Category: Health

Vegetarian Journey

Over the years, and especially in the last decade, I’ve tried my best to improve my diet. It’s a hard process, sometimes deliberate and sometimes spur of the moment decision to try another diet. The objective is to live a healthy life every day for the rest of my life.

I’ve tried supplements and vitamins:  At one point some of them helped but once I gave them up slowly, I did not feel any difference. So I gave up on them except the occasional vitamins or supplements whenever the mood fits.

I’ve tried carbo-loading before – (when it was vogue in the 90s). The theory was by eating oodles of noodles, that food is converted into stored energy. I used to eat lots of pasta especially before a long bicycle ride to fuel every ride even though my rides are usually less than 30 miles. The bad news is that you gain more fat and weight doing this.

I’ve tried high protein diets where my carbo only came from vegetables. But I read months later that high protein diets is bad for the kidney if done for more than two weeks or so. I used this diet to lose 2-3 pounds in a few days. But I’m afraid to mess around with my kidney so I stopped.

I also did a “detox” consisting of eating select steamed vegetables (roasting caramelizes the sugar in the food) and adding nutritional supplements because it is a very low calorie process. I lost some weight but this was hard to do consistently. Years later, I read that most of the detox are done by our liver and kidneys already so it’s much better to just watch what I eat instead of subjecting myself to unnecessary suffering.

Over the years, I’ve been mulling some thought in my mind: how to eat healthier. Translation: how to incorporate more berries, fruits and vegetables to my diet and remove animal protein except maybe for fish, and the occasional eggs. We have to be great chefs to come up with really tasty recipes for vegetables and we are always time constraint due to work and family commitments.

Then one day, i watched a documentary called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. It struck a chord with me. Finally, I found a way to eat more veggies – by juicing. But then I did some research first and found out that juicing may take away the dietary fiber which is essential to cleaning our digestive system. Someone suggested to use a blender instead.

I got a new blender because my old one gets stuck when it encounters ice. To make a smoothie takes about 30-45 minutes. I did some research and found the Ninja.

My wife and I started blending vegetable (and fruits) three weeks ago. Here’s the results (for me):

Slept better.

Felt less tired even after driving almost an hour after work

Smoother food digestion process

My brain seems to work fine even in the late afternoon.

Eyes seem to see slightly clearer.

Felt less stress in stressful situations (such as heavy traffic).

I lost about three pounds and this time it feels like I’ll maintain my weight better

The difference is highly significant especially because I am no longer in my 30s. Any slight improvement in my well being is much welcome!

On the weekends, we eat regular food but we still avoid the unhealthy ones as much as we can.

The bigger challenge is getting consistent and staying on this healthy diet. But this time, it looks very doable.

Share

Less Baggage

Have you seen one of those movies where a few members of a royal family travels to a far place and they carry about 20 hard case luggage each? Yes, those were the times when a lot of fabric was used to create a single dress for the ladies and for the gentlemen, the usual attire are thick coats and jackets. At least they have servants to carry all those luggages upon arrival at the next castle.

Fast forward a few hundred years. Now we have fabrics that dry fast, very light, ultra durable and comfy all at the same time. What’s that got to do with baggage? you ask.

Let me share a short anecdote.

My wife and I experimented on some of our out of town trips in the last few years(only trips of over 400 miles counted) to fit the least amount of clothes, shoes and toiletries in the smallest possible luggage. Our justification for the experiment was to make our travel way easier. Here’s some good points on why we chose to have as little baggage as possible:

 

  •     Ease of carrying a light and small container
  •     Faster moving through airport security
  •     Easily fit in any car (rental or taxi)
  •     Uncomplicated choice of what to wear next
  •     Pay less for checked baggage

We were able to do it because we already have a few clothes that are made with modern fabric that are light and dry easily. We carried only a few and we washed them in the hotel shower and they dry within a few hours (depending on the humidity of the location). We carried the smallest sized toiletries and brought only one pair of shoes.

I highly recommend it to others because life gets easier when you don’t have to worry about too many things while on a journey. There are even travelers that live off from one medium size backpack for months in a foreign country. Sometimes, I wanted to do that kind of traveling – visit foreign places, stay in relatively inexpensive hotels and live off a backpack. But then, I wake up from my reverie, and I go, Naaaah, I’m too old for that.

In life, the less luggage we carry, the easier our lives become. Around my neighborhood, there are garages that are full of stuff, while their cars sit on the driveway. Boxes upon boxes of stuff sit inside the garage. The only one justified in doing that is the family with six kids.  I’ve seen people rent storage lockers for hundreds of dollars a month to keep more stuff. I mean, are they really going to use that stuff someday? Very unlikely.

In our life journey, when we eliminate excess emotional, mental and physical baggage, our lives become suddenly smoother, and happier. ASK yourself the following question, and since it’s only you that would know the answer, it pays to be completely honest.

What are:

  • the things you do that waste your time?
  • the things you buy or keep that waste your money?
  • the unnecessary activities that waste your time?
  • the tasks that waste your efforts?
  • the things you do that makes you unhealthy?

Once you have a list, work on eliminating a few. Just a couple will already make a significant dent in your life’s excess baggage. Eliminating more means more happiness and satisfaction. Pray to God for help (it’s really almost impossible to do it on our own).

Oftentimes, the burdens we carry are self-imposed and unnecessary. Let’s take back our lives. Live with less baggage.

 

Share

Pig Out

This is going to be a short one I hope – because we’re talking about a very popular food choice. I don’t think we need introduction to pork meat. I liked to eat pork years ago but after learning about it from nutritionists (and Leviticus), I finally quit eating it. At one point, it was even advertised as “the other white meat” and so I thought it was as healthy as chicken breast without the skin.

Years ago, I was in a three week detox diet. The two doctors that helped me in my diet conversion are both vegan. One of the doctors told me to avoid meat at all cost. If I had to eat meat, eat lamb. What about pork? absolutely not!

Why not pork?

I did some research and I was going to give you details but it will get too boring or sound like a scientific essay. I also did not want to gross you out. I promise you that if you do your own research about pork, you will get disgusted with it.

Here’s some quick explanations (I tried to make it to sound cleaner than the articles I’ve read):

Pigs harbor a bunch of parasites. Some of which are hard to kill even with high heat, spices or vinegar. Those parasites happen to live in humans too and it can go from pigs to human or human to pigs.

Hogs are drugged heavily. It’s used for growth and antibiotics. Some chemicals are given to give a nice color to the meat. There’s even a pig farm here in the U.S. that uses chemical supplements to the pig’s diet. That toxic chemical is banned in 160 other countries but not here.

Bacon and sausages does not look like their pork anymore, right? But they’re even worse because they have nitrates and nitrites added to preserve and add a pleasing color. Those additives increase greatly the risk for cancer.

Some pig farms are very crowded. They live in among other pigs and their body waste are not properly disposed. Some are even restricted to a very small space that they can hardly move and their job is to breed over and over. When they get slaughtered some of them die a slow death.

Pigs digest their food in about four hours. Cows in 24 hours. Pigs don’t sweat also. This means the toxins that they ingest stay in their body. Those toxins (along with parasites, bacteria and viruses) are passed on to the pork eater.

I hope I didn’t gross out any of you, dear readers. You don’t have to believe me. In fact, I hope that you do your own research because then you’ll get better informed. But one of my favorite health tips is: avoid eating pork totally. You’ll be healthier!

Share

Two-Week Crash Diet

Last Friday, I steeled myself to get ready for another brutal 30 minutes of intense workout with my personal trainer. To my surprise, he instead measured my weight and body fat and body fat and lean percentages. I gained muscles in the biceps and in the hip area but I also gained 5 lbs of body fat.

Then the abrupt punishment: I need to lose 10 lbs in two weeks, and also 2% of body fat. I gave you only the vaguest measurements so I don’t bore you with the specifics of my body measurements. That would be too embarrassing.  

For weeks now, I have noticed a bulge in my midsection. It’s probably from all the carbohydrate I’ve been eating lately. I made a mental note to do something about it but didn’t really set a deadline. When my trainer told me to lose weight, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because excess body fat is never good unless I am in an Arctic expedition.

I was given a list of things to eat: oatmeal, veggies, fruits, almonds, fish, chicken.

I thought I should modify it to make things easier for me. Yesterday I cut off much of my carbo intake. I only ate the tops of two Hawaiian bread and two soft-boiled egg. I ate one orange for my fruit intake, a few cashew and peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I figured if I ate a diet of 60% protein, 10% fat and 30% carbo, I would lose weight. The carbo should come mostly from fruits and veggies.

I felt so lethargic after that. It feels that my body is eating all of its calorie reserve and needed more. Then I saw a documentary by livingononedollar.com where four young guys went to Guatemala and tried poverty by subsisting on $1 each per day for food and firewood. I got hungrier.

Today I weighed myself. Surprise, surprise! I lost 3 pounds. I have 7 to go and it’s only the first 24 hours. But knowing from experience, the next days would be a seesaw of weight gain and loss. Unless I really discipline myself on my food intake.

The good thing here is I spent years working with a nutritionist so I know already which food I can turn off and which ones are necessary for weight loss. Knowledge is power really. But having knowledge and not applying it is just a waste. So the next two weeks will be a good test of my self control.

I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, try not to offer me blueberry muffins, strawberry shortcake, lemon meringue pie or even two scoops of Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream.

This is making me hungry.

Share

The Home Gym

I admit that in the past, I would rather not join a gym if I had to pay a monthly membership. We had free gyms in the navy – even on ships so I didn’t see the point of paying for something I could use for free. Fast forward to a few years after retirement. Now I live over an hour (with light traffic) from the nearest military gym.

Solution: my wife and I joined a gym for 9.95 a month but it’s only 2 miles away.

Do I really need to join a gym? Yes, and that’s only because I would get better organized with my schedule if I had to go to a certain place to do something. Kinda like we go to a workplace because the environment provides us with the ready resources and the skilled coworkers that make us productive than working from home.

We can do our own Home Gym. First we buy the most expensive weight set and gym equipment. A recycled rubber floor mat to absorb the shock and put on loud music on speakers. The we can wear the latest perspiration wicking clothing and a big floor or ceiling fan. Presto – a home gym. That was a joke, by the way!

By home gym, I mean the minimalist way. We can use our body weight for the exercise – like sit ups, planks, push ups and the famous burpees. With dumbbells or kettlebells, we can do arm, bicep, tricep, back and shoulder as well and squat exercises. With barbells, we can do more weight training. With a sturdy bar, we can do pull ups or chin ups. I mean, we can do so many things limited only by our imagination.

Just within our (and your) neigborhood, we can jog, sprint short distances or do distance running without ever seeing a treadmill. Don’t forget the fun of riding bicycles.

Our objective is to avoid sitting down watching TV while eating three times the recommended calorie intake. We know that as we look back decades from now, we will never regret that we didn’t watch enough TV.

The regular gym has so many advantages though. First the equipment – some of them are more expensive than 10 years worth of gym membership. Second, the variety of equipment – I mean there’s just a lot of equipment to use to vary the workout. Third, there are trainers available – if we are so inclined – to teach and monitor if we’re doing the right exercises.

For minimalist, a home gym can still provide the basic exercises needed to stay fit. But if we want advanced fitness (tailored to our needs), nothing beats a regular gym.

Share

My Need To Improve

I started writing this just before the last few days of last year. I might as well title this as “New Year’s Resolution” but that would be too obvious. Days passed by, I still could not figure out how to organize my thoughts but I kept on coming back and editing and finally, four weeks later…

We all need to improve, right? What do we need to improve on? There’s many facets of our lifestyle and behavior that immediately comes to mind. However, it’s only us that can honestly say which ones are subject to improvement. Without an honest assessment, it would be regression on a slow slope to mediocrity and below.

Let me start by patting myself of the back for improving on a few aspects of my life last year: namely, going to bed early and getting up early. I also got rid of watching sports on TV (I don’t watch sports in person either because it is an expensive undertaking). We got rid of cable TV also which gave us hours of productivity.

It took me years to really get into the changes stated above. I always had it in the back of my mind that to do those changes but it still took me approximately 2-4 years before I changed each habit. The intent was there, all I needed was the proper timing to make it work. It finally happened after we moved to a new place because I got so tired from moving that I chose sleep over activity.

For this year’s improvement, I had to figure out what I really wanted in life:  Time, Health, Relationships, Financial Independence (in no particular order).

From those values, I picked a few things that will enhance it.

Here’s my short list. Short so it’s doable, yet has significant positive impact.

Bible Reading

I need to read the bible more because this is one of best ways to get closer to God. I used to go cover to cover every year. Did I think I will be able to fully understand it after the first two years? No, I thought that it would give me a little familiarity for future intensive reading. The last few years I handpick the books (mostly New Testament) I want to read each year. Problem is I give myself too little to read. Goal:  One Chapter of 3-5 Books per night.

Exercise Consistency

We started a comprehensive exercise program a few months ago by joining a gym. This is just a matter of maintaining our physical fitness by going a few times a week. We do mostly 30 minutes sessions – any longer takes too much time and any lesser does not do much. Bottom line: one year at a time – consistent physical exercise by gym workouts and bicycling.

Austerity

I have discussed how we managed our finances and given advice on how to save on things and to spend wisely. I want to dive deeper. Why austerity? Because we really don’t have control on our income. But we definitely have control on income received. We become financially better off by strictly controlling our expenses. Target:  Concentrate on saving and cutting expenses daily.

There, I laid it out in the line for all to read. That makes me accountable for those goals. I’ll give you an update just before the year ends.

Share

The Hardest Goals

Some people have very lofty goals (climb mount Everest or be the first to go to Mars. Others have really daring ones (riding fences on a bicycles or paddle solo across the Pacific ocean). Then there’s the ultimates: climb 10 of highest mountain ranges in the world do 50 marathons in 50 days. You may read about those feats later in duckduckgo.com (a search engine).

I personally don’t want to go the Mt Everest (I hate being cold) or go on even a single marathon (not really good for the heart as others think), or paddle across an ocean solo (despite being an introvert, I like to hang out with the right people).

I’ve had some good goals in the past that I’ve achieved, such as quitting smoking and riding 100 kilometers in the bicycle in one ride, among others. I’ve been complacent recently hoping to ride out the rest of my life just cruising along. But then one day I realized that it is the first day of the rest of my life, and I need to put some more victories along the way. I wrote some goals that are, in essence hard enough for me.

They’re simple at first glance, but like I said always – ‘do not compare yourself to anyone’ (nobody has heard me say it – just me). If we keep comparing ourselves to others, we’ll all lose hope (or feel very superior) – but our challenges are walk in the park for others and our cakewalks are insurmountable hardships to other individuals. So I’ll keep to my goals:

* Wake up EARLY (5:00 am) every morning again!

* Improve my diet with veggies, fruits, fish and fowl.  Translation: Red meat’s out!

* Exercise regularly (three times a week).

This of course coincided with my recent visit to my cardiologist. I was told to fix my diet and exercise regularly. Except for the wake up early goal which I’ve been planning to do for years.

Was my diet bad? I mean the food I like to eat are the tastiest, so we all know it’s not healthy if eaten everyday. After all, who craves for broccoli?

Did I accomplish it?  Since my wife and I can’t find time to work out in our busy work life and suddenly overwhelming personal lives, we decided to join a gym. It was rather inexpensive – $10 a month for each of us.

In the morning we wake up at 5:30am to go hit the treadmill or the spinning stationary bike.

So far we averaged just over 3 days a week of 20+ minutes of exercise. Then I really watched my food. Now the really delectable food are eaten only a couple of times a week instead of maybe 15 times a week.

These are hard goals – especially because it has to be done consistently, and we had done it so far!

Share