I was 18 until a few years ago, I was a chronic cardio athlete.  Cycling and running were my passions.  In my early 20's I put in a fair share of miles and raced now and then, but I wouldn't say I was over the top.  Then I moved to Aspen.  People's idea of exercise here is not normal.  I see that now, but I quickly fell into the trap and became one of 'them'.  What most would consider an 'Epic' would be just a routine outing for locals here.  Seriously, it's pretty nuts.  But who can blame us with the incredible mountain scenery and beautiful Colorado weather?  Maybe it's the lack of oxygen at 8000', but for years and years I defined myself by what cardio training I was doing.  I would be chomping at the bit to get out of work and go exercise.  It was an addiction.  An addiction that required lots of fuel from food to sustain.  And like most athletes, my food choices were not exactly made with health first in mind.

When I finally convinced myself that I needed to make some nutritional changes, I knew I had to change my activity level as well.  Turns out what I needed the most was to just drop the excessive cardio miles.  With a light manual labor job and a weekly weightlifting session in addition to the cardio, I was just flat out doing too much activity.  This slow beat down of my body was coming to an end.  I now only run or ride when I really feel like it (maybe 15 times this summer) and instead concentrate on working out in a much more efficient, effective, and safe manner.

Lifting.  I've been lifting weights at gyms for over 15 years, having tried all kinds of different protocols and splits.  Two years ago I gave up my expensive gym membership and started hitting the local playgrounds for my workouts.  Using my body weight, and sometimes adding a backpack full of weights, I've found that these places are a goldmine for fun and fitness.  I mainly do pull ups, chin ups, push ups, dips and presses, but there is so much to explore and play with if you just set your imagination free.  This video is exactly what I'm talking about.
After finishing my workout one day I was just looking at those bars and decided to 'swing' across them and see what I felt.  Turns out it's quite a bicep and back burner.  Especially if you add some weights.  I'll post more on my playground workouts in the future, but as the cold has set in here, I'm currently lifting inside my apartment.  Below are a few pics from my workout today.  As you can see, I have a pull up bar that breaks down when not in use (I'll do a review of this piece of equipment sometime).  I only had it at half height today and used the Grid roller to assist with super slow movements.  It's just something I came up with.  I'll probably do a post more specifically on my indoor workouts too.  Geesh  ... lots of promises for future posts. 

Sprints.  Right now I do running sprints twice a week.  If you're not into running fast, you could certainly try swimming or cycling sprints.  I sprint all out for 15 to 20 seconds, 6 times, with a couple of minutes to recover between each burst.  Some people prefer to do 30 second intervals with less recovery time.  And still others like to mix and match intensity and duration.  Whatever floats your boat.

Indoor workout
Sprinting hard, but not necessarily at 100% maximum effort, is essential.  The reason for this is that you want  to 'drain your tank'.  Your glycogen tank that is.  Working very hard for short durations accomplishes this wonderfully.  You do not completely deplete the glycogen stores in your muscles, but the goal is to get your body to draw down on these reserves occasionally.  In this regard, sprinting offers an incredible bang for your buck.

I would caution people to slowly increase the intensity level with their sprinting.  If you pay close attention to your body, you can build up to sprinting very hard while at the same time minimizing your injury potential.
This is getting a little long and I still have more to add.  I suppose I should just do an in depth article on sprinting sometime too.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Foundations - Exercise

Perhaps it's hard for people to agree on what foods are healthy,  but surely we can all agree that exercise is good.  Just make sure you get plenty of it ... right?  Wellllll.

As with nutrition, there are a myriad of different opinions out there as to what an optimal exercise routine looks like.  And also as with nutrition, there are simply too many variables and too much differentiation among the population for a one size fits all approach.  However, I do believe there are some core principles that form the base of a solid exercise platform, and lifestyle in general.
My Niece running

  • Move around more often than not
  • Work hard physically once in awhile
and do these in a context that is:
  • Effective
  • Efficient
  • Safe

Really, I think things can be boiled down that easily.  Of course it's up to you to choose the details and decide how to implement them into your own life.  I'm going to go into more depth below, but seriously,  just look at those bullet points above and chew on their simplicity.

Move around more often than not.  This should not come as a surprise.  Being active is a no brainer.  What I'm peddling here, however, is your total time moving throughout the day.  If you have a sit down job, sit down for lunch, sit in your car or the bus on your commute, sit down for dinner and then sit on the couch to watch the tube in the evening ... Wellllll.  In this scenario, even if you manged to work in a 45 minute walk a few days a week and some heavy lifting -  you're still behind the 8 ball.  Take a look at your body.  Whether you believe we were designed or have evolved, we are clearly not meant to sit down for the majority of the day.

And no, running or chronic cardio in general will not put some non-linear dent into sit time.  That is, 2 hours of running does not negate 8 or 10 hours of sitting.  It doesn't work like that.  And besides, excessive cardio has drawbacks of it's own. 

So what do you do if you have a desk job and commute sitting down?  I don't have specific answers for you, but if it was me (and I don't fall into this category by the way) I would make sure the rest of my day was spent on my feet moving around.  Everyday, no matter what?  No.  I'm saying make it a goal to move more ... over the long haul of life.

Me at the playground
Work hard physically once in awhile.  This one is more situation dependent.  Working hard for a 70 year old woman will be different than working hard for a teenager.  The difference is not important.  What is important is that you work hard for you.  Bone crushing, puke on your shoes, see the white buffalo in the sky hard?  No.  Knock yourself out now and again if you are so inclined, but that level of intensity is not required.  And just like chronic cardio, this stuff has the potential to do more harm than good if overused.

Some obvious examples of working hard would be lifting weights, sprinting, body weight exercises, or say, building a brick wall with your bare hands.  What is the best way to work hard physically you ask?  Well ... as long as you work in a fashion that is effective, efficient, and safe, I would say pick your passion.

EffectiveEfficient.  Safe.  When going through your everyday life, and in particular when you exercise, you should ask yourself if these three things apply to whatever it is that you're doing.  They should.  Let me give you an example of a fail in this department.  A couple of years ago I gave up my gym membership and was finding new ways to work hard outside.  Playgrounds were my first find, and they are amazing.  But I wasn't satisfied.  Long story short, one day while holding a 60 pound rock above my head that I had just lifted off the ground, it dawned on me that this really wasn't that safe.  Actually, it was quite dangerous.  It also happened to be really effective and efficient, but you see, you need to have ALL three of these things at the same time.

This is why I'm in favor of slowing down rep speed and reducing the total weight when lifting.  Concentrating on muscular tension and fatigue (failure if you're more advanced) will bring about much the same physiological response as lifting very heavy weights, and in a much safer manner. 

In part II of this article I'll talk about my specific exercise journey and what I currently do for fun.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Foundations - Food II

Freezer full of meat
Of all of the information from the paleosphere that I was now immersing myself in, I think the most influential for me was the notion that, at best, grains do not offer us any nutrients that we cannot get from other places.  And far worse, that they are likely problematic for everybody in some scalar fashion.  The other thing that struck me was how pervasive seed oils are in the Standard American Diet.  They are literally everywhere you look.  And they, too, only have a downside as far as I can see.

As I transitioned into the Primal lifestyle I found myself eating less and less from these two big categories and then eventually eliminating them completely.  I don't have a date marked when total avoidance came, but it has been a few years by now.  Around this time I also began to do daily Intermittent Fasting and ditched breakfast.  I'll talk more about this in detail in a future foundations post.  So basically, I eat two large meals a day and have for quite some time.  It works well for me and my schedule.

I'm notorious for eating the same thing over and over.  While it's true I do have a few base foods for my two meals, they do in fact change over time.  Nonetheless, if you aren't actually me and just observe my foods for several weeks - things may look strange.  Like I've mentioned before, I like things simple and that's just how I roll.  Lots of people love trying out different recipes and various food combinations, and more power to them.

To break it down, I basically eat grass fed red meat, fish, sweet potatoes, veggies, eggs, yogurt, a few nuts and fruits, and dark chocolate.  I cook with coconut oil and butter, and use a bit of lemon juice now and again.  I think there is plenty of variety within these choices, especially when I mix in different spices and sea salt with my evening meal.

A couple of years ago I started to purchase meat from our Farmers Market in the summer and tried several different animals.  As Fall rolled around, I decided to purchase a quarter of a grass fed buffalo for my winter supply.  It worked out great.  If you can afford the up front cost and have the freezer space, this is a super deal.  In addition to getting a mix of cuts and ground meat, the Farmer will usually include livers, hearts, bones etc.  The buffalo guy threw in all of this stuff for free saying that they usually end up just feeding it to their dogs.  Lucky dogs!   This summer I purchased a quarter of a grass fed cow and topped it off with some ground buffalo and lamb to last me the winter. 

This pic on the left is what I had for lunch today.  I also had a banana and some dark chocolate later as I was still hungry.  My other lunch go to meal is sardines, a sweet potato, a couple of soft boiled eggs and some yogurt.  I almost always eat at noon.

Lunch
And the pic below was dinner.  That's a half pound of meat.  The cuts vary as I work my way through the quarter.  Usually I lightly fry the veggies in coconut oil and then add the meat.  Sometimes I use the slow cooker for tougher cuts.  I cook the eggs sunny side up and add them to the meat and veggie mix.  Copious amounts of grass fed butter always accompany the sweet potato.  The more the better.
Dinner
 
So that's the diet in a nutshell.  As I said, new things do get rotated in and out.  For awhile I was eating macadamia nuts a few times a week with lunch.  And before I was having so many sweet potatoes, I consumed more avocados.  I rarely go out to eat.  When I do, I usually go for a meat entree with either a potato or veggies.  If I have an appetizer or dessert that is not so much Paleo, I don't sweat it.  I think one of my secrets is that I really enjoy my meals and look forward to them everyday.  I don't have to think much about what I'm eating and consider my meals to be very nutrient dense.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Foundations - Food

I was just taking a walk and mulling over how to write a post about what food choices form the basis of a healthy diet.  Needless to say ... way, way too many thoughts went through my mind.  So many different opinions, so many different angles, so much information.  Not that I was entertaining any notion of writing the definitive guide on the subject or anything.  The best solution I can come up with is to point to two of the finest eating templates that I've yet encountered.  I am referring to Dr. Paul Jaminets' Perfect Health Diet and Dr. Kurt Harris' Archevore  plan.  They are both brief yet thorough.  While there is obviously no one optimal plan for everybody, I encourage those who are not familiar with these simple guides to take some time and look them over.

Okay now the easy part - I'll fill you in on my food choices and how they have evolved over the past few years.

I must start out by saying that I've never been overweight.  Not as a child, not as an adult.  Also, I've never really felt bad or noticed any dire consequences from my food choices.  I wanted to make this clear because there was never a tipping point (Mark Sisson, ironically, just did an article on this) that lead me to this lifestyle.  Actually, my background is a lot like Mark's in that I too was a chronic cardio athlete and made food choices to mainly fuel my activities (lots of grains and carbs in general).  Instead, I've long been interested in learning about nutrition, and the awesomeness that is the information superhighway has led me over time to make choices tilted more in favor of my overall health.

I would say this began in earnest after I read Good Calories Bad Calories by Taubes in the fall of '07.  I didn't automatically banish all carbs from my diet right then and there, but I remember vividly thinking over the saying 'to work up an appetite'.  That struck a chord with me.  I was doing this all of the time with my endurance running, cycling and skate skiing.   Now though, as I'm getting older, my brain is starting to win the battle with my body over making food choices.  Instead of making them to fuel my lifestyle, I make them with overall health as my number one objective.  And my lifestyle, and in particular my exercise patterns, have changed to match this goal as well.

So several years ago I began cutting back on the endurance training as well as the carbs in my diet.  The beautiful thing about this was that junk food was the first thing to go.  I'm talking mainly about energy bars and gels.  They are the backbone of chronic cardio training as they are fast and easy.  They are also almost pure sugar ... even if they are called natural or organic (date paste packs one helluva wallop).  I  started to prepare most of my meals for myself around this time too.  Not spending hours and hours training after work all of a sudden opened up some time for me to actually use my kitchen.  Instead of just grabbing sushi or a sandwich from the store, I was beginning to take the time to shop for fresh vegetable and meats - and the Farmers Market became my new best friend.  And so my Paleo/Primal journey was beginning to take shape and I would soon ditch the grains, legumes and seed oils from my diet as well.  In the next post I'll conclude with my current food choices and overall eating strategy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finding Information

My intent with this series, and with this blog in general, is to write down my experiences and thoughts about the Primal Lifestyle.  I'm going to start with a foundation series where I map out my journey with what I think are some of the basic tenets.  This first one is going to be about the FOOD.

I wanted to preface with the above paragraph because I would like to make clear that I do not intend to discuss or debate what is or is not exactly Paleo or Primal, or what the science tells us today, or what our ancestors did in regards to food and exercise.  All of this stuff is very relevant and necessary to consider, but there are so many others out there in the Paleosphere with way more brain power than I have that seem to find no lack of words on these topics.  I should know because I've been reading up on this subject everyday for years now.

Z Man
 Post break.  My friend just brought over her cat because he's not feeling so well.  Might be something in her apartment, so he's going to hang with me for the night.  That's him over there in the pic.  Okay, back to Paleo talk...

If you want in depth analysis and information about these ideas I highly recommend checking out the 'What I read' links and my blogroll on the sidebar.  All of these sites have jumps to other links that they in turn recommend, and some even have great books that they themselves have authored.  If your like me, you will read a few books and then settle in with some favorite sites and blogs that you reference frequently.

Information overload is easily possible.  But don't let this be an excuse to throw your hands up and say that there is too much to learn or that nobody agrees on what is healthy and what is not.  There is debate out there to be sure ... but you need to take in what information you can handle, decide what makes sense to you, and then apply the things that work for your current situation.  In the end, nobody can just tell you the exact path to leading a healthier life.  We're all different and our bodies respond in different ways.  You can hire people to help you make these choices, but I suspect that if your eyes are falling on these words then you have at least taken to some measure of gathering information for yourself.  Good on you for that!

Okay, this post has become more of a primer on how it's empowering to find health information, and how we need to make our own decisions with this knowledge.  So I guess I'll just finish with a though on this subject and then start talking about my experiences next time.

Part of what I dig about this Paleo/Primal movement is how bottom up it is.  There aren't any large corporations (or governments for that matter) that are involved yet.  If anything, these big guys are fighting against us because of our potential to take away from their bottom lines.  One way to look at it is that most of the people who are writing, reporting, analyzing, and sharing these ideas aren't getting rich from it - I'd say most aren't getting paid at all.  This lifestyle is spreading because it is relatively fun and easy to implement, and ends up working for a good lot of people.  A growing number of people out there are living proof.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

What Matters?

I think I'll start off my blogging life by asking ... What matters We each need to ask ourselves this question every now and then to reevaluate what is important in our lives.  What was top priority a few years ago may not be so high on the list right now.  Stop and take a moment.  What matters?  Think about it before you go to bed tonight.  What matters?

The reason I keep asking this question is probably obvious.  Once you figure out what's important, then you may start the process of making things happen.  Now, I'm not actually asking you to list your goals, break them down into short term, long term, make a plan, blah, blah, blah.  This is not some sort of self help 'What Color is Your Parachute' type question.

Family.  Health.  Career.  Friends.  Security.  These are things that come to mind for me.  And one of the best ways I think we can enrich our lives is to act on what is important to us everyday.  Keeping the things that matter to you most in the forefront is truly helpful.