St. Louis, It Begins

After two days in a car we finally arrived in St. Louis yesterday, and with it came my first real temptation… a night out with my partner’s sister and her friends. There was booze, of course.

I don’t really the view as a “failure”, though I did get a little tipsy and eat some delicious food. Life is about living and if I put on an L.B. every month or so having a good time than so be it. It could have been a lot worse and I actually exercised a bit of control… the food stayed vegan, the drinks were in relative moderation, and I succeeded in keeping track of my calories and mood and such. I even got up this morning and went for a run, despite a fair hangover. Running with a hangover is terrible and I do not recommend it.

Tonight we are probably going to get a drink somewhere and I’m going to try to stick with only one or two drinks. I know it will be worth it tomorrow to run feeling good instead of wanting to vomit every quarter mile. When I was in the Army I was able to handle drinking and exercising, but apparently I’m not 22 anymore. Stupid body… science needs to hurry up.

 

Off to St. Louis

This morning my partner and I took off to visit her family in St. Louis. It is going to take us about two days to drive there, then we are spending three days in STL, and then two days driving back. This is going to be the first real challenge for our workout and health routine. Travel and time away from our kitchen is not ideal for maintaining a consistent health practice, but that is life… things are never going to be perfect and we need to be able to thrive in imperfection.

So far, my biggest concerns are staying consistent with my push-ups, pull-ups (we brought our pull-up bar), and planks. I already struggle with motivation to do those daily and sitting in a car most of the day is not going to help with that. I imagine this is also going to really effect my body’s metabolism because it is used to getting up and going for pretty decent walks 3-4 times per day, in addition to any running we do in the morning. I’m not really going to be too embarrassed or anything to do push-ups at rest stops, any discomfort I had for that type of thing has disappeared due to the bike ride… we spent a lot of morning brushing our teeth and having meals in public, I’m just going to lack motivation. Maybe I can try and shoot for some sort of maintenance exercise instead of my normal routine.

We did shift our running schedule around to be more flexible. Our two rest days each week are now during our driving days, and I’m optimistic that we will keep each other motivated to get up and run while in St. Louis. Our diet is also a small concern… we aren’t going to be nearly as strict as we’ve been for the last three weeks but we are going to eat and drink in moderation. We agreed to confront each other directly if we try to order a second drink on any given night and when we go out to eat we are going to have salads for appetizers and probably share a entree to keep the portions in size with what our bodies are used to. My best case scenario is we don’t lose any ground on our fitness, but I imagine that we will have taken a step or two backwards by the end of the weekend.

That’s okay though. Life is about living and not just preparing for the future. Even if I stumble completely and gorge myself on 3,000 calories of beer and pizza and don’t exercise one day I won’t be mad at myself. All I can do is dust myself off and keep moving forward… and record my progress and measurements for the world to see.

Food Science

One of the things that I love about the world we live in is how quickly we are discovering new things about the world. Amidst all the shitty politics and bullshit, there are scientific discoveries and technological innovations happening all around us. One area, in particular, has been really exciting to me… we are learning so much about how the human body works and figuring out ways to “upgrade” it. Due to my love for science and fitness I have been sharing a lot of articles about human health, both the good and the bad.

Unfortunately, as more research is done we are discovering that some things aren’t very healthy for us. I think there must be a miscommunication when I share these articles, though, because people seem to feel attacked. Take, for example, a recent article I shared that linked alcohol to all sorts of cancers. (My dietitian partner informed me that this isn’t really new news, but I had never heard it before).

When I share these articles I am not trying to tell people that they shouldn’t drink alcohol. I share them because I care about the people in my network and want them to be informed about the risks they take. They are certainly free to take those risks, but I would feel bad if I withheld information from a friend about the danger they are putting themselves in. I would like the people I love to live long, healthy lives and I want them to see their kids and grandkids grow up (or nieces and nephews for us childless people). I want them to be able to travel where they desire, have adventures, and create art, and for all those things you need to be alive.

Clearly, that desire of mine is being lost somewhere (probably because I never say it), and the response to articles about nutrition generally fall in two categories. The first response is usually something along the lines of “Oh, well, whatever, everything causes cancer”. While that might be true… everything (or mostly everything) can break down our body and bring us closer to death, I see no reason to unnecessarily speed up that process. Everything we do is a cost/benefit analysis and we make better decisions when we know the full cost. I will continue to drink beer, because the relatively small increase in cancer risk for a the pleasure of a beer is probably worth it… beer tastes good and the risk increase is small. Using that same calculus I won’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t get pleasure from it and the chance that it will cut my life short is incredibly high. Having a couple beers a week probably won’t prevent me from being at the birth of my niece’s baby, but smoking might.

The second response goes something like “I’m sure tomorrow they will say that drinking cures cancer”. Basically, scientific research is often coming up with conflicting information, therefore we should dismiss it all. Yes, research sometimes conflicts other research, that is what makes science a better institution for finding information about the physical world than religion. If research into complicated things always agreed there would probably be a problem. This argument also seems to ignore bodies of research where there is a lot of consensus. You don’t just throw out data because new information in the future might tweak it, there is a such thing as truth in the world and the scientific method is a tool to find truth. It saddens me the most when people use this argument who, otherwise, are very excited about scientific discoveries and technological advancement. We shouldn’t be hostile to new information just because it tells us the life we are living isn’t as healthy as we’d like to believe.

I think what it really comes down to is food is very personal for some people. I really have a hard time understanding this, but I am trying. Food was never important in my family, we have no shared culture around it or any sort of traditions. Food is primarily fuel for my body to function. I certainly enjoy good food over bad food, and I like it when I find tasty recipes that fulfill my nutrient needs, but if someone showed me research that lentils caused cancer I would likely reduce my consumption significantly. This may just be an area where I have a hard time understanding other people. It was very easy for me to cut out meat from my diet when I found that it was unhealthy and violated my ethics, but others have an attachment to food that goes beyond nutrition, an attachment that confuses me a bit.

Need

I love my partner, but I don’t need her. I want to be with her, I want our lives to be intertwined, I want to grow and explore and experiment with her. But there isn’t a need there, and because of that I think our relationship is healthy.

Our relationship is built on a desire to be together and we both know that we would be fine if the relationship broke up. It would suck. There would be great sadness and mourning over what we thought our lives would be, but we would be fine. We would both thrive as we ventured out into the world. We would find new loves, or maybe live our lives perfectly content alone. We would grow and explore and experiment, with or without each other. The direction and speed of those things would differ, but they would still happen because we are not “two that have become one”, we are two who make each other stronger as individuals.

To need someone (or something) is to enter into an unbalanced relationship. It is giving too much power to the other person, it is to lose your identity and take on theirs. It is to pursue an addiction that is unhealthy. It is juvenile to need a person and it is unhealthy.

By needing another person you give them control of your life. When things end (whether through breaking up or a tragic death or being fired or being injured) you are unable to strive again until you break that need… and the need for a person can go on long after they are gone.

It is not only romantic relationships that can involve such imbalance. It can be an adult child who isn’t stable without their parents supporting them (emotionally, financially, etc). It can be a friendship where one person needs the other person to face the world. It can be a professional relationship where one person needs the job in order to survive and doesn’t have the skills to find a new one. It can be a hobby that requires your mind or body, things that will eventually fail.

When these relationships break down it destroys a keep part of our being. We have defined ourselves based on our relationship instead of as an individual. We become a boyfriend, instead of a person who has a partner. We become a father, instead of a person who has a child. We become a writer, instead of a person who writes. By defining ourselves in relation to other people we destroy ourselves, we become dependent on someone else’s acceptance, love, and stability. Then, when we find ourselves alone we can’t cope.

And that is suicide.

I love my partner. Each year with her has been better than the last. We continue to grow and challenge each other. With every day I spend with her I find new depths and strengths and passions. With her I feel strong.

But I don’t need her, and she doesn’t need me… and that is one of the best things about our relationship. Need takes away the voluntary nature of our relationship. Need means dependence. We don’t have that, and I hope we never will.

Headspace

One of the things I really wanted to work on this year was my meditation practice. Meditation is one of those things that I think could really improve my life, but the practice is very difficult for me. I seem to go for a day or two and then stop for a month. But, today, for the first time, I finished the 10-Day program with the Headspace app. Granted, it took me 15 days… but this is the best I’ve done so far.

I think I’m going to subscribe to the app to get more content. Hopefully, paying for it will encourage me to use it (am I using the sunk cost fallacy to incentivize myself?).

I’m in a good place now to get into this practice. Not only am I in a stable home for a couple of years, I’m also doing a lot of reading about meditation for the grad program I’m interested in. Reading about the scientific results and study of Tibetan Buddhists really keep me motivated. Also, meditating seems a lot like touching the One Source in The Wheel of Time series… so that’s pretty badass.

Anyway, I needed a little brag about completing the program. It was really difficult for me and I have a loooooooooonnnnnng way to go, but I do feel calm and happy and more productive after my 10 minutes a day and I’d like that to continue. I think it could be great for my health, mental and physical.

Week 2 Update

Alright, another week has gone by and I’m still pretty happy with the results. The week started off pretty rough and I had a hard time getting into my daily routine. There was a lot more going on around the house, which made it more difficult for me to get the day started off on the right foot. That is mostly just an excuse though, I need to be able to operate in non-ideal circumstances and blaming a bad start to the day to justify not accomplishing things is shitty. The truth is, I was just lazy and didn’t meditate or write as much as I wanted to. I was able to keep my run schedule and such, which is good.

I haven’t been getting as much sleep as I’d like because my dog is an asshole. I’m not sure what is really going on with him, he is waking us up for breakfast really early. I think the new food we started him on isn’t keeping him as full as the old stuff. Oh well, I’m sure we will figure something out. Despite the lack of sleep I have been feeling pretty good on only 7ish hours.

I also haven’t had any heartburn in two weeks. I’d guess either alcohol or the processed foods I used to eat were the culprit. It has been rather nice to be free of that inconvenience. Speaking of alcohol, there were not really any cravings for beer this week, which was also nice. This next week will be challenging as well, we are going to go to St. Louis for about a week starting on Thursday (probably). That mans I won’t have the kitchen I’m used to, we will be driving two days (which is always tough to eat healthy and get exercise) and there will be lots of food and drink to tempt. I’m not going to abstain from new experiences, but hopefully Anna and I can keep each other accountable and enjoy in moderation.

Overall, I’m happy with the direction my fitness is going. I’m burning off excess fat and getting stronger. I feel healthier, more energetic and productive, and more mentally strong. I know that many of the measurements are going to stop having such drastic changes, such as weight loss. I will eventually plateau my weight loss (which is good) but that means I need to find something else to measure as a motivating factor. Hopefully by then I will have access to a gym and can keep track of weights or something. I also realize a lot of these measurements are fickle… I’m trying to measure myself with a tape measure, which means human error, and weighing myself on the scale is not really an accurate representation of my weight because water in my system and a full bowels can effect the outcome. I’m keeping track more to look for trends instead of absolute measurements. New photos are available in here, as always they contain terrible tan lines, a sloppy man bun, and full-frontal nudity. I decided to use a real camera and a couple of poses so that it is easier to visually track my progress. It is hard to compare photos but I feel like I have more definition in my back and shoulders (though, that might be the tan) and my waist is slimming down a little.

Oh well, here are the measurements. It is set up like this Measurement: Current (change from last week, overall change). For example, my weight is 173 right now so it will look like this “Weight: 173 lbs (-2, -2.5)”. I lost two pounds this week, and two and a half overall.

  • Weight: 173 lbs (-2, -2.5)
  • Waist: 35 inches (-.5, -1.5)
  • Neck: 15. inches (-.25, 0)
  • Chest: 39.7 inches (+.25, -.25)
  • Left Bicep: 13.75 inches (+.25, -.25)
  • Right Bicep: 13.5 inches (+.5, -.5)
  • Left Thigh: 23 inches (-1, -1.25)
  • Right Thigh: 23.5 inches (-.5, -1.75)
  • Left Calf: 15 inches (+.25, +.5)
  • Right Calf: 15 inches (+.25, +.5)
  • BMI: 26.3 (-.46, -.76)
  • Body Fat %: 21.18 (-1.86, -3.84)
  • Average Daily Calories: 1696.86 (-66.57)
  • Average Waking Mood: 5.43 out of 10 (+2.19)
  • Average Midday Mood: 7.43 out of 10 (+0)
  • Average Evening Mood: 7.14 out of 10 (-.15)
  • Average Morning Sex Drive: 5.43 out of 10 (+0)
  • Average Midday Sex Drive: 6.71 out of 10 (-.15)
  • Average Evening Sex Drive:6.14 out of 10 (+.43)
  • Walked: 18.5 Miles (-.25, 37.25)
  • Ran: 11 Miles (+6.5, 16.5)
  • Biked: 9.25 Miles (4.25, 14.25) – My bike is at the shop getting repaired and probably won’t be back this week
  • Pull Ups: 66 (+15, 117)
  • Push Ups: 390 (+50, 730)
  • Plank: 9.25 minutes (+.75, 17.75)
  • Meditated: 30 minutes (-40, 100)
  • Average Nightly Sleep: 7.61 hours (-.25)
  • Daily Orgasm: 3 out of 7 (-2)
  • Blog Posts: 7 out of 7 (+1)
  • Daily German: 6 out of 7 (+1)
  • Daily Write Book: 0 out of 7
  • Resting Heart Rate: 54bpm (-4, -5)

 

Currently Reading:

  • “Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama” by Daniel Goleman
  • “The Great Hunt” by Robert Jordan

Thank You, Friends

This post is a thank you to my friends who are always honest with me, to my friends that don’t sugar coat things or ask me to “have faith” or say things like “things will work out”. These friends encourage me to take action and give me actionable steps to get me towards the life I want, even if it means that I will have a painful period ahead.

When I am going through a rough time, these are the friends I turn to. They will tell me the truth, which is the most valuable things. There have been times in my life when I was unhappy with my life and they provided wisdom and guidance. If I was unhappy with my finances they pointed out that I didn’t really need a Playstation, a smartphone, or a car. If I embraced minimalism, even for just a little while, I could sell the things I don’t need and lower my bills to the point where I am stable. Then, if I desired, I could reacquire things (hopefully used to be fiscally responsible) that I wanted. For me, that desire never came though.

These are the friends that I could talk to about my relationship and they would be frank and honest. They tell me when the person I’m engaged to isn’t treating me right, they point out the things that I was blind to because I was too close to the situation. They also pointed out when the person I was dating wasn’t long term compatible, no matter how much we loved each other that love wasn’t enough. If we wanted different things out of life we needed to separate and be true to ourselves, and sooner rather than later.

These friends will hear me when I say what I want to experience and point out flaws in my plans or places to improve. When I wanted to get more involved in kink and open relationships, when I wanted casual sex, they pointed out that I needed to be more social and that I needed to take my health seriously. I was very unhealthy at the time and as I took care of myself I found like-minded people to engage in bedroom activities with.

It is even better when they approach me without prompt. When they see something in my life that I could improve… my finances, my relationships, my mind, my body… and say something before I come to them. They help head problems off at the pass and keep me on the right track.

Inevitably, because of this honesty, they are the ones I trust when they give me encouragement. I’ve heard “you should write a book” dozens of times while on the bike ride, but that means nothing… those people rarely know me or what I want. But when one of these friends tell me that they love my writing and wish I blogged more or wrote a book, I listen. They have earned relationship capital and I know they wouldn’t say that without believing it.

We all need these people in our lives, the ones that will give it to us straight. The ones that realize a friendship without the ability to be completely honest with someone isn’t really a friendship, it is an acquaintance. If a friendship dies because one person is honest, then that friendship wasn’t authentic.

These people are our ka-tet, siblings, soulmates, true friends. I hope that there are others who I can give in this way that I have received. I want to be someone who people know will speak the truth without fluff. We have so much power in this world and we minimize our own strength if we wait for a white knight to save us or expect the universe to just fall into place. Action is what improves our lives, stagnation is death. We must work with what we have to make our lives better and forget the past that got us where we are… and hopefully we have a few true friends by our side to steer us straight.