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It just blows my mind how little we know about our bodies and how to keep them healthy. Most people I talk to aren't happy with the state of their bodies. They either feel like they're too fat, or too skinny, or some other complex. And it's not just feelings -- many people, especially on the Western diet, are too fat. And in fact, are clinically obese but don't know it. That described me for a decade. I was literally on the verge of metabolic syndrome and didn't even know it. That's incredible: I was putting my self at double the risk of coronary disease, diabetes and a slew of other diseases and I didn't even realize it. I see that same benign neglect of the body in most people around me. There's a general dissatisfaction of their bodies, but very little action taken to improve it, and I think it's because most people are a combination of confused as to what the best path forward is, and reluctant to make big changes without being sure they're making the right ones.
So while I don't necessarily have answers, I can offer a plan to help you begin your journey to figure it out, and the good news is, it's a very simple plan and so easy to follow that I guarantee this will work for you like it has for me. (Or "Your money back!" so to speak) You just have to decide you want to try. Here it is, step by step.
Step 1 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan: Adjust Your Attitude (Seriously.)
The very first thing you have to do is decide to take control of your body's fate, and not to let yourself feel like a victim. You are not a passenger along for the ride. You are driving. You have to believe that you impact the outcome with your actions, because you can, and you will. I have. For over a decade I felt like a helpless passenger. As my metabolism slowed down, I'd continue to put on the pounds and couldn't figure out how to stop it. I started hating the scale; hating that I was becoming someone other than who I knew I really was. It wasn't until I took this first step that I was able to take control. You have to really want to do this.
Step 2 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan: Mindfully Prioritize Your Actions
Like Ghandi said, "Actions express priorities." Part of adjusting your attitude includes adjusting your priorities. To put it simply, you have to put your body first for a little while in your life. Not forever, but for long enough to change your habits and find a 'new normal'. This means you put your body over your work, over your family, over everything. I'll explain how below, but if you're not ready to prioritize your goals with actions, then you're not ready to improve. Every day we're each becoming fitter or fatter. There is no middle ground. And worse, life's default state is to become fatter and less healthy. You have to put in work to achieve the opposite result.
Step 3 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan: Create a Goal and Figure Out How You'll Measure It
Have you decided you're ready to take control of your body, and to put actions behind that desire? The next step is to imagine an ideal you. What outcome do you want to achieve? For me initially it was a body weight goal, but I pretty quickly switched to a body fat percentage goal. I want to be no more than 20% body fat. For a male my age, that's top of the healthy range. In order to create this goal, I first had to understand my baseline. You can only improve what you can measure. I bought this body fat scale, which calculates weight and body fat. It's not stupendously accurate, but it's served as a great directional guide. Now I had the data to see how I was progressing on a daily basis. (Once I started getting serious aobut this stuff, I realized my baseline was 34.7% body fat. Wowza. I had lots of work to do!)
Step 4 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan: Embrace Experimentation and Timeboxing
This is the really key step. There's so much conflicting literature (which I'll dive into below) that it paralyzes most people even if they can get through the three steps above. I hate how the scientific community changes its mind every couple decades. We're just coming out of a 'fat phobia' generation where we've been using artificial sweetners, margarine vs. butter, and sugars to reduce the amount of fat we consume. If you look at Western (and especially American) waistlines it's pretty clear this approach isn't working. Many nutritionists recommend eating many small meals daily, while more recent research extolls the benefits of fasting, including intermittent fasting. It's hart to know what to believe.
This is the only answer: You have to decide you are going to experiment for yourself to see what drives results for you. Here's the best way to do that:
1) Create a framework for experimentation. I would recommend you break your experiments up into one month chunks. You can do anyting for a month, right? Whatever actions you decide to take, do them for at least 30 days and evaluate how it's affecting you. Remember in step #2 above you decided to prioritize your body over everything else. That comes into play here. For example, let's say you decide you are going to try a 5:2 fast for 30 days. This means that in every 7 day period, you skip meals on 2 of those days nonconsecutively. In order for this experiment to really work, you can't do 5:2 "except on the nights that I have a work dinner." Or "except on the nights that I have guests in town." You have to prioritize this 30 day experiment above all else. This is your body we're talking about -- the thing that keeps you alive and in this world. It's worth a month of your prioritization. Maybe you decide to only do one 30 day experiment every three months. That gives you two months off between each experiment. You can run four experiments a year this way. Prioritize those precious months to find a new normal that you can benefit from for the rest of your life.
2) Decide on your first experiment. I have some more specific advice about that below. Nothing replaces just jumping in and tryig it. Start your first experiment today.
3) Decide in advance how you will measure the success or failure of your experiment. Are you going to be tracking some metric like body weight or body fat? Do you want to get baseline blood labwork done so you can track things like triglyceride levels, HDL, LDL, blood pressure? Decide in advance what will constitute success in your first experiment. An example might be something like "I want to lose 1% body fat within the next 30 days."
Step 4 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan:
Rinse and repeat until you find a set of experiments that a) are effective for you and b) are sustainable. Here's what this process has looked like for me:
As I wrote here, I was turning 40 and scared enough by the way my body was degrading that I was ready to do something drastic about it. I've run the following experiments that are both diet and exercise-related:
I've gotten to the point where I really enjoy experimenting to see what the effects are, because for the first time in my life, it gives me control. It proves to me that I can move the needle; that I am in fact driving, that I can affect the outcome.
The challenge is that while I've found things that work incredibly well for me (like fasting), as I've gone down the health rabbit hole, I've ended up with more questions than answers. I'm going to dig into those below by layout the things I know to be true, think to be true, and am not soure about, and how all of this is driving my future experimentation.
WHAT I BELIEVE TO BE TRUE ABOUT HEALTH:
The healthier I am today, the longer and richer a life I will lead overall.
Inflammation = cellular destruction. "Chronic inflammation has been associated with many medical and psychiatric disorders, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, autoimmune diseases, schizophrenia and depression" - Nutrients v.5(3) 2013
Insulin must be controlled. The human body secretes insulin in response to the consumption of carbohydrates and protein in order to regulate blood sugar. This process, in turn, drives the body to store fat.
Fasting is healthful for a number of reasons, backed up by strong science. "Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. - YaleNews... The ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) "is a metabolite produced by the body in response to fasting, high-intensity exercise, caloric restriction, or consumption of the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet"
The ketogenic diet may lower chronic inflammation in the body: "Our findings suggest that the anti-inflammatory effects of caloric restriction or ketogenic diets may be linked to BHB-mediated inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome." - NatMed 3/15 (What are "inflammasomes"? They are "key signalling platforms that... activate the highly pro-inflammatory cytokines," so, inflammasomes = causes of inflammation in the body). NLRP3 (a type of inflammasome) specifically "is associated with complex diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, gout, and multiple sclerosis... Blocking NLRP3 represents a promising therapeutic approach to complex diseases" ...and the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) may inhibit them.
Refined carbohydrates with high glycemic indexes are bad: In Good Calories, Bad Calories, "Taubes elaborates by examining evidence of the effects of carbohydrates on tribes with a "traditional" diet high in meat or fat and low in carbohydrates. He finds that the introduction of refined carbohydrates in the diets in these cultures resulted in increased prominence of diseases of civilization like obesity and heart disease." ... "Taubes contends that carbohydrates, specifically refined carbohydrates like white flour, sugar, and starches, contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments. Taubes posits a causal link between carbohydrates and cancer, as well." Related: Bread is carbs; most bread is bad. Wheat bread has the same glycemic index as white bread. 100% grain whole wheat bread's glycemic index is 30% lower. (Often people eat wheat bread thinking it's 100% grain bread.)
WHAT I'M NOT SURE ABOUT HEALTH:
Is a 100% ketogenic really good or really bad for you -- or neither? There's conflicting evidence. On the one hand there is research that shows that a diet high in animal fats and proteins combined with low carbohydrate intake (aka the classic Atkins diet) creates a higher mortality rate: ... but on the other hand there is newer research showing the exact opposite: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows." - NY Times article 9/14, referencing this study funded by NIH: ... and that the act of being in ketosis (which occurs when you restrict carbohydrates) can protect the body from certain types of glucose-dependent cancers, delay the onset of dimentia, and reduce chronic inflammation.
My Next Experiment:
I've been eating ketogenic since November, and have enjoyed it. And I believe there may be some significant health benefits to staying in ketosis. My take-away from my three month ketogenic diet experiment has left me with more questions than answer, which is an indication to me that I want to keep experimenting. I might come back to a 100% ketogenic diet in the future, or I might do it for shorter periods of time in the future. I'm not sure yet.
What I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that fasting has been life changing for me. I've gone from a 38 waist to 32. From XL to M shirts (skipping over L entirely). From 245 lbs to 185 lbs. I'm going to keep fasting for the forseeable future, and I'm going to stay on a 4:3 fast until I hit my 20% body fat goal.
My wife Sue has been incredibly supportive as I've experimented. She's cooked some delicious keto foods, including keto bread, keto ice cream, and other keto deliciousness. Since I have very poor food willpower (part of the reason fasting is so good for me is it's binary: I'm either eating, or not, which greatly reduces the cognitive overhead for me), we're going to try the following experiment for a while to see how it goes:
This pattern of eating is similar to the one espoused by National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner in "Blue Zones," which identified holistic lifestyles of populations that have long lifespans, which also includes strong social interactions and regular amounts of exercise. Here are some great blog posts written on the topic:
I hope you'll join me by beginning your own journey of experimentation!
The picture above is of a keto-friendly "five dollar toast" that Sue made. It was as delicious as it looks!
When I turned 39 last year, I knew I was in trouble, and although I hadn't recognized quite how bad my health had gotten, I knew enough to realize I had to do something about it. On my 39th birthday I vowed that by 40, I would be back in the kind of shape I had been in a decade earlier, when I'd turned 30.
Today is my 40th birthday, and I've not only hit that goal, but surpassed it. I might be in the best shape I've ever been in. I'm in much better shape that I was when I turned 30. Possibly even better shape than I was when I turned 20, back in 1995. In this blog post I'm going to share how I did what I never thought I'd be able to do: Take control of my body and health for the first time in my life, which would require me to overcome my genetic predispositions and a tortured relationship with food.
The formula is equal parts motivation + relationship w/ food + relationship w/ exercise. So let's break it down in that way:
I'm about to take you down a deep rabbit hole, on a path that will challenge what you believe about nutrition and health. This is a journey of experimentation, and I encourage you to keep a very open mind, and in fact, I hope you decide to experiment with these themes yourself. I'm not a nutritionist or doctor, but I am very passionate about finding ways to optimize my body and health (especially as I age), which is why I've been doing intermittent fasting for the past five months -- and that experience has been life changing. I've gone from XL to medium sized shirts, from a 38 to 32 waist, and most importantly, from 34.7% body fat to 24.5% (and my goal is to get under 20%). Intermittent Fasting has put me in control of my body for the first time in my life.
And just when I felt that I was really starting to figure it all out, this rabbit hole opened up. And it's called ketosis.
In addition to intermittent fasting, I'm experimenting with ketosis through the end of 2015, which is triggered by eating a ketogenic diet comprised of 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs. Yes, that's right -- in order to lose fat and become healthier, I'm going to eat mostly fat. The mind blowing counter-intuitiveness of that statement is why I'm writing this blog.
But before we can talk about this ketogenic approach to nutrition and health, we have to understand how the body uses two energy sources -- glucose and ketones -- and why, with your diet, you are probably only ever tapping into glucose (and how that may be making you unhealthier, especially as you age).
I wrote this post in August 2014 comparing Betterment to Wealthfront, so it's been about 15 months, and I thought it'd be a good time to check in on relative performance, as a buddy of mine recently wrote:
"I saw your post on betterment. I'm thinking of moving everything over to a roboinvestor. What's your thinking on betterment vs wealthfront, and whether you'd just dump everything on there?"
As I wrote in my original post, I put $5k into both Betterment and Wealthfrontto test them against each other. To date, both have under-performed the S&P 500 by a considerable margin. S&P is up 10% since August 2014. Betterment is down by 2% and Wealthfront is down by 5.4%. So, should I just have invested in the S&P 500? And as per my other previous blog, Show Me The Money: Six Strategies to Put Your Cash to Work, how should I re-allocate based on this new data? And what would I recommend to my buddy? Let's dig into the data a bit to come to a conclusion:
When I wrote my orginal post Show Me The Money: Six Strategies to Put Your Cash to Work, one of the strategies I included was leveraging General Electric's high-yield money market account for the cash you want to keep readily available (i.e., cash you might need to access in the next 3 to 12 months). But GE has shut that program down as an overall strategy shift away from its GE Capital business, and so I was left searching for an alternative. In this post I'll detail what corporate money market accounts are, how they work, how they differ from other types of savings or income generating accounts, and which the best alternative is. I'll also tell you what I ultimately ended up deciding to do, which was different than I expected.
Why you should care about this at all:
One of the mistakes I made in my 20s was not being curious enough about financial instruments, and how I could leverage them to reach my personal goals faster. I was so focused on building startups that I didn't pay enough attention to how to optimize my investments. I set out to change that in my 30s, and I've been blogging about it in the hopes that anyone else who isn't yet leveraging these tools can learn about and use them.
As with anything in life, from optimizing your health to optimizing your finances, you have to start with a goal. My family's financial goal is currently optimized for asset growth, with a secondary focus of passive income generation. Since we're still (relatively) young, we're willing to take aggressive stances on both. Here's how this breaks down for us:
It’s been 13 weeks since I wrote the in-depth post on my fasting experiment (read that first if you haven't already), which I originally only expected to try for 8 weeks. But the results have been so life changing that I’ve decided to continue doing it through at least the end of the year, and possibly indefinitely. Here’s what I’ve learned and experienced over the past couple of months, along with the pro-tips I recommend for others interested in trying it themselves, and answers to the questions I get most often.
The main thing I’ve learned in the past couple of months is that fasting is deeply misunderstood by people, including the reasons for doing it, the science and nutrition behind it, the actual experience of fasting, how it makes you feel, and how best to be supportive of someone in your life who’s giving it a try. Fasting just isn’t mainstream enough to make sense to people, and they often immediately respond with “I could never do that” (which is how I used to also feel before really diving into it).
From my fasting experience I’ve also become convinced that the obesity epidemic in America can be solved by integrating fasting elements into our culture. I don’t know if fasting will ever reach that level of cultural prominance, but I do now know with certainty that there’s a solution out there that works, and although fasting is a very individual thing, I’m convinced that it could be codified into an approach that could work for anyone. This also means that if you are unhappy with your current level of health, fasting is something you can do to fix it. It may not be the only thing you can do, but from experience I can tell you that it is absolutely an approach that will work. If you’re serious about trying to become healthy, fasting will work.
Elon Musk did a fireside chat (why is the fire always missing from these fireside chats?) with Steve Jurvitson of DFJ at Stanford this morning to celebrate an event called FutureFest. In the movie Back to the Future, Marty McFly went 30 years into the future to October 2015. Now that we're 30 years into that future, how does it compare to how people thought it would look? Steve also grilled Elon on what he thought the world would look like 30 years from now (except he made it 20 years to account for the increasing speed of change).
Since there was a long queue of Stanford students waiting outside to hear Elon who weren't able to get in due to space restrictions, I captured the talk on my phone. The audio's pretty poor, but if you wear headphones you can make their conversation out reasonably well.
Here's the video. And below that are some of the things Elon covered, which include:
Just a quick post to share a decision making pro-tip that I shared with a few people this week.
Anytime I need to consider a number of criteria to make a decision on something, I try to suss out what my needs are vs. my wants. (This is a framework my wife and I have been using in our personal & professional decision making for years.)
It sounds so obvious, right? But specifically writing it out brings clarity to a decision, especially when multiple people are involved.
Jazz Tigan, an insanely talented artist, is the lead designer of the 2015 Burning Man Temple of Promise.
Burning Man is a festival in the desert that's often misunderstood by those who have never been. It's not just a party, rather, it's a place to experience yourself as you truly want to be. A place without judgement. A place with incredible art and creativity. It's a place to refresh your soul and to re-evaluate your life's priorities.
The Temple sits at the center of it all. If the Man at Burning Man is the body of the event, the Temple is its soul. So when it turned out that the guy who dreamt up this year's Temple design was someone I went to school with, I had to go check out the build site, which is located in Alamedia, CA (just across the bridge from San Francisco) until mid August, when they'll ship everything out to Black Rock Desert to finish the Temple on-site.
Jazz has a special, secret project that he's looking to fund in addition to the main Temple build. He needs $5k to successfully finish this secret project. Think of it as the icing on the cake. If you're interested in donating any amount to make it happen, message Jazz on Facebook and let him know. Sue and I just donated to support it. Also, if you'd like to volunteer to help build the Temple between now & mid August, just let Jazz know. They're on-site in Alameda every day for the next 2 weeks.
I'm turning 40 this December, and that's caused me to deeply re-evaluate my health. In high school I had wrestled at the 152 lb weight level and was a gymnast. In my 20s, I ran two 50 mile ultra-marathons and a half dozen marathons. I had a 33 inch waist and weighed 185 lbs. I could eat whatever I wanted and stay in good shape. But after a decade of doing startups, I found myself in my late 30s in much worse shape. My metabolism hit a wall when I turned 30, and although I didn't eat terribly, I also found it hard to figure out exactly how to get back to where I was in my 20s. My waist was 38 inches and I weighed 245 lbs; 93 lbs over my wrestling weight. My triglycerides were 33% above where they should've been. I'd imagine this happens to many of us as we get older, and I felt helpless as I watched all of this unfold, almost like it was happening according to some script that I wasn't in control of. Most of all, I was really disappointed in myself for not staying on top of my health, but I couldn't find the right balance of eating and exercising to change the path I was on. It felt like I was on a slow motion slippery slope as I got older and more out of shape.
When my daughter was born in 2013, I made myself a promise: I would be in as good of shape when I turned 40 as I was when I turned 30. I didn't want to have a hard time keeping up with her as she grew up. I started doing CrossFit twice a week that year. I signed up and completed a few triathlons. But my weight still wouldn't budge from 245 lbs, and my triglycerides, although lower, were still 15% above the max recommended range. CrossFit was making me much stronger, but that was only part of the puzzle. I had to figure out the rest, and I hadn't quite cracked it.
In December of last year, I realized I was running short on time: I'd really have to hump it to get back in shape within the next year, before my 40th birthday in December 2015. By this time I had upped my CrossFit schedule to 3x per week and I started rowing for 15 minutes before CrossFit started in the mornings. But that still wasn't enough: By April I knew I was going to have to take some much more drastic measures to reach my goal.
This blog is a story of those drastic measures, and how they're going. It's a deep-dive into the rabbit hole that we call 'health' as I see it. It's a journey that I invite you to take with me as we all get older, together. I am only starting to unlock some of the things that affect my body and I would love your thoughts and opinions as well in the comments below.
Let me also caveat this entire blog by saying that some of what I write about below is contrary to the things we've been told to believe, and I fully recognize that. I'm not a medical expert and I'm not telling you to throw away what you believe to be true. But just walk into all of this with an open mind, as I'm trying to do, and more importantly, be willing to try some of these things yourself if you also want to experiment a bit to try to find a better path than you've found so far.