Can a Gluten-Free Lifestyle Help Defy Aging?

3 October 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve mentioned him numerous times on my blog.  Paleo poster-boy, superstar blogger, and all-around health / fitness stud, Mark Sisson, will be on Brian William’s Rock Center tomorrow night (Thursday, 10/4/2012 10pm EST) on NBC.  If this one minute preview is any indication, it should be a very interesting and informative interview.

Mark talks about how cutting out gluten (and going Paleo) eliminated his arthritis and seasonal allergies.  And it goes without saying it’s given him more energy and a pretty impressive physique (for a 59 year old!).

“Gluten is poison.”  – Mark Sisson

"Grains are just beige blob that don't taste that great. They're just a cheap source of calories that converts to glucose. Gluten is poison."

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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!

Simplifying What Food You Should Eat

17 September 2012 Leave a comment

My family and I have mainly been eating Paleo over the past 18 months and have been impressed by its results.  Plus, there are so many wonderful success stories online of people who have eliminated allergies or stomach problems or mental issues, as well as cleared up their skin or lost weight or increased strength.  It sounds like a magic pill, but its not.  The focus is simple: eat the foods your body is intended to eat.

Although I feel like Paleo is starting to pick up momentum in the online world, I’m also seeing more and more posts and videos online to support health movements that are very similar.  I wanted to share two I recently came across as they take different, but good, approaches to how we should be eating in order to optimize the way we look and feel.

My Simple (Not Easy) Fat Loss & Health Enhancement Hierarchy

I recently came across Nate’s work when he posted a very interesting article on Livestrong called 4 Reasons To Eat More Calories (And Carbs) At Night.  I read more on his blog and like what he has to say.  This article I’m referencing on his Fat Loss Hierarchy is important because he keeps his advice so simple and concise.  This says it all:

…cutting out processed, man-made foods; and returning to our evolutionary, ancestral, or cultural pasts by eating more real, natural foods (wild animals and plants) will take you 90% of the way in achieving your goals…

He also writes about the way you structure your meal plan is entirely up to you (Should I fast?  3 meals a day?  6 meals?  etc).  Everyone is different and a little experimentation may help you find what works best.  Check out more of his site as he’s also got some great workout tips and videos to go along with numerous health articles.

The Beyond Diet

A friend shared this video on Facebook and although I’m not supporting the product they’re selling, I think the video they’ve made does a fantastic job of explaining some details on what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating.  Admittedly, the first few minutes are a little slow (and unfortunately you can’t fast forward), but I do think it’s worth waiting it out.

Watch this video to learn about what foods are causing you to keep on extra weight (and feel crummy) as well as what foods you should be focusing on: The Beyond Diet.

I hope that article and video can help everyone realize that eating healthy isn’t as hard as they think.  But, more importantly, “eating healthy” isn’t what most of us thought!  I know I used to think I was eating healthy because every day I’d have orange juice, whole wheat bread, no-fat salad dressings, skim milk, and many of the other “you should have these” foods.  But, it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

Pardon my pun, but the proof is in the pudding.  Just try these changes for a few weeks and see how you feel.  I did and I’m not looking back.  What about you?  I’d love to know of people who try and what results they see!

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 TED.com.  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: https://www.coursera.org/about/press

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!

IFTTT: Fun Way to get Olympic Updates and More

A while back I learned of a website which could link all kinds of other websites and services together in a clean, intuitive way.  I used it for a few things, but hadn’t found a really fun use of it until now.

The site is IFTTT and stands for “If This Then That”.

Some of the sites you can use are Facebook, E-mail, Text Message, Twitter, Dropbox, Instagram, etc.  Or you can use services like the weather forecast, Free Kindle books, new movie releases, and so on.  Then, you create a “recipe” that ties those “channels” together.  For instance, here are some popular recipes with channels in bold:

  • When my Facebook profile picture changes, update my Twitter profile picture.
  • If the weather forecast for tomorrow calls for rain, send me a text message.
  • Whenever I post a picture to Instagram, save it to Dropbox too.
  • When a new book is added to the Top 100 Free Kindle books, send me an e-mail.

These examples were all pulled from the most popular recipes.  You can use one of those recipes (and modify it if you want) or you can create your own from scratch.  There are thousands of possibilities with the 50 channels they have available.

Olympics

So here’s the really cool new channel on IFTTT: ESPN’s coverage of the Olympics.  Here are the two recipes I’m using:

IFTTT: Olympics

Pretty fun, huh?  So I get notified of any gold medal the US wins or whenever anyone sets a World Record.

Setting these recipes up literally takes just a few minutes.  Simply sign up for free and try it out.  Let me know what you think!

Adding Dates and Times in Excel

I answered a question on Quora today regarding how to add a column with dates to a column with times using Excel.

Simple Answer: just add the two cells.

Detailed Answer: dates and times in Excel are stored “behind the scenes” as numbers

  • Dates are stored as the number of days since 1/1/1900
    • 1/1/1900 is stored as 0
    • 1/2/1900 is stored as 1
    • 7/24/2012 is stored as 41,114
  • Times are stored as a fractional number (out of 24 hours)
    • 12:00 midnight (aka 0:00) is stored as 0.00
    • 12:00 noon is stored as 0.50
    • 11:59:59pm is stored as 0.999988…
    • 9:25am is stored as 0.39
      • fractional number of minutes into the day is (9 * 60 + 25) / (24 * 60) = 0.39236
  • Thus, adding together a date cell and a time cell gives you a number with a decimal, which Excel converts to a Date/Time.
    • 7/24/2012 9:25am = 41,114.39

That’s a pretty technical answer, so here’s a screenshot:

Cell D3 is calculated by simply entering the equation =B3+C3.  From there, you can right-click on that cell and go to ‘Format Cells…’ to make the resulting cell look exactly how you want.

Categories: Excel Tags: ,

Fascinating Article on the Bin Laden Raid

19 July 2012 4 comments

I’ve always been fascinated by the military and top secret plans and classified information.  My guess is many people probably are.  The most recent example of this is the Navy SEALS thoroughly planned and highly secretive raid to capture Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in Pakistan.  The wide-spread picture of our military leaders watching the raid (right) and the raw emotion that they convey is indeed worth 1,000 words.

However, for even more detail, I recommend reading this article from The New Yorker because its 8 times as detailed as that.  Yep – 8,000+ words.  It’s loooong, but very worth it.  It goes into great detail about the intelligence, planning, preparation, practice, and execution of the infamous raid.

I didn’t read this article in one sitting and I doubt you would either.  If you haven’t signed up for the free service (they have a paid version as well) called Instapaper, I highly recommend you do so and then use it for this.  Instapaper is simple – you save webpages and articles you want to read later.  It’s best use is on mobile devices so when you’re stuck somewhere with nothing to do, you can catch up on things you want to read.  The best part is, it keeps track of where you are in an article so you can piecemeal your way through it.  Try it out!

Here’s the article from The New Yorker entitled ‘Getting Bin Laden‘:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/08/110808fa_fact_schmidle?currentPage=all