3.29.2013

Our Visit to the Naturopath

Today my wife and I visited a naturopath for the first time. It was an awesome experience that I wanted to share because I learned a bunch of great stuff. We found out about this particular naturopath (Dr. Timothy Hyatt) through the Bulletproof Executive list of doctors who follow similar principles, and we knew that it would be great to connect with him. He was the only one on the list in Oregon, so I did some research, read his site and we decided to set up a time to meet with him. There were a bunch of things we had questions about and I felt like, with all the new things we've been learning, that it would be beneficial to talk to someone with a deep level of knowledge to help us gauge which things we should be focusing on. Some really important insights came out of it:

1. Iodine


The importance of iodine in our diets for its role in thyroid function. I found out from Dr. Hyatt that the Japanese eat an average of 13mg of iodine naturally from kelp and fish every day, whereas Americans get 500mcg. Many people in the US are deficient in it, and if you are (or have any thyroid problems), it's easy and cheap to get it as a supplement. Two bottles of Lugol's Iodine will last you about a year.

2. Thyroid 


Thyroid function is a huge factor, especially for women, and it's really important to get it checked if it seems like there are any related issues, such as strange fatigue, weight gain or any of the other reasons listed in this article: Top 10 Signs That You May Have a Thyroid Problem. The problem is, regular doctors don't test for all the specific hormones that could potentially be markers of your thyroid health. They don't usually do a test for either T4 or T3 which, if they aren't functioning properly, can be the cause of your thyroid issues. So if you get a generic thyroid test and it comes back normal, it could still be a problem with a specific part of your thyroid's function. This can be a problem for a lot of people so check out this episode of the Fat Burning Man Podcast where Melissa Joulwan from The Clothes Make the Girl talks about her thyroid troubles, among other things, and gives a specific breakdown of the tests that might be helpful.

3. Don't worry about cholesterol.


I loved Dr Hyatt's attitude on this. He basically said that unless you have a known familial disposition towards issues with cholesterol, or are eating a crappy diet, there's no reason to even test for it! The production of cholesterol in the body is the end of a long chain of hormonal processes that ends up with the body being told to produce more fat and cholesterol, and so is not a direct result of eating things with fat and cholesterol in them--it's a result of a hormone issue. The two bodily processes are completely separate. In other words, digesting cholesterol is very different from manufacturing it in the body, and it's the second one that you need to be aware of. The different tests and numbers, and recommendations about what is good or bad with cholesterol can get very complicated, so it was amazing to have a qualified professional say that if you aren't eating grains, processed foods or sugars, there's no reason to worry about it.

(On this note: Seriously you guys, Why We Get Fat is THE nutrition book that everyone needs to read.)


So, that's what I learned! It was really great to sit down with someone whose job it is to know all of this stuff. I'm still such a beginner in this and it's been a process of constant progression to get the knowledge I DO have. We all are just trying to figure out what's best, and what will make us happiest, and we have to take that journey ourselves, but it can be really satisfying to have someone with a lot more knowledge than you confirm some of the ideas you have, and point you in new directions.

(He sent us off with some blood tests to get, and we got those done this week and should have the results back soon. At our follow-up visits, we'll get to talk about what the tests mean and if there's anything extra going on. Will be nice to know more about our personal blood tests and function!)

3.26.2013

Anxiety and Stress Management through Mindfulness

Recently I started a mindfulness-based meditation practice in order to help deal with anxiety and the stresses of the constantly busy, always plugged-in, productivity-centered lifestyle that I, and so many others, tend to live in. Now, the first thing many people think when you mention meditation is that it's a bunch of spiritual mumbo-jumbo. Or, like me, you might live in a place like Portland, Oregon with yoga studios and natropathic doctors on every corner, and may have heard of some of the benefits of meditation in general. However, for most of us (and until recently, me included) it seems like a big commitment to find time to meditate every day.

For the last year or so I've thought about meditating, but there was always the element in my mind that I didn't have time to go build a shrine, buy candles and incense, learn to sit in a lotus position, and say "Om" for an hour a day, let alone buy into some kind of spiritual belief system. I had heard all these good things about meditation being a centering time where you step outside your normal life to just BE, in the moment, but I was still resistant. So, what turned it around?

Mindfulness and meditation for anxiety


Well, I am the kind of person who worries a lot, and my anxieties can sometimes get the best of me. I've been asking a lot of big questions about my life recently and I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the anxious feelings. It got to the point where I was losing track of what was even making me so upset in the first place. I decided to get some help. I found a therapist close to my house who specializes in anxiety, and on his website he said he emphasized a mindfulness-based approach. I didn't really know what that meant at the time, but I went ahead and made an appointment. Meeting with him and subsequently doing research on the topic led me to trying it for myself, and I've got to say, after a couple of weeks of consistently taking time to be mindful, I have really noticed a difference.

I felt like sharing this because being low-stress is a really important part of maximizing not only your happiness, but your mind and body as well. High stress lifestyles are associated with a bunch of things including weight gain, poor sleep, lack of concentration, and increased rates of heart disease and stroke (but don't let that stress you out!). There are a lot of well-documented methods of reducing stress, and mindfulness has been shown to be one of the most effective. Since stress management is so crucial, and I've been so focused on it recently I'm sure I'll be talking more about this is subsequent posts. This is already getting a bit long though, so I'll finish up just telling you my basic practice I've implemented, and supply a few links that I've found helpful. Here's my practice:

My basic mindfulness meditation practice

  • After breakfast I go to my meditation space (my basement bonus room)
  • I light a stick of incense (cause I'm kind of a hippie, and it's good atmosphere)
  • I set up my pillows so I have good back support 
  • I take some deep breaths and just try to focus on my breathing for a couple of minutes
  • I play one of the longer guided meditation recordings provided by UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center and follow along with the practice
  • Once it's done (approx. 20 minutes) I open my eyes, do some stretches and then go about my day
Nag Champa always helps...


This really has made a huge different in my outlook because I know I can come back to a focused, aware state if I ever start to get too stressed. The basic practice is one of listened to your body, focusing your attention on what you are feeling, hearing, smelling, sensing, thinking or experiencing in this very moment without placing judgement on any of it. Just being.

I'll go more into the specifics of mindfulness practice, benefits, research and my experiences with it in later posts. Thanks for reading!

Mindfulness Links


Here are some awesome links to check out if you want more information on mindfulness:
 

3.19.2013

A Typical Upgraded Paleo Diet Day (Part 1)

I thought I'd talk a little about what a common day of Paleo-based eating is for me. Several staples of my daily routine have really helped me feel awesome and could potentially be of great use to other people looking to boost their bodies and minds. Today's post will be about my morning routine.

I also wanted to post links to good sources of information on each point--put things in a larger context, and give you the tools to make your own decisions. Finding the healthiest diet/lifestyle/attitude is a personal journey that we all make individually, but by sharing my daily routine I can at least tell you about mine. Like what's worked for me, and why I've made the decisions I have. Good luck in finding and following your own path!

My "Upgraded Paleo Diet" Morning Routine


Here are my big morning must-dos:

1. Immediately upon waking up I take a gram of sea salt. You can do this by mixing it with water, or just eating it. Salt has been shown to be really good for your adrenal system, and by taking it right after you wake up you don't burn as much cortisol early in the day, leaving more for energy throughout the day. Salt has been demonized because of its (inaccurate and not correlated) connections to high blood pressure and heart disease, but it's been shown that when included as part of a healthy diet, salt is not only good for you, it's essential to stress and other functions. Himalayan sea salt is the purest in the world.

Sources for the health benefits of salt:

2. I take Vitamin D. Vitamin D should be taken in the morning, and almost the more of it you have the better. It's involved in so many essential processes in the body, that it really blows almost any other supplement out of the water if you're just starting to supplement. You can be within a "normal" range for Vitamin D on a blood test and still benefit greatly from supplementation--and most people are deficient from sunlight alone, except maybe in very sunny climates. The Vitamin D Council recommends 1,000 IU’s per 25lbs of body weight, but using a blood test is the best way to determine your ideal dose. I take 5,000 IU every day. Dave Asprey has recommended Nutrigold Vitamin D3, which you can get pretty cheaply on Amazon.

Resources for Vitamin D info:

3. I make a big mug of Bulletproof Coffee with unsalted grassfed butter and MCT oil. Healthy fats are a staple of any good Paleo-based diet, and this cup of coffee in the morning really packs a wallop. I totally understand being skeptical about putting butter in your coffee, but when it's clean, unsalted and good coffee, blended up and foamy, it's soooo good. We use single-origin, 4,000 foot elevation South American, low-toxin, washed coffee beans from Happy Cup Coffee. I talk about how I make it and a bunch of the benefits in this post, so check that out for the whole story!


We need fat to build every cell in our bodies and brains, and running on pure, clean fat in the morning keeps your body in a ketogenic state (burning fat). When you consume healthy fats from grassfed animals and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) derived from coconut oil, you feel energized for hours, it's amazing. Everything feels like it's working well and by replacing grain-heavy breakfasts with nutrient-dense fats, your body will also start correcting itself to your optimal weight.

Resources for Bulletproof coffee and healthy fats:

4. After I have my coffee and read the paper but before I get to work, I've started meditating to reduce stress and anxiety, every morning.

Usually that's it for my morning routine and I'm good until lunch! You'd be surprised how filling the coffee is, but sometimes I will also have some eggs, or something with almond butter and coconut oil if I feel like I want something more in my stomach.

Have you found a great morning routine that helps you perform at an optimal state, and get you off to a good start?

Thanks for reading!

3.13.2013

Finding a Source for Grassfed Meat

When we started eating lots of grassfed beef and butter, we had learned about the health advantages of eating grassfed animals (even years ago, in books like The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan). So my wife and I decided we needed to take the plunge and buy a cow share from a local farm! In Oregon it's very easy to find a small farm who will sell you a share of a cow, and often you can even choose how the butcher processes it--like if you'd like more ground beef or more roasts or whatever your specifications.

Buying Local Grassfed Meat

We found several grassfed beef farms on EatWild.com for our area, and first tried Kookoolan Farms in Yamhill since they were the only one that had a share available right away. (We also want to try Mossback Farm this summer when their next beef are ready). Here's a description of what Kookoolan does, from their website:

       We are a grass-based farm with all naturally-raised, no hormones, no antibiotics, humanely raised  and slaughtered food animals. Grass-fed lamb and beef are also available at the farm and have free, unfettered access to never-sprayed grass pasture 365 days a year (although we don't force them out of the barns in severe weather!).

We had some previous experience with this farm because my parents have purchased from them before, and after doing some research on our options it seemed like the best bet for now. They go to great lengths to ensure the health of the animals and the cleanliness of their processing, and they even will hold off on killing the animal if it's exhibiting any signs of stress. This practice ensures that the animal hasn't released stress hormones which get trapped in the meat at the time of slaughter. It's explained on the site that if the animal is running around in fear:

       The animal is loaded with adrenaline and stress hormones, and the meat is loaded with lactic acid, and no matter how well the animal was raised or how carefully the meat is processed, it’s going to be tough and taste terrible. The only responsible action is to reschedule the kill for a different day...

We were excited to try this for the first time, so we ordered an 1/8th of a cow (the smallest share available), which included a bunch of ground beef, rib steaks, short ribs, and stew meat. We could have paid more for a share that included more choice cuts, but we were fine starting out with more ground beef.  Once the share had been set aside we drove out to the farm and picked it up!


We've been eating it now for the past month or so, and it's proving to be a great investment. Not only do we have meat on hand whenever we need it (we just take a pound or two out of the freezer) but it's clearly a really high quality. The taste is great and my wife and I have been enjoying using it to make all kinds of paleo recipes.

We visited the farm in January, on a snowy evening--here's the view from the farm store: 

And here's a shot from their website:


So definitely check them out if you're in the Portland area! The experience has been fun, educational and it's great knowing we have quality beef on hand and that we're able to support a local farm!

How to Buy Part of a Cow from a Farm!

If you're interested in finding local grassfed beef near you, look at EatWild.com and search your area. It's really not hard to find quality local pastured meat and buy directly from a farm--most of the places we emailed got back to us right away with more info and will help you pick from their packages.

We also found some great resources online about how to buy a cow share--check out this guide of FAQs about using custom slaughter from the OSU Extension Service and this Beef and Pork Whole Animal Buying Guide from the Iowa State University Extension Service. And, consult your favorite grassfed meat cookbook on what to do with all those cuts. (We love these:

3.07.2013

Books! Recommendations on starter Paleo/Bulletproof nutrition research

I've read a bunch of books in the last 6 months that have changed the way I think about food, dieting, medicine, exercise, and general health. There's so much good information out there if you know where to look, and thanks to a lot of the blogs and podcasts I started following, I got a bunch of recommendations of books to check out.  The amount of information you can get exposed to by following the recommendations or sources given in the things you read is really mind-blowing, because quality sites/books/blogs/podcasts all tend to reference each other's work at some point... Someone on a podcast will mention a book, and that book will mention other sources of information, and you can keep following the chain of sources, and keep learning.

(When you really do this in earnest, you can start to get a sense of the full amount of information that exists on a given topic. As a History major in college, I used to use this method for doing research on very specific topics like Roman pottery, or American Civil War-era naval vessels, or whatever, and because of the relatively small amount of work out there on these niche topics, you would start to find the boundaries pretty quickly. Eventually I would find some book that almost everyone cited as a source, and when I got my hands on it it would be a really key source of information.)

Great Books on Paleo/Bulletproof-Related Nutrition


For this post I wanted to share some of the really important books I've found in the wide field of health and nutrition, as well as share my Paleo/Bulletproof Diet Books board on Pinterest, where I will keep updating my recommendations of important books as I learn more, and further work is published.  Below are some texts that I think are really key, and good places to start in your own exploration:

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. This is a great, more holistic look at how the average American diet based on typical FDA and other nutritional sources is way far off from what makes us healthy easily!


Source: amazon.com via Jason on Pinterest


Wheat Belly--love this one. I actually have a post in the works about how great this book was for my dad! It's shocking and frustrating how "wheat" has changed over the years and is now really messing us up. And is addictive, to make things worse! So many people are gluten- or wheat-sensitive, and don't even know it.

Source: amazon.com via Jason on Pinterest


The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss. I read this book a couple years ago, actually, and it was the first I'd heard a more scientific argument for no grains, real foods weight loss and muscle gain, etc. It's very thick and packed full on info on a bunch of health-related topics (although since I've been exposed to other research, I find that some of Timothy Ferriss's food advise is, um, not the truest. So supplement this with some Bulletproof Exec blog entries!).


Source: amazon.com via Jason on Pinterest


Good Meat by Deborah Krasner. This one's a little different than the others in that it's mostly recipes and awesome photography, but as a newbie to cooking a lot of meat (my wife was vegan until a few months ago!) this was also packed with good tips and resources about how to cook grassfed and pastured meats. And how to understand which parts of the animal are for what, and some good terminology. It's also huge, like a coffee table book.



Source: amazon.com via Jason on Pinterest


Of course there are tons more, but that's a good start! I keep pinning more book resources all the time!

3.01.2013

How I Make Bulletproof Coffee

A few months ago I found out about Dave Asprey of BulletproofExec.com, through his visit to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, and was totally blown away. I had been bouncing around with a lot of different health/nutrition ideas and philosophies ranging from calorie counting to raw veganism to the ideas of Gary Taubes in his book Good Calories Bad Calories (which I highly recommend). I came to the conclusion that many of the most commonly held ideas about health and nutrition were not only insufficient, but flat out wrong. (This blog is my way of documenting the things that I'm learning and experimenting with in my own life, as well as a way to share my thoughts and experiences.)

Weekend breakfast (my Instagram)

I had already started to implement a diet higher in healthy fats and low in carbs, so when I discovered Dave I was super excited to try out some of his recommendations. The first and most obvious thing to try was Bulletproof Coffee, and as I'm an avid coffee drinker I took to it right away. I've felt drowsy, jittery and even gotten headaches from coffee before, so I was excited to start using cleaner coffee, and to implement an energy-filled, high fat breakfast. I tried it and completely fell in love with drinking coffee this way. It makes for an amazing breakfast, and I feel sharp and energized for hours. After making Bulletproof Coffee every day for the last few months, here are my recommendations:

As Dave recommends, I make the coffee with:
  • About 2 tbsp. of Kerrygold unsalted butter or other pastured butter
  • About 1 tbsp. of medium chain triglyceride oil (I've tried NOW brand MCT and Dave's Upgraded MCT and both are great.)
  • About 16 oz. brewed, low-toxin coffee. Since I'm a bit of a coffee snob and love experimenting with different brew methods and temp/grind/pour-speed ratios, I started experimenting with a way to get the best coffee taste out of Bulletproof Coffee and eventually settled on using the pour over method. We use single-origin, 4,000 foot elevation South American, low-toxin, washed coffee beans from Happy Cup Coffee. For a good tutorial on how to get the best results from your coffee by brewing this way, check out the pour over method tutorial from thekitchn.

I blend all three of these in our VitaMix blender for just a few seconds. As you can see in my Instagram above, it comes out foamy like a latte. The butter and oil don't separate from the coffee at all, and the taste is pure coffee + creaminess. I used to need a lot of sugar and half and half in my coffee, but no more--Bulletproof Coffee is way more satisfying.
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