Nutrition for a Better Life: 10 Powerful Tips

Healthfood

I just finished reading “Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever" by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman. It’s an ambitious book that tries to distill the latest scientific research on health into a practical set of recommendations that most of us can follow.

The premise of the book is that we should utilize all tools at our disposal right now to maximize our healthy life span, so that when more radical technology inspired life extending therapies arrive (and they will), we will be around to take advantage of them. Thus, the authors focus heavily on what is within our power to do for our health today. While chock full of recommendations regarding various topics such as testing oneself, exercising and de-stressing, I found the chapters on nutrition to be, well, mind blowing.

It’s easy to throw together a few diet recommendations and mention some case studies or testimonials supporting the theory. What I particularly enjoyed about Fantastic Voyage however is how the authors tried to explain in detail how the body works and reacts to foods, vitmins etc in a highly understandable manner. Finally, I feel like I have a reasonable grasp of my internal biochemistry, and how my diet choices affect it! On a more sombre note, I found the relationship between the food that people eat and their rates of heart disease and cancer downright scary.
I think that the authors did an excellent job of packing a lot of information into a highly readable book (albeit for the more scientifically inclined audience), without the usual baseless proselytizing that comes with so many “diet” books.

Here are a 10 of their powerful nutritional recommendations that stood out for me:
  • Cut down on carbs dramatically. Eliminate all simple sugars and most starches from your diet, and instead opt for low glycemic load carbs such as legumes (lentils, beans etc).
  • Focus heavily on eating green, or generally “above ground” vegetables. Try juicing them too. 
  • Restrict fruit intake. Include nuts, but don’t overdo it.
  • Choose fish (especially salmon) and chicken over red meat, most of the time.
  • Buy organic produce and meat as much as possible.
  • Get a tap water filter for your home.
  • Stop drinking soft drinks and coffee. Drink lots of green tea instead.
  • Drink a couple glasses of red wine every week.
  • Supplement aggressively with essential vitamins and minerals, fish oil, and also add “super nutrient” supplements to your diet such as: grape seed extract, alpha lipoic acid and resveratrol.
  • Maintain your ideal weight for your height and frame.

This is the tip of the iceberg, but the above points come up again and again. 

Personally I have followed most of these tips over the last six weeks and have successfully lost a lot of weight and measurably increased my sense of health and wellbeing.

I think it’s no coincidence that the best entrepreneurs I know are very aware of their health, and take effort to maintain it. The popular myth of startup teams surviving on pizza and coffee for weeks or months on end is exactly that (and when it happens, it doesn’t last very long).
If it’s quality of life that we are after, nutrition matters. A lot. As they like to say in Star Trek, “Live long and prosper!”

How Much Weight Can I Lose in 8 Weeks by Following The 4-Hour Body Book? And, A Personal Bet

I recently purchased the No. 1 New York Times bestselling book The 4-Hour Body by self help guru Timothy Ferriss, and ended up so engaged that I’ve read it (well, all the parts most relevant to me) twice in 2 days.

This is the book’s cover:

4-hour_body_cover

Obviously to me and 75% of the other people who’ve read this book, the most compelling sections of it are those dedicated to fat loss. Tim goes into detail about the value of starting small, tracking progress, following an effective diet and doing sometimes strange sounding things to add leverage to the whole program. If fat loss or muscle gain are something you are interested in, I recommend that you buy this book immediately.

I’ve read a lot of books on this subject, and the best books out there (such as Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto) are often excellent. The difference with Tim’s writing is that not only is it information dense, it also inspires practical action on every page. It fires you up, but also gives you the tools to do something with that motivation. Perfect for that time in someone’s life that Tim describes as their "Harajuku Moment”.

I’m not a newbie to the health and fitness movement. When I was 16 years old, I competed in my first Under 21 IFBB bodybuilding competition at a low single digit body fat percentage. Here’s a photo from that show, weighing in at 62kg:

Sheraan_bodybuilding

I didn’t place well or anything- but that wasn’t the point, and I was by far the youngest competitor there. I did it to prove to myself that I could. Eating primarily fish and vegetables with hardly any carbs for 12 weeks makes for one very cranky teenager.

In the time since then, I kept up my passionate enthusiasm for training, eating right, and looking after myself, generally weighing in at a muscular 71-74kg. Over the last 2 years, though, that commitment to my health and fitness somehow fell to pieces. They say that nobody wakes up one morning suddenly being fat, it’s rather the result of repeated bad choices that have compounded over several days, weeks and months. My weight today: 87kg.

Maybe the cause of getting fat was starting a new business, working ridiculous hours and managing stress badly and snacking on “comfort foods”, maybe it was getting into a serious relationship (which is wonderful, by the way) and having less idle time available, maybe it was all the travel, maybe it was eating out all the time… maybe it was all of the above. But making excuses and postulating about the past doesn’t change a thing. I’m still a whopping 14kg over my regular weight, and no amount of post-rationalization will change that.

Armed with the principles from The 4-Hour Body, I’ve decided to make the change. Of course I have decided to try to make changes before, and failed. Life happens. As they say in boxing, “Everybody has a plan until they get hit in the face.” But this time it’s different- this time I’m putting my goal out there in public for my all my friends to see! This idea was sparked by a psychology hack discussed in the book where people who made public bets and faced humiliation if they didn’t win were far more likely to achieve their goals.

So here is my bet: I’ll wager anybody who takes me up on it 100 bucks that I will drop my weight to 81kg in next 8 weeks, i.e lose 6kg (13 pounds). Any takers? Just email me or leave a comment. I’ll be tracking my progress publicly on this cool data measurement site here.

This was a tough post to write, but there’s no turning back now. Wish me luck!

Why International Flights Are Good for Mental Health

667airplane

In recent months, I’ve been taking more and more trips between Cape Town and San Francisco. Now, this a long flight. It generally consists of two legs, one to the Middle East or Europe then the second to the USA. Total time in the air: around 24 hours.

When it hasn’t been done in a while, long distance travel is exciting, but it quickly becomes a chore. Crossing 12 time zones, sleeping in airports and sitting on planes forever certainly exact a wicked toll on the body. Lately however, I’ve grown to appreciate what all that lonely time in the air does for my mind.

Let me explain. If you’re reading this blog, you are probably a technophile who spends a ridiculous amount of time in front of their laptop and generally enjoys working more than the average person (just like me). In my case, I fell that The problem with this behaviour is that I rarely give myself the chance to unplug- I thrive on being hyper connected all the time- so constant email, task management, Twitter and RSS are what I thrive on. Even if you can live like this without experiencing fatigue or productivity losses, I find that a key element of mental balance can easily be crowded out and forgotten: introspection.

Introspection occurs when we spend long periods alone, and delve into our mind to remember what’s important to us, what kind of people we want to be, and ask ourselves how things are going. It’s a surprisingly elusive state if you have constant access to Wifi or an iPhone with 3G in your hand. I love it. It’s a form of meditation. A session of proper introspection leaves me feeling more centered, relaxed, motivated and in control. It is highly recommended.

Of course, I could do this at home (or in a hotel) once in a while, and I should. But somehow, I always manage to get busy and stay that way. I’ll work on improving. For now though, I’ll keep appreciating the silver linings of these long distance travel clouds. And why doesn’t this apply to domestic travel, you may ask? Because one can usually get onboard Wifi on local flights of course!

—This post written 11,500m somewhere above the Atlantic. Image credit: Shutterstock.