Burden of Proof

Last week Isaac and T.K. had one of the best podcast episodes that I’ve listened to in quite a while. In the final half hour or so they started discussing the burden of proof for our own beliefs, particularly what it would take to convince you to change your mind. I think this is a really valuable exercise. Too often we get bogged down in our own beliefs and become resistant to change, even though we haven’t really articulated what those beliefs are grounded in. Sadly, I think a lot of beliefs aren’t grounded in anything more than “that’s how I was raised” or “that’s how it has always been done”. I’m just as guilty of that as anyone.

We all have a hodge-podge of beliefs and identities that color our perception of the world. Some of these can be  pretty damn important to us, like our thoughts on god and government. Some fundamentally alter the way we live our lives, like our thoughts on veganism or drug use. Others are relatively minor, like which way the toilet paper roll goes or whether throw pillows should exist.

To me, the most troubling ones are those that are based solely on how or where we were raised. If you feel hatred towards someone because they support Alabama football or were born in Europe, that can pose serious problems. If you are a Christian simply because you were raised Christian and never really got to know (and love) people from other religions, then I think that is shortsighted and can be a sign of spiritual weakness. One of the most important things we can do is challenge our own assumptions and come up with a proof that would convince us to change our minds, and then maybe go out there and find someone to challenge us. Steel sharpens steel. Minds sharpen minds. It is intellectually lazy to just say “well I just know” or “nothing could change my mind”.

I don’t think this is just a rhetorical thought experiment. I think it is actually important to write down some beliefs and think about what would make you change your mind. Here are some of my beliefs (all of which have a bundle of assumptions tied into them), and I plan on challenging them in the future.

  • A world where animals don’t die for human pleasure is better than a word where they do die, which is why I’m a vegan.
  • Spiritual belief correlates strongly with birthplace, which means that either there is no supernatural deity or that supernatural deity actually speaks to us through multiple (all?) religions and no belief system has a monopoly on the truth.
  • The use of force against peaceful people is morally wrong, the government is defined by the use of force against unconsenting peaceful people, therefore the government is immoral. This is why I am a philosophical anarchist.
  • More often than not, the government reduces the happiness and prosperity of the people and minimizing government will improve the lives of most people in the short term and all people in the long term. This is why I am an incremental pragmatic anarchist.
  • Happiness primarily comes from experiences, and not from possessions. This is why I am a minimalist.
  • Work is not objectively good and humans will be better off when we don’t need to work in order to meet our basic needs like food, water, and shelter. The arts and sciences will thrive when all humans are able to explore their passions without worrying about survival. This is why I am a supporter of the Basic Income Guarantee and advancing technology to eliminate need scarcity.
  • Technology will eventually advance to the point where humans can live forever. This is why I am a transhumanist.
  • Sex is not solely an emotional or spiritual act and I believe that having multiple, new experiences with a variety of partners can increase happiness and life satisfaction.
  • The use of psychedelics and similar drugs have an overwhelmingly positive impact on society and individuals, and we should support responsible use of them.
  • Sexual orientation is a fluid spectrum that is grounded in biology but there is social pressure to restrict it. If humans lacked social pressure we would likely all be somewhat bisexual, and if we eliminated the taboo around same-sex contact (particularly for men) people would be more comfortable with experimentation and less repressed.
  • Electoral politics is the least effective and laziest way to enact social change, particularly at the federal level. Most people’s time would be better-spent volunteering in their communities, pursuing their passions, and working with local institutions instead of caring or supporting a Presidential candidate.
  • I believe mental health and physical health are related for many people, and eating a healthy, plant-based diet, getting regular exercise, meditating, and seeing a therapist regularly can be a huge benefit to individuals, as well as society.
  • We should be less supportive of people who choose to have children but don’t have the economic or social resources to raise them. Instead of subsidizing childbirth we should be increasing access to contraceptives and sex education. Also, it is more ethical to adopt a child than to have one of your own in the US where there are half a million children who need a stable place to live.
  • If there wasn’t social pressure towards monogamy we would see a lot more “alternative” family arrangements that would provide more options for diverse humans to find happiness and prosperity.

 

Those are just some of my beliefs off the top of my head. They are mostly grounded in a philosophical foundation or pragmatic assumptions, which means they are open to being challenged. I may be wrong about some of my beliefs… hell, I may be wrong about all of my beliefs, but that’s okay. I don’t want unprovable beliefs, I want to keep my mind open to growing and being challenged by my experiences and the experiences of others. Life is too beautifully diverse and long to stay in a bubble being stagnant.

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How I Lost 20 lbs in 8 Weeks

Since stopping the bike ride I’ve been refocusing my energy on my own health. My goal was not to lose weight, but as I focused on my health and fitness the pounds kind of slowly melted off. I know that 20 lbs is not a huge amount of weight and 8 weeks is not an incredibly quick time (my results certainly won’t be on the cover of a magazine in some grocery store check-out lane), but everything I’ve done is something that I think I can maintain long term. The habits are sustainable for me, which I think is going to really help me maintain my health in the long term. There is, of course, the normal disclaimer… this is what worked for me but there is not guaranteed results. I also am not a medical professional, I do like to experiment on my own body and I think the internet provides a wealth of knowledge that allows us to live very unique lives. All I hope from this blog post is that maybe one person will find part of it interesting and be able to improve their own life because of it.
Prologue
On July 8th I started a new chapter in my life. My partner and I decided to stop our multi-year bicycle tour indefinitely. Instead of travelling, we decided to settle down for a bit in Wilmington, North Carolina. I knew that if I did not take very conscious control of my health as soon as we stopped I would become unhealthy very quickly. One perk of the bike tour is I could pretty much eat anything I wanted because I was constantly active. During the ride my weight stayed around 180lbs, a little heavy for my 5’7” frame but I felt good and wasn’t really concerned about it. I had it in my head that I would lose weight on the bike ride because of all the exercise, but that never really happened. It turns out, for me the key to losing weight is mostly my diet.

Luckily, I’ve always had a reasonably healthy relationship with food. Growing up, food was not a major part of my life. My family very rarely ate meals together and the food that was prepared for us was mostly bland tasting. I didn’t dislike food, but there was nothing about it that was particularly appealing (except pizza). My parents were raising six kids and both of them worked full time so we mostly ate canned veggies, pasta, and processed stuff you can throw in microwaves. Not exactly healthy, but that diet did prevent me from having any kind of psychological connection to food that could lead to an unhealthy relationship. I don’t have any type of sweet tooth and am never tempted by donuts, cakes, candy, etc., at this point sodas are actually unappealing to me because the sugar and such is so overwhelmingly sweet that it makes me sick to my stomach. Of course, there are times when my health fluctuated because of my diet, but that was mostly because I was ignorant to nutrition and how to actually cook good meals. A little education corrected that problem.

Admittedly, by the time I stopped the bike ride I had some things working to my advantage. First, my partner is a dietitian and I can ask her random health and nutrition questions when they come to mind. Those questions rarely change my behavior, but they keep my brain focused on health and keep my curiosity going. A curious mind can be a great source of motivation to improve your life. Second, I’m vegan, which means my diet is already pretty heavy in healthy foods. Yes, you can be a really fat and unhealthy vegan (potato chips, French fries, and some ice creams are vegan after all) but if you stay away from the processed foods your diet becomes really low in calories and rich in nutrients quickly.

Phase 1 – CRON and New Habits
When the bike ride ended I sat down and wanted to re-evaluate my relationship with food. What is the purpose of food for humans? For some people, there is a deep cultural bond with food that relates to their family and upbringing. For others, food provides a mental stability and comfort during stressful times. Neither of those is true for me to any strong degree. For me, food is about two things… calories for energy and nutrients for the body. With those two goals in mind, I started playing around with recipes to see what kind of nutrients I can get from what kind of foods. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains are pretty damn nutrient rich, so I put myself on a vegan CRON (Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition) diet. I actually didn’t know the CRON diet was an official thing until weeks after doing it myself.

The foundation of my daily diet is breakfast. For breakfast, I eat around 900 calories. I have a veggie scramble, a piece of avocado toast, a protein shake, and a piece of fruit. The veggie scramble varies from recipe to recipe but is usually made up of black beans, brown rice, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli, with nutritional yeast and chia seeds added in. The protein shake is Orgain chocolate protein powder (vegan), powdered peanut butter, and coffee. Below this paragraph is a screenshot of Cronometer.com after I have put in my breakfast.
Breakfast
As you can see, after one meal I have already consumed my daily requirements for many vitamins and minerals. It is very, very important for every person, regardless of their diet, to be aware of any nutritional deficiencies they may have. I think many people (myself included) are often ignorant to what their body needs and may lack important nutrients like fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E (http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/missing-nutrients-in-your-food).

The rest of my meals are usually much lighter. Lunch is usually just some beans and rice, and for snacks, I stick with a handful of nuts or fruit. Dinner is a meal that I cook out of one of our cookbooks. I don’t aim for calorie reduced meals specifically, but I have changed my habits so that my meals serve the purpose of providing my body with what it needs. That means I’ve started recording my meals into Cronometer.com before I eat them, which is particularly important when I’m out drinking with friends. If I jump onto my phone and record one more beer before I order it at the bar it can deter me from drinking excessively (which is good for my wallet, my waistline, and my mood the next morning). I also drink lots of water, coffee, and tea to keep my body hydrated and stomach full, I eat a little when I start to get hungry to prevent myself from gorging, and when I eat I treat it like a meditation by eating slowly and focusing on the task at hand instead of allowing myself to watch tv while eating. Also, I have adjusted my sleep habits. No computers or phones after 9pm and in bed by 10pm, and up by 7am. Upon waking I would pee and then weigh myself (see below), the act of weighing myself daily seemed to put me into a healthy mindset at the start of the day.

Weight

At the end of Phase 1 (about five weeks) I was very happy with the results, but I wanted to continue with the experimentation. At this point, I’d lost 12 lbs and my body fat % was down 4%.

Side Note: On Exercise
I’ve been focusing on diet as the source of my weight loss, but I have been exercising too. I don’t think exercise has been a major factor, though. Exercise is certainly important to overall health, but weight (at least for me) seems to be controlled more by diet. When I was cycling 6-10 hours a day I wasn’t losing any weight, and sometimes I gained weight, but now I am only exercising 2-4 times a week and I’m shedding pounds.
To lose one pound of fat you need a calorie deficit of about 3,500 calories. Exercise just isn’t an efficient way to burn that much weight. You would need to run about 35 miles to burn that much weight, but only if that added exercise didn’t change your behavior through eating more food or moving around less during non-exercise time. In total, I ended up with a 70,000 calorie deficit and I’ve run 76.5 miles in the last eight weeks (there have been some other exercises like cycling and running but those weren’t cardio and were at a pretty slow pace). So, from running I’ve lost about 2 lbs or 10% of my weight loss is due to that exercise. Even if I double that to account for other extra activity that is still only 20% of my weight loss due to exercise, the rest is dietary changes.

Phase 2: Fasting
As happy as I was with the results, my interest in fasting started to come back. I don’t see fasting as a weight loss tool but as a tool for general health and longevity. If I want to live to the singularity and become immortal I need to take care of this meat suit. There is not a lot of tested evidence that shows fasting extends the lives of humans, but the hypothesis behind it seems pretty solid. At the very least, there isn’t a high chance of harm coming from fasting, and there might be some mental benefits. The Stoics believed in fasting from time to time to help you realize how little you really need in life and I think making yourself uncomfortable from time to time is good. Comfort creates stagnation.

I decided to hybrid two different types of fasting into my life. I started with the “16:8” fast. This fast is a daily fast and basically means you have 8 hours per day in which you eat and 16 hours in which you don’t. For me, that means breakfast around 10am and dinner around 6pm, with some snacks or small meals in between if I’m hungry. The rest of the time is a “fast”. The basic idea behind this (and the second fast I use) is that these times without food are good for the body for a couple of reasons. First, when you fast beyond 8-10 hours your body runs out of glycogen and you start to burn fat reserves. Second, when your body goes into fast mode you start repairing cells instead of producing new ones. If your body doesn’t think it needs to conserve resources it will just reproduce cells in large numbers, which increases the chances of poorly copied cells that can become cancerous, but during fasting mode, your body tries to conserve resources by repairing the cells you already have instead of making new ones.

I actively implemented the “16:8 fast” for about two weeks before starting the “5:2 fast”, which is a little more extreme. In the “5:2 fast” you have five days with normal calorie consumption and two days with a limited calorie consumption of about 600 calories. I actually only did this one day a week for the first couple weeks and just started doing two days a week last week. This is still a bit tough for me and I find myself hungry at around 6pm every fast day (about six hours after my meal) but that hunger goes away after a bit. It is tough right now, but I’m surprised at how fast the hunger goes away after some tea or water. It seems to be getting easier with each iteration as well.

Side note: Social Life
So, does this mean I don’t have a social life? Nah, not really. Sure, it is easier for me because I’m an introvert and really don’t want to leave the house more than 2 nights per week, but I still go out and have fun with friends. I don’t take this nutrition plan too seriously, it is just an outline to help my life out and get more healthy, it is a way to see exactly what my body is capable of. When I go out I just do my best to eat meals at home (or pick healthy choices when out) and keep my alcohol consumption to something reasonable. You can be social and healthy, for me, it is just a matter of self-control.

Next Step
Now that eight weeks have passed I feel like my diet is under my control. I am enjoying the meals that I eat daily and I like how much healthier I feel. I have more energy, am sleeping better at night, and I’m more productive at work and play. My mood and sex drive have both improved as well (I track all these things daily because I’m a nerd). For me, the next step is to keep this dietary plan while implementing an exercise plan. I want to be stronger. So, hopefully in eight weeks or so I can update you on that and have some measurements that show progress in strength as well as weight loss. (And hopefully I remember to put up some new photos soon… it has been a while)

Next Chapter

I’ve been having a lot of trouble focusing on my writing lately. To be honest, the only thing on my mind is the next chapter of my life that is about to begin. I made the announcement on Facebook last week, but I have not written anything about it here yet. Long story short, Anna and I have decided to pause the bike ride for a few years and move to Wilmington, NC. I don’t want to rehash all the reasons here (though, I will copy/paste my Facebook status at the bottom of the post for those interested), but it is something we are both incredibly excited about.

Why Wilmington? Well, it has so much that we look for in a town plus a ton of bonuses. The city is dog-friendly, bike-friendly, cheap, near a beach, has a college, and an active community. It is also near bigger cities that can provide opportunities for new sexual experiences, concerts, and an airport for travel. It is also near the mountains and the city of Asheville, which is an area we’ve always wanted to visit and hope to spend a fair amount of time in. It is also a reasonable drive to other places we love like Charleston, Savannah, Richmond, and DC (well, we don’t love DC, but we love some of our friends who live there). The cheap housing will also allow us to get a multi-bedroom house with a yard on our budget, which means lots of Couchsurfing/Warmshowers hosting, friends can visit, and we can start gardening and home brewing.

So, what will this new chapter mean for my life?

Work will be the same, though I may look for some part time work depending on how expensive life gets. It has been a while since I was in a stable location for several years. I am pretty minimalist but there might be some unexpected needs or wants that pop up. Life on a bike is really cheap (you basically have only a cell phone and health insurance bill), living in a house is very different. The things I’m really excited about is focusing on rounding out my mental, spiritual, and physical fitness.

Health has a lot to do with diet and having a kitchen will put me in greater control of what goes into my tummy. Ideally I will be able to take my veganism closer to “raw” and cut out some of the processed foods that have been a part of my bike riding diet. I did a quick meal plan (below) and I should be able to spend less than $100 a week on food and easily meet my dietary needs. Also, and this is a big one, I’m basically cutting out alcohol for the next few months. The only time I will drink is special occasions, like an upcoming bachelorette party in Canada and my birthday in October. Other than that, I will try not to drink any alcohol and will not keep any in the house. Luckily, Anna supports this and has the same goals. Having a partner that shares your goals and methods is super important to success.

In addition to my food, exercise is going to be important for me to feel healthy. It would be really easy for me to get out of shape when we stop. A major benefit of the bike ride was activity was a necessary part of life, now I will need to make an effort. Anna and I signed up for a half-marathon to help with motivation and I will be joining the local YMCA to use their weight room, pool, and yoga classes. We are also joining a local cycling and running club to get some community support and to make friends. I’m also interested in barre and martial arts, but I’m not sure if I will jump into that right away.

I’ve never run a half-marathon before. In fact, I really haven’t run at all since my time in Army, so I have no idea what I’m doing. But, then again, I had never really biked before my first cross-country ride and that seemed to turn out okay. I am taking precautions with the running and will be consulting with professionals to make sure I have the right shoes and get a training plan that works for me. I know that running uses different muscles than cycling and is harder on the knees. As much as I want robot knees someday I don’t think the technology is advanced enough in 2016, so I should probably take care of my body.

I will be very likely be recording this time in detail and blogging about it. I want to keep track of my weight, measurements, and such during the few months leading up to the half-marathon. During this time I will take lots of nude pictures to have a visual record of this time, and they will probably be shared on this site. Don’t worry, I will provide ample warnings to prevent anyone from accidentally seeing my booty or flaccid penis in these non-sexual (kind of medical) pics.

This break will also give me an opportunity to focus more on my writing. I am dedicated to finishing the book about my solo cross-country bike ride, as well as submitting some of my sci-fi story ideas to be published. Anna and I are also working on a series of children’s books about our adventures around the US and a “Couple’s Guide to Adventuring” that will share what we’ve learned by spending two years together cycling nearly 10,000 miles.

Another thing we are looking forward to is accomplishing things that are impossible on the road. We want to expand our sex life to be more than just “maintenance sex”, we want to start gardening, and I want to become fluent in a foreign language. I’ll also be doing a lot of reading about transpersonal psychology to decide if that is a future career path.

To be honest, the thing I’m looking forward to most is building a community. Some of the clubs we will join will help with that, but I also want to start volunteering. I’m sure I can find local animal shelters, LGBT community centers, women’s shelters, and Planned Parenthood facilities that can use support and volunteers. The kindness of strangers has been such a part of my life and I want to make sure I’m returning the karma.

Anyway, I’m fucking excited and I can’t stop making lists and schedules and researching all the things I want to do. My little heart is all a flutter with the possibilities.

 

*Facebook Announcement*
“After a short conversation, Anna and I have decided to stop the bike ride for a few years after this next week. There were several factors that influenced this decision. None of them alone would be enough for us to alter our plans, but all of them together made us realize that we needed to change.

First, we just weren’t having that much fun anymore. Our frustration and stress runs deeper than the shitty roads of the south. We both started dreading the days when we had to ride. We love cycling, but that doesn’t mean we want to be forced to do it. It is better to stop now than to keep going until we hate it.

Second, we have been presented with an opportunity to live with our friendIvy for a few months and then move to Wilmington for a few years. As wonderful as it is to travel, we haven’t really had solid home since 2014 and we miss it a bit. We want to do home brewing, yoga, gardening, go on our honeymoon, get tattoos, learn to dance, begin fire staff again, take up rock climbing or surfing, foster animals, go to Burning Man, host Couchsurfers, take classes, etc, and that is more plausible with a home.

Third, the current logistics would make much of our journey a terrible rush… and we don’t want that. It is hot as balls and we would be on time crunch to get north.

So, what does that mean for you?
Probably nothing, unless you want to come visit us in Wilmington and hang out on the beach in the next few years. You have a place with us.

Post-Script: There was a surprising surge of anxiety about this while we discussed it. We felt like we were quitters or something… Luckily, we realized that bullshit. It is our life to do what we wish, and that includes changing your mind. You shouldn’t let past decision prevent future pleasure.”

*Starting Meal Plan*
Total Calories: ~2,000
Protein: ~77g
Fat: ~65g
Carbs: ~227g

Breakfast – Oatmeal with fruit, black bean and veggie scramble, avocado toast (~820 calories)
Snack 1 – Almonds (~100 calories)
Lunch – Veggie wraps (~450 calories)
Snack 2 – Grilled tofu salad (~150 calories)
Dinner – Veggie soup or bowl or chili (~300 calories)
Snack 3 – Fruit and nuts (150 calories)

Starting Meal

Childless Among Children

Well, I stepped in a big pile of online poop a few days ago. I posted a question online and it touched a few nerves. I shouldn’t be surprised, the subjects involved were two things that seem to create the post passionate responses: veganism and child rearing.

My inquiry was relatively simple, I was curious how I (as a childless person) should answer children when they ask why I am a vegan. How honest should I be? Do kids know that meat comes from live animals? Should I discuss how a plant-based diet is healthier? Should I talk about how I think it is wrong to kill animals for human pleasure? Basically, how do I handle questions from kids about my alternative lifestyles when I don’t want to piss off parents.

I received some good advice. Several parents gave examples of how they would like that situation handled and some language that would be appropriate for children. In general, I am probably overthinking much of this but I am fascinated by child-rearing (and terrified of pissing off parents who are my friends). Most parents even said they would have no problem with me explaining my beliefs, even though those beliefs contradicted their own.

There were some people who were more passionate though, some who did not like the idea of sharing ideas with their kids that ran counter to their own. How children are raised is a grey area in all societies, and one in which there doesn’t seem to be a perfect answer. Most people don’t see their children as property that can be treated as they see fit, parental rights don’t extend to abuse or neglect. But we also don’t like the idea of non-parents stepping in to tell parents how to raise their kids, and rightfully so. Parents, in theory anyway, have the best intentions for their children and have the most localized knowledge. That means they should be the ones in the best position to raise the children, but we don’t always agree on what counts as abuse or neglect.

Some would see permanently removing a part of an unwilling infant’s genitalia as part of an ancient religious ceremony as harming a child and violating that child’s autonomy, while others think male circumcision is fine. Others would say using religion to try and heal a child from a disease is appropriate, while others see that as neglect. Some see raising a child along a certain religious or ethical path as the parent’s rights, while others think that closing your children off to differing opinions is brainwashing and damages their ability to function in the adult world later on.

Parenting is hard, and it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. It might be one of the most important things a person can do with their life and, as such, I think people should be educated about the best practices to raising children. We also shouldn’t shame or stigmatize people who decide not to have children, instead we should use childless people as a resource to provide a more well-rounded education to children and provide support. I don’t want kids of my own, but I will gladly help my childbearing friends by living in a communal system with them, babysitting so that they can get a date in with their spouse and bump uglies for a night, have conversations with them that the parents are uncomfortable with, or take them on an adventure over the summer that will open their minds to new experiences.

I’m not sure that I am comfortable lying to children though, or even really sugar-coating things (though, I will be tactful and attempt to use appropriate language for their age). I guess this is a warning, if you have kids and don’t want certain subjects discussed please let me know ahead of time. If I’m not warned then I will openly answer questions about veganism (or atheism, anarchism, sexuality, non-traditional relationships, vagabond life, or anything else that comes up). I’ll honor the parental request about keeping silent on these issues, but to be honest, I won’t be comfortable with it, and I’ll probably ask about it later when the children aren’t around. On the flip side, if parents are uncomfortable talking about things with their children (I’m sure this is true for some subjects, particularly sexuality which should really be discussed in an appropriate form very early on) feel free to make me the eccentric uncle that they can turn to with their questions. I’m always open to explaining things to all ages and am available via email, text, etc.

Side note: The discussion on my Facebook wall made me realize that being vegan is kind of a privileged position in the United States. In order to go without eating animal products you either need extra money or extra time. Most parents, particularly parents of multiple kids, don’t have either. If your meals are primarily fast food because your weekly schedule doesn’t allow for any breaks too cook then it can be incredibly burdensome to have a child with ethical problems with meat consumption.Vegan fast food tends to be more expensive and cooking meals for a large family is very time consuming. I can sympathize with that.

6-Months Towards Potential

At some point in my life I want to spend some time (6 months? 1 year?) where I try to see what my body is capable of. Our bodies are fascinating machines and I’d love to see the potential it holds for physical strength and fitness. Basically, I want to track all my inputs and outputs, and focus on getting as fit* as possible. My inputs would fall in four basic categories: exercise, healthy food, lifestyle changes, and supplements.

Exercise is pretty self-explanatory. I will have a consistent routine of cardio and weight exercises. This includes, but is not limited to, cycling, weight-lifting, joining sports leagues, yoga, swimming, competitive obstacle courses (like Tough Mudder), and martial arts.

Food is likely even more important than exercise for this. I want to continue my vegan diet, ensure it is balanced with all nutrients and minerals that I need, and move towards a raw diet. I’m going to take as scientific approach as possible and use research to determine the best diet for me. Hopefully I can also learn to cook some awesome food in the process. I can track the progress on sites like “Cronometer.com”. Unfortunately, this means my alcohol consumption will likely need to come down.

Lifestyle Changes are little tweaks to my life that have shown some correlation with health. This includes meditation, intermittent fasting, getting enough sleep (which will require lifestyle changes like turning off the computer an hour before sleep), making sure I get up and move around at least once an hour, reading, and drinking enough water. There are probably more things that I can locate to fall into this category.

I’ll also bring supplements into play, focusing on the ones with proven results. Creatine has been heavily studied and will be the first one I use for muscle growth. I’ll add more supplements as I go and also use some nootropics.

In addition to my inputs, I want to track my results. This includes weight, blood pressure, strength, flexibility, cognitive ability, overall feeling of well-being, performance on a standard test like the Army APFT, etc. Ideally I would be able to see a doctor regularly through the process to track what is happening internally, but I don’t know if that is affordable.

I’m not sure if I could do it while on the bike ride, but I am considering it. I want to track my progress and make it public. I could use my blog and a shared google doc where I record all my daily inputs and outputs (actually, measuring outputs is likely going to happen weekly or biweekly). Ideally, I’d be able to track everything about my day and what I do and consume, even down to my bowel movements, how many hours I sit each day (and during what hours), when I have sex, have a heart rate and sleep monitor track my vitals, etc. It would be neat to see if there are any weird correlations that I could discover.

I also want to take lots of pictures to see the changes in my body. I am considering taking daily nude photos in a half dozen or so poses from different angles to track the changes. If I do this I promise to place a warning on the blog posts with the photos I share so that you don’t accidentally see a flaccid penis (I talk a lot about body positivity and the need to see “normal” people naked, I should probably put my money where my mouth is and share non-sexual nude pics myself instead of just encouraging other people to do it).

Anyway, that’s what is on my mind. I need to come up with a good plan for what my specific goals are, the specific inputs and outputs necessary to attain those goals, and a plan for tracking/sharing my progress. I’m sure in the coming weeks I will solidify my system and start sharing that, even if I decide to put it off until I finish the bike ride (though, doing it during the bike ride could be the best time because much of my activity is taken care of).

I also need to make sure I don’t become a slave to this system and start punishing myself if I slip up or have bad days. These changes are part of a journey and if I have a day where I binge eat 10 pizzas or go a week without doing pushups or decide I am mentally drained and need to reform the whole thing I shouldn’t get mad at myself. This will be an outline towards a goal, not a physical law that can’t be altered. I created it, therefore it is malleable.

* I’m using words like fit, improvement, etc very loosely here. They are based on my subjective goals and are not meant to necessarily be a sign of health. And they sure as fuck aren’t a sign of mine (or anyone else’s) value. I generally want to lose fat, gain muscle, improve physical performance, and set my internal organs up for greater health and success.

Moving Forward

Today is the last day that I’ll be on holiday “vacation”, and that means when we get back to Dallas it will be time to start the routine again and ring in the new year. While on this break I intentionally neglected a lot of my habits as a reward to myself and as a way to minimize my stress and guilt that comes from holiday gorging, playing video games, and slacking. The three notable exceptions are that I still took my daily nootropics/supplements, I did some Duolingo German work daily, and I completed the work and classes for my writing Coursara course. Other than that, I just let myself roll with each day and didn’t worry about exercise, meditation, etc. Thanks to this break I have a clearer idea of what and how I want to make 2016 my best year yet.

First, I am going to take my health more seriously. That means not making excuses for bad eating habits. Just because I am biking almost daily that does not mean I should consume unhealthy foods or lots of beer. I also need to make time for strengthening exercises using body weight or the equipment I have available. I should be able to easily improvise weights with what I have on me.

Second, I want to really learn German. I have a three-pronged approach that is cheap and should be successful. I will continue with daily Duolingo, I’ll listen to the Pimsleur lessons on Audible, and I will watch a German language film 1-2 times per week. I am also going to research other free options online to see if any would fit my lifestyle.

Third, Anna and I are going to get started on “The Adventures of Higgins” (tentative title), a series of children’s books about our bike travels from the perspective of our dog. It will be a picture book that tells his stories exploring the US and will have basic lessons about geography, different cultures around the country, history, fitness, etc. I am going to use the “Isaac Morehouse Method” and try to do one thing daily to keep this project moving forward. This will provide me with an outlet for creativity, writing, and entrepreneurship. And maybe if it is a success it will bring in some cash too. I hope to have our first short book out this year and ready to send to friends who have kids for product testing.

Fourth, get into a regular meditation practice. Meditation, like flossing, is one of those things that I know I should be doing but somehow have a hard time getting into the habit. I know there are incredibly health benefits to mindful meditation and I have time to do it. I need to make it a priority.

So, those are my goals for 2016. I might create some sort of milestone for each with small daily or weekly tasks, or maybe I’ll just wing it. My current spreedsheet that has a point system seems to be working well for me so far. 2015 was the best year of my life and was filled with incredibly adventures and wonderful growth that comes from trials and success. I can’t wait to see what the new year will bring me.

Change of Pace

After about six months of biking across a good chunk of the country my partner and I are taking two months off in Dallas. This wasn’t part of our original plan, but plans are meant to be broken. As we used to say about mission plans in the Army, “The enemy gets a vote”. In our situation the “enemy” is weather, the holiday season, the environment, and our own mental and physical power.

After taking everything into consideration it made sense for us to stay in one place for a few months and ride out the holiday season, and luckily our dear friends have offered to let us stay in their spare bedroom during this time. This should give us an opportunity to get some work done to earn some money, travel to see our families for the holidays, and just mentally relax from life on the road. It’ll be really nice to be able to cook healthy meals and change up the exercise routine.

Though, the exercise routine is probably my biggest concern. It is super easy for me to get fat and lazy when exercise isn’t a necessary part of my life. I do plan on using P90X while here, which has been successful for me in the past. I had recently plateaued with my fitness from cycling and had implemented some more work outs into my day, but I think a real change of pace is needed. I’ll still get some cardio but I won’t be in the bike saddle for 4-6 hours a day anymore, though I will occasionally hit up the bike trail near the house which is 26 miles round trip (I think).

I’m really excited about the opportunity to cook. Our diets are healthy enough but they kind of lack variety. You can only do so much with “cooking” while biking without a stove or the ability to really keep things cold. We are able to stay vegan pretty easy and we get all the vitamins, minerals, and calories we need, but the meals are basically the same each day. Being in an actual home for a while will let us cook more and experiment and face some fun challenges. My friend has celiac disease so we will be cooking vegan and gluten-free. It’ll be a blast.

Anyway, we are excited to explore Dallas for a bit and change up our life. The plan now is to leave in January and head down to Houston and Austin before heading east. After that we are biking up the east coast in the spring and summer of 2016… but who knows? Maybe life will change our plans again and put us on a new adventure.