Monday, 30 January 2012

Let the music do the talkin'!

I have no idea why, perhaps because before I was a "foodie" I was known as somewhat of a music freak, but a couple of people have asked what I listen to when I run at night. So here you go, the first of probably many running music posts.

Core Of My Addiction- Fireflight
Activate- Stellar Kart
Adding To The Noise- Switchfoot
Student Driver- Stellar Kart
Everything Back But You- Avril Lavigne
All Fired Up- Pat Benatar
Don't Tell Me You Love Me (acoustic)- Night Ranger
Drop Dead Gorgeous- Republica

And no, I do not run in time to the music. I'm sure my brain is wired in some funky fashion that allows my feet to do one thing and my hands to keep a totally different tempo. Probably too many years of playing gee-tars and bass-es.

Rawk on!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.

One of my favorite movies is "Heartbreak Ridge" and it stars Clint Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway who leads a band of young Marines with a piss-poor attitude through the machinations necessary to excel in their chosen profession... eventually. One of his lessons to these young men was that they weren't held to a rigid set of rules. If conventional wisdom didn't work or make sense in a situation, they were expected to adapt, improvise, and overcome. We could learn a thing or two from Gunney Highway.

There are rules and concepts one should pay particular attention to as they have an effect on your life whether you believe in them or not. For instance, gravity. Gravity cares not if you believe in the concept. You can believe against gravity all you want but if you walk over a cliff you'll become a believer my friend, trust me. Other rules or guidelines have a bit more leeway because some things in life aren't so cut and dried.

Score of the day: celery and smoked cuttlefish!
The eating model I subscribe to says I shouldn't eat processed carbohydrates i.e. food with sugar in it a.k.a. PCs. Recently I found myself at a New Year's Day celebration with my Japanese hosts. Before me on the low table I was sitting at (cross-legged no less, no small accomplishment for me) was a very impressive spread of food: sushi on rice (PC), tempura shrimp (PC), assorted breaded and fried meats (PC), some type of potato salad looking thing (PC), etc. But there was a selection of cold roast beef and prosciutto ham slices and a wonderful dish which I later found out was sliced celery and smoked cuttle fish (uber yummy). I was able to avoid offers of soda and drank lots of water but felt compelled to join in the toast with saki. Sometimes you have to take one for the team, right???

Finally our host came out with a small bowl with dessert. Sweetened silken tofu with almond flavoring and orange zest. Not exactly the way I wanted to end my pretty darn successful meal, yet I saw the ladies sitting close to me observing my reaction so down the gullet it went. Smiles all around. Could I have deferred the dessert? Yes, but would it have looked less than ideal? Probably. In the grand context of my life will it be counted as a failure on my part? No. Sometimes you have to adapt to the day. So when I came home I had a nap since that was the only refined carbs I'd had in three weeks. Funny how far I've come.

To improvise means you work with what you have. We all have constraints on our lives, the most common is probably money (or the lack thereof). In an ideal world I would buy the finest cuts of grass-fed pastured organic humanely raised meats. I would enjoy eggs from chickens roaming around my yard eating what they found appealing and perhaps drink milk from my own goat. But hold onto your hats, the world isn't ideal. My access to prime meat is limited by what is available at the Commissary or on the local economy (at a premium price). Forget organic vegetables at a reasonable price. Fresh I can get at the local farmer's market and even reasonably priced if I drive out far enough, but not without fertilizers or pesticides.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a food-elitist by any means. I've known people who would turn their nose up at the thought of having a steak from the grocery store (how dare you?!?!?!). I'd love to have the best to feed my body with on a daily basis but I'm probably not going to drop dead tomorrow because my eggs came from a large-scale farm. I'm OK to work with what I have, especially considering I spent a few decades mistreating my body.

Of the three terms in the title I think this is the most important: overcome. It means to get the better of. I like that. I like the thought that because we can adapt to a situation and improvise with what we have, we can get the better of our situation. Don't let it become overwhelming. Look at your present situation in the grand scheme of things. If I have to eat this small bowl of pudding to honor my host, is it really going to matter? If I have to eat store-bought meat because of availability will it be the end of the world? Usually the answer is no. Can I still be in command of what goes into my body and what I do for activity? Yes. I shall overcome.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

This is only a test...

A month into my primal transformation I began to get curious. I remember how crappy I felt before changing most everything about my life and I can't explain it but I was curious... what would it be like if I "slipped". So I had a little test and boy was it ever an eye-opener.

One of my standard comfort food sammiches is an old fashioned grilled cheese. Using Conventional Wisdom I thought that I had somewhat "healthified" the Beast because I was using 12-grain bread (the BIG loaf sized slices) with 2% reduced-fat cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces) 2 slices of pepper jack cheese and using a very popular "buttery spread" made from various vegetable oils. CW says I'm doing ok since it isn't made of white bread, full-fat cheese and, dare I say its name aloud, butter. So all total the Beast is a whopping 920 calories with 76 grams of fat and what shocks me know 44 grams of carbs (half of what I try to eat now in an entire day). I couldn't bring myself to have a Coke that was also par for the course at that time, 39 grams of simple sugar there.

920 calories, 76 grams of fat and 44 grams of carbs. Shudder.
So I fired up the trusty George Foreman grill (which I could have sworn cursed at me) and constructed the sandwich. Lots of sizzling and dripping later it was done and when I lifted the lid it just looked... different. Not as appealing as it had in the recent past. But I dug in and shoveled it down and went back to writing.

Now on a lark I had taken my blood pressure and pulse before making the beast and after finishing it and after getting good and settled to keep things even noticed that my pulse was almost bounding and had jumped 10bpm. It might not be a true scientific indication but boy did I feel different. And then I got real tired. Sleepy wanna take a nap sleepy, so I did. I woke up 45 minutes later feeling like a big steamy pile of poo and was FAMISHED. And then it hit me, this is that way I had felt for years. I had never been out of the "fog" long enough to realize it.

I may have set myself back a bit by my little experiment but it sure did open my eyes to the effect my old eating habits had on my body. Now, if I need a little motivation, I can just look at this photo of the Beast and remember how crappy it will make me feel. A bacon-wrapped sirloin with a salad puts it to shame.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Deviled Guac Bombs

So I had this craving for some comfort food on Christmas Eve and after brainstorming a bit I came up with the recipe below.

‎6 hard-boiled eggs, halved w/ yolks removed
2 egg yolks from above
2 avacadoes
1/2 c. thin-sliced red onion
3 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
pinch ground red pepper flakes
dash of hot sauce to taste
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
paprika, cilantro leaves and pimento for garnish

Mash avocado and egg yolks with a fork into chunks, add remainder of ingredients and mix well. Spoon into egg halves, dust with paprika. Fold cilantro leaf in half to place into guac and place pimento into center. Chill until ready. Enjoy!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Gym? I don't need no stinking gym!

I hate gyms. Not as much as I hate running, but the strong negative feelings are there. There was a time when I was a young cut/ripped gym rat but just like Star Wars it was a long, long time ago. As nice and helpful as people can be I'm just not a fan of them. There's always a snicker or a whispered cut-down and I'm just too old and grumpy to get out of a situation like that without causing someone some embarrassment. It would probably be me, but I'm sure I could drag a couple of folks down in the process.

So how do I get in my required strength workouts? I just use myself against myself. Better put, I use my own body weight as the resistance instead of a big chuck of iron. I use a modified version of Mark Sisson's Primal Essential Movements routine that can be found in his free e-book Primal Blueprint Fitness over at Mark's Daily Apple. In my case I substitute situps for the pullups as situps are a required part of the AF Fitness Exam and that it is my goal to pass by the first week in December 2012.

Now since I have zero upper body strength from years of sitting at a desk editing photos and writing I needed to start VERY simple just to get my body used to doing things it hasn't done in a very long time. The upside to this is I can do it anytime, anywhere!

Wall push-ups- feet together about 3 feet from the wall, hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Lean forward until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle then press back. I started off by doing 1 set of 50 and am now working on doing 2 sets. As you progress move from the wall to a lower object as a counter top and then lower still to two chairs (facing each other). Finally make it to the ground and keep pounding out the sets of 50. Be sure to keep your spine straight, don't stick your butt up in the air or let your belly scrape the ground (most embarrassing). Since my goal is a maximum number in one minute I'm shooting for a fast set of 50 (I get max-points at 44 in a minute).

Squats- feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your back and neck aligned lower your butt until your legs are parallel to the floor then press back up until standing with your arms crossed over your chest. Hold onto a chair or other object if you need to. I'm currently on 2 set of 25. Feel free to cry at any point along the way but mind you that whimpering is strictly forbidden.

Planks- assume the push-up position on the ground and hold your abs, butt, everything tight for as long as you can and as straight as a, well... a plank. I do two sets until failure and am shooting for 2 minutes. Start on your knees if you need to like I'm doing. When you're consistently hitting this mark start working your obliques by tilting your upper body to one side while pointing your arm towards the ceiling. Repeat for the other side.

Sit-ups- you know the drill here. On your back, knees bent and arms across your chest. Use a couch or a partner to hold your feet. Tighten your abs the pull up your head and then your chest towards your knees until your arms hit your knees or thighs. Initially I'm doing 2 sets to failure. I'll do 'em until I can do 50, then work on doing them faster. Big Blue (the Air Force) can put a bomb through a window but they're still schlepping along with situps instead of crunches. Apparently they're looking at the fitness of my hip flexors. That's sarcasm in case you didn't catch it.

That's pretty much it. The strength exercise no-gym get fit fitness routine.

Friday, 20 January 2012

So you need to be motivated?

Anonymity. It's like a plague among us and we don't even know it. Anonymity has allowed us to suffer alone and not ask for or receive help. Anonymity allows us to be snarky and snipe away at others without consequence. Anonymity also allows us to make a half-hearted attempt to change and if the change gets too hard we can stop and no one is the wiser. Anonymity is not your friend.

There's another "A" word that IS your friend and can be instrumental in accomplishing nearly anything- accountability. Accountability is having someone in your life that cares enough about you to say "You're full of crap, stop your whining and do your flipping situps!" They don't do it to be mean and it's not said in a hateful manner, they just know you well enough to see through the facade we put on for most of the people we deal with on a daily basis. For some it can be a spouse or significant other. Personally I would steer clear of that route because those folks know you a little too well. Think of the prophet getting no respect in his home town type of thing.

I have had a couple of great men who were tasked with keeping me accountable for things through the years. The most memorable was Steve (my brother from a different mother) and he knew how to cut to the chase often telling me in some very forthright ways that I was being a selfish whiner and I needed to just suck it up and get on with it. Sounds harsh, but at that time those were exactly the words I needed to hear. He was doing it out of true concern for my well-being.

Not everyone needs to be motivated by having someone this close emotionally. Motivation can come from declaring your intent to a small group of friends and colleagues. Or even a large group of people like the readers of your own blog.

I started my life transformation on December 18th 2011. In the 2 1/2 weeks that followed I implemented my eating and exercise plan and was on my way. What I didn't realize until I saw a Facebook message was that the following week the Yokota Samurai Fitness Center here on the base would be starting their 2012 Biggest Loser event. Twelve weeks of friendly competition with an emphasis on lifestyle changes and healthy weight loss. And get this; first prize is $1,000 cash with second place getting $500 in men's, women's, couple's and family categories. This might be fun! I have already made the hard changes in my life and I'm working my plan!

So if you want to keep me accountable, gently bust my chops on this from time to time. But do it in love, do it because you care about me. And if you watch the Yokota Samurai Fitness Center page on Facebook for updates, keep your eye on number 9. But keep in mind that my goal is still the same as ever; pass the Air Force PT test by the first week of December 2012. Whatever happens in-between is just what happens and is icing on the cake. OK, better described now as butter on the bacon????

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Quick meal strategies

"There's no way I can do this, I don't have any time to make those elaborate meals!"

First, let me congratulate you on at least giving this some thought. Changing the way you live is a BIG deal and contemplating changing in a direction that most of your friends and family don't understand is an even bigger deal. So here's a big shout-out to you just for thinking about it!

How can you make the meals you need to eat and still do all the other ten ga-zillion things in your life that aren't simply going to disappear because you want to change your lifestyle to one compatible with optimal health? Here's a few ideas that I use but I'd LOVE to hear about yours, so please post them for all of us to learn from.

Make a meal plan. Now I'll admit that I still struggle with this one from time to time but when I do it my meal prep time is cut considerable because I don't stare into the fridge thinking about what I'm going to make. When you have the makings for 4-5 great meals this can be tough if you're like me! Literally sit down with a piece of paper or computer program and write down what you'll have for each meal during the week. From this you can easily put together a grocery list (which I almost ALWAYS shop with) with what you'll need. Nothing more frustrating than having your mind set on Thai coconut chicken and being out of macadamia nuts. Ggggrrrrr!!!!

A side benefit of doing this is the ability to look back and see whet you ate on a certain day. If you ended up feeling real sleepy on a particular day you can look back and see if perhaps it was diet related. Oh yeah, I tried a new trail mix and it had a LOT of dried fruit in it (which I picked out and ate all at once). Maybe that was it.

Bulk-a-mania goin' wild near you!
Prep your raw ingredients. Shortly after I come home from the grocery store I get out all the items I'll need to use in the near future in some processed form. I de-seed the peppers and make them into long slices so when I need them chopped for a meal its a quick chop. Same for onions, mushrooms, green onions, scallions, etc. I keep mine in Zip-loc bags so a lunch wrap literally takes me 3 minutes to make. I'll buy multi-packs of steak fillets and freeze them individually, easy to thaw when you need just one. Its easy to have some celery and macadamia nuts for a snack if the celery is already washed and cut into smaller pieces just waiting for you to grab them.

Cook in bulk. I'm not talking like Marge at the cafeteria (shudder) but think "how can I make my week quicker and easier?" I boil eggs a dozen at a time; some I snack on and others I use to make my Deviled Guac Bombs or a simple chicken salad. I make a breakfast meal of butternut squash (the biggest I can find) and coconut milk with cinnamon on top that will last me well over a week (sprinkle walnut pieces on top for some crunch). And if you want to be the belle of the ball cook 3-4 packs of bacon at a single time! I use a big-ass cookie sheet with a cake cooling rack (don't tell my wife but a Wilton is perfect) and can cook a pack of thick-cut bacon in the oven (400F/15-20 min.) at a single time. My social butterfly daughters suddenly want to hang out with dear old day on Bacon Day! I then store them as slices or crumbled for easy use throughout the week. Also, the fat you drain off is much cleaner that from the frying pan and I use it from time to time as well.

I'll also make a double-batch of cauliflower mashed "potatoes" that will go with almost any meal. Think about making bigger batches that you can use multiple times throughout the week. This way you can bring your meal to work and have an excuse not to go to the chain restaurant where YOU KNOW the breadsticks alone can blow your whole carb allotment for the week.

For snacks I make my own trail mix. Into a gallon Zip-loc bag I'll put a 10 oz. package of cashews, a 10 oz. bag of almonds, a cup of walnuts, a container of macadamia nuts (if I can ever get them again at the commissary...are you listening DECA?????), half a handful of raisins and half a handful of Ghirardelli 60% cocoa baking chips.  That's a big bag of trail mix! For the nuts I try to get them roasted without additional oil and with sea salt. Definitely not the ones you think of in a can with a cartoon peanut on the front!

So if you're thinking of making the switch (which I hope you will) think long-term with meal planning and prep to make life easier. I know you folks have got some awesome ideas, so let's hear 'em!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Oh no, THEY found me in Japan, too.

Have you ever noticed that when you strike out on a new direction in your life there are people you interact with that have suddenly become experts in the matter? And more often than not THEY also simultaneously exhibit the most obvious symptoms of stupidity. And to make things worse (as if it were possible) THEY think that the "information" they possess is of the utmost importance to you and you need to know it NOW! We're all blessed with at least one person like that, some of us with more than one and thanks to modern technology THEY don't even have to be on the same continent as you. THEY are everywhere.

I'm not talking about people with awkward social skills that are curious and want to learn more about a situation. You can usually tell those people out by the way they say things and their body language during the conversation. I'm talking about those who like to "stir the pot" or "lob a grenade" and then retreat into their smugness. THEY should have a tattoo on their forehead that says I'M TOXIC!

I must have a personality type that attracts people like this. My wife and I have adopted from China twice and have two of the most incredible girls on the face of the planet as a result (in addition to our three pretty cool "homegrown" boys). But during the adoption process THEY came out of the woodwork.

"You know they limit the children you can have in China."

"You know they kill babies in China."

And my favorite...

"You know they're programmed so when you bring them home they'll eventually go bad."

No kidding, I was actually told that once. In the long months it took to complete the paperwork portion of the adoption I had learned a thing or two about Chinese culture. I read books on the subject, attended Chinese-American social events and talked to people deeply involved in the social workings of the international adoption community so yes, I knew many things about China. But now Fred and Ethel (no offense to the decent Fred and Ethels of the world) have become "experts" on the matter and want to "fill me in so I'll know the truth". Feel free to chuckle and/or sigh at this point.

When you decide to go against Conventional Wisdom by taking control over what you feed your body and begin to grab life by the short hairs THEY WILL COME OUT! People you have never seen eat anything healthier than a frozen burrito will suddenly want to tell you that he notices you're not eating the same thing he is.

"That sure looks fatty. You'll get fat eating that."

"Are you doing that caveman thing? Cavemen died at like 30 years old."

"People who don't eat noodles die soon." Yes, THEY speak all kinds of languages and sometimes require an interpreter to get their point across. Lucky me.

Not the Anti-Christ they're just noodles
So what do you do? Part of me (and sadly a rather large snarky part of me) wants to just tear them apart. I have put a LOT of research into making these changes in my life. A LOT. I didn't wake up in the middle of the night as if I'd had a horrifying dream and screamed my revelation that "NOODLES ARE THE ANTICHRIST!!!!!" I took my training as a former Registered Nurse and actually dug into the claims made by people in their books and on their blogs. Through that process I found out that indeed there is a growing body of research about the Conventional Wisdom of food we all know as "truth" that shows much of what we've been taught isn't necessarily the whole enchilada. But you have to seek it out.

So I've perfected the use of the non-committal head nod. When THEY are learnin' me on something veeeerrrrrrry important about a change I've made in my life I gently nod while throwing in the occasional eyebrow arching or an "Mmmmmhmmmm" to show I'm listening. Often that works. I come out of it looking like the polite gentleman my Momma raised me to be and I end up putting their stupidity in a blog post for all to see. But sometimes THEY send you someone who's a special kind of stupid.

I was standing in line with one of the girls many years ago and this lady behind me was being annoying as hell. Not just to me but to everyone within a 50-foot radius. The line was moving too slow, the prices were too high, can you believe Madonna was wearing THAT at the awards, that kind of crap. It just went on and on and on. She started playing with my child who wanted no part of her so I picked my lovely girl up to hold her but the lady just kept on. As I was holding her THEY peeked around my shoulder and saw that I was obviously not of Asian background (I'm a big hairy Irish-American guy) and blurts out in a rather condescending tone:

"Oh, her mother must be Oriental. What does she look like?"

"I don't know, I never saw her face."

Ah, the sound of silence.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Leafy Portabello Mashup

Ever heard the term mashup? That;s what happens in music when you combine two songs into one, often from drastically different genres. My fave mashup band of all time is, of course, Rock Sugar. They take 80s pop artists like Paula Abdul and Journey and combine them with Metallica and AC/DC. Sounds crazy, but give 'em a listen.

So what's that go to do with the Reluctant Primalist? Well, I like mashups when they involve recipes, too. Take a part from one, add it to another and BAM! A plate full of fun is now before you. Now there's not a huge amount of  protein in this so you'll might to supplement with a nice Angus filet or the like but it will fill you up for sure. So enjoy a mushroom mashup from me (and take it easy on my recipe writing skills please).

Leafy Portabello Mashup
Everything nice and neat for the camera

2 portabello mushroom caps, burger sized
1 bunch red chard, washed and chopped
1 handful spinach leaves, about 3 cups 
1 medium onion
4 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped (I like my meals punchy!)
4 strips of bacon, crumbled (I pre-cook mine for quick use)
1/3 cup pine nuts
8 calamatra olives, quartered
1/2 lemon
Bleu cheese, crumbled
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat your over to 400F. De-stem your mushroom caps is necessary and coat them liberally with olive oil (they'll soak the oil up) and place upside down on the sheet. Give them a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper to your liking. Cook on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes.

2 minutes from being done.
Heat up your big old cast iron frying pan to medium-high then add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Toss in the onions and garlic. When they start getting brown reduce the heat to medium and throw in your bacon and pine nuts. Get those tossed around nicely then throw in your chard, spinach and the olives. Once the greens are wilted squeeze your lemon juice on them, toss well and remove from the burner.

Your mushroom caps should be done by now, so plate them and divide your greens between the two. Sprinkle on a bit of Bleu cheese to top them off.

For a different taste you can place some freshly shredded Parmesan cheese on the mushrooms before you cook them or, for a nice English touch, get some Stilton cheese and do the same. Enjoy!

One stuffed 'shroom cap!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Everything I Know About Running

Running sucks! If you hang around long enough and get to know me, I might open up and tell you how I really feel. But before you start to try and convince me otherwise, I feel a bit of background is in order.

Running is something I remember doing when you were playing War or Tag or something of the like. It was never really something I saw the need to do as an adult. Besides, the thought of my fish-belly white legs in skimpy filmy running shorts.... ugh! It's like a moving horror show. 

I was not an athlete in school, I was the brainy nerd in the band. I got out of PE in high school because some kind soul realized that band camp in the summer was no picnic. After high school I was working construction and in rock bands. I never had a fitness or weight problem but I did smoke 3 packs of Lucky Strikes a day and could hang with the best drinkers around. Even in college I was decently svelt as I worked at a factory stacking cinder blocks during the day and going to Nursing school at night.

After graduation is when I started to plump up (anyone else have a vision of Ball Park Franks at that moment?). Lots of time standing at an operating room table and the nurse's lounge always had something to snack on. I got my first introduction to running courtesy of my neighbor Vince. Vince was a pilot and was muscle on muscle. I think he flew the C-130 Hercules because he would never fit into a fighter being a wrestler and football player. Big guy. Anyway, he decides he needs me as his running partner so off we go. I'm sure I had some junk shoes, no warmup or anything and off we go. Not long into what I've fondly remembered as the Valdosta Death March I got some horrible shooting pain in my shins and was sucking wind like I was on the top of Mt. Everest. Luckily we only ran for a mile or so after that began. I couldn't walk for two days on my return and I never ran again; with him or anyone else. That would have been the mid-1990s.

Fast-forward to December 2011. After making the decision to reach my goal of passing the Air Force Fitness test I sadly realized that it indeed included running. In fact, I would need to run a mile-and-a-half right at fourteen minutes to make a good enough score. Well crap. Luckily one of my friends runs so I asked BabyPT for some advice and she turned my onto the Couch to 5K app by VitaStone.

Couch to 5K on my iPhone and I love it!
Couch to 5K is designed to get sedentary slugs like me up and moving with the goal of being able to run a 5K in nine weeks. In my case nine weeks is a little overly optimistic. With a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down period during each week the remainder is divided into jogging and walking segments. You can play the music on your device or ever select certain songs for the workout.

My first session was predictably painful. Sixty seconds of running left me breathless and with painful shins but I walked the rest of the time instead of quitting. My goal for the second session was to run two of the eight running segments. After nearly three weeks I was finally able to complete all the running segments! My form is probably pretty ugly and I'm not leaving a trail of fire behind but I now am a thing in motion (remember my post stating Newton's First Rule of Motion?). Currently I'm on week two and on my first day out I ran all the segments, the second day I even felt like I was doing an honest-to-goodness running pace. But don't tell anyone please.

So do I still think running sucks? Yep. But not as much as before, and there's every chance it will get less sucky as time goes on. Stay tuned.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

How I Got Here

You see, when a man and a woman love each other..... wait, that's a different story.

How I get HERE is not such a long tale but parts of it will sound familiar to many of you. Recently I had my 45th birthday. I had recently heard someone talking about their bucket list (the things you want to do before you die) and while I was wistfully thinking about my dream of playing a soldier in the Nutcracker I realized that, given my family history and current health state, I was likely past the half-way point in my life. Now I'm not the sharpest fry in the Happy Meal but I know you have to be ALIVE to actually check something off of your bucket list.

Add to that the fact I was on high blood pressure medication and high cholesterol medication which I was really not keen to be on because of the possible side-effects.

OMG I'm bigger than Godzilla!!!!!!
So, I needed to figure out a way to lose some weight and get into a fit physical state. I looked around the house and noticed a fairly recent issue of Air Force Times with an article about the ongoing struggle for some people to pass the Air Force fitness standards. BINGO! I set my first goal: pass the Air Force PT test on or before my next birthday. The exam consists of performing a timed one and a half mile run, waist measurement, and a certain number of sit-ups and push-ups in one minute. Being a non-exercising carefree-food-choice kind of guy I knew it would take a good amount of time. The running and sit-up / push-up parts were covered (see running and exercises) but what to do about the dreaded waist measurement?

Eating is the key as we all know. But it isn't as simple as X calories in and X calories out. I already had a decently sufficient intake of vegetables. In the past I had lost a good amount of weight with the Adkins diet but even a meat-eater like me has limits. South Beach slimmed me down but I hated the whole portion control hungry feeling I got. I had had a couple of brief exposures to something called a Primal lifestyle. One was a story on CNN about a Primal restaurant opening in Europe and I'll admit I had a good laugh at what they were serving (but like most places in Europe the plate was dang-near empty and fancifully decorated). The second was a much more positive experience of a lady also here in Japan and after a short talk or two I went to her blog and read her story as well as seeing her results. Now this was interesting because I not only saw the before/after but I could talk to her (we were both on committees that met regularly).

Debi was kind enough to send me a few links and then let me do my thing: research. Being a nerd has certain advantages and finding things on the internet is one of them...HA! I soon began reading quite a bit from a blog written by Mark Sisson called Mark's Daily Apple. At first what he was suggesting sounded, well... heretical. Meat and saturated fats on purpose????? But I had seen the results and was willing to spend the time learning before I brushed it off and continued the search. So I read and cross-referenced and scanned research reports and eventually came to the conclusion that, hold on to your hats folks, it makes sense!

Shortly after that weekend of intense activity I decided that there were some changes I could make immediately: cutting out the processed foods I so loved like THE WHITES (white sugar / bread / rice) and boxed meals (easy-peasy 1-2-3!) that made life simple but not necessarily healthy. I then followed with all processed carbohydrates like pasta and sugary drinks as well as my beloved but ineffectual Diet Cokes. After two weeks of this I have to say I began to feel much better, like a fog had been lifted off of my brain. With the exercise that I'm doing I feel good whereas for years I was happy to reach mediocre.

And that is how I got HERE.

Friday, 13 January 2012

What you'll see (or not).

What you will (and won't) see at the Reluctant Primalist!

What you will not see:
  • Posts telling you what to do/not do.
  • A rigid adherence to any professed program.
  • Correct answers 100% of the time.
  • Full-blown perkiness or doom. Life is a cycle folks.
  • Posts appearing in a manner that would make an efficiency expert smile.
  • Pandering to readers to increase my hit count. I could care less about numbers.
  • Posts blowing sunshine up your skirt. Life is hard.

What you will see:
  • A front-row view of a transformational process occurring in the life of an imperfect human in an imperfect world.
  • Honesty.
  • Feelings often in a very raw form and expressed in an equally raw manner. If the words "suck" and "crap" make you uncomfortable, walk away now while you can.
  • What I like (or don't), what works for me (or doesn't) and requests for your thoughts.
  • Liberal usage of flippancy, sarcasm and what may be loosely defined as humor.
  • Links to content I find helpful to me (but may not apply to your life).
  • Photos (of course). It's what I do.
  • Excessive use of parenthesis.
  • Success and failures. I am a work in progress.

So there you are, very broad expectations of what you'll find here. If it helps you that's cool, if it doesn't keep on searching. You can find anything on the Inter-webs (as one of my college-age boys calls it).

Why so reluctant?

Reluctant for a number of reasons; some of them operational (meaning the day-to-day aspects of this lifestyle) and others more deeply ingrained in who I am.

Conventional Wisdom CW: A term from the book The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson meaning those things we know to be true (but it turns out we're partly correct or flat-out wrong). I was a registered nurse for a number of years so have had the USDA food pyramid / saturated fat is bad CW drilled into my brain. I'm also married to a nurse (a women's health nurse practitioner to be precise) who happens to be one of the most intelligent people I know. You can see where CW had a long history of being foundational for making food choices (even though I went rogue as you'll hear about later). Being immersed in a culture of those living and touting a CW lifestyle makes it hard to change.

Newton's First Law of Motion: Objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Conversely, objects at rest stay at rest. I had slid into a lifestyle of sitting at a computer desk for hours on end day and night. I had convinced myself that my photography, know hereafter as "the work", was the most important thing in my life and that other activities that interfered with "the work" were the enemy and to be shunned. I knew I was out of shape but until recently I hadn't realized that because of my devotion to "the work" my ability to get myself and my camera to a location was becoming quite hampered. Gone were the days of hiking 14 miles through the woods wearing a 50-pound backpack. I was blocking any outside force from acting upon my non-motion.

Peer Groups: I currently live on a military installation which means most people I see are pretty darn fit as they have certain physical training requirements. In fact, a 45-year old male needs to run 1-1/2 miles in under 14:25, do 21 push-ups in a minute, 34 sit-ups in a minute and have a 39-inch waist or less JUST TO KEEP HIS JOB. More accurately, he must do the above plus a little bit more as these are the minimum criteria in each category but those numbers aren't enough to get you a passing score. Now as good as this is for the military and their ability to quickly respond to any situation it can also cause the occasional ugly look or comment if you're one of the few hairy fat-boys on the base. And I have to tell you the sight of the aforementioned hairy fat-boy jogging and jiggling like an earthquake in Jell-o Land is often too tempting for some to keep their fat mouths shut. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Social Pressure: Primal eaters don't fill themselves with the same fare the rest of the world does. Having messed about with the Adkins Diet 15 years ago I can remember the feeling when someone (often loved ones) giving you the hairy eyeball when you ditch the bun from your hamburger. When researching the Primal/Paleo lifestyle I have to admit that's one of the first things that popped into my brain; the social stigma of doing something "different" and being guilty of wielding the stick myself at times. Damn I hate being hypocritical! Add to this the fact that I'm living in a foreign country. I occasionally have to attend official functions with our Japanese hosts and it can be, well... rude to decline the offered meal. Although not an impossible hurdle, it can present a situation where you feel like you're backpedaling to save face.

New Year's meal. Picking OK items is easy. But is the offense worth it?
The whole "dude, cavemen died at an early age" thing hasn't popped up in my life as of yet. Partly because I am only a month into it but also I simply tell people I'm cutting out a lot of processed foods and making better food choices, trying to live a better lifestyle.

Beliefs: I have a very difficult time with the whole we-came-from-mud concept. When I read a statement talking about insulin levels fluctuating due to carb intake I totally get it, but when it is linked to something theorized to have been done by a tribe thousands of years ago I have to pick and choose. It works for many but not for me. Don't let what I think dissuade you from researching on your own and coming to your own conclusions. You are the one in charge of your body so get informed. I often tell my photography students "Don't do something I do just because I do it. Look at the concept and understand it; then use it or discard it because of your knowledge and experience".