“It’s a sturdy profession. And a useful one.” /// “He’ll die, uselessly, and how will I ever forgive you?” • Lincoln (2012)
“Teach them our ways so they do not suffer the shame of being useless.” • Avatar 2 (2022)
Barge-Haulers on the Volga by Ilia Repin (1873)
What I actually eat (circa Q4 2022)
Disclaimer: This is snapshot in time. This doesn’t look quite how I ate 6 months ago, and is quite a bit different than a few years ago. My approach to ‘diet’ and nutrition, or I guess food, feels like a long journey and will likely take me off into new directions in the future. One thing that has stayed relatively consistent is my interest and curiosity in what we put in our mouths all day. I’ll list out my goals, but I think food is one of those constants in life and it’s in our interest to understand it and use it to our advantage.
Inspired by this post
“You have to be able to try something, iterate on it, and make a measurement.” - Peter Atia
“The only way you can stay on top of it is to stay into it totally, ya know.” - Gerry Lopez
What am I optimizing for? I’ve long since moved past the ‘lose 10 pounds’ type of goal, and I think it’s very possible to optimize for a bunch of stuff.
- Although I’ve never really been fat, my body seems quite happy to collect visceral fat when it can. This sort of fat can affect blood glucose levels and increase my risk of many metabolic diseases. My last body scan was about 1.5 years ago and I was carrying about 18kg of fat. I don’t want any more than that.
- Muscle is very easy to lose. I want to maintain and in most cases grow muscle mass. At the moment I don’t have specific ‘strength’ goals. But I do want to hold onto lean mass.
- Indirectly, I don’t want low HDL cholesterol, elevated blood glucose, blood pressure. I want a happy heart, but I really don’t know much about this area. I would be concerned to see a high resting heart rate, but not actively trying to bring mine down.
- I believe diet can play a role in how I think and feel. I’m can be prone to feeling anxious, stressed and depressed and I eat with that in mind to some extent.
- I love exercise and am part of a triathlon club where I run, swim and ride with a bunch of likeminded folks. I need to eat to support that level of activity. I’m regularly burning over 1000 calories so I can/need to eat extra carbs.
Some foods you’ll often find in my fridge/pantry
- Orange juice
- A whole chicken
- White rice
- Nuts of all kinds
- Greek yogurt
- Whole milk
- Apples, pears
- Spinach, Chard, Broccoli
- Whey powder
Calories / Macronutrients / Ingredients
- I definitely don’t recommend counting calories, but I realized a few months ago that I could eat about 200 calories more per day, my weight did not budge, and I had a lot more energy. Sounds like a small shift, but had a big impact on my eating. Now my BMR is about 2000 cals. Any more calories I burn on top of that due to exercise, I’ll need to eat a bit more. Once you get to a weight that you’re happy with, I’d encourage people to play around with the calories, check the scale, and see what feels right (in terms of raw calories).
- For macros, I optimize for protein. If there’s one thing bodybuilders have given back to society, is the wisdom that you probably aren’t getting enough protein. I try and get 30g in the morning with breakfast, and be mindful of it at all meals. For whatever reason, my body loves carbs. I try and get a lot in after a workout or with dinner. I’d love to try out a glucose monitor and learn what a plate of white rice is really doing to me, but for now it is acceptable and part of my diet.
- in terms of what I try to keep out of my diet. I don’t know the answer really. There’s some good thoughts here. There’s certain things that seem so obviously bad that it’s easy to swerve around them. I’m not anti-sugar, but I avoid added sugar. Seed oils. Processed foods. Out of curiosity I took a glance at a packet of shredded mozeralla in my fridge, something I would have given a B- score was actually filled with tons of things like anti-caking agents, artificial flavorings and things like that. Ok, next time buy some real cheese. So you can see how easy it is for fake stuff to creep into your gut!
Example day of eating
Breakfast (emphasis on protein)
- Egg burrito and orange juice (672 cals, P: 32, F:33, C:61))
- Takeout Salmon sushi rolls and miso (1100 cal, P: 57, Fat: 33, Carb: 178)
Dinner (emphasis on carb)
- Blackbean beef stir fry (1100 cal, P:70, F:25, C:171)
- Lamb & Chickpea curry, lentils, kale (1600 cal, P:93, F:53, C:200)
Looking at this makes me suddenly feel like I could be eating a ton more fruit and veg, which I probably could.. But I do think I’ve been pretty successful and limiting processed foods for most of the time.
“A man does what he has to do. But he keeps it tight. If you’re sloppy, it’s like you’re rubbing her face in it. Bad form.”
- Bert, White Lotus (Season 2)
“Live cautiously, take care of yourself, and always try to think before saying or doing something; try to keep away from mistakes and reproaches, almost as if you were on a strict diet.”
“Every given moment in our life we are creating a file, like a computer. Automatically files are created. Each time a file is shut down, it says ‘do you want to save the file’ And we say yes. What do you want to call it? Call it serious, personal, deadline, urgency. How many serious files do you have. How many deadline files. Reality is too real. Look at that file, and (save it as) a dream. If you are able to save that file as a dream, you change your relationship to those ‘files.’
Life can feel desperately out of control when you have anxiety. You have a feeling something is out of control, but you don’t even know what it is. You feel ‘off’. You’re not present. And you’re right.
It feels out of control because Someone else is taking you for a ride. And you don’t know where they are taking you.
You have been taken for a very unpleasant, stomach churning ride all day, and now you’d like a turn. Please.
It makes sense that humans who struggle with anxiety turn to something like fitness. Fitness becomes a tool for control.
Going for a run or a bike ride can look like a habitual or impulsive decision, but it’s not a stupid idea in the slightest. You are going to “ride” yourself, like a horse.
Take swimming for example, one of my favorites. It’s cold out, but you push your body forward. You literally strip the body down. It’s quivering in the cold. You tie on a proverbial saddle and test out the whip. You race it. You make it chug and grind for hours. You give it new sensations, sweat, pain, immerse it in liquid. Hello lactate, my old friend. Afterwards, it can barely walk. That felt good.
Many humans sadly never get that stupid idea. Maybe they lack the skill, the muscle memory, environment, means, encouraging friends, or worse they have found another “saddle” to jump on.
Instead of riding their body into the dirt and exhaustion, they pump it with alcohol or drugs. It gets to the same goal, the body submits. Your body is a bit like a dog, it loves you unconditionally. It will do what you say and you’ve decided to medicate it. You are in control now. Your body staggers through the streets. The vision is impaired, blurry. Memory - systems are down, please reboot. Fists swing at things wildly. It operates cars and crashes into walls at high speed. Maybe the body broke some laws and is now cuffed and sent to a box. That’s about as sad as it gets. All while tightly saddled. You weren’t in control, so you got even more out of control.
Take something less pernicious - TV. You are flooding your body with dopamine or entrancing it with entertaining flickering lights and sounds. It’s lashed and tied by these novel stimulus. People often describe film as ‘captivating’, ‘immersive’. It takes us out of our heads and we love it, at least for a few hours.
Are there other ways to “saddle” your body? One example that seems to help for the anxious is a flow state. Giving yourself a task just hard enough to keep you occupied. It’s like giving the dog one of those balls with treats in that fall out occasionally. If you are good with numbers, being an accountant can be heaven for someone who would otherwise be fighting against their own mind all day.
I’ve used a lot of metaphors here, but it’s interesting to think about the metaphors we use to describe our lived experience and especially anxiety and feeling bad. “Ride it out.” “Blow off the cobwebs.” “Shake yourself up.” “Take a look at things differently.” All have a bit of truth to them, but can also lead us down confusing paths.
So, next time you see an old woman running the streets. Why would you hate her? You can’t blame the woman who spends hours running every day. It’s certainly not the worst use of her time. Don’t feel sorry for her, for this moment, she is in control. Certainly don’t feel jealous of her, if she’s anxious, she’s likely found running as a way to save herself, in a mostly healthy way. And of course, maybe, she’s a well adjusted person who likes to move her body very fast across hard concrete surfaces… Well that would be crazy!