Archive for the ‘Lifehack’ Category

Eating Healthy: Where Do I Start?

21 September 2012 2 comments

Recently, I’ve had a number of people ask for more information regarding the food choices my family makes.  I’ve made many posts here with tips and articles, but I have yet to give a simple game plan for someone who’s starting from scratch.  I’ll do that now!

Why Should I Change What I’m Eating?

If you’re eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), odds are you’re experiencing some of the common side effects: digestive issues, joint pain, skin issues, lethargy, anxiety, depression, etc, etc.  Some people think these are just the “pains of getting older”.  Others will go to the doctor, who will prescribe you pills to lessen those symptoms, but that won’t address the cause.  Changing your diet likely will.  Either way, it’s certainly worth a shot to try!

But I’m Already Eating Healthy!

I used to think that too.  Orange juice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, pasta, low fat salad dressing, Gatorade, skim milk, peanut butter.  Those were some of my favorite foods and I thought I was doing great!  But, the truth is many of those foods are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients.  And the low fat foods combat the simple fact that fat is actually good for you!  But, the worst offender may be the grains.  Grains (bread, pasta, corn, beer, etc) cause many digestive problems and wreck havoc on our bodies.

So Where Do I Go From Here?

Click on the image for a larger view

I know most of my food posts relate to Paleo; however, we’ve recently been leaning more towards The Perfect Health Diet.  It’s very similar to Paleo, but there’s a bigger emphasis on carbs.  We’ve (I keep saying “we” because my wife is the brains behind this operation and does an insane amount of research) read numerous articles – and even seen it in ourselves – that low-carb eating doesn’t work long-term.

Most people don’t have the time and/or the inclination to do a ton of research on changing the way they eat.  So, my simple suggestion is read this one page on The Perfect Health Diet and try it out.  Give it a few weeks before you form an opinion.  Sometimes a few days is all it takes before you start feeling really good.  Many of the aforementioned problems will start to magically disappear – joints won’t hurt, skin will clear up, your mind will feel clearer, your mood will improve, and hopefully more.  It sounds too good to be true, but it’s all related to what you put in your body.

What If I Want to Read More?

It’s great to take my word for it, but there are so many good resources out there to help you understand what’s going on in your body as well as motivate you to keep at it!

  • The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf – the book we read to get us going down this path;  it’s great!  Minus the few heavy biological chapters, it was funny and informative.
  • The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson – I haven’t read this or any of his other books, but I’ve read an innumerable amount of his blog posts.  He’s a great writer who backs up everything he says.  Plus, wouldn’t you want to look like him when you’re 58!?
  • Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet – Admittedly, I haven’t read this, but their diet is spot on with what we believe, so I’m sure the book is great.

Give It To Me In Simpler Terms

I’m trying to keep this simple, but if you’re still wondering what foods to buy, let’s try this.  Each meal you should have some of each of the 3 macro-nutrients.  Here they are with some example foods:

  • Protein
    • Grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, free-range chicken and eggs, bacon, etc*
  • Fat
    • Grass-fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, almond butter, macadamia nuts, lard, beef tallow, etc
  • Carbohydrates
    • Any veggies, fruits, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white rice

* -Keep in mind that whatever animal products you eat, you’re also eating whatever that animal ate.  Thus, the emphasis on free-range chicken and grass-fed beef.  Same goes with eggs and pork – if you’re able to get them from a local farm or somewhere where the animals are cared for and fed properly (aka no grains), you’re better off.  However, that’s not an option for everyone, so do what you can!

Sample Meals

Below are some sample meal ideas to get you off an running.  Or here are some more.  Once you get used to this, it becomes easier and easier.  Try experimenting with herbs and spices (especially fresh ones).  Look online for Paleo recipes or check out the many great recipe books.

  • Breakfast
    • I posted about this a few times because it’s difficult!  But, you can’t go wrong with bacon and eggs with a fruit smoothie
  • Lunch
    • Hamburger (sans bun, of course!), salad w/olive oil, sweet potato
  • Dinner
    • Chicken, veggie, white rice stir fry

It’s a big change when you go to the store as you stay only on the outside wall where the produce and meat departments are.  You very rarely need to venture through the aisles because that’s mostly processed foods!  There are a few processed foods that are okay, but you’re best to stay away as much as you can.  For instance, potato chips seem simple enough because the ingredients are potatoes, oil, and salt.  However, 99.9% of the time, the oil is one of the awful varieties (sunflower, safflower, peanut, etc), so you’ll want to avoid them.  Luckily, we’ve recently found (at Ollie’s, of all places) Olive Oil Potato Chips.  These are a decent option if you have kids and are looking for an quick carb option.

The only other processed foods we like are GoGo SqueeZ Applesauce and Bare Fruit Apple Chips.  They each have exactly ONE ingredient: apples.  Also, I’ve kept a running list of packaged foods we like – including olive oil, butter, and coconut milk – on this Pinterest Page.

In Summary

  • Okay to eat
    • Meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, starch, healthy fats, nuts / seeds
  • Avoid
    • Processed foods, sugars, grains, dairy, legumes, vegetable and seed oils

I rarely write 1,000 word blog posts, so hopefully this was helpful!  As usual, I’d love to hear your comments whether you post them here or write me personally.

Good luck!


Free Online Education Continues to Blossom

4 September 2012 Leave a comment

Many people stop learning after college.  Sure, they may pick up certain skills on the job, but few seek out learning opportunities.  It’s a sad fact when considering all of the benefits of “exercising your brain muscle”.  So many studies prove health, mood, and intelligence all improve by doing puzzles, writing, reading, learning languages, and any other mentally challenging task.

Enter another player in this realm: free online education.

There’s been a huge evolution over the past year in ways people can learn new skills or brush up on old skills thanks to the internet.  These websites range from offering small lessons that can be taken in bite-size portions at your leisure all the way up to structured, university-based courses.  Here’s a run-down of a few of the websites I’ve tried as well as my thoughts on each.

This is the least “education”-like site I’ll write about, but I still feel like it deserves mention.  I’ve been lucky enough to attend two TEDx events in person (TEDxCincy 2010 and TEDxBuffalo 2011), plus I’ve watched countless TED talks on their flagship website  If you’re unfamiliar with TED, simply go to their website and check them out.  Brilliant people giving concise talks on extremely interesting topics.  They’re 18-minutes or less, so you can easily watch 1 a day without breaking a sweat.  The interface on their website to filter videos based on most viewed or how their related or the topic they’re on is very clever.  Or you could check out the 20 Most Watched TED Talks to Date.

Speaking as a computer programmer, I love this site.  It allows anyone to try programming at their own pace without the pressure of being in a classroom.  Plus it’s all interactive and is focused around writing code and not reading or studying.  Right away you start off learning the basics of programming syntax and you gradually build up to writing rudimentary games like blackjack.  If you sign up for a free account, it keeps track of your progress so you can pick up where you left off every time you return.  Plus, it uses “badges” and encouragement when you reach certain milestones.

It starts you off learning the standard web programming language Javascript, but you can also learn the wildly popular languages Python and JQuery as well.

I’ll never forget standing in line for lunch at TEDxBuffalo 2011 and seeing this video.  I was blown away.  Math has been my favorite subject since 1st grade, hands down.  Plus, I’m a big data geek, so when I saw what Salaman Khan had developed to teach math online and how it could turn traditional education on its head, I was in awe.  It’s something you really have to see to understand.  Even if you don’t like math, I think you’ll like the video.

Since then, I’ve spent a good amount of time playing on Khan Academy and solving hundreds of math problems.  It’s something I love to do, plus it’s one of those exercises that’s supposed to be good for your brain!  This site also uses badges and points to help encourage people (mostly kids, but it works on me too: 740,000 points and counting!) to continue moving through the site.

Over the past few months, Khan Academy has caught fire as they’ve been featured on 60 Minutes and in numerous news articles.  The latest news from Khan Academy is they’ve now branched out into Computer Science too.  Now they can add that discipline to their hundreds of videos on math, science, finance, economy, and humanities.  The list is staggering.  You can also check out their YouTube page to keep up with new videos.

My first taste of a real, college-like, free online course was a 9-week class through Stanford University called Introduction to Databases that I took in late 2011.  I’ve been working on databases for years, so I figured an “intro” class would mostly be brush-up.  However, I was very impressed by the quality of the lectures (recorded directly by Prof Jennifer Widom), the relevancy of the topics, and the depth at which the topics were covered.  The software used to run the course website and the quizzes / tests / videos was very impressive.  Quizzes included random questions, lectures paused automatically and forced you to answer a multiple choice question, and a very cool forum are features.  Plus, even after the course was over, Prof Widom posted a few extra videos on very current topics.  That shows me how dedicated she is to helping others.  Oh yeah, did I mention there were 10s of 1000s of people who took this class from all over the world?  I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with it.

Since then, Coursera has blossomed to include over 100 courses from nearly 20 prestigious universities (Stanford, CalTech, Duke, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins, to name a few).  I’ve started two other courses recently, but I’ve been less impressed by them.  I tried an Internet History, Technology, and Security class through the University of Michigan, but it was boring me to tears.  I should have known better since it was offered by that “school up North” (Go Bucks!).  Ha!  And I tried Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act through Penn since my current job is in the health care field.  However, the lectures were of very poor quality and the subject matter simply was not exciting.

Despite those experiences, I’m not ready to write off Coursera because they keep expanding the schools and courses available.  Some of the upcoming courses I’m excited to check out are:

Look at the many news articles that are being written on this impressive, collaborative effort of so many prestigious colleges:

Here’s a really amazing stat they provided:

To date, 700,000 students from 190 countries have participated in classes on Coursera, with more than 1.6 million course enrollments total!

Ironically too, I just watched a TED talk titled What We’re Learning From Online Education and it turned out to be one of the founders of Coursera.  It was very interesting.


Hopefully this post will encourage you to seek out these educational opportunities.  Or, if you know of any others that I’ve left out, I’d love to know about them!

Battling Inflammation

Everyone knows when they sprain an ankle or bump their head that there’s going to be pain and swelling to follow. Typically we take an anti-inflammatory pill and maybe use ice to make it feel better. That we can all agree on. (Although the use of drugs here could be debated. The body uses inflammation as a defense mechanism to help heal itself. Trying to counter the inflammation certainly helps the pain factor, but also inhibits the healing. Just food for thought.)

Another point to be made in these cases is the injury usually can’t be prevented. Trips and falls are part of life and simply have to be dealt with. The reason I state this obvious observation will make sense later in this post.

However, there’s growing evidence of other types of inflammation that’s harming us. This type of inflammation is avoidable and yet we keep doing it to ourselves – typically without even realizing it.  It’s frustrating that more people (especially doctors) aren’t aware of this and no one educates us.  Of course, that’s why I’m writing this: to spread the word!

GrainsI’ve written about it in this blog before but I’m writing about it again because I think it’s extremely important.  I want everyone to educate themselves as best as possible on how to live a better, more pain free life. Plus I’ve come across two outside blog posts which break down the crux of this problem with much better details than I can provide.  Once again, the problem I’m writing about is what we eat.  More specifically… grains.

But first, I’d like to digress with a disclaimer…

I’m never quite sure how my writing comes across to others, but let me state it for the record here that in no way am I belittling anyone or judging their lifestyles.  A lot of the things I believe and practice are relatively new to me because I’m always tweaking and experimenting with what works.  That’s the important part here – educate yourself as much as you can to make the best decisions for you and your family.  What works best for me may not be best for you, but the only way you know is if you learn about it and try it.  Now then…

Despite your thoughts on Paleo, you should check out these articles.  Many of you will think these posts are crazy, but try to have an open mind.  What if they’re right?  What if you tried out what they’re suggesting?  What if your changes worked and you felt better and/or looked better as a result?  Only one way to find out!

Here are the two blog posts I keep referring to:

I know I’ve seen a number of positive changes in myself and my family since going primarily grain-free.  Otherwise, why would I be so passionate about sharing with you?!

As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts and results if you’ve tried cutting grains!

More Info on Cutting the (Cable) Cord

Over 300 channels on RokuI got a ton of great feedback on my last post regarding my family’s choice to get rid of cable tv.  Some people even said my post pushed them over the edge to finally pull the plug!  However, some others had great follow-up questions that I want to answer here:

What broadband service do you use?  How much is it?  Details!

Time Warner Cable.  We moved to Buffalo last year and got the introductory offer of $38/month for 20 Mbps download / 2 Mbps upload.  This is their Turbo package and is twice as fast as their Standard package.  After that offer expired, the bill jumped up to $54 but I was able to negotiate them down to $45.

What kind of router do you have?

Linksys E3200.  Knowing how much I’d be saving on cable and how much I’d be relying on the router, I invested in a new one with some serious horsepower.  It really wasn’t that expensive when compared to a month of cable.  It’s been great – very easy setup and nearly flawless performance.

What is your setup like?  Is your Roku wireless?

We have the Time Warner modem hooked up to our wireless router in our office so our computer can be hard-wired to it.  This makes both of our Roku’s wireless and we’ve had practically no issues with this setup.  Our main TV has our Roku 2 and it’s about 15 feet away from the router (through 3 interior walls).  The kids playroom has our original Roku and is about 20 feet from the router and goes through 2 walls.  Before upgrading to our current router, we’d have issues with the Roku freezing up, but since switching to the E3200 router 8 months ago, we’ve had zero issues.

I’m thinking about buying ‘brand x’ expensive antenna.

Don’t do it yet!  Try out the cheap option first.  Or at least research how good the over the air (OTA) signal is from your house: I had a lot of luck with this website because it accurately stated our rental house would have bad reception while our new house would have great reception.  Lucky for us!

Lastly, here’s a nice channel guide for OTA programming:

What about shows for kids?

It’s really surprised me how much content for the kids is out there. Netflix online ($8/month) has tv shows like Dora, Diego, Curious George, Sesame Street, Super Why, Wonder Pets, Barney, and more. Of course they’re always adding more.

Also, we made a one-time payment of $15 for a full season (26 episodes) of Olivia on Amazon Video. Between those two video services and Hulu Plus (my favorite, but practically no kids shows), there are tons of entertainment options.

Don’t forget the Roku 2 has a fancy remote that lets you play Angry Birds!  I would have thought my 2- and 4-year olds were too young for it, but both of them love it.  It comes free with the Roku and has hundreds of levels. Plus, it shows great future potential for the Roku and it’s fancy remote.

How can you live without cable sports?

As a lifelong sports fan, this was the toughest decision by far.  But, consider what sports are on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox: multiple NFL games on Sunday, all day Saturday of NCAA football, over half of the NCAA basketball tournament games, all of the championships for NHL / MLB / soccer,  golf tournaments practically every weekend, Olympics, World Cup – I think you get the point.

Keep in mind, though, that for a small fee Roku offers packages for NBA, NHL, MLS, UFC, MLB and more. Yes, you’ll still miss SportsCenter and NFL Network and specialized channels like that.  But, it’s up to you what those are worth when considering money and free time with family / friends.  Personally, I’m happy with my choice!

Lastly, here’s a good article from Wired magazine that discusses this same topic.

Motivational Quotes

One of the many e-mail I receive during the week is a daily “Free Thought” from  It’s typically a brief quote and I always find it worthwhile reading.  Today’s quote is very appropriate for me and my constant struggle with wanting everything to be perfect:

If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.

– Win Borden

I’d also like to share the quotes I’ve posted around my office.  They are thoughts that motivate me to stay organized, positive, and driven.  Hopefully you enjoy them!

If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done

I like my data raw, and my analysis well done

@cariaso (no idea who this is, but LOVE the quote)

Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.

– Abe Lincoln

A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.

– William Shedd

Failures are lessons you learn on the way to success.

Andy Andrews

Nobody can make you mad or hurt your feelings. You do those things all by yourself.

– Ann Landers





Finally, here’s a collection of great pieces of advice.  Take all of it to heart and act upon it!

Holstee Manifesto






I want to link to the other things I’ve got posted on my office wall, as I think they’re both incredible pieces of work:

Merlin Mann – Better.

Steve Jobs – Stanford Commencement Speech

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29 Ways to Leap Out of Debt

29 February 2012 Leave a comment

As much as I like sharing my own thoughts on this blog, I often can’t say things better than the experts do, so in those cases, I just want to pass along the great information I’ve discovered.

I wrote a few years ago that, except for our mortgage, we’re debt free.  The hard work was done by my wife and I, but we owe all of the planning and motivation to Dave Ramsey.  I’ve written about him before and I’ll write about him again because he’s a fantastic resource on finances, insurance, and other important disciplines.  I’ve read his first book, attended two of his live shows, and listen to his radio show/free podcast on a regular basis.  He’s funny, straight to the point, and very motivational.

People may disagree with my eating habits, but can’t we agree money is a common problem we all have?  If you’re not out of debt, trust me, it’s the best decision you’ll ever make.  It’s such a relief to not have that burden, plus you can more nimbly handle any financial / life problem that comes up.  There are many excuses out there as to why people can’t get out of debt, but just listen to his radio show and hear all the amazing sacrifices others make to get out of debt.  It’s incredibly encouraging.  And as Dave says, “if you don’t like being debt free, you can go right back into debt if you want to.”

Here’s a link to his 29 Ways to Leap Out of Debt.  My favorite part is that only one of those 29 suggestions would make him any money at all.  He’s not in this make money off of people – he passes on proven ways to win with money.  Check out the list and make yourself more familiar with Dave!

29 Ways to Leap Out of Debt (Dave Ramsey)

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Upcoming Webinars on Fueling Energy and Engagement

23 February 2012 Leave a comment

I’m a huge fan of webinars.  Presenters are able to give a lot of information in a short amount of time (normally only an hour).  Plus, there is such a wide range of topics available, you can take that opportunity to learn about leadership, management, technology, organization, self-improvement, and so on – all for free (I seek out the free ones, at least).

I just got an e-mail notification about 3 upcoming webinars from a company whom I really like.  I discovered them a few months back when I watched another one of their webinars called How Regular Renewal Fuels Great Performance.  It focused on breaking up your workday with walking or exercising or simply relaxing your mind and how much of an improvement you’ll see in your performance.  It also hit on eating and sleep and many other factors that affect your energy throughout the day.

Here’s their summary of the aforementioned webinar:

Top tips for managing your energy throughout the day

  1. Whenever possible, do one thing at a time. Multitasking increases the time it takes to finish any given task by 25%
  2. Take a break every 90 minutes to stay most focused and productive. You can get real renewal with just a minute or two of deep breathing
  3. Define clear stopping points at the end of the day, so when you’re with your family and friends, you’re really with them

Another topic discussed was how you can change your day by simply taking a deep, relaxing breath.  Try it!


Upcoming Webinars by The Energy Project

  • Autonomy @ Work:  Reward Value, Not Face Time  (Thurs,  March 1 12pm)
  • Purpose @ Work:  The Most Important Question You Can Ask  (Wed, April 4 at 1pm)
  • Apprecation @ Work:  Why It Matters So Much  (Thurs, May 3 at 1pm)

Sign up for any of them here.

I’ll be curious to hear what people think if they attend!

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