Category Archives: Healthy Eating

My experiences with Intermittent Fasting

First, if you haven’t heard about Intermittent Fasting (IF), and their alleged health benefits, check out:

Myriad Benefits of Intermittent Fasting (Marks Daily Apple)

fasting once in a while seems to offer many of the same benefits of calorie restriction – you know, stuff like increased longevity, neuroprotection, increased insulin sensitivity, stronger resistance to stress, some cool effects on endogenous hormone production, increased mental clarity, plus more – but without the active, agonizing restriction. You just eat Primally, focusing on meat and vegetables with plenty of animal fat, and skip meals on occasion.

How To: Intermittent Fasting (Marks Daily Apple)

Interview with Martin Berkhan (Leangains)  , a shorter protocol post and his Leangains guide that has some good links on notes on his way of IF that he recommends (Martin is totally jacked, so for the layperson just starting don’t get discouraged by the long-lead on implementing anything like this)

First off, I really like IF and do it intentionally and unintentionally fairly frequently (didn’t bring lunch yesterday and forgot it today, and usually don’t eat breakfast if I didn’t work out in the morning). With that said, I think it contributes to my current weird eating habits and I recognize in my normal day I’m not “doing” it correctly.

As I’ve noted before, I eat pretty much Paleo + Dairy. No bread or flour. Occasional snacks like granola bars, but that’s really the only grains I eat besides the social function pizza or birthday cake that not immune to. I’m far from perfect though, eating ice cream probably too frequently and too frequently imbibing in my homebrew wine or other distilled spirits. But overall, I’m ok with my diet and have even and steady energy and blood sugar day-in and day-out regardless of if I IF or not. No blood sugar spikes here.

Contrast that to earlier days when I’d have low-fat cereal or some breakfast bar in the morning. Crash-city mid morning where I’d be ravenous. These days, I’ll skip breakfast entirely, unless I work out in the morning in which case I will fry up a few eggs and veggies before getting out the door. My first meal on most days is lunch.  Occasionally, like yesterday and today, I’ll go from a midnight snack (more on this in a second) to dinner at 5-6:00 pm. Then I’ll fill up with a delicious roast, potatoes, and carrots (or a large amount of chicken or beef taco meat and fixins, or similar). Then I’ll probably eat again before bed as I usually am hungry again (I don’t stuff myself like at Thanksgiving dinner, just maybe a little more than usual). I don’t really count calories or carbs or anything, just sort of eat until I feel satiated.

For me, the longer fasting periods work better if I don’t work out, because if I do work out after fasting I do feel like I lose a little energy and boost in my lifts. I know the links above says that performance shouldn’t be impacted, but I find it does. I do like working out on an near empty stomach, but not eating for a while beforehand does seem to impact my workouts. And after working out in either short or long fasting duration I NEED to get a protein shake then eat shortly thereafter following the workout. That’s where I am about to crash. Even when fasting prior to a workout though, I’m able to get through the lifting or HIIT without crashing and burning, it just feels a little more lethargic than normal.

Now I fasted frequently as a high school wrestler, where cutting weight often comes with the territory. I’m used to that feeling, but honestly, fasting and feeling “a little hungry” isn’t that uncomfortable if you’re not a carb monster. If you’ve turned paleo and are eating good fats, and meat and aren’t going too crazy on the carbs, your body will have gotten used to a decent set point already using your own fat stores. I think IF further promotes this aspect as well, and the studies seem to support this.

What I find though, is that this approach to eating (skipping breakfast, occasional longer IF) has led to me waking up hungry, needing food and midnight snacking. Nearly every night I find myself eating nuts or a bowl of cottage cheese or maybe some ice cream. I think if I ate normal meal schedule I wouldn’t do this. And I’m sure this, along with the other dietary choices, contribute to me being unable to lose that last 5-10 lb of fat. My weight has been consistent for a few years now, and body composition (especially now that I have visible muscles) is still better than most, but I’m no different than anyone else in feeling 10% bodyfat is better than 15%.

So you can be strict and follow the Leangains protocol, or do like me and let it come naturally. Eating like this is very easy and I’m able to maintain my workouts and body composition with little effort. I think a few tweaks (like teetotalling and actually eating more “good” food before bed instead of leaving my midnight dieting snacks to my half-asleep brain) would leave me looking even better, but I personally really like IF as part of a long-term and sustainable healthy living approach.

With all that said, if I was trying to gain muscle and weight, like I was a few years ago, or if you were a Lift Big Eat Big kind of gal or girl, or really trying to gain strength for a competition, I would not do IF. Now Martin at Leangains may find success with this, but I think if you really want to feed more muscles for growth, you need to simply eat more.

If you’ve tried it, I’d be interested in hearing your experiences as well.

Health and Strength Maintenance Mode

I will admit that right now I’m not super motivated on the strength and fitness side. Food-wise things are as steady as she goes (I do a fair amount of intermittent fasting, decent amount of higher protein and fat diet, some fruit and dairy, with probably not enough vegetables). Things could always be a little tighter, but where I am at is not difficult at all to eat well. On the other side of the fence I am 100% in maintenance mode with limited motivation to do more, as my workout blog shows. It is simply a habit, and one that takes limited mental energy to keep up.


A year or two ago, I was still following a modified Outlaw program, a bigger volume strength and conditioning program designed for competitive Crossfitters. It usually took an hour or more about 5 days a week (which I tried to hit, but often ended up with 4 and a little less volume than they programmed). Holly was competing too and we fed off each other’s vibe along with others we spent time with. Since then, I got injured for a bit (sprained MCL rolling brazilian jiu-jitsu with a friend), and decided spending money and traveling and competing, even intermittently, wasn’t something that was a high priority. My workout buddy (my wife) got injured, cut back on her programming as well (until she had surgery last week) and it hasn’t been a super high priority like it once was.

So I am full on in maintenance mode, and I am ok with that for the time being. Maintenance mode for me means doing enough to maintain strength and how I look for the least amount of effort and motivation. Lifting and doing fitness activities are and always will be fun for me, even when motivation is down. I try to get the following in each week:

  • Squats
  • Bench Press
  • A pulling movement (deadlift, bent over rows, strict pullups)
  • Overhead press
  • Running (3-6 miles, I have a Tuff Mudder later this year that I am not worried about in the least, and I like running so this is a no brainer)
  • Ruck walking (1.5 miles or more with weighted 45 lb. vest)
  • At least one 8-15 minute high intensity conditioning piece

Additionally, support or conditioning exercises I often throw in are bicep curls (for the girls), kettlebell swings for that posterior chain, farmer carries, sprinting on occasion, maybe a tabata rowing session if I’m feeling especially masochistic. I still like to do the snatch and clean and jerk, but don’t do them as often as before.

Most of these workout sessions are done within half an hour and leave me with a lot of time for recovery. Today, for example, I knocked out workout at work  – 20-25 minutes. Just took off my work shirt and got right into it. At home, after kids were fed and doing piano practice, I knocked out a complimenting work out in the garage. Probably 45 minutes total between two sessions, snuck into my life pretty seamlessly.

Unlike before where I was always felt like I was on the verge of injury, with the lower work volume I feel great. At some point there is a point of diminishing returns on health for how much you invest into a workout. I’ve also since adjusted my goal of hitting certain numbers on the “key” workouts (bench, squat, deadlift) and have made the goal of staying healthy #1. That means I’ve backed off when form starts to fall apart, instead of before when I’d fight through it (a recipe for injury) for the purpose of getting stronger or accomplishing a particular number goal.

Without having a goal to invest in like a competition, it is hard to stay motivated for long stretches. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse to let yourself go or to rationalize poor behaviors. I may not look as good as could, or be as strong or as fit as I could right now, but I am reasonably strong and reasonably fit and look reasonably good especially compared to the masses.

I know that when my motivation does increase again, getting to that next level will be much less effort than if I simply stopped altogether. While it was once a gravitational force all on it’s own (training for Ironman, even the Outlaw/competition days), other things have increased in priority over the last year so this is simply a regular part of the day – not the focus of the day like it once was. It’s actually a rather nice place to be and I feel calmer and happier with this change, and not getting upset if I miss a workout (with 30 minutes, it’s easy to combine a couple if that happens, or split them up morning/night, or add one in during the lunch hour).

I hope your summer workouts are going well and you can stay healthy in how you eat despite all the picnics and bar-b-ques. Just do burgers and no buns, veggies, and fruit instead of the other options people bring to these events and you’ll be fine. When people ask, just tell them bread/flour/gluten/beer doesn’t make you feel very good, so you eat a different way now that makes you feel better (a quick note on the alcohol side, since it is such a big part of our society – I find I prefer wine and clear liquors with light mixers like lime juice over beer, since the next day beer doesn’t make me feel good due to the grains involved in making them – take note and see if you agree). Keep on truckin’.

It’s Still Just Boils Down to Dopamine and Serotonin

If you think about it, us humans boil down to fancy super computers swimming in a primordial soup of hormones and chemicals that dictate much of how we feel, behave and act. So much of this is hard-wired into our brains and bodies that we don’t even realize that much of our pleasure, pain, fear, anger and behavior is simply biological responses to stimulus. The feeling of pleasure in our bodies are the result of two neurotransmitters: serotonin and dopamine.  A neurotransmitter is basically a chemical messenger that carries messages and signals between neurons and other cells in the body attaching to receptors. These neurotransmitters are critical for everyday life and functioning and can be impacted by disease, drugs and lifestyle.

serotonin and dopamine

So our mood, happiness and pleasure are dictated by dopamine and serotonin. Now serotonin is the calming, loving feeling. Think Zen Master. This loving feeling of attachment for kids or long-standing relationships also produces other hormones such as oxytocin to support this bonding. By contrast, dopamine is the rock star thrill-seeking super high feeling neurotransmitter. The falling in love feeling, the super addictive chemical makes us act irrationally and has a huge role in addiction.  In the same way we can become addicted to the idea of a new love interest (or lust interest) we can become addicted to cocaine. The fact that it results in irrational thinking is important for those of us who are married, in that outside influences and people can trigger this release while our steady-eddy spouse or selves may not.

That’s something that Athol Kay put into context (and likely others before him) as it related to marriage and marital sex. Or at least that was the first place this concept crossed my radar screen. How, in a so-called pleasurable long-standing relationship, we often end up with a full vessel of serotonin but not much dopamine or epinephrine or norepinephrine (the latter two are often called adrenaline and noradrenaline two hormones secreted by the adrenal glands). The excitement simply wears off. And that’s when things go bad.

dopamine venn diagram

Couples get bored, they go through the motions, but the excitement just isn’t there. Some people reintroduce excitement through drama such as fighting which lends credence to the idea of makeup sex, since after that dopamine release that lust/excitement is triggered as well. Most of us though need to consciously keep on eye on this and make efforts to keep doing things that provide that dopamine drip. Things like go-carts, zip lining, roller coasters, getting in front of a group at an improv class or toastmasters can all individually or as a couple increase stress and excitement a little or a lot. That long kiss instead of the peck gets the heart fluttering a little. That attractive partner who flirts and plays instead of being the dutiful household soldier goes a way as well. In the bedroom, simple accessories such as a blindfold or scarves can make the routine more exciting.

Some other things to continue to elevate serotonin include avoiding alcohol, working out, dark chocolate and positive self image. Dopamine is adversely impacted by poor food choices (sugar, soda, bread which are similar to a low-grade drug and is why we like to eat that junk), nicotine and caffeine. Vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids and amino acid L-tyrosine have had positive impacts on dopamine as well.

Being aware that our lust and love and pleasure are driven by chemicals in our body, along with hormonal impacts, is one of the foundational aspects we must recognize to stay happily married. So many people simply think that their marriage is boring, and that some other person will bring them that excitement again (which does happen – for a short while), and fall into the pattern where that new excitement/person/relationships gets boring. Instead of working on keeping the passion alive, they right it off for dead and move on to the next relationship/marriage where the pattern continues.

At this stage of our Red Pill education, it’s a “duh” type thought for many of us, but I remember when I first stumbled upon this knowledge it was like I just found out the world wasn’t flat. It was a game changer. Now we may not be able to find immediate reception to our efforts to change the norm, but at least knowing some of the rules of the game will put you in a spot where you know why things are or aren’t great. Or why you aren’t happy. And remember, you can chase happiness, excitement and pleasure in individual ways as well. While we are bonded as married folks to an individual, our happiness (or lack thereof) shouldn’t be dictated by them. Be awesome yourself and likely they’ll want to join them in your ass-kickery.

Vision Board

I have been on a huge kick on reading and learning about positive thinking and how it relates to happiness and life success. Authors and motivational speakers on these areas such as Mike Dooley, Jack Canfield (creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul series), Anthony Robins and Rhonda Byrne have similar messages about the power of changing your way of thinking.  The basic recommendations is take your end goal, and make it a conscious part of your present life so that it may filter into your subconscious and therefore help to guide your daily minor decisions toward your goals.  These books expand on this and other concepts extensively, but that is the general gist of it: the idea that “Thoughts Becomes Things.”  Your requirement is to not just think about it, but take action.  How you get to your goal may not be known, but any action will start the ball rolling.

One of the ideas presented is the Vision Board. Basically, take photographs or cut out pictures from magazines or books or from the internet of end goals you want, and then pin them or tape them in a place where you’ll see it frequently. It could be a bulletin board, scrapbook or bathroom mirror. You can include on them a house or community you’d like to live in, cities you’d like to travel to, experiences you’d like to be a part of, or anything else you can think of. I’ve shared mine below.

vision board

[taped to my bathroom mirror, notice: happy family on vacation, strong and lean, writing with dog, helping men, books flying off shelves, prepping supplies, etc.]

The idea then is to take 3-5 minutes out of each day, empty your head of the daily stresses and craziness, take a little mental floss and focus on envisioning the photos and how happy you are to be experiencing them RIGHT NOW! So for mine, I might say “I’m so happy I decided to take hunter’s safety and begin hunting this year! It’s really brought me together with my family in so many magical ways.”  Or “I’m very satisfied that all my hard work lead to such as strong and lean body.” Or “Sharing such wonderful experiences with my family on the beach gives me such joy and happiness.” You get the idea.

Some may argue this idea of manifesting your thoughts is total bullshit, but while I disagree, if you try this I guarantee it will still make you happy for that brief moment each day. I see the actual manifestation of random stuff more and more the longer I am paying attention. In fact, just yesterday, I mentioned to my neighbor the desire to try and catch a comedian many would know that was playing at our local comedy club, but alas, tickets were sold out. This afternoon, said neighbor said he got two free tickets from work and asked if I wanted to go. This is just one small, recent example.

No matter what your situation, you’ve likely got hopes and dreams and bending time to reach them today, even if only in your mind, will bring you a feeling of peace, satisfaction and happiness. What I expect will happen is both consciously and subconsciously you’ll start to make the smallest steps in the right direction towards making those dreams a reality. These steps will be so small you likely won’t even realize you’re doing it. Say you’re like me and would like to be a little leaner, so you avoid the cupcakes someone brings in for their birthday. Or if you want that new car, perhaps you’ll make those ever so small steps to improve your finances to make it happen.

Stepping lockstep with the Vision Board idea of living in that vision albeit briefly is gratitude. Whether your are acting grateful for having your vision fulfilled, or acting grateful for the life you currently have, you’ll be creating positive feelings and positive energy, increasing the likelihood of good things happening. I know this sounds a little hippy-dippy, but give it a shot and let me know what you think. It may not pay dividends except for those three minutes of calm, or it may pay dividends years down the road. It’s like buying a lottery ticket on occasion, it’s fun to dream and envision your life after reaching your dream goals. Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking and dreaming (and actually doing something to make those dreams a reality) on your life. The hows will take care of themselves, but have a goal in mind. That alone is a challenge for some, but figure it out and have something you are working toward in the back of your mind.



grit definition

I would say one of the vastly underrated aspects of success in life is grit. That ability to keep working at something despite making no, or very limited, progress over a longer period of time. If you are able to focus on putting the pieces together over the long hall, despite obstacles and limited positive reinforcement that is grit. It’s something that many people simply lack and is what in many cases define successful people from those who aren’t. We aren’t all born with great ability or intelligence or good looks or great genes. Instead of bemoaning that fact, we can be gritty and be the absolute best we can be given the skill set we have.

When just starting out in something, we usually suck.  Throughout my life, I’ve heard multiple people tell me that if they aren’t good at something right away they don’t want to do it. It’s much easier to win at video games or being a spectator of the television than it is to struggle with something. But those that persevere through this intro period are the ones that one day become experts in that same area. They say that becoming an expert in something takes about 10,000 hours. Now most of us will never become that level of expert in anything due to the inability to focus and dedicate so much time to any one endeavor, but a more balanced life can still be gritty. You can start and keep working on being a more healthy individual, despite not seeing apparent improvement after that first month or two (but you stick with it and eventually the day 120 or one year out picture looks night and day). You can work focus on your work, going that extra little bit each day, perhaps taking additional training on your own time to move up.

Adding new abilities and hobbies are maybe the hardest things. We like to stay in our comfort zone instead of having to work at something. Author Joe Konrath had an interesting post about Quitting, and though it’s in the context of being a writer and succeeding in that path, substitute any other subject and you have the same message: you need to find the drive from within and you need to stick with it to succeed.

We are also doing a huge disservice to our children with the helicopter parenting and coming to their rescue at the first sign of discomfort. It’s not easy to see our children struggle at something, but having them grind through something and have the satisfaction of doing it or figuring it out out on their own provides invaluable life lessons. American’s as a whole don’t have much grit. Studies I’ve read that pit Americans against a test that presents a tricky problem showed they give up after only a couple of minutes while most counterparts in other countries grind through for 20 minutes or more. The cultural work ethic of say, Chinese, simply lends itself to more grit, while American’s don’t have that work ethic and most take the easy way out.

LoudBoy (6) has started taking piano. He struggles, and get frustrated, but doesn’t quit. He grinds through until he’s happy with his ability to get through the song. Birdsnest (8) goes through similar iterations in her homework, especially math. You can see her learned lessons around in her head to be able to attack a problem that is relatively new to her. It takes her awhile sometimes, and sometimes need additional explanation on the concept, but she’d be much more upset not completing the homework as assigned than simply giving up. Even something as simple as cleaning up their rooms is a lesson in grittiness.  Holly or I could jump in and clean up in about 4.5 minutes, but letting them take an hour to do it their way is an important lesson.

A final example on promoting patience in our children is saving allowance. My son is a Lego freak, but we’ve stopped buying him sets except for Christmas or his birthday. He is diligently saving his allowance over a period of months so he can purchase Lord Business’ Evil Lair. The controlled and patient approach versus just buying a smaller set or candy and trinkets is satisfying to see. Birdsnest on the other hand is saving for a car or college by putting a portion of her allowance in her savings account. Both are good lessons.

Finding that something to make you gritty is important as well. It may take some false starts or even a slap in the face by someone (coworker, wife, friend) that wakes you up to the fact that you need to buckle down and change. When you make that decision, be gritty and see it through. I know you can do it, and if you can’t find others in the real world to share your experience, you can likely find iFriends on forums that will motivate you and share their experiences as well. Rock on!

Balancing Getting Big/Strong vs. Lean

As we are now  about two months from Memorial Day and the official start of beach/pool season, Holly and I are both trying to focus on leaning out a little more to look better in bathing suits. Since last beach season, we’ve added another barbell to our home gym (A Pendlay Bushing Bar – sweet) and another 175 lbs of bumpers and weights so we could both work out at the same time and have a little nicer equipment.

I went back to a modified linear progression program (very similar to a less frequent Starting Strength) doing heavy 3×5 or 3×3 sets (or a heavy 1×5 for deadlifts) usually once a week and then doing something like 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps another day of the week. I didn’t do very much cardio or conditioning of any type, maybe once a week, maybe not at all.  I put on maybe five pounds but all my lifts went up to as high as I’ve seen them, seeing numbers I’ve never seen. With the hypertrophy training (10 rep stuff), I’ve gotten bigger too. The shirts I bought late summer are super tight in the chest and back and my pants are tight in the waist and ass. On the strength side, I am pretty happy, though right now I’m in damage control mode with my back, keeping it out of the injury “red zone” as I can feel it’s not quite right. That means the elimination of heavy deads and being smart with frequency of heavy squats too.

What I’m not happy with is how (not) lean I am. The winter Blahs, the less than great food, the drinking all lead to some mid-section pudge. It’s really not that bad, but definitely not what I want to show off in a couple months. So I’ve decided to try and maintain my muscle mass as best I can, but need to compromise a little on diet and caloric intake. I’ve added back in some sort of Cardio most days, though cardio to me may only take 8-12 minutes of high intensity weight work some days. Adding running a couple times a week (if the weather actually warms up a little) will help, and I’ve been doing my Insanity DVDs  again when I feel like I need to mix it up. I’m expecting to give up a little bulk for some leaness, which I’m willing to do.

It’s very, very hard to accomplish both getting stronger and getting leaner due to the delicate balance of macro-nurtients and calories. You need excess calories to grow muscles, but too much excess grows fat. Too few calories and your muscles aren’t fed properly.  Too much cardio and not enough glycogen means you catabolize your muscles for energy. A delicate balance all around.

For some reference on body-fat percentage for those looking to estimate where they are and where they want to go, here’s some images to give you a rough estimate:





Based on those photos and examples, I’m probably 17-18 percent BF.  Ideally, I’d like to be 10-12 percent.  That would mean (keeping the same lean mass), I would need to drop about 10-12 lbs of fat.  That equates to approximately 1.5 pounds per week from now to Memorial Day. It’s doable but will take some more effort.  Here’s what I plan to do:

1) Keep lifting. I love it, lean mass burns calories and lifting burns calories and increases testosterone and growth hormone production

2) Eat cleaner. I don’t really eat that bad, but it can always be improved, especially my midnight snacking. This includes limiting beer, wine and the like. Also, trying to eat a slight caloric deficit each day.

3) Do more on the cardio side, more frequently. I can tell doing once per week efforts didn’t help  in this regard to keeping weight down. Bumping both frequency and duration, and walking more, should help in caloric deficit, but being careful to still take appropriate rest days and not be too aggressive here so I can limit cortisol excretion. Cortisol, the stress hormone, decreases testosterone and thus decreases ability to lose fat. Too much chronic cardio produces too much cortisol, so it’s something to keep in mind.

4) Sleep more, a solid 8 hours or more per day if possible. This article helps to explain why sleep is important in fat loss, and this one cites a study that compares those sleeping 5.5 hours a night vs. 8.5 hours a night noting:

After two weeks, the people who slept more lost more fat than the group who slept less. More than half of the weight loss during the 8.5 hours of sleep was fat versus only one quarter of the weight loss during the 5.5 hours of sleep. People literally burned fat while they slept.Even more startling, the folks who slept less lost more muscle (60% more muscle was lost by the sleep-deprived group.)  Those three hours of lost sleep caused a shift in metabolism that made the body want to preserve fat at the expense of muscle. And that’s not all that happened: When the researchers compared circulating blood levels of appetite-regulating hormones in the two groups they found those who slept for three fewer hours had produced more of the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin. They woke up hungrier!

5) Meditate, yoga, positive thoughts – That’s right, these things also serve to keep stress low, subsequently cortisol lower, and not disrupt production of testosterone.

We’ll see how my leaning experiment goes. Hopefully you’ve started your preps too.

Dry January Thoughts

I come from a family of alcoholics.  My father has been dry for about 20 years.  My one brother nearly died in the last year or so from complications with alcoholism, but has since received treatment and appears has turned the corner for good.  My other brother found himself in the hospital about a month ago, dealing with acute health issues from obesity, with contributions from excessive alcohol consumption.  He’s since getting treatment and is attending AA several times a week, and seems to have the right mentality to succeed.  Though they’ve all had close calls during this time, and in many ways alcohol changed their lives (getting obese, was a contributing factor to divorce and job loss), they are lucky that they’ve (hopefully) address the situation all as relatively young men and can improve their lives going forward.

I myself have a very hard edged, stubborn personality with addictive tendencies.  I try to channel my addictive tendencies to positive avenues, and over the years has resulted in jumping full tilt into endurance athletics; a short (1.5 years) intense bout with brazilian jiu jitsu; weightlifting and crossfit; and even self-improvement and excessive (or is it obsessive) learning about topics that interest me.  For me, idle hands are the devil’s plaything.  See, I too have found myself spiraling at times in my life toward alcohol dependency.  While they may be offset to some degree by my other interests and goals, that addictive voice sometimes whispers in my ear.

For the last three years, I’ve taken January, and sometimes other months, off from drinking any alcoholic beverages.  That means I don’t drink at Christmas parties for work (that usually get set in January), no work functions or family gatherings where these things are so common. As a result I have an opportunity to reset my body, my mind and my goals and to prioritize how I want to live my life on an annual (or semi-annual) basis.  Maybe as a testament to my stubbornness or willpower, but stopping bad habits, like jumping into good ones, comes with little hesitation or difficulty for me (I’m a total Type A personality).  It is usually very easy to simply stop (same with cigarettes back in the day) and focus on other things.  That is the key though, finding other passions and breaking or replacing the habits associated with bad things.  Realizing this is not the case for people who succumb to addiction (and I’ve seen it first hand), my heart goes out to those who struggle with overcoming these demons.

What I find after cleansing for any length of time is that I have much more energy and motivation to crush at life. Losing the empty calories too have allowed me to lean out from the holiday abdominal chub I put on, even while doing minimal amount of cardio exercise.  It’s been fairly well documented that alcohol in excessive quantities also dulls testosterone production and impacts the secretion of growth hormones that are released while sleeping.  Part of the reason is its impact on sleep.  I’m still not a great sleeper (I am a notorious midnight snacker), and I’m not sure I’m sleeping any better than I was after imbibing, but regardless, I have much more energy as a teetotaler.

So for me, I plan to drink occasionally in social situations or enjoying a bottle of wine on a weekend night with my wife, but I am cognisant of the minor role it should have on life, and the problems that arise when it becomes a focal point.  When we went out to my wife’s work holiday party, I drank club soda and lime and actually had the most fun out of any work party I had been to (primarily due to the company involved) while everyone else got bombed.

Alcoholism and dependency is no joke, and if you can’t easily go a month (or more… I am half thinking of continuing on with this experiment due to how good I feel and to more quickly reach my “look good naked and at the pool” goals) without drinking, you should consider what role it plays in your life and if changes should be made.  If that sounds familiar, realize you aren’t alone and shouldn’t be ashamed to find help.  The following are some good resources for you or a loved one, or if you simply want to learn more:

Launched New Side Workout Log/Blog

I launched a new spartan side-blog that is basically my workout logs if anyone cares to see what I do, or wants to follow on their own. 

My basic philosophy is hitting key weight lifts of squats, deadlifts, press, bench press; adding in supplementary lifts in conditioning pieces or on their own.  Conditioning is only a few times a week and are generally short, intense efforts usually 10 minutes or less; along with moving slowly like walking or hiking when I can.  The volume isn’t especially high, most sessions in our home gym take maybe 30 minutes, longer ones usually take an hour.  I’m looking to get in and out, and keep volume low enough to recover well.  Unlike the constant cardio and Crossfit folks who are often doing themselves a disservice by the high volume and excessive cortisol they have to manage, I keep things in line with my goals.

Goals are stay healthy and uninjured (problem previously), recover well, be semi-fit to jump into most activities (bike rides, hikes, soccer games with the kids, so forth) and look good naked.  A sustainable workout program.  Along with good diet (which included cutting out drinking this month), I’m continuing to see strength progress while losing some of the holiday chub along the midsection.  Anyways, check it out if you are so inclined, otherwise, we’ll be back to some regular programming later this week.

Death by Food Pyramid

I first came across Denise Minger by accident.  I was nearing the end of a year long experiment I was talked into by my wife: to be a vegetarian.  This was only about 3.5 years ago give or take, so pretty recent in my memory.  The reason we decided to try this is our general interest in healthy eating and healthy life.  We had purchased The Paleo Diet (1st Ed.) by Loren Cordain back in about 2003 (well before the current paleo movement) as part of eating better in general, but to recover better for Triathlon, at which point I was ramping up for Ironman training.  At that point in my life, I thought the author had a lot of interesting points, but I was training TONS of time (up to 20 hours a week of biking, swimming and running) so I needed tons of easy carbs (and low fat protein) to fuel my adventures, or so the thought went.  So based on the book, we might have modified our “processed” food like twinkies or shit like that, but kept eating pasta and lots of whole grains since they were “healthy.”

After that point in our lives, when we had given up long distance high-level competitions and had moved on to half marathons and basic chronic cardio, I had the small spare tire and was super skinny with no muscle tone. So my wife somehow stumbled upon The China Study which promoted a vegetarian, whole food lifestyle.  Always game for something new, our whole family signed up.  I was also very blue-pill at the time, but laying the foundation to go red-pill in many areas of my life.  The diet was typical American vegetarian, complete with black bean burgers, tofu, soy, fake nuggets, some veggies, and even milk; we stuck with vegetarianism for a full year.  Despite the fact I was totally ready to get out after about 6 months, I made a personal commitment to stick with a year just for the experience.  A year to the day after I started, I killed that shit with a salmon burger.  Most delicious thing I may have ever ate. My body was craving meat.

Which brings me back to Denise Minger, who wrote a lot debunking The China Study (plus she’s really cute):


I thought (even when) reading the China Study that things weren’t right, and that the China Study author was making wild leaps equating small studies of cassein protein in milk (just one of the milk proteins) with health effects to all meats and animals, and Denise confirmed in a scientific way all my thoughts.

Anyways, Minger has written a new book called Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health.  She’s spent the last year and a half writing this beast.

In her own words from her blog entry:

  1. Death by Food Pyramid is not pro-paleo, per se. Nor is it anti-vegan. Nor is it a platform for promoting any particular eating plan (or excessively bashing another). I’m grateful to Mark Sisson and the Primal Blueprint Publishing team for letting me craft a book that respects the success of paleo and Primal diets, but doesn’t assert them as optimal for all people, and even critiques them in some regards.
  2. do, however, explore the reasons why some people are genetically equipped to handle higher-starch diets; why the effects of saturated fat aren’t uniform among all humans; why we should focus on individually tailoring our diets; and where various successful eating programs seem to intersect.
  3. Although this book certainly takes a swipe at conventional wisdom, I hope it also opens a discussion about some of the dogma existing within the “alternative” health communities as well.

Mark’s Daily Apple did an excerpt from one of her chapters (and the book itself was published by Mark’s Primal Blueprint offshoot).

So while the book isn’t yet out (supposed release date January 1, 2014), I encourage those “into” diet and health to procure this, and I know we’ll be buying the kindle version when it’s out.  We’re not any type of strict diet follower in our house except as “whole food advocates”, meaning we eat a lot of meat, some veggies, a few fruits, some dairy and limited processed foods (and next to no wheat, flour, HFCS or the like).  We’ve done strict paleo, primal, low carb paleo and totally clean at times (we even have the kids follow this to a very large degree), but mostly we’re in the 80% good/20% not so good camp most weeks, as best we can.  Maybe I’ll do a Sarah Fragoso A Week In The Life inspired post to show how we really eat (another quick aside: today’s lunch for LoudBoy and Birdsnest was water/milk to drink depending on the kid, pickle wrapped in salami with a toothpick, a jello pudding cup, a banana, nut/fruit granola bar and a cheese stick – too many carbs, not enough veggies or meat, but semi-balanced and quick to make in the morning).

Denise’s blog is top notch.

If you’d really like an intro into Paleo (that based on Denise’s own words above, will pick apart to some degree, but there is WAAAYYY more good than bad in this approach, especially compared to how most eat), and at least understand the concepts and benefits, there’s probably not a better lay-mans book than Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution, though Sisson’s own The Primal Blueprint is pretty good too (we own both and both are a little different – Sisson’s focuses more on whole life, while Wolf is more diet).

Anyways, eat well, exercise well, continue to educate yourself on what may work best for you and yours. Peace.

Dealing with a darker cloud – Vitamin D and SAD issues

We’ve had a little bit of turbulent waters here the last week and a half-plus. I know, poor me right? Things are pretty dang good, but like a short term stock we still have our ups and downs.  Besides the “fun” that was Thanksgiving, we have a friend divorcing (Swarley), another friend dating that friend (which complicates matters and is confusing for all) and life.  Last week I traveled three days, and Holly traveled three days (Wednesday was a common day where she took care of kids in the morning, me in the evening when I got back home), so we didn’t see each other much.  I’m a “touch” language, with some “quality time” and “words of affirmation” thrown in, Holly is a “words” type with some “QT” thrown in, so was rough.  Add in the fact that is the heavy, dark cloud of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), shark week and it hasn’t been that much fun on the married side recently.  She fell asleep early or the dark depression cloud spiked on the weekend days we were together, and we both want her to start feeling better.

My wife had some blood work done very recently that came back yesterday, and the results were generally good.  My favorite was that her cholesterol/lipids were “all normal and look fabulous!” I’ve noted our propensity to eat large volume of meat in the past (and eggs and bacon and heavy cream and coconut oil…) and paleoish (mostly).  What we don’t eat is bread, or flour, or wheat.  Hardly ever anyway.  And really no soda or other sweet shit junkfood that clutters 90% of the grocery store isles. I’ve had similar blood work and cholesterol and it’s somewhat vindicating to see we can remain healthy and strong and reasonably thin eating against the recommendations of USDA and vegetarians subscribing to the China Study (I say reasonably since we have slacked some on carbs and exercise and both would like to lean out a little, though in all honesty, we both look pretty dang good still… but good versus great is the difference we are striving to overcome).

The bad news in her blood work was that her Vitamin D levels were low (they measure three levels: D, D2 and D3), along with white blood cells (she’s been fighting shit for the last month, really not fun).  I don’t know that much about Vitamin D, but know it’s manufactured in the body from sunshine and is also influence by diet.  [Random aside: true story here, in about 4th or 5th gradegrade, I remember having to write a little one page deal in grade school about Vitamin D.  We must have been learning about nutrition.  I got my paper back and had a big red circle on one of my words with a huge question mark.  Instead of the “Sunshine” Vitamin, I had inadvertently wrote the “Sunshit” vitamin.  Freudian slip].  Symptoms of Vit D deficiency include poor sleeping, depression, helping with erectile dysfunction and increased illness prevention.  Now like testosterone, D is a vitamin that is person specific.  So what may be “low normal” for someone may be really low for someone else.  She was below the normal range, and below all the levels in this chart:

Normal Vitamin D Level Recommendations

Minimum Optimal (ng/ml) High End of Optimum (ng/ml) Toxic Level (ng/ml)
Bruce Hollis(ng/ml) 32 >250
Vitamin D Council (ng/ml) 50 80
Vitamin D, A Neglected ‘Analgesic’ for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain(ng/ml) 30 50 >150
Dr. Mercola
50 65 >100 (excess)
The Use of Vitamin D in Clinical Practice
40 70 > 150

She is supposed to take Vitamin D supplements and/or Cod Liver Oil, and is also using her blue light to try and raise her levels.  Holly seemed hopeful and bright last night for the first time in a few weeks or more, that at least maybe she knew what was wrong with her as she struggles with this.  I’m not a very naturally sympathetic or empathetic guy, but am doing my best to show her love and support and not be all about pushing my own agenda (getting laid).  It’s been 7+3 days since we’ve had sex (but who’s counting… actually, we’ve had a very consistent and good year for us.  I haven’t checked but this is around the longest we’ve gone without it all year – maybe since I almost died from MRSA and ended up with emergency surgery).

vitamin D

So we’ll be ok, and are heading out of town for a night without kids this weekend, so I’m sure the dry spell won’t last even if things don’t turn around this week, which I expect they will.  After all, I’m so bloody charming, I’m surprised any woman can resist my charms 😉

I guess my point is, if you, or a spouse are not feeling themselves, maybe a little off, tired, lethargic, depressed, despite “good” diet, exercise, etc., it really is worth getting a blood panel done.  It doesn’t always have to be hormonal issues that fuck us up, could just be a vitamin deficiency that could be addressed with easy supplementation.