There are certainly two ways to look at this situation. The first is through fearful and anxiety ridden eyes. It was that guy at the supermarket that looked at me as if I was one of the ‘infected’. No smile or salutation…just a hairy eyeball and a return to the mission at hand…toilet paper.
I get it. I understand the anxiety…of course. It’s natural, and so much change and adversity is upon us. The weight of it all can be too much to manage. But there is another way to look at this. Perhaps a perspective of optimism, gratitude, and cohesion are due.
I can’t think of another time when our world has been so united in our goals. The amount of ‘sharing’ that’s going on right now is unbelievable. It needs to be recognized. Scientists and governments around the world…typically hoarding and protecting information for themselves…are now communicating more than ever! Outside of that, people, businesses, non-profits, and the rest are sharing just as much. I’ve seen so much of people helping others in the past week…it’s been extraordinary.
Businesses aren’t simply grasping at customers who have gone home…they are connecting and collaborating…they are innovating and adapting to consumer needs and wants…they are helping others who need it more. Neighbors are checking on one another, delivering for others, communicating more. Families are uniting as well, and learning about each other like we never would have. How lucky are we?!
I spoke about this in a recent insta post @thorpe42:
All too often, we lose sight of the most meaningful of things because we’re focused outward on side dishes.
That’s ok…it usually means times are good, and that we’re fortunate enough…fulfilled enough…to start reaching and discovering, tasting and trying.
This time can be seen as such a helpful reminder to value your core, the people close to you, and your home base.
Time with the kids, the sibs, the parents…your inner circle…is such a blessing.
‘But the kids are missing out on school and education!’
Honestly, this forced adversity that kids are going through right now…the necessity for them to be flexible and adapt…the time that kids (and parents) get to spend with family and their ability to learn about relatives and their own heritage, identity, self-awareness…the education they’ll obtain from this could be argued to be much more valuable than whatever was in the curriculum for the rest of the school year.
We will get through this…and look back on this time. We got this! It will be a blip on the radar. You get to choose how it will be remembered. I wish you the best…all love!
He woke first in the cottage…the others still recuperating from yesterday’s movement and conversations. He had an idea to go grab some donuts at the infamous bakery nearby, and he romanticized a moment in his mind about his child and her cousins devouring their chosen flavor, while his sisters thanked him and looked at him admirably. Sometimes, he thought, you can get what you need from a moment simply by imagining it, and then consuming the accompanying emotions.
He decided not to go, and instead went to the small hallway bathroom to splash some cold water on the back of his neck and face. Wiping away yesterday seemed logical…practical even. And because he knew today would call for more demands, more love, more sacrifice and compromise, he understood the need for a fresh start.
Seagulls careened and cried over the cottage, and a young piping plover let out his first innocent and faint whistle. It barely registered. His feathered body neatly tucked and tufted. The man then made his way to the large kitchen, open to windows and a slider that invited in a view of the ocean. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but there was enough light for getting around effortlessly. He found the coffee that one of his sisters brought…chose a dark, south-american blend, and placed the small plastic cup that the grounds were housed in, into the high-tech machine that miraculously pokes a perfect hole in the top and bottom of the cup, and then cleverly streams already heated water through. He hated to see and process the brand name on the machine, and considered that it was too early for such commercial and consumer thought. He was still somewhat pure at this time. Still dis-infected. And it’s best to prolong such exposure indefinitely.
But as he pulled the handle of the machine toward himself, closing the hood and housing, and creating a locking ‘snap’ sound, as well as the puncture wound to the cup…there it was…proud and inevitable: Keurig. ‘Fuck you,’ he thought. Then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath through his nose, as he had been instructed in the latest self-improvement book he was reading. You see, it’s tough when you take a thousand steps in what you think is the right direction, but then you realize that something so minute…something so very inconsequential…ironically has the ability to break you right back down to where you choose swears for the first spoken words of the day. This man never cursed. But this brown disposable cup, this shell of his body, this upcoming day, would sadly only get one shot…one walk through…before being consumed and disposed of…never thought of again.
Now…something was flashing. A searing, bright green light illuminating 3 buttons, demanding a decision. The man adjusted his glasses and reluctantly leaned forward to investigate. He found that in order for this machine to create the ideal individualized caffeinated beverage yet, he’d need to select a size, by pushing one of the representative selections. ‘Small, medium, or large,’ he thought as he took in the mini computerized illustrations of cups on each button. But as his index finger approached a choice, and hovered back and forth over the flashing lights, he gave up. It was too much, too early. ‘Jesus’, he said…letting out his second curse word before 5am. He lifted the handle on the machine, unlocking it and exposing the wounded cup. From the hole seeped out a small waft of south American notes: bright acidity, citrus, chocolate. It reached his olfactory senses almost instantly…and that would have to be sufficient. It was all he needed actually. To be taken somewhere…elsewhere.
He turned, and his gaze reached across the kitchen, cut through the bay window, and met some small cresting waves…the tips seeking the newly arriving sunlight on the horizon. The tide was coming in. The man thought that going out to see that, and allowing himself to be part of that, would be much more significant and meaningful than anything else in the world. It was the choice to make at this moment. He slowly labored across the cold, sand covered tiles of the cottage floor, cracked open the glass slider releasing the pressure from both sides, and emerged into his day.
Is your pulse quickening? Your blood pressure rising? Could your heart be working a bit of overtime during this stressful situation we find ourselves in? Well, first acknowledge that your body is responding appropriately…it’s stimulating body processes mostly through the sympathetic side of the nervous system, preparing you for fight or flight. That certainly can be an effective and necessary part of our existence. But that can’t be our ‘normal’. Within the stormy seas, we must instill instances of calm and peace, in order to right the ship…and guide ourselves to shore. Let’s get there together:
Breathe – Not just any breathing…close your mouth and breathe through the nose! Mouth breathing, which way too many of us do way too much of the time…is sourced in the upper chest, and is directly connected to the sympathetic system. Think of the mouth as being created for eating and talking…ok kissing too! The nose should be used for the breath. It sterilizes, filters, and warms the air before it enters the lungs. It encourages diaphragmatic breathing, drawing from the low abdomen (and using the diaphragm). This is directly connected to the para-sympathetic system, in which your body is allowed to rest and recover. Bonus: breathing through your nose encourages your sinuses to release the gas nitric oxide, which has been found to dilate blood vessels therefore lowering blood pressure…like what? How cool is that?
Exercise –Fight the urge to discover more couch time…until you get your heart rate up through exercise. Whether it’s on the yoga mat, or out in Mother nature, it’s been long known that exercise is good not just physically…but psychologically. When you’re done moving, you’ll simply feel like a beast for doing so, but your body and mind will also seek out that R + R that leads to a calm state. Humans were made to move…and many health problems could be worked on simply by less sitting, and more moving.
BRRRRRRRRR – If you want to find calm in the storm…you need to brave the cold. You’re probably thinking that being cold will add stress to the situation…not taketh away! It’s true, you may feel stressed during the cold exposure. But when you are done, you feel like a gladiator that’s just conquered everything in the Colosseum. And actually, I often quickly fall into a deep, slow breathing state in the ice bath. I’m definitely not saying it’s easy to build up the bravery to hop in…but it’s worth asking: what has been easily achieved that is worthy? Anyway, the mental feat leads you to a wonderful state of calm and collected. And once you feel your body warm itself back up after feeling as if you were hypothermic, you’ll start to wonder about what other super-human strengths you may be concealing. Our ancestors roamed around in animal skins, and found enough heat sleeping on the ground. We crank the heat, wear pajamas, and then add blankets for another layer of warmth. Stop the madness and find the cool air or water. Physically, the cold removes inflammation and helps with pain, encourages autophagy (cellular break down and repair), aids in the fat burning process, and helps you sleep better. A good way to start is by turning the faucet cold in the shower, and then getting more comfortable with that. There are some more details on that here. Good luck.
Meditate –The research on meditation is wide and deep. The act of sitting and focusing on the breath (through the nose of course), is practical, functional, multi-faceted, and has no down side. With all of the potential benefits spanning emotional and physical well-being, everyone should find a way in. To start, sit cris-cross on a small pillow (or sit in a chair if restricted…with feet on the floor). Then guide your mind to your breathing pattern…just observe the breath. Your mind will soon flee to a concern or a wonder or an idea. Don’t judge this distraction…don’t be harsh on yourself, just gently guide your mind back to the breath. With each cycle, you’ll become more and more conscious of yourself. And this awareness will prove to help you through the rest of your day, as you become more and more conscious of your actions…your re-actions.
Produce – For the most part, when many of us want to relax, calm down, chill…we consume. We watch videos, we read books, we scroll through feeds, we eat….we ‘take in’ something. This is input. Much of it is good and worthy. Actually, some if it is completely necessary. But we have a habit (especially Americans) of consuming way too much…way too often. And we also yearn for some type of fulfillment within that consumption. There is a hoping or wishing connected to it. A great way to feel more purposeful and content is to consider the other side of the coin…and think about production. When we produce or ‘make’ something, we build confidence, we contribute to our own identity, we put our mark on something…and more often than not, our something can help others in some way. To produce is to put out something, to create…it’s creative! If you are stressed out, anxious, or frustrated…try this: Take a day…and all the times you reach to ‘consume’ something, spend that time on ‘producing’ something. It could be writing, drawing, cooking, baking, creating a post on social media, crafting, dancing, acting, even exercising or playing a sport could be thought of as a creative expression of production. When you are done, check in with yourself, and gauge your level of contentment. I hope you were swayed in the right direction.
I wish you the best during the times of most adversity. Please comment if this was helpful, or how it could be improved in any way. Your feedback is valuable to me!
Humans have such an interesting relationship with food. Compared to other creatures, we’ve gone way beyond our fundamental needs for intake, and moved into developing foods that actually can’t even be considered food. In addition to that, and because of the ease and accessibility with which we’ve come to obtain and store our foods, we have drastically changed ‘when’ we choose to eat.
We might start consuming a minute after waking. We may even take food into our bed at night. This has created a unique, and some would say unhealthy relationship between food and humans. It takes us away from our fundamental and biological need for sustenance, and moves into other areas in which we eat out of boredom, to fix a negative feeling, or because we ‘think’ we’re hungry. It’s also simply led us to lead less healthy lives.
A really effective way to gain perspective on our relationship with food, is to compare oneself with a human of the past that would practice a hunter/gatherer type of lifestyle. It’s the original and pure archetype that we’ve evolved from. We have of course, become much more efficient, much more secure, and we’ve improved in so many ways. That can’t be overstated. And there are technological developments around food that have created immense growth and improved health for humans. In fact, there are many shortcuts (hacks), supplements, and other methods that people can employ to maintain a healthy diet. But the practices of the past have a lot to offer too…and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Let’s consider how a hunter-gatherer might have lived thousands of years ago. They would wake up with the sun in the morning… without a full pantry and refrigerator. And before they discovered effective methods for storing food (salts, cooling), it was very difficult to save food day to day. That meant going out each day and foraging for edible plants. It meant fishing, or hunting down an animal. And hopefully, by the afternoon, it meant returning to the village with a meal for the family or community. This means that for the most part, these people weren’t eating a morning meal of breakfast, and that they sometimes wouldn’t eat a thing until the afternoon or evening.
Growing up in today’s society…you might hear the phrase, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’…and of course, that argument can be made. However, learning from our primal roots and ancestors, we can gain a very healthy, alternative lifestyle with an approach that I’d agree with, and instead suggests that ‘breakfast is the meal that should be skipped…most days.’
By skipping breakfast (and you’ve probably noticed how the word is made up of ‘break’ and ‘fast’) we can prolong our ‘fasting’ (or not eating) period, and therefore restrict the time during which we are eating and consequently digesting. This is referred to as Time Restricted Eating. Instead of eating at say 8am, you can wait until noon. Another way to shorten this eating window is to stop eating earlier in the evening. Instead of packing in a bunch of food right before bed, maybe around 10pm, you can stop eating for the day…say at 8pm. Therefore, you’d be utilizing an 8 hour eating window (12 noon until 8pm), and a 16 hour fasting period (8pm until noon the next day). This is in contrast to a typical eating window of 8am until 10pm, which is a 14 hour eating window paired with a 10 hour fasting period.
…’breakfast is the meal that should be skipped…most days.’
That’s a difference of 6 hours of intermittent fasting every day. Well…why does that matter? And why would anyone want to shorten their eating window, and practice Time Restricted Eating?
Research has proved that eating within a shorter period of time each day simply leads to living longer. That’s lifespan. The literature reveals that chronic diseases and metabolic degradation (the waning ability of our cells to process energy efficiently as we age) can be prolonged by this intriguing adjustment of when we eat. It should be noted that most of the research has been done on mice and worms. Take that as you will.
Lifespan is and should be important to most of us, as we typically want to be here as long as possible. However, I believe a more attractive goal, and one that we probably all want more than lifespan…is Healthspan. This is the length of time that we’ll live a ‘healthy’ lifestyle, and one without chronic disease. It’s safe to say that we wouldn’t want to live a long long time if that time is filled with disease, ailments, bed ridden days, and other challenges. Maybe it beats the alternatives? It’s hard to say.
It’s safe to say though, that we all want to be healthy…for as long as possible. Time Restricted Eating (TRE) also helps there. It’s been proven to assist in weight loss, in discouraging the risk of diabetes, and in a general reduction in one’s glycemic response to meals. This response is an effective measure of metabolic health…and is a reflection of overall health. TRE has also been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce insulin levels, and reduce oxidative stress in those who practice. Oxidative stress takes place when too many free radical molecules are roaming the body. It leads to a host of negative health issues for individuals. We can help rid ourselves of them with antioxidants, but when the levels are too high, we suffer.
Shortening the eating window has also proven to increase aerobic abilities, as well as increase lean muscle mass while burning fat. Our bodies mostly use carbohydrates or glucose to burn for energy. When those stores are depleted, we begin to use fat for energy. If we lengthen our fasting period, we lengthen the time that we burn fat. Interesting.
Just like light and dark, eating or fasting are unavoidably intertwined with the circadian rhythms in the body. Disrupting our bodies internal clocks through untimely light exposure and/or eating at unregulated times can contribute to all kinds of health issues, from obesity to cancer to you guessed it…trouble with sleep.
By shortening the eating window, and practicing consistency within when we eat, we can closely align our lifestyle with our own circadian system, actually supporting our biological need to sleep, rest, recover, repair.
When we awake, we can usually kick-start our bodies effectively with light, or a little water. A healthy salt or electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, potassium) in your water can help here if necessary. The body has gone without water for about 8 hours while sleeping. If we did that to ourselves during the waking hours, we’d certain start feeling signs of dehydration. Surprisingly, most of us consume coffee upon waking. Coffee is a diuretic though, and can lead to more dehydration. It’s actually pretty counterproductive to a healthy start to the day. Coffee does however come with some health benefits, but if you’re drinking coffee for health, consuming it directly upon waking is not the most effective method. And sure…caffeine will definitely assist you in the waking process. However, after we’ve hydrated in the morning , the sunlight does very well sending sufficient signals to our bodies…that it’s go time! Living in a place without much sun, or during seasons with less sun exposure will of course call for more substantial support from other methods.
I’ve written more on waking, morning routines, and what I find effective here and here.
Where most of us could use more help though, is at night when most of us eat very late into the evening…almost right up to bedtime. This practice is certainly deleterious to our health, and doesn’t align at all with our internal clocks, which naturally want to shut down and not begin the long process of digesting newly introduced foods. On top of that, our body processes the same food differently, at different times throughout the day. It’s worth noting here that in general, we have a more sensitive glycemic index as the day goes on, causing more fluctuations in blood sugar levels later in the day.
My Fasting Experience
My first time trying this was this year (2019), from April 1 to July 13. I was going on vacation on July 14, so I figured it was a good deadline to give myself. I then gave it another go from July 22 to October 12. I also practiced 2 ‘prolonged fasts’ this year…both for about 36 hours. I’ll touch more on those in another piece. I do want to incorporate 3 or 4 of those prolonged fasts each year moving forward. During my intermittent fasting though, I practiced the 12 noon to 8pm eating window, and the 8pm to noon fasting window. For the most part, I did this 7 days a week. However, sometimes I would skip it during one of the weekend days. In my research, I found that even doing this 3 or 4 days a week…or even practicing every other day…still delivers health benefits. Interestingly enough though, fasting somewhat follows the ‘if some is good, more is better’ adage. Obviously, safety and contacting a medical professional is important prior to practicing but…the shorter the eating windows, and the longer the intermittent or prolonged fasts…the more compounded the positive results become.
Anecdotally, TRE creates more sustained and consistent levels of energy for me throughout the day. This could have something to do with using fat as energy as opposed to carbohydrates, and I’ll be researching that more in the future. But it’s also a byproduct of a healthier glycemic index as noted above. I don’t feel as much of a spike in energy soon after eating, and I certainly don’t feel that drowsy crash that I used to feel after eating lunch. I still do consume caffeine in the form of a cup or two of coffee a day, and can notice a manipulation of energy with that. But generally, I feel a more stable sense of readiness and vitality throughout a given day.
I’d also say that I’ve experienced more mental clarity, alertness, and focus during fasted states (prolonged or intermittent). Upon waking in the morning after my prolonged fasts, I’ve felt a ‘lightness’ or refreshed feeling. Many writers and creators have found success ‘creating’ things while in that state. This may be related to the research literature that shows that fasting encourages the neuroplasticity within your brain, maintaining effective and efficient neural networks… resulting in better memory retention, better ability to learn new things, and better recovery from trauma or injury. Having ‘elastic brain’ also helps to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Wow!
I should comment on the unexpected benefit that I’ve found with fasting. My relationship with food, and my mindset surrounding food has drastically changed. I’ve noticed that with many good practices (food or other), there are these side-dish benefits if you will, that maybe weren’t the goal or focus…but are helpful nonetheless. As people started using the phrase ‘hangry’, I totally identified with it. This was before trying any fasting at all. I felt that I needed to be full to feel right, and that if I didn’t have food often, I’d quickly start to feel poorly, physically and mentally. That was just mental weakness though. I can comfortably say that after the smaller, consistent practice of shortening my daily eating window, as well as practicing two prolonged fasts (one for 36 hours and the next for 38), I’ve been forced to reset and reevaluate my definition of hungry, and reconfigure what it means for me to ‘need’ food. Listen, I still LOVE food. I still have a sweet tooth. I still crave scallops and risotto, good bread and red wine. In fact, this fasting process has helped me appreciate foods and flavors more, recognizing their true value and benefit…maybe as fuel, maybe as escape…maybe even as entertainment. It’s all worth our consideration, and I believe that at least a healthy awareness is very beneficial to all of us, especially as we move into shaping when and what the next generation is eating.
So What Should I Do Now?
I often try things before knowing how they’ll affect me. I enjoy the process of doing before thinking. One area in which I’d like to improve though, is after experimenting, experiencing, and researching…coming up with some short, practical and functional ideas that ‘sum up’ what I’ve learned. Here is some advice I’d give to myself. I hope it helps you in some way:
Shorten the window in which I eat each day…as often as possible. Start with maybe a 10 hour eating window, and move to an 8 or 6 hour window. Remember…health benefits compound with shorter and shorter windows
3 or 4 prolonged fasts a year. At least 24 hours. Try for a 72 hour fast after experienced
Consider not having coffee until later. In actuality, even black coffee does break a fast, as the body needs to metabolize the caffeine. And, it’s a diuretic. If needed while fasting though, black only!
Experiment and document more. Share and learn with others who are doing the same. Seek out leaders on this topic, and engage in conversations to learn
Move on to the next…learning more about Ketosis, using fat for energy, and also…my own genetic pre-disposition for metabolism with things like genetic history and blood testing
Thank you for reading, and please let me know your experiences with fasting, or your relationship with food!
Real simple…perform these morning routines as often as possible, and you’ll enter your day feeling like a beast…like nothing can hold you back…nothing can stop you. You’ll emerge out of your cave, feeling more ready to crush what the world has to offer you. And you’ll find that these routines transfer to discipline and vitality in other times of your day as well.
Let’s get to it… 1. Breathe
The first thing you should do immediately upon waking, is to take a deep, cleansing breath. Use it to send a signal to the rest of your body that it’s time to start moving again. Also use it as a moment to practice gratitude. You can choose to focus on a particular person in your life, being thankful for them or wishing them the best of days. Or, you can simply focus on the incredible opportunity afforded to you in being able to wake up and confront another day. Gently crack a smile while you take this deliberate breath. All of this together provides a subtle, yet powerful and positive start to your day. Some folks roll over and groan thinking, ‘oh crap…another day’. Don’t let that be your beginning.
At some point in your morning, you need to perform some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice. This is a great ‘clean up’ of the mind in a sense. It helps to store away the stirring and swarming thoughts from yesterday…into the correct files and folders. It also allows you to connect with your deeper purpose for the day. Just sit and breathe. No phone, no laptop yet. Just you and the breath. I like to start with some deep belly breathing, focusing my mind on good oxygen coming in, and the used-up air going out. After that, I like to seep into letting the body breathe only as much as it needs. This is a quieter and calmer breath, but you’re still able to focus on it. You can sometimes hear and/or feel the heart here as well. Just pay attention to body and the breath. When external thoughts come in…notice them, and gently guide them away. You’ll get better at that with time. Don’t get frustrated early on with this part. It takes a lot of practice.
Breathe upon Waking.
Before I actually get into my meditation practice, I down a good sized glass of water. Immediately after waking, your body is dehydrated. It’s gone somewhere around 8 hours without fluids. Don’t go straight to the coffee (which is a diuretic, and can dehydrate you even more)….you can get to that after the water. I actually take my coffee while I sit for meditation. This may not work for some people, as the caffeine may cause more stimulation, making it harder to only focus on that breath. It doesn’t have that effect for me, so I combine the approximately 15 minutes of sitting with a nice warm cup. It’s really something to look forward to. If you need more ‘me time’…this is it.
The Elixir of Life –
I have this liquid concoction that I make in the morning. It’s fierce and invigorating. I call it the Elixir of life. Here are the ingredients:
the juice from half of an organic lemon
a tablespoon of honey (preferably from your zip code)
a couple dashes of cinnamon
Stir all of this together in a tumbler glass and shoot it down in one gulp. This elixir is bitter, and sweet, and spicy all in one. It’s so good…and it has many health benefits to boot. I usually take this soon after I’m done meditating. It has that ‘Let’s go!’ feel to it, so the timing has to be just right.
Cold Exposure –
After you actually drink some liquids, you need to soak in some liquids…or at least get sprayed with some in the shower. It makes sense to speak about this here, but it should come after the 3rd routine in which you’ll move and sweat. Nobody likes a stinky beast.
If you have the opportunity to soak in an ice bath or a pool of very cold water…do that. However, if you just did a hard workout, and you still want to achieve the hormetic response from that, most literature says to wait at least an hour after that exercise before hitting the cold.
Another option, and this one doesn’t mitigate that stress response that you want from exercise (at least not enough to out-way the benefits) is to simply take a cold shower. Not just a little cold. Icy! Get under that cold water for at least a couple minutes. Or, what I like to do is the hot to cold contrast shower. After you’re done with the shampoo, conditioner, and soap with some warm water, go as cold as possible and stay there for 20 seconds. Then, go to hot water for 10 seconds. Go back and forth like this 10 times. That’s 5 minutes…and you’ll walk out of there feeling like an absolute beast. Between the Elixir of Life and this, you’ve now already had 2 invigorating experiences. And boy is that good for the soul.
On top of the that, the hot to cold movement gets the blood vessels opening and closing. Therefore, this shower exercise has awesome benefits for your metabolism, your cardiovascular health, and it’s great if you’re trying to burn fat.
While you’re practicing the cold exposure, make sure to get the entire body cold…don’t forget the head. You can supposedly protect the functionality of your brain, and the blood-brain barrier with this practice. Get some. 3. Move
Early morning exercise has many health benefits, including keeping you in that fat-burning state as well as giving your spirit a boost simply from the accomplishment. Whether you do some gentle yoga, take a walk in the sun (which is great in the morning for help with your circadian rhythm), swing some kettle-bells, or get to the gym for an early morning power-lifting session, you’ll be on your way to creating your beast of choice.
If you are going to do that late afternoon hard workout, make sure to still do some sort of that lighter movement in the morning. When that is the case for me, I grab the foam roller after meditation and go right to the living room floor. I do some rolling, which helps with recovery from yesterday’s workout. And while I’m there on the floor, I’ll do my static stretching…mostly on the legs and back (my needy spots). These two practices totally shape how I feel for the day, and set me up nicely for a workout later on. If you instead choose to do that hard workout early in the morning, it will give you even more of that sense of accomplishment, and will lead you effectively into the rest of your day. Maybe then grab that roller and do some static stretching before bed in that case.
To wrap up…a lot of this comes down to routine and consistency. Try these practices that I’ve written about here (Breathe, Drink, Move), but also work to identify what works best in creating the beast that is within you. But like my friend Brian says…if you want to be a beast, you have to do things that beasts do. So, what are you waiting for?
The best way that I’ve found for myself to think of food…is to simply call it ‘fuel’ instead. Food is fuel for the organism that your body is. And there is good fuel for functionality…and there is bad. The good fuel is nutrient dense, and usually has multiple functions. Bad fuel contains empty calories. It has no benefit to the biology of the body. It usually does actual harm to the body. It’s a can of soda and Cheetos.
We have become extraordinarily sophisticated in our ability to continue developing new varieties of food. We’ve actually gone too far, and have created many unnecessary foods. This will continue to happen as our technology allows. I find it intriguing for instance, the wide variety of ways that we’ve developed and brought to market cows milk. This isn’t a moral or ethical argument for animals, even though I feel that is important at times too. You could make the same argument for the soybean. This is a consideration and questioning of the reasons behind such vast amounts of varieties. There are milks with all types, flavors, and fat contents. There are yogurts with the same. We also make ice creams with cow milk. And then there are cheeses. So many cheeses. Oh…and butter. I’m sure I’m forgetting some other forms. Must we continue pushing until all manifestations have been attempted? It seems that humans have this determination to technologically explore (maybe exploit) all things to their end. Are we doing that with our own species as well? I hope not.
One way to get the most out of our food and fuel is to get away from the food as ‘filler’ approach, and to get more familiar with a mindful savoring of what we eat. Individuals who see their meal as a task, and as something in the way of what they’re doing, will tend to plow through food…and eat anything to fill them up quickly. It’s a bonus for them if it’s fatty and sugary…as that will satisfy the somewhat ‘shallow’ taste buds, and create that feeling of full quickly.
There is a more deliberate approach to food, that is a never-ending search for subtleties and nuance in flavor, texture, balance, complexity, etc. This actually connects to the cow’s milk thinking…it’s a continual exploration. But there are more effective avenues to explore this pursuit.
If we take wine or coffee or tea for example, we can enter into a world of options for discovery. By starting with awareness and then moving to identification, and possibly documentation, we can find interesting subtleties within the wide variety of flavors. There is even a wide variety of salts now, and this is the area that I’m most interested in at this moment. Anyway, instead of sticking with the same coffee, let’s say…try as many varieties as you can. Identify the different flavors. Pay attention. Even before that, pay close attention to the smells while it brews. Before that, take a whiff of the bag of beans immediately upon opening. Recently, while my coffee was brewing, I picked up a fruity smell of mango or melon. I was surprised, as I never would have guessed I’d pick that up from coffee. And it was a cheap coffee at that! Once you eventually pour yourself a cup, you can smell that. Then, you can sip slow and savor, noticing first the up front taste (those taste buds are near the tip of the tongue), the middle flavor close to when you’re swallowing (middle of the tongue taste buds), and then the duration and quality of the finish (picked up by the taste buds on the back of the tongue). You can even notice different texture qualities, dryness, complexities, and balance of flavors. There’s so much to offer.
Practicing this allows to you encounter more often, the finer things in life. And what’s so great is that it transfers to other foods and drink, and even to other phenomenon within our lives. Through paying close attention to all of the nuance surrounding what we eat, we practice identifying the full breadth of experience. We learn what we like…and what we don’t like. That’s learning about the self. We learn pairings…and what goes with what. That’s interconnectivity. Food has much more to offer than we typically allow.
Notice the nuance…spot the subtleties.
If you’re interested in developing your palate, I highly recommend choosing a particular variety of food or drink (coffee, tea, wine, beer, breads, cheese, etc.)…and tasting as many varieties as possible. What really helps with identification, is some sort of document that you can record information on. I made one of these for wine, and it’s been great. You can score your food, as well as identify labels within those different categories such as flavor, texture, finish, etc. This is for folks who really want to nerd out. It gives that extra boost to your awareness and knowledge within the particular food. And…you have a record to look back to, being able to find which cheese scored a 100 for you and which scored a 47. It’s easy to know which one to bring to the next dinner at your friend’s house.
There is no such thing as ‘no regrets’. There isn’t a life lived ‘without regret’. Of course, we want to live with as little regret as possible, but to say ‘I don’t have any regrets’, is also saying, ‘I made no mistakes along the way and I wouldn’t change anything.’ Really? Deep down is that really true? I’ve heard multiple people say that they’re happy who they are now and where they are now. And that if they change something in their past, they’d be a different person today. But that is a hypothetical argument that to me, shows an unwillingness of awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgement. By admitting to the fact that you did make a mistake that maybe you’re not proud of…and that you would have done that differently knowing what you know now…really allows you to learn and grow from your past. It provides an opportunity of reflection, and then closure. And by the way, that mindful reflection isn’t going to instantly change who you are right now. It’s not going to make you an unattractive individual. Actually, self awareness, ownership, and growth is seen as beautiful…and it leads to a wondrous transformation. You actually will be somewhat different after this acceptance, considering the new and truer path you’ll be forging.
This isn’t an easy process by the way. It’s the more difficult decision to execute. That’s partly why I believe it’s the right way. Typically, the easy way…the ‘sweep it under the rug’, lazy, everything I did was fine, and I don’t regret even when I affected others negatively stance…is easier. And that is wrong. Reflecting on what we’re not so proud of in the past means opening up the closet and dealing with those damn demons again. Who the hell wants to do that? It’s ugly, somewhat belittling, and can even be tragic and depressing.
The small regrets are usually no big deal. For me, one of them is…’I wish my friend and I didn’t break that guys barn windows with rocks when we were young.’ The windows are still boarded up to this day. I’m 38…and drive by the barn often…ugh. Well, I guess it’s fitting that I have to often see one of my regrets!
The bigger regrets though, have larger and meaner demons connected to them though. It’s worth me stating that before letting these out of the closet, you may want to contact a professional. If you’re unsure about whether you should or not…than you should. Therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrist have been trained accordingly. They are so valuable in helping you reflect…helping you open that closet door carefully, and then crush those demons down to manageable little monsters. Some of them may be too big to crush, depending on your past. But the process will at least provide you with some closure, and the ability to function most effectively after doing so. Now…this also gets a little away from regretting what you have done yourself, and perhaps into circumstances that you were put into by others. To me, regret has to do with a choice that you yourself made…something you did. A rough childhood, or resources not available to you, or basic fulfillment of needs for instance is something others would have to regret…not you. It’s still something you’d have to work through of course, but not something regrettable for you. It’s a different feeling. Either way, this dealing with the demons of the past is highly effective.
Yesterday, I did some great things. But yesterday, I also made some mistakes. I even knowingly made the wrong decision at times yesterday. Regardless of how big or small those were…and how influential they actually may be…they are still items that I can look back on as regrettable. I’m not going to dwell on them today. I’m not going to let it bring me down today. Instead, I’ll quickly acknowledge them, learn from them, and try to be better today. With some practice, I can better myself. I can mitigate the regret. I can improve today, and tomorrow. I can use regret an inspirational and motivational trigger. It doesn’t have to be negative. It’s part of a growth mindset, knowing that I can make less mistakes in the future. I can develop. I can make progress. I can change. I am malleable. I am…becoming gold.