7.30.2013

We needed a chest freezer! Saving money and time with a nutrient-seeker investment

My wife and I live pretty simply, and keep no more than a week or so's vegetables, eggs, and meat in our fridge at most times. This summer, our produce has been coming from our CSA subscription--even simpler than usual! Sure, we have some bulk nuts and coconut oil in the fridge, and condiments, and some frozen berries and almond flour in our freezer.
Our first CSA box this summer

But until we started eating more meat last winter when we became Paleo, we didn't ever think we'd need more storage space than our large refrigerator. (After years of living in small apartments with old appliances, we are SO grateful for the freezer on the bottom, ice maker, and many shelf/door shelf options! And cubic feet!)

But, when we adopted the Bulletproof Diet/Paleo Diet, we realized that one essential part of the lifestyle for us was eating grassfed, local, free-range, hormone-free, quality meats. Meats from healthy animals, as they say!

"How do we buy meat?!?"

We had never bought and cooked meat before. My wife had been vegetarian since she was 14, and I didn't cook much. Luckily my mom had been buying cow and pig shares from a local farm, which took away the mystery of ordering directly from the farmer and buying meat in bulk. We got to try some of her beef and pork, and loved it. We were ready to order 1/8 cow for ourselves! (See my posts about Kookoolan Farms here.) That first 1/8 share was fine. We brought it home and filled our fridge's freezer. We were sold on buying grassfed meat in bulk, and paying a fantastic price for all those cuts!

Buying a freezer: Hardcore nutrient-seeking


We wanted to buy all our meat from local farms, and find sources for all the types we'd want. We wanted to take home the extra organ meats, fat, and bones the farm offers customers for free, but were worried we wouldn't have room to store them!

Then one day I picked up our share at the farm--1/4 cow this time, although we sold some of it to friends and family--and I also brought home quite a few pounds of fat, bones (both loosely packed in plastic bags), and organ meats. Everything was frozen, but when I got home I quickly realized we had nowhere to put all of this amazing, nutrient-rich, nourishing local food.

We are so grateful to those cows for converting grass into nutrients we need, we want to use every bit of them! And we want to get them directly from the farmer, so we know where our food comes from and how it is raised! And we love having lots of meat in the freezer, ready to be thawed whenever we need it! But all that meant we would need more ROOM to store it.

So, that very day, we checked out the local Fred Meyer store ad--they had a small deep freezer on sale for $150. We called them, asked them to hold it at the check stand, and bought it immediately.

We set it up in our garage, and there it sits--holding all the good stuff we don't have room for upstairs.

We also put our bulk Kerrygold grassfed cow butter cases in it! (We order it wholesale from Whole Foods and get 10% off.) And you can see the base of the ice cream maker--for our Bulletproof "Get Some" Ice Cream!

The freezer's looking a little empty, actually. We just ordered a whole lamb from another local farm we just found, so will soon have 50 or so pounds of meat plus bones and extras! We also have another cow share coming. Yessssss!!

Buy a freezer?


We love having the freezer, and are so grateful we were able to go out and buy it when we needed it. Maybe someday we'll get a bigger one, or an upright one, but for now we love our small one.

I know Craigslist can be a good place to shop for freezers, too. I bet you can find used ones pretty cheap! The small ones aren't too heavy, either, so they can be moved around in your garage or basement, or if you move.

Imagine... spend $50 - $150 now on a freezer and buy a cow share for $6/lb instead of $6 - $20/lb (for lesser quality meat, probably) at a nice grocery store. You save money in the long run!

What do you do to save time and money while buying high quality foods? Have you found a freezer or any other equipment helps you out??

7.25.2013

Review of Upgraded Coffee

We've been making buttery, MCT oil-blended "Bulletproof® Coffee" for many months now, using high quality coffee beans and unsalted Kerrygold grassfed butter. I love the way this healthy saturated fat-full frothy beverage makes me feel every morning (until about 2 every day, actually, after drinking it around 7), and I credit it to my 35+ pounds of weight loss since December 2012. I've learned a lot about the diet that works for me through Dave Asprey's Bulletproof® Diet, but I've also learned about coffee quality through seeing all the research he's done in creating his coffee.

Short story is, apparently most coffees grow a mold called mycotoxins and develop chemicals called biogenic amines (histamines)--both of these can make you feel jittery and cause inflammation. To reduce the chances of getting coffee with these issues, you can drink coffee from Central America grown at very high elevations (ideal growing conditions) and from a single origin (reduces the chance of contamination from other fields). But still, often beans are picked when they're not ripe and so go bad before they ripen, often they're old, often they're mixed together so you can't even detect where the problem is coming from. The USDA has acknowledged the presences of mycotoxins but says they can't begin to test for them in all Starbucks around the world, of course, and they don't have any regulatory influence.

But, Dave Asprey did a bunch of research and found a source in Central America where he can control where and when and how the beans are picked and roasted. He created Upgraded™ Coffee, which he also tests for mycotoxins and amines. Apparently this incredible toxin-free coffee makes you feel much better than the coffees we're used to drinking.

So of course I wanted to try it! It's a little more expensive than the local roasts we've been buying (ex: Happy Cup single-origin roasts), so I never ordered any. But then, I got a bag for my birthday earlier this month and was so excited to finally try it!

So, was it any better than other coffees?

We've been drinking the Upgraded™ Coffee for the past week, and I did notice some difference. It's roasted by a top quality roaster and the beans are clearly of a high quality, so the taste is of a really good, smooth, medium roast that comes out well with a drip, but is especially good with our French press. As far as the reported effects, the first day I drank it I felt a normal caffeine buzz after a few minutes, but as the morning continued I noticed a consistent, stable energy that carried me all the way until lunch. I also had noticeably less of an energy crash in the afternoon, which was a welcome and amazing feeling!

Overall, it wasn't a massive effect, but I think this has to do with the fact that I've been only drinking single origin, locally roasted beans for quite a while, so my mycotoxin intake was already pretty small compared to drinking Starbucks. I've had crappy coffee before that made me jittery and gave me a headache, but since I switched to all locally roasted, single origin beans last fall I've had that experience a lot less. So, I would definitely recommend this coffee because I do think that the guarantee against mycotoxins is well worth it, and I noticed a difference in my energy, the lack of crash, and the stable, non-jittery feeling it gave. (My wife tried some of the locally roasted organic coffee at her work this week and felt very jittery, something she hasn't felt with the Happy Cup or the Upgraded™ Coffee we've been drinking. There is a noticeable difference in both compared to MOST coffees!)

However, if you don't feel like you can afford the expense I would say you would be doing a really good job by finding a local roaster who roasts single origins in small batches, and buy in bulk from them. Single origin coffees are expensive on their own, but with the added cost of shipping the Upgraded™ Coffee it definitely costs more. (There is a 5-pound option that's a better deal, but still possibly more than a quality low-toxin option near you.) If you go the local roaster route and do the research, you'll be getting yourself most of the way there at less cost, and your chances of having mycotoxins in the beans will be limited. I can imagine a future where all coffee is tested for mycotoxins, and regulated to high degree, but at this point there's not enough understanding of these toxins or enough consumer awareness for the large roasters to make any changes to their system. Hopefully, one day, it'll be easy to walk into any corner coffee shop and guarantee that you are buying a clean cup of coffee that isn't slowly poisoning you, but for the time being we've got our local, single origin roasters to do part of the job, and Upgraded™ Coffee for a special treat!

7.19.2013

Mobility Experiments!

For the last several weeks my wife and I have been going to CrossFit classes at various gyms (called CrossFit boxes) around the Beaverton and Portland area to see the differences in each gym and find one that really fits our style/philosophy. I'm working on a post with information about all the gyms and comparisons of their class styles, but for today I want to talk about some of the cool mobility-related experiments that have come out of doing it.

Intense exercise, then recovery


CrossFit is very intense, and after completing a workout I'm usually quite sore the next day and I even have stiffness and some soreness for several days afterwards. Part of this is because it's an intense workout and part of it is that I'm new to it all, so my body isn't conditioned for all these movements yet--but either way, I've been really really sore. Now, with all the reading I've done on high intensity exercise and especially from reading Body by Science (more about my take from that here) I've gotten the message that it's better to exercise at a high intensity and then give yourself more time for recovery, so it's good that I'm sore because it means I'm pushing myself, but it's also good that I'm only doing a workout like that about once a week so that I get the time for my muscles to recover and build themselves back up (with the help of lots of healthy saturated fats and protein, of course!). This process of exercise and recovery creates an adaptive response in our bodies to the stress that its being put under, and you're muscles will grow and strength will increase to match that stress. Awesome!

Repairing tissues


The thing is, though, that you can take steps to speed up the recovery process and relieve soreness through smashing your tissues. This idea comes from people like Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD who say to stop doing static stretching and to start doing deep massage and other techniques to work out your stiff/sore bodies. Basically, if any tissue in your body hurts when you press on it, it's in a dysfunctional state and you need to work that out to feel your best, achieve optimal performance and speed recovery for workouts. The main method for doing this is with a lacrosse ball, foam roller, or band (great posts of how to use them on MobilityWOD here). (This blog also has a great summary of how to use balls and bands for mobility.)

And here’s a video of Kelly’s about using lacrosse balls to work out the scapula.



I've been rolling around with lacrosse balls and lacrosse balls are firm and provide enough resistance, but still have a little give to them. Basically you start by using the ball to massage any area that's sore and you try to relax and breathe through the pain. This is the pain associated with soreness, not with injury, so you're helping your muscle to relax and release that pain by smashing on it and reintroducing some mobility and separation of muscle fibers back into the area.

It works!


So, I've been doing this after workouts, and it's been really helpful, but last night I wanted to see how big of a difference it would actually make. When I'm in recovery mode from a workout I'm usually quite stiff in the mornings, so before I went to sleep I worked on my left shoulder and pec with the lacrosse ball and didn't do any work on the right side. It hurt like hell, but like a massage it was also satisfying and relaxing.

This morning I got up and tested both the soreness and mobility of my shoulders and felt an obvious difference between the two. My right shoulder was very stiff and felt tight like it didn't want to move. My left shoulder felt almost normal with some slight soreness, and when I did a shoulder extension stretch in a doorway I had a noticeable difference in range of motion between the two sides.

All in all it was a small experiment but it really served to show me the importance of working that soreness out of my body as part of my recovery routine, and I did it through a personal test where I could see the actual difference it made in my body. Don't take anybody's word for it! You are the final say in what works for your body and what doesn't!

 Now I've got to go smash my right side because it's still incredibly sore!

7.15.2013

Trip to Dick's Kitchen for grassfed burgers and Sweet Potato "Not-Fries"

Last weekend my wife and I went to dinner at Dick's Kitchen, a local place well-known for their quality grassfed meats and burgers from local sources, as well as other great options for specialized diets. The place started with a Paleo focus, when the owner found Paleo and improved his health through eating a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet. Health has been considered in all of their menu items, and they offer delicious, affordable, classic diner fare-inspired menu with Paleo, gluten free, vegan, and other options. It's really cool to read about them and their 5 key principles, and so great to see a successful restaurant with good perspectives on health and food.

The restaurant


We went to the NW 21st location (704 NW 21st Ave Portland OR, 503.206.5916), but they also have their original location on SE Belmont (3312 SE Belmont St Portland OR 503.235.0146).

The place has a fun retro diner feel, and we really enjoyed hanging out there.

Had to get a picture of the cavemen and woolly mammoth on the lamp!

The grassfed burgers


We went there for the famous delicious grassfed burgers, and they did not disappoint. I had the Paleo Thai Burger Bowl, which was delicious. The Thai dressing was awesome, too! (I definitely Instagrammed this one.)

My wife had the French Onion "Zizou" burger (no bun, just the open face burger fixins), with a side of Sweet Potato "Not-Fries." Which were awesome. (We assumed they were baked rather than fried because fried foods typically have oxidized, damaged fats. Then read the website and see that they make them this way to be "low fat"--not our personal take for our Paleo diets--and that they use a little high-oleic safflower oil, not an oil we ever eat. I guess finding a place that only cooks in lard or coconut oil is too much to ask for now!)

Of course the beef was great, but they also serve local buffalo, bacon, and sometimes venison, duck, or other local specialties. (See the menu here.) They even have a list of their vendors on their website.

We'll definitely be back


Our food was delicious, and we definitely want to go back sometime. Next time we're in the area and don't feel like cooking dinner, we'll have to hit it up again!

If you're in Portland, absolutely check out Dick's Kitchen next time you're in NW or SE. Visit them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, too.

Have you been to Dick's Kitchen, Portlanders?? Or, have you been to any other restaurants with good Paleo choices and good quality meats??

7.11.2013

Personal Optimization Through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The topics of this blog are varied from nutrition, exercise, mobility, stress management and it can all be summed up through the label of "personal optimization." In other words, how can we be more awesome? What knowledge do we need to gain in order to be what Kelly Starrett calls a "skilled human"? It starts with learning what your gaps are, and trying to educate yourself and learn how to improve in those areas.

For many things--nutrition for example--you can read a couple of books, make some judgments about your own habits, and then shop differently at the grocery store. Do you feel better? Different? Are you aware of how your body feels? You start asking these questions and it further refines your understanding. You then go learn some more, or you call it good and stick with what you've learned. This doesn't take a huge effort and you don't have to put your body into any stressful situations to make it happen, but some things can't be learned this way.

But some things--like undergoing new physical challenges--require that you put yourself out there in uncomfortable situations and put yourself under stress in order to get that understanding. That's why I wanted to write a post about my experiences with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) over the last 6 months.

My Journey into BJJ


I started after having been a fan for several years. Once I was exposed to Jiu Jitsu through watching mixed martial arts competitions I thought it looked like the coolest thing ever. For those that have no idea what it is check out this video which gives a basic intro:



Essentially, it's a ground fighting or grappling system that was developed and expanded from the original Japanese Jiu Jitsu by the Gracie family in Brazil in the early 1900s. Since then it's become recognized as one of the most effective martial arts in the world.

Ever since seeing the techniques of BJJ put to use in real competition I had wanted to try it, and thought it looked like an awesome way to learn new skills, exercise, and challenge myself. I had no idea what I was in for. 

For one thing, you have to get right up close and personal with strangers right off the bat. When you're in a BJJ class, there is no bubble. The technique involves close contact and control of your opponent through your own weight, position, and leverage. Don't like getting sweat on by other people? You're out of luck. Don't like having your arms and legs twisted and your face smashed under people? Too bad. In a class setting you mostly do drills and slow practice sparring, so no one gets hurt beyond a few bruises, and it's all about learning together with your training partners, not about winning anything.

The Importance of Discomfort for Learning


So, in order to learn a martial art you have to actually DO it, you can't just read a book. Even if its at 50% intensity in practice, it's still fighting. This means you have to spend time in the thick of it, with someone on top of you, controlling you and blocking you from making any progress. You have to experience being put into an armlock and forced to give up. You have to get over the blow to your pride that comes from having a grown man easily block all of your best attempts and then force you to tap out. Without becoming accustomed to being in these bad positions you can't get good at avoiding them and you can't know what it really takes to escape and then gain a dominant position yourself. You have to get used to a certain level of discomfort, and that's where the biggest learning experience has come from out of training in BJJ, even beyond learning any specific technique.

Without putting yourself into some discomfort, you can't learn Jiu Jitsu. When I came out of that first class I remember thinking, "Was that fun? Or did it just hurt?" And honestly I didn't know the answer, but I wanted to keep going. After a few weeks I realized that the discomfort I was experiencing wasn't a negative of the experience at all. In fact, it was the most important part of it. It was then that it became really clear to me that you don't get ANYWHERE without accepting discomfort and pushing through it, not just in Jiu Jitsu but in life. This is something that I would have said I understood before starting BJJ, but I would have been wrong.

Starting this training has shown me how downright important it is to be uncomfortable in life. If you aren't scared, unsure, or out of your comfort zone, you're just stagnating, and that's moving you further away from your potential to be a highly skilled human. So you have to find a way to not only accept discomfort, but to embrace it to some degree. I'm striving for constant progress throughout my life, and although I'm still a beginner at Jiu Jitsu it has taught me some incredibly important things about how to achieve that goal in all areas.

My Gym


For some reference, I go to a gym called Impact Jiu Jistsu. They have several locations around the region and turns out my naturopath even attends their strength training classes! He has high regard for the one of the founding members of the school who I've also taken classes from. Small world (but it's a good sign when your healthy, fit naturopath recommends the workout you're already doing!)
Source: Impact Jiu Jitsu

It's been great to get to work with the talented instructors and other students there, and further motivating to improve my BJJ skills and mobility in other areas.
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