Blog

It’s not all about the Food.

The goal of this blog has always been to help educate on both training and diet, along with other ideas, tips and hacks for a happy, healthy, physically fit way of life. Topics I haven’t talked much about are the value of friendships and what is a real silent villain in the story: stress.

We know stress is bad.  We know modern living, for the most part, is not helping. For some, depending on their circumstances, choice of vocation, etc., it’s making it worse. At this point you would have to be living under a rock to also not know that as connected as we are digitally with social media, many have never been, or felt, so alone.

I was in the sauna a couple days ago (I have a great new routine at work now, but that is for another post). One of our members is originally from the Dominican Republic, but has been in Boston for 20-plus years now. His name is Pedro, and he is a warm, friendly lad in his early 50s, and as he enters, I take the opportunity to practice what little Spanish I can still speak from my Puerto Rico days to say hello and ask him how he and his family are doing.

“Buenos días, señor! Cómo estás? Cómo está la familia?”

Pedro: “Not so good today.”

Me: “Oh no, señor, I am sorry to hear that. How come?”

Pedro: “My father passed away yesterday. I will be flying tomorrow to go back to be there.”

Me: “Ah! I am really sorry to hear that. May I ask how old he was?”

Pedro: “We think he was 112 years old. But he might have been older.”

Me and the Lad sitting beside me: 112! What was he doing!?

Pedro: “He might be older because back then, some tax laws in the DR forced many to delay in getting their children their birth certificates. Many wouldn’t get one until they were almost teenagers.”

Us: “So… wait. He could be older?! Can we ask what he ate?!”

Pedro: “Dominican food, I guess.” (Dominicans consume a lot of rice and beans and fried food. It is delicious, but not necessarily what I would be advertising as the way to go. But they also consume a lot of fresh fruit and coconut and generally consume far less processed food.)

Me and the other lad: “What else was he doing?”

There is a glint in Pedro’s eyes: “My father loved women!  With him and my mom, I am the youngest of 6. From a previous wife, 18.”

Me and the Lad: “……Wow…. that’s a lot of kids!”

Pedro: “Yes, and we all have children and many of them have children, and so on.”

Me: “So, he’s like a great-great-great-grandfather.”

Pedro: “Yes, many grandchildren visit him all the time.”

Me and the lad: “What else was he doing?!”

Pedro: “You know the game, Dominos? Very popular where I grew up.”

Us: “Yeah, we’ve heard of it.”

Pedro: “Well, he played that with his friends every afternoon. He’d have to walk 5 kilometers into town to play, and then after he played and enjoyed his cigar and some wine, he’d walk back. You see, I am Mormon. I don’t drink.  I also don’t smoke, but my father, he loves the good tobacco and the Mama Juana.”

“But many of us were concerned about him walking because it can be so dangerous there.”

You think the drivers where you are from are crazy here in North America? In other places, they are nuts! I’ve seen it! So, I could believe it when he said that their drivers are not punished the same way, if at all, so as pedestrians you must be very aware and careful not to get hit when crossing.

I will spare you all the science because there is already so much of it out there and many studies have been done on these key topics, but after hearing this story, I was able to look at the young guy next to me and say, “This guy was doing a lot of things right!”

We gave Pedro our condolences one more time and wished a safe flight as he left the sauna to get on with his day. But I did look at the lad and say, “Wow… his father was doing a lot of things right, and really enjoying himself.”

There is something, when it comes to enjoying a long, healthy life that, by far, has proven to be the key: a very robust and enjoyable social life. He played Dominos every day with his buddies and he had a whole host of children and grandchildren always visiting. He faced death on the road every day, which means he had to keep his wits about him; be in the moment and be very aware of his surroundings. He walked 10 kilometers every day, which would have been low impact, but it kept him moving and active. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it! He always moved. He also clearly was having a lot of sex in his life, and I don’t have to go into the details of how beneficial that is and how sex deprived we, in the west, are (and it shows).

He also had very little stress. We know what stress does to us, and I have written in the past about how exercise and meditation (especially meditation) helps mitigate and reduce it effects. It certainly helps when you are retired, but he allowed himself the pleasures of life without going to excess. He was not a pack or two-pack-a day-smoker of cigarettes, nor an alcoholic. He enjoyed quality tobacco and a couple glasses of his Mama Juana. We also know walking and movement helps produce BDNF in our brains, which helps us feel good. And while we are on the subject about juices in the brain, family and friends, and having that sense of belonging and kinship, produces all kinds of the feel-good juices in our brain (oxytocin and dopamine, to name the big ones).

Across the board, what researchers find when they look at centurions from around the world, is that centurions have these very simple things in common: they love, and are loved. They laugh. They enjoy themselves. They love life.

I don’t think you need a PhD in clinical psychology to realize what was Pedro’s father’s very non-secret-secret to what was clearly a long, joyful life.

Advertisements

Pass Me the Gravy!

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”
– Jim Davis

This is when I am supposed to tell you to eat everything in moderation on the big day, and then also be careful on Christmas.  I am also supposed to remind you that it is during the holiday season that many of us pack on the weight and then fail to lose it over the subsequent year, which is true. But I would like to try a new approach because I, myself, do not eat in moderation on Thanksgiving Day. My wife’s grandmother makes me a Pumpkin Cheesecake pie, just for me, and buys me a six pack of pumpkin beer every year. I eat until I get the strange feeling that I might die. One day, two if you count Christmas, is not going to make you fat! It’s everything else you are doing during the month that is. I get it, there are a lot of staff parties and friend get-togethers, so it is a challenge.  But even those do not take up every day of the calendar leading up to New Year’s Day when you finally are able to relax on the eggnog and focus on your resolutions for a better lifestyle.

My suggestion is feast and famine. At least a famine of the comfort foods. Eat big or go home on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Enjoy the leftovers as well. But on the days in between the staff and family get-togethers, focus on vegetables. You can even incorporate some intermittent fasting. Earn the big days and enjoy them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bread is Not a Food Group!

Bread is Not a Food Group!

Neither is pasta, rice, or pizza, or anything else we have misidentified as a carbohydrate. Wait, we did identify them correctly as carbohydrates, that is all they are made of or full of! But thanks to the bodybuilding and gym industrial complex, nobody knows anything about their food except for being able to say carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Every food has a little bit of all three (along with lots of other important stuff), just to varying degrees, like grain that is used in bread is (my best guess) 90% carbohydrate. Only 30% of a delicious sirloin is protein. So, I find myself amused that our vernacular has changed from saying meat, or steak, or fish… to protein. You know bro-science has taken a giant leap into the pop culture when you hear a soccer mom saying, “I need some protein!” Not “I’d like a piece of tenderloin steak with my salad, please!”

Here is my issue with the whole damn food pyramid and the how and the why it has set up so many of us for failure. Grains are a flipping seed! How did some very intelligent people say you should have 10-12 servings of grains (bread) and only a small handful of nuts and seeds? Grains are flipping seeds!

Because of this initial fallacy (thank you lobbyists), we treat man-made foods (breads and pastas) as their own food group and have seriously confused the sources of both our macro and micro nutrients. I have been doing some reading and it turns out that we can, in fact, eat the various cereal grains. When we pick them directly from the stock it is just fine. Here is why, and at the same time, a glimpse of what I share with customers when I give my tours at the brewery I work for. You see, the barley, quinoa, wheats, etc., that grow wildly can only be stored for about six months. They contain a decent amount of protein and other nutrients that our body thrives on. But when we first adapted to the grasslands of the savannahs and fertile crescent, we couldn’t mass harvest these seeds. We basically picked them by hand like everything else. If you have ever been dragged to a farm to pick your own berries by your mum in the spirit of teaching you a good work ethic, you will now know what I’m talking about when I say it takes a long time to pick a kilogram’s worth of berries. The same is true of the cereal grains. I would guess it would take you all day to pick the amount of calories worth of grain that you can get in a 480-calorie, old-fashioned glazed donut from Tim Horton’s (or Dunkin’ Donuts).

Hard to overindulge and get hyper fat and malnourished when one incorporates the manual labour involved.

Now let’s look at what is on your grocery store shelf. The breads and other products have been so highly refined, bleached white, etc., that they are designed to be stored for a hell of a lot longer (I’ve heard 30 years). The process of refining these grains, for store shelf products, strips all the nutrients from them that made them so valuable to our ancestors in the first place. All that basically remains is the carbohydrate. If you treat these man-made foods as their own food group, you will certainly cover your carbohydrate needs as a macro nutrient, but nothing else and you fulfill that carbohydrate need in over-abundance.

What we forget is that vegetables, fruits, and meat have carbs in them as well! Remember, a piece of steak is only approximately 30% protein. So, what is the rest of it made of? If it’s grass-fed beef, it is full of pretty much everything else your body needs that is healthy, which includes some carbohydrate.

Same with cabbage, spinach, broccoli and pretty much every other vegetable. Not only do they contain decent quantities of proteins, all the vitamins and minerals, as well as all the phyto nutrients and polyphenols we are only now starting to understand, they also contain some carbohydrates.

Now, after hearing all of this, does it not just make sense to get our energy from the foods that are the most nutrient-rich? As opposed to the nutrient-stripped slices of bread or bowtie pasta? Hence the term “empty calorie.”

So here is what I would recommend. Look at the food pyramid and see where they put nuts and seeds (it’s near the top) and consider the cereal grains as part of that category. The next step is to consider the source. You can buy the unrefined cereal grains at Whole Foods or other grocery stores, but as stated above, treat it like every other nut and seed and you will quickly discover that you will only need a quarter to half cup of these cereal grains, such as quinoa or einkorn, to meet your nutrient needs while keeping the calories down. Just because they are better for you in their natural state does not mean you get to eat it by the pound. Remember the berry picking.

A Pound a Week

“If you believe that weight loss requires self-deprivation, I’m going to teach you otherwise.”    –  Robert Atkins

“You know what the secret to weight loss is? Don’t eat much.” –  Simon Cowell

I have another line for Alanis Morrissette’s “Ironic” song…  It’s like I go to the gym to work out and exercise, but I take the elevator to get to the third floor where the squat racks are. It’s like going to the gym to train my muscles, burn a few calories and work real hard, but be too lazy to put back the weights I used…

Okay, I’m done venting, but I gotta tell ya… people can be weird. Or maybe not weird…. No! NO! That IS weird! How does anybody think that is okay? So here is my PDA/Bro Science announcement: If you take weights off a rack and use them, have the decency to put them back! It’s a gym with a gazillion members who use those weights, too. This ain’t your own personal total gym that you keep under the bed and never use. We use this stuff too! Put it back!

Okay… thanks for listening! I needed to get that off my chest, and apparently, it’s not good customer relations to shout at the 20, 30, 40, and 50 somethings like I used to when I had an 11, or 12, or 13-year-olds do something stupid. So, I, or one of my colleagues, put the weights back and we joke about it and laugh at the irony that the guy who can bench press 350 lbs. can’t put the 45’s back that he used for a super set.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I would like to discuss what I’ve been thinking about lately. I don’t have all the answers, but hear me out on this one: there is this idea, and maybe it is a legitimate one, that you should not lose weight too quickly. You should aim for only losing a pound or two a week. Then, in personal trainer school, we learn about calories and counting calories and then we talk about how, if a client wants to lose weight, he or she should reduce the number of calories they are taking in each day by like 500. 500 over 7 days gives you 3500 calories, which is the amount of energy stored in a pound of fat, and… bingo! You are now consuming one less pound of calories a week and therefore will lose that off your midsection, and therefore will weigh one less pound next week. What’s that you say, sir? You want to lose 20 lbs.? No problem! We are going to do this then for… 20 weeks.

I suppose if we base all of this on first-grader math, it might, on the surface, kinda sorta make sense. And be a great way to avoid the yo-yo dieting and weight loss, and then weight gain, that so many people fall victim to. But did anybody ask the guy who yo-yoed in weight what he did so right, and then so wrong? It’s rhetorical; he stopped eating right and went back to his old ways thinking that since he had reached his goal, he was now allowed to go back to eating whatever he wanted, as much as he wanted, and all would be right with the world. (Yes, we, as humans, can be – and are – this stupid!)

Here are my issues with what they teach in Gym Teacher School:  Firstly, this whole calorie counting and BMI, etc., is that in the real world… NOBODY KNOWS! 30,000 years ago, my ancestor had no idea how many calories was in that pound of mastodon meat. He didn’t know what a calorie was. He ate everything and anything that didn’t kill him. They would eat till they felt full/satisfied and then they chilled out until they got hungry again. They also weren’t very fat. But we are talking about my ancestor in Ice Age Europe, so by this time in the evolutionary timeline, my guy was likely carrying a slightly higher percentage of body fat on him than my friends in sub-Saharan Africa (Guinea).

Trying to estimate calorie intake (although possible, thanks to science and websites and stuff) is not the best way to go. Nor is taking that said guestimation and then trying to have your client reduce X by, oh, say 500 calories, so that you get his/her new daily calorie intake to be X-500. It’s shoddy math and overly simplistic, which then misses how truly complicated our metabolism is and how simply reducing the intake of the wrong food is not really going to solve your problem. Bad food is bad food no matter how much you have.

The next dilemma we need to sort out is the misunderstanding of what a fat person is. Just because he is fat does not mean he is a Hercules underneath it all who just needs to be sculpted like the Statue David. His excess body weight does not mean that every time he/she moves he/she is getting this great muscular workout. It’s just the opposite; their metabolism is both so badly broken and so nutrient-deficient that they are, in fact, malnourished. Under all that fat lies the body comparable to a survivor of a Japanese or German internment camp from World War Two. They are, in fact, starving. This is also why in the outset of starting an exercise program, it is so challenging. They have a lot of weight to move and no muscle to move it.

So, the question I pose is: would it not just make sense to stop eating the crap? Eat lots of veggies, maybe some meat, berries, and the whole array of nutritionally rich foods. Eat as much as you want of these foods. Stop being malnourished and allow your body to drop the fat as quickly as it needs/wants to. In a previous post, I talked about my fajita story in Puerto Rico where once I dropped the shell, I leaned up very quickly. My last post was about Mr. Clark losing 20-plus pounds within a month. But because all he ate was what we are supposed to be eating… he looked better than ever. Not starved. Not malnourished, but the opposite: highly nourished.

The conclusion I have, based on hard empirical data, is this: if you eat what you are meant to eat, train, or run, or dance, or do burpees in a way that is, more or less, in accordance with how we used to move and hunt and fish and gather veggies or berries or run from that damn lion… your body will make the appropriate changes to look, feel, and function the way nature always intended it to. For some of us, this will happen quickly. For others, less quickly, but changes will occur all the same. You will also be dead damn sexy! Just as mother nature intended.

Now, go crush a workout! Eat lots of vegetables, and put your damn weights back when you’re done!

“I remember where I put my keys!”

“Uncle Teddy:   [from jail cell] Lost another 5 pounds. 83 so far.
Tommy Gavin: Wow.
Uncle Teddy:    Yeah, this Murder One diet is the way to go. ”
-Rescue  Me

I have been working the last 6 weeks at a gym called Boston Sports Club. Since I am currently working for someone else, it would be wise of me not to point out the pitfalls of large corporate gyms or trash talk any members. The good news so far (only sucking up a little) is that the pitfalls are not so bad and, actually, the members we have (for the most part) are awesome. So, I won’t go on about the kid who was doing partial squats with weight that was clearly too heavy for him, and when I politely corrected him and suggested less weight and deeper, fuller range of motion squats, his response was, “Thanks, dude, but it was like our eighth set!” I said, “It could have been your hundredth; all I care about is if you’re going to do it, do it correctly.” I won’t, in this post, get into why the hell anyone would think 8 sets is a good idea. There are exceptions (powerlifters), but even that might be excessive. Why would we do 8 when 1 set, done correctly, done safely, and done with the right amount of soul crushing, intensity is all you need?

I won’t be able to reach or save everyone, even with a captive gym audience. Fortunately, many don’t need saving. They are there! They are training and I have noticed one particularly cool trick several of our members use to help them make sure they get there. These members are coming in on their way to work in the mornings. Many just come in to drop off their gear, but some even take their showers at our facility and prepare for work in the morning at our gym. Then they go to work. After work, they come back to work out because everything they need for the gym is already there waiting for them. (Brilliant!)

But here is the story I really wanted to share in this post: One of my colleagues is the personal trainer to actor/comedian Lenny Clarke. He’s been a working comedian and actor for years, and the role that you might know him best for would be as Uncle Teddy from the show, Rescue Me. Now, believe me; if you saw the show, and then saw him now, you’d barely recognize him. He’s worked hard to get where he is, but that’s still not the story I want to share.

Mr. Clarke disappeared for a month or so. I figured he was off working and shooting scenes or something. But this morning, I see this gentlemen wearing a bright red shirt, that says Banff with a Maple leaf, training with my colleague. Turns out, I’m not the only Canadian in Boston, so I thought I’d walk up and give this new Canuck a hard time and tease my colleague to double whatever he had planned. It wasn’t some random Canuck, it was Lenny! (Who is not Canadian, for the record; he just visited there.) I didn’t recognize him until I got up close. In just 40 days, he went from weighing 214 down to 191. We say our hellos and how have you been, and I ask, “What did you do to lose that much weight!?” He quick tells me, but they’re in the session so we keep it short and I go back to work.

Here’s where it gets great! I’m at the front desk with another colleague as we check in members, and now that he is done his session and getting ready to leave, I ask him for more details.

“Glenn, we were only allowed 8 ounces of meat/protein twice a day with a cup of vegetables. We could snack all day, but only vegetables. No super starchy veggies, so even zucchini was out. But cucumber, carrots, celery… all that stuff! A lot of cabbage! It wasn’t until I’d been there a couple weeks that they said I could put some spicy mustard on my cabbage. And hey, let me tell ya: it’s hard to eat a lot of that stuff! It fills you up!” (The quote is not exact. Writing this, 9 hours after the conversation, I can’t help but have Uncle Teddy in my head as he is saying this.)

Here is what I wanted to know: I say, “Lenny, a lot of those vegetables are rich in nutrients and sulfur, especially the cabbage. Cabbage is rich in sulfur and that’s good for the brain. I got to ask, how did your brain feel?” (Okay, I’m no lawyer, but I did know the answer before I asked it.)

“Glenn! I feel great! I remember things! I remember where I put my keys! I remember things I talked about with buddies months ago! Months ago! I remember stuff!” (Side note: I teased him about being in a Buddha state… there was definitely something in his eyes that screamed a rejuvenated, youthful aliveness and alertness.)

“I’ve got energy and I don’t get that… that brain fog.”

“Glenn, I got to tell ya – I did this to look better! But now I feel better! So much better!”

That’s the recipe! Two meals. 8 ounces of beef, chicken, fish, eggs, etc., and a cup of vegetables. I’ll confirm with him as I see him more often at the gym, but I can imagine the veggies could be raw, steamed, stir-fried, or grilled. And the rest of the day, you can snack and eat when you are hungry, just so long as it is veggies. Cabbage.

Is there really any simpler way to eat right and lose the fat? Nope! (Maybe I should have been a lawyer.) But it’s not easy. He had to go on a retreat (New England Fat Loss) to make it happen. And, alas, many members who do come to the gym are only working with half the equation. They are coming to the gym, they are training, but 7 weeks, since I have been hired, most have not changed their body compositions. They are still overweight. They still have not mastered the second, and most important, half of the equation: eating nutrient-rich foods and not the crap.

My colleagues and I are, and will, continue the never-ending endeavor of trying to reach and help these members.

 

  • I asked Mr. Clarke if I could share this story via my blog as soon as he finished telling it to me. It saved me from writing a whole piece venting about 8-sets guy.

Lenny Clarke IMBD
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164873/

http://www.newenglandfatloss.com

 

The Bottom Line

“If you eat less, you spend less.”

With all my jabbering, this summer about the west and everything that is wrong with it… (There is a lot of good too, but I’m trying to make a point.)  The reality across cultures and across time is that being financially affluent usually leads to big guts. (Henry the 8th) So the trick is to not allow your prosperity to punch you in the gut. (intentional)

Examples:  My wife and I have moved to Boston. It is an expensive city, but not our food. We buy vegetables, fruits, some eggs and Salsa and do so every couple of days. We eat it all up and we don’t throw anything out. I will add we are a 10-minute walk from the grocery store, so we have been less concerned with having to shop for an entire week. We are not buying any junk food there. We are working hard at keeping the lessons learned in Africa and are being more Stoic in our lifestyle.  The caveat being we are not in Africa. Within a 10-minute walk (or train ride) we have a craft brewery, rum distillery, Chinese, Mexican, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Brazilian food. There’s more; like 5 Irish Pubs and all their grub, and I’ve lost count with the pizza shops (Italian).  The point is that we are surrounded by opportunity and temptation. We had to create rules. I will admit it helps I’m working every day of the week. But here are the rules. Veggie trays, fruit, eggs during the week.  We get two date nights on the weekends and on one of those nights it is usually Asian, or Latin cuisine.  They just happen to be inexpensive spots here in Dorchester. The other night tends to be a couple slices of pizza from the joint a block away.  We are both practicing intermittent fasting and I am enjoying my coffee. This all has kept our grocery bill modest and our overall expenses on food minimal. The result. We are leaning up again. Yesterday I went to a fast food joint called Qdoba. It’s Mexican. It’s fast. Their Burritos are amazing. They are also 1400 calories. I bought one. I ate half in the restaurant for my lunch/brunch/first meal of the day. I took the other half with me into work. I ate the second half on my dinner break. The burrito was $9.00. Each meal only cost me $4.50. I don’t recommend Qdoba Burritos every day, even if you remove the wrap and just do the burrito bowl like I did, but if that is what you ate, and you only ate one whole Burrito a day, every day, your monthly food budget would be under $300.00 dollars. Obviously shopping at the grocery store would be even cheaper.

Now that I am working as a Personal Trainer at a commercial gym.  I am meeting with clients and going through the their “Needs Assessment” establishing how I can help them best and sell my services to them. It’s Boston, so I’m not cheap. But it is also Boston so a lot of these members are spending a lot on food.

I think you can imagine what I am telling my potential clients. If they took an honest hard look at how much they wasted on non-nutritious junk food and eating out at relatively expensive places (along with alcoholic beverages etc.) I think they would be easily able to take that money and instead of spending it on food that went directly to their waistlines, instead take that surplus and follow the advice from “The Richest Man in Babylon” or put it towards a holiday, or buy books or do courses online.  Or maybe spend that money having a qualified and competent Coach crush their soul.  By not buying the extra and unnecessary food. Weight loss will almost be a certainty. Spending the surplus on personal growth and development is just a wonderful bonus.

If you are looking to lose weight; here is the homework. Look at how much you are eating. This time let’s not look at the calories, but the actual money spent (yes, I see the monetary loophole but work with me.) and look to reduce what you are buying and how much you are spending as well as what you could purchase differently that would be far more nutritious and still far less expensive. Then look at your left-over cash and see where that could go instead. That surplus could be used to either pay off credit cards, or get put into savings, or into your Retirement plan. Or you will be able to hire a trainer/coach like myself.

I Was On Sabbatical

Okay I’m a huge Star Wars fan and there was a lot of buzz with the new trailer for The Last Jedi coming out and I came across some fun videos that brought up some interesting questions regarding Luke, The Force, and the light saber dueling.  As great as the theories were that came out that tried explaining these fun facets of the Star Wars universe.  I thought they missed a couple points that would make their cases even stronger in explaining these nagging questions. Being in Guinea, I also had the time…

So, what were the two key issues that I came across that compelled me to write about it myself? The first was the dueling aspect of the films and canon. How would you really fight with an energy sword? Would it be really fast like flailing a flash light about etc.? Or would be like a samurai/medieval knight having to really power through with that two-handed broadsword? The second concern was how did Luke get so good, so quickly, in what seems to be a very limited amount of time training as compared to the villain he fights, the evil Darth Vader, who trained for years from being a young child all the way to his older adult age as well as also being in several conflicts and saber duels along the way?

Let’s address the first one. Why are they not saber dueling in a way that looks more like western fencing, whipping there lightsabers around like flashlights? Why did JJ Abrams change it up from what we saw in the prequels? Here are my thoughts. First, the obvious is that they used sticks to allow them to fence on camera, so their props would never move like a flash light. But we can get into the nuances of sword balance, as Mr. Easton explains in a second. Because the second obvious point I want to address is that real Olympic fencing is not conducive at all to good cinematography or good story telling. Sport fencing might be more realistic than most cinema sword fights, but not that realistic and definitely not fun for movie goers. But here is what these fun videos and explanations could have added. They assumed that because it is an energy beam, all it would take is a simple quick touch to your opponent and that would be it! Dead! Or at least missing a limb. That might be cool, but I think they forget that just because it is this sci-fi energy sword full of laser/hot plasma/electrons whatever, it won’t cut through every object it encounters as if the object is air.  My case in point is that knifes can be very sharp. Samurai swords are very sharp. But just because someone “touches” me with the sharp side does not mean I’m a goner. It my break the skin, but you’re really going to have to put your back into it if you want to slice me in half!  This is where the new line of films gets it more correct. You want to cut that tree down? Slice that storm trooper in half? You’re going to have swing that ancient Jedi weapon like you mean it!

Now we can get into a little science that would actually stack up if we had batteries that could somehow magically produce that kind of seemingly unlimited and huge amount of energy. Einstein, believe it or not, proves that if we did in fact have these kinds of energy sabers, they would in fact behave more like a real samurai or broad swords and not like simple flash lights. This comes back to the point about the balance of the weapon. With real swords, the weapons center of gravity can be placed close to the grip, or near the end of the blade depending on how it’s made. An axe for example has its center of gravity at the top were the axe is and not at the grip. Makes great for swinging and allows the weight to do most of the work when chopping. There are swords with huge blades which are designed to mimic this. So, with this type of weapon you are going to swing it, swing it hard and let the heaviness of the blade deliver a maximum amount of force. On the opposite extreme, there is a European short sword or modern day foil in Olympic fencing. The balance of the weapon is close to the hilt and grip. This means your swing will be less effective, but your thrusting dexterity will be impeccable. You are literally taught to foil fence with your thumb and index finger. Therefore, a foil contest moves fast, but it is hard to stab with power and you will still really have to lunge and put your back into it to actually penetrate and “kill” said opponent.  Alright weapon balance explained so what does this have to do with Einstein, well his equation of E=mc2 is much more than just a way of calculating the power that can be unleashed from a nuclear explosion.  You see he originally wrote it as M= E/C2, minor detail, but what he’s getting at is the energy unleashed still carries mass.

Here is the thought experiment. If you took a kilo of radioactive, and thus decaying uranium and left it out in the open for a few days given enough time there would be less mass. It would, instead of being a kilogram, for easy math be 900g. The missing hundred grams will have been the energy evaporating away into space. Okay but if you put that same kilo into a lead box, therefore the emitting energy could not just escape into the universe, and then did let the kilo of uranium do its thing and check on it again in a week or a month from now, it would weigh the same. That’s right! The actual chunk of uranium rock would be a little smaller, but the weight on the scale would be the same because the “missing mass” of rock would still be there as energy. (Particles and wave functions. Etc.)  How does this relate to the lightsaber? Well it is not a flash light, it is a closed system of intense energy. That energy has mass. If their light sabers had a power source that could generate that kind of power, (it is science fiction, so they do,) then that powerful energy blade has the equivalent mass inside, so it would be a little heavy. Possibly the weight of a real Katana or broadsword.

Another fun line of reasoning we can follow to help explain and enjoy JJ’s style of dueling in the new movies and why there was/is so much “force” behind each strike is… Well, they are using energy blades. This means there is no “flat” to the blade or back side. No matter what, a lightsaber has a 360-degree cutting surface. Which means you can be cut by your own sabre if you fail to put up enough resistance when blocking. With a Katana if your opponent over powers you and your own blade comes back on you, it will hurt! But it’s not going to break the skin, cut you, or kill you. The same can’t be said for the lightsaber, which will.  Ergo there is a legitimate argument to simply whack at your Sith enemy as hard as you can, so much so that if he/she fails to put up the correct resistance in the block/parry, their own saber will be their demise.

So, a quick review to justify a saber duel mimicking or looking exactly like a katana or broadsword fight… 1.  Einstein’s equations give credence to there being the feeling of weight to the blade when swung/thrusted.  2. Even without that tad-bit of science. No matter how powerful the energy blade, cutting through anything would require far more effort than simply passing it through air. So, the thicker and harder/denser the object, the more force you’d require to cut through it.  And lastly 3. Hit them hard enough and you could hurt them with their own blade being pushed back on them.

Next, what was the missing argument as it pertains to Luke’s training in the build up to dueling Vader the first time and then going into his second duel. Okay the arguments I liked from the video was that there are real passages of time between each of the original 3 films. So, Luke gets some time with Ben’s force ghost to train after a New Hope ends and before Empire begins. He gets 3 years. That’s a lot of time being fully dedicated to such a craft. Okay after the snow planet incident and almost dying at the Intro. Obi wan tells him to go to the Dagaba system to train with Yoda. So, he goes and trains with the Master of Masters.  The movie doesn’t say how much time passes, but the video I watched estimated a month. Okay so a month of full time immersion with The Master to really hone, sharpen and perfect certain skills might be enough time.  My example is using the Clarinet.  My Mentor was a professional Clarinetist for 20 plus years. He’s good! So good that professional clarinet players come to him for lessons. Not full time, come once a week, every week lessons mind you. They come to play an audition piece. They pay him to be a consultant/coach in that moment. While playing that particular piece, they might be having a hard time with a particular passage, or hitting particular notes. He solves that problem for them. Helps them perform that piece better. Then they are off. Only returning to him when they need his expertise in solving an issue they can’t solve themselves.

This is how Yoda fits into Luke’s training. Old Ben could only teach so much and do so much as a “force ghost” But Luke needed the basics and some experience before he would be ready for Yoda to polish him and tweak his training and skills.  Sniper school might be another good analogy. You’re already a good soldier before you get Sniper Training. You’re also a good shot before Sniper School. So good at being both a soldier and shooter that you honestly probably don’t need Sniper school and yet those 6-12 weeks of Sniper school can teach you more than you could ever hope to learn on your own in a lifetime. That’s Yoda.

But the real point I want to add to what I thought was already a pretty good video is this. There is a difference between learning a fancy “Martial Art” in a Dojo and learning real combat skills. There is a difference between spending 20 years studying Aikido techniques versus learning WW2 Combatives. Or how Samurai were trained in the first place. Samurai didn’t have “Belt Systems” They would learn what they needed to survive and thrive on the battlefield. They would learn those skills as quickly as humanly possible! Belts come after wars. Belt systems (white, blue, green etc.) evolve as a way to rope in a civilian population to keep them coming back every week to learn more. Learning mostly very cool and fun techniques that in real combat, don’t stand a chance at being remotely useful.

My examples come from first, MMA and Street fighting and Urban or WW2 Combatives.  You don’t see Aikido Masters, despite all there very cool abilities and techniques winning. There are basic techniques that really work and a basic formula to winning an MMA fight. You just don’t need that many years in a Dojo to get good at kicking ass in the Octagon. This is even truer of a street fight or urban combat situation. Hence the success of WW2 Combatives. You only need to know how to palm strike someone’s  chin really hard, stick a thumb in their eyes and kick/knee them in the growing and you’re going to win. You just better do it to them before they do it to you.  As I’ve have heard a Shaolin Monk once say, “Kung Fu is a superior system (He had to say that, but he might be right.) But boxing will teach you how to fight much faster!”

Another Modern example is Krav Maga with the Israeli Defense Force. Every recruit spends two years in the Israeli Armed Forces. They learn how to live, they learn how to kill. There is no “Belt” System. In fact, they pretty much stay true to the Krav Maga founder’s original teachings.  The belt system and “fluff” comes later. The belt system is designed for civilians and to put them through a curriculum that ultimately leads to one day becoming certified to teach it themselves. Also, to keep them coming in the door every week as you build a belt system, you are going to ultimately fall into the trap of adding stuff just for the sake of a lesson. Even if it has no real combat application.

We can ultimately summarize this with Miyamato Musashi’s famous quote, “Teaching people a large number of sword techniques is turning the way into a business of selling goods, making beginners believe that there is something profound in their training by impressing them with a variety of techniques. This attitude toward strategy must be avoided, because thinking that there is a variety of ways of cutting a man down is evidence of a disturbed mind. In the world, different ways of cutting a man down do not exist.”

Or as Bruce Lee we would later say, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Ultimately Luke’s training was this. To the point. I will argue that the Jedi, as an order were much like modern day martial arts dojos. A long training curve learning a lot of unessential material. This is the training Anakin had. A curriculum a mild wide, bunch an inch thick, while Luke’s was an inch wide and a mile thick. Which is ultimately why he could get so good and so powerful in the story’s allotted time frame.

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts On Becoming/Being Batman

”What is the point of all those push-ups if you can’t even lift a bloody log?”

– Alfred Pennyworth, Batman Begins

I had some spare time and fell into the trap of watching a handful of YouTube videos on what it would take to become Batman. There are the back stories and information referenced in the various comic book incarnations, which serve as the primary sources for these videos, along with Paul Zehr’s book, Becoming Batman. The book basically breaks down what gets referenced in the comics and points out just how long it would take someone to get to that level of proficiency and conditioning, followed by how short the career would be.

To summarize Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming Batman: he inherits, due to the murder of his parents at a young age, a remarkable family fortune. Due to a corrupt city and such an injustice and tragedy, he is so driven by hate and revenge and the overriding desire to prevent such a thing ever happening again to someone else, that he transforms himself into the ultimate crimefighter. In doing so, he studied virtually every Martial Art known to exist. At age 14, he goes to Europe, where he studies at every major university in every applicable course he can, running the gamut from chemistry to electrical engineering and a whole host of subjects in between. He never sleeps, which is partly why he can do so much. He has an unworldly high IQ, world-class genetics, and a training regimen every day that makes gymnasts and top competitive bodybuilders seem lazy, all the while solving the case and beating up the Joker and his hired goons.

Even though he is not a “superhero” in the sense of having “super powers” like Spiderman or the Flash, what they did was create a character with the superhuman ability to train, study, and learn. He may not be a superhero, but he is in the 1% of human potential and capability in all aspects of abilities. Not that it would be impossible for such a human superhero vigilante to exist, but it is somewhat implausible… (yes, I realize I am saying this where in such a comic universe there are aliens in blue suits flying around, shooting laser beams out of their eyes). But what if we flipped it on its head for a second, and rather than see Batman/Bruce Wayne as this remarkable genetic phenomenon with an amazingly unrealistic training and study regimen, we used an “80/20” approach, and examined his lifestyle from a Tim Ferriss perspective? What would Batman’s existence look like then?

As a kid having such a tragedy happen to him, I think we can agree that – superhuman or not – his parents’ death creates the motivation to cultivate the discipline required to be such a crimefighter. Bill Gates has been quoted as saying, “We over-estimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten.”  If we also add (although misleading at times depending on the activity) Malcolm Gladwell’s use of the 10,000 hours to mastery, along with the 10-year rule for accomplishing high proficiency in sports, his initial training and beginning is not so out of the realm of possibility. Learning how to learn would be his initial advantage. Teaching himself to speed-read would be massively advantageous. Using memory techniques such as the “Memory Palace” for remembering concepts and the Peg system for remembering large chunks of numbers would help immensely. Although the comics have him going to Europe to study anything and everything at all the major and famous institutions, with his inherited fortune (and thus, sufficient passive income), I would argue that his education would have been far less formal and far more personal and home-schooled, hiring tutors and experts in the various fields that would serve him most. Alfred would ensure he got enough of a well-rounded liberal arts/classical education possibly modeled on St. John’s University’s (Annapolis and Santé Fey Campuses) Curriculum, which tackles a lot of the great works from Plato’s Republic to Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica – but also in the subjects most conducive to aiding him in crimefighting, mainly criminology and forensics. It is here that I want to remind all the Batman fans that the comics started out with him as more detective and far less “superhero.”

But you can accomplish a lot in 10 years. He could have trained for several years in gymnastics, especially if receiving private instruction. He would not have cared about competitive scores out of 10 performances where his moves had to be “perfect,” but how to do it well enough to strengthen his body and to perform without getting hurt. This is totally doable. He also could have skipped it entirely and gone straight into parkour, but the gymnastics has been proven to be the best at being transferable across other sports. Plus, it would be easy to have a set of rings, bar, and tumbling mat placed in the Bat Cave to do the basic exercises on a semi-regular basis.

As it pertains to his education from, say, age 14-24, much of the comic books are not so far-fetched; we’ve just dialed in the focus and created a more accurate and systematic approach. Bruce Wayne would likely still have a high enough IQ in the 120s or 130s. He isn’t an outright outlier with an Oppenheimer IQ, but it would be high enough that he would be (if he so chose) a successful doctor, lawyer, or engineer. He would have an initial aptitude for solving difficult puzzles and cases, but would also spend a lot of time immersed in that kind of critical thinking and work.

Going back to his physical training: gymnastics, for sure. Strength-training and Martial Arts? This is where we get into the reason why I wanted to add my two cents and write this. The comic books have him studying every Martial Art and lifting all kinds of weights at incredible volumes and with, honestly, ridiculous amounts of weight. For being “normal,” the comics still have him as super strong. I think we could create a very realistic “non-superhuman” approach to his training that would still garner remarkable results and, once being Batman “fulltime” as an adult, still allow him to get in the training he would need, but at realistic volumes and within a realistic time frame.

My ideas would be that when it came to fighting hand-to-hand, he would likely have had a Bruce Lee mindset. During this hypothetical 10 years, I can imagine him having opportunities to take classes, such as boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Aikido, but he would then only incorporate what we found useful while discarding the rest. I imagine he would not care about belts and belt systems, so in his private lessons, he would be far less concerned with Katas and rituals of each respective Martial Art and, rather, only be interested in the most effective, applicable, and easy-to-learn techniques. He would not be concerned about style points, so I would infer his fighting would be modeled far more on Fairbairn and Sykes World War 2 combatives, or Krav Maga for surviving close-quarter fighting with the thugs. Once he was Batman full-time, he wouldn’t have to spend very much time, if any, having to constantly practice the fine motor skills and wide ranging, varied, and often not-so-effective techniques that do exist in most Martial Arts. Because he is not training for sport, he would only need a simple and straightforward toolbox of gross motor movements that have been tried and proven to get the job done.

Strength training would follow this same vein of logic; although he might initially start out making the same mistake that many of us make (training like a professional bodybuilder), I think he would ultimately settle on HIIT principles, adopting a Barry Ross, or Charlie Francis, approach to heavy strength training and, for improving endurance, using a HIIT approach as researched and prescribed by Dr. Gibala with the occasional strength and metabolic conditioning routine Arthur Jones – and more recently, Dorian Yates and Dr. McGuff – would design. These protocols/approaches are remarkably effective while not requiring huge amounts of time, in conjunction with minimum time on the rings or bar and mat to keep up the specific strength gymnastic movements require.

His job as Batman would take care of the rest. As pointed out by Dr. McGuff and John Little, “competition is training.” So, we can also allow for the reality that some nights, he will be getting into fights and having to use his parkour skills to get himself in and out of trouble. He would be spending many days not needing to train, but recover from the action of the previous night.

Throw in some meditation and an understanding of alpha and theta brainwaves, or “in-the-zone” states of consciousness and breathing exercises like those taught by Wim Hoff, and I think you could take a lot of what is described in the comics and create a weekly system that could still garner most, if not all, the results he would be seeking to attain and maintain without the ridiculous amounts of volume and time in training. I also think that this could all be done without going without sleep or adopting the “Uberman’s” sleeping protocol.  He could do that, but I think simply being a night owl would still all work out just fine.

I am also going to go out on a limb on this and add that I don’t think Batman would be “out on patrol” saving Damsels in Distress (as fun as that is in the comics and movies). He would only be out in the city when he needed to break into the crime scene to do his own forensics, or be on a stakeout of his own, and/or breaking into suspects’ locations for his own reconnaissance. He could take some computer courses and learn the art of hacking to get into the Gotham City Police Department mainframe, or into any other computer system he believed necessary.

To recap what his daily and weekly schedule might look like: 2-3 times a week, for only about 20 minutes, he would spend time doing a Barry Ross protocol of two heavy sets of deadlifts for strength and neuromuscular development/maintenance. (He could be a 500-lbs deadlifter, which would mean he is more than strong enough to fight bad guys.) He would probably jump on the rings or high bar for 20 minutes or so every couple of days for maintaining his gymnastic abilities, helping keep him agile and flexible.

Every now and then, as Bruce Wayne, he might do a Martial Arts seminar, but likely would just need to use a heavy bag and punch and kick the snot out of it using Dr. Gibala’s protocols to knock out a 10-minute HIIT session. He also wouldn’t need to do that the days he used the rings or practiced other gymnastic movements, so he could be active and do something every day, but it would never leave him overtrained and/or overly sore. He could keep it to less than an hour, if not only 30 minutes a day, to build (and keep) his physical skills and conditioning up to snuff, while every couple of weeks throwing in a solid Arthur Jones/Dr. McGuff routine for good measure.

He would likely have a meditation and breathing practice, which he could do every day. He might even use a sauna to aid in recovery.

Then, it would be an hour or two to oversee his affairs with Wayne Enterprises. This is where his speed-reading would really pay off. Then, it would be getting to work on the latest case, because that is when he’d get the Bat Signal from Commissioner Gordon, who would apprise him of the latest unsolved case with all the clues and evidence they had gathered so far. At this point, he would get to work like any other detective, but with the deductive reasoning powers of a Sherlock Holmes as he worked on the case. He may spend some nights on stakeouts as he closed in on the next Gotham City villain. Then, just as he blew the case wide open, he would get captured, and we would have to “tune in next time! Same Bat time! Same Bat Channel!” He would then escape in time to catch the villain and goons, getting into and epic close-quarter combat situation using his gymnastic/parkour and hand-to-hand fighting skills to subdue said villain and goons. After all the fighting was over and the criminals arrested, he’d return to the Bat Cave for an ice bath and sauna, and go to bed. The next morning, he’d begin his day/week again with his morning rituals of meditation before hitting the weights for a couple sets, and because of the big fight the night before, he would take a couple more days off before hitting the rings or heavy bag again.

Having a passive income would allow him to, at any time he wanted or needed to, always be able to consult experts, whether that be in the realm of survival skills and combatives or seeking out former SWAT or Special Ops instructors. He’d be in the world of neuroscience and psychology, seeking out those doctors and professors to help him understand a villain’s pathology, setting time aside to study computer science or apprentice as a mechanic. He would be/is the walking embodiment of self-improvement; seeking out that which is useful to him and discarding the fluff and unnecessary. He would have developed a whole array of skills and skillsets because (1) he would not be wasting hours of his time strength-training or practicing Martial Arts, and (2) he would not waste his time watching some MTV program.  Batman would be more like a “Navy Seal meets Sherlock Holmes meets MacGyver,” spending a little time each day honing these skills, little by little.

The Struggle Is Real

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
T. S. Eliot

Coming back to the U.S. this time has been less of a culture shock, but allowed for renewed perspective, which has always been a pretty cool consequence of living abroad. It’s the commercials! My last post I talked about the ads while visiting friends in Djibouti and seeing ads for weight loss while you are in a place like Djibouti, but it’s full-on here: infomercials for the next exercise system and DVD set courtesy of Beach Body; Chuck Norris and the Total Gym he endorses; more Nutrisystem, and other products.  Between the infomercials, and regular commercials, one might have to ask… How do we have an obesity problem with so many options and opportunities to crush our souls and be in world-class shape?

Well, there are other kinds of commercials. Mostly food. I didn’t google what the percentage of ad time is devoted to food, but anecdotally, it’s a lot. All the major franchises from, of course, McDonald’s to Dunkin’ Donuts, to Subway, Chipotle, TGI Friday’s… you get the idea. They are everywhere! Images of food on all kinds of billboards and all the small shops with their posters. You walk into a Starbucks to see all their delicious looking pastries right there in the glass case. Eating at a family diner, which we have, the portions are ginormous! I’ve talked about how it was easier where we were living in Guinea (West Africa) because we couldn’t eat the street food, so we only shopped once a week. We had a great deal of control over what we bought with very limited outside influence. I would buy a can of Pringles for the weekend, but when they were gone, they were gone. I was not in a position to just run down to the corner store after seeing that commercial advertising them.

In three weeks of being home, I have eaten more here than I have in the last 6 months there! The struggle is real, and I am sympathetic to the reality of how difficult it is to resist the “bad” foods amidst the constant media bombardment.

But there might be a solution; a way of circumventing our brain so that it is far less influenced by all the Subway and Burger King ads. What all this bombardment creates is a ton of temptation. The trouble, then, is the reality that it takes a lot of willpower to resist those temptations, and willpower is finite; you only have so much in a day. Each day you have X amount, and as you tire and fatigue, it runs out. So, the second link is a video that discusses techniques to help manage your willpower and how to, over time and with small steps, increase and strengthen your willpower – not necessarily by facing temptations and forcing yourself to resist like we would train our muscles – but, in fact, how to build habits and create environments for automatic behavior so that you don’t have to fire that frontal cortex so much. This is important, because the first link with Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about that very thing. He cites John Green’s study of allowing study participants to cheat on a test. What they found was those who did cheat, their frontal cortex lit up like a Christmas tree. They were wrestling with the “do I, or don’t I?” The initial hypothesis, then, was that for those who did not cheat, their frontal cortex must have really lit up and simply overpowered the temptation. But that was not what they found. For those who didn’t cheat, there was very little activity. He describes it as a state of grace. It was automatic. For those who didn’t cheat on the test, it was because, “You don’t cheat on tests.” It was that simple. The challenge will be (and it’s not easy) to reach a point where you don’t eat crap, because you just don’t eat crap. You will no longer even consider it, despite all the ads and ease of availability. The second video will offer some techniques to help in that transition of it becoming an automatic behavior.

I will finish with my personal example. I used to smoke. I used to love smoking! It went great with a cup of coffee and it was great when having a beer with the boys.  Oh, and road trips! Fantastic. I was never a pack-a-day smoker. I would rarely touch one during football or track season, but during the summers when I was working in the factory, it was perfect during those 10-minute breaks.

I also had a unique challenge.  Unlike so many who are addicted, yet hate smoking (but do so anyways), I loved it! But I also loved playing rugby and all my other sports, and it is a no-brainer how bad one is for the other. So, on my 26th birthday, I said enough was enough. Casually smoking even as little as I was, is still too much for the lifestyle I wanted and the profession I was in. I had quit in the past every sports season, but as soon as exam week started, or my summer back in the factory began, I would give myself permission to have one, which always led to another. This time around I created a rule for myself. It was a simple rule: I would never inhale again. This would defeat the point of having a cigarette, but would allow me, on very rare and special occasions, to enjoy a proper cigar. Good cigars are expensive, so I knew I wouldn’t be buying them all that often. That has been my rule, and I haven’t given smoking a cigarette a second thought in 10 years. I also, this past spring with a couple mates who worked at the Embassy, kicked back with a glass of fine Merlot and, as the sun was setting over the peninsula and a slight breeze took the edge off from another hot, dry day, we enjoyed our really good cigars as we contemplated and discussed just how different where we were is from where we have been.

The Neuroscience of Lies, Honesty, and Self-Control | Robert Sapolsky

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AwNCb0XciU

Diet Science: Techniques to Boost Your Willpower and Self-Control | Sylvia Tara

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-0QNLl5fIY

Shake Shake Shake! Shake Shake Shake! Shake Djibouti! Shake Djibouti

“Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.”
— Bruce Lee

Over the last couple of weeks, my fiancée and I enjoyed an actual holiday: our first real holiday/trip/pretend-I’m-Captain-Kirk-and-explore-a-new-world, in 3 years. This meant we did a lot of flying from Conakry, Guinea to Nairobi, Kenya, then to Djibouti, Djibouti, and then to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and then back home. We flew Ethiopian Airlines the whole time, largely because it is affordable, but it is also one of the only safe African operating airlines.

But this isn’t a post about the trip and the safaris where we were blessed to see real lions, elephants, zebras, wildebeests, and other antelopes and gazelles along with a few hippos and rhinos.  This is not a post about survival and the eat-or-be-eaten world of the African plains. This post is about the food I got to eat on the plane. The amount I ate on the plane. Even better; it’s about the food I did not eat while flying, because the portions on an airplane are, by North American standards, small! They would, on any tray they served, only give a couple of ounces worth of food. You get one bun, one 1-ounce desert, and the choice between chicken, fish, or beef, each only being approximately 3 ounces, and in the same dish you have about an ounce of mashed potato or rice complemented with an ounce of cooked veggies. A separate tiny dish would contain about 2 ounces, at a guess, of a small salad.

If this was what was served to us at a 5-star hotel, we would likely flip our lids. But when you are 39,000 feet above sea level, in a cigar tube with wings accompanied by 300 other people, we tend to be less angry and appreciate that we are getting a meal (or two) and that they have the room to do so despite everyone trying to carry everything they own as a carry on.

I am into health, fitness, and nutrition. I read, podcast, YouTube University all the time on and about these subjects. There is a lot of science and studies on how to get the most out of your food sources for nutrients; how to, even when busy, maximize your time to build a strong fit body. At the end of the day, though, it’s just not that complicated!

While in Djibouti, we were staying with friends. One of them works for the American Embassy, which means they get some of those Embassy perks of having access to American television. So, while enjoying a glass of wine and enjoying their company, we had the news on in the background. It wasn’t that Fox News went on and on about Amazon buying Wholefoods and MSNBC going on and on about the healthcare bill (which was odd/ironic) that struck me. It was the commercials. Did you know there is now Jenny Craig for Men?! Or a new miracle procedure to help you lose those last pesky few pounds that you have spent years trying to get rid of, but keep failing? There is also a new cream to target your lower back pain. Everything advertised was not some cool new product that will help me fly to Mars, but to fix something wrong with us, which, honestly, if we just took care of ourselves, wouldn’t be wrong with us. It is hard to watch so many commercials about weight loss when you’re in Djibouti*.

People will object that eating less is easier said than done. They are right. To eat less, until your body becomes used to it, will feel awful! We talked about that in a previous post. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable for a while. But also, remember that we can live several weeks without food. Eating less and less often will NOT kill you. In fact, quite the opposite! At least, when it comes to the First World, eating less will save you.           Food Tray

*Djibouti is a tiny country, originally uninhabited with exception to some nomadic goat herders and considered part of the Axumite Kingdom (Ethiopia) before being deemed a strategic location for a port by the French, who occupied the small gulf beginning in the 1890s. Djibouti is on the Horn of Africa with the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden on its respective coasts, and with Ethiopia on its western border, Eritrea to its north, and Somalia on its southern border .