Month: December 2014

Petite Portions Diet

How many types of diet have you tried? Did they work? For how long? Did you gain more weight after you stop the diet? If you answered yes to the last question – welcome to the club!

I’ve tried a few diets. Back in the 90’s there was carbo-loading. This is basically eating plates of pasta to increase my glycogen level. This is normally done the night before a huge event – in my case – a bicycle ride of 25 miles or more at a brisk pace.

Fast forward two decades later. Carbo-loading doesn’t work for most people. Excess carbohydrates made me gain weight. It is designed for riders that ride several hours a day (several days a week) because they consume 4,000 calories or more a day – but for the average Joe (or Edward), it’s not recommended.

I went on a low carb diet and it worked. I can easily lose 2-3 pounds in a few days by eating protein only (chicken, steak, fish) with veggies and fruits. No pasta, no bread, no rice – no carb at all. This diet can’t be done for a long time though. It’s not good for the kidney.

I also tried a strictly vegan diet to detox. The lack of calories was supplemented with medical food, and I was under the supervision of a nutritionist. It was really hard. It lasted three weeks and I lost 10 lbs. but after that diet I longed for steak and fried fish and other goodies.

For practical purposes, a vegan diet must be done very slowly. First, you take out the pork, shrimp and other seafood. Then you ease off the red meat and dairy products. Finally, the fish and eggs has to go. Avoid processed foods too. This is inconvenient because if you eat out, chances are you may be eating processed food.

We eat vegan several meals a week but we don’t go full vegan so we don’t feel deprived and overcompensate by eating plates of spaghetti, slabs of steaks and a few glasses of soda on the weekends.

I have maintained my weight (kinda) for over two years now since my surgery. I discovered that  a diet where I only eat a small portion of what I would normally eat is the most effective diet.

We got the idea from the hospital food given to me. An example of the lunch menu: one slice of meat loaf, half a cup of peas, one bowl of soup, one piece of bread, and banana and pudding for dessert .  It’s not much food but I ate a snack in between meals.

In the first few weeks of my recovery, my wife made meals that were small portions balanced with the right amount of veggies, fruits, meat or fish and measured sugar and salt. I easily lost 15 pounds in a few weeks.

We continued with the “Petite Portions” (I called it that to sound cute) for weeks after that. However, every now and then we overindulge and that’s when we gain a pound or two.

With the coming new year, we had resolved that we will go back to the same diet. After many trial and error with different diet, it seems that the Petite Portions diet is the one that will work.

You may give it a try too – but first, ask your doctor for nutritional advice.

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Simpler Fitness

For this coming new year (2015 for you, Rip Van Winkle) I plan to go on a simpler way of getting fit. I will call it simply “Simpler Fi”.

Yes, I am copying from the USMC’s motto of “semper fi” which means semper fidelis which means “always faithful”. Yes, I would like some kind of regimen which allows me to be faithful to the program. To make it work, I have to make it simpler.

I tried a running program the other day and to my amazement, I couldn’t run anymore without stopping after every 30 seconds. What’s wrong? My son said that maybe I ran too fast too soon. After that workout which lasted no more than 12 minutes, I was sooo tired and had chest pains.

Conclusion: running short sprints is out.

I went riding my bike the other day, all 11 kilometers of it. I felt fine until the last two kilometers because that’s when I decided I have to go for sprints – only two but enough to tax all my lung power. After that, I was soooo tired and had chest pains.

Conclusion: Sprints on bicycles are out too. Slow rides are fine.

I still do kettlebell exercises about twice a week but they seldom last more than 3 sets at about 12 reps and mostly concentrating on thigh and arm muscles. The problem is I always forget that I have to do it even though the three kettlebells sit on the floor just a few feet away from my bed.

Conclusion: Do more of kettlebells for strength training and weight loss.

In the mornings, my wife and I do some dancing/stretching/aerobics combined to a fast tempo music with the lyrics “a little bit of Monica” or something like that. It feels good to perspire a little bit and wake up the body even though it only lasts for 10 minutes.

Do a few of these every week.

Walking is probably the best exercise. No hard pushing, good scenery (at times), chance to talk about anything with wife. Did you know that a healthy walk is about 10,000 steps a day? I average about 3,000. Way off the mark.

Do this some more in the future.

My fitness regimen was just made simpler for 2015.

My plan is to do a minimum of two times a week for all below:

Aerobic dancing – 10 minutes

Slow bike rides for 30 minutes.

Walking for 20 minutes

Kettlebells – three different exercises

Isn’t it much simpler? Hence, the name “simpler fi”

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Why I Love America

Of all the countries ever, the good ol’ US of A has the reputation of both the most loved country and the most hated country in the world. No country ever in the history of the world can claim to it.

Well, maybe the Roman Empire? I would only agree if someone alive during that time would come forward and try to convince me!

What about Babylon? It was the grandest empire. I submit to you that half the world’s population back then don’t care. Primarily because they don’t have the internet or TV to know about Babylon (especially those who lived across the oceans).

So let’s talk about America (the US of A). If you noticed, I have a standing policy of not discussing any country at all so I don’t give a negative impression to its native population. But since this will be only a positive storytelling, I will dive right in.

 

First, the American People.

Americans are one of the best people in the world. Generally speaking, most are friendly, honest, hardworking and sincere. Before I came here, I already loved the American people as proven by my grade of A in my U.S. History class! Ahem.

 

It’s Big and Wide.

We once rode a long car with boat-like ride from Mississippi to San Diego in the 80s. It was miles after miles of sleep-inducing concrete ribbon. It’s a good thing there were three of us, otherwise the driver would fall asleep while driving.

Did you know that all 7 billion people of the world can fit in the state of Texas with each person having their own 1,000 square feet of space? My calculations could be wrong so we can add Oklahoma to it

 

It has Great attractions.

There are so many wonderful places to go. My favorite is San Francisco. I love that city but I don’t want to live there, because housing is very expensive. Seattle, LA, NY City, Washington DC, Honolulu are all great places to visit. There’s a few more that I have on my list to visit in the next few years.

 

The Western Culture. 

Before I came here I read dozens of Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, Time and Life magazines, along with books on American Life. I knew what to expect and I felt right at home upon arrival (except I felt so cold on my first few years).

 

Burgers and Fries. 

Should I mention hotdog too? This is a perennial favorite for everyone except vegans and extreme health practitioners. The first wedding I attended even had burgers and hotdogs. Yum!

 

The Freedom of …. lots of things. 

You may speak freely (even at some point some people even use the freedom of speech to disrespect respectable officials). You may publish anything (even the useless tabloids) and you can have any religion without the government telling you which one to join.

I think this freedom and the people are the reason why life in the U.S. is the most sought after lifestyle in the world. This is also the reason why America is the most productive country in the whole, wide world.

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The Exit Strategy

This term (according to wikipedia.com) means leaving a current situation, either after a predetermined objective has been achieved, or as strategy to mitigate failure. To summarize, this is what you plan to do after you achieved what you wanted, or your plan of action to prevent further losses or damage.

In military terms (per wikipedia.com) it is understood to minimize losses in lives and materials. In business it means a way to transition ownership of a company or operations of some part of the company.

In our personal level, sometimes we have to have exit strategy in some situations we find ourselves into.  For this post, I will discuss it in the sense of personal safety.

When we board a plane for a flight anywhere, the steward or stewardess always show the exits of the plane. I always pay attention to it so I would know how to get there even in the dark, in the very, very slight chance that I had to exit.

Back in my navy days, when a new person checks in on the ship and I happened to be in charge of the duty section, I make sure that one of the first things he gets informed is where the fire exits are in relation to where he sleeps.

When I go to conferences in huge halls or meeting rooms, one of the things that I always look for are the nearest fire exits. Same with movie theaters. I look for the exit signs and at the same time estimate which one would be the easiest one to get out of in case of fire or other crowd clearing emergencies.

When I find myself in an unfamiliar area in any city, I always assess the safety of the area (are there groups of men hanging out doing nothing?) and plan my exit strategy in case things suddenly turn to chaos. This is while walking or driving.

One time my wife and I were walking in a crowded Asian city when there was a sudden pop-pop-pop of explosion seemingly like gunfire. I grabbed my wife’s hand and started to run when we realized it just someone playing firecrackers across the street. My wife laughed at my reaction but I always play cautious especially in crowds.

A few days ago my wife was followed by a huge scary looking man who seemed like looking for a victim. She crisscrossed the parking lot trying to shake off the individual. When she looked around the guy was still walking parallel to her on the other side of the parking lot. She then decided to sprint to a bookstore where I was browsing magazines. It was a good 200 yards away but the sprint was an excellent exit strategy.

I can’t think of every situation that may require us to have an exit strategy – because we all have different priorities, dislikes, goals and perception.

Since you know yourself better than anyone (I hope), you will be able to think much better about which exit strategy you want to adopt in situations you encounter.

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The Fantastic Elastic

We started with Mr. Do It All expounding on the merits of Hydrogen Peroxide in one of my most recent posts. That got me into thinking, why don’t I start a series on small items (liquid, gas or solid) that gives a lot of versatile usefulness to our daily lives.

Our next candidate for superhero-like existence is the mighty rubber band.

Yeah, you didn’t think that this small item can do so much, right? Well, I’m here to agree to disagree with you. So we will discuss the different ways to use rubber bands to make our daily lives a bit easier.

Without further ado, let me stretch some facts about rubber bands:

A hair tie. Anytime you need a hair tie – a rubber band will do. Leave some in your car, in your kitchen and bedroom drawers, and even in your handbag (or man bag for men).

Jar grip – have you even encountered a jar that refuses to open? wrap a thick rubber band or several thin ones on the lid and a few on the bottle, then twist open.

Folder contents keeper – I have some overflowing files in my work about two inches thick in each folder. To ensure they don’t get strewn all over the floor  I wrap a rubber band or two in each folder.

Food bag lock – fold the top of the bag (a few times if necessary) then wrap a rubber band vertically to keep it closed.

Trendy accessory – have you seen those different colored bracelets made of rubber band. It can be a fashion statement for you without spending a fortune.

Wallet keeper – for some of you with overflowing cash in your wallets (or credit card receipts), tie a rubber band on it to avoid spilling the contents.

Credit card keeper – I keep my unused credit cards together by wrapping several rubber bands over them. I could easily find them.

Pen grip – or pencil grip. Wrap where you usually put your fingers on a pen so you’ll have a slip-free writing instrument. It can double as eraser too.

Apple carrier – you slice your apple before you leave for work. To keep them from turning brown, put the slices together again in the original shape of the apple and tie a rubber band around.

Mail sorter – I wrap rubber bands on mail that come in to sort them out.

Paper shuffler – When my fingers have a hard time leafing through documents, I tie rubber band on my index finger to make it easy to grab paper.

Hanger friction add on – Putting rubber bands on ends of hanger prevents shirts from slipping off.

Cord organizer – computer cords all over the place? Wrap them with rubber bands.

Afraid of pesky insects – shoot them down with rubber bands.

For such a small item, a rubber band is pretty versatile. I buy several sizes in different thickness and it serves me well.

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The Way We Paid Off Our Debts

In the December Challenge, I mentioned about posting about how we paid off our debts. So after a long awaited (at least in my own mind) delay, here’s the story.

Flashback to the mid ‘90s when one day my wife got sick. She was in much pain that she was unable to work and eventually had to quit her job. It was at that point that we realized that switching involuntarily from two income to one income was a big like a big punch in our faces.

We had two car payments, a house mortgage, credit cards and nowhere to ask assistance from. No relatives or friends with money to spare within our community, or even within our state of Cali.

We got lulled by having a 20 to 30-year guaranteed job in the navy (back in the good ol’ days) and my wife having a stable job. But we didn’t account for sickness because we were young and we felt healthy enough.

The pain subsided a bit after three weeks and this time a company offered her a job, which she immediately took. The problem is it was an hour drive one way, which was not very conducive to her recovery. A month later she got another job offer.

This company turned out to have a very generous owner. After a few months, the owner sold the company. He shared the profit from the sale with all the employees. I think it’s God’s way of telling us that here’s a chance to kickstart your way to a better financial future.

We responded by using approximately 90% of the bonus to pay off our debts.

But we still had a few thousands left to pay.

That’s when we got creative. We were receiving many offers of 0% financing from 6 to 18 months from different card companies. So what we did is transfer the balance of our accounts to several credit cards offering 0%.

They have a small print stating that we can’t be late in payment, or else it will turn into 19% (some up to 24%) based on the original loan amount. So it was a cat and mouse game between us and the credit card companies. If I’m late I will owe them a huge amount of principal plus interest.

We did that for several years while also saving some money for emergencies. After a few years, we paid off all of our car loans, and we sold one car to save even more. We’re also down to about a couple of thousand in credit card debts which we slowly paid because it has zero interest.

Essentially, it’s the equivalent of investing at 7 to 12 % because that was the interest rate of the credit cards before we paid them from the 0% interest loans.

After we paid off the last credit card account, we still used two credit cards for our expenses. This time we paid it off every month to avoid interest payment. Both credit cards offer rewards which may be converted to cash or credit against our monthly balance. Because we pay on time the credit card companies are now paying us instead of us paying them.

How’s that for a reversal?

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Fast Fasts

What’s that supposed to mean? OK, let’s break it down to analyzing word for word. The first word “fast” is synonymous with quick. The second word fast means a reduction or abstaining from food, drinks or meals. So the two words together may be retitled as Quick Ways to Practice Fasting. But Fast Fasts sounds more fun.

Or we can retitle it You will get Fat if you don’t Fast. Or If you Fete, Fat follows. Fitness Fasting for Folks?  

Anyways….

Here’s my usual legal mumbo-jumbo:  NOT ALL people can practice fasting. You must consult with your doctor or licensed health practitioner prior to going on a fast.

And now for the stunner:  If you fast, YOU will experience hunger! It will be a very weird feeling to be hungry, when the refrigerator is just a few steps away. Still wanna do it?

For this post, we’re not going to touch on the 40-day fast because only real tough spiritual persons did it. For our society, we’re too soft for it. We can do marathons, triathlons or ultramarathons, but have you heard of someone going on an ultra fasting?

I don’t think so either.

We’re not even going to try to dabble in multi-day fasting. That is just too hard. Members of our society complain when the waitress took over 30 minutes to bring our order; and we’re gonna try a multi-day fast?

Let’s try for one to two day fasts (regular or modified).

One way to fast is to not eat at all. I think I’ve done three days but I drank water all the time. It was very hard but I went through it because I was asking a favor from God at that time. My request was granted, by the way.

Another way is to eat one simple meal a day – for example: a small bowl of soup at night, and that’s it.  Another one is to eat a few pieces of bread or saltine crackers every meal time. You may also drink a small amount of fruit juices instead of water only fast.

Any combination is fine. The objective is to reduce your intake of food (but not water).

Why Fast?

For spiritual communication

Like I said earlier, if you are requesting something from the Lord (like the successful surgery of a loved one), it really helps when you fast. The communication lines become clearer. Don’t ask me how because I can’t explain it; you have to try it yourself.

For health reasons

Depriving ourselves of food every now and then gives a well deserved rest to our digestive system (as well as the circulatory system and organs). It’s the same feeling we have when we take a day off from work (with pay).

For weight loss

If you fast regularly, you may start losing weight. Don’t overcompensate after your fast by eating three huge bowls of spaghetti because it will make you fat fast.

For reverse fun

This is to test if you’re capable of suffering something that millions of people globally endure daily. It is actually easier to run 3 kilometers slowly than not eat for a whole day.

For clear thinking

Believe it or not, when you’re deprived of food, your mind is sharper. Did you experience eating a huge lunch and couldn’t concentrate on your work in the afternoon? Fasting gives you the opposite experience.

For clear complexion

To get your skin to become free from acne or other dermatological challenges, try fasting regularly (maybe once a week) and chances are you will have a smooth, satiny skin. If not, then there’s more to it than just food – maybe you should sleep earlier, or send me the Godiva chocolates you stashed in your pantry.

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