Fat for man

Most of us just don’t know how to eat fat anymore because we don’t practice it. Eating fat is a basic human act that makes a human healthy. It is satiating and nourishing. It gives energy to act. It replenishes building blocks of the body’s cells. It encourages the body to use fat as energy. This includes the brain.

When you eat fat, there is a feeling of satisfaction, pleasure, and rightness that is different from eating carbohydrates or dry protein. Protein is dry when there isn’t much fat on it. Fat triggers something different in the body, a feeling of abundance and satiety that puts a man at ease. And then, unlike the effect of swallowing a large amount of simpler carbohydrates, the general good feeling is sustained. Energy remains high. The mind is still clear.

Eating fat, though, can be difficult to figure out if you have been avoiding it according to conventional (last fifty or so years) dietary guidelines. This is most notably the food pyramid endorsed by our U.S. government. Fat is the very tip top of that pyramid, a hilariously small corner shared with sugar. When I followed that pyramid, I ate the equivalent of half a loaf of whole wheat bread, two skinless chicken breasts, two salads, and a bowl of whole wheat pasta per day. Because I would still be hungry at night, I usually also had two or three bowls of ice cream, pie, or other dessert after dinner.

I loved to cook, so don’t get me wrong, I would fix up some gourmet meals with these basic “macros” (I cringe at this word). What is the hunger though that persists after all this food? It’s probably a deficit in nutrition. What could I be missing? Well, what did I lunge for but sweet, fatty foods like ice cream? I was craving fat, and when you buy fatty desserts at a store, they’re usually saturated with sugar.

Fat has more calories by mass than other foods. So you’ll see that adding some butter to your rice or stew or veggies will make you fuller. Eating good quality meat with all of the fat will bring you more satiety than will chopping off and discarding the fat. So the amount of food, the actual bulk, that you eat may be reduced eventually. Don’t worry that you aren’t getting enough food to fuel the demands of your exercise, work, and other duties. Go by feel. Don’t waste food. Start small, adding fat like coconut oil, avocados, grass fed butter, and beef, pork, and fish fat to your usual meals. Or go big and learn the hard way like I did, that I no longer needed as much food when more of it was fat.

You can eat at more convenient times of the day, too, with more fat in your diet. After a time of eating breakfasts with more fat and less carbohydrates, you might find that you have better focus and more energy. The morning is a great time to have fat blended in coffee or tea, as fat does not trigger a large insulin response like carbs and protein do. The insulin response is what causes fuzziness. Eating fat in the morning is a great way to have food without breaking energy.

Eventually, you might feel fine without a solid breakfast, or any food for that matter. Just as mornings are quiet in nature, your belly and digestive system can also be quiet. Just hold off on eating for a few hours, maybe until lunch, and you’ll see that avoiding the sugar, carbs, low quality protein, and the vegetable oils in most “break-fast” items will open up a wellspring of energy in the morning. Work hard if you do find the focus, and eat when you need to eat. This is the true breaking of the fast.

Recognize the body’s need for fat. There’s a reason it tastes so good, feels so awesome, and makes you healthier. We came into existence as a species with fat as a food. Our giant brains are made mostly of fat. When you’re hungry, tired, achy, dry, grouchy, moody, and in a slump, stop from eating candy, snacks, and desserts. Hit up that grass fed butter. Eat real food and let good fat be a substantial portion of it. If you finish dinner and are still looking for snacks, think about how much fat was in that dinner. Find more.

Live powerfully.

Thirty two at thirty two

It’s been about twelve months since I started regularly training with the 24kg kettlebell. At about an average of six days of training a week, I’ve used this kettlebell for swings and getups for around 288 days. That’s 28,800 swings and 2,880 getups. It’s time to start using the 32kg kettlebell, which I bought and began training with last weekend.

I’ve done powerlifting training to take my squat from 315lbs to 370lbs in a year – at 168lbs body weight – and I know that the length of time and the number of reps you do of an exercise doesn’t mean much on its own. I have seen people with “years of experience” in the gym who are not strong. So I’m not talking about my brief kettlebell history here to say I’m an expert on it.

I give these numbers for context. I’m a novice, and have been honing the skills and strength that are required by, and developed by, swings and getups. Swings have strengthened my lower, mid, and upper back. I no longer get the small pangs I used to feel from sitting too long, or from doing a bunch of work in the yard. Sure I get tired and sore here and there, but rarely do I get a random back ache. Sprinting up hills or stairs is much easier. I find a reserve of energy and tension in my body that is quicker and more responsive than what I felt after a year of powerlifting. I also have better balance, better posture, and less fatique from walking, running, and sprinting during my daily commute.

Getups transformed my shoulders and upper back. There’s not much difference in appearance. I haven’t grown in size, and actually may have gotten a bit skinnier over the past year. But my shoulders are now stronger when my arms are extended, more comfortable, and less problematic on a day to day basis. I can grab things better when they’re far away or behind me, and I’m much more confident in my ability to move things around further away from me.

The getup has also sewn together my whole body with thicker and tighter threads, so to speak. I am more coordinated from head to toe, and feel stronger and more responsive as a whole. Powerlifting brought good brute strength to my entire body, undeniably. I can shoulder bigger loads than ever before in my life, after barbell squats, deadlifts, bench and overhead presses, and Pendlay rows. Kettlebell getups helped me to make this strength more cohesive. Pressing a heavy load up overhead and then bringing it back down to your chest builds your pressing ability. Holding weight straight up from a supine position on the ground all the way up to standing and back down builds much more meaning into that kind of strength.

There are many good uses for the strength gained from heavy barbell exercises. Kettlebell training multiplies the usefulness of that strength. Using the 24kg kettlebell still isn’t quite easy. But compared to the early stages of my training, it’s not nearly as hard. Taking up the 32kg kettlebell recently has brought me back to the mindset of a beginner. I struggle to execute the most elementary movements. I sweat more. I breathe hard, unintentionally. And a little soreness in my muscles and joints has returned. I’ve been adding sets with the new bell slowly, just replacing one more 24kg set here and there. It is an incremental progression.

When I’m on by back, getting ready for the next getup, I wonder how I will ever do this with a 48kg kettlebell. One thing at a time I guess. For now, I thoroughly enjoy the new challenge during training each morning. At thirty two years I make use of my body and the strength I’ve built, which I will continue to build until the day I die.

Live powerfully.

What is love

Love is deep. It is real. Love keeps you going, day to day, it keeps you whole, year to year. Love for one another, love for yourself, love for the world, love for the universe and the way of things – it’s acceptance of what is, what a person is, what the weather is, what life brings. Love is acknowledgment, isn’t it? It is the force of accepting everything as it is and the power to act while holding that acceptance in heart and mind. Then it is the power to embrace the good and empower it and let it grow. It is the power to feel the bad and acknowledge it, and to know when to keep working on it and coaxing it to good, and love is also the power that tells you when to destroy the bad.

Gardening in the summer heat teaches a man to love things. It taught me a little bit about how to love the bees that drank nectar and collected pollen all around me, as I did my work next to them. I fear the bees and their sting, since I’ve felt the digging pain of a bee sting. I didn’t want to get too close at first, because I thought that the bees would attack me if I threatened their activity. But I realized through my work there that I too had things to do, as a man I had a place there among the bees and very close to them. I learned to move and stand and crouch respectfully, to dig and cut and pull and throw all around the bees and their paths of flight without offending them. And I saw that they understood me to some extent too, that they smelled me and felt me near and knew I wasn’t there to harm them.

This is one way to love. To be with someone, to be brave enough to learn how to be close and engage, and to respect enough to keep distance and move without hampering and threatening. To acknowledge everything, to accept as is, and to work from your own principles on the goals that you must achieve, in harmony with all else. To be in this world, as yourself, and to acknowledge yourself and accept yourself as you are. And then to get the power to act as a good person. Love is the power to know that you are not perfect, and that you have many flaws, and also to know that you are awesome in equally many ways, that you have many excellent qualities, and skills, and essences.

Love can’t be perfected, although it is a sort of skill that can be practiced more and more to be made more powerful in a person. Look at the universe, which is not perfect in any way except that it is exactly as it is. Being that as a man is the same thing, and learning that is loving yourself and the world. The more I see who I am without the asterisk, without the resistance and denial of certain aspects or past actions or unfavorable traits, the better I can act and live. And this is how I can come to love myself. Not because it’s a thing to be accomplished, to get some kind of trophy for the ideal self-loving man on a pedestal, but because it’s the only way. Love.

Live powerfully.

Health, medicine, and will

There’s a difference between health and medicine. Don’t be fooled by big hospital advertisements like, “Thrive” that continue the meshing of medical treatment with living in a healthy way. It’s great that people high up in their ranks are making an effort to encourage healthy living, albeit in an effort to bring more people to their hospitals. But their food recommendations come from the Food Pyramid, their exercise recommendations from supposed experts, and their diagnoses are influenced by the medications that they are comfortable prescribing. It’s hard to reasonably accept “health” advice from a business that Thrives on surgery, pharmaceutical treatment, and office visits paid for by insurance companies.

To be fair, most of us pay insurance companies for all of these “benefits”. We’ve bought ourselves into the system. We believe that doctors exist to keep us healthy. When they tell us to take a pill or use an ointment or get surgery, we go ahead and do it. We know that it’s expensive to see a doctor and to get those additional treatments. So we get insurance. The problem is that we believe that this is our way to stay healthy.

Medical treatment exists for wounds, injuries, diseases, and conditions that individuals can’t properly self-treat. But you can see that the list of things we believe must be treated at a hospital or doctor’s office or from a pharmacy increases exponentially over time: a sore throat, headaches, an aching shoulder, weight gain, cavities, bone loss, high cholesterol, lack of focus. And because we’re already paying insurance companies, we might as well make use of that copaid office visit to get it treated.

Health is different. Being healthy involves the food you eat. It involves the way you move every day. It involves what you do with your thoughts and how you act. It originates from your decisions and most basically from your will. Sure, it’s very important to read and learn about food from people who have experience and who have learned from people before them and they before them. It’s important to know how to move, and to learn from someone who knows how to move and how to keep the body functioning well. It’s important to know how to cultivate your mind and to learn this from people who have done so and who have good minds and strong spirits. But most importantly it comes from your will to be a healthy creature.

Will yourself to good health. Don’t count on the “medical community” or the government and their food pyramid to bring you to good health. They will not. You will. Figure out what is causing your pain, your suffering, and discomfort, and see if you can’t get rid of it on your own. Since when did a person have to get permission from a doctor to do something good for their own health? Never. You give yourself the permission to observe and test and try and explore the old knowledge and experience that humans have had and will need to rebuild to be healthy. Your health is yours to build. And when you need medical treatment, you go to a doctor you trust and hear them out and get treatment according to your rational judgment.

But before that, go to your grandparents or someone old and trusted and ask them what their parents and their grandparents ate. Look up what our ancestors ate and how they lived. Scientific thinking involves evaluation of the one million years of human existence, not just the effects of a pill on a symptom.

Free yourself from the system. The system is there to do something efficiently. If you don’t need that something done, you don’t need the system to do it efficiently for you. Freeing yourself to act for the good of your health is not as hard as you think. It’s just different. Remember the moment when Neo was freed. It wasn’t after being chased by agents, taking the pill, or getting dunked and reborn and unplugged. No, it was the moment he decided to follow the white rabbit. It’s the decision.

Live powerfully.

When to push and when to rest

Sometimes it gets easier to train the more you do it. It’s like toughening yourself up to handle more physical stress. You might have felt pretty pooped from the first time trying something. But then the next day you realize you have the energy to do it again.

Sometimes it’s just time to rest. You’re tired not because you’re weak, but because you’ve done a lot.

It’s important to figure out when to push and when to train. I find that if I default to train, I benefit from waiting until the moment I have to get out and train to see whether I’m really ready or not. And if I do start training, I get to feel how much energy I really have. Rather than trying to mull over it in my head beforehand, I simply know I will come to the moment of truth.

With this come the element of design. Figure out what level of training, and the frequency, that you can reasonably do. You can only really find out by trying. Yes, you may overdo it at first. Then pull back. If it’s easy, though, have no qualms about pushing a little more next time.

Live powerfully.

Accept and move forward

I just had some thoughts about where I am in life today. Most people will view the Quit-your-job-and-travel idea as a romantic adventure that puts life in perspective and adjusts life goals into better focus. It is.

Few people understand that it’s hard to do. The friends we talked to as we thought through our sabbatical, as we planned it, and as we turned in our resignation letters and started packing, recognized the magnitude of our decision and goal. There was major excitement, wonder, and fear from everyone, including my wife and I. Of course, looking back, I would say we didn’t know what we were getting into. Looking forward, we worried about what we would do when we got back. We thought about the obstacles to traveling with minimal luggage across borders. And we dreamed about the exotic places, the people, the food, the natural features of other parts of the world.

When we did go, we did see amazing things. We did meet people that we loved, and we did savor wonderful foods. There was time enough to sit and to let thoughts come and go, to let anxiety dissipate, and to understand a different time realm from the “nine-to-five” machine. Sure we had to use our money to buy ourselves out of the box. But that didn’t change the things we saw outside of it.

When we did get back, it was hard. We lived with my mom for a few months. That got rough, naturally, so we lived with her parents for a few months. We looked for work and income for a while, and eventually we decided that it would be better to get an apartment. This really motivated us to find work. And we did. The grind was tough at first. Every day back from our travels, every day further from that openness of time and space, felt dark. But within that darkness we had warmth. We had each other and stuck to our dream. Our dream of living life outside of the box.

Even as I work every day, even as she works every day, we do it differently. There’s no more crushing anxiety. No more narrow-minded misery. Sure there are tough moments every day. Yes we struggle and stress as we solve problems. But we appreciate every bit of work we can do individually. We appreciate the time we have to make a meal and eat and talk with each other at night. We appreciate every minute of sleep we can get. The sun goes down, and it comes back up, and we hold on to our goals, our passions, our desires, and our discipline.

On the surface not much looks different. We’re not perfect by any means. And we understand we’re vulnerable. But the picture is bigger now. The goal is longer. The determination is harder and the fire burns cooler but longer. Every day is a bite into the gift of life, a step forward, and a pull upward. When something happens to get in our way, we’ll be ready to accept, adjust, and keep moving.

Live powerfully.

No complaining

No matter how hard we try, something unexpected can happen and throw off the results of our efforts. The art of living seems to be how we take that kind of blow and act during and afterwards. It’s hard to accept when life doesn’t go the way we expect. It’s hard when we have had success in the past, and with the same methods and skills we now meet failure. And it’s hard to change our ways to learn how to succeed this next time.

Yesterday I was thinking about how physical training tests the spirit to fight and thrive. It does so because hard exercise requires the will to accept pain in order to win. Whether you train your body or not, it’s the same deal with the mind, isn’t it? When we have adversity and perservere, we pass the test of our spirit to fight. We get stronger. If we don’t succeed, we still get stronger.

As long as you keep your mind on the goal, there’s no need to languor about the hardships. The hard stuff, the tiredness, the stress, the injustice, it’s part of the exercise of your spirit, your willpower.

I think that complaining about the hard stuff is like grunting too loud at the gym. Everyone knows that lifting a heavy weight involves strain and effort, sometimes gigantic effort. There’s no need to make noise about it. The act of lifting that weight is enough to make the body stronger. The strain, the struggle, the fight in itself is what builds your body and even your mind. To yell or groan or make other unnecessary show of the pain is irrelevant and ridiculous. It’s a call for attention, an indication that a person is not satisfied with the growth from training. This person is looking for acknowledgment of their effort and they will not get it from anyone who understands nature.

And so I look for parts of me that still want to complain. When am I looking for acknowledgment, when I could be still and realize my growth? When do I not feel satisfied with the work I have done, and instead look for approval?

When I’m in the midst of the struggle, I often lose sight of the goal. I try to remember that this hardship or that is sometimes a random occurrence that I can’t control. What I can completely control, as Ryan Holiday writes in The Obstacle is the Way, is my own self (142). And that involves not complaining, not looking for attention or acknowledgment of my struggle, but accepting the hardship, savoring the burn, realizing that I am in the middle of growing and achieving my goal.

Live powerfully.

I’ll make my body

This was the response Teddy Roosevelt had for his dad as a young kid crippled with asthma. After a childhood of miserable breathing attacks, young Roosevelt took up his father’s offer to train his body to strength and overcome his weakness. The Obstacle is the Way, written by Ryan Holiday, says that “We craft our spiritual strength through physical exercise, and our physical hardiness through mental practice” (136).

It turns out that physical training also strengthened Roosevelt’s spirit. He developed the inner grit to face the obstacles of family deaths and wars. And he exercised every day through it all.

I’ve always known that exercise and physical training shaped the spirit. I just never really had the guts to say it. Hard physical training, running, doing drills, and lifting weights to the limits of the body, fatigues and builds the body. However, go deep enough, let the level of difficulty get hard enough, and you find that your spirit is tested. There’s no measure of this. It’s simply a matter of whether you will stand the pain and hardship, the burning muscles, the aching lungs, the heat, the cold, the impacts, whatever the pain may be, and whether you will continue to push ahead. It’s a matter of whether you will return for another day of training after that. This tests your spirit.

I don’t mean spirit as a separate ghostly entity contained within our minds or bodies or hovering around somewhere in another dimension. I mean spirit as the strength of the will, the determination to do, the absolute resolve we have to move forward through fear and pain. And I do think that physical training can show you your spirit, and it can bring it to life, and maybe even make it stronger.

I say “maybe” because there is also the factor of the mind. The second part of this phrase in Holiday’s book says we build “our physical hardiness through mental practice.” No matter how much weight I can lift, no matter how fast I can run, if I don’t want to do something tough, I won’t and thus I can’t do it.

Training every day with the kettlebell keeps my body lean and strong. This is only possible to do with the mindset that I will train every day. The physical training itself does not build my resolve to train every day. Actually, it makes me not want to train. It’s hard, it makes me sweat, it makes me use up a lot of energy, and I have to be out in the cold in the dark. Only the mindset that this is good for me allows me to cherish all of these “painful” things. Because I have set my will do exercise like this every morning, I have done it. And because I’ve been doing it, I see the strength of body and spirit I am developing. This is rewarding, and then of course the rest of it becomes fun. I savor the sweet, cold air in my nostrils and lungs. It cools me down after each set of swings. My feet have come to be fond of the biting cold ground. It’s a wonderful texture to work against to keep balance and exert maximal force.

I don’t feel sorry for myself when it’s raining outside. I love it. When I step out of my office into the night, I am comfortable with the dark and the cold. I can walk or run for block after block for the train station, and I’m not bothered that my lungs burn or I sweat or that I am panting. I love it, because it’s a great capability I have to be able to move fast and hard.

This chapter in the book is called “Build your inner citadel”. What a great lesson in life, that physical training is connected to spiritual strength and that mind training enables physical strength.

Live powerfully.

Earthing Every Day

Set yourself up to earth every day.

I’ve been earthing almost every morning the past few months. The way I’ve been doing it is by having a set exercise time with my kettlebell outside. Since I train barefoot it works out well. I get a good recharge for the day, through strength building and by absorbing the Earth’s surface energy.

I enjoy being outside barefoot, whether it’s to train or to leisurely walk with my wife through the neighborhood. I was talking with a friend the other day about my travel in Thailand. During our stay in a beach town at the southern coast, my wife and I never touched a bit of asphalt. It was all sand, concrete, or dirt, and I had the ironic luxury of treading barefoot for four days straight. What an experience to not smother my feet in tight socks, then encase them in rubber and leather shoes, day after day! To simply wake up and walk out the door to explore without the hassle of shoes.

Walking barefoot, training strength with feet directly on the ground, running and jumping and moving with your feet gripping and helping you to maneuver, and simply sitting in a squat or standing while talking with company, is a wonderful physical part of life that is lost to most people here. You feel different when you’re barefoot. You walk differently and talk differently when you have no shoes. I have become something different, something more, from living a small part of my days with my feet on the ground.

Get that connection to the surface charge of Earth and start to neutralize excess inflammation. You can create a schedule which places you barefoot on the dirt, grass, beach, or at least concrete for ten minutes every day. If you have a dog, be barefoot together on your walk. You might find a more harmonious pace with your furry companion. If you have a fellow human to go outside together, hang out without your shoes. Do it in easy places. If you’re at the park or the beach, don’t hesitate for the right moment to shed your shoes. The moment is now. Prolong your time barefoot and expand your experiences barefoot. Walk to the parking lot barefoot after you’re done. When you’re camping go barefoot. What better or easier way to connect to the place in which you are staying.

Live powerfully.

The quirks of daily kettlebell training

Having a kettlebell at home is one of life’s great blessings. It’s convenient and is a great start to each day. There are certainly some challenges that come up as I train day to day, though. I see these as variables to training and additions to my development of strength.

First of all, I live on the second floor of an old apartment building. The floors are not very thick, and I assume based on what I can hear of my neighbors below that any noise or banging against the ground would be quite audible. I used to do my kettlebell sessions indoors, and the whole building shook during swings. It’s not surprising, given the force against the ground with which I have to accelerate the bell. Now that I’m training at six in the morning, I take it outside.

Outside means downstairs, because the landing in front of my door is quite small. I imagine a kettlebell that slips loose mid-swing from the second floor would travel quite far and dig quite deep into the pavement below. I’m not prepared for that risk, so I lug the heavy thing down a flight of steps. This is the first part of the fun of kettlebell training for me. Going down stairs with a kettlebell in one hand creates a nice exercise in balance and stepping. Because I don’t want to wake or startle my neighbors, I step lightly. It’s easier barefooted, of course. Without shoes that restrict the movement of my feet, I can lightly descend and feel the stairs enough to move smoothly and maintain balance. So why is my kettlebell in one hand? Well, because I have my doormat in the other hand. That brings me to the next fun thing.

Since I’m doing the swings outside, I’m pulling up and setting down the iron ball on concrete ground. This creates a nice scrape on the way up, and a dull but resounding thud on the way down. As I want to maintain my privilege of exercising right outside my door for the near future, I needed a way to minimize this noise. So the answer was to bring along my sturdy doormat. The rubber bottom and soft felty top act together as an efficient muffler. To save a trip up and down the staircase, I hold the mat in one hand and the bell in the other. Thus, I naturally go through the strongman drill known as the “suitcase carry”. Carrying a heavy load on one side trains you to balance out that load and develop better stability side-to-side while moving forward. Do it on a staircase and I guess it adds another level of complexity.

It doesn’t end there, of course. Part of kettlebell training involves precision of movement. When swinging the weight, it’s important to keep your feet planted, to stand tall at the end of the hip drive, and to pull it back down with the lats between your legs. If for any reason your heels come off the ground, you must release the bell. Holding on to it can cause injury to your back as you overreach to pull yourself back into the correct stance. Naturally, I wouldn’t want to fling a fifty pound iron ball into the dark dawn. I imagine the effect would be similar to a wrecking ball meeting the side of a high rise. The best case scenario would be a good clunk. A bad scenario could include a shattering crack, a bounce, another crack, a rumbling roll, and thunk thunk thunk down the front steps of the parking area. This is quite the incentive for me to pay full attention to my movements, to execute each part of the swing with precision, and to exercise greater strength in keeping the bell under control. My primary concern is to move in the best way possible. My secondary concern is exerting force. Both of these build strength, but I didn’t pay as much attention to the movement when I was training midday with no concern for how much noise I made.

There are many other unexpected factors that play into kettlebell training early in the morning in an apartment dwelling, but I’ll end with going gentle on the getups. For all the same reasons I want to finesse my swings, I have to be sensitive to the way I come back down on the ground during the different touch points of the movement. I do the getups inside, after I finish the swings and carry the bell back upstairs. To begin there is simply the act of laying down. I can’t just collapse onto the floor. I’ve learned to get down gently, but quickly because I don’t have too much time. Do this for the first time and you appreciate the control it takes.

With the weight in hand, pushing up on the elbow, the foot, and then coming to a stand on the rise, I go soft on the ground too. Counterintuitively, this takes more effort than slamming down on the ground, because the stability is coming from my midsection when I brace myself to make minimal touches on the ground. When I get to exercise on a grassy field, I can slam down against the ground with my foot as I come up to elbow with acceleration. In my apartment when people are sleeping below me, I don’t have that option.

Whatever your situation, if you take up the kettlebell or if you’ve already been training with it, try to appreciate the quirks that come with it. Everyone has a different situation, a different home environment, different time for training, and many other factors that make the training scene unique. See every thing that life brings in your path as part of your strength training. Let it make you stronger.

Live powerfully,