Thursday, May 30, 2013

Paleo challenge stuff: suggestions and an offer

(Apologies to anyone who doesn't belong to our CrossFit gym. This post is only for gym members doing the food/lifestyle challenge that starts Monday).

Alycia and Justin did a great job last night with their presentation, but I wanted to repeat one thing they said, make a couple suggestions and also make you an offer.

The repeat thing: if you have questions, there are two ways to get them answered: (1) post to the Facebook challenge group, or (2) ask one of us directly. My email address is in that packet that you got last night. Or send me a friend request on FB and message me there. Either is fine.

The first suggestion: if your question is: "Is this item okay to eat during the challenge?" before you ask, check the list of ten things you can eat during a paleo challenge. You may (ok, you *will*) find the answer there. You may not like the answer, but it's there.

The second suggestion: unless your question is somehow personal to you, and unlikely to be a concern to anyone else, post it to the FB group before you ask one of us directly. Someone else probably has the same question. There are 100 of you (!) doing this. If you have a question about something, it is pretty likely someone else has the same question. On the other hand, if it really is something particular to you, then ask Justin, Alycia or me, and we can answer it for you.

The offer goes like this.... A number of you are going to see good results from this challenge. The tighter you are with compliance to the rules, the better results you will see (and, for what it's worth, that isn't a proportional relationship.... 80% compliance does not get you anywhere close to 80% good results), so: *if* you really do this thing right -- you don't cheat, you don't act like a six-year-old and shove sugar or grains in when the grownups aren't watching, etc -- and you get to the end of the challenge and think, "This is really effing cool, but I wonder how I could personalize paleo to meet individual goals that I have?" I will be glad to talk to you about that.

These challenges treat you all like photocopies of the same person. That's for a reason: this stuff works really well generically across the board. Pull out all the bad stuff from a person's food, add in only good stuff and great things happen. But you can tweak it really well once the challenge is over to personalize it to your individual unique snowflake self. That is when the *really* cool stuff starts. All the bad stuff isn't equally bad for everyone, and it's fun to figure out exactly what your own personal "rules" are in that regard.

Currently, I have been helping a gym member who is nearly 100% paleo but has some really specific goals in mind. I review her food logs, make suggestions, etc. I *think* she'll tell you that I am not a jerk about it. I am not the Paleo Police, and I have no interest in telling you what to do or how to eat, but I also have a huge interest in helping people who actually want help on tweaking an already good lifestyle into one that works even better. So talk to me when this challenge is done if you have those kinds of questions. Or fill a bathtub with donuts and Pabst Blue Ribbon and dive in. Your call.

(A disclaimer: I am not a professional on these topics, and I am not offering medical advice. My suggestions are limited to food or exercise recommendations that are based on a lot of reading on the subject of paleo/ancestral food. And I am specifically limiting this to people who are into paleo, but wondering how to personalize it, and maybe even push the envelope a little into technically non-paleo, but still (mostly) good-for-you, foods. I am not going to tell you how you can re-incorporate Captain Crunch into your life. I am also not going to help you manage a serious medical condition. There are professionals for that stuff).

Good luck.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

There's no user's manual, and you muddle through the best you can

They don't ever explain to you that it might be like this, even if you kind of knew it would.

I got the call from the nurse on duty this morning at about 9:30 a.m.: "Steve, he isn't doing well. His breathing is really shallow, and it usually isn't long when that happens. I don't think your dad is going to make it through the day." I said I wasn't surprised, that he had been pretty weak on Thursday when one of my sons and I had visited. I also said I would be over soon, but he was in a nursing home for dementia that is over an hour away from where I live, so it would take me a little while to get there.

25 minutes later, I got a second call. My father, age 87, had died, comfortably, with a hospice nurse by his side.

I showed up at the place, punched myself in through the keypad that lets the visitors in but keeps the residents inside, and I headed for his room.

Everything was pretty much the same as usual. The radio was on. The lights were low. My dad was in bed, alone in the room, and he was not reacting to me entering the room.

I can't tell you how many times I walked in there just like this over the last two years, and thought he was dead, only to be somewhat surprised by him awaking -- sometimes to talk, often to grumble, more often to make unreasonable demands or to tell wild tales of phone calls (there was no phone), important interviews with the press (uh, no), plans for various honors, often from the Catholic Church, to be presented to him in elaborate, soon-to-be-held ceremonies.

This time, though, certainty was preordained by the phone call that had begun my drive. OK, still, I will fess up to putting my hand on his forehead just to make sure, but yeah, he was not with us anymore.

And I don't know what to tell you from there: I don't do grief unless I am actually sad. And I don't do guilt for not being sad when I am "supposed" to be.

I closed his door, went down to the nurses' office, where I ran into the nurse on duty and the hospice nurse, and thanked them both for having been so nice to him without fail, despite his often horrendous attitude. I think the phrase "difficult customer" crossed my lips, and knowing smiles crossed the faces of both nurses.

God, he was a monster the last few years. He was not always that way. I would never classify my father as warm and fuzzy, but he could be kind in his own way. But once my mom died too soon in 1997, he retreated hard and fast. Too many years in voluntary solitude, concealing some health problems, and probably drinking too much in secret, and, somewhere in the mid-to-late '00s, he simultaneously started to lose his mind and began to abuse the trust and kindness of friends and family.

But recognizing the mental slips was hard for most of us that were close to him. He was a frighteningly intelligent guy. He was still discussing politics and science in exacting detail on the same days when he was making wacky, bossy demands of his friends ("Come change my TV channel. I can't seem to do it right." "Come work the microwave for me.") all so he wouldn't have to leave his three-story, five-bedroom house where he barely coped (I won't say "lived") alone.

And his friends eventually got tired of the shit, and they disappeared, and never came back. It was sad, but predictable.

But the wacky stuff got wackier ("The handyman is breaking in at night and tapping on the walls, and that neighbor's kid [in his twenties] keeps ringing my front doorbell at 3 a.m.") and, despite my libertarian bent that generally makes me believe people ought to be able to run their own lives, he wasn't really running anything, and, eventually, in 2011, a burning pan and cackling laughter signified that the shit had hit the fan, and he never came home.

And it was never right thereafter. The best I can say is that once he was institutionalized he was safe, but, Christ, he was a miserable guy. And, mind you, he was pretty polite/nice with me. But the staff.... Jesus, he was rude and awful to them. If they didn't secretly hate him, I would be shocked.

So I thanked the staff people I saw today, and I am thinking about sending them all a note. "I have been a nurse for 27 years and that is the most stubborn patient I have ever had," said a hospital nurse to me, about him, in 2011.

He didn't get less stubborn after 2011.

So anyway, again, I don't know what to tell you. I loved my dad. But he was fuckin' hard to like, for quite a while. I hung in there, managed his affairs, visited him, and did all the stuff I felt obligated to do, but I will not pretend for a moment that I am truly upset by his death. He was very sick, very miserable and his time was, in any vaguely realistic sense, overdue.

I am not burdened, nor blessed, by religious faith. I think dead is dead. I can't think or believe my way around that. And, other than it being a little, I don't know, *weird* to hang out with his dead body just a few feet away while I cleared out his clothes, sorted them into two piles -- "donate" and "trash" -- and dutifully made a few trips out to my car with them, returning each time to the quiet room where he lay, I was sort of vaguely comforted by him just lying there while I worked.

It was the first time in years that he wasn't fighting something, or someone.

I took a deep breath, touched his forehead one more time (no, I really don't know why, but it seemed right), shut off the light and closed the door.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where to eat out during a 30-day paleo challenge (you are going to hate the answer)

You hear the question at the beginning of every paleo challenge: so... where can I eat out during the challenge? What restaurants have paleo options?

And the typical answer is: anywhere you can order meat, veggies and good fats.

I think that answer is mostly wrong.

But before you try to pin my contrarian ass to the ground and start beating me senseless, let's remember, really specifically, what the question was.

It wasn't: "Where can I best eat out and still eat paleo?" It was: "Where can I eat out and eat paleo during a 30-day challenge?"

I think those are two very different questions, because, as I have tried to explain to you pretty recently, I don't think 30-day paleo challenges are the same as everyday (mostly) paleo life.

As I told you in that prior post, the primary purpose of a 30-day paleo challenge is to detox you for a month from all the bad stuff in your diet that might be bothering you. You are recovering. Simultaneously, you are going to eat really well (paleo, no bad stuff) and then, when the challenge is over, you can start to have fun and do some delicious figuring out how to eat from there on.

If you eat out, unless you are headed to Sauvage, or some other strictly paleo restaurant that probably doesn't exist in your town, you probably are eating something that isn't paleo. Shitty industrial seed oils, gluten, etc. And if you do that during a challenge, you run the risk of reigniting the inflammation and irritation that you are trying to detox from.

In other words, you are probably helping to defeat yourself before you barely get started.

A simple analogy might help: think of your pre-challenge, non-paleo gut as an open wound. If you pour something irritating on an open wound, it won't heal well; it'll hurt, and likely get inflamed again. Your healing gut is just like that. During a paleo challenge, if you eat at a restaurant that just cooked your food in soybean oil, or canola oil, or peanut oil, or cross-contaminated your food with gluten, you may very well reignite inflammation that never fully went away. You may *think* you are just eating meat, veggies and good fat, and, because you aren't controlling the cooking process, you are actually getting a whole bunch of non-paleo/processed items that aren't on the list of ten things that you an eat during a 30-day challenge.

Again, let me emphasize that my anti-restaurant stance is only focused on the 30 days of a challenge. After that, except in the rarest cases, your gut has undergone a huge healing process, and it can take the hit of poorly-prepared restaurant food a lot better. In fact, learning where to eat and what to order is one of the truly fun parts about the post-challenge time... You know, the rest of your life.

The challenge only lasts a month. Toughen up. Prepare your own food for that month, and you will really do this challenge/detox right and learn more than you ever will by just trying to "do your best" in a restaurant where their sole goal is to feed you food that tastes good, not food that is going to allow your damaged gut to heal.

Heal that gut first. Then move on to letting other people cook for you in ways that you can't control (but can really enjoy).

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

A little bit more about everything affecting everything

Currently, I am on vacation. In fact, I have been on vacation for the past week. My older son, age 22, and my wife and I headed out to Utah and Arizona to hike some weird red-colored rocks in some deep and scary canyons (and a couple that were not as deep or scary too) for eight days.

Translated to non-hiker-ese, that means that each day for the past week we have been up early, out the door to the trailhead du jour, and then outside in the bright beautiful southwestern sunshine for many hours a day. Most of my day-to-day bullshit concerns are shoved in a box that is buried many miles underground, guarded by a troll (named Bob), who only says one thing -- "Fuck you" -- to said worries when they ask to come out to play.

In other words, I am really happy. I even am already aware of a looming crisis (OK, "crisis" is extreme.... we will go with "stressor") or two that I will have to deal with upon my return.

I am not worried about those for now.

Let's just go with: I am really happy... full of clean air and sunshine, and a mood so sparkling and generally non-cynical that, if you knew me well, you might ask this guy who looks like me for ID just to be sure it's not someone else.

Interestingly, what I have poured into my gaping maw during this time has included the following items that are most definitely *not* a part of my day-to-day diet:

-- a lot of grainfed beef
-- ice cream almost every day
-- a pint of Strongbow cider almost every day (who knew the Utah state liquor store in Kanab would stock one brand of cider and that it would be my very favorite?)
-- a slice of clearly non-sourdough "sourdough" toast (once) that almost certainly contained gluten
-- peanut butter, often quite a few tablespoons, each day
--breakfast (my most recent bulletproof-coffee morning fast was the day before we flew out here)

And I feel great. If I consumed any of that stuff on a regular basis at home, I would pay for it in zits, moodiness, disrupted sleep, etc. but here, amidst the amazing de-stressed outdoor living, I have been -- with the exception of that slice of toast making me really sluggish and tired for a couple hours -- feeling *better* than usual.

So, paleo is stupid, right?


But, man, if I ever needed even more proof that both "everything affects everything" *and* that the holy triumvirate of sleep, then food, then exercise is only as good as one's stress management, here it is. Again, if I ate this way at home, I would be wrecked. In fact, it would (is going to?) catch up to me here if I kept it up, but isn't it nice to know that when stress is way down and sunshine is way up, you can, to quote Nick Flynn "just disappear... to step off the map and float" every now and again?

Yes, yes it is. For now, I am just going to leave you with the view off the upstairs balcony of the place we rented. Back to the grind soon enough, but for now.... Fuck yeah.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

An ode to the old

I try to pick my gig-going carefully. Call it old age. Call it crankiness. Call it whatever you want, I really fucking hate mediocrity in music. And a mediocre live performance is especially inexcusable. While I suppose seeing a meh show at age 25 was nothing to celebrate, nowadays, another 25 years beyond that, I view it as a particularly ridiculous waste of my time.

So I pick and I choose, and I reject concerts that might very well still be good, in search of damn-near perfection.

Which brings us to yesterday, when I cast aside my skepticism and bought tickets to see two shows -- Flag and Superchunk-- in Philly within a few days of one another in September. Why? Because I know that both bands will absolutely kill it.

Superchunk.... I loved them in the early/mid '90s, kinda drifted away from them, and now am committed to finally (finally!) seeing them live oh-these-many years later. They will deliver in spades, not because I think so, but, rather, because my buddy Lance says so. Although, sadly, bassist Laura Ballance won't be along for the ride. But I have no doubt that it'll still be like this.

Flag is a Black Flag supergroup of sorts -- four former members, two of 'em trading vocals, along with Stephen Egerton of the Descendents on guitar, playing Black Flag stuff from across that band's catalog. I saw Keith Morris about ten years ago when Henry Rollins had him sing the first eight or so songs of an incendiary set of Black Flag songs performed by the Rollins Band in a charity benefit tour. He was on fire, as were Rollins and the rest of the band. I already know, based on my Descendents uber-fandom and general drummer dorkdom, that Bill Stevenson is one of my very favorite drummers, and that Stephen can fill the Greg Ginn guitar slot admirably. Chuck Dukowski has always been a monster bass player, more punk than you, and Dez Cadena? Yeah, he can stay too, because having two punk shouters is better than one, and a little extra guitar roar will be just fine, thanks.

The 'chunk will be touring a new album, so that gig won't be just an exercise in pogoing/slamming nostalgia, but the Flag show will be nothing but. And I am good with that. If a band can deliver like I expect them to, as evidenced by this and this, then I am just fine with an absence of new material.

Yeah, some of 'em (Flag) look like the ravages of time have taken more of a toll than on others (Superchunk). But for a couple nights in Philly in September, none of that will matter. The old folks will deliver. Let's go.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

A short break? Maybe?

We are headed out to Utah and Arizona to do some hiking. Will this mean silence here on the blog? Not sure. We allegedly have a wifi connection in the place we are renting, but we will see.

So... If there appears to be an inexplicable lull in my blahblahblah, this means we are: (1) having too much fun, (2) lost in a canyon somewhere reenacting that movie where the dude saws off his own arm, or (3) without wifi.

I have strong opinions against Option#2. I hope it's #1, or, better yet, I hope we are having lots of fun *and* I am simultaneously full of bloggy goodness.

Time will tell.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A little more on eating whatever you want

Lately it seems like a lot of people in my life have been asking me a lot of questions about paleo/primal nutrition***. Some are really dialed-in/totally-on-it Level 10 sorts of inquiries about the slightest tweak to an already nearly bulletproof paleo regimen. Others are from beginners or even not-quite-there-yet folks who want to know how to get started on figuring out food.

And, while I love the Level 10 questions because those folks totally "get it," I also like the beginner stuff, because what's cooler than seeing the light bulb go on over that paleo newbie's head when it all clicks? So, today's spiel focuses on the newbies, because I was reminded, once again, how confusing it can all get.

I saw this video yesterday.

Watch it. It's great. Neghar Fonooni is one of those best-of-the-best strength/conditioning/lifestyle coaches that has it all figured out. Her website and FB pages give out top-notch advice and encouragement. And this particular video took me back to Sarah Fragoso's Paleo FX talk that I referenced just a while ago....You know, when I told you that, like Sarah Fragoso, I eat whatever I want.

But.... Remember one really important thing, paleo/primal newbies: eating whatever you want requires understanding what you really want. It's a sort of double-secret Zen trick: yes, eat whatever you want. So, grasshopper, what do you want?

When Neghar Fonooni or Sarah Fragoso tell you that they live life large, enjoy whatever they eat and move the hell on if they slip up, they mean it. But they also know *exactly* what their individual game plans are. They have, through a lot of experimentation, figured out precisely what works for them, and they adhere to that plan as they see fit (pun totally intended).

So, before you reach their lofty heights of awesome, you need to figure it all out for *yourself*. How?

I am, as I told you a couple posts ago, a big advocate of a 30-day challenge/detox as the gateway to sorting out how best to eat for you. You detox for a month by taking out all the potentially bad stuff, eat really freaking well at the same time, and then.... *Then* it all gets awesome, because that is when you get to concoct the plan from then on out. And, sure enough, that plan is going to have 1000 little detours and twists and turns. Hell, I have it pretty well dialed in, and yet I am *constantly* playing with new ideas -- be it carb backloading, skipping breakfast, partitioning carbs a particular way, whatever. It is a very cool adventure, and, yeah, it is sometimes punctuated with Ben + Jerry's.

And when I fill the tub with CoffeeCoffeeBuzzBuzzBuzz and jump in from a high-dive platform, I know exactly (ok, mostly) what I am doing and exactly (uh, ok, mostly) what it is going to do to me. I try to time the assault upon my system in a way that makes sense for me, enjoy the hell out of it and then get back on the program.

And you will figure all that out too. But you have to clean up first, feed yourself really well during the cleanup, and *then* do some figuring.... Some really delicious figuring. 3,2,1, go!

***Further proof that I have a big effing mouth, because, in reality, let's remember that I have no qualifications at all. :) I am just a dude who eats paleo/primal and loves it, and, yeah, can't shut up about it.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Another way to cheat the reaper: slowing down the clock

You may recall that, a few months back, I reviewed the reissue of Greg Everett's book "Screaming at a Wall." In the review, I wrote that one of the most pervasive themes of the book is the notion that the author is "running out of time."

I totally identify with that concept.

If there is one thing that turning 50 did for me last year, it was to increase my sense of urgency to seize the moment and enjoy life whenever possible. That trip you want to take? Do it. Whatever that thing is that you are thinking about doing to make your life better, get on that stuff now. Life is short. And it is getting shorter.

As a friend who had just turned 50 said to me at the time, "Steve, if we are lucky, we have 30 more really good years on this planet. Then *maybe* five more after that that won't be so bad, and then it's awful from there on out." Bleak? A little, but it's more likely true than false. And that bleakness is with a healthy life that goes until 85! Reality could be much harsher.

So, the concept of time is a heavy one for me. I don't like wasting it on stupid stuff. I don't like finishing a day, a week, a month, whatever, with loose ends hanging or shit that hasn't gotten done.

What does this have to do with skipping breakfast?


I swear to you that the whole skipping-breakfast thing -- which you can read about here as well as here -- is the most glorious gift of time that I have ever received.

Simply put, I had no idea how much time I was spending on that extra meal. Between the absence of prep, eating and cleanup, I think I am getting back at least 45 minutes a day.

Yes. At least 45 minutes. Every day.

It's huge. Add to that the mental clarity that comes in those fasted morning hours, and the amount of work that I churn out in less time, and I bet that it is more like 90 extra minutes a day on average that skipping breakfast is giving me. I am a pre-breakfast fasted king of TCB.

And I have sworn to myself that, as a general matter, I am not going to push myself to fill that extra time with bullshit. So far, I am doing pretty well with that pledge. I have done my best to *enjoy* the extra time.

Skipping breakfast is not for everyone, but, if it works for you, you may find that it isn't just a ketosis-fueled excursion into the land of extended fat-burning; it slows down the clock.


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