Reset: diet

Here is what my blood tests, DNA tests, and time on the toilet all tell me:

  • If not entirely allergic to, I am at least highly sensitive to dairy and gluten
  • I gain weight easily, especially when eating a diet high in saturated fats.
  • I need significantly more fiber than i get on the diet I have become used to.

With all this in mind, I will very likely do well on a diet high in fruits and vegetables, with some meat and fish, and little to no gluten or dairy.

In theory, these guidelines are easy to follow and not particularly restrictive. But in practice, I have found modifying my diet to be an enormous challenge. Like many, I eat not only for survival, but socially, and (dare I say it?) for comfort. Coming to the point where I eat the salad at the dinner party, but skip the cured meats, or turn to a cup of tea (and not a bag of chips) to calm me after a stressful day is, and probably always will be, hard. That isn’t an excuse to not try to be more present in my food making decisions. There’s no need to be doctrinaire (and in fact, doctrinate may be unhelpful) but it is important to be thoughtful, avoiding the bad and favoring the good.

Attention to my diet is likely to be the health struggle of my life. Given the time, I’d work out all day. Exercise has always been a joy to me. But food, food is something else, something harder,

 

Implementing Lessons from the Blue Zones, Inconveniencing Myself, and Other Things I’m Focusing On In 2017

So-called “Blue Zones” are areas of the world in which people have significantly longer, healthier lives than the world-wide average. Blue Zones have been researched and written about pretty extensively and in a popular book about them, Dan Buettner extrapolated these basic themes:

  • Moderate, regular physical activity.
  • Life purpose.
  • Stress reduction.
  • Moderate calories intake.
  • Plant-based diet.
  • Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine.
  • Engagement in spirituality or religion.
  • Engagement in family life.
  • Engagement in social life.

vendiagram

Since I read Blue Zones, I’ve been obsessed with implementing these ideas in my life. Here’s some things this urban, desk bound, lawyer is doing this year to be healthier:

More plants. I’ve recommitted to the vegan till six thing, though more as a guideline than a rule. I’m already seeing results in my waist line. I was, for many years, a vegan/vegetarian, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to that restrictive a diet. But study after study says, more plants is better. Meat once or twice a week is where we’re at right now and where I’d like to stay.

Take the stairs, carry the kids, wash the dishes. Constantly, we are presented with the choice between the easy and the hard road. In a world of physical convenience, it’s often best to take the hard road. One thing blue zone communities have in common is regular, low level exercise. Another thing most have in common is they’re semi-rural. Brooklyn is not semi rural. I do not chop wood. I do not garden. But my home and office have stairs. My kids can be carried instead of put in the stroller. I can do the dishes by hand.

I try to ask myself  if there’s a way to inconvenience a task without drastically increasing its time.  If I can make it just a bit harder, without sacrificing too much expediency, I’ll do it. It helps.

 

Meditate. When E and A were in the hospital, I meditated everyday. It helped. Since then, I’ve fallen off, but am eager to get after it. Meditation, per se, isn’t one of the factors that Buettner calls out, but a regular spiritual practice is. I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but when I am engaging in a regular meditation practice, I see benefits throughout my life. In my focus, in my mood, and in my sleep. Ten minutes a day isn’t too much to give to being quiet.

Unplug, hang out. I, like many, spent too much of 2016 refreshing twitter. I’m trying to do less of that this year. So far, it’s been harder than I thought. Getting into bed and checking my phone one last time is so ingrained in me, it’s muscle memory. It’ll take time, and probably some more hard and fast rules, to break the habit.

But I want to focus less on what the orange monster is saying and more on casual time with the family and friends. The other night, for instance, I was casually invited to a neighbor’s house to play a board game. I was hesitant to go at first, my uptight Yankee coming through. But I went, and it was fun.  More of that, 2017.

In fact, more of all of this.

More time invested in our synagogue, more time doing art projects with our kids, more time exploring the park, more time drinking wine with friends.

Less of that other shit. 

Less time on swiping at the goddamn phone. Less time in pointless meetings, less time fretting over the things I cannot control. More time working on the things I can.

*The concept of “Blue Zones” has been ceaselessly merchandised with books, websites and more. For people like me, that level of commodification can seem distasteful. Ok, fine. But that doesn’t mean the research isn’t valid and compelling.

62 Day Challenge: Day 4 Not Everyday Is Interesting

Reflection: Another long day of work and social engagements (PURIM PARTY!), but got the miles in and stuck to the diet. Not everyday is interesting. In fact, most days won’t be.

Day 3 done, 60 days to go.

Daily Weight 179.2 (weight, why you no move?)
Breakfast ½ avocado, 1 cup of strawberries
Lunch Hummus and tomato sandwich, fritos, diet coke. (I know, I know, I eat way too many chips)
Dinner Salmon with sweet potatoes and green beans. Apple tart. Boulevardier
Run: 5.25 miles in 51:39
Bike: 0
Swim: 0
Strength/ Flexibility: 5:00
100 push-ups (22,18,10,20,20,10)
Total Exercise Time(day/week) ~1:00:00/2:30:00
Mediation: 5:00
Steps (goal/actual) 12424/18555

62 Day Challenge Day 3: Barely squeaking by

This is late. Get used to it.

Reflection:  At about noon, I realized I was going to be working late, so I started doing loops around the office and after the place started to clear out about 6:30, I started doing push-ups next to my desk. When it was time to leave, at about 8 pm, I walked to the further subway station. It was a gorgeous night. Steps and push-ups got done. Barely, but they got done. No other exercise though, which is going to put some pressure on the ten hours goal. Still time to make it up.

Day 3 done, 59 days to go.

Daily Weight 179.2
Breakfast ½ an avocado; bowl of strawberries, random melon and pineapple during staff meeting
Lunch Pret’s nori wrap, bag of chips, diet coke
Dinner Chicken with broccoli, white rice, 2 dumplings, one beer
Run: 0
Bike: 0
Swim: 0
Strength/ Flexibility: 5:00
100 push-ups (20,10,20,20,20,10).
Total Exercise Time(day/week) ~1:06:00/2:00:00
Meditation: 5:00
Steps (goal/actual) 12416/12592

 

62 Day Challenge Day 1: Working out the Kinks

Reflection: Day 1 and we’re working out the kinks. Definitely don’t have any idea how much fruit I need to stay full till lunch. Hence the Pret run and poor lunch choice. Exercise was a chill recovery day, mediation was just like everyone says… five minutes is a long time.

Below is my first attempt at a chart, I’ll probably change this as I go along.

Wanna know what this is all about, check out the introductory post here. 

Day 1 down, 61 days to go.

Daily Weight 179.2
Breakfast 1 banana, 1 small bowl of strawberries and blueberries, 1 pret “posh” fruit salad
Lunch Falafel sandwich, diet coke, small bag of fritos. After lunch snack: vegan cookie
Dinner Pre dinner snack: ¼ piece of chicken; dinner: lentils with two fried eggs, 1 glass of wine
Run: 3 miles in 33:31
Bike: 0
Swim: 0
Strength/ Flexibility: 25:00
100 push-ups (20,15,15,10,10,10,5,5,5,5,)10 Kb swings with little pink kettlebell

10 bent rows with little pink kettle bell

various stretches and balance drills.

Total Exercise Time(day/week) ~58:00/58:00
Mediation: 5:00
Steps (goal/actual) 12169/13514

62 Day Challenge: Introduction

I was going to do this as a second, secret, tumblr, but I can’t figure out how to format anything there, so you’re stuck reading this here on Milo. Sorry. Luckily, the vast majority of people who visit this site visit the BQ(Q) pages, so they should be spared my navel gazing.

 

Here’s the deal: I’m a reasonably fit 41 year old father, runner, and lawyer expecting a second child in June. In May, I’m running the Brooklyn Half Marathon in what will probably be my last race for some time.  I want to set a PR. More than that, I want to shake things up with my health and fitness. I want to crank things up a notch, challenge myself a little; see if I can meld the stupid and the healthy into a little mini project before the second baby comes and my life becomes a series of diaper changes and sleepless nights.

So, inspired by the funny and strangely motivational Live with a Seal, and that dude’s crazy project of eating like the Rock for thirty days, I’m doing my own little challenge. I arbitrarily set it for 62 days because that’s how many days it is from today until the Brooklyn Half.

The Challenge:

  • 10 hours of exercise a week

My big one. To me, there’s something special about hitting that ten hour mark. It takes commitment, and it produces results. I’ve reached ten hours here and there over the years, but never consistently. Until now.

Exercise, for this goal, means physical activity undertaken to improve my health. It includes all the stuff you’d imagine: running, biking, weight lifting, push-ups. It also includes stretching, balance work, and foam rolling. It does not include just walking around, even when that walking around is to try to reach my step goals (see below)

  • Stay ahead of the Garmin

I have a Garmin 225 that I use for running and daily step counting. The default setting on the watch is that every time you hit a step goal, it increases the goal slightly for the next day. For the past two weeks, I’ve met or exceeded the step goal every day and the goal keeps going up. I’m going to keep that going until it’s time to taper for the half.

  • 100 push ups a day

These can be done throughout the day in sets of varying length. I just need to get 100 a day.

  • Fruit till noon; vegan till six (Monday – Friday)

I’ve been following Mark Bittman’s Vegan till Six diet off and on for a while now, and I’ve seen strong results. Now it’s time to take it more seriously; recommit to it; and double down by sticking with fruit till noon. I’ll surely write more about this later, as well as about the Lean 13 Program from Nutrisystem . I hope this leads to some weight loss, but more importantly, a further drop in my cholesterol. I’m only committing to doing this Monday-Friday, but I’ll try to eat healthy on the weekends.

Note: I do not ask Thai restaurants if they use fish sauce in their tofu curry, nor do I ask the the guys at the deli if they used beef stock in the vegetable soup. I used to be a guy who did those kind of things, but that was many, many years ago.

  • Five minutes of meditation

I’ll surely write more about this as well, but study after study has shown the benefits of mediation. I struggle to find the time for this, so set this goal at what I think is a completely doable, no possible excuse, 5 minutes. Honestly, I hope to do more, but to meet the challenge, 5 minutes is enough.

Caveats and Exceptions:

My little corner of the working world is obsessed with “smart goals” and “identified contingencies”. So here’s the caveats and exceptions:

I’ll be doing a mini taper in the two weeks before the half, so the ten hours of exercise and staying ahead of the Garmin, won’t be applicable for the final two weeks of the challenge.

Additionally, I’ll allow one “off” week of not hitting ten hours during this period. Shit happens, people. I want to make these goals “smart” and not give up on the whole plan just because one thing goes wrong.

For the next 62 days, I’ll be filling out a little template here with my work-outs, what I ate, how long I mediated, etc. It will be at least as fascinating as watching paint dry.

Review: Bittman’s Vegan Before Six

VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good
Mark Bittman
I’ve written separately about my own efforts to follow the “Vegan Before Six” diet, so I’ll limit this to a review of the book. While you don’t need to read this to follow the VB6 guidelines, it helps. No surprise, Bittman is clear, concise, and cuts through the dieting bullshit to get to the crux of the matter – you should be eating more plants, less meat, and no crap. He backs up this basic (but often hard to follow) advice with solid science and helpful recipes.

I genuinely think the world would be a better place if more of us ate like Bittman recommends. You should check it out.

Recommended.