Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Speech Impediments

While talking with a friend the other day I was shocked by a severe speech impediment he had.  He was telling me that he had no willpower, couldn't stick to anything for very long, and was constantly compromising his goals in life but it was hard for me to understand his garbled words.  Instead, it sounded just like "Yeah, that's too strict for me, I'm a big believer in the 80/20 rule."

Oh, the 80/20 rule. That's when 80% of the time your sphincter is stretched around your 20" neck.  Is that the rule to which you refer?

Come on, people!  There are places to apply this rule and places to not apply the rule.  It's not a free pass to be a loser.  Sheesh.  If something's genuinely bad, it's bad 100% of the time.  Neutral stuff can be folded in 20% of the time with no big deal.

Want to do 80/20 on low carb?  No problem, carbs aren't bad.

Want to strive for at least 80% of your beef being grass fed?  Sounds good.  IF you eat out, it sounds ambitious, but it's a good goal.

Want to hit at least 80% of your workouts with high intensity and phone it in the rest of the time?  Heck, that'll still work.  Because the 20% is still better than being on the couch.  And that 80/20 overall is WAY better than being on the couch.

But when you're talking about things that are genuinely bad and harmful, the 80/20 rule doesn't apply.

Being shot is genuinely bad.

What 20% of your body are you willing to let me aim the gun at while I play Russian roulette?

Being raped is genuinely bad.

Name the 20% of your friends who can be raped without you caring.

Rat poison?  Bad.

So you just won't have it in more than 20% of your meals and then it's fine?

You have 5 beautiful kids.

You're happy if just 4 of them grow up to be happy adults, right?

You get the idea here.  Rules are best applied with a degree of intelligence.  Use that hat holder just above your shoulders to figure out when an 80/20 rule applies and when it's just an excuse to keep sabotaging yourself.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Shooting for LESS responsible

I'm reflecting on what I was doing just under a year ago this time. Here are my notes from that time:
One hot sunny day In the summer of 2012 we loaded up our 40 year old single engine airplane to maximum weight and left our airport home in Texas behind. 
We dodged thunderstorms all the way to South Georgia where we spent the night then got to know a DEA helicopter pilot while we waited on the weather to clear.  We eventually made it to south Florida where we stumbled across an amazing restaurant and hotel for the night.  
The next morning we rented an inflatable life raft and headed across the water to the Bahamas. We flew every day but two of the next nine days and saw fifty shades of blue water and as many shades of red skin. 
We walked on two of the worlds top ten most beautiful beaches. We swam over the worlds deepest blue hole. We fed swimming pigs and swam with sharks and saw Johnny Depp's island. We swam through Thunderball Grotto and stood in the middle of the ocean on a blue and white sandbar.
We boated past a waterspout ten minutes after flying under the cloud that gave birth to it.   We caught a 1/4" fish in our hands and named It Herbert. (We later let it go.)
We spent the last two days in Atlantis before finishing our 3000 mile trip and parking the plane at home. Next summer we plan to be less responsible.
Well, that pretty well sums it up. Now the airplane is about to turn 41 and I'm about to turn 46. I wonder what's on the less responsible list for this summer's adventures.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Putting Things Overhead

When I was a kid, I thought I knew what weightlifting was.  For me it just meant anything you did to make your muscles bigger so chicks would look at you more.  I was clear that girls staring at your body was a good thing...as long as it wasn't in abject horror like they did to Ernie, the really fat kid.

Today when I hear "weightlifting" I think Olympic Weightlifting.  There is still some causation and correlation in getting girls to check you out, but that's not the big payoff.  The big payoff is the incredible satisfaction from putting something heavy over your head.

I can't really put my finger on it, but there is something about going overhead that makes me feel powerful in a way that no other movement makes me feel.  Pulling triples at 425 on a deadlift is cool.  Benching 265 for 3 is also cool.  But I don't beam with self congratulation after either of those things.  When I put something overhead and hold it there for just a bit, THAT is a special moment.

Today we were doing squat cleans straight into thrusters.  Not the best way to move maximal weight, but a fun thing nonetheless.  Finished at 205 at a bodyweight of 204.  That's just cool.  I can take something on the ground that weighs more than I do, pick it up high enough to drop under it until it lands on my shoulders in a full front squat, then stand it up fast enough to press and lock it out overhead.

When I started CrossFit I had a measly 252 deadlift.  I decided a while ago that I wanted to take that same weight (actually, 3 pounds more) and put it overhead.  That seemed like a hallmark of sorts.  If I've gone from being able to pick it up to being able to toss it overhead, that's progress, right?

So since making that goal my clean has progressed from 235 to 255 so I have part of the movement down.  My push press has progressed from 215 to 235.  I still have a ways to go on that, but proficiency at the jerk rather than a push press will get me the extra 20 pounds.  Sometime this year, I'll load a barbell with 255 pounds and put it overhead.  And the grin I'll have afterward won't ever be achieved by someone slaving away on an elliptical machine or hitting the pec deck with all their might.

If you want the satisfaction of actually lifting weights, pick them up and put them overhead.  I think it's the best test of strength there is. And what's cooler than throwing big weights up over your head?  Not much I can think of.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Integrity, CrossFit, Who Are You Cheating?

I'll tell you who you're cheating:  You're cheating me.  I'll circle back to that in a bit.

First, a quick ethics lesson from Nassim Taleb, as you can read on his page here.

"If you see fraud and don't shout fraud, you are a fraud" - Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Harsh, huh?  How many of us do this?  I know I don't.  And I know why.  And it all pisses me off, some at myself and some at the fraudulent person.

All of this is in response to a recent CrossFit workout in which I was not participating.  A little strained muscle made me focus on some slow squats instead, and I was free to count reps while people worked out.

What I found shocked me.  It dropped my faith in humanity just a bit.  It was obvious, blatant, and persistent through the workout.  When what should be sets of 10 reps become sets of 6-9 for every single set, it's not an accident.  When someone does sets of 10 until someone else finishes before they do, and then those sets all become less than 10 reps, it's not an accident.  This was just cheating the rep scheme, pure and simple.

So, I'll start addressing those people as "you" for the remainder of this rant.  Either identify with my position, or be the one I'm speaking to from here on out, it's up to you...and you know which it should be.

So who gives a crap?  Well, I do, for multiple reasons.  I care because to exclaim "Time!" when you've done at best 70-75% of the workout is a fraud.  It's an obvious fraud.  And to the extent I agree with Taleb, then my not shouting fraud makes me a fraud as well.

Well, guess what.  I don't want to be your nanny.  I don't want to take an environment in which we should encourage each other and be the pissy jerk who screams FRAUD when you're being a fraud.  I just don't want to be that.  So I have a choice.  I can either feel that I am a fraud to some extent because I didn't say anything, or I can say something, not be a fraud myself, but also not enjoy my time at the gym.

And why am I faced with a choice between two things, neither of which I like?  Because you're f***ing cheating, that's why!!

So, your fraud puts me in a position I don't like.  And for what?  So you can CLAIM you performed 100 reps in X minutes when you really did about 73?  Again, for what?  Does it determine if you stay on the team, get your Christmas bonus, or land the big account?  No, it's just a smudge of dry erase marker on a white board.  And for that smudge you'll compromise your own integrity and impact mine as well?  Well, that kinda pisses me off.

But, there's another reason you're cheating me.  I do all my reps, and I proudly put that smudge on the white board, and then I see where I stack up.  See, I use that to motivate me.  I use my rankings on the board to get more performance out of myself.  When I'm tired, out of breath, with my heart thumping like two rabbits mating in my chest I'm trying to do JUST A LITTLE more because I WANT TO BEAT YOU!

I enjoy being competitive.  It brings out my best levels of performance.  I'll say it again:

That time on the board is my indication of where I am relative to you, and dozens of other people who ostensibly did the same thing I did.  And there's the key:  It only works to compare IF WE DO THE SAME THING.  If you do 73 reps instead of 100, or if you don't actually do a full range movement, and I do, then  what does that number mean?  Nothing.

And THAT is how you cheat me.  You rob me of one of my key motivational drivers.  You take away my ability to genuinely see how I stack up.  What should be motivating for both of us turns into a false accomplishment for you and demotivating disgust within me.  So why are you doing it?

I suggest that if you want your time on the board, earn it.  If you don't want to earn it, don't lie and put it up there.  Don't say you did it RX when you didn't.  Don't say you did the reps when you didn't.

I can overlook a lot and still like someone as a person.  That holds for this as well.  It's not that I don't like you, it's not that you're a bad person.  You're simply sabotaging one of the motivators I use to make myself better and I wish you would stop.  And you're not getting anything positive out of it either!

At some level, how is your performance held back because you know you're cheating?  Do you really believe that your mind and body will deliver their best to you when you know that you're cheating?  I don't think so.  On some level, you know you don't deserve accolades, so you will (perhaps subconsciously) sabotage yourself elsewhere.  The part of your brain that understand ethics yet doesn't act ethically still knows right and wrong, and you haven't fooled it into thinking you deserve the best.  Maybe there's much greater things for you physically as well as mentally on the right side of being honest.

Finally, to the fire-breathers with integrity, thanks for real, honest motivation.  Oh, and I'm still going to try to beat you at every single workout.  While that may not motivate you because I'm not even nipping at your heels, you can have faith that I'll never short my reps just to try to fool someone into thinking it's closer than it really is.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Chocolate Air Force

Okay, I'll admit it:  I just want my page to come up if anyone ever does a search for "Chocolate Air Force."

Weird title, but the point is I'll be giving up chocolate, ice cream, and all sugary sweets for a while.  My good friend Brad has joined the Air Force and he heads off for training on the 2nd of January.  Thanks for your service, Brad!

So knowing he'll be having many aspects of his life totally controlled for him, I decided it was a good idea to get some areas of my own life in better control.  Hence, no chocolate or ice cream for me during his basic training.  If it gets hard at any point, I can just remind myself that what he's doing is a much greater sacrifice and much more difficult to do.  How can I wuss out when he's doing what he's doing?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have asked him to text or call me the MOMENT he gets back in town.  I've also suggested that showing up at my door with a carton of ice cream and a chocolate bar is an acceptable means of letting me know he's back.  I've read that initial training is 8 1/2 weeks, but he doesn't know his actual schedule.

And that's something I have to admire.  He's signed up to serve his country, and is basically going in with the attitude that whatever happens will happen, so much so that he hasn't really even checked to see what his schedule will be or when he'll get a break back home.  Awesomely committed.

So I also don't know when I'll have any chocolate or ice cream.  Might be 8 1/2 weeks.  Might be months.  I trust that he'll really let me know when he's back in town and not just decide that a continued choco-fast is best for me.

Good luck, Brad, we'll be missing you at the gym!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

One For The WTF File

I suppose this could also be labeled Why I Hate Whole Foods.  It pisses me off every time I go to Whole Frauds to buy some grass fed beef, and I'm inundated with vegan propaganda horseshit.

Oh well, they do seem to have the best grass fed beef.  But this other stuff just kills me:

On my most recent trip, I was walking down an aisle and noticed something labeled "Primal Jerky" and got excited for a moment.  Then I read the ingredients.  Wholey Crap!  Please check it out here, at the appropriately named FakeMeats.com.  Really?

If you don't follow the link, let me just say there's no meat in it, and the first ingredient is GLUTEN!




Seriously.  Nothing says "Primal" better than gluten and soy, oh my!  So I tossed it back on the shelf in disgust and stopped over in the produce section to grab some sweet potatoes.  While picking them out, a helpful employee stopped to advise me on how to choose them.  His advise was interesting, but the conversation was even more interesting.  He asked how we cooked them, and I said we peeled them, cubed them, and cooked them in coconut oil.  His response was one for the record books!  He said "Wow, I just started cooking with coconut oil.  Evidently it's one of the best oils to cook with because it's the one lowest in fat."

So pure fat is the lowest in fat.

Uh...wait...no, divide by zero...carry the zero...crap, my brain nearly exploded!

In a moment of Zen-like oneness with my non-asshole side, I took a moment to calm myself and ignored the 3,256 smartass responses that burst into my head.  I just smiled and told him that if he really enjoyed coconut oil he should try cooking the sweet potatoes in it.  I shared that it gave them a wonderful rich flavor that was brought out further with some salt and onion or onion powder.  Am I getting soft in my old age?

With the sweet potatoes loaded in the basket and a chuckle I headed for the checkout aisle.  On the way I noticed the book section with a book on how to feed your kids.  I flipped the book open to a random page and read "It's good to start with some protein first thing in the morning, so some veggie sausage as a starter, and then some oatmeal with brown sugar..."

Was That For-real?  (See how I sneaked another WTF in there?)  I must not be getting too old because I wanted to start beating the crap out of the people responsible.

I live in a world where "Primal" jerky strips are made from gluten and soy.

I live in a world where coconut oil is healthy because it has less fat.

I live in world where veggie (meaning soy in this case) sausage followed by grains and sugars is considered a good breakfast for my kids.

I thrive in this world in spite of the craziness because I choose to educate myself and act accordingly.

And I stay out of jail because I refuse to give in to the impulse to punch the daylights out of the vegan Whole Frauds employee who tries to push his propaganda on me.

But You're Not a (Fill in the blank)

When are you qualified to have an opinion? When are you qualified to state that you know something?

Apparently, you have to be a doctor to be qualified to speak on nutrition and health. I got it just it the other day. Partway into a discussion on why I eat the things I eat and don't eat other things I was hit with "But...you're not a doctor!"

That's right. I'm not.

If someone told you to put at handful of sand into your car engine with each oil change are you qualified to disagree? Are you a mechanic?

If someone told you to spray gasoline on your yard to help it grow are you qualified to disagree? Are you an horticulturist?

What the hell has happened to people that they don't realize you can be knowledgeable on a subject without holding a degree? Sheesh!

I think it's just another excuse for people to choose not to educate themselves.  Of course, what do I know, I'm not a psychologist.

Racism Is Racism

I haven't posted in quite a while, but recent conversations provoked me to make a VERY short and somewhat political post. Take it for what it's worth:

It's racist to not vote for a man just because he's black.

It's racist to vote for a man just because he's black.

There you have it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Is Commitment?

I'm going to pile a few ideas in here. It will come back to diet and exercise, but first I'm going to define commitment my way:

Commitment is the decision to do something even when you don't want to based on a value choice at an earlier time.

Why is commitment needed? Well, it's needed any time the desire for something will vary by situation or over time, yet you can still identify the value for the long term. So let's look at how the idea plays out in another area: Romantic relationships.

What does it mean to be committed to someone? What does it mean to be in a committed relationship? It's very simple. Commitment is the choice to stay in relationship past the low spots.

Consider that commitment would not even be needed if your experience of the other person was 100% awesome 100% of the time! You would need no commitment whatsoever because you would just always be loving what was going on and would naturally choose to be with that person. That actually describes pretty well the initial stages of a great romantic relationship. It's 100% fantastic and you want to spend all your time with your new love.

Then one day your 100% perfect partner does something really annoying. Do you decide you don't want that relationship now? For most people, they have (perhaps subconsciously) made a commitment to the relationship after some time, and the bad will be overlooked because they know the good stuff will be right around the corner.

And there's the critical idea to commitment. It's designed to take you past the low spots because you know the good is still there. Think back to the first time your loving partner got in a bad mood and was unpleasant. Did you say "This is nasty, I'm outta here!" Probably not. You might have that approach with a stranger, so the same stuff that would push you away from a stranger will not push you away from your committed relationship.

If you look at relationships as having highs and lows, or peaks and valleys, then we choose the relationship for the peaks. Then we fill it in with commitment to take us past the valleys.

Looking at it that way, the fewer valleys and the more peaks we can create the easier it is to stay (and be happy) in the relationship. We work on things to try to reduce the valleys and increase the peaks. And intuitively we know that the relationship is more likely to continue if that's the case. It makes sense, because commitment will only carry us through so many valleys before we start to reevaluate whether it's worth it for the random and very occasional peak.

I love my wife with all my heart, but if she chose to act in such a way that it was a continuous valley, eventually I'd run out of commitment. There has to be some reason to get past the valley. Also, if she did something that was more like a giant canyon than a valley (picture hot monkey love with the pool boy), that single event would end my commitment. Too big a gap to cross.

Again, commitment is just the decision ahead of time to keep at something even when it is temporarily not what you would choose.

Now come back to diet and exercise. If you're going to commit to a plan for either, please consider how commitment works in a relationship. No sane person would ever set out to find the ugliest, most unpleasant partner possible and declare "I'm committed to you. It doesn't matter how hard it is to be around you, how repulsive I find you, how vile you are, I will stay with you no matter what." Yet I see people do that with diet: "I'm going to eat nothing but 3 quail eggs and roasted acorns every day until I wear a size 0."

Okay, slight exaggeration, I realize no one would eat that many quail eggs. ;)

The point is you need to find the diet and exercise plan that requires the least commitment possible yet still gives you results. Commitment won't make you do the eternally unpleasant, it will just take you past the low spots. Plan on commitment to take you past short periods of hunger. Plan on commitment to have you occasionally eat something that isn't wonderfully tasty. Don't plan on commitment to have you be hungry and eat food you don't like forever. That's a plan to fail.

So identify what really matters before you commit to it. Committing to nothing but grass fed rather than conventionally raised beef? Great. Doable. I might relax it a bit from there, but if you go the other way and commit to only eating grass fed beef from cows that were personally named by a loving rancher who gave them daily massages and tucked them in at night, you're planning to fail.

Find what works. Identify what works. Then try your hardest to make that SO FREAKING EASY that commitment is barely needed. Then you've got a darned good chance at sticking to it.

You wouldn't marry a troglodyte. Don't commit to an ugly diet and exercise plan.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Meat can be real food as well

Wow. Just Wow.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is being interviewed about the evils of sugar, and recommends real food. What is real food? Of course the first thing he says is "vegetables" but then he follows that up with "Meat can be real food as well."

Well there you have it. Meat can be real food as well.

Thanks, Dr. Gupta. I had no idea. He doesn't cite any studies to back up his claim that meat can be real food, but he is a doctor so I'm buying it.

The video is here on CBS news video

Shout it from the rooftops: Meat can be real food as well!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Suck of Short Duration

Come on, get your mind out of the gutter. I'm not talking about that type, I'm talking about things that suck in a painful, uncomfortable, or unpleasant way.

And if you're up to ANYTHING in life, it's required. If you're not up to anything, or at least anything rewarding, then it's not required. Instead you will live a life of quiet despair. A life that holds no flavor, no juice, and isn't really worth getting out of bed for.

My belief in this area is simple: You either accept and embrace the occasional Suck of Short Duration (SOSD) or you end up with a lesser intensity of suck...ALL THE F'ING TIME.

Don't want the SOSD of quitting your job? Fine, hate your job all the time.

Don't want the SOSD of ending a friendship? Fine, hang out with losers.

Don't want the SOSD of a workout that makes you wish you'd vomit just to feel better? Fine, hate the way your body feels and performs.

Don't want the SOSD of putting the ice cream down and just...walking...away? Fine, hate trying to button your too-tight pants every morning.

Don't want the SOSD of a difficult conversation with your spouse? Fine, simmer in dissatisfaction and risk long term resentment.

Don't want the SOSD of deciding to save and invest 10% of your income no matter what? Fine, work longer and harder than you have to the rest of your life.

It applies to everything. Finances, relationships, physical manifestation, work, starting companies...everything! Accept and embrace the SOSD to get results in areas that matter to you then enjoy those results all the rest of the time.

If you're truly willing to have 1 to 3 percent of your time uncomfortable, challenging, perhaps even painful then the other 97 to 99 percent will rock. Or you can have the full 100% relatively crappy all the time.

Your choice.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Do You Have A Dream? Really?

Did Martin Luther King's famous speech sound like this?

I have a dream that some day a few of the people in this nation will rise up at least a little bit and try to live out the meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Of course I don't dream that everyone will do this, but I do dream that some of the people will at least consider it.

I also occasionally have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I'm not so bold as to think they would actually do it, just that at least a few people would think they were able to sit at that table together.

I sometimes daydream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state that is at times a little unjust and oppressive will be slightly less oppressive and a little more just. In my dream the change is somewhat noticeable, though not radical.

I also have the random thought that perhaps one or two of my four little children will one day live in a nation where occasionally they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Yes, if this was the case for one of my kids that would be a good change.

Does that motivate you? I didn't think so. I suggest you compare it to an actual excerpt below:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

There are many things to be learned from Martin Luther King. In this case King didn't bow to the bleating masses who said things like "Isn't that a little extreme?" or "All things in moderation." Mindless sheeple didn't constrain his speech or his conviction.

So with that in mind, what better place to make no compromise than in your dreams?

The dream is where it all starts. It's the first step, the mental picture of what you want. You can dream big or small, but the cost to dream is always zero so for God's sake, dream big!

The actual manifestation of your dreams will require actions, and it's easy enough to compromise there so why start early if you don't have to? If you're going to dream, dream big. Dream boldly! If you miss the mark you're still ahead of the game.

So now narrowing the focus even further, here's how NOT to dream about your fitness goals:

"I'm going to lose some weight."

"I'm going to build some muscle."

"I'm going to get a little stronger."

Those are lame, and uninspiring.

How about:

"I am going to create an athletic body to carry me through the world. A body that provides a richness of experience with strength, grace, beauty, and health. A body I love living in."

"I am going to lose 50 pounds, get six pack abs, and buy clothes I haven't fit in since I was in high school."

"I am going to become an athlete, and LOOK like an athlete. Men will want to be me and women will want to be WITH me." (obviously change this as applicable regarding gender)

I can sure as hell promise you that the next time you're tempted to down a bowl of ice cream and skip your workout, the first three ideas above will do nothing to redirect you, but the second three just might.

Be bold in your dreams. Be public with your dreams. King was, and the world is a better place for it. Don't spend time with people who won't get on board with your dreams because they don't want you to achieve them. It will be work enough to get yourself to do what's required without the burden of dragging someone else into your reality.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Quick Rude Comment Regarding Don Matesz And Primal Wisdom

If you're easily offended, stop reading now.

Okay, glad you're still with me. You've been warned. I've been reading a few blogs for a couple years now, and I happened to be reading Primal Wisdom when Don hit the epipha-tree (Simpsons reference) and turned his back on (and perhaps his nose up at) a typical Paleo diet.

I've seen it spiral further away for a while now, and with his latest post on B12, I think I figured it all out. I don't expect anyone to correct me, nor do I really care.

So here it is in all its rudeness: Don's wife wanted to be a vegetarian, and Don still wants to get laid. There, plain and simple, I said it.

I don't blame Don for that, although in time his lack of meat consumption will make it easier to go without sex.

Certainly I'm the only one thinking it, as the number of comments in which people ask if he's just having a fun game indicate that people are seriously wondering what the heck is going on.

Glad I got that off my chest.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm Not Against Aging

But I don't anticipate growing old like most Americans. Most of the people I see past about 55 are just prolonging the act of death, while some ambitious folk seem to have started at about 40. The 40 year olds are the ones that are already on a couple of prescription medications for all manner of ills, and probably 50+ pounds overweight. The preferable alternative to prolonged death is successful aging. That's a term I enjoy, and one that I can get motivated by. Aging is inevitable, so why not be successful at it?

That's what I'm after. But what does it mean to age successfully when the ultimate conclusion of the aging process must be death? Clearly it's not avoiding death. Perhaps it's not even extending life as long as possible. That would be prolonged aging.

Consider two extremes:

Scenario A, you live to the ripe old age of 80 and die peacefully in your sleep. Until the last week of your life you were active and athletic. Your muscles were strong from exercise, you enjoyed the body you were in, and you used it for your enjoyment. You were happy to go on a bike ride with the grandkids, or perhaps great-grandkids if you started young like I did. You snorkeled on vacation, went skiing in the winter, etc. Your spouse will miss you, including the intimate relationship you still shared.

Scenario B, you live to the somewhat riper old age of 83 and die from cardiac arrest while trying to make it up a flight of stairs. You spent the last 8 years in a nursing home, and you almost never left it for the last 2 or 3 years. The kids and grandkids would come visit regularly, but you felt less and less attachment to them as they continued to live in "the real world" while you lived on Lipitor, Metformin, Nexium, and Plavix...not to mention the insulin shots you self-administered. Your spouse would miss you if only they could remember who you are. They've been on their own list of drugs and statins in particular aren't kind to the neural networks.

I don't know about you, but I'll take option A on this one. Now play the game for a while and determine how big a gap in lifespan has to exist before you go with option B. 10 years? 20? More? It's just a mental exercise, but the point is that the goal of what I will now call Successful Aging isn't the longest lifespan, it's the one that results in the most fulfilling life.

These are real world choices. I believe that it's entirely possible for the average person to make great choices in exercise, nutrition, sleep, relationships, and hobbies and live well past 90. I also believe that longevity could be further optimized in less healthy ways, perhaps with calorie restriction. And finally, longevity could be reduced in exchange for a higher level of athletic performance and perhaps health as well.

Single point optimization isn't my goal. If you draw a triangle with the three points labeled health, longevity, and performance, I'm going to pick a point inside that triangle that is skewed a bit towards health and performance. That is what I will try to optimize for while not making major concessions that will reduce my longevity needlessly.

For me, that three-point graph I just described with a slight emphasis on health and performance will be what guides me through successful aging.

Next time I talk about aging, I'll show you why I plan to be better at 45 than I've ever been as far as athletic performance goes. No, it's not wishful thinking, it's just a reasonable analysis of where I am, have been, and will be. And it applies to almost anyone who hasn't spent a lifetime experiencing rare levels of athleticism.

I'll even have graphs, which means what I'm saying HAS to be true. ;)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Eastern Approach/Meditation

Lord knows, I'm not into meditation or yoga, but somehow the simple approach this video mentions is intriguing.

I think I'm going to have to pick up the book, though I'm not sure how to add to the existing simple message.

You feel better already, don't you?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bacon and eggs aren't good for you

It's obvious, right?  Heck, anyone will tell you that bacon and eggs are bad for you.

The wonderful thing is this little gem of wisdom is usually delivered by someone who would much prefer you eat cereal for breakfast.  Genius.  And with that last comment, I'm coming dangerously close to pegging my sarcasmeter...or is it sarcasmometer?

So, here's the reality check, let's take it point by point:

Cereal:  What is it?  Well, it's healthy grains, and maybe a little sugar and other stuff, right?

Uh...not really.  It's so easy to pick up a box of cereal in the store and we're conditioned to believe what's in the store is food.  What are we REALLY feeding ourselves, or perhaps our children?

I chose a cereal at random.  Really.  I googled "cereal" and there was a link to "SpecialK" which I clicked on.  At their site they listed cereals, and I didn't quite go random this time, I actually chose what sounded tasty to me.  "Special K Vanilla Almond Cereal"  I like almonds, I like vanilla, this sounds yummy!

Now what do I get for my money?  Whole grains?  Check.  Rice?  Check.  Almonds?  Check.  Well, they're honey roasted almonds...so let's start our trip down the rabbit hole.

The almonds have their own list of ingredients.  That's right, just the honey roasted almonds have:


That's just the "Almond" part of "Vanilla Almond Cereal!"  Wow, if I was making something with almonds, I'd put (drumroll please...) almonds in it.

Back up the rabbit hole, we find that the list of ingredients is quite impressive.  Heck, I'll just throw the whole thing out here for the fun of it:


Don't believe me?  Check it yourself here.

Is that amazing, or what?  In case you weren't aware, ingredients are listed in order of the percentage by which they constitute the product.  So It has more rice than whole grain wheat, as an example.  That means it has more rice, wheat, and sugar than it does almonds!  It then has more wheat bran, salt, high fructose corn syrup, and wheat fiber before it gets to the malt flavor and "natural and artificial" flavors.

Well, I was sold on the vanilla almond part.  That was what made me choose the cereal.  I guess all the rest comes along for the ride.

So they took processed grains that don't exist in natue in quantites sufficient to live on and they combined that with processed and concentrated sugar and then added some almonds that had been similarly modified.  Then they added some more grains (wheat bran) and salt, and even before flavoring they added some high fructose corn syrup.  None of this is NATURAL.  In fact, none of it really even food.  Well, the almonds were until they got screwed over and turned into sugary nuggets.

So this concoction makes its way to our bowl, and we scoop it up and eat it, right?

No!  We first have to cover it with mammal-squirts.  Well, actually, we don't even do that, do we?  That wouldn't be processed enough. I'd be fine with some raw milk, but that's not what's going on the cereal is it?

We can't just get the mammal to squirt right on the cereal, so we get a machine to suck the squirts out and put it in a big holding tank.  The combined squirts of many mammals then gets homogenized.  That sounds healthy, but what is it?  Oh, the squirts are just forced through a tiny orifice under pressure to break apart the larger fat globules.  They're homogenized, meaning made to all be the same.  Meaning, not in their natural form.

If that's not enough modification, the squirts are then heated sufficiently that it destroys the enzymes that help digestion and absorption.  Then it's finally good enough to be poured over those processed grain/sugar/corn syrup nuggets.

So processed food pieces covered in processed mammal squirts, none of which could have been produced without modern day machinery, chemicals, etc.  That's a healthy way to start your day.  Sure it is.  None of this exists in nature and I'm going to say a breakfast like this just isn't natural.

Now is it possible to find a pig, kill it, and snatch some eggs from a nest?  I think so.  And while I don't do that to serve myself bacon and eggs, I think it's a hell of a lot closer to nature than the crap I described earlier.

Is it a wild pig?  No.  Is it a wild bird?  No.  Is it better than sugar/wheat/corn/chemical nuggets with homogenized and pasteurized milk?  I'm confident it is.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adventures with Analogies

Let's pretend for a moment.  Suspend disbelief if necessary, and just play with me a bit.

Let's pretend you loaned your car to a friend for a day.  If you don't have one or the other, just pretend that you do.  :)

Now imagine that your friend returns the car and you immediately notice the tires are covered with plugs and patches and are no longer balanced.  The car drives poorly, vibrating badly and getting worse the faster you drive.  So you ask your friend what happened and this is his response:

"Well, I drove through some fields full of thorns and nails, and each time I got a flat tire I took out your patch kit from the trunk and put in a plug or patched the tire.  Good thing you had so many kits in the trunk, because I think I must have patched the tires several hundred times!"

What would your reaction be to this scenario? 

If you decide to not loan your car to that friend again, or at least tell him to quit driving through fields of thorns and nails, congratulations.  You're a clear thinker.  You're practical and logical.

On the other hand you might decide that the problem was having so many patch kits.  After all, the only way the tires could be covered with hundreds of patches is if your friend had access to hundreds of patches to begin with.  So you decide to keep loaning your car to your friend, say nothing about the driving that caused the problem, and instead promise yourself to remove the patch kits from the trunk!  No more patches, no more overly patched tires.  Now you're thinking!

Hell, you're as smart as a doctor!

Don't understand or like my analogy?  Okay, let's pretend again.  Here goes:

You go see your doctor, and upon measuring your cholesterol he says "Your cholesterol is too high.  I'm going to give you a drug to lower it."

Cholesterol is used by your body to patch and repair damage.  It's probably elevated because of the damage as opposed to being the cause of the damage itself.  Does the doc conclude the damage should stop?  No, he simply prescribes a statin to reduce the number of patches!

When you come back in 6 months he checks your cholesterol again, and now that your body isn't making as many patches the number is lower.  He says all is well, and tells you to continue taking statins for life.  Does that mean the damage is gone?  Of course not!  He has treated the number, not the problem.  He removed the patches from the trunk and set you free to drive through fields of nails!

So what happens to your body now that you have shut off its repair mechanisms and have blunted your body's ability to fix itself?  Simple, you get other illnesses.

Don't believe me?  Do some searching for all-cause mortallity and statins.  Google away. While you're at it, google cholesterol levels and all-cause mortality.

Maybe we should let our body repair as needed while reducing the damage that needs repairing.  Maybe.  Like maybe we shouldn't drive in fields of thorns and nails.

If you're actually following my analogy at this point, I'll finish by saying that thorns and nails are equivalent to sugar, high fructose corn syrup, seed oils, and grains.

Have a nice drive.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PWO Ice Cream

I've been playing with homemade protein ice cream post-workout.  So here's my notes and recipe for PWO (post-workout) ice cream.

1 cup whole milk

  • Fat: 8g
  • Protein: 8g
  • Carb: 12g

1 cup cottage cheese

  • Fat: 5g
  • Protein: 26g
  • Carb: 8g
1 cup goat milk kefir

  • Fat: 8g
  • Protein: 8g
  • Carb: 10g
6 oz goat milk yogurt

  • Fat; 4.5g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Carb: 7g
2 tablespoons cocoa

  • Fat: 1g
  • Protein: 2g
  • Carb: 6g
66g sprout's chocolate whey protein powder (yes I use a scale)

  • Fat: 1.5g
  • Protein: 54g
  • Carb: 3g
Before adding a sweetener other than what's in the protein powder, this gives me 28g of fat, 105g of protein, and 46g of carbs.  Here's where you have a choice.  For me, I shoot for about 100g of protein and 100g of carbs, so I do one of two things:  I either cook about 8 ounces of sweet potato and add that, or I add just under 1/4 cup of maple syrup.  1/4 cup of maple syrup is 53g of sugar, but maple syrup has a better glucose/fructose balance compared to normal table sugar.  Plus it tastes great.

Not up for the sugar bomb of maple syrup?  No problem.  Believe it or not, 8 ounces of finely chopped sweet potato cooked in a skillet with a tiny bit (like a teaspoon or so) of coconut oil will get pretty sweet tasting once it just barely starts to brown.  The 8 ounces (measured when raw) of sweet potato will provide a great source of about 50g of carbs to round off the shake to the 100g carb mark.

Whichever route you go, put all of it in a blender and blend until smooth.  This breaks up the sweet potato chunks and/or the cottage cheese chunks.  When you're done it should look like smooth, thick, chocolate milk.

Sorry, no picture.  But it's a blender.  You probably have one, right?

Make sure it's well chilled, and pour it in the Cuisinart ice cream maker. 

Don't go absolutely to the top on all the liquid measurements or it will overflow a bit while churning.  This is right at the limit for this size ice cream maker.  So when I say a cup above, I really mean 95% of a cup or so.   Or you can just let it overflow a bit...who cares?

Yumm.  In this picture it's about halfway done.  When it stops getting thicker and creamier it's done.  It will only get about the consistency of soft serve frozen yogurt.

Scoop the ice cream into a plastic container and store it in the freezer until your workout.  Workout REALLY hard and then enjoy some chocolate ice cream.

Is it paleo?  No.  Neither is the BCAA supplement I take before my workouts.  Neither is soap.  Neither is the automobile.  You see where I'm going?  If this has a place in your plan, enjoy.  If not, ignore.  If you're unsure, experiment and decide for yourself.

If you gain lots of muscle and set personal bests on a regular basis while eating this, please let me know.  If you get fat and break out with severe acne, well you should have known better than to eat ice cream!  What were you thinking?

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Here it is, straight from Merriam-Webster online:

1: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly: compelling motivation (an obsession with profits)

Wow, lots to consider there, especially for anyone who recently called me obsessive.  I could have put this under the topic of sayings I hate, but this is a little bit different.

I recently heard from someone I know that I was "obsessed " with diet and exercise.  In this person's opinion I must have had a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling in regards to my diet and exercise.

So, let's take it piece by piece.  How is my focus on diet and exercise "disturbing" in any way?  It sure as hell isn't disturbing me.  It's awesome to be able to take the stairs three steps at a time.  It's fantastic to wear size 32 shorts and jeans.  I'm not mortified to take my shirt off in public.  These are all things that don't disturb me.

Is it a preoccupation?  The national average for television watching is 28 hours per week.  That's four hours a day!  I probably average 3 trips to CrossFit per week, and if I include my commute time, my workout time, and even my social time in which I enjoy the company of similarly obsessed people, I still can't come up with a number that approaches half the time the average person sits and watches a television.

And while I'm at it, the television angle is a fun one.  See, I also heard from this same person that CrossFit is too expensive.  My question is "Compared to what?"  According to this article: http://money.cnn.com/2010/01/06/news/companies/cable_bill_cost_increase/index.htm the average spend on cable television is about $75/month and increasing.  I can get a year at a CrossFit gym for $100/month if I prepay the whole year.  So $900/year for television and 28 hours per week or $1200/year for CrossFit and less than half that time invested.  Your choice.  Oh, for that extra $300 you get a hard body at the end of the year, and an extra 700 hours in which to use it.

Interesting observation:  I don't subscribe to cable or satellite services, but the person who felt free to call me obsessive does.  Things that make me go hmmm.

Back to my obsessing.  That last part of the definition really irks me.  What is my unreasonable idea or feeling?  To be in shape?  To be fit?  To have a nice body?  How is it unreasonable?  I weight 55 pounds less than I did 5 years ago and have more muscle.  I've lost over 8 inches off my waist.  So I'd say it ISN'T unreasonable, I'd say it's working just fine.

I found it strangely tempting to just tell this person to go F themselves, but instead I'll break down the thinking that I imagine must be going on:

"Gee, I'm 60 pounds overweight.  I can't do a pullup to save my life.  I'm not passionate about my health.  Hell, I'm not really passionate about anything.  I certainly don't pursue anything at all with the passion Bill does.  And he's talking about CrossFit again!  He's talking about something he DOES, and I only talk about things I WATCH.  Hmmm.  I suddenly feel inadequate.  I feel bad.  I don't want to feel bad.  I think I'll insult Bill and make myself feel better by labeling what he does with a negative label.  Yeah, the problem isn't my ballooning waist, declining sex drive, or man-boobs that deserve a training bra, the problem is Bill for being so obsessive and making me feel bad by comparison.  I'll tell him he's being obsessive and then I'll feel better."

Well, I'm glad I could make you feel better.  And you didn't even really have to work for it, did you?  Nope, you can just call me obsessive and get a little boost.  I wonder if that high will still be occurring when you go to get dressed and find another pair of pants that won't fit.  Hmmm.  Not a problem I'd like to deal with, I'll just suffer with my obsession.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Root of Health

Any guesses?  Maca?  Ginger?


The roots of a tree are the foundation for everything the tree is, yet are the least visible.  Everything above ground, the trunk, branches, leaves, are all dependent on a strong attachment to the earth and a source of water.  The roots are critical.
So what is the root of personal health?  If you said "diet and exercise" you're way ahead of things.  Those are branches, they're not even the trunk.

The root of health is a commitment to be personally responsible for your health.  It's that simple.  Without that commitment, without that decision to be personally at cause for your health as opposed to a hapless passenger in your own body, you have nothing to drive everything else in regards to your health.

Most of you reading this have already made that commitment, perhaps without doing so explicitly.  But that commitment drives you to make choices and take actions that naturally flow from taking personal responsibility for your health.

It's also why people who haven't made that commitment become quite perplexing to those who have.  The friend who doesn't care about what they eat makes no sense to us.  The co-worker who scoffs when you mention you don't eat somethng because it has hydrogenated soybean oil is perplexing to us because from a position of personal commitment that attitude make no sense.

I spoke with a friend recently who told me his doctor had put him on a statin.  First, if you're responsible for your health how can a doctor "put you" on anything?  Without going down that path, I instead asked him if he had researched statins to see if that was really the best thing for him.  His response was incredible:  "Dude, I just do whatever my doctor tells me."

I challenged him briefly by asking if he would do it if his doctor told him he needed to eat rat poison.  Of course he wouldn't because he knows that's bad for him.  He just happens to have that knowledge, yet he won't pursue new and additional knowledge to make an informed choice in regards to his doctor's recommendations.  The reason is simple:  He's not personally responsible for his health.  Heck, he just does whatever his doctor tells him. 


Stupid, but easy.

Some people will go a lifetime without ever making that decision.  Others either made it at an early age or slowly grew into it as they matured.  Even fewer will have a life altering event, such as a heart attack, that will cause them to become the captain of their ship as opposed to a passenger.

And in that light it's easy to see why people will eat what they eat while we wouldn't touch it:  It's not their problem.  Maybe it's just in my nature to want to be in control.

When I fly my own airplane, I perform a through preflight.  I check every control surface, make sure all the bolts and screws I can see are tight.  I check the fuel quantity and drain a bit to check for water.  When I am a passenger on a commercial flight I can't exercise that responsibility.  Instead I have to trust the pilots in command of that airplane, which is actually very difficult for me to do.  Commercial flights annoy me because I'm not controlling the factors that may spell doom, I'm just along for the ride with my fingers crossed.  I can't imagine taking the same attitude with my body.

So, diet and exercise are way down the list.  The root of it all is a commitment to being personally responsible for your health.  Next time I'll talk about the steps that come after that.  It's all a pretty natural progression and eventually I'll get to the branches of diet and exercise but there are a few more pieces first.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Dog

Yesterday I chose to have my dog, Aerial, put to sleep.

It's difficult to even type those words, and the emotions that come and go during this time are varied and powerful.

But saying I've learned a lot from the process is a poor way to describe how I've been impacted by the last 11 years and my experience with  a sweet and wonderful dog.  So I'll instead just let the words flow and meander and see where it takes me.

First, I'll start with Aerial herself.  It was about 11 years ago that I looked up from my computer and told my wife that I thought we should get a dog.  She was pretty surprised by this because I typically don't like change.  I don't like disruption in my life, in particular in ways that feel like I'm am being limited or restricted.  Getting a dog creates restrictions.  It just does.  It's one more thing to be responsible for, and I already had 4 kids so I wasn't experiencing a lack of things to take care of in my life.  :)

But the need just hit me, so I went into dog acquisition mode.  First, what to get?  Well, I can't stand dog hair and fur on me, clothes, and furniture.  My younger son, Mitch, had some allergies to contend with as well, so I just searched the internet for a database of dog types with the criteria I needed.  Some of the database fields included "hypo-allergenic", "sheds", "good with kids", and "indoor/outdoor". 

I sorted the database to find a dog that didn't shed, didn't activate common allergies, was good with kids and was both a good indoor and outdoor dog.  I started from the top and read the descriptions, ignoring the names and pictures, and somewhere in the top 3 was the perfect dog.  The description included details about how great the breed was with kids, how they enjoyed playing games, and figuring things out.  It described the need to keep them occupied with challenges, and how they made great "working" dogs because of their fierce loyalty and natural willingness to engage with their owner.

All of that sounded perfect, so I made up my mind.  Only then did I look at the breed name.  My wife has to put up with a lot, and from her perspective I'm sure I seem crazy.  One minute I tell her I want a dog, next I tell her I'm going to analytically pick the best dog for us, and then I'm looking up from the computer again minutes later asking "What the hell is a Portugese Water Dog?"

She didn't know either, but the choice was made and Becky took it from there.  I still remember being stunned when she told me they were (at the time) a pretty rare breed, and a dog was going to cost $1200-$2000!  Wow, that made me pause.  But for me it was either get the 'perfect' dog or spend less on one that was clearly inferior.  Computers and databases don't lie, so the choice was still clear.  (I'm chuckling as I type that.)

Becky found a breeder and we were told that if the next litter had a "pet quality" dog that we could purchase one.  It turned out that the next litter did indeed have a female that was not considered show quality due to an underbite, and the breeder asked us to name her with the theme of her litter, which was aviation.  What are the odds?  As an avid private pilot, and total airplane nut, nothing seemed more of a sign that we had picked the right dog than this. 

We needed to pick two names, like a first and middle name, and a conversation with the kids eventually got us to "Aerial" for a first name.  Some of the meanings of Aerial include "occurring in the air", "high in the air", and "of or relating to aircraft."  So Aerial definitely fit the aviation theme the breeder had picked for this litter, but what for the second name?  My younger daughter, Katie, was asking what Aerial meant and I was describing aerial displays, acrobatics, etc.  At some point I remember she asked what that looked like, and I said it was like an airplane dancing through the sky.  I don't recall now who then suggested "Skydancer" as the second name, but before long the name was settled on.  The reference to the breeder is shown as a possessive, so the registered name ended up being "SaltyDawg's Aerial Skydancer."

And just in writing this, I've googled her name.  I can save you the time if you want to google her, and show you some info on her here  http://www.offa.org/display.html?appnum=1065646  and here http://www.saltydawgpwds.com/Whoarewe.html where her show dog championship is mentioned.  But that's jumping way ahead, I suppose.  I'll sidetrack a moment though and say it makes me smile now to see the information in the first link.  We eventually bred Aerial and asked the owners of those puppies to continue the aviation them themselves.  Apparently they did since I see the registered names now.  Aerial's legacy lives on through "Soaring Thru Space", "Sky Princess", and "Grace Spitfire."  I can imagine dogs responding to "Grace" or "Princess" but I don't know what the owners call out when they want "Soaring Thru Space" to come.

So back to the story as I ramble along.  We got Aerial when she was around 10-12 weeks old.  And while I was the one who decided to have a dog, my ever-patient wife had to deal with me freaking out a bit.  Suddenly we were bound to the house.  We couldn't just leave all day without planning on someone to let Aerial out.  And she was a puppy.  My last experience with a puppy seemed like it was all play and no work, no doubt because I was a little kid and the work fell on my parent's shoulders.  It truly was all play for me.  Only after getting Aerial did I realize the work involved.  Hey, puppies are work.

Fast forward 9 months or so, and a few things have occured.  First, the puppy has become an easily excitable dog, and her underbite has spontaneously corrected itself.  I joked briefly with the breeder that I had fabricated braces and headgear for the dog, but the horrified response quickly turned off my sarcastic sense of humor.  Instead the breeder asked if we would be willing to "show her."  Initially we had no interest but the breeder really wanted us to consider it so we finally agreed to do so.  Working with the breeder was great, and while I could never keep a straight face when someone at a show said "you have such a beautiful bitch" it was fun to see Aerial being shown.  She would be a total spaz right up to the point of her handler taking her in the ring, and then she would walk around like she knew she was the greatest dog ever!  She exhibited total poise and composure.  Upon exiting the ring she would freak out and lick us and spaz out all over again.  It was very fun to watch and I'm convinced she loved it.

She won several shows in her category, eventually acquiring the points to earn her championship, and we retired her from dog shows.  It was a fun phase, but one we were glad to finish and let her resume just being a pet.  And that's exactly what she did for the next 10 years.  True to the original database description, she was the best...dog...ever.  She didn't shed, she was good indoors or out (though clearly wanted to be indoors!), was great with kids, loved to play fetch, do tricks, you name it.  And she learned things so easily and quickly.

She loved toys.  Loved to get a dog-toy and tear it apart to find the squeaky thing inside.  Sometimes that was accomplished within an hour of giving her the toy, and other times she kept toys for a long time.  She kept this mangy duck for years, and she wouldn't touch the elephant that trumpeted when it was bounced.  If you were playing with her and said "Go get your toy!" she would search the house until she found one and brought it to you.  I don't know how she learned it, she just did it the first time we told her to.

One time I went upstairs with her and happened to see her toy and decided I would throw it over the balcony to her.  I told her "Go downstairs" and she bolted down the stairs to the first landing.  I said "go all the way down!" and she ran down to the first floor and I threw her the toy and she caught it and bolted back up the stairs.  I have no idea how she learned it, but from that day on, we could play that game and she would do exactly the same thing.  "Go downstairs" would send her to the first landing.  Sometimes I'd throw her the toy there, and other times I'd say "All the way down" and she'd run downstairs and sit under the balcony for me to throw her toy to her.

She was gentle and never snapped at me or bit me.  But if I got down on the ground and played rough with her she would growl and pretend to bite me while just barely putting her mouth on me.  She'd put her mouth on my arms and hands and barely leave little red marks while I would tackle and shove her away.  We fought hard, and to a stranger it would look like she was attacking me.  We would fight like this until I was exhausted, and the first time we did it when I was ready to stop I said "Okay, cool it." and she just sat down and waited to be petted.  I'd like to claim I trained her, but she just seemed to know.

My kids loved for me to show their friends this trick, and Aerial and I did it often. One minute we would be rolling around on the ground with her appearing to bite me and attack me while I shoved her away and she slid across the floor only to jump back up and pounce on me, looking for an exposed arm or leg to latch onto.  Then I would say "Cool it." and without a second's hesitation she would drop into a sitting position and wait for me to scratch her chin.

As I mentioned earlier, we bred Aerial as well, and while there were some healthy pups from the first litter, and one from the second litter, it was also about the time that some health problems began to surface.  Shortly after the second litter, she began taking medication for some hormonal imbalances that lasted the rest of her life.  There were also a few lumps/tumors removed over the years, and she seemed to have a new lump or growth every year or two.  Other than that she was vibrant, energetic, and healthy. 

A few months ago she suddenly developed glaucoma in her left eye and went blind in that eye before we caught it and began treatment.  We caught it in time in her right eye just about 6 weeks ago and saved her vision.  Then in the last 10 days she started eating less, but we thought it was related to a lump she had removed from under one of her teats during that time.  On Monday evening she suddenly seemed to be having trouble rising to a standing position, and by Monday night she was degeneratng rapidly enough that we took her to the emergency pet hospital.  Her bloodwork and vitals seemed okay, so we took her to our normal vet Tuesday morning.

Wednesday afternoon a surgical specialist doing ultrasound and x-rays determined she had fluid on her lungs, growths on multiple organs, and a mass of what was most likely cancer on her spleen.  We also noticed that a few lumps we had found on Monday behind her ears and under her chin had almost doubled in size.  She couldn't lift herself up, and her body was obviously being overtaken by cancerous growths.  The vet explained that the growth on the spleen typically creates internal bleeding, which explained the edema, anemia, and sudden onset of symptions, but said she was too weak to survive a surgery to try to correct the acute issue.

Never in my life has such a clear decision been such a difficult decision.  My girls and I met my wife at the surgical center and we arranged to say our goodbyes.  They brought Aerial in to see us on a wheeled table, because she could barely lift her head and needed oxygen to stay awake.  In spite of all of that, as soon as she came through the door she lifted her head and her tail began banging up and down on the table.  She tried to get up a few times, but it was obvious she wasn't going to be able to, so we just encouraged her to lay down and each of us took a few minutes to pet her and comfort her.

She was a great dog and I'm glad I got to say goodbye.  I know she understood me when I said "Go downstairs" and she knew what to do when I said "Cool it."  I like to think that she similarly intuited what I meant when I thanked her for being such a great dog and for sharing her life with us.  I thanked her for being in our family, and for the joy she brought us.  And then I laid my head on her chest and broke down and sobbed.

The sadness was all being created from the sense of loss, and the loss only exists because something is treasured.  So with a deep breath I regained my composure and told her she could go to sleep soon and it wouldn't hurt any more.  As we left she tried to get up, but was so weak that we readily convinced her to just lay back down.  It appeared she was close to falling asleep when the assistant came to take her.

I've broken down and sobbed more than a handful of times since.  I miss my dog.  And while she loved us all, she was MY dog.  For most of her life she refused to be in any room other than where I was.  She would leave someone else to check to see if I would pet her, yet when she was with me no one else could get her to come to them.  Many times I would tell her to go, and even then she had a hard time leaving my side.  She was my dog.  Wow, I'm going to miss her.

I've always cringed when I've heard people say they love their pets like I love my children.  Invariably, these are people who don't have kids, and therefore don't realize how wrong they are.  As much as I will miss Aerial, she was my dog.  And perhaps for that reason it's easier to see past the loss and realize just how thankful I am for having had her in our family.  So while I feel my ramblings coming to a close, and perhaps upon completion of this I can actually sleep, I think what's really left for me to express is the gratitude.

I learned a lot from Aerial, and I'm grateful for the lessons.  I learned that when you do something you shouldn't, the best thing to do just might be to hang your head and tuck your tail between your legs.  But don't just wallow in it.  Periodically check to see if you've been forgiven.  And when it's clear that all is forgiven, spring back and jump into the joyful relationship you had prior to the transgression.  Wag your tail again.  If you're forgiven, forgive yourself and don't walk around with your head low and tail tucked any longer.

I learned to unabashedly show joy at seeing the ones you love, the ones you know, and maybe the people you've just met.  Why not?  Until the last month or so, Aerial ran to the door every time I came home.  If she thought I might come to the front door she often laid her head on the window sill and just watched and waited.  I knew I was loved by the greeting I got.  I learned to really tell people that it's good to see them, that it's good to talk to them, and that I enjoy their company.  Good stuff shouldn't go unexpressed.

I learned that if I'm not willing to fight to protect my kids then I'm certainly no better than a dog.  She was protective of each litter, sometimes fiercely so.  The only time she ever bit anyone was when she bit my friend Jim because he came in the house when we weren't inside.  Aerial was growling at anyone except our family if they came near her litter, and she chased Jim back out the door.  He almost made it before she drew blood.  It was my mistake, and Jim was generous to forgive her completely.  And once I came in the house, 30 seconds later, she was wagging her tail at Jim.  When we weren't in the house, she wouldn't let anyone else in, and having puppies took her protective stance to another level.

I liked her example of confronting the unknown head-on.  When she heard a noise outside, she charged out the dog door at full steam, barking and saying "It's on!" as she went.  When she cornered a possum at 3am one morning, she ran in and out of the dog door, keeping the possum cornered and waking me up to join the fight.  She was fearless, but when I stuck my head out the dog door and saw the possum a few feet away in my flashlight beam it scared the heck out of me.

Finally, I feel tremendous gratitude for everything surrounding yesterday's experience.  In the last 24 hours I've experienced a lot of emotion, so I'm just going to start listing all the things for which I have felt grateful.

I am tremendouly grateful for my friends who showed their support and care during a difficult time.  I felt loved.

I am grateful for my family, in particular my wife and kids.  They created the family in which we welcomed Aerial 10 years ago, and the family in which we mourned her loss.  I'm surrounded by loving people.

I am grateful for the financial ability that allows me to know that my decision was completely based on what's best for Aerial and my family.  Surgery would have been very expensive, and I am blessed beyond description that I did not have to take that into account in my decision.  I told my daughter yesterday that it was the best thing, and I said so confidently.  If I had to make that decision because I couldn't afford the surgery I couldn't look my daughter in the eyes.  I'm under no illusion that many families are faced with those difficult decisions and don't have the options I did.  I am truly, incredibly, overwhelmingly blessed.  Abundance shows up in the weirdest places.

I am grateful for the abundance that allows me to have a pet in the first place.  I've said for many years the difference between pet and prey is how hungry you are.  It's incredible that I live in a society so abundant that we can have pets.  If there is a scale ranging from scarcity to abundance, most of the people reading this, like me, are so huddled together on the abundance end that they don't realize the size and scope of the scale that exists.  I have an abundant life.

Finally, I'm grateful for the puppy that just jumped up next to me.  We got Gracie, another portugese water dog, just a couple of months ago.  She played hard with Aerial, and I'm glad they got some time together.  Aerial acted younger in those couple of months, and seemed to be having a blast right up until the end. 

My challenge will be to not expect Gracie to be another Aerial.  Aerial was my favorite dog ever.  Gracie may be my next favorite dog, maybe not.  She's definitely different.  Aerial tried to avoid the shower, whereas Gracie won't stop throwing herself against the shower door until I let her in.  She starts almost every morning soaking wet.  Weird dog.

But, that's what we said about Aerial.  We always said she was a weird dog.

I'll sure miss that weird dog.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sayings I hate, Part 4

"It won't kill you."

Grrr.  This one gets me. 

It's usually tacked on at the end of some string of statements burbling forth from a round face with splotchy cheeks and fat lips.  Something like "Oh come on!  You can at least try a piece of cake.  It won't kill you."

Listen, I don't give a crap if you baked it.  I don't care if you think it's so awesome that I just HAVE to share it with you, if I don't want it then shut...the...hell...up.  Seriously.

If I want to splurge, I will.  If it's a cheat meal then don't get your hands close to my ice cream.  But if I don't want to eat your crap right now, telling me that it won't kill me is just annoying and slightly offensive.

I've tried explaining my thoughts in the moment to these pushers of metabolic destruction, but it seldom works.  So these days I just have fun with it.  If you're in the same situation, try a few of these:

"Holy crap?  Really?  You mean I've been passing up all the cake and cookies because I thought it would kill me and it won't?  Wow, I've got some catching up to do!"

"Are you sure?  Remember that dude in Scarface who snorted a bunch of powdered sugar up his nose?  It killed him."

"Yeah, that's the whole problem.  I'm such an adrenaline junkie that I just don't feel any enjoyment from something unless there's some chance it will kill me.  Want to go skydiving?"

Or perhaps you could just tell them that you will, but you have a rule that any time you eat crap like that you have to go run ten 100 meter sprints and you want them to join you.  When they protest, remind them it won't kill them.

The problem is, depending on the person asking, it just might!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rules of Paleo - #1

In order of my thinking of them, as opposed to any importance, I present the first rule in what will be my Rules of Paleo series.

Rule #1:

If it's difficult you're doing something wrong

There it is, short and sweet.  If it feels like a chore, if you're hungry all the time, if you find cooking to be a pain, or if you don't enjoy your food then you're doing something wrong.

I must mention here my eight word description of my diet:  "I eat real food that satisfies my hunger."

That should be easy.  Protein and fat satisfy, so those better be in there.  And real means that the most processed thing you'll eat is ground meat.

If instead you are scouring the internet looking for the latest Paleo Banana Nut Bread recipe then spending hours combining coconut flour, almond meal, banana chips and eggs into some weird production so you "have something to eat" then you're doing it wrong.

Am I saying you can never try those things?  Of course not!  I'm saying that those types of meals shouldn't form the foundation of your diet, and I'm saying it for two reasons:  First, recreating a crappy diet with "Paleo" ingredients is a waste of time and will result in less than optimal nutrition and thus less than optimal results.  Second, it's too much work to do that for every meal and if you are trying to do it that way you'll probably fail.

Work to create a foundation for your diet that is:
  1. Simple
  2. Enjoyable
  3. Duplicable
It should be easy to make, requiring a minimum of time.  A few simple examples:
  • Pour a can of coconut milk into a large pan and turn on the heat.  Throw in some seasonings, such as curry, salt, oregano, basil, fennel seed, etc.  Dump in some veggies and once it's boiling turn it down and dump in some meat.  Cook it for a while, stirring occasionally.
  • Throw some cubed sweet potato in a pan with about 1/4" of  water.  Bring it to a boil while adding salt and fennel seed.  Turn it to simmer, throw in a pound of ground beef and let it cook until the potato is soft and meat is done.  Turn off the heat and let it sit for a bit.
  • Chop up some bacon and put it in a pan on medium heat.  Add a chopped onion on top of that.  Let it cook until the bacon has rendered out a good amount of grease, then stir it all together and keep cooking until the onions are soft.  Add 3 to 7 whisked eggs and move to the oven set for 400 until eggs are solid.
You get the idea.  These are some of my go-to meals.  They're simple.  In a pinch, I'll just grab a tin of oysters and tin or two of sardines.  That's not ideal, since it's all canned and there are no veggies, but if I am short on time for some reason I can get 50-60 grams of protein and a big chunck of fat in about 3 minutes.

The meals I described above are enjoyable to me.  They're very satisfying and they taste great.  They also are enjoyable to create.  It's very little work to cube a sweet potato, chop an onion, etc., and they need a minimum amount of supervision while cooking.  It is also enjoyable to experiment with different tastes.  I had never used fennel seed until I just bought a handful of spices I recognized and played with them.  Now I use fennel seed in many dishes.

These meals are easily duplicated.  If I need a post workout meal a pound of sweet potato and pound of ground beef is something I can cook in my sleep.  I have about a dozen meals I can create on auto-pilot.  It's still fun to experiment, but if the experiment is a bust or if you just need something you can count on then you need some meals you can cook without much thought.

One other thing that emerges if you create this type of foundation for your diet is you'll have less reason to eat out.  If you dread cooking because you've complicated it and feel you don't have time, you'll rationalize just grabbing something.  And once the compromise starts it's just a question of how far it goes.  Sure, tell yourself you'll just eat some beef fajita meat, but then you get to the restaurant and ENCHILADAS SOUND SO GOOD!!! 

Cooking isn't a pain once you get the hang of it.  It's quick to make an omelette or some beef and veggies, so no need to run out for something.  And if you are cooking and eating the right things you're not going to be hungry.

Every once in a while, if you enjoy it, find some strange paleofied version of an old food you enjoyed and whip up your own version.  For me, it's a hamburger, and I make a mean hamburger bun by modifying the recipe for paleo pancakes to create a thicker batter.  It's a nice change of pace, but it's tedious compared to everything else I cook and eat.  Check it out at the bottom of this page.

One more point to cover.  Just like I recommend you have a dozen or so meals that you know you can prepare quickly, define at least a handful of options that are okay if you need to eat out.  Typical eat-out meals for me:
  • Chiptole - 3 sides of steak in a bowl and a side of guacamole
  • Saltgrass - 12 ounce top sirloin with double asparagus (and don't let them leave bread on the table!)
  • Rockfish - Grilled tuna (rare) with sides of asparagus
Again, you get the idea.  By having a foundation for your diet that is either an easy to prepare food or a readily available food from a local restaurant you make it all much easier.

And it should be easy, or at least no more difficult than you decide to make it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An Anonymous Objection

Here's an interesting comment I received on my post about the conclusion of a 45 day paleo challenge.

Anonymous said...

What does the toilet smell like after you have a dump man! What about all the cholesterol/saturated fat/uric acid/animal metabolic waste products/heterocyclic amines/benzopyrenes etc?

Look what is happening to Robb Wolf. His health is falling apart judging by his latest blood pathology. :(
Well, that's an interesting way to raise an objection.  Start with a meaningless question, follow that up with a "what about" a bunch of stuff, then say something with no reference and no substantiation.  Quite the technique.

But, being an analytical person, I'll take the time to respond.  Point by point.

What does the toilet smell like after I have a dump?

It's smells like a toilet.  What else can a toilet smell like?  Perhaps you meant the contents of the toilet, in which case the odor is that of human fecal matter.  I don't notice any difference between that odor now versus when I was vegan, vegetarian, or low-fat high carb.  I do notice a difference when I eat asparagus, but I'm straying off topic.  Is there an embedded claim in your question that would indicate a proper diet results in crap with no odor?

What about all the cholesterol/saturated fat/uric acid/animal metabolic waste products/heterocyclic amines/benzopyrenes etc?

What about them? 

Cholesterol - fine.  I enjoy my precursor hormones to testosterone and enjoy the testosterone even more.

Saturated fat - Great!  Just like the fat stores my body uses to buffer transfer of energy between food and output, my body loves to run on saturated fat. 

If you're curious about the impact from these two evils, consider my blood pressure was 100/53 and my pulse was 46 this morning.  These are probably more meaningful measurements than the smell of my poop.

Uric acid - fine.  That's why I pee.  It's also why it's called urine.  My kidneys are healthy, and I don't eat large amounts of sucrose or fructose, which are known to elevate serum levels of uric acid beyond healthy levels.

Animal metabolic waste products - Well, that's why I poop.  :)  My body will have some waste products from anything it uses for fuel and building blocks.  To show concern in this area is the equivalent of showing concern that a gas-burning car has exhaust.  And I don't mean some silly environmental concern, I mean the fundamental concept that to use anything for fuel will result in byproducts of the chemical reactions necessary to extract that energy.

Heterocyclic amines - Which ones?  That term covers compounds that range from vitamins to carcinogens.  I assume from the negative tone of your inquiry that you mean the carcinogenic compounds most people refer to that may be produced by cooking meat at high temps.  Simple, I don't cook at high temps.  I don't grill meat.  Most of the meat I eat is cooked at temps very close to boiling.  I slow cook the meat along with the veggies, and it only requires a temp above about 170f to get the job done.  So, no concerns.  Oh, that reminds me, the data that shows these are carcinogenic is based on human models.  There has not been any population study or otherwise to demonstrate it actually is a risk.

Benzopyrenes - Uhhh.  Well, I don't smear coal tar on myself, live near an active volcano, smoke cigarettes.  Oh, you must mean the little tiny bits from charring/grilling meat.  I don't do that either, mainly because I don't like the taste.  I occasionally sear it in clarified butter, but never on a flame.  So, no concerns there.

Okay, I addressed the totally open-ended "what about" questions.  That was tedious.  On to the last one:

Look what is happening to Robb Wolf. His health is falling apart judging by his latest blood pathology. :(

Have you ever been around Robb Wolf?  I have.  So having actually seen him in person I can say he's a pretty healthy-looking dude.  I'm envious of his performance numbers in many areas.  But you can't really tell too much from just looking at someone, so can you share the information about his latest blood pathology?

See, there was no substantiation, no explanation, just a stab at Robb Wolf.

So, I don't know what your objective was with that comment, but throwing out a bunch of open ended "what about" style questions combined with random and unsubstantiated stabs at well known people doesn't achieve much.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Best Supplement for Vegetarians

I have a few vegetarian friends, so imagine how happy I am to have finally found a good supplement for them to round out their diet.  I take this supplement almost daily and actually recommend it for everyone, but vegetarians in particular stand to benefit.

While I won't endorse the grains, legumes, and some other stuff most Vegetarians eat, I heartily support their consumption of actual vegetables.  Spinach, broccoli, sweet potato, squash, the list goes on and on.  All yummy stuff.  All certainly beneficial.  But there are certain nutrients that are just not provided by the veggies and fruit and those nutrients are critical to health.

Luckily there is a manufacturing process most people are unaware of that harvests large amounts of green leafy plants (mostly grass) and concentrates their nutrients into an easy to take supplement.  There's no way for a human to eat and digest this much plant material, so the concentration process is not just important, it's required.

But the best part is this supplement, unlike so many others, tastes great!  I know, it's hard to imagine that the end product of processing that much grass into a supplement could taste good, but it does!  And it tastes good in spite of the fact that the concentration ratios are approximately 1 to 1.5 pounds of leafy plant material for just a 10 gram supply of the supplement!

Unfortunately, this particular supplement is more difficult to find than most.  I've never seen it in my supermarket or grocery store, nor is it stocked at GNC.  You will either have to order it online, or find a local supplier who deals directly with the consumer.  In some rare cases it is stocked in stores that specialize in higher-end foods, like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Sunflower, etc. 

It comes in two primary forms, large solid pieces, and a ground-up version.  If you receive your supplement in solid pieces, I recommend cutting it into portions of 6 to 10 ounces each, marinating in some simple spices and cooking it until the outside has browned but the inside remains pink.  This can be done over a grill, or in a skillet with some butter.

If you receive a ground-up version then I suggest you slice a couple of onions and sweet potatos, cook those in a skillet with some coconut oil and add the supplement once the veggies are cooked.  Cook the entire mixture until there is no pink left.

Recommended dosage is .5 to 1.5 pounds/day.  If you are vegetarian you may notice renewed energy, better muscle tone, and a host of other improvements to your health. 

If you decide to give it a shot, realize that you must verify that the supplement is produced from 100% grass processing. Some manufacturers produce a completely different product with a nearly identical name by processing grains as opposed to leafy greens. When searching for it online use a search term such as "Grass fed and finished beef" or ask your health food store if they have "100% grass fed and finished beef" to ensure you get the real deal.  It's as easy as that!

Let me know how this supplement works out for you!