Birthday cake

40

Today is my 40th birthday and I decided to mark the occasion by documenting a snapshot of what my life and thoughts look like at the moment.

Thoughts

When I was a kid I didn’t have a clear image of what I wanted to be as an adult. My earliest memories involve pretending to be a drummer and a chef/restaurateur. However, I grew up with the idea that I had follow a traditional academic path and end up in some sort of managerial role.

At this stage, my life is not textbook-perfect: I’ll never have kids, I don’t have a car, I will probably never own a home and can’t see myself as a manager, and that’s all fine. I think it’s more important to do what you want to do instead of what is expected. The first step to wisdom, IMO, is knowing yourself.

Food

Back in 2011 I decided to experiment with the paleo diet (gasp!) and discovered by accident that gluten was triggering some of my health issues (reflux, joint pain and allergic reactions to pork). I continued eating paleo for a few years and then reintroduced some foods such as dairy (mainly cheese, yoghurt and some cream), rice and legumes, all of which work fine for me from a health perspective. A lower carb approach works better for my body composition goals and energy levels.

My diet these days is more akin to Tim Ferriss’ slow carb diet, with some legumes and very few high-starch foods such as rice and potatoes. I have also implemented his advice of 30g of protein within 30-60 minutes of waking up, most days in the form of 3 eggs + baby spinach + kimchi +/- a tablespoon of lentils or homemade mayonnaise.

I do eat gluten-free bread and treats (including beer!) occasionally. I cook the bulk of our food because I believe that’s the best way of ensuring you’re getting quality food in your body. I post most of my lunches on my Instagram page.

The only supplements I take regularly are protein powder (usually whey protein isolate) after lifting and collagen hydrolysate most days to help with tissue repair.

Drinks

My current liquid intake, in order of prevalence, goes like this: water, coffee, tea, red wine, gin & soda. Cider, gluten-free beer and sparkling wine appear here and there but their contribution by volume is negligible.

Exercise

Even though injuries and other circumstances have kept me away from competing, I haven’t stopped weightlifting because I still enjoy the technicality and challenges of the sport. I do not enjoy getting injured but hey, that’s part of the package.

I started doing Krav Maga in November last year, initially to get back to martial arts and use it as conditioning for my lifting. I fell in love with Krav, especially because of its practicality in real life and the philosophy behind it: learn to defend yourself in order to protect others. Very Buddhist IMO.

Right now my routine looks like this:

  • Weightlifting 3x week
  • Krav Maga 3x week
  • Yoga 0-1x week
  • Swimming 0-1x week

I use a foam roller and a lacrosse ball most days to work on tight spots and get chiropractic/physio care and massages when needed.

Last but not least: meditation and sleep

10 years ago I started my Buddhist practice and I have managed to meditate almost every single day. Of course I’m still eons away from enlightenment but I can tell the methods work on everyday life.

Anyone who has ever tried to work late or party with me knows that I’m not a night person. I go to bed early and require 7-8.5 hours of sleep to function properly.

Final thoughts

Here I am at 40, healthier than what I was the first ~26 years of my life. I don’t know what to expect in the next 5-10 years but fingers crossed it won’t be a downhill journey just yet.

Food for thought: Eyes on your own plate

I love this advice often given by Liz Wolfe and Diane Sanfilippo in the Balanced Bites podcast. It is very easy to get in the trap of being judgemental about other people’s food choices. It seems this is not constrained to health-conscious people (whatever that means). Everyone has an opinion of what everyone else is eating. If they happen to be eating the exact same meal, then it’s the portion size, whether they mix the components of the meal or not, etc. It’s not easy to let go of this habit but it’s useful to remind yourself to keep your eyes on your own plate, worry (not too much!) about your own food choices and how they affect your health, performance, happiness, etc. The others are adults and are entitled to make their own choices. Also, be polite and refrain from making comments about how disgusting is what other people are eating.

I’m not saying “never ever look at other people’s plates again”. Once again, it all depends on the intention. If you’re following people on social media because their food photos motivate you to eat healthier, inspire you to cook new dishes, or help you find out where’s the best burger in the city, that’s totally fine in my books. But if your intention is plain negative criticism, do yourself a karmic favour and save it for yourself.

PS: As everything else I write on this blog, this post is primarily a reminder to myself.

Food for thought: Once a fatty, always a fatty?

That was the question asked to Robb Wolf in the Paleo Solution Podcast stuck to my brain when I heard it on episode 158 and since then I’ve learned a few things about biochemistry and metabolism. For example, that gaining a bit of fat increases the size of existing adipocytes (fat cells) but gaining a lot of fat increases both their size and number. Losing fat makes them shrink but not necessarily gets rid of them, so it’s generally easy to “refill” them. There’s also a “set point” theory that claims that our body defends a particular weight and will eventually come back to it after periods of overfeeding or fasting followed by eating ad libitum. Lately, this has been renamed to “settling point”, to indicate that it can change under particular circumstances.

I don’t have much time to go into detail with this, but my n=1 experience tells me that whatever mechanisms are in place, once a fatty, always a fatty is mostly true. Apart from the biological changes (size and number of adipocytes), there are chemical changes (hormones, cytokines) and psychological changes that come with the extra chub. For a large percentage of FFP (former fat people) it’s not impossible to be lean but it is hard, as can be demonstrated by the 4+ kilos (!) I’ve put on the past few months. People assume that I’m naturally thin but my fat past has caused a dent in my ability to become/remain lean. A calorie is not a calorie, but at some points calories do matter, and as Mark Sisson wrote in a recent article, a cheat meal eaten often is no longer a cheat. Sometimes we do need to “paleo harder”.

Injury update

On October 15th, just under 2 months after my injury, I started lifting again. My chiro’s instructions were to do only 2 exercises (anything except snatches, clean & jerks and front squats) per session at 30-40% (of weight). Boring, I know, but much less boring that just stretching, swimming and cycling.

Weights

I’ve been slowly incorporating more exercises back to the routine as prescribed by my coaches, keeping the weight light and focusing on technique. As of last night I have done everything except SOTS press, full cleans and any type of jerks (split or power). I have done light power cleans with no problems. I won’t be PBing any time soon and I don’t feel 100% recovered from the injury but will get there eventually.

Injury update

Four weeks ago I had my second ever sports-related injury (maybe that’s a lot relative to the small number of years that I’ve been active): a (not 100% confirmed) disc tear. Pain was terrible the first week; I could barely walk, get dressed, bend over, etc. Standing up and going to/getting out of bed were the worst parts of my day.

Magically, seven days later I could walk at my normal pace and was able to do a lot more things. Ten days after the injury the chiro got me doing banded bridges and leg abductions. Sleeping and sitting for too long was still painful, though. Three weeks post-injury I was allowed to do push-ups and 90-degree air-squats. It’s been a month already and besides a lingering minor pain that manifests in bed and when my posture is bad, I feel fine. I’m not allowed to lift yet but I’ve been encouraged to try swimming.

Shifting gear(s)

Last time I took swimming lessons I was probably ~10 years old. I strongly dislike being in water, which makes me think something must have happened in a past life. One of the things that bugs me the most is feeling like I’m choking. But I know that it’s good to step out of my comfort zone so I took up the challenge and went for an intro class at the uni pool. Stepping on the wet floor and smelling the chlorine certainly brought up mixed emotions from my childhood. I can’t say I loved it but it wasn’t that bad, so I’ll probably do it until I’m well enough to go back to lifting.

Happy mother’s day!

Happy mother’s day to all super mums who read this blog! Hope you get spoiled by your loved ones, you deserve it!

My mum is in Lima, plus it’s one day behind there, so it’s a normal day for me today (whatever normal means in my life). Tomorrow mum will celebrate with my aunties, my sister and her family, with a lunch that she will prepare herself because I’m not there to do it like I used to. Wish I was there!

Mum and I

Let food be thy medicine, or saved by Paleo cake

Since I became interested in nutrition, I knew Hippocrates was right but I didn’t get the experiential part of it in a really dramatic way until last Sunday. I’d be having jaw pain when chewing for a couple of weeks but I thought it was my normal stress-related muscular tightness. On Sunday night, while sleeping, I noticed the pain increased, but I thought it was due to me sleeping on my stomach (and my cheek) and being too sleepy to turn on my back. When I woke up the mirror showed me in a quite shocking way the source of my discomfort: the right side of my face was terribly swollen and very sore. Al said I looked like a frog.

Al and I went to the hospital, where I had three doctors look at and poke my cheek and my neck (ouch!). The final diagnosis was parotid (salivary) gland blockage due to a stone. Never heard about it? Me neither. But apparently is not an uncommon situation. The most senior doctor who saw me said sometimes biting on a lemon helps to get a rush of saliva that washes the stone out of the duct. They found a wedge of lemon for me but it didn’t produce the expected result.

I was discharged with an order for an ultrasound, a follow-up in the ear-nose-throat clinic and prescriptions for antibiotics and pain killers. I was also advised to continue consuming sour foods. I had a huge salad with tomatoes and lots of lemon juice but I didn’t feel much relief. I had baked a Paleo cake (recipe coming soon) the day before because we had invited friends over for lunch (which we had to cancel). I had a bite of the cake and I felt an acute, sharp pain. I think the cake did the trick and expelled the stone from the duct, because both the pain and swelling got a bit better in the following hours, and by Monday night I was almost back to normal.

So why was it the cake and not the lemon that solved the issue? I can explain the lemon bit: I’m Peruvian, and therefore used to the “sourer” sourness of lime juice. Regarding the cake, the most logic explanation would be that the glands produced saliva in response to the starch… except that this particular cake had no starch in it! Maybe it was a response to a food I don’t have very often? I don’t really know. I just know it feels good to have my face the normal size again.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hey guys, just a quick note to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day, whatever that means to you. My family and friends very well know that I don’t like flowers. Or romance. There were zero flowers in my wedding, and I can count the times I’ve received a rose with the fingers of one hand (if I had a few fingers amputated). Still, I find these bacon roses pretty awesome.

My ideal way of celebrating Valentine’s Day has always been going out for dinner (sometimes after a non-romantic movie). My wedding anniversary is on the 17th, so lately we’ve been ditching dinner on the 14th and focusing on the big day. This year is no exception. Dinner tonight will be kelp noodles with Parmesan-less pesto and sardines in olive oil. Not fancy, but super nutritious.

Hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, however you choose to celebrate it (or not).