Category Archives: Health

My rig, and simpleness

I thought it would be interesting to post up a picture of my bicycle here.  Most of the time a bike is posted on a blog it’s to talk about how fancy it is and all the features and what they cost.  Blah blah blog

A picture of the road bike.

I’m much more into simple and functional.  And cheap.  Now that’s not for everyone.  If I was older and not able to handle discomfort perhaps I would care that my bike is just a little bit small for me.  Or that it only has one gear.  If I was riding across the country, instead of across town, I would certainly care about the gear part.

Missing derailleur

But as it is, I usually ride 5-10 miles and this works just fine for me.

What you are seeing here is a $50 investment in an old frame and adding about $175 in components (and bike shop labor) making the bike a fixed gear bike. I’m a fan of simplicity and fixed gear bikes are that.  And cheap. If I were to buy a new fixed gear frame it would cost around $400 just for the frame.

I think a bike like this is a good metaphor for America in a lot of ways. We, as Americans, always feel like technology will be the answer for us. Whatever is next and newer and better is always better. I’m not so sure. James Howard Kunstler talks a lot in the Kunstlercast about the diminishing returns of technology.  I think we are squarely in the middle of this.  No one needs a bike with 30 different speeds, or carbon fiber or special low resistance wheels.  What we need are bikes that are simple, reliable and efficient.

Some technologies do make your life better. As I’m writing this I’m sitting on the back porch using a WIFI connection to “work” while I listen to birds (and not bite my kids’ ears off because they are so loud) and enjoy some peace (not withstanding all the lawn mowers chugging away).  The WIFI connection has enabled me to make any room of the house an office instead of one central spot.  It has done amazing things for the way I work while in the office as well, and for others.  To me, this is a good example of a technology that has an increasing return on my life.

Think about the technology in your life and figure out which ones make your life better, and which ones actual create a drag on your life’s momentum.  Do you still need them?  Can you jettison them?  To me, asking questions like these are the basis of living simply.


What I’ve been up to-Part 1

For over 2 years now I’ve been focused on trying to lose weight and get more healthy.  It’s for a variety of reason, and yes, vanity is in the list.  I started this journey by focusing on CrossFit, but over time I noticed that my lifestyle became more Paleo or Primal.  I’ve also started to modify my exercise along the same lines of lifting heavy objects and slow steady movement.  Hiking, biking, gardening, swimming, etc all fit into this pattern of movement.

As I got into this I realized how ridiculously sustainable this way of eating is.  I eat animals (local grass fed for the most part) and a bunch of fruits and vegetables.  The fat I eat comes from the meat, lard from the pigs I buy and some organic butter from the store.  It’s super easy to eat within your local food shed when you eat like this.  Oh sure I eat some things that aren’t local too, like bananas and sweet potatoes, but for the most part you can eat this way and eat seasonally.  All it requires is putting up more than someone who eats grains, dairy and legumes, especially since the bulk of your calories come from meat and fat which are easily sourced locally.  As opposed to a more plant based diet where grains are moved in from another location.

Living in Iowa I think about our agriculture.  It mostly consists of CAFO hog operations, beef cattle raised on pasture (until they are a certain age and shipped to feedlots), confinement egg production, corn on one side of the road and soybeans on the other.  If more consumers moved to a way of eating that was focused on a Paleo or Primal way of eating I can’t help but think of how much different our landscape would be.  Would our soil be eroding down the Mississippi at such a horrific rate?  (or see this article from the Des Moines Register)  How much cleaner would our water be?  How much more attractive would our fields be full of animals and natural plants instead of rows of corn and beans?  Would we care so much about deer populations if they just ate the grass in our fields instead of the beans and corn?

It also seems like a fairly easy way to live over the long term too.  I can grow a fair amount of the fruits and vegetables I would like to eat on a small plot of land around my house.  (I live on 1/3 of an acre so it’s not like this land is huge)  And with a small chicken coop it would be easy to raise enough eggs for us to eat.  Where I would get tripped up is the meat, though I have to say I can buy it from plenty of farmers in the area, and if something like this were to happen the amount of farmer’s selling products in this area would increase exponentially.

Of course there are plenty that say that the most sustainable way to eat is to eat a plant based diet.  I disagree.  The amount of energy involved in raising the grains for that type of diet is immense.  The energy involved in transporting those foodstuffs around the world is immense.  The erosion, pollution, isolation of farmers, disrupting communities to grow on a larger scale and ag subsidies all conspire to make me think that eating a plant based diet is not the way to go.  You can disagree with me, that’s fine with me.  But for me, my health, my pocketbook and where I live, buying my meat from a local farmer and raising as much of my own fruits and vegetables as possible seems to be the way I can live and reduce my impact on the earth.  It’s the diet that I think humans are evolved to eat.  It’s sustainable in my mind.  And it’s a great way to hedge against future food insecurity because so much of it can be raised locally.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about vegetarians, vegans, carnivores, etc.  I’ve come to the realization that making a radical choice about what you eat exists soley because of the incredible abundance that we have available to us in our current culture.  You can only be a vegan because we have unlimited choices available to us, and we have companies who are willing to invest in making alternatives to meat based products.  Additionally, if you choose to be a carnivore you can essentially only do that because of the incredible amount of meat that we are able to efficiently “grow” (not withstanding the environmental aspects of such a food production system). 

We can choose to exclude certain food choices from our diet, if we wish, because there is plenty leftover to make up for that caloric shortfall.  I think our future will different in this regard, and I think we’ll see a decrease in the amount of extreme diets that exist in the world.

For example, take the fats we choose to use.  If you are a vegan today you are required to use vegetable based fats.  I would guess that these would be mostly vegetable oils and olive oil.  Prior to our industrial age only olive oil existed in mostly useable quantities.  As our energy resources constrict will we lose some of these sources?  Will we have to shut down the manufacturing of vegetable oils because that crop is needed as a food supply?  Or is it possible that we wouldn’t even have the resouces to manufacture such oils?  If that happens I would expect we would see a shift back to animal products as our source of cooking fat, and that would make being a vegan very difficult.

The same could be said for sweeteners.  Hard core vegans won’t use honey, because the bees are exploited.  Does that mean that you will only use sugar and maple syrup?  And how available will those products be when it’s near impossible to ship products around the world as we require?  Sugar is an item that will ship fairly well, but it’s supply will still be more difficult than it is now.  Maple syrup?  I don’t know about that one.

Additionally, if you choose to live a life mostly based on meat (ala the Atkins people) is that even feasible in a world where CAFOs won’t operate?  Grazing animals takes a lot of pasture space, and if you don’t have access to the land would you be able to make this work somehow?  It would seem like you will have to eat other items so that you would have sufficient calories.  Meat will be more scarce in our future.  There is no other way for it to be.  This would have to impact what you eat.

Lately I’ve been playing around with being mostly meat free.  I’ve been eating it maybe 2 or 3 times for the past couple of weeks.  I am still eating cheese and butter, and also eggs.  Occassionally I will use millk in something.  I have noticed a marked difference in a number of things.  Things like my energy level (it’s really true), my hunger level (more fiber = less hunger it would seem) and my trips to the restroom (I’ll give no more information on that one), but I think it’s an interesting perspective.  I had always figured all those claims were a bunch of PR phooey.  But it appears to be true.  (To be fair, the Atkins people make the same claims, so believe who you want.)

I think I’ll keep eating this way.  I like it and it’s easier than cooking meat.  It really is.  But I know I’ll keep eating meat.  I don’t agree with those who say that you can get all your nutritional needs from plant products.  While it sounds good in theory, if you search our evolutionary history the last one of our ancestors that existed solely on a plant diet was around 2.5 million years ago, and they died off when the meat eating animals took over power.  The energy available from the meat in their diet allowed them the slight caloric edge to advance past the animals that were strictly plant eaters.  Most importantly it gave them the extra energy necessary to power the huge brains they would eventually process. 

This time period was before the time of agriculture, which was founded around 10,000 years ago.  Is it possible that we produce enough calories now that we farm to obtain all our calories from plant sources?  Absolutely.  What isn’t possible is for our body to evolve in 10,000 years to something different than it was 10,000 years ago.  If we needed animal products in our diet to progress 10,001 years ago (and it appears that we did) our bodies will need some animal products still today.  At least to me this seems to be the case.

My understanding of all of these things drives my food decisions.  I know I’ll eat meat, but when I do I’ll make sure to use as much of the animal as I can.  I also know that I’m going to treat it as more of a special occasion item than something you have to have with every meal, and I’ll make sure the animal was humanely raised before it was killed.

I agree with others that eating a more plant centric life is more healthy, but I don’t think going to the extreme of only eating plants is healthy either.  I believe you need a balance of nutrients, and some of these important nutrients are found in their best source in animal products.

And we fasted…

My wife and I just completed a 3 day fast.  It was a strange experience.

Honestly, it wasn’t that hard.  We juiced fruits and vegetables (mostly fruits.  there aren’t enough apples in the world to make cabbage and beets taste good when juiced) for 4 “meals” a day and enjoyed a lot of water and tea.  I thought I would be absolutely starving when I did it, but I wasn’t.  I was a little, and felt the hunger pains, but I was able to use my mind to ignore them and control them.  Reflecting on the experience more today, I think maybe it changed me more than I thought it would.  I was expecting physical changes, but my changes were mostly mental.  The only physically change I can pinpoint was that my plantar faciitis pain went away.  I didn’t feel like I detoxed like they talk about in the books at all.  I had a dull headache (which I have frequently anyway) but that was all.  My wife had a migraine and spent some time in the bathroom so maybe she was detoxing more than me?  I don’t know. 

Sunday afternoon I felt more pull to eat than I had on Friday or Sat.  (I started at dinner on Thursday)  We finally quit for a few reasons; we weren’t being very pleasant to our children so that’s not good; it’s very hard to take care of two kids when both parents are fasting; I wasn’t feeling any changes, ill effects or difference from doing it; and it was killing me to prepare meals for the kids and not be able to eat.  So we quit.  Our smallest goal was three days, but we were hoping for 7.  We didn’t make it.  I did drop 6 lbs so that’s something, although I’m sure it’s mostly food not being in my digestive system.

Some good did come of it though.  My stomach shrank which should make it easier to maintain my weight (weight is always an issue for me), a few aches and pains went away, I learned that I control my hunger not the other way around and that eating is more mental than physical.  I don’t NEED to eat right now or to have that cookie, I WANT to have that cookie.  I think that will help me in the future.  Today I feel more rested and energetic than I do normally.  Perhaps it’s because we spent the weekend sleeping when the kids slept and not running around?  But even with the fast we were able to do things. 

We both went to work on Friday.  We watched two kids over the weekend.  I cooked meals and managed to not eat any of them.  I went to the dentist and amazed the hygienist when I told her I hadn’t eaten for almost two days.  We went to a farm for a combine ride.  We still made it to church and got a ton of things around the house done.  So even though we didn’t eat, we were able to get plenty done.

What I missed most about the experience wasn’t the food, but the time in the kitchen cooking and creating the meals.  I missed enjoying the fruits of my labors to create a tasty, healthy meal.

It’s an interesting experience.  I’m not sure if I would want to do it again or not.  Maybe I didn’t give it enough time to work it’s magic?  I don’t know.  I’ll have to see how things go in the future.  If my body, physically and mentally, goes back to how it was perhaps I’ll do this again and see if that jump starts it.

Isn’t it ironic…

Don’t cha think?

Ironic that I go into the Dr’s office yesterday because she wants to check my BP and cholesterol figures, as she likes to do every so often, because they trend higher than normal most of the time.

Only this time my cholesterol numbers were down 30 points from last time, to the affect that they are now below the “bad” line.  It’s ironic I think that this would happen when I decided to give up all the “good” fats and only eat the “bad” fats.  After she told me the results I started to chuckle and told her this exact thing.  She didn’t seem exactly happy that I was doing that, but didn’t really say anything. 

Isn’t it ironic?

My BP is trending lower too.  I’m guessing this is all a result of the changes in my diet.  If anything I’m exercising less than ever (unless you count all the outside garden work and such) so the only other factor has to be the diet.

Strange how eating naturally and not by what is recommended on the food pyramid is better for you (well, me at least).

I was mentally prepared for the fight of a lifetime to stay off the cholesterol meds this time around, but it didn’t end up being necessary.  That was kind of nice.


Mother knows best

For the past 6 months I’ve been experiencing a lot of pain and stiffness in my right knee and ankle. All the Drs. I’ve been to see haven’t been about to detect any problems, except a little arthritis in my knee. It’s quite debilitating. When I wake up in the morning I hobble around like I don’t even have an ankle. It’s like my leg and foot are fused into one big unit. Not to mention the pain (I was eating 6 ibuprofen a day) and overall discomfort when doing anything physical. Even if I sat around for a while and then got up they would be locked up and didn’t want to work.

But not anymore.

I went to see the Chiropractor, hereafter referred to as the crunch. I was skeptical because well, my experience with them hasn’t been that great in the past. My mom has been going to them for 20 years and she never seems to get better. They just fix the problem for a while. I’ve been in the past and it’s always a line of “I need to see you 4 times this week and 76 times next month and I’ll take your first born as a down payment on the cost blah blah blah”, which turns me off. I expect the problem to be fixed if I come to see you. I go to the Dr with a problem. She gives me a solution. Dentist, same thing. I expect that with the crunch. They haven’t normally been like that.

But this one I found is a little different. He adjusted me and told me to come back when I was feeling poorly again. This is really the same thing as the other people, but I really have the power to determine how often I go in and it’s determined by my body not by some generic formula he has in his mind to fix my problem. Not to mention, his adjustment fixed my problem.

Anyway, when he was examing me he mentioned that my right leg was 3/4 of an inch shorter than my left leg. (I’m like yadda yadda yadda. This is one of your hooks to get people to use your service. blah blah blah) But then he adjusted my right hip (my family has a history of bad right hips) and then when I was standing up I felt like I was going to fall over to my left. He explained that was because I was really leaning over to the right when I was standing “straight” (because of the height difference) and when he made my legs equal lengths my body took a few minutes to shift it’s balance back to where it should be, so I felt disoriented. Not to mention as soon as he adjusted it I immediately felt pressure leave my whole right leg. It was the wierdest feeling. And my problem is mostly fixed. I still have some discomfort in the ankle but it is way, way less and the whole ankle feels a lot more fluid. I have thought it was strange that when I was riding my bike that my right leg had soooo much trouble pedaling the bike. I couldn’t reach the pedal for the whole stroke and my foot was always on it’s tip toe at the bottom of the stroke and jerking in a circle. The left was never like that. Now I know why. They weren’t the same length. This morning on my ride in my right foot stayed firmly planted on the pedal the whole time. (He also recommended I start taking glucosomine sulfate to lubricate my joints and that might be helping too) Now I’m wondering what caused the hip problem. I wonder if it’s my Costanza wallet…

Then he mentioned that my right shoulder was about an inch and quarter lower than the left one, showing compression on the right side of my body. This seemed to make sense to me too because whenever I sit I fall or lean over to the right side. I just figured that’s the way it was. But he smashed on my back and ribs and my shoulders got more even and my ribs opened up and I could breathe better. I feel like I have more energy now and I can breathe deeper when I’m pedaling and sleeping, meaning less tiredness for me. I’m surprised how much of a difference it has made in just a few days.

I’ve been having migraines too and he adjusted my neck but I haven’t noticed a difference there with the pressure in my head. So I don’t think that was the cause of the migraines. But we’ll see if that gets better over time.

I’m pumped that I’m feeling better after these fixes. I’m going back on Wednesday to have him check to make sure the hip stayed in place (I don’t feel like it’s moved) and we’ll keep assessing it week by week. My only regret? I should have listened to my mom months ago when she told me go there. Kids, listen to your mothers.


Evil has a new name…

And it’s name is caffeine. I decided to give up caffeine starting today, and my head is paying for it now. Man, that’s a powerful little drug.

I’m doing this in a further attempt to remove processed foods (and drinks) from my diet. Even though I was drinking diet pop for my caffeine fix I think I’ll feel better (after the initial tough few days) when I don’t have a gnawing need to get my fix each morning. And besides, it will save me a ton of money. I don’t drink coffee so that isn’t something I have to worry about.

After I get past these first tough days I’ll be fine. And then I’ll just have to watch what I drink from now on. (And eat to a certain extent)

But it doesn’t feel like a very good choice right now.

You better watch out candy, you’re next.