Archives for July 2013
Almond milk is my favorite milk-alternative out of all the others (rice, soy, etc). I find the Vanilla version to be way too sweet, so I always get the Original. But you could also get the Original… UNSWEETENED version!
The unsweetened version has only 30 calories per cup instead of 60! The reason for that difference is that evaporated cane juice” is missing in the ingredients list, so instead of 7grams of sugars there are zero. By the way, “evaporated cane juice” is a fancy way of saying TABLE SUGAR (aka sucrose).
So when you’re sick of drinking water, tea and coffee and want something a little bit more refreshing but not a ton of calories, maybe a glass of unsweetened almond milk will satisfy you! I personally use it with my cereal and since cereals are often high in carbs, I don’t need my almond milk to be either!
This is a very detailed progress report. I am going to explain what I tried, what worked and didn’t. I have learned that dieting is not a straight journey where you just keep eating at a deficit and you eventually have a 6-pack. We are extremely complex beings and our body is always trying to find ways to prevent us from losing fat for evolutionary reasons. I’ve learned more in this 6 months about weight loss and body building than ever before, particularly because this was the FIRST TIME I’ve ever been on a diet.
- Height: 5’11”
- Age: 29 years
- Weight: 180lbs down to 165lbs.
- BF%: ~20% down to ~15%.
- Waist/Hip/Thigh tape measurement is shown in the 4 month section below.
Quick word about EXERCISE and my lack of lift numbers
This post is mostly focused on diet and food. I don’t talk much about my exercise regimen but I’d like to say right here that I work out vigorously 3-6x a week. On any of those days I am doing…
- bodyweight exercises (calisthenics, gymnastics, rings),
- and god knows what else.
Suffice it to say, I do A LOT of exercise and I highly recommend exercise to be coupled with your diet plan to increase your cardiovascular health, overall well being and to speed up fat loss. The only reason I was able to eat willy-nilly before I started dieting and looked fairly good even to begin with was due to all the exercise that was balancing things out. Also, I don’t have compound lift progress numbers (squat, bench, deadlift) as I don’t have access to a regular gym, but I have progressed tremendously in my bodyweight skill work.
So I can’t tell you how much I could lift, but I’m able to do more dislocates on the flying rings now. I could hold crow pose for a minute with ease as opposed to a few seconds. I could hold peacock pose with my legs higher up than ever before. I could hold a straddled back lever on the rings for several seconds as opposed to ZERO. I could hold an advanced tuck front lever now for several seconds as opposed to ZERO. There’s tons more examples I could post… but yea, you get the idea? I don’t go to a gym and lift weights. I need to be creatively challenged. So no “lift numbers” for me although I’m curious about them as well.
It all started in early 2013…
My drive to drop some fat all started in January 2013 with a simple want to be lighter. For you see, my favorite new exercise that I discovered in 2012 were the traveling rings at Old Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, CA. As I got better at them, I realized the leaner one gets, the easier ALL bodyweight exercises become, especially anything rings-related. So I set the goal sometime in the new year to lose some weight and see what happens.
Thanks to my friend Alberts recommendation to “check out MyFinessPal,” I started calorie counting. For the first three months, my diet plan consisted of nothing else except simply counting my calories and eating at a deficit. This made me highly aware of how much food I was actually eating so I never had to second guess whether I was going over or under for the day. So basically as long as I restricted my calorie intake, I was going to be losing weight! This allowed me to eat ANYTHING! And it wasn’t so important that I stay within the calories every single day. As long as my food intake averaged out for the week in general, I was losing weight! I wrote about this start to my journey about how I started using MyFitnessPal (MFP) here: Antranik’s Counting Calories.
With just one month of calorie counting and eating at a deficit, I lost 10 pounds.
In this one month, I dropped 10 pounds. I was simply eating ~1,600 calories a day, which for me was basically a 500-1000 daily caloric deficit. (In MFP, I had set the intention to lose 2 pounds a week and it said I should eat 1,600 calories a day.) The fat melted off. My tightest jeans now felt loose on me. The fat loss didn’t continue infinitely like this obviously, but considering that I got SO much slimmer in just four weeks, that was already proof in the pudding that calories “in versus out” is a simple and effective way to lose some excess baggage. The best part was that it basically allowed me to eat anything, as long as I stayed below 1,600 calories a day (or 11,200 for the week!). So yes, I did have things like ice cream but instead of eating straight from the tub, I learned to savor a quarter cup of it with a small spoon and really make it last. What a great concept! Sure I was hungry sometimes, but it didn’t matter. As long as I kept drinking water, I felt great. When you feel like you need to eat something, but you can’t figure out what it is, it’s water. It’s always water. I just reminded myself that hunger was fat leaving the body, and it really was! I also wrote more in-depth about this time here: Turns out… losing just 10 pounds is kind of a big deal.
I stopped eating out (as much) and always brought food from home with me: As the weeks continued on, I had completely gotten in the groove of logging anything and everything that came into my mouth. If I was going out for the day, I wanted to be in control of what I was going to be eating so I would spend just 10 minutes putting some food in Tupperware containers so I’d know what I was going to be eating for lunch or dinner for the day. The containers are marked with their volumes (1 cup, 2.5 cups, etc) so it’s SUPER easy to know how much food I was taking with me. This saves money and time! Plus, I would simply log everything in MFP all at once right then and there on my phone as I packed my lunch/dinner so I wouldn’t have to do it later in the day. It became super duper easy and quick to log everything with the iPhone app. In fact, the app on my phone was even faster than the website itself.
I ended up writing this article to help share the tips: 9 tips to help calorie counting become second nature! I was also learning how to control my hunger better as it was becoming quite difficult on some days for sure. I ended up sharing some more tips here: How to Stop Eating [So Much].
Three month mark: I was down 14 pounds total and seem to have hit a weight-loss plateau. This is when I started Intermittent Fasting.
I don’t have a good 3-month photo but basically, I was looking even slimmer than before but the scale was not dropping down as rapidly as before. I had only lost 4 pounds in the last two months! So yes, it was a weight-loss plateau, BUT(!) it wasn’t a fat-loss plateau. There was still body recomposition going on and the scale was becoming useless because I know my waist/hip measurements were still going down. I also noticed I had increased vascularity (blood vessels popping out!).
Instead of eating 1,600 calories a day, I had a new goal of 1,550 calories a day. This was a minor adjustment MFP recommended for being a lighter being. (For every 10 pounds of change, MFP recalculates your caloric needs because you need less food if there is less of you. By the way, speaking of pounds… even just 5 pounds is HUGE! Look at What Five Pounds of Fat Looks Like!)
Enter Intermittent Fasting: So, unfortunately what worked super fast for the first couple months wasn’t working so well anymore. I was still eating at a straight caloric deficit but my hunger was becoming insatiable immediately after breakfast. Apparently as the fat comes off your body, your leptin (a hormone that controls satiety/hunger) levels drop because leptin is generated by the fat cells and if there’s less fat available to generate leptin, your hunger goes UP UP AND AWAY! (Because your body thinks it needs to forage for more food). And even worse, ironically the larger the breakfast I had, the greater my hunger would become! Eating 1,550 calories a day was becoming psychologically arduous and I didn’t feel I was ever being satisfied. So I researched and found out about intermittent fasting. I began by implementing the 16/8 protocol (as recommended in LeanGains). This basically means you don’t eat for 16 hours (sleep is included) and you do for the other 8 hours. So I was basically skipping breakfast and eating all the calories I normally would eat sometime between 12pm and 8pm. All of a sudden, rather than always feeling unsatisfied with tiny meals spread throughout the day, eating 1,600 calories in just 8 hours became feast-like and very satisfying! Plus, the other benefits of IF were ASTOUNDING in many other ways. I had enhanced lucidity and productivity in the mornings. I wasn’t bothered by breakfast so I wasn’t feeling hungry anymore in the mornings. I could simply go straight to work and my productivity was higher than ever until I broke my fast with some break-fast in the afternoon! I found it most rewarding to have a small to medium sized lunch to jump start the digestion process and keep me happy and then a huge dinner to top things off. (I was still counting calories, by the way, it was just the timing had changed.)
And the reason why Martin Berkhan recommends this 16/8 (up to 20/4) timing is because the fasting period is just long enough to help mobilize fat cell oxidation but short enough to prevent any muscle loss. If you fast for over 24 hours, your body starts looking for protein and it starts to break down your own muscles to get some. Anyway, I loved Intermittent Fasting so much I wrote all about it in detail here: Intermittent Fasting to Break Through my Weight Loss Plateau
Four month mark: I was looking leaner than ever. By now, I’m 3-4 weeks into 16/8 intermittent fasting and have completely embraced it as a life style choice. I also just started calorie and macro cycling for the first time.
Tape measurement progress
|Waist||34″||31.5″ (lost 2.5″)|
|Hips||35.5″||33″ (lost 1.5″)|
|Thighs||24″||23.5″ (lost 0.5″)|
As you could see in the table above, even though the scale showed only a few pounds lost in the last couple months, the tape measurements were more realistic measures!
Interesting psychological stuff about my early IF experience: In the beginning of this month, I was eating a little more than usual and the IF was partly to blame. I was eating something like 1,800 calories a day instead of 1,500. “Because sometimes you need pizza and ice cream,” as my friend said. But I know what was really going on. Come night-time, my brain would say, “You should eat more since you won’t be eating until 2pm the next day.” So late at night I would mindlessly eat a few extra hundred calories. It was almost like binge eating. But then again I had been eating at a straight-deficit with NO god damned break for FOUR MONTHS! I guess I had a lot of will power.
16/8 on workout days, 20/4 on rest days: I realized that on rest-days, I could easily go without feeling ACTUAL hunger until 4-5pm. And when I did that, staying within 1,500 calories became SO easy (and extremely satisfying). So now I was sometimes practicing 20/4 IF on rest days and 16/8 on workout days.
After I got used to IF, I started to implement the macro & calorie cycling guidelines which are the bread and butter of LeanGains. (LG includes IF, calorie cycling, macro cycling, and working out 3-4x a week.)
Calorie Cycling: I decided to stop fucking around with the overeating, hunker down and implemented one of the other facets of leangains, known as calorie cycling. Since I was eating at a deficit, I decided to continue eating at a deficit and go on a “-30/-10 cut.” That means that instead of eating the same calories day in and day out regardless of exercise, the idea here is to eat -30% of TDEE on rest days (around 1,500cal, same as before) and -10% of TDEE on workout days (1800 cal, which is sweet). So I am cycling the intake of calories.
Macro Cycling: A week after getting used to calorie cycling, I decided to implement macro cycling as well. (Macro is short for macronutrient which means the ratio of fats, carbs and protein in a food). It’s assumed that if you’re practicing calorie cycling, you’re definitely counting your calories. If you are counting your calories using MFP, the macro ratios are also being recorded. So technically I didn’t have to do anything different. Just keep counting my calories. But in reality this was a whole new level of micromanagement I was not used to.
The idea with leangains macro cycling is that you eat a…
- low-carb/high protein/high fat diet on rest days
- high-carb/high-protein/low-fat diet on workout days.
To put it briefly, this maximizes fat burning on rest days and you maximize muscle growth on workout days. If someone knows how to eat low-carb in general, then this is easy to figure out, but for someone like me who was not used to eating low-carb EVER, this was kind of a pain in the ass. But this entire year has been an ongoing, tremendous learning experience. I ended up writing this article to help make macro cycling easier: Tricks to hit your macro ratios in MyFitnessPal. I also recommend Andy’s Simplified Macro-Counting Rules if you want to make IF/LG simpler.
Side Note: In the middle of this month somewhere, I decided I want to be in the best shape of my life by my 30th birthday in October.
Here is a sample of what my leangains plan looked like: So my game plan involved a -30/-10 cut with 50/50 & 75/25 macro cycling. To help adhere to this I learned to make protein a priority everyday regardless of it being a rest day or workout day. On rest days, I will adhere to a 50/50 setup (with calorie intake of 1500; -30% of TDEE). That means that ideally I will intake 100g+ of protein and the rest of the calories will be 50% from carbs and 50% from fat. On workout days, I will adhere to a 75/25 setup (with calorie intake of about 1800 calories; -10% of TDEE) . That means that, again, I will eat 100g+ protein but the rest of the calories will be 75% from carbs and 25% from fat.
So in other words, the protein intake stays constant (throw in some eggs, low fat cottage cheese, low fat greek yogurt, meat, fish, chicken, etc) everyday. On rest days I will have a (relatively) low-carb diet (just lotsa green veggies and meat kinda day!). On workout days I can gobble up the carbs. So I’ll be saving the quinoa, beans, lentils, legumes for workout-days (they’re high in protein, low in fat, high in carbs).
COMPLICATED? YOU BET YOUR ASS IT IS! But keep in mind, I’ve been literally logging everything I’ve ate for FOUR solid months by now. I started intermittent fasting and took my time getting used to that. Then I implemented calorie cycling which was very easy to get used to. Then I added macro cycling. So I just kept adding layers of micromanagement. I didn’t jump into this from the get go, so it’s not that complicated if you take your time with it!
Five Month Mark: Many epiphanies. Two weeks of a “full diet break.” And two weeks of the “Ultimate diet 2.0”
I had a lot of epiphanies during this 5th month. I was not looking STRONG like I did in the previous pics. I thought I could simply keep eating at a deficit and just lose fat and eventually have a 6 pack, but it turns out, when you lose fat you also often lose muscle. So those “4 month” pics were taken in this perfect state when I had lost a lot of fat but the muscle was still present. I realized that if I kept this up, I was eventually going to just go from looking SKINNY AND STRONG, to just SKINNY. It’s not that the leangains wasn’t working. It was that I was burnt out from “cutting” (eating at a deficit for 5 months!!!) My body had gotten super efficient at making do with just 1,500 calories a day. I thought getting LEAN was all about eating less, but it turns out you have to sometimes eat more to raise your metabolism back up, build some muscle and then eat at a deficit again to SHOW the muscles. This being my first diet, I was scared I would gain all the fat back if I didn’t eat at a deficit. But I realized that if it takes months to lose some some fat, it also takes months of overeating to gain it, so I wrote this article: Don’t get into a cycle of feeling guilt if you allow yourself to indulge once in a while.
So in retrospect, instead of going on a -30/-10 cut, I should’ve gone on a “slow” bulk (like 0/+20) to preserve my muscle mass!
Why bodybuilders ‘bulk’ and then ‘cut’: The body cannot make muscle if it is constantly at a deficit! I learned that this is why bodybuilders go on bulk and cut cycles. They will purposely bulk up by overeating for months on end. As a result they will gain muscle but with it comes some fat despite trying to eat as clean as possible. Then when they are getting HUGE muscle-wise, they have probably gotten somewhat pudgy, so they will then go on a cut (undereating but still getting tons of protein) and lose LOTS OF FAT, REALLY FAST in 2-3 months and all of a sudden all the muscles will be revealed and they will look SHREDDED. So you can’t simply eat at a deficit, build muscle and get a 6-pack all in one cycle. When you see someone with chiseled abs, they’ve probably been working on sculpting that for YEARS!!!
Full Diet Break for 2 weeks: I discovered that it’s unhealthy to eat at a caloric deficit for months on end without any sort of break. Eventually, your body adjusts its metabolism to make do with the low amount of calories you are giving it, so losing fat becomes even harder. (Note: Intermittent fasting doesn’t slow down your metabolism. Fasting for 16-24 hours only increases it, actually. I’m talking about weeks and months of eating at a deficit!) So I discovered this article called “The Full Diet Break” by Lyle Mcdonald. It basically says that one must take a break from a diet COMPLETELY every so often for 10-14 days to get ones metabolism back up and not to mention serve as a psychological break. And the way to do it is to simply eat at maintenance (no more or less than you NORMALLY need to) and to make sure you are getting at least 150 grams of carbs a day (not difficult) because “thyroid hormones are distinctly sensitive to carbohydrate intake.”
So for 2 weeks I said screw it! I’m taking a break from all dieting. I didn’t overeat much. I simply ate when I was hungry and stopped eating when I wasn’t hungry (what a novel concept!). I did choose to still skip breakfast on most days because I didn’t genuinely feel hungry then. It was super nice to take a break from overthinking about food all the time so the psychological benefits are huge. I was still calorie counting, but in retrospect I shouldn’t have been. (I was trying to not break my 160 day streak in MFP, lol.) Oh and I was working out HELLA hard during this diet break. I had tons of energy because I was finally eating at maintenance (2,300-2500 calories instead of 1500-1800).
So after my full diet break was over, since I was enthralled by the knowledge that is all over Lyle’s Bodyrecomposition.com website, I decided to look into his extreme “Ultimate Diet 2.0” book. This is extreme because one must be advanced in weight training / and it’s really only meant for those who are already pretty lean but just want to get even leaner while still maintaining muscle mass, which is a very difficult thing to do!
Ultimate Diet 2.0 for 2 weeks: I decided that after my diet break was over, the best thing to do would be to try this new extreme diet and exercise plan. The first four days consist of low-carb meals AND you have to purposely workout HARD… AND sprinkle some cardio in that glycogen-depleted state. When you workout in a glycogen depleted state, you lose fat really fast. But the problem is, if you keep that up, you will lose muscle too. So between the 4th and 5th days, you have to eat 1,000 grams of carbs (that’s 4,000 calories of carbs alone) to create an anabolic response (to generate muscle) and keep your metabolism up all while still losing fat. Then you do the most intense workout the day after the carb load and that’s one cycle (which is 7 days). I did two of those cycles. (By the way, leangains exploits a similar concept, except instead of 4 low carb days followed by a carb up, you alternate low carb and carb up days all the time.)
Six month mark: Thanks to 2 weeks/cycles of the “Ultimate Diet 2.0”, I was looking hella-lean and strong again.
This is actually the first time in my life I was starting to see some definition in my thighs. For me my stubborn fat is all in the thighs. I kind of pretty much lost everything from the top down, in that order. (Face first, then shoulders, chest, serratus anterior, upper abs, obliques, glutes and LASTLY, the thighs). I’ve read that the places where you gain fat first is where you’ll lose it last. (If I had to surmise, I would say years of cycling my ass off and eating like a horse funneled lots of fat to my legs and generated intramuscular fat there.) So my opinion is that UD2.0 is a wonderful program, if you could stomach the glycogen-depleted workouts. I also felt like there was so much exercise involved that I could see myself getting injured if I didn’t include some more rest days in there, but I suppose that’s why there are longer-variants of UD2.0.
The UD2.0 inadvertently helped me hunker down and nail down macro cycling concepts in leangains: The UD2.0 was an incredible learning experience: A lot of the dietary concepts were directly translatable to leangains because it helped me better understand what I’m supposed to eat/avoid on a rest or workout day. The reason for that is because basically the first 4 days of UD2.0 guidelines are extremely low carb and low calories. That’s exactly the same thing one needs to do on a typical LG rest day (except the fat could be higher in LG). Then when you carb-up on day 5, the fat content must be kept super low, which is exactly what one is supposed to do on a LG workout day! Plus, on all these days the protein must be kept fairly high, which is again keeping with LG protocol. The “problem” I had with figuring this out before was that since I was constantly alternating workout days and rest days back and forth, I was unable to get a hold of the dietary concepts for long enough before the days end. Remember I said macro cycling was a whole new level of micromanagement and I wasn’t used to the low-carb idea? With UD2.0, since I was forced to sustain a low-carb diet for 4 days and then proceed to eat 1,000 grams of carbs but keep the fat below 50g, I learned so much about what foods work really well for LG! I have a log of the entire experience I will publish soon, hopefully, if anyone cares to try it one day and read how it all went.
I don’t have anymore self shots in front of mirrors since the four month mark. But I do have shirtless pics of me taken recently just a few days after I finished 2 cycles of UD2, so it coincides with the 6 month mark. So here are some before and after pics of me in NORMAL environments.
What’s next? What’s going on now?
I have learned that there is no “end” to this dieting. The body is ALWAYS changing. Always getting fatter, slimmer, stronger, weaker. We all go through cycles of overeating and undereating. I have learned to be happy with where I am and never to freak out about overeating once in a while. And overall I’ve just gotten really happy with the amount of effort I’ve put into improving myself. What started out as a simple desire to lose some fat now is something completely different. I toy with the idea of possibly having a visible six pack one day. I know I can do it. The question is, do I really care? The best benefit for getting leaner is that it makes all the bodyweight/calisthenics exercises a lot easier. I can’t wait until I could do a non-tucked front lever! Woohoo! In the mean time, I am keeping up with a varying LG recomp (-20/0 to -20/+20) which allows me to eat a good amount on workout days. will eventually do a couple more rounds of “Ultimate Diet 2.0” and then go back to the recomp (-20/+20) to best try to maintain where I’m at. I’m still using MFP to count my calories, because it’s part of my life now. I’m also definitely practicing 16/8 IF. I am very happy with the way I feel, especially because I have figured out how to get rid of my tennis elbow, I can go full steam ahead with my bodyweight routine.
Update: Since creating this article, it’s been a couple years adn I’ve honed my diet down and have made great progress with the ketogenic diet.
So in the beginning of the video, that’s my buddy CR and he’s doing some incredible tricks. When someone holds two rings and just swings back and forth like that, the sport is called the “Flying Rings.” Then later, you see my other buddy Jeremiah (great guitarist/singer!) swinging from ring to ring and that’s what we call the “Traveling Rings.”
The following video is an addendum to learning how to ride your bicycle safely on the streets. In that article, I write about the importance of taking the lane and why it is sometimes necessary to do so.
Riding in the middle of the lane makes it extremely clear to drivers FROM FAR AWAY that there is a cyclist in the lane and that there is not enough space to share the lane. This may sound scary, but it actually provides greater peace of mind than the very hazardous door zone for which you have no control over. So if you don’t take the lane and a door pops open, you’ll swerve left and if a car happens to be inches next to you (a highly possible scenario), then you will be trampled. And if you don’t swerve left, then you go straight into the door. Not cool at all.
Sometimes when you’re commuting by bicycle, you have to be ballsy like this. And drivers won’t understand. They’ll probably even honk at you. Try to forgive them of their ignorance for they just have no clue on the kinds of hazards you’re dealing with.
Note: Tennis Elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis. It is in references to outer elbow pain, not inner.
When I first started to experience tennis elbow pain, I thought it was temporary. Days and weeks passed by and it wasn’t getting better at all. I tried to do so many things to make it feel better but it literally took months to figure out what works and what doesn’t. There were many times where I felt utterly hopeless and depressed because I thought it was never, ever going to go away. I thought it was a permanent condition. Well, luckily for me (and you!), I figured out how to keep the pain at bay. I learned that it doesn’t have to be permanent. It’s more about pain management and understanding what makes it worse and what makes it better.
Note: These are all tools in your toolbox. Not one thing is going to completely fix everything. You have to try many things and have patience!
Rest. Avoid moves that create pain. Never work through the pain.
Implement Specific Exercises for Rehabilitation
Strengthen the Extensor Muscles
Stretch your wrists, fingers and arms
Cross Friction massage
Roll all over a Lacrosse Ball
MobilityWOD’s unorthodox (but extremely powerful) method
Sleeping Position: Learn to sleep on your back
Supplement with Protein if you aren’t getting enough and Vitamin C (but avoid separate Calcium/Vitamin D supplement)
Tennis Elbow STRAP: For the laborer (or pro athlete) who cannot avoid pain-inducing movements because their job depends on it.
Feeling Better? Want to go back to working out? Great! But rest one MORE week and when you start, keep the weight low and the reps high!
Anyway, I hope these things help provide some insight. I know there are even more exercises that can be used to help you, so please don’t give up hope. And remember, these exercises aren’t going to do themselves. You have to be proactive in your health. Most importantly, remember that tendinitis is an overuse injury. If you’ve learned anything from this post, it should be that you need to take a long break from the motions that aggravate the elbow for you and work on strengthening everything else. Muscles may heal in a couple days but tendons and bones take a lot longer than that so just do everything in your power and have patience! Once you start becoming pain-free, don’t stop the exercises! The stronger you can make your arm through gradual and safe progress, the better! And last but not least, don’t hesitate to go to a physical therapist.
I was just playing around on the grass the other day and upon reviewing the video I decided to show this part because it’s not too difficult and an interesting hip opener yet I don’t see it done too often. Doing the whole sequence with your foot like that forces you to engage your core in a different way and opens your hips up in the process.
If you never tried this before, just hang out in side plank (vashistasana) with your foot on your inner thigh, just like you would in tree pose. If you can’t get your foot above the knee, put it on your lower leg instead. Just don’t rest your foot ON the knee because pressure on the knee joint in that position isn’t a good idea. Either have your foot be on your inner thigh or lower leg, but not on the knee. (These alignment-safety-tips apply to the regular ol’ standing-tree-pose.)
I was volunteering in the ER of a hospital the other day and when the bed/room for a patient becomes ready, I escort them to it. I looked at the next chart and I was supposed to be looking for an 88 year old male with a Japanese looking name.
I glanced around the room looking for someone super-old (possibly in the wheelchair?) to see if I could figure out who it is just before I call their name out. I called the last name and this Japanese man and someone who was clearly his wife both stood up and they both looked like they were 60!
So that made me think of that stereotype of how some people say Asian people don’t age. But then I kept wondering why that is or if that is even true? I figured I was just experiencing confirmation bias.
Anyway, moving on… since I’ve been spending lots of time outdoors lately, I’ve been wearing a hat because I don’t want the skin on my face to look destroyed prematurely. (Tanning from UV rays destroys skin in case you haven’t heard.)
So today I remembered that in some Asian cultures (I think all the East Asian ones like Japanese, Korean, Chinese) always strive to have fair/white/pale skin. Because apparently traditionally the whiter, the more attractive it is to them. So they often try to cover their skin up and wear giant hats.
So is that why they tend to look like they haven’t aged much at all? I guess it helps that they tend to have small statures to make them look more child-like, but I think this sun-coverage thing makes sense. What do you guys think?
I’ll leave you with some hilarious pic of sun-coverage gone extreme.
So for years I’ve wanted to grow my own food. I feel it’s a shame that we waste countless gallons of water everyday on grass and shrubs that don’t produce any food we can actually eat. Forget that idea of the perfect American lawn. That shit’s stupid. It would be much nicer if that water was going toward growing delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs. Especially for me, as I live in Southern California, where we have a very temperate, easy-going Mediterranean climate where we could grow just about anything without worrying about frost, flooding or tornadoes. We also don’t get a lot of rain naturally, so that makes it even more imperative for me to use my water wisely. As you can see below, I’ve effectively convinced my parents to plant drought-tolerant succulents with beautiful success.
So today I kept thinking about what I need to do to start my own garden that produces my own food. I thought about making my own raised soil beds for growing vegetables in the backyard and planting fruit trees in the front yard. I thought about how I used to grow morning glory vines up a trellis cause they were beautiful and how I could do the same, but this time with beans or cucumbers because those are vines as well!
In between all these thoughts I’d tell myself that I need some great soil to do all this and that I should start composting. This is something I’ve felt I needed to do even before I thought about growing my own food because we throw away tons of food scraps and paper that could easily decompose into the most perfect nutrient-rich soil for plants.
So I decided that before I start any sort of garden, I need to make composting a part of my life and educate my family members in the home on how to go about it. Here’s the plan I setup and it’s been working marvelously. The great thing about all any of these setups geared for sustainability are that the hard part is just the initial effort and then afterwards it’s easy peasy.
Step 1: Add Trash Cans for “Greens” and “Browns”
We initially had two bins in the kitchen: One for trash and one for recycling. You probably have a similar setup. You’re basically going to have to add two more because you have to save the “greens” and “browns” separately.
The “greens” are essentially all the wet, moist organic scraps such as banana peels, orange peels, carrot rinds, dead flowers, etc. The “browns” are everything paper-related (carbon!) such as napkins, paper towels, bills, newspaper, junk mail, thin cardboard, egg cartons, etc. Coincidentally, the “browns” are often many things that would have gone straight into the traditional recycling bin.
To compost properly, we need to have at least a 3:1 ratio of browns to greens, so for that reason I’ll be collecting them separately in the kitchen and then putting them into a compost heap with the proper ratio.
Long story short, I was ultimately going to need FOUR bins in my kitchen for waste.
- Greens (Mostly wet organic stuff)
- Browns (Mostly paper/carbon)
- Recycling (Glass, Plastic)
- Trash (Everything else)
To make this work, I took a trash bin from the garage that I rarely used and an extra one from one of the bathrooms and put them in an inconspicuous part of the kitchen.
Next, I made this list (update: I’m trying to find this file! will add link soon) and printed it out so that I and everyone else at home could refer to it until we get comfortable with understanding what’s okay and what’s not okay to put in the bins and where is appropriate.
I spent about five minutes educating my family on what these changes were for. I showed them the list and explained to them what greens and browns are. In the beginning they were kinda annoyed (cause people don’t like change) but they quickly realized there’s nothing difficult about this. I tested them at the end like a good teacher. I got a banana peel and asked them where it goes (answer: in the greens). Then I got a scrap piece of paper and asked where this goes (answer: not in the recycling, but in the browns). So that’s pretty easy.
As the greens fill up in the kitchen, I can’t dump them straight into the compost bin outside until I have the appropriate ratio (remember a 3:1 brown to green ratio). So I got two big potting containers and labeled them as greens and browns and put them outside. As the kitchen bins fill up, I take them out and put them in these containers. It turns out that there’s tons of “browns” in the form of dead-brush and leaves around my house I could use. So the limiting factor was waiting till there was enough greens (organic kitchen scraps) to combine the two.
Before I continue, look at how pretty the “greens” look…
Next, designate a spot for the compost.
There’s a lot of ways to go about this and it’s mostly just about aesthetics. Just know that you don’t have to spend any money if you didn’t want to. You could throw it in a pile if you wanted. If you want you could construct your own bin too, but it’s probably most efficient if you just buy a compost bin from Amazon or your local hardware store.
Directions: As your greens build up, you dump the greens in the bin, add three times the browns in there, and throw a small shovel of soil on top to introduce the natural microorganisms into the mix. Keep the lid open to not promote anaerobic activity (which smell fouls) and in a few months the bottom of that bin will be completely decomposed and be the finest soil in the neighborhood! It helps to aerate (introduce air) into the compost by rolling the bin around or sticking a pitch fork in there and moving stuff around as well.
After I got that going for me, I went to the local OSH (Orchard Hardware Supply) and bought a couple hundred earthworms for $12. I took some of the compost out, added the earthworms and then threw the compost back in. The worms will eat up the compost like mad and increase the rate at which the compost will be ready. Plus, they will double in numbers every 90 days. This is known as vermicomposting (as opposed to plain-jane composting). The difference with the worms is that you should lightly water the compost heap after you add your greens and browns so the worms don’t dry out and if where you live gets hot, try to keep the bin out of the direct sunlight so they don’t overheat and die out. You could also order these red wiggler worms online that are perfect for composting, but be careful about shipping in the summer months as the heat will probably kill them by the time they arrive.
So that’s that. It’s all setup. It only took a tiny bit of effort on my part and now the system will keep producing perfect soil for years to come. Next step is to create the raised beds to actually grow FOOD!
I did this for my brother. Several weeks preceding his birthday, I attuned myself toward thinking what gift he would love and knowing him, I knew he will take an experience over a physical gift any day, so I decided to get him a ticket to a 5-day music and arts festival he wanted to go to. Problem was, the ticket was $260 and I didn’t have that much money either.
So I decided to create a Facebook Group, set it to secret, named it the “Collective Bday Gift for Armand (Ticket to ABC),” and I invited people that were close to him and would potentially help get him a birthday gift.
The first post I made explained in detail about what the point of this group was and gave my paypal e-mail address so that people could send money to me using PayPal. I also told them to invite any other friends they think may want to contribute to this also and to NOT invite Armand to this group as this was going to be a surprise.
For every two or three donations I received, I made a new wall post in the group tagging the donors and thanking them for their donations. I purposely didn’t say how much each person donated as that is irrelevant. You don’t want to make anyone feel bad for donating too little (or too much!). What you do want to say is the total you’ve reached. This helps encourage the stragglers who are lagging to donate too, especially when they realize there’s only a few bucks left to hit the goal.
People started sending an average of $10-20 bucks each and by the 3rd week we easily had the $260 needed to get his birthday gift.
Once I had the ticket, I took a snapshot of the receipt that I had bought it and uploaded it to the group to show everyone I got the ticket.
Then, on the morning of my brothers birthday…
Then, on the morning of my brothers birthday, I added him to the “secret” group and then made a post in it wishing him happy birthday, explicitly tagging his name (@Name) so he’d see that in his notifications too.
He was quite shocked and elated and loved that his gift was going to be an experience (and not a physical thing). He was able to also go down the list of wall posts I had made to see who had donated and he was thanking each one individually.
Anyway.. hope that helps!
By the way, do you want to do this for someone you love, but not sure what to get them? Check out this article I wrote on How to Buy a Good Gift.